St Mary's Guildhall, Lincoln

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Royal)

There are major building remains

NameSt Mary's Guildhall, Lincoln
Alternative NamesJohn o'Gaunt's Stables; The King's House
Historic CountryLincolnshire
Modern AuthorityLincolnshire
1974 AuthorityLincolnshire
Civil ParishLincoln

Formerly known as: John o'Gaunt's Stables HIGH STREET. Major domestic building, possibly the town house of Henry II, c1157, incorporating in its foundations part of the C3 Foss Way. Used as a guildhall 1251-1547, remodelled early C17 as a school and used in part as maltings, C15 to 1981. South range 1895. Excavated 1981-1986 and restored 1984-86. Now the offices of the Lincoln Civic Trust and a church hall. Dressed stone with ashlar dressings and pantile roofs. Single storey and 2 storeys. C-plan.

EXTERIOR: west range, 5 bays, has shallow buttresses, chamfered plinth and band with bird and beast masks to the northern part. Near-central moulded carriageway arch with segmental pointed inner arch, flanked by single buttresses. Above it, 2 reset masks. To left, a single light, and to right, a C20 casement. Above, to left, a bracketed square louvred opening and to right, two C20 casements. South gable has C20 fenestration, and above, 2 reset corbels. North range south side has to left a single storey range, 3 bays, with a doorway flanked to right by 2 unglazed windows with wooden mullions. To the right, a 2 storey building, 2 bays, known as the Norman House, with a shallow central buttress and a moulded first floor band. To left, a wide mid C20 door and an unglazed window, formerly mullioned. To the right, a shouldered doorway and a small window. Above, 2 double round headed windows, that to the right without its central shaft. To the left, a small pointed light. South range, 5 bays, fronting Sibthorp Street, incorporates several reset C12 fragments.

INTERIOR has in the north-west corner of the west range a fireplace with joggled lintel, flanked by a blocked window and a doorway. North-east corner has a restored doorway and a C12 stone spiral stair overlaid by a late C20 stair. North wall has a window opening. First floor hall has on the west side a fireplace, flanked to the left by 2 windows and to right by a single window, all with keeled shafts

North gable has a blocked double arched opening with central round pier. Restored C17 single purlin roof. North range interior has several reset C12 fragments, and east end has a C17 scissor braced double purlin roof.

HISTORY: St Mary's Guildhall may well be "the only survivor from the small group of the king's town houses which existed in several major towns....St Mary's Guildhall is a domestic complex on a palatial scale, indicating the highest social status, and as such is representative of a little known urban building type." (Stocker) It was used from 1251 to 1547 as the headquarters of the Great Guild of St Mary, Lincoln's most important guild, and began to be used as a maltings during this time. It was remodelled early in the C17 for the Bluecoat School, and was subsequently adapted for industrial uses, mainly malting. (Listed Building Report)

St. Mary's Guild Hall (385, High Street), Lincoln, popularly but erroneously known as "John of Gaunt's Stables", has been variously dated from C.1160 to c.1180-90 various theories have been advanced as to its original use but "it is difficult to see why the hall should not from its foundation have been the hall of St. Mary's Gild, as it clearly was in the 13th century". (Hill)

Inside the courtyard facing south, and at right angles to the entrance range is a building which has the appearance of a Norman house. The ground floor of the north wall is 12th century, the first floor of, probably, 17th century brick, and this may be the date of the rest of the house, which is a rebuild using Norman material. Scheduled ancient monument - building of St. Mary's Guild, John o' Gaunt's Stables. (Wood)

Plaque: St. Mary's Guildhall - the former house of the great Guild of St. Mary the leading religious and social guild of the City was built in the 12th c. The upper storey has been removed'. The building is as described above: it is used as business premises and in fair condition. Part of 17th c. building 2 Wall Plaques. (F1 AC 18-JUL-62)

Stone building believed to date from circa 1157-1180 and possibly once the town house of Henry II. The building is L-shaped in plan, built around a courtyard which is accessed via an archway. It was used as a guildhall from 1251 to 1547 and remodelled in the early 17th century for use as a school. Part of the building housed a maltings from the 15th century until 1981. The south range was added in 1895 and the whole complex was restored between 1984 and 1986. It is now used as offices and a church hall. (PastScape)

This is an interesting late Norman building, which is supposed to have been the technical school of about AD1130. It is unique in Britain (scheduling record).

A late Norman or Transitional stone building, originally three ranges round a long courtyard. Only one range has architectural features still in situ (the range towards the street). The facade has flat buttresses and a big round-headed archway, with several orders: one studded with flowers, another with small dogs teeth. Above runs a frieze of stylized leaves still entirely Norman (Pevsner).

A brief photographic survey of the north face of the east range of the Guildhall was made in 1998 when the wall was exposed after demolition of the neighbouring building, as the wall would be obscured by a new building (Pre-Construct Archaeology. Nov 1998). (Lincolnshire HER)

This unique building was a major residence, possibly the property of Henry II constructed for the crown-wearing ceremonies of Christmas 1157. It was used for royal wine storage after 1228 before being acquired by St Marys Guild in 1251/2. St Marys Guild used the property as its Guildhall until 1547, but may have let out the north range for commercial use. The Bluecoat School took over the lease 1614-23 and major alterations were carried out.

The most dramatic alteration on the west range, the High Street frontage, was the reduction of the height of the upper storey walls by 3m and the creation of a new roof. (City of Lincoln Council)

"Henry order the hall to be built with chamber and services rooms. He rode into Lincoln and stayed overnight, the next morning he walked up the hill to the cathedral for the ceremonial crown wearing and later that day had a feast with all his attendant lords in the hall. The next day he rode away. 50 years later King John sold the unused palace to a city guild." (Philip Dixon 18 May 2012 said at a conference in Norwich)

Gatehouse Comments

Quite the reason for building this substantial and imposing building in a suburb of Lincoln, rather than building something in the castle (or just using the existing castle buildings) is unclear. There is nothing to suggest Henry II intended to ever return to this hall and it seems to have been built purely for the crown wearing ceremony so that a long procession went from the Hall, up through the city, to the Cathedral (Henry repeated this ceremony the next year at Gloucester and then never again wore his crown). The site gained some status and John of Gaunt had a palace nearby in the C14. (Philip Davis owing much to comments made by Philip Dixon)

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSK973704
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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  • Stocker, D.A., 1991, St Mary's Guildhall, Lincoln: the survey and excavation of a medieval building complex (Council for British Archaeology: Archaeology of Lincoln 12.1)
  • 1985-86, The archaeology of Lincoln (Lincoln Archaeological Trust 2) p. 29
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus and John Harris; revised by Nicholas Antram, 1989, Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (Harmondsworth) p. 504-5
  • Hill, J.W.F., 1948, Mediaeval Lincoln (Cambridge) p. 162-4
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1851, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 1 p. 40 online copy


  • 1987, Lincolnshire history and archaeology Vol. 22 p. 35
  • (Stocker, D.A.), 1987, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1986' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 31 p. 151 online copy
  • Wood, M., 1946, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 103 p. 160-61 online copy
  • Wood, M., 1935, 'Norman Domestic Architecture' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 167-242 esp. 191-94 illus. Pls. IV A, XII A, XIII B, Fig. 7 online copy
  • Watkins, W., 1914, 'St Mary's guild, Lincoln, and mediaeval builders' Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects 3 ser. Vol. 21
  • Watkins, W., 1913, 'The buildings of St Mary's guild, Lincoln, locally known as John Gaunt's stables' Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects 3 ser. Vol. 20
  • 1909, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 66 p. 352 (mention) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Acta of Henry II no. 501


  • Dr Liv Gibbs, 2003, Conservation Plans
  • Intervention Report: Pre-Construct Archaeology. Nov 1998. 64 Monson Street, Lincoln. MSL98
  • Excavation archive: Pre-Construct Archaeology. Nov 1998. 64 Monson Street, Lincoln. LCNCC 189.98