Above: Looking at the western side of Dowgate Hill. On the left is part of the Dyers’ Hall. The light coloured building, with its four elegant lamp-posts, is the Skinners’ Hall and the red-brick building (on the right) is the Tallow Chandlers.
The Skinners – as you might expect – was originally an association of those engaged in the trade of skins and furs. Such skins were worn by the wealthy for warmth but also to show their status. There were other guilds that were associated with leather – as in belts and items of clothing. There were also guilds working with leather for shoes. In a world where man-made materials for clothing did not exist, all the natural parts of an animal that were not eaten were eagerly sought after and put to good use.
The property in, Dowgate Hill, appears to have been in the possession of the Skinners since the time of Henry III which would be around 1262. The building was also known as Copped Hall. The name implies that the building had a flat or truncated roof, perhaps damaged by fire or in a storm. In 1325 Copped Hall in Dowgate Hill was owned by Ralph Cobham. The Skinners had lost possession of it and it was described as having ‘a ladies parlour, a kitchen and ‘pastrie’, a butter-house and a storehouse’ as well as five shops. At a later date, Cobham left it to the king who reinstated the Skinners in the property.
Above: The large coat of arms, made of Coade Stone, which is high up on the front of the building.
The Great Fire (1666) destroyed all the City around Dowgate Hill and the hall was another casualty. A new hall was built 1668-69 which is still in use. Over the following centuries, some changes were made. In 1791 a new front was added to the hall and decades later some of the fittings and decorations in the hall were altered 1847-48. According to Weinreb, the coat of arms and supports on the outside of the hall is Coade Stone – a man-made artificial stone, formed in a mould, which would have been made the factory as Lambeth between the years 1770 and 1833.
The hall stands on the west side of Dowgate Hill. See the blog for the Tallow Chandlers’ Hall (posted on 24 November 2017) for a labelled map of Dowgate Hill. The entrance doorway of the hall leads through a passageway into a courtyard, in the typical Tudor style. Of the three halls facing onto Dowgate Hill, the Skinners’ Hall is about two or three times the size of the halls of the Tallow Chandlers or the Dyers. The Skinners’ Hall is on the northern and western side of the Dyers, with part of their hall being beside the north side of College Street. The most westerly rooms are beside the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal.