Aldersgate (The Hall)
There is no evidence of the Cooks possessing a hall before 1482. An old abstract relating to the Company sets out deeds of grounds dating back to 1350; but, it was not fully granted until 1500.
Although there is no prior record of a hall being built on the Aldersgate site, a reference from Stow states: “Without Aldersgate on the East side of Aldersgate is the Cooks Hall.” Additionally, in 1756, Maitland describes the Cooks’ Hall as: “Mean and ordinary”. Furthermore, in 1776, Entrick is less severe, commenting: “It is more to be admired for its conveniency than elegance in building.”
For 250 years the Hall was the centre of the Company’s technical, charitable, educational, social, and judicial activities. To enable so many functions in one place a ‘servant’ - the Beadle - became indispensable. He acted on the bidding of the Master and Officers, including: keeping a record of the Livery; visiting the poor and distributing alms; checking upon apprentices; and, most importantly, guarding the Master and Wardens. The Beadle’s Mace, his symbol of office, was the Company’s first line of defence.
Of the 55 livery halls, only eight, including Cooks’ Hall, survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Master of the time, who had been made homeless in the conflagration, petitioned the King to allow him to use part of the Hall as a temporary abode.
In 11 May 1674 the Company decided to build a new Hall. Records have been lost as to when the Hall opened but in 1687 a gardener was paid five shillings for: “Pruning ye trees and planting new ones and fitting up ye garden.”
In 1746, a fire broke out at the Hall, damaging part of it. Soon after, with the money from the insurance, a replacement Hall was constructed.
Just over thirty years later, on 8th August 1771, another fire occurred. This time the effects were more devastating, completely destroying, not only the buildings, but also their contents including: tablets; Charters; documents; pewter; and, linen. Sadly the Company decided not to rebuild and since then the ground has been let out on lease while retaining the freehold.
In the 1960s a Roman mosaic was discovered on the site of the Hall ... and the mystery of the ‘misterie’ deepened!