What is a Livery Hall? They are halls generally owned (or used) by livery companies. The livery companies are ancient or modern trade associations, most of which style themselves as the “Worshipful Company of…” their respective trade or craft. The key detail is that they are all, bar one or two, found specifically in the City of London (which, you may be interested to know, is not a London Borough).
There are currently 110 Livery Companies in the City, and 54 of them have their own venues for hire as events spaces. From the Carpenters to the Clothmakers, the Innholders to the Ironmongers, and from the Sadlers to the Skinners, most trades are represented.
CN went out to learn more about these venues, the types of client they attract and their business models, by visiting two contrasting, equally impressive, examples.
Glaziers Hall is to be found, almost literally, on London Bridge’s southern end practically built into the south bank of the River Thames. The entrance is on Montague Close, and to find it you will need to keep your eye out for the ‘Nancy Steps’ – made famous by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
Borough Market is nearby, and the hall makes full use of it when sourcing local goods whenever possible. It ties in with the venue’s philosophy of providing sustainable and healthy food for its clients.
The original Glaziers Hall, which was in Fye Foot Lane, was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was not relocated for another 300 years. The current building was built in 1808.
Today, Glaziers Hall is home to three livery companies: The Worshipful Company of Glaziers, The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers and The Worshipful Company of Launderers.
On display in the atrium are various ornaments and trophies in glass display cabinets, with plaques explaining parts of the building’s history.
The hall has five fully equipped rooms for hire, with the largest able to handle up to 400 delegates for a standing event (600 can be accommodated across the entire venue). Most events come from the local SE1 area, with delegates from Europe the next most common. The versatility of the rooms and their sizes means that the venue is suitable for events of all sizes.
But what makes Glaziers Hall attractive to local businesses for them to hold their events there? “Local businesses are drawn to us because of our location; we’re moments from London Bridge Station and have amazing views of the City,” said Leona Byrnes, head of events. “We support local businesses using suppliers in Borough Market and are active within Better Bankside [a business improvement district scheme], so this is a pull factor. Our flexibility, range of spaces and partnership options are also attractive from hourly hire to weeklong installations.”
With 15 full time employees on hand, the livery hall manages itself, and this business model seems to work rather well. The hall reports that it hosts over 400 events each year.
Glaziers Hall clearly does well, as a substantial number of clients are repeat business. Maxine Benacom, international project manager at France’s Proximum Group has been organising a B2B aerospace and space event at Glaziers Hall for the last three years. She told CN: “Proximum is a European leader in the organisation of B2B meeting events. We have been organising our events at Glaziers Hall for the last three years with huge success. The team are helpful, organised and the site is well fitted to our needs. The venue is in a fantastic and easy location.”
On the other side of the river adjacent to Southwark Bridge and nearby Canon Street Station is Vintners’ Hall, home of the The Worshipful Company of Vintners – the wine trade.
Here is an example of a venue that is not afraid to go against the grain and do its own thing. The building is striking to behold and replete with history, it’s almost like a museum to the wine trade – arguably it is. Indeed, the Vintners’ Company published its first Charter in 1363 and is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London.
The site of the current building has been its home for 650 years, despite the original building being destroyed in the Great Fire of London. Rebuilt some five years later, the hall has changed little in that time, although a new entrance was built.
The wood-panelled rooms are lined with paintings of past Monarchs and Masters, with displays of ancient wine bottles and silverware filling several glass cabinets. There’s even a reported ghost…
With all this prestige and heritage, you’d think it would be a hard task to take your event there, but you’d be wrong. While the venue itself has its own management, the events and catering are managed by Searcys, and they are keen for people to know that all are welcome.
Patricia Paixao, sales and marketing manager at Searcys says, “Vintners’ Hall is truly amazing. We take great pride in the service we provide here. Everything must be perfect, not just for the clients, but for Vintner’s Hall too. Maintaining the reputations of both companies is important.”
To ensure that all clients’ events are run perfectly, Vintners’ Hall runs to a strict timetable, which permits two events each day during the week: one in the morning and one in the afternoon or evening. This, Paixao says “means the clients don’t feel like they’re tripping over each other, and that when we tell them they have the venue exclusively, they really do have it exclusively.”
Business generally comes from London, but its popularity with European event bookers is testified. Lily Vetchel, an event director at the European Risk Management Council, has booked before. She told CN that she uses the venue because of their high standards and London setting, adding, “We’ve been using Vintners Hall for several years for our business events. It is a truly amazing venue in the heart of the City. It’s a great location and a fabulous historic building.”
There are seven hire spaces, with the Courtroom being one of the oldest rooms in the City of London. The impressive Livery Room, with its magnificent ceiling, being the largest that, in reception layout, can hold up to 250 guests.
The Roof Garden is a unique hire space that offers uninterrupted views of London and the Thames and ideal for a light (or heavy) drinks reception. What with wine being the theme at Vintners’ Hall, you can be sure that any tipples provided will be of the highest quality.
The Livery Halls of London
Apothecaries | Armourers | Bakers | Barber-Surgeons | Brewers | Butchers | Carpenters | Central Criminal Court | Chartered Accountants Hall | Charterhouse | City Livery Club | Clothworkers | Coopers | Cutlers | Drapers | Dyers | Farmers & Fletchers | Fishmongers | Founders | Furniture Makers | Girdlers | Glaziers | Goldsmiths | Grocers | Guildhall | Guildhall Club | Gunmakers | Haberdashers | HQS Wellington | Information Technologists | Innholders | Insurers Hall | Ironmongers| Launderers| Leathersellers | Little Ship Club | Mansion House | Mercers | Merchant Taylors | Old Bailey | Painters | Paviors | Pewterers | Plaisterers | Saddlers | Salters | Scientific Instrument| Makers | Skinners | Stationers | Tallow Chandlers | Trinity House | Vintners | Watermen | Wax Chandlers