Members might remember that in 2011 Freeman Richard Gilpin produced an article for Stationers' News about the Company’s garden and its history.
A lot of important things are going on at Stationers' Hall, many of which entail people passing through, and using, the garden; so we thought that it would be worth making that article available again (here) along with these extra ‘thoughts’.
The door into the church of St Martin-within-Ludgate is now in daily use and a modus operandi between the church and the Company is in place. There is already a lot going on in the church including more and more Company meetings, meetings held by Corporate Members, external events, choral recitals and rehearsals, counselling and of course services such as the Elim Full Gospel Chinese Church every Sunday and the weekly Eucharist at lunchtime every Thursday. All this means that more people are seeing the garden as they walk through it from the Hall to the church and, although there have been occasional crossed wires, ‘Hall’ and ‘Church’ now function more harmoniously than it seems they did in the times covered by Richard's article!
Summer usually sees many commercial events in the garden and this summer has been no exception; with clients holding their summer parties, barbecues and receptions under our plane tree and generally enjoying the outdoor space. Weddings fill the weekends and brides string fairy lights and bunting around the trees, while younger guests enjoy garden games such as Giant Jenga and Connect4. We have just seen the first wedding party cross from their marriage service in the church to their wedding breakfast in the Hall. Interestingly Richard's article mentions that a door had been used in this way in 1680 but within two years the Company had built a privy in the garden which probably lessened the romance of the atmosphere somewhat. Rest assured,at the time of writing, there are currently no plans for extra loos in the garden!
We do have still have a problem with pigeons. In 1700, the Court decreed that pigeons should not be kept in the garden. Today we have two tethered models of birds of prey flying from the Hall and church roofs, in an attempt to reduce the number of ‘unwanted messages’ dropped from the skies. More charming are the songbirds which live in the garden; we have spotted blackbirds, robins and blue-tits.
Looking a few months ahead, the Company's Archive is moving from above the Court Room to its new home in the Old Admin Block, where the Committee Room was. The building work is in full swing and will be complete by the end of November. Then the precious historic records, including those which Richard mentions in his article, such as Leyburn’s 1674 Survey and the various volumes of Court Orders, will make their own journey across the garden. In their new location, including a new reading room, an office for the now full-time archivist and a smaller committee room, the Archive will be significantly more accessible for academic research, family historians and members. So yet another cohort of people will enjoy the few square yards of peace and beauty, as they cross this small garden space in the heart of the City.
All should be aware of the hard work that goes into keeping the garden looking at its best throughout the seasons; few will fail to be impressed; and some, perhaps, may reflect that Stationers have treasured this ancient garden for hundreds of years.