October 17, 2017
Our recent acquisition of a futuristic London landscape by Ricardo Cinalli has caused some changes on our Charter Gallery. The huge size of the canvas meant that there was really only one place it could be hung, and it displaced an eighteenth-century painting of Blackfriars Bridge by London resident Thomas Luney, which now resides between the doors onto the Livery Hall. This in turn meant our 1568 Charter had to be moved from that location down into our lobby, meaning that, for the first time in living memory, the Charter Gallery contains no charters.
Of course, Liverymen being creatures of habit, our gorgeous reception space will remain “the Charter Gallery” forevermore, but this seems a good time to address two questions which necessarily arise from our latest round of interior design modifications: why “Charter,” and why “Gallery”?
The Worshipful Company of Bakers is a Company incorporated by Royal Charter. That is to say, it owes its status as a legal entity to a charter granted by the Monarch him- or herself. Once upon a time this was the only way Companies could be formed, but now incorporation is a commonplace civil procedure, and Royal Charters are comparatively rare. A Charter stays in effect indefinitely, but they are periodically reissued to mark important occasions or to reflect a change in the status of an organisation. Such was the case with the charter which was – until two weeks ago – hanging on our Charter Gallery, granted in 1568 by Queen Elizabeth I, and marking the amalgamation of the Guild of White Bakers and the Guild of Brown Bakers of London into one entity. The commemorative plaque on Pudding Lane marking the site of the outbreak of the Great Fire of London was unveiled to mark the quincentenary of the granting of a charter by Henry VII. The 1568 charter now hangs in our Lobby, next to a similar charter granted by James VI/I in 1618.
That the Charter Gallery is a gallery is owed to a comparatively youthful architectural tradition – a whippersnapper at just five centuries old. The concept of the gallery first arose out of the renaissance fashion for having a long space with a good view along which one could promenade, in imitation of the colonnaded walkways of Italy. All well and good for the Mediterranean climate, but in the British Isles that would never do, and so the owners of stately homes began installing long, narrow windowed passages on the upper floors of their houses. These were fundamentally places of leisure and, since people were spending so much time in them, it quickly became commonplace to furnish them with diversions – books, billiard tables, fencing equipment, comfortable seats – and to display paintings and prized objects. Thus, long before anybody thought of tacking the word “art” in front of it, the gallery was a place of ease, comfort and recreation – a tradition which we hope our reception space continues in fine style. Why not come to Bakers Hall and see if you agree?