Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Ironmongers' mythical menagerie

Ironmongers' Hall is perhaps the most incongruous of City livery halls, tucked among the brutalism of the Barbican. After it survived the bombing which destroyed most of the area during World War II, the Ironmongers' Company resisted encouragements and inducements to move their home away from the new development. After aerial bomb damage from the First World War had already led them to move from Fenchurch Street to this site in 1925, the thought of uprooting again - and from a building which had withstood bombardment - can't have held much appeal. 


In consequence, this lovely building offers a faux-Tudor counterpoint to its neighbours - and hides more delights within. I was fortunate to enjoy lunch and a tour of the usually-inaccessible Hall thanks to London Historians, and found a surfeit of salamanders and a metal-munching ostrich! 


The Ironmongers were not, as their name might suggest, keepers of hardware stores. Rather, they were involved in the trading and manufacture of ferrous metals, and there are references to that business scattered throughout the hall, often more straightforward than the symbolic beasts.


The ostrich (known when carved in 1629 as an 'estridge') perhaps seems a particularly unlikely representative of ironmongery, in whatever form. However, it had a reputation for being able to digest iron: hence this estridge's appearance chewing metal during the Lord Mayor's Pageant. 


As for the salamanders, a pair of them appear on the Company crest, chosen for their mythical ability to withstand fire. Long associated with the Ironmongers, they were formally added as supporters in 1923, just before this Hall was completed - which perhaps explains the enthusiasm with which they are depicted everywhere...


on the staircases...


on the furniture...


in silverware...



glassware...


and even the ceiling.




1 comment:

HughB said...

Ah, yes! I remember Desperate Dan having trouble with an ostrich eating his horseshoes!! Apparently they could be mistaken for large shrubs when they buried their heads in the ground - in the Dandy, anyway!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...