Guildhall -- Guided Tour review (Jan 2014)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
I went on a guided tour of the Guildhall today, it's a real good-looking building. If Errol Flynn ever gets round to doing another swashbuckling movie about Robin Hood, and has to ride to the rescue of his curly-headed mate, this would be the perfect place to do it. He could ride down King Street into Guildhall Yard, chop off a few heads, and storm into the medieval chamber in his poncy pair of tights and he'd feel right at home. It's just a shame that they allowed a few modern buildings to encroach upon its space. Why do they do that? I walked down the side of St. Paul's this morning and they've got a few red-brick office blocks ten steps from the dome. If I was the Mayor I'd bulldoze them things down and chuck the bricks into the sea.
But anyway... the Guildhall Tour. I'm sitting in the Guildhall Art Gallery at the moment waiting for it to start. That's where you have to meet, down in the cloakroom. It's worth arriving an hour early just to have a look around the gallery because they've got some good stuff in the basement -- the remains of London's Roman amphitheatre. They've got a lot of London landscapes on display as well. And it's free, so hey, it's a decent way to wile away an hour before the Guildhall guide turns up.
Once the tour gets started she takes you on a little stroll outside to see St. Lawrence Jewry -- one of Christopher Wren's city churches. And the she points out the big ring of grey bricks on the forecourt. You might ignore those if you didn't know what they were, but that is actually the ring of the actual amphitheatre, marked out in stone. So if you travelled back in time to 70 AD you'd be standing slap bang in the middle of the pit with 2000 people baying for your blood. Those were the days. That was when entertainment was entertaining... we should bring that back. Scrap X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent and start feeding people to the lions again.
As you would expect, she talks a lot about the history of the Guildhall and its reconstruction after the Blitz and Great Fire of London. She also points out that the Victorian front doesn't match the back. The dopey architect decided to use a different kind of stone so the facade is creamy white, whilst the medieval hall is dirty brown. It's still looks good though, but she's right -- it doesn't match. I hadn't really noticed that before. She also explains how the wooden roof has collapsed multiple times throughout history, and the present one dates from after the Second World War. You'd never know that by looking at it though -- they did a decent job.
After that you head down into the crypt, which is slung very low with stained glass windows of famous Londoners like Samuel Pepys and Geoffrey Chaucer. Then you walk through a few good-looking committee rooms and up to the Old Library. This gothic-style hall has more stained glass windows, a few tapestries hanging down, and huge paintings of the modern day royals.
And that's it -- the end. But not quite... because if you time your visit to coincide with the monthly Common Council then you can come back in the afternoon and see the Guildhall in use. But more about that in the next post...
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