Guildhall

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Not much is known about Great Yarmouth’s first Guildhall, but C. J. Palmer wrote: by King Johns’ Charter (1208) the Burgesses had granted to them a Merchants’ Guild, which became the governing body of the town.  For the transactions of business they built a Guild House at the gate of St. Nicholas’ Church.  The guild system allowed those in charge to operate a monopoly controlling the markets and trade.  They charged prices they wanted and denied competitors from getting a foothold.  The guild system became the basis of local government and, although restrictive, they financed law and order and the infrastructure of the town.  In 1544, the Guildhall was substantially repaired and amended, and the walls newly buttressed by the townsmen.  In Manship’s History and Antiquaries of Great Yarmouth, Palmer quotes Henry Swinden, who describes it as: a very fair building known as the Guildhall near unto the church, containing in length 76 feet and breadth 22 feet.  It was described as ‘much ruinated’.  This building was demolished in 1723.  A new Guildhall was erected and this in turn was demolished in 1849.  Prior to 1835, the town was controlled by the Mayor, Aldermen and the common council.  The Mayor was elected by an inquest of twelve in the Guildhall after a service at the church.  This was probably the only Corporation meeting opened to the public.