It is a four bay, two storey building, originally housing the Guildhall with the corn market below. It stood on the south side of a small market square, which had covered stalls on the other three sides. The original medieval hall was probably a two floored structure. The lower floor was largely underground on three sides and housed the corn market and stocks. However the south facing side of the building was open to the elements with three large archways, allowing access from directly into the Llantrisant market area which existed until the mid 19th century. Nearby at Y Pwysty or the weighing house, goods were weighed to ensure they were priced accordingly at the market place.
The meetings of the Court Leet, known as Presentments, were documented within minutes taken. One of them states: “Llantrisant Borough, the presentment of the Grand Jury sworn at this Court Leet of our sovereign….Lord Viscount Windsor…this fourteen day of May 1748."
In 1749 there is an entry relating to the necessity to repair the building stating it was “in ruin” – “…the Guild Hall of said Borough on this the thirteenth day of May one thousand seven hundred and forty nine…We present the Town hall for not bein in repare which ye said Hall to be repared by Lord Hambert Viscount Windsor."
In 1756 it states again the need to repair the building while in 1770 it is “in shocking state”. Finally comes the presentment of 1773 commented on the erection of a “…new Guild Hall and corn market…by the generous…Lady Windsor.”
The Court Leet of Freemen called on Lady Windsor, the Lady of the Manor for financial support to rebuild the Town Hall and Cornmaket in 1773, which resulted in the increase of tolls on entering the town on market day.
A resolution of the court records stated: “We the Grand Jury of Homage, sworn at the said Leet, do hereby testify our gratitude and acknowledgement to the said Lady Windosr who, in compliance of the request of the burgesses by sending former presentations made at the Leets of the said borough for that purpose have generously at her own expenses erected the Guildhall of the said Town and a Corn Market under the same as also commodious place for the sale of all kinds of goods and merchandise brought to the Fairs and markets. We do on our oath present the same as the proper place for the purposes aforesaid and that the said Market Place so erected be the place for sale of corn good and merchandises brought to the fairs and markets of the said town.”
The rebuilding of the hall failed to bring prosperity to the town and it was obviously not enough with the Court Leet accepting that a clear government for regulating the market had to be imposed.
In 1779 Llywelyn John and Rees John became overseers, but documents reveal that competency was hardly their strong point, with one typical entry reading: "Very remiss in their duty in not weighing bread and butter upon market days which belongs to their duty to do." The demise of the market place by 1870 gave way to a parcel of land that became a new police station in 1876.
As early as January 1840, Thomas Morgan Lewis became Llantrisant’s superintendent with six constables and a station was located in a building on Swan Street. The newly built police station had its own set of cells. Until then prisoners were kept in the cells in the lower flor of the Guildhall itself.
As for the lower floor, evidence suggests that the corn market was gone by the end of the 19th century. Instead a library and reading room replaced the cornmarket in 1896.
The Guildhall had a rich and varied history as the location of a number of organisations. For instance law courts were still held at the Guildhall and also for a period at the Cross Keys Hotel until the early 20th century.
In 1699, Rev. James Harries pledged his support for the work of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and by 1700 hoped to secure schooling for the poor. In 1701 he established two Charity Schools and by 1716 had 30 pupils on the roll in a town were parishioners were “lazy and mutinous” and “addicted to sports, even in divine service”, so he became “forced to restrain them” against atheism.
From 1739 to 1773 a circulating school of teachers held classes in the Guildhall and Corn Market, patronised by Lord Bute. It was also Lord Bute who granted the Baptist movement use of the building to hold services beforehand was acquired to build Tabor Church in 1812.
With the dissolution of the borough in 1883 the Guildhall fell into a period of redundancy but with the establishment of Llantrisant Town Trust to replace the previous Corporation, enjoyed a new lease of life.
At some point in the early part of the 20th century the chimney stack, which could possibly have been from the medieval period, was removed altogether. In 1898 Taliesin Morgan, a Clerk to Llantrisant Town Trust said, “In the Guild Hall all the meetings of the Freemen are held, also the Courts Leet and petty sessions for the division.”
By 1956 it the Trust decided to purchase the Guildhall from the former Llantrisant & Llantwit Fardre Rural District Council. A Guildhall Trust was then established to oversee the upkeep of the building and some repair work was undertaken with a new ceiling and central heating in place,
The Guildhall has remained home to the Freemen of Llantrisant for more than 600 years. Today a new era in its life is underway.
With thanks to J. Barry Davies, author of “The Five Hamlets of Llantrisant” and “The Freedom & Ancient Borough of Llantrisant”.