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Livery Hall

 

The Livery Hall, now the venue for dinners and other events, was the original meeting place for members of the Company. The present room was built in 1671, and still retains late seventeenth century carving. Most of the heads under the windows are probably original, as are the Coats of Arms in the west screen. (The east screen dates only from 1822.)

The room was returned to its original appearance after the Second World War, when the opportunity was taken to eliminate some of the more obvious Victorian alterations, including the stained glass.The alcove in the north-east corner, now containing plate, was the original entrance to the Hall.The ceiling was replaced in 1932-33, because of death watch beetle. It was designed by George Alexander Gale, later the Company’s Surveyor, and modelled on the ceiling of the Old School Room at Winchester College.

The cement floored attic above it proved to be the salvation of the Hall from incendiaries during the Blitz. The ceiling has recently (August 2013) been repainted in a stunning new colour scheme by Dolby & Taylor.

The shields are those of members of the Company who either had been Lord Mayor or were in office when the ceiling was replaced. The banners were carried in the Lord Mayoral procession of Sir Francis Truscott in 1879. Both he and one of his Sheriffs, Edmund Kelly Bailey, were Vintners. The Plate Stand, at the west end of the Hall, was constructed in 1842 and improved by the Earl of Athlone, Master between 1934 and 1936.

The Company sold most of its ancient plate to pay for the rebuilding of the Hall after the Great Fire, but two pieces of earlier plate survive. They are displayed in the glazed cabinet to the right of the Plate Stand: a stoneware jug given by David Gittings in 1563, and a coconut cup hallmarked 1518-19.

The Feast of the Five Kings in 1363 is recorded above the entrance door. It is echoed by a panel for the Feast of the Five Princes on 15 May 1935, at the east end of the Hall. To the left of the entrance door is the Sword Rest, purchased by the Company when Sir Thomas Rawlinson was Lord Mayor in 1705. (He had been Master Vintner in 1687. His portrait hangs in the Court Room.) It is designed to house the City Sword, which is still brought to the Hall annually when the Lord Mayor dines with the Company. Nearby is a small wooden platform, provided in 1956 in case the City Swordbearer is not tall enough to reach the Sword Rest.

The carving around the wall panels is very fine, depicting fruit and grapes. Note how the lady becomes less and less serene as you progress around the room. This was probably intended as a warning against drinking too much alcohol.

The chandeliers were bought from Oslers in 1874 for £374. The Tastevin collection at the east end of the Hall was purchased by the Company in 2000. It is displayed so as to replicate the Company's coat of arms.The Royal Arms above the Plate Stand are in Coade Stone, purchased in 1802 for £32 19s. They must have been altered in 1837, when Queen Victoria ascended the throne and the Royal Arms changed to those in use today.The fivefold screen was presented in 1902, but is much older.

The engraved window was given by Paul Wates in the early 1990s to commemorate the partnership of his firm with the Company in the building of Vintners' Place, the office development which surrounds the Hall. The designer was Beverley Shore Bennett, and the engraver was Hugh Whitwell.

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05/06/2014
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