Many people do not realise that in the square mile of the city which seems to be all tall glass building of commerce and money at the present time, there exists to this day many older institutions that have looked after the welfare of crafts, guilds and their workers for hundred of years.
There are many livery companies [I have mentioned Goldsmiths Hall previously who deal with assaying precious metals] but today, I wanted to focus on two of the most historic Halls that can be visited.
The Skinners Company was originally created to help merchants and their workers who dealt, as the name suggests, with skins and furs as the trade was a necessity during the medieval period when the guild was founded and at one time only the rich and powerful were allowed to wear Ermine, Sable or Marten. Their present hall close to Cannon St. Station dates back the 1670’s after being destroyed in the Great Fire of London but its origins and cellars dated to the C12th.
In the 12 great guilds of London the Skinners often vied for position with the Merchants Taylors Company during the Lord Mayors River Procession in 1484 either being placed sixth or seven in the order of importance. Eventually this acrimony almost ended in violence during that year, so the mayor Lord Billesdon settled this by judgement where they would take alternate places each year and host a dinner for the other accordingly. This decision and all the former jostling apocryphally created the term “All At Sixes And Sevens “ which is still used today to describe not knowing where one is at a certain time or being in a state of disarray!
The Merchant Taylors Guild located in the city near Threadneedle St has been on that site since since the C12th, and has supported the merchants and tailors involved in the trade well into the Middle ages, though by the late C18th both livery companies had become removed from their original trades becoming more philanthropic, the Merchants Taylors being one of the first to build Almhouses for poorer members and becoming the first social landlords in the city.
Both buildings can be visited, the former holds open days twice a year and the latter with access to their catering facilities and by appointment can be hired for social events.
The interiors of both hold a wealth of history and artwork and will take you back into another more noble London, away from the polished glass and steel monoliths of our present age and the people who run them.
Merchant Taylors Hall, 30 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8JB
Skinners’ Hall ,8 Dowgate Hill ,London EC4R 2SP