Armourers' Hall

Armourers' Hall, situated on the corner of Coleman Street and London Wall, is on the original site of the 'Dragon and five Shoppes'. The Company has occupied this same site since 1346, taking a lease on the property in 1428 and acquiring the freehold in the 16th century.

The Company hires out the various rooms and it is a superb, historic and unique location for any function or event. Click here for more information

We regularly organise guided tours of the Hall for private groups at times when it is not in use. Anyone wishing to enquire about such tours should contact the Clerk at clerk@armourershall.co.uk

The Hall was one of the very few to escape destruction in the Great Fire of 1666, which was checked a few yards short of it. Members of the Company who had their workshops in the surrounding districts were rendered homeless, but permitted to carry on their trade in the Hall for three months provided that no hammer or forge was used.

In 1795, the Hall was enlarged, but the Court decided in 1839 to rebuild it completely which, together with its furnishings, cost £10,533. The lantern or dome of the Livery Hall was added in 1872.

On the 29th December 1940, during a major blitz on London, the surrounding area was devastated, but again the Hall survived. The Company is much indebted to an unknown fireman who, seeing the curtains of the Court Room ablaze, broke into the Hall and extinguished the flames. Although his identity may never be known, his quick thinking undoubtedly saved the Hall.

The painting of Anne Vavasour in the Drawing Room of Armourers' Hall used to be owned by Viscount Dillon, who was President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries. He was made an Honorary Freeman of the Company in 1903 'in recognition of his intimate acquaintance with the Armourers' Craft and as Curator of Tower Armouries'.

The painting was purchased for 1,800 guineas at Christie's in November 1955, from a legacy left to the Company by Mrs A. M. Tippetts, in memory of her husband, Mr Arthur Stewart Tippetts, Master in 1922. Originally, it was thought to have been painted in 1602 by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, but it is now attributed to de Critz. Gheeraerts the Elder was banished from Bruges in 1568 because of his Reformist views, along with many other artists, and fled to London with his young son. After the death of his first wife, he married Suzanna de Critz, whose younger brother, John or Jacobe de Critz the Elder, became court painter to Elizabeth I and subsequently to James I. In 1590 Gheeraerts the Younger married Magdalena de Critz, the sister of his stepmother, Suzanna.

Anne Vavasour was appointed a Gentlewoman of the Queen's Bedchamber in 1580 and got to know Sir Henry Lee who was Queen Elizabeth I's Champion. She became his mistress, although they used the rather quaint term 'reading lady'. Sir Henry's wife died in 1590 and Anne moved into the Lee home at Ditchley to keep house for him. Together, they entertained the Queen at Ditchley in September 1592.

Anne outlived Sir Henry, but both were buried at Quarrandon, near Aylesbury, in a chapel of which only a remnant of the outer wall now remains. Sir Henry's monument showed him lying down in armour with an effigy of Anne kneeling at his feet.

Sir Henry Lee became Queen Elizabeth I's champion in 1570 and was appointed Master of the Royal Armouries in 1580 until his death. He resigned his office of Queen's Champion in November 1590, aged 57, when the annual Accession Day tilts were held at Westminster, acknowledging that his 'golden locks time hath to silver turned'. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1597, one of very few commoners to have enjoyed that honour. The portrait of Sir Henry was painted by Marcus Gheeraerts in 1602.