Above: Tallow Chandlers’ Hall on the west side of Dowgate Hill, at the corner of Cloak Lane. Its exterior is not particularly old. Behind the entrance gates, a passageway leads to a courtyard and the 17th century hall.
Today’s blog is related to the Tallow Chandlers, one of the City Companies. These Companies have their origins in ancient guilds who, over centuries, have worked in the City and applied to become Chartered Companies. The total number today is over 100 with the later ones being formed without having been guilds. Today, only just over 30 Companies have their own hall – all of them within the boundary of the City of London. It is rather a surprise to find that three of them are side-by-side in Dowgate Hill and a fourth hall is close-by, in College Street.
Google maps are not always as useful as they would have you believe and sometimes the labelling is completely wrong. This is one of those times. For this reason, an aerial view of Dowgate Hill is provided at the bottom of this blog along with arrows showing the position of all four halls.
Above: Over the entrance gates is a beautiful depiction of the Company’s coat of arms.
We will now describe the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall. The Company began from humble roots as a trade organisation in the 1200s. Tallow is animal fat and the Tallow Chandlers melted down the fat to make candles. Their hall is just south of Cannon Street which, in the 1200s, was known as ‘Candlewick Street’ because of the guild. Tallow makes poor quality candles but, for those who could not afford better candles, they provided light in people’s homes. Such candles are sticky to the touch and do not burn very brightly. Better quality candles – especially those used in churches – are made from beeswax. Such candles were sold by the Waxchandlers’ Company (which also have a hall).
The site of the Tallow Chandlers’ first hall, in Dowgate Hill, was purchased in 1476. The hall, with adjacent shops, burnt down in the Great Fire (1666) and a new hall, the second one on the site, was completed in 1672. Apart from alterations, the hall is still standing today. The Company was fortunate not to suffer any major damage from bombing during the Second World War.
Above: Aerial view from Google Maps showing the position of all four Company halls. The map will be useful for today’s blog and for subsequent blogs in the coming days.