The Livery Halls of the City of London
|The Livery Halls of the City of London, Anya Lucas and Henry Russell with photography by Andreas von Einsiedel, Merrell Publishers, 2018, 280 pages, 450 illustrations, hardback.|
For many visitors to London, the livery halls may go unnoticed. Tucked down alleys or accessed through gateways, they quietly house the business and history of their company. Yet the livery companies and their halls are integral to the story of the city, woven through its history as tightly as their buildings are through its streets. As Alderman Charles Bowman writes in the foreword, they are ‘unique jewels that greatly enhance the city’s rich architectural history’. Often perceived as aloof and unapproachable institutions, this hugely welcome book opens the doors to all 40.
The history of the livery companies and their buildings mirrors the history of the city itself. Many were formed in the medieval period and took on existing buildings, often courtyard houses, developing and extending them over the Tudor and Stuart period as their trades prospered. The Great Fire of London devastated all of them, but the livery halls were among the first buildings to be reconstructed in the years following the fire, embracing the new baroque style of architecture. Many continued to be developed over the next two-and-a-half centuries, only for the Blitz to devastate the majority again in 1940–41. The Mercers’, Grocers’, Girdlers’ and Painters’ Halls were among many that were completely lost for a second time. Substantial 17th-century fabric survives in only five halls, the Apothecaries Hall of 1672 being the oldest.
The book starts and ends with useful essays by Anya Lucas on the history of the Livery Halls, including numerous plans and illustrations of many of the earlier halls. What architectural losses there have been! Work by Inigo Jones, Christopher Wren, Edward Jarman, Peter Mills and Robert Hooke went up in flames in either 1666 or 1940–1. The Livery Halls’ resilience and capacity to absorb these misfortunes has been extraordinary: Mincing Lane had seen six versions of the Clothworkers’ Hall; Gresham Street five Wax Chandlers’ Halls. Pevsner wrote of them: ‘Their survival against the odds is a remarkable feature of the City’s history.’ This tradition continues: the ever-changing face of the city is represented by new livery companies being formed, the most recent being that for Information Technologists founded in 1992.
The bulk of the book runs through the 40 extant livery halls, not in alphabetical order, but in order of precedence, first established in 1515. The history of each hall is given in brief with a plethora of interesting facts and gorgeous photography of (mainly) the interiors by Andreas von Einsiedel. What is striking is the range of architectural styles, from the baroque through every architectural phase to modern interpretations of Livery Halls at the Leathersellers’ Hall by Eric Parry Architects and the Haberdashers’ Hall by Michael Hopkins. The odd one out is the Master Mariners’ Hall – not a hall at all but a boat – the HQS Wellington.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- After the Fire: London churches in the age of Wren, Hooke, Hawksmoor and Gibbs.
- Coal holes, pavement lights, kerbs and utilities and wood-block paving.
- Historic building.
- IHBC articles.
- Sir Christopher Wren.
- The Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
- The Rebuilding Acts.
- Worshipful Company of Constructors.
IHBC's Virtual Annual School 2021 MarketPlace stalls provide access to over 25 of the sector's most influential organisations. Book now to join!
IHBC’s 2021 virtual conference examines how we can best change and sustain places for the benefit of people, led by expert practitioners boasting international, national and local profiles and experiences.
The 2021 winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards have been announced.
England’s Housing Minister has announced a £1.1 million fund to test the use of digital tools and data standards across 10 local areas.
Created by the Local Authority Building Control (LABC), Front Door provides practical guidance on home improvements and renovations as well as technical advice on obtaining building control and planning approvals.
The Independent Commission established by the Governing Body of Oriel College on the memorials and legacy of Cecil Rhodes has reported.
A huge blaze has destroyed two Grade-II listed boatyards on a River Thames island.
The medieval shrine of St Amphibalus has been restored to its former glory, now with ‘a modern addition of a face wearing a face-mask to commemorate the shrine’s restoration project’ in the pandemic!
A section of the Ulster Canal, a disused canal in the border region of Monaghan and Fermanagh, will be restored and reopened as a public amenity more than 90 years after it was abandoned.
One of the most stunning Roman finds ever unearthed in Britain has been discovered on the site of a new housing development in a village near Scarborough.