The old Guildhall, which formerly occupied a considerable part of the Market Place, was a very picturesque building and interesting from its many historical associations.
It was built during 1611, and therefore in existence during the memorable period of the Civil War, when the bodies of Lord Falkland and other officers of note where laid out in one of the upper rooms before removal for burial.
In 1684 a prison was built on the east side, and the west front was ‘beautified’ at the latter part of the reign of George II. The upper floor was approached from the paved area below by a spacious flight of stairs on the north-west side, contained the ancient Council Chamber, which was also used for the County and Borough Courts of Quarter Sessions, and for other public purposes.
The ground floor was principally occupied by butchers’ shambles, and by dealers in poultry, butter, and other commodities.
At the south-west angle the Pillory and Whipping Post were fixed, and at the north end were the Parish Stocks. The upper floor was reached by stairs from the pavement. In 1760, The Guildhall was extended.
In consequence of the old edifice having become dilapidated and considered an obstruction to the carriage-way to other parts of the Borough, the authorities under powers of the Newbury and Speenhamland Improvement Act of 1825, had the historic pile razed to the ground in 1828, and sold to the rich, beautiful carved internal fittings and highly enriched external ornaments for a mere bagatelle.
Among the projects proposed by the above Act (1825), were a new Town Hall, a new Gaol and House of Correction, widening of the Mansion House corner, and new street from Bartholomew Street to Cheap Street through the ‘Catherine Wheel’ yard, and various other improvements.