TAVISTOCK councillor Harry Smith has admitted he is proud to become the first chairman of a meeting held in the town’s restored Guildhall.

Cllr Smith oversaw a session of the town council’a budget and policy committee from the Guildhall’s former courtroom, which has been recreated as part of the building’s new role as a heritage gateway centre. The listed building, which housed the town’s police and fire stations during its life has been virtually unoccupied since 2000.

It was taken over by the council in 2014 who have partnered the Tavistock Heritage Trust in recreating the run-down building as a centre for information about the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. Council offices and the town’s Tourist Information Centre will also be sited in the building, which is due to open to the public on December 4.

Cllr Smith conducted the meeting from the former magistrate’s chair, complete with a borrowed gavel, which would have been available to its former occupant to keep order. However, in a typical even-tempered meeting, he didn’t have to use it to make himself heard.

Committee members, who are still observing Covid-19 restrictions, were positioned below Cllr Smith in the benches previously reserved for court officials and advocates.

Cllr Smith recently stood down from the town’s Neighbourhood Development Plan steering group in order to concentrate on making the Guildhall project a success, having worked on it for around a decade.

He said: ‘I am proud to be able to chair the first town council committee meeting to held in the former magistrate’s court. The project to bring the Guildhall complex back into use has been a long time in the making. Discussions about the building took place for several years prior to the purchase by the town council in 2014.’

The courtroom, which was last used for that purpose in 2001, has been lovingly restored by a partnership between the town council and Tavistock Heritage Trust.

The Guildhall was built in 1848 as a response to a law-and-order crisis blamed, at the time, on a rapid increase in the population.

Cllr Smith added: ‘The result of lots of dedication and hard work is that the Guildhall complex now offers opportunities for both members of the partnership to use a first-class facility to bring benefit not only Tavistock’s current population but a much wider audience.’

Members of the public wanting to visit the new Guildhall can do so through the town’s Tourist Information Centre in Bedford Square.