History of the Innholders’ Hall 

Tucked behind the rumbling Lower Thames Street is the Innholders’ Hall, with a room that’s held the same function since the 17th century.

History of the Innholders' Hall | Look Up London

This is the Innholders Hall, one of the City’s 111 worshipful Livery Companies.

History of the Worshipful Company of Innholders

Formed in the 15th century when the hostelers and haymongers joined forces, the Innholders (as they later became known) received their first Royal Charter in 1514 from King Henry VIII.

The Innholders regulated the inns of the City, establishments providing accommodation, food and drink to visitors (and their accompanying horses, hence the hay monger link).

Outside the hall is their coat of arms on an iron sign made by the Blacksmith’s company in 2000. 

Innholders' Coat of Arms | Look Up London

The arms feature two horses flanking a crest with three bundles of grain (known as ‘garbs’) surmounted by the black cross of St Julian.

St Julian is a patron saint of hospitality but his story isn’t a happy one. When young it was predicted that he’d kill both his parents and while he tried to bury this prophecy (and found happiness marrying a beautiful wife) he came home late one night to discover his bride in bed with another man. Distraught with rage he killed the man and women asleep in the bed only to find his wife in the hallway, excited to tell him his parents had come to stay.

Like any good host his wife had offered the guests the best bed. As I said, it’s not a happy tale.

There is a small statue of St Julian in the main entrance of the Innholders’ Hall.

At the very top of the coat of arms is a star representing the star of Bethlehem that marked the location of the stable outside the inn where Jesus was born. Their motto translates from the Latin a”Hence Hope Shines Forth”.

Innholders' Coat of Arms | Look Up London

Successive Royal charters gave them control over all the inns in the City of London and this monopoly grew as London expanded out of the walled city, first to 3 miles around then 12 miles. 

By the 19th century it was impossible to maintain such strict controls. This fact, along with National government licensing acts meant the Innholders became a more inward facing company.

Since the 1980s they have returned to their close links with the hospitality industry, most visibly with the Master Innholders’ annual awards.

Inside the Innholders’ Hall

Incredibly the Innholders have been based on the same site since at least 1613 when they acquired the freehold. However, there’s further evidence that they’ve been here even earlier as shown on the Map of Early Modern London in the 16th century.

Image Credit: www.mapoflondon.uvic.ca/- “Agas Map” (c.1540-1621)

You can see the the hall on the R Horwood 1799 map when the street (now College Street) used to be called the far more charming Elbow Lane. This odd name was thanks to its right-angle bend.

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org – R Horwood Map 1799

Inside is an incredible historic survivor, the Lower Court Room which still contains its original wood panelling and plaster ceiling from 1670.

Below are some of the beautifully restored details.

The actual livery hall contains late 17th century panelling and was restored following damage during the Second World War.

You can see the lucky escape in the below Bomb Damage map. I’ve circled the hall which is categorised as orange (general blast damage, minor in nature) compared to the surrounding purple which means damaged beyond repair.

Image Credit: www.layersoflondon.org – Bomb Damage Map 1945

You can see an extraordinary photograph from 1944 showing the damage here.

The members still gather for meals and events in this room, just as they have done on this site since (at least!) 1613.

In the hall they have a salter dating from 1635. It would hold salt to season your meal, a precious and expensive commodity. With another object, it was a littler harder to guess its use.

It’s a very elaborate, grouse-shaped snuff box. Given the history of fires in the City you can understand the hesitancy to encourage smoking!

The Innholders’ Hall isn’t regularly open to the public to thank you to Tony for inviting me to have a look around and allowing me to share its wonderful history with you.


Related Blog Post

Another City livery hall that you might enjoyed looking around is the Armourer’s Hall. Another building that had a lucky escape in the Blitz…

Inside Armourers' Hall | Look Up London

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