Innholders Hall is a Grade II* listed building featuring a beautifully preserved 17th Century Old Court Room and an impressive Great Hall.
The Hall is first referenced in a public assessment document dating back to 1522. At that time College Street was known as Elbow Lane. Observations recorded in 1598 explain that the lane was ‘so called from it bending from Dowgate with an Elbow to Thames Street’. The Hall is specifically mentioned as being located alongside ‘other fair houses’.
During the 1666 Great Fire of London the Hall was destroyed, along with most of the Company’s early records. By good fortune the Hall’s fine silverware and the Royal Charters were saved by the Master and safely stored in Smithfield. By early 1670 the Hall was rebuilt and records indicate it was open for the ‘transaction of public business on the first Tuesday in the month’. Archaeological investigation undertaken during Hall remodelling in 1989 discovered a medieval chalk wall constructed on beech wood piles, which may have been part of the original 16th Century Hall. The archaeologists also speculate that medieval roof timbers in the current building may have been salvaged from the Great Fire and subsequently incorporated during its 17th Century rebuild.
Additional improvements to the Great Hall took place in 1886 and during 1933 fine wooden panelling was installed in the first floor New Court Room.
In May 1941 the Hall suffered collateral fire damage from an incendiary bomb which fell on neighbouring premises in Little College Street. After the Hall Keeper had done all he could to extinguish the fire, he called the Fire Brigade, telling them “If you help us to put this fire out, we will help you to something which will put you out!”. After two hours work the blaze in the hall and the surrounding fire was extinguished and the Hall Keeper reported a quantity of wine had also been ‘blitzed’.
War damage repairs were finally completed in 1952 and in that same year the Hall became a listed building of historical importance.
In the late 1980s the Company embarked upon an ambitious improvement and extension plan which closed the Hall for a year. Works included relocating the Minstrel’s Gallery and replacing bowed flooring in the Great Hall. Extending into the neighbouring building enabled the entrance to be relocated and this provided a large reception area with improved stair and lift access to all floors. The Hall reopened in 1990 complete with a flat for the Master, additional bedrooms, enhanced catering facilities and a new Clerk’s office.
To celebrate the Millennium the Company commissioned John Makepeace to design and make a set of tables and chairs for the New Court Room. The carpet was also designed by Makepeace to complement the furniture.
The 2015 quincentennial anniversary of the Company’s first Royal Charter was decoratively celebrated in the Hall with the installation of an eight-point gilded star on the reception area ceiling, the star representing part of the Company’s crest, along with the restoration of a finely embroidered Victorian Innholder banner, which was re-hung in pride of place in the Great Hall.