By Helen Shingler:
Alongside the parish church of St.Winwaloe at Poundstock a few miles outside Bude, there is the wonderful early 16th century ‘Church House’ known as Poundstock Gildhouse. Built of traditional materials, cob, local stone, slate and timber it was used as a communal building in the beginning and would have combined a kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse, a meeting place and storerooms below, with an open hall for village feasting and dancing on the first floor.
‘Church Ales’ or feast day celebrations were held within the church calendar, particularly at Whitsuntide and May Day when ales were brewed and sold in order to raise funds for the Church or for good causes in the parish. With the growth of Puritanism in the late 17th-century drinking was seen as sinful, Church Ales were considered to be nothing but drunken disorders and were suppressed. Church houses were gradually abandoned, demolished or put to other uses.
Poundstock Gildhouse, by the late 18th century, had been divided up to become a poorhouse and schoolroom and in 1907 there was a large scale refurbishment and it was turned into Parish meeting rooms and a place for year-round activities, exhibitions and celebrations. A considerable amount of restoration work has been done with the aid of the Heritage Lottery Fund and a large amount of local fundraising to refurbish the building.
In 2012 Poundstock Gildhouse was selected as one of six Grand Prix Award Winners for the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in the category of Conservation (Europa Nostra Award) and was given an award of 10.000 euros. This was well-deserved recognition of the work that has gone into restoring this beautiful building but also the Jury for the Awards expressed unqualified admiration for the traditional techniques adopted in giving the cob wall, windows and timber-cruck roof a renewed lease of life!
Poundstock Gildhouse is open to the public up every Wednesday until October. There are also very special events throughout the year when it is used and it is also a wonderful wedding venue. More details can be found on the website.