Poundstock Gildhouse was probably built in the 1500s. It stands close to the Church of St Winwaloe, Poundstock, in north Cornwall. The Gildhouse was built to be a meeting place for the parish guild (gild is the old spelling of guild). A guild was a club that raised money to look after people and the church. To do this, feasts were held in the Gildhouse. Bread was baked and beer was brewed to sell to people enjoying the feast.
Parish feasts or ‘revels’ celebrating saints’ days also took place in church houses. These were exciting events, with feasting and sports such as archery, hurling and Cornish wrestling. Travelling fairs would also attend parish feasts with dancing bears and actors performing plays. In the 1540s, the English government banned religious guilds and the celebration of saints. People in Cornwall were very angry about this. Their anger led to the Prayer Book Conflict of 1549.
School and poor house
The Gildhouse was later used as a school and the village poor house, where homeless people could live. In 2006, the Gildhouse was restored and it is now used once again for community feasts and celebrations. Schools also visit the building to see what life was like in Cornwall in the 1500s.
In 2012, the project to restore the Gildhouse won one of Europe's top prizes for cultural heritage called 'Europa Nostra'.
Most church houses in Cornwall became private houses. Some became pubs, continuing their original function of brewing and selling beer.
Was there a church house in your parish? Is it still there? Can you find it?
Did you know?
On 13th October 1549, Poundstock’s parish priest, Simon Morton, was hanged in Stratton, north Cornwall. He had joined the Cornish army fighting against religious changes in the Prayer Book Conflict.