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At Stationers’ Hall

November 3, 2015
by the gentle author

‘The Word of the Lord Endures Forever’

Next time you walk up Ludgate Hill towards St Paul’s, turn left down the narrow passage just beyond the church of St Martin Within Ludgate and you will find yourself in a quiet courtyard where Stationers’ Hall has stood since the sixteen-seventies.

For centuries, this whole district was the heart of the printing and publishing, with publishers lining Ludgate Hill, St Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row, while newspapers operated from Fleet St. Today, only Stationers’ Hall and St Bride Printing Library, down behind Ludgate Circus, remain as evidence of this lost endeavour that once flourished here.

Yet the Stationers’ Company was founded in 1403, predating printing. At first it was a guild of scriveners, illuminators, bookbinders, booksellers and suppliers of parchment, ink and paper. Even the term ‘stationer’ originates here with the stalls in St Paul’s Churchyard where they traded, which were immovable – in other words, ‘stationary’ stalls selling ‘stationery.’

No-one whose life is bound up with writing and words can fail to be touched by a visit to Stationers’ Hall. From 1557, when Mary Tudor granted the Stationers their Charter and for the next three hundred years, members had the monopoly upon publishing and once one member had published a text no-one else could publish it, thus the phrase ‘Entered at Stationers’ Hall’ became a guarantee of copyright.

Built in the decade following the Fire of London, the Great Hall was panelled by Stephen College ‘the protestant joiner’ at price of £300 in 1674. In spite of damage in the London Blitz and extensive alterations to other buildings, this central space retains its integrity as an historic interior. At one end, an ornate Victorian window shows William Caxton presenting his printing to Edward IV while an intricate and darkly detailed wooden Restoration screen faces it from the other. Wooden cases display ancient plate, colourful banners hang overhead, ranks of serried crests line the walls, stained glass panels of Shakespeare and Tyndale filter daylight while – all around – books are to be spied, carved into the architectural design.

A hidden enclave cloistered from the hubbub of the modern City, where illustrious portraits of former gentlemen publishers – including Samuel Richardson – peer down silently at you from the walls, Stationers’ Hall quietly overwhelms you with the history and origins of print in London through six centuries.

The Stock Room

The Stock Room c. 1910

The Stock Room door, c.1910

Panel of Stationers that became Lord Mayor includes JJ Baddeley, 1921

The Great Hall, where Purcell’s Hymn to St Cecilia was first performed in 1692

The Great Hall c. 1910

Stained glass window of 1888 showing Caxton presenting his printing to Edward IV

The vestibule to Great Hall

The Stationers’ Garden

The Court Room with a painting by Benjamin West

Looking out from the Court Room to the garden with the Master’s chair on the right

The Court Room

The Court Room, c 1910

Exterior of Stationer’s Hall, c. 1910

Archive photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

At Drapers’ Hall

At Goldsmiths’ Hall

At Vintners’ Hall

9 Responses leave one →
  1. November 3, 2015

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos. Good to see that the building hasn’t been replaced by a faceless block of offices. Valerie

  2. November 3, 2015

    Why does that crown move around the doors then?

  3. Sharon O'Connor permalink
    November 3, 2015

    Lovely article!

  4. Charlie permalink
    November 3, 2015

    Great photos, used to walk past this place every day.

    It’s amazing that it survived the German bombing.

  5. Sally Baldwin permalink
    November 3, 2015

    Oh, what a magnificent building!!

    It saddens me to think how many other wonderful sites failed to survive warfare, recession and efforts to ‘modernize.’

    A gem of a post; thank you.

    Sally

  6. November 3, 2015

    Great photos! I’m a former printer but have never yet managed to see inside Stationers’ Hall. Thanks.

  7. Pauline Taylor permalink
    November 3, 2015

    Having had a life that has revolved around printing, publishing and books it has been interesting to see the lovely interior and garden of Stationers’ Hall. Is there some Grinling Gibbons there or is it my imagination? Thank you GA once again for a lovely fascinating piece.

  8. Ros permalink
    November 3, 2015

    lovely, interesting piece and great photos. Thanks!

  9. Hazel Orchard permalink
    November 5, 2015

    Like many Halls , the Stationers Hall is not generally open to the public . Only opportunity to visit is probably during Open City in September .

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