Essential Architecture-  London

The Guildhall


Sir Horace Jones Sir Giles Gilbert Scott


off Cheapside and Basinghall Street, near Bank








  The Guildhall complex in c.1805. The buildings on the left and right have not survived.
  This 1863 gathering at the Guildhall was attended by Queen Victoria. The roof shown here has been replaced.

The Guildhall is a building in the City of London, off Cheapside and Basinghall Street, near Bank. It has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial centre of the City of London. The term Guildhall refers both to the whole building and to its main room, which is a medieval style great hall similar to those at many Oxbridge colleges. The Guildhall complex houses the offices of the Corporation of London and various public facilities. (Greater London also has a City Hall).

The great hall is believed to be on the site of an earlier Guildhall, and has large mediaeval crypts underneath. There are several other historic interiors in the complex, including the crypt, the old library, and the print room, all of which are now used as function rooms. During the Roman period it was the site of an amphitheatre, the largest in Britannia, partial remains of which are on public display in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Parts of the current building date from 1411 and it is the only stone building not belonging to the Church to have survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the ages.

The Great Hall did not completely escape damage in 1666, and was partially restored - with a flat roof - in 1670. A more thorough restoration was completed in 1866 by City of London architect Sir Horace Jones who added a new timber roof in close keeping with the original. Sadly, this replacement was destroyed during The Second Great Fire of London on the night of 29th/30th December 1940, result of a Luftwaffe fire-raid. It was replaced in 1954 during works designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott

The day-to-day administration of the Corporation of London is now conducted from modern buildings immediately to the north of the Guildhall, but the Guildhall itself, and the adjacent historic interiors, are still used for official functions, and it is open to the public during the annual London Open House weekend. The Guildhall Art Gallery was added to the complex in the 1990s. The Clockmakers' Museum and the Guildhall Library, a public reference library with specialist collections on London which include material from the 11th century onwards, are also housed in the complex.

Gog and Magog
Two giants, Gog and Magog, are associated with the Guildhall. Legend has it that the two giants were chained to the gates of a palace on the site of Guildhall. Carvings of Gog and Magog are kept in the Guildhall and taken out and paraded in the annual Lord Mayor's Show. An early version of Gog and Magog were destroyed in the Guildhall during the Great Fire of London. They were replaced in 1708 by a large pair of wooden statues carved by Captain Richard Saunders. These giants, on whom the current versions are based, lasted for over two hundred years before they were destroyed in the Blitz. They in turn were replaced by a new pair carved by David Evans in 1953 and given to the City of London by Alderman Sir George Wilkinson, who had been Lord Mayor in 1940 at the time of the destruction of the previous versions.


Corporation of London homepage on Guildhall