The Livery Halls of the City of London

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The Livery Halls of the City of London

Monday 17 June 2019

The Livery Halls of the City of London are, alongside Wren’s churches, its finest architectural inheritance, but rarely accessible to the general public. This book, beautifully designed and copiously illustrated with specially commissioned colour photographs by Andreas von Einsiedel, is the first comprehensive account of the livery company halls since Englefield’s volume of nearly 40 years ago.

For over 600 years, livery companies have played a leading role in the commercial, social and political structure of the City of London. Essentially trade associations representing professions ranging from goldsmiths to butchers, today there are 112 companies, 40 of which have their own hall. Half remain on their original medieval sites, but all have been rebuilt, some many times. While a few halls, such as Fishmongers’ and Goldsmiths’, display grand public facades, most are tucked away in alleys or courtyards. For explorers, an excellent map is provided.

Anya Lucas provides a succinct overview of development of the Livery Hall, together with a fascinating account of the `lost halls’, illustrated with historic prints, drawings and maps. The heart of the book is Henry Russell’s detailed description of each of the extant halls. It gives a fascinating journey through an extraordinary mixture of architectural eras and styles, from 17th-century survivors at Vintners’ Hall and Stationers’ Hall to the modern masterpieces of Basil Spence’s Salters’ and Michael Hopkins’s Haberdashers’ Hall. For DAS members, the interiors and the treasures they contain will catch the eye, including decor, furniture, fittings and works of art, most of which are post-1850.

The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects is to be congratulated for promoting this book. It would be gratifying if it resulted in these remarkable buildings being opened to the public on a more regular basis, perhaps part of the initiative to widen the City’s appeal as a centre of culture in the heart of London.

The Livery Halls of the City of London

Anya Lucas and Henry Russell, Merrell, 2018, £45, hb

Condensed from a review by Alec Forshaw in DAS Newsletter No. 116