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Modern History

The Great Fire

On Sunday 2nd September 1666, Fishmongers’ Hall was the first of forty Livery Halls to catch the flames of the Great Fire of London. Thanks to the Hall’s riverside location, the most important documents, the iron money chest and Company silver, were safely transported away by boat, but the building itself was destroyed.

From the destruction arose an opportunity to enlarge the site. A site next door, which had been acquired in the sixteenth century, could now be combined with the existing premises - allowing more room for a new riverside Hall and for tenants beside the street.

The Post-Fire Hall

In order to obtain royal planning permission, the Company submitted its design and a payment of ten gold pieces to a Dr Christopher Wren, who was then Charles II’s Surveyor General. The new Hall was one of the first important riverside buildings completed in the City after the Great Fire and, during its century and a half of existence, was painted by a number of artists, including Canaletto.

In 1828, it was agreed that part of the Hall’s site should be cut off to make way for a new London Bridge. This, combined with the fact that much of the Hall’s interior needed to be renewed due to water damage, led to the feeling that it was time to start afresh.

Architectural achievement

In 1831 the Fishmongers’ Company announced a competition for the design of a new Hall. It proved to be England’s most notable architectural competition between 1822 (for London Bridge) and 1835 (for the Houses of Parliament) and attracted 87 entrants.

The winning design, by Henry Roberts, was selected in 1832. Featuring an arcaded base in the Roman-aqueduct style, a Greek style building and a riverside terrace, materials included Portland stone and the same Devon granite as the new London Bridge. The Hall was completed in the spring of 1835 and, with the architect supervising the ordering of fixtures and furnishings, was in use from June of that year.

The Second World War

On 9th September 1940, bombs fell on all sides of the Hall, causing fire and great damage. Whilst the riverside range was gutted and the roof over the grand staircase destroyed, most of Roberts’ essential structure remained and, fortunately, most of the Company’s records and treasures had already been removed from the Hall. Restoration was prolonged due to materials shortages during and after the war years, but was completed by 1954, under the watchful eye of architect H. Austen Hall.

The private wharf which the Company and its tenants enjoyed before 1666 and between 1835-1975 has once again become part of the public pedestrian quay.