Portsmouth Guildhall, a majestic building at the heart of the city, has been managed by the Portsmouth Cultural Trust since April 2011. The building has a standing capacity of 2,500 and is known for presenting first class entertainment, conferences, weddings and events.
It’s worth taking a moment to consider the fascinating history of the venue. The Guildhall is most famous today as the city’s premier entertainment & events venue, but the history of this iconic local building also shines a light on the history of the whole city – not only through the role it has played as the civic home to the Lord Mayor, but also in the very walls of the building itself.
The Guildhall was originally completed in 1890. It was designed by Leeds architect, William Hill, who was inspired to improve upon an almost-identical model that he had designed as Bolton Town Hall in 1873. Unfortunately, Hill’s Guildhall was not even to last a century before the angry skies of the Second World War rained down a series of incendiary bombs onto the city in 1941.
On the 10th January, bombs gutted the original Guildhall, completely destroying the interior and roof and leaving only the outer walls and tower, which suffered enormous fire damage. In the course of the bombings that rocked the city, 930 civilians were killed, 1,216 were hospitalised and over 1,500 more were injured. However, the spirit of Portsmouth that survived the Blitz also ensured the survival of the Guildhall, which was rebuilt after the War and re-opened by HM The Queen on 8th June 1959. The building has stood as a memorial to the spirit and determination of Portsmouth and her people ever since.
The very walls of the Guildhall reflect the building’s central place in the city’s identity. The glittering Star Chamber holds a mural which shows some of the city’s most famous historical moments, while the Chamber itself was inspired by the city motto, Heaven’s Light Our Guide.
The Guildhall is also home to some of the city’s best loved historical treasures, including the city of Portsmouth’s Civic Plate, which is nationally renowned as one of the finest collections in the country.
In recent times the Guildhall has enjoyed a number of uses. It is now home to the Council chamber and a number of local services and groups, including the Portsmouth Cultural Trust.