Thaxted Guildhall is open to the public from 2.00pm to 6.00 pm over Easter on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. After Easter it is open on Sundays and Bank Holidays to the end of September. It is also open all weekend when there is a special exhibition. See diary dates for these occasions.
Current thinking believes that the building was built by the townsfolk sometime between 1462 and 1475. Not six hundred years ago as stated in many guide books and leaflets. This dating is based on tree ring dating as being the prime evidence. It is not really a Guildhall as the design is more of a moote or mote hall. That is a civic meeting place. Many guide books mention the Cutler's Guild but there is little evidence that the building was associated with this guild, in fact, there is no evidence of such a guild in the Middle Ages and it is very unlikely that there was one. What is fact is that there was a thriving cutlery industry in Thaxted at this time. Therefore it is most likely they contributed financially to its construction.
The building has an open-paved ground floor which was used as a market and meeting place, and the first floor as an open gallery, with window openings which could be screened when necessary, also a market area. The top floor was used for meetings and probably the Warden's living quarters.
mentioned above, there was a cutlery industry in Thaxted, at one time it is known that over a third of the working population were involved in the trade in some way, but the other trades in the town would have been associated with farming and the land. When the cutlery trade began to decline, and to foster and regulate trade a formal Charter of Incorporation was granted by Philip and Mary, and Thaxted became a Borough. This allowed the appointment of a Mayor, two Bailiffs and twenty-four Burgesses to form a Court of Common Council, to manage the civic life of the town. In 1686, the Charter was extinguished owing to the persecution of James II, and during the years that followed the Guildhall fell into disrepair.
Yardleys Charity, one of the town's existing Charities, took over the Guildhall at the end of the 17th century, carrying out a major restoration, enclosing and panelling much of the first floor and equipping it for use as a school, which was also Yardleys Charity's responsibility. Thaxted Grammar School operated in the Guildhall until 1878, providing free education for 30 boys, adding education for 20 girls after 1830. In those days, children started school at 8 years and finished at 14, and learned reading, writing and arithmetic - samples of their excellent handwriting are on display in the Guildhall.
1911, a further restoration took place - pargetting of 1714 was removed, timbers were restored, and the original ground floor arches were replaced. The most recent restoration was carried out by Essex County Council as a contribution to European Architectural Heritage Year 1975 and thanks to the care and dedication of Thaxted people throughout the previous 600 years, the Guildhall continues to represent the civic life of the town, and is in active daily use. The Parish Council, the Trustees of Yardleys Charity and other bodies hold their meetings there, and it is also used for exhibitions of local crafts and interests at frequent intervals throughout the year.