If you’ve been in the High Street recently, it’s hard to miss the scaffolding around the Guildhall.

Work is underway to clean and restore the building in the heart of Andover, which has been at the heart of the town since the nineteenth century. According to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), some areas of the building “require urgent attention” following years of erosion and decay.

Here’s all you need to know about what’s taking place at the Guildhall:

What is the Guildhall?

The Guildhall is a nineteenth century stone building located in the centre of Andover’s high street. It has served for many years as the political hub of Andover, with its rooms used to accommodate meetings and functions. The building also serves as an icon of Andover itself, with its image used on signs entering the town and to represent it in a variety of different settings.

In more recent years, the upper floor has hosted meetings of Andover Town Council, while the lower floor has been used as a restaurant, most recently for Zintino’s until the restaurant’s owners entered administration.

What is the history of the Guildhall?

The current incarnation of the Guildhall replaces an older building constructed in 1513, and remodelled a number of times. In 1825, the new Guildhall was finished in a neoclassical style popular in Georgian England at the time, and used to have a central clock tower before the clock was moved into the pediment on the roof of the building.

It served as the town hall of Andover and the seat of power for Andover Borough Council, with many decisions and commemorations taking place here. It formerly played a large role in military occasions such as Remembrance Day, with Andover’s cenotaph originally located outside the hall. In the 1950s, however, plans to extend the Guildhall meant that the war memorial was moved to its present location in St Mary’s Churchyard. The plans never went ahead, and there is still debate over whether the memorial should be moved back or not.

In 2010, work got underway to convert the ground floor into a restaurant got underway, with the upper floor remaining as a council chamber and meeting room. It was originally converted on behalf of the Zippers Restaurants group, with Villagio and Zintino’s being some of the restaurant names occupying the ground floor. However, in January 2021, Zintino’s shut after its parent company entered administration, with the venue remaining closed since then.

Last month, the Guildhall hosted its first town council meeting in over a year, as councillors returned to the building and chose Cllr Barbara Long as the new mayor.

What work is taking place?

At present, TVBC have employed the company Stonewest to clean and restore the Guildhall following damage to the stonework over the years. Test methods to clean the Bath stone were undertaken, with cleaning using low pressure steam at 150⁰C found to be the best to clear the stone of dirt and particulates, as well as degreasing agents where appropriate.

The present work follows an application in 2019 to repair the stonework and refurbish parts of the hall. The lit was to be brought up to health and safety standards, while outside, most of the stone required repair, either due to erosion or through poor repair with cement in times gone by. Water has also been found getting into the ironwork, while some mouldings had dropped off the building.

The current cleaning will allow the approved refurbishment of the stone to take place, with damaged stones being repaired with lime mortar. A full clean has been deemed to be required as the sheer number means it is “impractical to clean targeted areas”. Moss will also be removed to investigate the stone cladding further.