10 treasures you’ll find at Merchant Taylors’ Hall
Our beautiful building has been occupying the same site since 1347 and has amassed hundreds of historic artefacts during its lifespan. We’ve chosen 10 of our favourite pieces to give you a flavour of the treasures you and your guests will be surrounded by during your event at Merchant Taylors’ Hall.
1. Maye Rosewater Dish
Rosewater dishes are still used to this day in Merchant Taylors’ Hall at the end of some formal dinners. The ornate bowl is filled with iced rose water, topped with rose petals and set down at the table. Diners take it in turns to dip the corner of their napkin into the water, dab their necks to refresh themselves and then pass the bowl onto their neighbour. The Maye Rosewater Dish dates back to the Elizabethan era, (1597 to be precise), and is made from gold and silver.
2. Funerals palls
These two tapestry hearse cloths – or funeral palls – are on display in the entrance hall to Merchant Taylors’ in a spot which is sure to protect the delicate fabric from the sunlight. Looking at the two pieces of material, it’s hard to believe that they both date back to C1490-1530. Some of the detail has retained its bright colouring and the gold thread in the older specimen still sparkles to this day.
Housed in our Library, the majestic desk that sits in the large bay window has more than few stories attached to it. It first came into the possession of Merchant Taylors’ Hall after WWII. It was given to the livery as a gift from the Saddlers’ Company as a thankyou for housing them after their offices were bombed during the war. The desk was brought up from Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight, which is where Queen Victoria famously spent a year grieving after the death of her husband, Albert. A fact that Dame Judi Dench was particularly interested in when she was at Merchant Taylors’ filming Mrs Henderson Presents (she herself had previously played Queen Victoria in the film Mrs Brown, alongside Billy Connolly.)
4. Master’s Chair
Used by the Master of the Company, this over-sized chair sits in the Court Room where all committee meetings are held.
5. Georgian knife box
Housed in the Committee Room, Merchant Taylors’ Georgian knife box contains original, ivory-handled cutlery which is still used at formal dinners.
6. Kitchen spits
Although the kitchen at Merchant Taylors’ Hall is kitted out with all the modern facilities needed to cater for formal dinners for 200, it still retains some of its historic features. One example of this are the spits that are mounted above one of the original oven openings. They would have been used to roast whole pigs and lambs at special dinners. Hog roasts are still popular with our modern clientele, but we have slightly more up to date equipment these days!
7. Charles II portrait
Charles II, as far as we know, never visited Merchant Taylors’ Hall, but his portrait hangs in pride of place in our Court Room. His likeness is also likely to found at most, if not all, of the ‘Great Twelve’ liveries of London will also have a picture of him somewhere on their walls. This is the case because it was Charles II who re-instated the Royal Charter which allowed the merchant’s to trade again after Oliver Cromwell closed them down.
8. Lord Mayor’s Show picture
At the top of the staircase that leads to the Drawing Room there is a large mural depicting the 1484 Lord Mayor’s Show. The parade was always a huge affair and would see the Lord Mayor leading a procession down the Thames, including barges from the 12 Great Livery Companies in order of precedence. The picture shows two barges, side by side in the Thames, vying for position. The barges belong to the Company of Merchant Taylors and the Company of Skinners. Unfortunately the two fiercely competitive companies’ spat involved the loss of several men overboard. The tragic incident resulted in both parties agreeing to alternate the positions they hold (6th and 7th) in the order of precedence. A tradition which still takes place today and is thought to have given rise to phrase sixes and sevens.
9. Poors Box
The Company of Merchant Taylors has had a long history of charitable donations. The Poors Box lives in the Court Room and Members of the Company are free to donate whenever they visit Merchant Taylors’ Hall. The only obligatory donations are expected when committee members’ mobile phones go off during meetings! All contributions are given to The Samaritans.
10. Medieval wall
Behind a glass panel in the main entrance hall is a small area of exposed wall, which is part of the original medieval building. Much of Merchant Taylors’ Hall was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and the bombing in the Second World War, but some sections do remain intact.
Get in touch
To discover all the treasures Merchant Taylors’ Hall has to offer, get in touch with our Events Team on 020 7450 4445. They will be happy to discuss your next event and the stories each of our spaces has to tell.