Market Houses and the Tolsey
Timber-framed and set on octagonal stone columns, the Tolsey is typical of a broad range of market houses, town halls, and moot- or guildhalls found in most small market towns. Tree-ring dating of its roof timbers has shown that it was built in or soon after 1525, though a similar building may well have stood here earlier.
Its primary function was as a market house – the name ‘Tolsey’, found particularly in the Cotswolds and Wiltshire, suggests a place where market tolls were collected.
Like similar structures elsewhere the Tolsey had other uses. Town meetings may have been held in the upper chamber, and the back part housed the town lock-up, with the stocks, pillory, and ‘couckinge stowle’ standing outside in the 1580s. A reading room (lit by a gas chandelier) was opened here in the 1860s, and a town museum in 1960.