St Mary's Guildhall

Picture of St Marys Guildhall
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St. Mary's Guildhall is one of the finest surviving medieval guildhalls in England. First built in the 1340s for the merchant guild of St. Mary, it was enlarged between 1394 and 1414 and extensively embellished at the end of the 15th century. Soon after it was built it became the headquarters for the mayor and corporation of Coventry and remained so until the early 20th century when Coventry Council House was built. It served as the centre of King Henry VI's court during the War of the Roses and as a prison to Mary, Queen of Scots. William Shakespeare is thought to have staged his plays here and writer George Eliot, who knew the hall well, features it in a scene from one of her novels

The building still occupies a central role in the civic calendar, being the venue of choice for high-profile conferences, civic banquets and other ceremonies.

Venue Type:

Historic house or home, Heritage site, Museum

Opening hours

St. Mary's Guildhall is open for visitors from Sunday 19 March to Sunday 8 October 2017

Schools, groups and individuals are welcome to visit outisde of the open season by prior arrangement, subject to event bookings and staff availability.

During the open season, St. Mary's Guildhall is open Sunday to Thursday*, from 10:00am to 4:00pm

Admission charges

Admission to St. Mary's Guildhall is FREE. Donations are gratefully received to support the upkeep of the historic building and its collections.

Getting there

Follow signs to the Cathedral or the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Bayley Lane can be found on the south side of the cathedral ruins

Additional info

No specific parking on site, but limited disabled parking available in Bayley Lane. Public car parks and coach parks available within walking distance

The civic collection at St. Mary's Guildhall includes a diverse range of items and artworks that have been amassed at the Guildhall over the centuries, some as donations and bequests, others as specific commissions by the guilds or civic leaders.

In the 1960s, some of the collection of art, archives and 'curios' previously at the Guildhall were relocated to Coventry's new Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

Access can also be arranged via St Marys Guildhall to collections found within Coventry Council House. These include scuplture by Thomas Woolner, important works in silver-gilt by Elkington & Co and the city's civic regalia including its town sword and maces.

Collection details

Costume and Textiles, Architecture, Fine Art, Weapons and War, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • Coventry Tapestry circa 1500
  • MacDonald 'Max' Gill
  • Merton Abbey works
  • W.C.Marshall
  • Gothic Furniture
Arms and armour in the Great Hall

Arms and Armour

The collection of arms and armour at the Guildhall is all that survives of a much larger collection, that was stored in the Guildhall's Armoury in readiness for any need to defend the city. Dating from the early 16th to early 17th centuries, the remaining assortment of pole arms and armour owes its survival to being retained for use in the annual Godiva Festivals, as costume for characters in the procession. The famous 15thC 'Coventry sallet' is now on show at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Mid 15thC 'Guild Chair', in the Old Council Chamber


The collection of period furniture at the Guildhall covers several centuries of domestic design, from a 13th century muniment chest, through high Gothic to Georgian benches and seats, carved with Civic insignia. A star item of the collection is a fine example of a mid 15thC Gothic-carved seat, quite possibly the 'cathedra' from Coventry Priory, moved to the Guildhall at the time of the Dissolution.

Portrait of King Charles I, circa 1636


The collection of pictures at St. Mary's Guildhall chiefly comprises portraits in oil, of English and British monarchs, civic leaders and benefactors associated with the city of Coventry from the 16th to 19th centuries. Large state portraits dominate the Great Hall, whilst smaller works can be seen in adjoining rooms

Sculpture at St. Mary's Guildhall


St. Mary's Guildhall holds a small collection of finely sculpted artworks, including 16th century stone carvings of saints, and two representations of Lady Godiva (one of which was exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition). Also on view are medieval religious wood carvings, salvaged from one of Coventry's long demolished medieval buildings, possibly a pilgrim's hostelry

Tapestry (detail) at St. Mary's Guildhall


The textile collection centres principally on the magnificent 'Coventry Tapestry' one of the finest and rarest examples of the art in the country. Dating to circa 1500, it is celebrated not just for its age and remarkable state of preservation, but also for the fact that it remains on the very wall for which it was made over 500 years ago. The tapestry collection also includes panels designed by MacDonald Gill in the 1930s, which were amongst the final productions of the Morris Art Workers of Merton Abbey, and a pair of 17thC Flemish panels from the 'Life of Pompey' series

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Visitor Information Leaflet

This leaflet, free to download, gives historical and architectural information about this heritage-listed Guildhall, built in the 1340s. It highlights points of interest including the Entrance, Great Hall, Tapestry, Old Council Chamber, Prince's Chamber, Oriel Window, Armoury, Treasury, and the Mary Queen of Scots Room.

How to obtain

Scroll down the webpage and click on Downloadable Documents: Visitor Leaflet.

Getting there

Follow signs to the Cathedral or the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Bayley Lane can be found on the south side of the cathedral ruins

St Mary's Guildhall
Bayley Lane




02476 833328

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.