Herbert Austen Hall
- Original design
- Herbert Austen Hall, 1958
- Donald Insall, 1985
The 2018 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2019 programme mid-August.
Home to The Clothworkers’ Company, an ancient Livery Company of the City of London, the present Clothworkers’ Hall is the sixth Livery Hall to stand on the same spot. The site was originally conveyed to a group of shearmen in 1456 and the first Hall built in 1472. It subsequently passed into the possession of The Clothworkers’ Company, formed when the Shearmen and Fullers, two predecessor guilds, merged in 1528. The new Company became twelfth of the ‘Great Twelve’ City Livery Companies and regulated the craft of cloth-finishing within the City of London.
Previous Halls were either pulled down to make way for more commodious surroundings, as the Company’s wealth grew, or were sadly lost over time. The third Hall was razed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Victorian Hall was similarly destroyed by fire in May 1941. A new Hall was begun by Henry Tanner in 1955 and continued by Herbert Austen Hall (who also designed Carpenters’ Hall). Made of brick and Portland Stone, it emerged ‘lightly clad in Georgian dress’, in style typical of much post-war construction in the City. It opened for business in 1958.
In 1985-86, the interiors were refurbished by Donald Insall and Associates, in styles evoking the history of English Classicism from the period of Wren to the present, using materials and techniques intended to represent the best of British craftsmanship.
The large Entrance Hall has the most modern appearance of the rooms; with marble columns and pilasters and a proportionally low ceiling, the space has a distinct Art Déco character and was deliberately conceived as a foil to the richer interiors above. On the walls hang a set of four trompe l’oeil paintings by John O’Conner, depicting the historical processes associated with the finishing of woven woollen cloth. Displays of contemporary bookbindings, an endangered craft supported by the Company, may be viewed in this room.
An impressively proportioned travertine marble Grand Staircase leads the visitor up to the Landing. Below the glazed dome, hang three stunning eighteenth century Brussels tapestries, depicting the story of Cyrus, King of Persia. They were commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, The Hapsburg Empress, between 1771 and 1775.
From the Landing, one passes into the elegant setting of the Reception Room. The barrel-vaulted plasterwork ceiling is modelled on that of the fifth Hall; however, in colour scheme the room is intended to recall the late eighteenth century, specifically the work of the Adam brothers. The silk wall coverings and chandeliers were specially commissioned at the refurbishment.
The Reception Room is home to a number of the Company’s finest works of art including a contemporary portrait of the famous diarist Samuel Pepys, Master 1677-78 by Riley, a landscape by Edward Lear and cabinets showcasing the Company’s collection of historic and contemporary silver. The adjacent Library boasts an impressive armorial ceiling.
Inspired by Wren, The Livery Hall contains a series of limewood carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons. The large stained glass windows, bearing the arms of the Company and those of past Clothworkers and Clothworker Lord Mayors, are by Hugh Easton, who also designed the Battle of Britain memorial window in Westminster Abbey.
'The Caged Bird’s Song', a monumental tapestry designed by Chris Ofili CBE is a recent addition to the west wall. Depicting an island paradise under threat, the triptych was hand woven over two and a half years by a team of five Master weavers at Dovecot Tapestry Studio, Edinburgh and was the focal point of the recent 'Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic' exhibition at the National Gallery (April – August 2017).