Guildhall Jury Room restored to former glory
Published: 20 July 2023
Restoration work has been completed on part of Exeter’s historic Guildhall, the City Council has revealed.
The Jury Room, which dates back to the 1830s, has been carefully repaired and restored after part of the ceiling collapsed.
The room, which was once used by juries deliberating over court verdicts, is today used by the City Council for functions including wedding and civic ceremonies.
Work to repair the room had to be carried out after water leaked through the old slate roof. This caused some of the original lime plaster to become dislodged from the vaulted ceiling and fall through the 1950s suspended ceiling.
All furniture and artwork was removed from the room and the 1834 panelling, which originally came from St Katherine’s Priory, was carefully protected, in case any more fell down.
The Guildhall is a Grade 1 Listed Building, and permission was granted by Historic England in May 2022, to carry out re-roofing and to open up the vaulted ceiling in the room.
The suspended ceiling was removed, and the original pine beams exposed. Over 1,000 screws and washers were used to secure the original plaster back to the laths on the vaulted ceiling.
A temporary roof scaffold was erected over the building and a bird cage scaffold erected in the room itself, giving the team easy access to the vaulted roof. The original roof slates were removed and the roof rafters completely exposed.
All the exposed timber (inside and out) was surveyed and treated, before the insulation layer installed. The roof was then re-slated. The works were carried out by Corbel Conservation a company based in Taunton.
The Jury Room (which was called the City’s Records Room) was built in 1838 and was originally used to the store the City’s records. The room remained the City’s Records Room until 1900 when it became too small and the documents moved to the City Library. They were moved again to the Devon Heritage Centre in Sowton, where they are currently stand.
Over time the Guildhall was used as the City Courts and the room became the Jury Room’, where the Jury of the Court would sit and deliberate the outcome of the City’s court cases. The last assizes court was held in 1972 and the court was then moved to the Rougemont Castle.
Lord Mayor of Exeter, Cllr Kevin Mitchell, said: “It’s fantastic to see this historic room restored back to its former glory. The work carried out has been done sympathetically to maintain the character of the building. It’s so important to maintain this historic building for generations to come.”