Tradition has it that in 975 AD in the
Ward of Farringdon Without, there are “divers slaughterhouses and a Butchers'
Hall where the craftsmen meet” beginning an unbroken connection between the
Butchers and Smithfield.
The Arms of The Company were granted by the College of Heralds in 1540, the motto being - 'Omnia Subjecisti Sub Pedibus, Oves et Boves'- Thou hast put all things under his feet, all Sheep and Oxen. The various Heraldic emblems represented in the armorial bearings relate to the Butchers’ craft. The winged bull is an allusion to St. Luke, the patron saint of the Butchers.
The Charter of Incorporation for The Worshipful Company of Butchers, granted by James 1 in 1605, gave the Butchers’ Company control and jurisdiction of the trade within the City of London and within a radius of one mile outside the City. As part of the Charter the governing body is listed as comprising a Master, five Wardens and fifteen Assistants, a structure which is adhered to in the current composition of the Court.
The Worshipful Company of Butchers has had more than its fair share of ill fortune. Five of our seven Halls were burned down including destruction in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The fourth Hall, in Pudding Lane, was subject to a compulsory purchase order in 1883 when it was demolished to make way for The Metropolitan District Line, the second underground railway in the world to be built (the first being the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon Street).
Our proximity to the City meant that we were vulnerable to enemy attack and indeed the Hall in Bartholomew Court suffered considerable damage from a large bomb dropped from a Zeppelin in 1915 and again after a V1 bomb landed in the courtyard in July 1944.
Our current Hall was opened by the Bishop of London in 1960 after a service at St. Bartholomew-the Great, building having taken about a year with funding for much of the furnishings and equipment coming in the form of donations by members of the Company and by companies and organisations at home and abroad. Among these were the fine Southland Beech and Black Bean panelling presented by the New Zealand Meat Producers Board and the Australian Meat Board. In 1964 the Vestey Tapestry measuring 25’ by 12’ was hung in the Great Hall and the magnificent engraved glass screens in the foyer presented, as a memorial to members of the family in the meat industry who were Liverymen of the Company, by the Borthwick family.
With considerable foresight and
following a successful appeal for donations an additional floor for offices was
added under a mansard roof, following completion in 1996 the Hall was acclaimed
“as one of the first modern City Livery Halls to be built in London.”
Our connections with the local area remain strong as the meat trade continues to thrive in Smithfield Market. Many Liverymen started their working life on the Market and still operate from their businesses from this historic site.
The oldest church in London still standing, St Bartholomew the Great, is the Company's adopted church and every year is the setting for the Church Service prior to Common Hall. The Butchers' Hall and the Hospital of St. Bartholomew have stood side by side for years forging links that still exist today.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was admitted an Honorary Freeman of the Company in March 1976 maintaining a bond with the Monarchy that started with King James I in 1605 and took a constant interest in "Her Butchers", lunching with The Court from time to time.
Following The Queen Mother's death in March 2002, HRH The Princess Royal was admitted as an Honorary Freeman of The Company in February 2003. As with The Queen Mother, The Princess Royal takes a keen interest in all the activities of The Company and was installed as Master of the Company on 9 September 2010.
The Company's Commonwealth and international associations are maintained by our granting the Honorary Freedom of the Company to the High Commissioners for Australia and New Zealand and the Irish Ambassador.
Today development work in the surrounding area, including the significant Barts Hospital redevelopment has caused closure of Butchers’ Hall for some 4 years while demolition and rebuilding work goes on around us. While care has been taken to protect the unique features of Butchers’ Hall we will use this opportunity to update the facilities and furnishings to ensure our fitness for purpose for our return to our spiritual home.
We are determined to use the foresight, resilience and organisational skills shown by our predecessors to ensure the transition to our “new” Hall is seamless, successful and ready to face the challenges of the new era.