Webpage created: July 14, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 14, 2017
EVELEGH'S GUILD HALL
The earliest description of the Guild Hall erected in 1799-1800 to the designs of Mr Evelegh (or Eveleigh), a discharged Borough Surveyor from Bath in Somerset, was published in 1812:
The reason why the Corporation came in for such criticism was that the new Guild Hall was erected on the site of the Jacobean Guild Hall, and the shape of the triangular site was not really suitable for such a prestigious building. Presumably the authors were inferring that if a different, larger site had been selected by the Corporation then Mr Evelegh just might have come up with a better design.
Following the demolition of the Jacobean Guild Hall, the foundation stone of the new one was laid on May 8th 1799 and the Guild Hall was opened the following year.
triangular-shaped Guild Hall,
Built at a cost of £7,000, it was constructed mainly of limestone but with granite pinnacles taken from the previous building. Beneath the illuminated clock was the main entrance which led up to the great hall. On either side of the doorway were the police offices and cells. The latter were said to be totally inadequate by 1810 although it was to be forty years before they were replaced by the new Borough Prison. The building also included the Council Chamber, the Town Clerk's office, a library, the magistrate's room and waiting rooms for witnesses.
A Mr Isable was the mason responsible for the construction work, while others in the team were Mr Alger, painter and glazier, and Mr Drew, the carpenter. The only accident during the construction was to Mr Drew's son, who fell from the roof and broke his thigh.
The building was very quickly condemned as: 'inconvenient as a guildhall, unsuited as a mayoralty house, inadequate as a prison and absurd as a market'.
It is recorded that in the 1860s the Borough's scarlet fire engine could be seen in the open archway at the eastern end of the building. It had a steam pump, brass boiler and a copper funnel. The horses stood close by with their harnesses suspended above them so they could be lowered quickly into position.
A painting of King William IV in the uniform of Lord High Admiral adorned the Council Chamber. It had been purchased privately by the Mayor, Mr J Burnell, and at the Town Council meeting on Wednesday May 2nd, he presented it to the Council specifically for the Council Chamber.
When the current Guild Hall was opened in 1874, this building lay idle until 1876, when it was opened as the new Free Library and Reading Rooms. The conversion was carried out by Mr Robert Stanlake, a Plymouth builder.
From 1910 onwards, when the present Library building at Drake Circus was opened, Evelegh's old Guild Hall was used by the City Treasury and Stores Officer. Consequently, when it was bombed during the raids of 1941 the City lost all its stores records and Rate Valuation lists. By February 1945 the building had been demolished.