‘Why go to all the trou­ble of re­build­ing?’

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Family Announcements -

Re­cently, on lo­cal so­cial me­dia his­tory groups, there has been much dis­cus­sion con­cern­ing the fate of Can­ter­bury’s old Guild­hall.

There­fore, I thought it a good idea to set out a few facts con­cern­ing the last few years of this his­toric struc­ture.

Con­cern for the con­di­tion of the Guild­hall in 1947 prompted city ar­chi­tect Hugh Wil­son to ex­am­ine the fab­ric of the build­ing on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in the com­pany of of­fi­cers from the Min­istry of Works’ an­cient mon­u­ments De­part­ment.

In July 1948 he sub­mit­ted a full and frank re­port to the city coun­cil. This de­tailed the many prob­lems he’d found with the Guild­hall struc­ture and also listed the sug­gested re­pairs needed to over­come them.

The prob­lems were con­sid­er­able – a com­bi­na­tion of age, com­bined with the in­sta­bil­ity of the botched Guild­hall Street el­e­va­tion, which had been ‘re­stored’ in the Ed­war­dian pe­riod.

The Min­istry of Works were in favour of re­pair and listed the Guild­hall as a recog­nised an­cient mon­u­ment. Mean­while, Hugh Wil­son de­signed new ex­ter­nal el­e­va­tions for the build­ing, whilst car­ry­ing out fur­ther nec­es­sary and even more in­va­sive ex­am­i­na­tions of the struc­ture.

This in­volved the shoring up of the trou­ble­some Guild­hall Street el­e­va­tion and also the re­moval of the me­dieval roof tim­bers which were push­ing that wall out of align­ment. The first of the above pic­tures shows the old Guild­hall in that state, some­time in 1948.

By 1949, Hugh Wil­son was re­port­ing that the Guild­hall would need to be dis­man­tled to within a few feet of the ground, in or­der to af­fect proper re­pairs and then re­built. This was car­ried out in 1950.

It was then that town clerk, John Boyle, in­ter­vened to say that as the pro­posed re­built Guild­hall would have lit­tle his­toric fab­ric left, why go to the trou­ble and ex­pense of re­build­ing it at all? The rest, as they say, is his­tory.

A meet­ing in the Guild­hall in Novem­ber 1947

The Guild­hall, be­ing made safe in 1948

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