The Worshipful Company of Drapers (wool and cloth merchants) was established in 1361and rates third in the order of precedence. Starting in the 12th century, livery companies were formed to guarantee that their members were trustworthy and fully qualified, and that the goods they produced were of reputable quality. The livery companies controlled trade within the Square Mile. One of their aims was to care for their members in sickness and old age by the giving of alms. Today, they continue to support both their members, and wider charitable aims and activities such as education and training.
For almost a century after becoming a guild, the City’s drapers continued to meet as they had always done, in taverns or in each other’s houses. But by the 1420s, with the trade in woollen cloth flourishing, they decided to build their own hall in St Swithin’s Lane.
The present Drapers’ Hall, which has Grade II* listing, is situated in Throgmorton Street and had been the house of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and Chief Minister to King Henry VIII. However, it was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666 and was rebuilt between 1667 and 1671. But in 1772, it was again rebuilt after another fire and, in the 1860s, the front was changed and the interior altered. It was later altered once more in 1898-9 and now has a late 19th century façade and very opulent Victorian interior. In 2021 the Livery Hall was conserved and redecorated.
As one of the oldest charitable bodies in the UK, The Worshipful Company of Drapers has an extraordinary wealth of manuscripts, records and documents stretching from the 13th century to the present day. They also have an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture and works of art acquired over the centuries to furnish Drapers’ Hall.
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