Steeped in tradition, Guildhall invites guests on a journey spanning more than 800 years – from the Gothic grandeur of the Great Hall to the largest surviving medieval crypts in London.
Home to the City of London Corporation, Guildhall is a remarkable backdrop to national celebrations, corporate entertainment and major conferences. Seven flexible function spaces offer unique settings for large and small scale events, daytime or evening, right at the heart of the City.
Home to the City of London Corporation for over 800 years
Guildhall has been at the hub of City life since the Middle Ages – an era when the Lord Mayor of London rivalled the monarch for influence and prestige. Here the ruling merchant class held court, fine-tuning the laws and regulations that established London’s wealth. Built between 1411 and 1440, Guildhall was designed to reflect the power and prestige of London and its leaders.
Trials and tribulations
The stage for state trials and remonstrances to kings, Guildhall has played a key part in London’s dramatic history. Peers, an archbishop and a queen were tried for treason during the Reformation and, as the Great Fire swept through London in September 1666, destroying seven-eighths of the medieval City, Guildhall stood a “fearfull spectacle… as if it had been a Pallace of gold or a great building of burnished brass”.
With the twentieth century came the Blitz’s devastating air-raids and, on the night of 29th December 1940, Great Hall’s roof was razed again, collapsing amidst a mass of burning timber. The current roof — designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and erected in 1953 — is its fourth.
Pomp and circumstance
Guildhall has revelled in the pageantry and spectacle of state and mayoral occasions since 1502 and remains the civic and ceremonial centre of the City. Over centuries, its grade I-listed walls have entertained heads of state and heroes, from the lavish hospitality bestowed on the Prince Regent, Czar of Russia and King of Prussia to mark the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, to rousing receptions for Team GB’s 2012 Olympians and, most recently, Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.
The Guildhall Gallery is home to the City of London Corporation’s magnificent art collection. The original Gallery opened in 1886, though after the Blitz of 1941, much was destroyed. The present Gallery was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1999. It houses a number of Pre-Raphaelites and Victorian artworks, with one of the largest oil paintings in Britain on display; John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783-1791).
The Guildhall, ongoing
The Guildhall Library offers evening events to encourage visitors to learn something new about London’s history and literature (and includes a complimentary glass of wine). Past events have included ‘From Genesis to Google’, ‘Later Roman London and the End of Roman Britain’.
Guildhall Talks, ongoing.
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