The Company's Hall
The Baker Bequest
Possession of a Charter giving the Company the right to hold lands, a grant of a coat of arms and an increasing sense of prestige quickened the desire for a Hall. In 1522, the Company came into possession of the Baker Bequest (mentioned above) and John Baker's house, known as 'The Swan' which was situated in Basinghall Street between Guildhall and the Church of St. Michael Bassishaw, was used as a headquarters of the craft. This soon proved inadequate and, in 1547, the purpose-built Hall was erected in an adjoining yard.
Hardly had it been completed when, by Act of Parliament, all property bequeathed 'for superstitious uses' was confiscated by the Crown. However, what the Crown really wanted was cash, and in 1550 the City Companies recovered their confiscated estates by payment of a large sum of money. The Coopers' share was £19 and this was raised by appealing to the members. Thus the Hall came back to the Company but as corporate rather than trust property. This Hall lasted until the 5th September, 1666 when it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. (The Plate and records had been removed the day before and stored in the house of Mr. Morris, the Upper Warden.)
A second, larger, Hall on the same site was first used in 1670 and served the Company well for almost two hundred years. Besides its use by the Livery, it was let out for feasts by other Companies, religious meetings and, for a while, for drawings of Government lotteries. An interesting contemporary print showing such as event is on display in the present Hall. However, the maintenance of this Hall became an increasing burden upon the Company's resources and in 1865 it was resolved to pull it down and erect a new Hall on about a third of the site and let the rest of the ground on a building lease. However, the terms of the lease failed to attract and, in 1867, the Company accepted an offer for the surplus land of £21,000 from the City Corporation which used it to extend Guildhall.
The third Hall, designed by the Company's Surveyor, Mr. G.B. Williams, was built in 1868 at a cost of £5,200. This Hall contained a Court Room and offices only and the Company, as now, had to borrow larger venues for its Common Hall and other meetings of the Livery. This Hall survived until the night of 29th December, 1940 when, as a result of enemy action, it was destroyed by fire. Although most of the pictures and other treasures were lost, the Company's records and minute books were preserved in the basement safe.
Following the war, the Company established offices in St. Helen's Place and the Court met in the Halls of various other Livery Companies. In 1957 the Company sold off the site of the third Hall to the Corporation and, in 1958, purchased its present Hall, a late 17th century merchant's house at 13 Devonshire Square. The square was originally developed towards the end of the 17th century on the gardens of Devonshire House which had served as the London home of the Earls of Devonshire between 1627 and 1670. Following refurbishment in 1975 and again in 1990 the Hall now forms an elegant and fitting home for the Company, its Court and Officers. It contains its Museum, wine, plate and other treasures and, as for the past 500 years, acts as a meeting place and the focus of the Company's corporate, charitable and social life.