My walk is focussed on locating some of the famous Livery Companies within the City of London as the various historic buildings that house them. My blog will only touch upon a small fraction of these Companies and their halls as ‘There are 110 livery companies of the City of London, and their nearly 40 livery halls’ (http://www.liverycompanies.info/a-z-list-of-companies/). Today these historic buildings are commonly hired out for functions, however, many also still have ties to their original trade the best of example of this being the Hackney Carriage Drivers Company who enforce London taxi drivers to do The Knowledge. So most of these companies still operate but mainly on a regulatory level.
I begin my walk at Gresham Street, not far from St Paul’s cathedral, where I set about to find the hall of the famous London livery company: Goldsmiths. It is widely considered to be one of the oldest Honourable Livery Companies, ‘of the chartered companies, was the Goldsmiths Hall, which must also have ranked with the earliest in point of age, as their fraternity had an assay office in the reign of Edward I’ (William Herbert, 1837 P.g.182). This company also founded The Goldsmiths Institute (which later becomes Goldsmiths University) in the South East of London during the 12th Century.
I fail initially to find Goldsmiths Hall but do accidentally stumbled across Wax Chandlers Hall, due mainly to is stand out feature of a bright royal blue door, the building as whole has been described as a ‘handsome modern brick building, well fitted for the use of the company’(James Elmes, 1831, P.g.403).
The London Wall near the Museum of London is now mainly the ruins of the old Roman Wall. The area now, like much of London, is under development and construction and large sections of the pavements in the surrounding area are boarded off. This is due to the business company Brookfield who are making way for London Wall Place, which is ‘a new destination in the City of London…two statement office buildings. Perfectly positioned, the location features an exciting mix of world-class culture, extensive amenities and superb transport links’ (http://www.londonwallplace.com/better_city_life/introduction.php). This presents that although London has grown far beyond the Roman parameters of the old wall, to an extensive 36 boroughs, the heart of the trade/ business of the City remains where it always has been. The wall was built by the Romans as it marked out the ‘city of Londinium’, it acted as ‘some kind of fortification. As well as providing defence, the construction of a stone wall represented the status of the city’. Not much of the original wall survives today, ‘it was obscured and, later, partly destroyed during the construction of new buildings and railway lines’ (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/london-wall/history/).
Still on the search from my planned starting point of Goldsmiths Hall I arrive in the area of Barbican and realise that I may have taken a wrong turn. I continue walking along Aldersgate Street ‘the street itself took its name from Aldersgate, a gate in the old London Wall’ (Louise Coysh, 2014, P.g. 230), this street is the home of the iconic Lauderdale Tower of the Barbican Estate. The estate is a ‘grade II listed complex… a beautiful example of 1970s British Brutalist architecture’ (Louise Coysh, 2014, P.g. 230). The brutalist architecture offers a great contrast to classical style favoured by the Livery Halls and is one that I personally find much more appealing. Furthermore, this lost wander through the striking concrete masterpiece that is Barbican was not a total loss as also I spot another Livery company hall. This time it is belonging to The Ironmongers, who like the Drapers and Goldsmiths, make it onto the ‘list of the Twelve Great Companies’, coming in at number ten. Their Hall, situated on Shaftesbury Avenue, was (like many of these Historic buildings) not where the original Hall stood. The present Hall dated 1748 ‘was erected on the site of an Elizabethan Hall which…escaped destruction in the Great Fire’. (Henry Benjamin Wheatly, 2011, P.g.264)
I continue to walk, though still largely in the wrong direction, this time in search of my planned end point Drapers Hall on Throgmorton Avenue. The Drapers Livery Company, ‘founded over 600 years ago…is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies in the City of London’ (http://www.thedrapers.co.uk/). This has been the site of the Drapers Company since the reign of Henry VIII, though the building was largely destroyed by The Great Fire of London 1666, the Drapers occupied ‘a Hall in St Swithin’s Lane, Cannon Street, long before the one in Throgmorton Street’(William Herbert 1837 P.g.462).
I then find myself in the Old Street/ Shoreditch area where I then I manage to get my bearings and head towards Drapers company. Walking through Wilson Street, close to Liverpool Street Station, I pass the Wilson Street Chapel, a Victorian, Gothic style building built in 1889 (http://hackneybuildings.org/items/show/19739). From this landmark I am able to then start to make my way back to the start point, following the length of the London Wall. Along this route I discover Pewterers Hall on Oat Lane, this is the Pewterers third Hall built in 1961 as the first was burnt down ‘Feb. 29. A fire at Pewterers Hall, Lime-street’ (Gentleman’s magazine, or monthly intelligence, vol 48, P.g.424). Plaisterers Hall is also along this road at One London Wall, ‘The Plaisterers Company is the forty-sixth upon the city list, incorporated on the 18th of March, 1501, by King Henry VII’ (David Hughson, 1806, P.g.303).
Finally, I come once again to Gresham Street where this time I actually manage to locate Goldsmiths Hall on Foster Lane and my walk seemed to have reached its natural end point. Covering over three miles London’s streets and lasting two and half hours I managed to locate six Livery Halls along the way. You may consider this a relatively unsuccessful trip as there are approximately forty Hall in the City, however, this just opens up an opportunity for further walks to locate the remaining Halls.
Coysh Louise, Labyrinth: A Journey Through London’s Underground, Art/Books, 2014, P.g.230
Elmes James, A Topographical Dictionary of London and its Environs, Whittaker, Treacher and Arnot, 1831, P.g.403
Gentleman’s magazine, or monthly intelligence, vol 48, F Jefferies, 1844, P.g.424
Herbert William, The History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of London, University of Michigan, 1837 P.g.462
Hughson David, London: Being an accurate History and description, University of Michigan, 1806, P.g.303
Wheatly Henry Benjamin, London Past and Present: Its History, Associations, and Traditions, Cambridge University Press, 2011, P.g.264