I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago, but almost forgot in the excitement of my museum visit. On my way to work I pass the Farmers and Fletchers’ Hall on Cloth Street, which is near Smithfield Market. For the last six months or so, all the windows on the ground floor have been boarded up. And every morning, since it happened, I’ve thought to myself – I must ask someone why it’s all boarded up. And every morning, by the time I’ve cycled the two minutes down the road to work, I’ve forgotten.
Now two weeks ago, I was strolling back from lunch and there was a fellow struggling to take something into the catering entrance of the hall so I took the opportunity to ask him. His name was Leo. A very nice fellow, he explained that they’re in the process of doing it up, refurbing all the downstairs rooms and they’ve boarded it up until it’s done. So there you go..
…but the story doesn’t end there. It turns out that Leo is the catering manager for both the Farmers & Fletchers’ Hall AND the Founders’ Hall. After expressing my interest in looking round the halls and my attempts to get tickets to see the Skinners’ Hall, he said he’d show me round the Founders’ if I had time.
The hall sits on the corner of Cloth Fair, just behind St. Bart’s church. It looks like a non-descript office building from the outside, albeit one with some ornately carved wooden doors.
Taken inside by my guide, Leo, I was shown the ground floor function room…
…before seeing the main hall.
As you can see it’s not quite what you’d expect from a worshipful company hall. Designed and built in the 80’s, it took it’s cues from Japan but overlaid the accoutrements of hundreds of years of history and the baubles that go with that – heavy, dark wood, bronze sculptures, thick stone. I’m not sure it worked as an ensemble piece but the overwhelming feeling of solid permanence was quite nice.
The art dotted around the place was lovely. The company, originally representing the people casting candlesticks, bells and weights and measures, can also rely on bronze sculptors to swell its ranks. Unsurprisingly, this meant that there were a lot of sculptures. But painting did get in there as well..as long as it represented the craft.
Check it out! Leo said that the artist was quite famous and could I guess who it was. I’m rubbish with that sort of thing and had no idea. It looked almost cartoonish and a bit nieve to me, but didn’t ring any bells artistically.
Apparently, the company itself didn’t really know who’d painted it up until a couple of years ago. A woman sent them an email to ask if they knew of a painting that her father had done, as she was looking for it. She attached an image that was the painting of Hephaestus you see above. And her father? None other than John Ryan – the creator of Captain Pugwash. Look again at the painting. You can sort of see it can’t you? W