Fondly regarded as the birthplace for the stationery trade, Stationers Hall has a fascinating history dating back to early 1606. It has become a must see location for anyone visiting the city of London and has quickly established itself as a top tourism spot.
At a time where owning halls was regarded as high in establishing prestige, many city based companies had taken the opportunity to invest and sometimes build their own halls. Hearing of this, the Stationers purchased what was known as Peter’s College but by the end of the 16th century, would decide that the premises were too small for their growing company. It was at this point in 1606, that the Stationers would go on to purchase Abergavenny House which was situated on the site of another Hall.
The Great Fire of London
In order to maintain much of the building they had purchased, the Stationers found the overall expense of upkeep to be high. To be able to continue to raise funds for repairs and urgent maintenance work, the rights in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs were sold in 1656. Shortly in the years that followed, the hall had become unfit for use and was victim to the Great Fire of London.
The early days of September 1666 subsequently saw the Great Fire of London sweep through the City of London, leaving a path of destruction and devastation in its wake. Of the properties affected, Abergavenny House was completely burnt to the ground and the remaining building of which the Stationery Company had owned were completely exposed to the fire within the following 36 hours. The only items to remain were the records held by the Stationery Company, which were saved from the fire by the company clerk, George Tokefield.
Rising From the Flames
After the severity of the Great Fire of London, a small amount of work had begun on helping to restore the Hall. After work had begun on repairs for the building in 1670, the newly rebuilt Hall was used to help host a dinner taking place on Lord Mayor’s Day. It wasn’t until 12 months after this however, that a protestant joiner by the name of Stephen Colledge, agreed to a working contract to help panel the Hall. The cost of repairs can still be seen in records kept today, much of which refer to work done on the Hall and the kitchen of the building. Of the repairs listed, the costs included:
- £732 for the woodwork (excluding paneling) charged by Henry Foord
- £33 to repaint the building corresponded by a painter known as Mr Pollard.
- £905 for the main building work, draining, brick work, plastering and slating which was commissioned by Robert Wapshott, a builder.
Estimates indicate that the overall costs of re-building and further improving the Hall came to £3,000, with a further £5,000 being spent on creating a warehouse, court room, stock room and tenements in the 10 years that followed.
In a satisfying culmination of the work and efforts carried out to restore the Hall after the destruction caused by the Great Fire of London, the 1st of March 1745 saw the Company of Stationers become sole owners of the established hall. Now branded as Stationers Hall, the property was held in mortmain after permission given by King George II. The Company of Stationers’ ownership of Stationers Hall meant that they could make further alterations to the building, such as the ones that were suggested by Surveyor to the Company, Robert Mylne, towards the end of the 18th century. Changes to the frontage of the property were made in the autumn of 1800, which lead to further amenity additions and adjustments including:
- Amenities of the Court Room at the cost of £1,600 by his son and successor, William Mylne
- Reshaping and partial rebuilding of the east wing of the Hall creating expenditure over £7,000 carried out by Robert William, the son of William.
Following this, the Stock Room was given the present shape it still contains today but with much of the older paneling carefully restored.
Stationers Hall Today
In spite of damage caused as a result of the Second World War in 1940, Stationers Hall still stands today as an impressive and beautifully crafted building in the City of London. Whilst restoration work has taken place since The Court Room was partially destroyed in 1957 and redesign work has taken place on the ceiling of the Livery Hall, it remains to be a hive of activity for tourism and a fond place of origin for those in the current stationery trade. Additionally, Stationers Hall now offers venue hiring facilities which often accommodate weddings, parties and conferences.