In 1974 the Borough of Barnstaple ceased to exist and many of the powers exercised by the Borough passed to the Devon County Council and the North Devon District Council. On the 1st April 1974 the Barnstaple Town Council was formed as a successor Council to the Borough to take over the reduced responsibilities of a Town council. This also allowed the unbroken line of Mayors of Barnstaple which started some time before 1301 to continue.
The Town council consists of 24 Councillors, a number originally established in the charter of William and Mary, and holds its meetings in the Barnstaple Guildhall. On ceremonial occasions the Councillors dress in robes and, if processing, are led by two Macebearers and two Beadles.
In all there have been three Guildhalls in Barnstaple. The second Guildhall was demolished in 1827. The present building in the High Street, situated at the bottom end of the Pannier Market, is an interesting and dignified example of the provincial architecture of the early nineteenth century. It has been said "Had the building been set back 10 or 15 feet from the street it would have been a great ornament to the town. Situated as it is, it may be passed by strangers without anything more being seen than the market gates; or should the eye chance to be turned upwards it will be rather wearied than gratified, the building being lofty and the street comparatively narrow.
The Mayors parlour is on the ground floor. A carved oak panel at the top of the staircase commemorates members of the 6th Battalion The Devonshire Regiment killed during the 1914 – 18 war and the Barnstaple men who lost their lives during the 1935 – 45 War.
The large and impressive main chamber in which council meetings and court hearings are held contains 40 portraits of prominent citizens, 29 of which were painted by Thomas Hudson, a native of Bideford in 1739.
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