Exploring the City's Livery Halls in Lockdown
Enjoying a talk by the Clerk to the Armourers' Company during a tour of that Company's Hall
The City’s Livery Halls form an eclectic collection of scattered gems throughout the Square Mile - some are grand palatial buildings on par with England’s large country homes, others are more modest town houses and one is a ship - yet all are fascinating, have their own stories to tell, and treasures to reveal.
During 2019 I began organising guided tours of several Livery Halls for Arts Society groups, usually one hall in the morning and another in the afternoon with a brief walking tour after lunch. These tours have been immense fun and endlessly fascinating, not least because of the excellent support from the Livery Halls. I've learned a great deal from organising tours and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, while not every hall is suited to tours, those that are do their utmost to put on a wonderful experience.
Sadly the impact of Covid19 has resulted in the closure of all the halls, and it seems unlikely that they will open their doors before the Autumn of 2020. Meanwhile it is possible to explore some of the halls in a virtual manner. Seven of the City’s Livery Companies have produced 3D interactive virtual tours of their halls, they are:
The Drapers' Company Hall is one of the more palatial of the City's Livery Halls and has stood in for Buckingham Palace in films
Straying beyond London there is also a similar 3D interactive virtual tour of one of the provincial company halls:
The 3D virtual tours available from these companies are designed primarily as marketing aids for commercial hall bookings, as such they focus on exploring the spaces available for meetings and events rather than the stories and treasures, never the less they provide a good sense of the experience available in each hall. The Stationers’ Hall is soon to undergo a major refurbishment in order to improve accessibility and update it for the needs of the modern events market so this virtual tour also provides a record of the hall prior to the building works.
in addition there are several excellent 3D interactive virtual tours of other City venues that may be of interest to readers:
Rather more of the City’s Livery Companies have recorded video tours of their halls and posted them on YouTube, some of these video tours guided by the Beadle or the Clerk others are narrated, as with the 3D virtual tours they are usually created as marketing aids for the wedding and corporate events business but they are certainly worth viewing to get a glimpse inside these halls.
Several of the Companies have produced short guides to their halls and the treasures kept therein. While these are not generally available other than on a hall tour, some of the larger guides are available for purchase online and there are several books that record Livery Company treasures, including:
- Plate at Goldsmiths Hall London (1960) published privately by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
- Halls and Treasures of the City Companies (1970) published by Ward Lock
- 100 Treasures of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers (2016) published by the Ironmongers’ Company
- The Arts of the Apothecaries’ Hall by John Ford (2018)
In addition to each Company’s own guide, there are two excellent books that provide a general exploration of the halls prior to and since World War Two.
- The Livery Halls of the City of London (2018) published by Merrell
- The Halls of the Livery Companies of the City of London (1981) published by The Lavenham Press
NB. This last publication is a print on demand hardback book that can be ordered from the Surveyors’ Company
Maps of the Livery Halls
The following resources may further support your exploration of the City of London's Livery Halls:
- Interactive map from the Corporation of London website
- Interactive map covering the period prior to the Great Fire of 1666
- A2 Colour Poster map of the Livery Halls and Principal Civic Buildings
- Digital download of the above A2 colour Poster Map
- 250 piece laser-cut wooden jigsaw of the above A2 colour Poster Map
This A2 size poster-map of the City's Livery Halls, Churches and Principal Civic Buildings is available from purchase from cityandlivery.etsy.com
Looking to the future
I hope to be able to return to organising guided tours of Livery Halls in 2021, until then I trust my followers will enjoy exploring the various virtual tours and reading more about the City’s many private treasure houses. Meanwhile we can but hope that some of the halls will open to the public on Open House London weekend in September.
Want to learn more about the Livery Companies?
The City of London Freeman's Guide is the definitive concise guide to the City of London and its ancient and modern Livery Companies, their customs, traditions, officers, events and landmarks. Available in full colour hardback and eBook formats and now in its fourth or Masterpiece edition. The guide is available online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) Payhip (in ePub format) or Etsy (in hardback or hardback with the author's seal attached). Also available from all major City of London tourist outlets and bookstores.