Behind the scenes in the City of London
erable property portfolios, and over the centuries have built homes, schools, shops and offices all over the country. The most dramatic move into property came in 1613 when livery companies were handed parcels of land in Northern Ireland and instructed by King James I to build houses and churches.
The tallow chandlers have investments ranging from a wine bar in Chester to a coffee shop in Dorchester, and the fishmongers have significant property in the City of London, while the mercers own the Royal Exchange. Several livery companies still maintain almshouses. But the most important properties are the halls themselves, which range in style from the 17th-century Tallow Chandlers’ Hall to Sir Basil Spence’s Salters’ Hall, a brutalist building. This is where the livery companies met to discuss trade, punish errant dealers, wear fine robes and feast.
These buildings are the focus of the new book. “Many of them discuss the enduring impact of the companies’ regulatory powers, but they don’t talk about the importance of property and the sheer physical presence they have maintained through the halls,” says coauthor Anya Lucas. “It seems that’s key to their survival. Otherwise their existence is quite nebulous, and their indus-
Tallow Chandlers’ Hall, main, and paintings of its former masters under the skylight, right