Tour of IronMongers Hall
28th November 2022
AWC Visit to Ironmongers’ Hall, 28 November 2022
Many of us were familiar with the entrance to Ironmongers’ Hall, tucked away up that alley off Aldersgate Street next to the Museum of London. We’d been invited in many times over the years to enjoy welcome hospitality as we Beat the Bounds of Aldersgate Ward. But few of us realised what a treat lay further inside.
The Master and fifteen AWC members were welcomed by Colonel Charlie Knaggs, Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers. He guided us through the main rooms with informed and witty commentary. We were all delighted to learn that Charlie is about to submit his application to join the Aldersgate Ward Club, and so we very much look forward to meeting him again at our future events.
Despite the sense of being in a splendid Tudor hall, with Arts & Crafts decoration, the Clerk explained how the present building is under 100 years old. However it does include many artefacts from earlier halls, the oldest being some ‘quarries’ or fragments of glazing from the original Hall of 1457, now preserved as part of a window in the Meeting Room. That original Hall and two subsequent re-builds were in Fenchurch Street, but after destruction by a German bomb in 1915, they relocated to the present site, where their new Hall was opened in 1925. That survived the Second World War, despite the whole surrounding area being flattened. Now, of course, the Hall is crowded in by modern concrete, but there is hope that when the Museum of London disappears to Smithfield, the Ironmongers’ Hall will once again stand proudly on open display.
The Clerk introduced us to many of the features of this magnificent building. The enormous portrait which dominates the impressive staircase is Robert Geffery, a poor Cornish lad who came to London for apprenticeship to an Ironmonger in the seventeenth century, and rose to become Master of the Ironmongers twice, and Lord Mayor in 1686. In the Drawing Room, the William Morris patterned fabric on the walls provides a magnificent back-drop to many paintings of past masters, and also a striking portrait of Charles I. The splendid Hall itself is panelled in oak with the nearly 600 past masters each represented by their coat of arms beautifully carved and coloured by hand in situ on the wall… and there is still room for 300 more to be added! Of particular note both here and throughout the building are the beautifully ornate plaster ceilings, which the nearby Plaisterers admire with some envy!
Our tour ended there in the splendid Hall with a magnificent Christmas lunch, served with traditional ceremony at a long table decorated with some of the Ironmongers’ gold and silver treasures.
We thank our Master for organising this most enjoyable visit, and the Clerk to the Ironmongers for hosting us with such generosity, knowledge and charm.
Ron Wood, Past Master.