The picturesque village of Blakeney was the third most important port in Norfolk when the Guildhall was built in the 15th century, yet few buildings survive from this prosperous period. The Guildhall’s flint and stone construction reflects its own importance and that of Blakeney itself.
It may originally have been a merchant’s house but was home to Blakeney’s guild of fish merchants by 1516 when they were granted a charter by Henry VIII. The building subsequently had a surprising variety of uses. It is shown on a map of 1682 with a castellated upper storey, though this part of the building, perhaps used as an inn, later fell into disrepair.
In the mid-19th century the undercroft was used for storing coal, which was traded along the coast between Newcastle and London. By the end of the 19th century the haven began to silt up and the port rapidly declined.
In the First World War the Guildhall served as a temporary mortuary for shipwrecked sailors.
Set just back from the quayside, the Guildhall was probably originally entered from the higher ground to the south. The surviving undercroft itself has attractive ribbed brick vaulting supported by a central row of octagonal stone columns. It has rendered walls and a cobbled floor, and was lit by three windows in the east wall.
At the south-eastern corner of the ruined upper storey are the remains of a brick-lined privy chute from the upper level, and a spiral stairway to the undercroft.
The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.