|Merchant Taylors' Garden||City of London|
The Merchant Taylors' Garden is the oldest surviving Livery Company garden. The Fraternity of Tailors and Linen Armourers was established in the early C14th, later becoming the Merchant Taylors’ Company. Their Hall was built between 1347-92 and its medieval crypt and great kitchen survive although all but the shell was destroyed in the Great Fire, and severe damage in WWII bombing. The first known record of a garden occurs in 1406, and the main development appears to have taken place c.1573 when there was a bowling alley, terrace and knot garden with herbs. A plan of 1680 shows 3 garden areas, the main area being what is now the enclosed courtyard garden. In the early C20th major refurbishment of the buildings took place, which included a new largely paved courtyard garden with four rhomboid flower beds around a central fountain; a statue of John the Baptist was added in 1914. In 1984/6 the garden was redesigned by raising the fountain and its surround, moving the flower beds to the outer edge and laying new stone.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.merchanttaylors.co.uk
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
This is the oldest surviving Livery Company garden in the City of London and has remained on the same site since the C14th. The Fraternity of St John the Baptist of Tailors and Linen Armourers was established in the early C14th, becoming known as the Merchant Taylors from 1503 when it gained its Royal Charter. Edward III was once a member of the Company. The site of the Merchant Taylors' Hall was that of a mansion acquired in 1331 by John Yakeslee, a pavilion or tent-maker to the King. The property, which was between Threadneedle Street and Cornhill, was then transferred to the Trustees for the Fraternity in 1347. The first Hall was built some time between 1347 and 1392; its medieval crypt of c.1375, which adjoins the east end of the Hall, and its Great Kitchen of 1425-33 both still survive. Despite damage sustained in the Great Fire of 1666 the shell of the Hall remained intact. In 1682 buildings to the west of the garden were developed; a new western entrance in Threadneedle Street was made in 1843 to replace the courtyard access to the Hall; and the buildings that stand on the east and south sides of the garden were added in 1879. In 1927 the garden was further reduced in size when the cloisters attached to the hall were enclosed by Sir Herbert Baker. Inside the cloisters are busts of William Pitt the Younger and the Duke of Wellington. The Hall was destroyed in 1940 by WWII bombing, and it was reconstructed in 1959 on the C14th foundations.
The first recorded mention of the existence of a garden here was made in 1406/7, when a fountain is mentioned in the Company records. In 1415 the accounts refer to purchase of a trellis-lattice for the garden weighing 7 lbs, and throughout the C15th entries in Court Minutes record the expense of pruning the vines, and references are also made to plants, seeds and rosemary. The main development of the garden probably took place in 1572/3 when the Merchant Taylors recommended the 'enlarging and beatiffyinge of their Garden and Hall accordingly'. There are references to a Bowling Alley, Terrace, Herbs for the garden and furnishing of 'Knottes'. Ypocras House, probably a small banqueting house, was referred to the previous year’s records. A William Yonge is recorded as being employed to look after the garden. In the late 1570s the alleys were paved with Purbeck stone and the bowling alley was frequently repaired. In 1598 the garden was converted into grass plots and alleys, and visitors to the Hall were blamed for 'spoiling and defacing' the knots by draping washing over them. Between 1638-49 the garden was used for the exercising of arms in preparation for and during the Civil War, after which the Company had little in its coffers to replenish the garden.
The destruction of the Hall in the Great Fire would have meant the garden was submerged by the rubble of the hall and buildings, and it was not until 1673 that the Company began to restore their garden. Entries in the diaries of Robert Hooke refer to designing the new garden. Hooke, an eminent scientist and first Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society and also an architect, was involved alongside Wren in the reconstruction of London. His diary notes that he gave the finished design for the garden to the Clerk of the Merchant Taylors, Robert Milne, although no plan or other record of its construction at that time has come to light. A plan of 1680 is the first to show the Hall after rebuilding, and this indicates three garden spaces. The Little Garden was most likely a light well to the surrounding properties, and the garden area to the south of the complex was the main garden; another green space to the left of the plan was sold off in 1688. A sundial was installed in the main garden in 1689, the borders were made up with brick in 1700 and in 1709 the garden was recorded as being 'fitted up'. A pen and ink illustration of 1760 shows no planting in the garden apart from what appears to be a stretch of grass. A Surveyor's report of 1857 suggested that a margin of c.15 inches of small-leafed ground ivy should surround the grass plot and stone kerbs be placed around it, with lamps positioned strategically to prevent people from walking over the grass at night.
In the early C20th a major refurbishment of the Hall and buildings took place, which included a new garden with a fountain. A drainage plan of 1905 indicates that it was formally laid out as a paved courtyard with four rhomboid-shaped flower beds around a central bed or fountain base, marked on the plan with a fountain rose, and with two curved stone seats located diagonally opposite each other in the north-west and south-east corners of the garden. A pen and ink drawing of around this time shows the layout of the garden with numerous planted tubs. By 1912 the garden fountain had been installed, in the centre of which a bronze statue of John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Company, was added in 1914, the work of Gilbert Bayes. Following post-war restoration photographs of the 1950s and ‘60s show the garden lay-out much as it was in the early C20th, with its fountain, flower beds and a number of ornamental urns and planters. In 1984/6 the garden was redesigned by raising the fountain and its surround, moving the flower beds to the outer edge and laying new stone paving. Low box hedge edges the three flower beds that flank each wall apart from that of the Hall, and one curved stone seat remains.
F E Cleary, 'The Flowering City', The City Press, 1969; B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London, 1992; Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.).
LPGT Volunteer Research by Catherine Davis, June 2009