Where Shakespeare Acted

Where Shakespeare Acted

Mayor's Parlour

Mayor's Parlour


The Guildhall in Leicester, England, is a timber framed building, with the earliest part dating from c. 1390. The Guildhall once acted as the town hall for the city until the current one was commissioned in 1876. It is located in the old walled city, on a street now known as Guildhall Lane. It was used first as the meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi and then later for the more formal Corporation of Leicester. The hall was used for many purposes, including council meetings, feasts, as a courtroom, and for theatrical performances; the ultimatum given to the city during English Civil War was discussed here. It is a Grade I listed building, and the surrounding area, also including the Cathedral of St Martin's, is a conservation area, one of three in Leicester

The Great Hall was built around 1390 as the meeting place of the Guild of Corpus Christi; the guild was a group of businessmen and gentry who had religious connections. The Guildhall was used for banquets, festivals, and as a home for a priest who prayed for the souls of Guild members in the nearby St Martin's Church. The Corporation of Leicester bought the Guildhall by the end of the 14th century.

It is reputed that William Shakespeare appeared here in the late 16th century. In recognition of this, the television company, Maya Vision, brought the Royal Shakespeare Company to perform at the Guildhall as part of its 2003 series for the BBC, In Search of Shakespeare, written and narrated by the historian, Michael Wood. Part of the Shakespeare legend is that Shakespeare first came across the tale of King Leir whilst appearing at the Guildhall and this inspired him to write his own play King Lear. There is, however, no actual evidence to support this, although the legend of King Leir is associated with Leicester.

During the English Civil War the Mayor and corporation received a demand from Prince Rupert for £2,000. The decision was made at the Guildhall to offer a loan of £500 and made an appeal to King Charles I. In May 1645 the King, in an attempt to divert attention away from Oxford, positioned an army of 6,000 men outside the city walls on 29 May 1645. Again important decisions regarding the fate of the city were to be decided in the Guildhall.

On 30 May 1645 the Royalist Army made demand after demand to the city, who played for time. In the end Prince Rupert attacked at 3:00 pm. The City walls were breached, and the last stand made by the defenders outside the Guildhall and St Martins. The Royalists then entered the Guildhall looting the town's archives, and mace and seal. The Royalist victory was reversed a couple of weeks later with the defeat at Naseby.

Records also show that entertainment expenses were paid for such items as wine, and beer for Oliver Cromwell. Although this does not prove Oliver Cromwell stayed at the Guildhall, it is highly probable that he visited several times. The coat of arms of King Charles I can be seen today inside the Mayor's Parlour.

The Guildhall library in England, which includes the New Testament in Greek from the 15th century, was established in 1632, when the town library was moved into the east wing of the building. Leicester's first police force had its station in the Guildhall from 1836.

The Corporation moved to the new Leicester Town Hall in 1876. Apart from the police station, it was later used as a school. However, the building was becoming increasingly dilapidated, and by the 1920s there were plans to demolish the building. After the intervention of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, the council began restoration work on the building, finishing it in 1926, when the Guildhall was opened as a museum.

At a press conference in the Guildhall on 4 February 2013, it was confirmed that archaeologists had discovered Richard III's remains in the nearby Greyfriars 'Car Park'. The former Alderman Newton's Greencoat School building, close to the grave site, opened as a permanent Richard III museum, on 24 July 2014.

With five reported ghosts, the Guildhall is reputedly Leicester's most haunted building. Because of its reported hauntings, it has appeared on various TV programmes, including being investigated on the television show Most Haunted.

Today, the Guildhall is best known as an excellent performance venue, attracting acts from across the country, and as a museum where visitors can step back in time and come face to face with 'Crankie Gemmie' and 'Emma Smith', two of Leicester's notorious pick-pockets who can be found lurking within the Victorian police cells.


** – Visiting – **

The Guildhall has had many uses and lives. The Great Hall itself was built in about 1390. Today, The Guildhall is best known as an excellent performance venue attracting acts from across the country and as a museum where visitors can step back in time and visit the Victorian cells, Medieval Hall or visit the Medieval exhibition The Guildhall hosts a regular events programme including comedy, music, theatre and seasonal children's events. The Guildhall is available for private hire and an historic and atmospheric venue for weddings & civil ceremonies. The Guildhall is accessible on the ground floor only for wheelchair users. The entrance leading to the Museum is cobbled. The entrance doors are automatic and the Medieval exhibition is situated in the modern Visitor Centre on the ground floor, easily accessible for wheelchair users. We look forward to welcoming you. If you have any queries or require assistance please telephone 0116 253 2569 or email museums@leicester.gov.uk

Car Parking and Arrival. The Guildhall Museum has no car park and therefore no accessible parking. Guildhall Lane is pedestrianised. Please call 0116 223 2148 for further details. Visitors can be dropped off on Peacock Lane directly behind the Museum, the easiest access from Peacock Lane is either through St. Martins car park which is on Peacock Lane, just behind the museum (even surface).

There is a cobbled path leading to the entrance to the Guildhall, wheelchair users or people with limited mobility may experience slight difficulty with access on the cobbles. The entrance doors are large and automatic and are very accessible; they are 50 inches /127mmm in width. There are no steps leading to the museum or on any of the ground floor. The Guildhall has partial accessible entrance to the ground floor only.

Main Entrance and Reception. The main entrance and reception leads to both the Guildhall and the Medieval exhibition, which are both situated on the ground floor, the area is well lit with spot lights. The floor area in reception and most of the ground floor is made of stone. There are no steps to the Medieval exhibition or to the ground floor of the Guildhall Museum which is wheelchair accessible.

There is a seat available in the reception area. The reception and counter area are used for information, shop purchases and tickets for upcoming shows. The desk is open with no glass partition and has a low area suitable for wheelchair users. There is a complimentary ticket policy for a carer. There is no hearing loop system or audio guides. There is a wheelchair loan available for inside the museum.

Attractions and Displays. Medieval Galleries : The exhibition is situated on the ground floor only and there are no steps. It is accessible for wheelchair users; it takes approximately 30 minutes to view and consists of two rooms. The entrance to the exhibition is 111cm/42 inches with two doorways leading to the second room 31 inches/80cm. The exhibition is viewed through 2 rooms with the final exit leading to the Courtyard. The exhibition is made up mostly of information panels, artefacts, touch screens and a video with adjustable sound. There is a mix of sound from the video noise.

The exhibition is well lit with spot lights and a window in each room. The exhibition and interpretation boards are made up of text, images and some artefacts. There is the White Rose Café (St Martins House) which is accessible through Reception. The rest of the Guildhall is accessible to the right of the reception area through to the courtyard; the door is 80cm/31 inches. These rooms are wheelchair accessible.

The courtyard has stone paving which is uneven, there are no steps and the paving stones have been raised for wheelchair access into the main building. The Mayors Parlour, Great Hall and Cells are accessible from the courtyard. There are no displays and they consist of beautiful historic rooms to view. The Mayors Parlour is the first room to view, it is accessible for wheelchair users, the door is 800 mm and the flooring is flat and made of wooden floor boards. The Great Hall is a large Medieval room to the left of the Mayors Parlour and has a stone floor; again there are no obstacles or interpretation panels.

As they are a busy venue the room may occasionally be set up for a wedding/performance or have a temporary exhibition. Please call the site and staff can inform visitors of any issues with regards to access. Cells are accessed through the corridor leading to the toilets, they are Victorian cells and are fairly dark with some interpretation panels and artefacts. The Library is the only room not accessible to wheelchair users or for people who have difficulty climbing stairs.

Public Toilets. The Guildhall has one accessible toilet and male and female toilets are all situated on the ground floor next to the reception area. The door leading to the toilets from reception area is not automatic and some wheelchair users may require assistance with opening the door. The width is 800mm/31.5 inches. The staff at reception are more than happy to assist if there is any difficulty. The toilets are also accessible through the courtyard. The accessible toilet does not require a lock as it has a twist lock, a grab rail and an emergency alarm. The sink in the accessible toilet is fitted with a lever tap, mirror and hand drier.

Additional Information. Assistance dogs are welcome, and water can be provided upon request. Selected staff have received disability training. They have a wheelchair available for use.

** – Getting There – **

The nearest railway station is a 10 minute walk away on London Road. Taxis are available at the station. If you require an accessible taxi you can book this in advance on 0116 251 5105. The Guildhall is located in Leicester City Centre next to Leicester Cathedral. The Guildhall is located in the heart of the city centre, within walking distance of most car parks. The nearest car park is The Lanes which is a 5 minute walk away.


Location : The Guildhall, Guildhall Lane, Leicester,LE1 5FQ

Transport: Leicester (National Rail) then 11 minutes OR bus OR taxi. Bus routes: 13, 18, 20, 50, 50, 103, 104 and 203 stop nearby.

Accessible Taxi : 0116 251 5105

Opening Times : Opening times: Monday-Sunday, 11.00 - 16.30.

Closed : Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day.

Tickets : Free.

Tel. : 0116 2532569