Livery Society walk around the City Livery Halls
On the 14th. May 2009, some 20 Feltmakers including the Master assembled for a refreshing drink at The Bell in Bush Lane just next to Canon Street station. It was one of the few pubs to survive The Great Fire of London and is also supposed to be where the phrase “needle in a haystack” originated, as Bush Lane was the heart of the needle-making industry.
Our tour guide was Murray Craig, the Clerk to the Chamberlain’s Court, who would have inducted many of the party into the Freedom of the City. Murray’s knowledge of the Liveries and their Halls is second to none. We were spirited around the streets of the City, from the Vintners’ Hall in Upper Thames Street, through Bishopsgate, past St Botolph’s Church and its remarkable courtyard. After a brief look at the secluded Postman’s Garden, we went up London Wall to stand by the last remaining vestige of the Wall and Plaisterer’s Hall.
Murray not only regaled us with the history and traditions of the various Livery Company Halls we visited, but also explained the meaning of Sixes and Sevens, the Five Kings who dined at the Vintners’Hall, Doggetts race for the Thames Watermen and Lightermen, and the Trial of the Pyx held at the
Goldsmiths’ Hall to ensure that newly minted coins conform to required standards. On our final leg we weaved our way through the back streets towards Smithfield Market, past Cloth Fair where medieval merchants gathered to sell material during Bartholemew Fair, and onto Butchers’ Hall, perhaps an appropriate last stop before dinner!
We retired to the Terrace Room at the Bleeding Heart Inn after a stimulating journey into the history of the City Livery Companies.