The Guildhouse of the Brotherhood of St John the Baptist

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Guildhouse of the Brotherhood of St John the Baptist' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Guildhouse of the Brotherhood of St John the Baptist' page

57-61 High Street

by David Short and Cliff Jenkinson

The Guild of St John the Baptist was established in 1476 under the patronage of the Bishop of Lincoln and The Duke of Clarence, King Edward IV’s brother (later, according to legend, drowned in a butt of malmsey wine).  It was endowed with a mixture of arable and pasture land which brought in an income of between 3s. 2d. (16p) and 4s. 2d. (21p) per acre.  

The centre of the Guild was this Guildhouse, a timber-framed building with wattle and daub infilling and an overhanging upper storey, now divided into two dwellings and a baker’s shop. 

The whole of the upper storey originally formed one large room, which was the feasting room of the Guild.  Downstairs there were three rooms: a hall, pantry and buttery.

The Guild mainly existed to ensure that its members alive and deceased spent as little time as possible in purgatory before they graduated to heaven.  It employed a priest who said a mass every day in the parish church to pray for their souls.  The Guild also seems to have provided some kind of education because the survey of 1545, made at the order of King Henry VIII whose plan was to take over the endowment if he could, mentions the Guild’s priest at the time as: “Thomas Daye of thage of liiij years (the age of 54) is Brotherhead Preste, a man of good behaviour and well lerned, exersyenge hymselfe in techinge of childerne franklie, having none other lyvinge but the said salarie.”  Luckily it appears he was allowed to stay on as a teacher after the suppression of the Guild.

The far left bay is a sixteenth century extension.  When the guild was closed down the property became a private dwelling, occupied by the Bill family.  Members of this family played a role on the national scene, Thomas Bill being physician to Edward VI and William Bill being created Dean of Westminster Abbey by Elizabeth I when she came to the throne.

In 1841 William Worboys, a farmer, lived there.  By 1951 the building was divided into four houses and the baker’s shop.

This page was added on 18/04/2011.

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