Girdlers' Hall Garden (City of London)
The Worshipful Company of Girdlers has had a Hall with a garden on this site since 1431. Due to the proximity of the Guildhall, Basinghall Street was a favoured location for the Livery Companies. The first Girdlers' Hall was destroyed in 1666 and rebuilt in 1680/81, but this building was destroyed by bombing in 1940. The new Hall re-opened in 1961 with a garden at the rear that contains a mulberry tree grown from a cutting of a tree probably planted in 1750. The garden has lawn surrounded by paving stone paths with perimeter shrubs, a number of tree including fig, and a small fountain with cherubic figure. The Corporation of London owns the public space in front of the Hall. The garden has won many awards, the latest being the Livery Hall Trophy 2010 in the Flowers in the City Campaign organised by the City of London.
- Site location:
- Girdlers' Hall, Basinghall Street/Basinghall Avenue
- EC2V 5DD
- Type of site:
- Private Garden
- City of London
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- private, visible through railings/from Highwalk. Visits may be possible by appointment
Took part in Open Garden Squares Weekend in 2015.
- Special conditions:
- Public transport:
- Rail / Tube: Moorgate (Hammersmith & City, Circle, Northern, Metropolitan); Liverpool Street ((Hammersmith & City, Circle, Central, Metropolitan).
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/03/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.girdlers.co.uk
Full Site Description
The Worshipful Company of Girdlers has had a Hall with a garden on this site since 1431, after land and property here was bequeathed to them by Andrew Hunt. The Company received royal letters patent in 1327 regulating their craft and was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1449. Due to the proximity of the Guildhall, Basinghall Street was a favoured location for the Livery Companies and the Coopers, Masons, Weavers all had halls here from the C15th and C16th until the 1860s. The Girdlers' Hall is the last hall here, and the Company flourished particularly until the late C16th when girdles began to go out of fashion. The patron saint of the Girdlers' is St Lawrence, whose church of St Lawrence Jewry stands nearby adjacent to Guildhall Plaza (q.v.). Today the Company still presents the sword belt for the Sword of State and stole for the coronation of a new monarch.
In 1505 Robert Belgrave had bequeathed additional property to the Girdlers' Company that was described as a 'toft of lande, a Solar and Garden'. It was probably during the C16th that gooseberry and currant bushes were grown here; children were allowed to play in the garden and the Company's napery (washing) was hung out to dry in a corner of the garden. In 1654 Thomas Dugdale, the butler, was recorded as being paid 6s 8d for 'keeping the garden' and also an extra amount for 'washing the linen, collecting wood and coals, and for candles and the lanthorn'. Between 1655 and 1666 annual entries in the records show payment to Mr Dugdale for looking after the garden and also payments to a gardener and his man for trimming the garden and cleaning the walks. They also cut the grass platt and hedges, pruned the vines and carried away the rubbish. The grass was rolled and weeded; gillyflower roots, pinks, tulips, rose trees, camomile, herbs and seeds were regularly purchased. A sundial was set up in 1663.
The first Hall and its garden was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. An additional piece of land was purchased on which four houses had formerly stood before the Fire, and the Hall was rebuilt in 1680/81 costing c.£1,500. Vine, fig and mulberry trees were reputed to have been planted in the garden. Between 1715 and 1740 the garden was maintained by a succession of gardeners. In 1720 John Strype wrote that 'the Hall was then a very handsome Building with an open Courtyard; and a Free stone Pavement and a Garden behind it', the Strype map showing that although the Girdlers property fronted 'Basinghall Street, its Hall and garden were situated behind other buildings. In 1730 the Ladies' Parlour was let out to a dancing master for four days a week on condition that his pupils did not play in the garden. By 1770 the Company had fallen into debt so presumably nothing was done in the garden. In 1913 an ancient lead water cistern, which had formerly been at 66 Aldersgate Street, was presented to the Company and became the main feature in the garden. In the 1920s or 30s Kew Gardens (q.v.) reputedly took cuttings of the 1681 mulberry tree.
In 1941 the Girdlers' Hall and garden were destroyed by bombing, although according to the Master the mulberry tree and fig tree survived unharmed. The new Hall was designed by Waterhouse and Ripley and re-opened in 1961. The Girdlers' original site had its frontage on Basinghall Street and consisted mainly of office and commercial buildings. The Hall and garden were at the rear and accessed by an alleyway from Basinghall Street. However, after the war an area of 177 acres from Guildhall to Armoury House, and Coleman Street to Aldersgate Street were compulsorily purchased by the Corporation of London, enabling them to dictate the layout and redevelopment of the area as a whole. As a result Basinghall Street no longer terminated at London Wall but turned west just behind Guildhall to meet Aldermanbury Square (q.v.). The Girdlers' Hall and its garden are situated roughly on their original site and a tower block now stands on the original frontage.
During the building of the new Hall and tower block the Company's garden had been used for storage of scaffolding and workmen's huts and the exposed C19th cellars became a rubbish dump for debris. The north wall of the garden was built with bricks preserved from the blitzed Hall. Facing the north wall and bisecting the garden, creating two levels, is a low wall that is the remains of the Victorian dining room extension of 1877. A mulberry tree was planted in the garden in 1962; a vine and fig were planted around the same time, the former did not flourish but the fig, a gift from Past Master Neil Maitland, is still in situ. A fountain with a lead cherub was presented by the Sherrard family in 1967 that had for many years been a focal point in the garden of Past Master Eustace Sherrard. In 1968 a west wall was built to hide the service passage to the tower block. In 1971 a Magnolia Soulangiana Alba Superba was presented by the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Sir Edward Howard. By 1989 little of the original planting is said to have survived apart from a buddleia, a golden privet, caster oil plants and only one of the many clematis. In 1989 the garden was a winner in the Flowers in the City Campaign's Livery Hall Trophy, which it has won many times since then.
In 2007 refurbishment of the Hall began, completed in May 2008, with a further floor added. In 2009 Jago Keen designed the hard landscaping. The garden at the rear still contains a mulberry tree grown from a cutting of a former tree and has an intimate informal quality. Laid out with a well-kept lawn surrounded by paving stone paths, it has perimeter shrubs and a number of trees, including a fig, and the small fountain with cherubic figure. Annual colour schemes in the garden reflect the colours of the Livery and replicate the colours in the ancient carpet that hangs in the Hall.
The public open space in front of Girdlers' Hall is owned by the Corporation of London; formerly a small area with a number of plane trees, raised beds and planters,this has now been re-landscaped to include grass, planting and seating.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; T C Barker, 'The Girdlers’ Company: A Second History' (London: S Straker and Sons Ltd. 1957); Girdler’s Company, 'The Rebuilding of Girdlers’ Hall 1961', (S Straker and Sons Ltd. 1989); Peter Mills and John Oliver, 'The Survey of Building Sites in the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666', (London Topographical Society 1962/67); W Dumville Smyth, 'An Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers, London', (London: Chiswick Press 1905); John Stow 'A Survey of the cities of London and Westminster', (Strype ed 1720); Catherine Davis, The London Gardener 16, 2010/11 and The London Gardener 17, 2012/13. See also history on Girdlers' Company website.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Catherine Davis, March 2011 (Girdlers’ Company General Accounts, Court Minute Books, Ledger, Deeds and Documents)
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ325814 (532556,181521)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- The Worshipful Company of Girdlers
- Site management:
- The Worshipful Company of Girdlers
- C15th, C18th, 1961, 2009
- 2009: Jago Keen
- Listed structures:
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
- Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Local Authority Data
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
- On Local List:
- In Conservation Area:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
- Strategic View - Consultation Area. City Walkway Network