Celebrating the rich and varied heritage of the Guildhall

Fascinating heritage project, Discovering the Guildhall, culminates with the opening of a free public exhibition!

In November 2018, The Guildhall Trust embarked on its Discovering the Guildhall project to record and celebrate the rich and varied heritage of Portsmouth Guildhall, one of the city’s most prominent and significant buildings.

Generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, working with Portsmouth Museum Service and The Mary Rose Museum, the project reached out to members of the public to reminisce and share their memories of the iconic venue online, in recorded interviews and in a fun memory booth at the venue.

Local residents and those now living overseas have kindly loaned and gifted personal items and shared fond memories of the Guildhall from pre-war to present day.

These memories are now brought together and presented in a compelling free exhibition of the music, civic and social history of Portsmouth Guildhall, telling the story of the iconic venue from the night it was devastated in 1941, to its rebuild, rise to fame through its legendary music performances, to present day. Stories are captured in two 15 minute films, recorded memories, archive material and memorabilia.

Located in the Bronze Door area on the 1st Floor of Portsmouth Guildhall, the exhibition will be openly accessible to the public from Monday 27th January – Friday 27th March, 9am – 5pm weekdays and 10am – 2pm Saturdays and accessible on show nights for ticket holders. (Subject to availability, please check opening times before visit).

The project has engaged a new team of over 40 volunteers who have helped unearth archive material, record interviews and worked to create a permanent digital archive to be launched in March 2020, to which people will be able to continuously add their memories for years to come. The volunteers have also delivered talks, arts-based outreach workshops and reminiscence sessions with schools, care homes and community groups across the city.

Some of the wonderful memories shared include those of the legendary concerts and acts people have attended, the prices they paid – including just 50p to see Ella Fitzgerald, their memories of Guildhall Square, playing on the steps, seeing the building bombed out and even tales of who has taken a nap in the Lady Mayoress’ bedroom!

Discovering the Guildhall Project Manager, Nicola Peacock said, “This has been a wonderful project to work on and we are delighted to open this free exhibition for the public to enjoy. We have seen hundreds of people come forward to share their memories to ensure they are preserved for future generations. I can’t thank our team of committed volunteers enough and we look forward to launching a permanent digital archive in March 2020 so this project continues to endure”.

For more information and to check opening times before your visit please call 023 9387 0200. 

About The Guildhall Trust
The Guildhall Trust is a registered charity, responsible for the running, operation and custodianship of Portsmouth Guildhall. The Guildhall was originally completed in 1890 as the Town Hall before Portsmouth was raised to city status in 1926 and the building renamed. In 1941 only the outer walls and tower of the Guildhall survived a WWII bombing raid on the city, after which the Guildhall was rebuilt and opened as a Concert Hall by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. In the years that followed some of the biggest names in music performed at the Guildhall.

It is this history that the Discovering the Guildhall project has sought to archive and preserve for future generations while inspiring, entertaining and transforming lives within the community as a leading cultural hub.

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.




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