Stationers’ Hall reopened by the Lord Mayor of London

The Lord Mayor (R) reopens Stationers’ Hall with Flather (L)
The Lord Mayor (R) reopens Stationers’ Hall with Flather (L)

Following a £7.5m refurbishment project, Stationers’ Hall was reopened today (4 July) by Alderman Vincent Keaveny, in his capacity as Lord Mayor of London.

Work on the project, which is known as Vision 350 in recognition of the upcoming 350th anniversary of the Hall in 2023, began eight years ago.

Prior to its redevelopment, the Hall had 99 rooms over 18 different floor levels, with no lift. There was one reception entrance, and the Court Room could only be accessed through the Great Hall, with only one event able to take place at any one time.

The heating system was old and inefficient, and the building became hot and uncomfortable in the summer. The kitchen was also not compliant with modern standards.

Following campaigning, the Company’s valuable archives – with records dating back to 1557 – were moved from the Muniment Room to the book warehouse in the garden. The warehouse was transformed into an archive store and reading room that is now known as the Tokefield Centre.

This relocation created a vacancy on the third floor, but Stationers’ said the issue then was in accessing this without going through occupied rooms.

In 2014, it therefore commissioned Peregrine Bryant Architects (PBA) to undertake a feasibility study to find a way to overcome these issues. Working in close consultation with Jane Sidell of Historic England and Kathryn Stubbs of the City of London, PBA designed a lift and stairwell in the centre of the estate to give the Hall a second entrance and allow step-free access to five floors.

A corridor now links the two reception areas underneath the Hall, allowing access without disturbing occupied rooms, while a platform lift in the corridor enables step-free access between both receptions.

A new suite of meeting rooms on the third floor, meanwhile, can accommodate meetings and conferences of different sizes, with the ability to use the transformable space as either a larger conference area or three smaller rooms.

Air cooling has also been installed, which Stationers’ said would ensure the comfort of all, be it members of the Company or commercial clients who attend the dinners, forums, debates and other events that are held regularly at the Hall.

Stationers’ said the air cooling units, as well as new electrical installation and boilers, have improved the efficiency of the energy output by 80%.

The kitchens have been completely redesigned and refurbished and, as the building work concluded, attention turned to restoring the garden, which has now been planted to attract bees in line with the aims of the ‘Pollinating London Together’ initiative.

Various materials such as alcoves, doors, and flooring have also been re-used as part of the project – for which Sykes & Son was the main contractor.

The Lord Mayor said: “As Lord Mayor, and as a Liveryman of the Stationers’ Company myself, I am delighted to be able to reopen the renewed and improved Stationers’ Hall. This is a historic building which is now more sustainable, more accessible, and more comfortable.

“I would like to offer my thanks and congratulations to all those involved in this successful project. This hall is a great asset to the City of London.”

Robert Flather, whose year as Master of the Stationers’ Company ends tomorrow (5 July), added: “This project has been hugely demanding of the Stationers’ Company, our professional advisors, and our contractors but today these challenges are in the past and with its improved accessibility, flexibility, and sustainability this really is a building for the future. On behalf of the Stationers’ Company, I thank all those who have made it possible.”

In a breakfast press event held early this morning alongside Flather and Stationers’ clerk Giles Fagan, court assistant Paul Wilson, chair of the committee overseeing the project, said there were challenges related to the various stakeholders involved and regulations governing a building of this sort.

“The initial excavations revealed areas of the old Abergavenny House, that was pre-Great Fire [1666],” he said, adding that external challenges included the pandemic and Brexit.

The workforce were able to make arrangements to work around coronavirus while keeping their own teams healthy, Wilson said, while Brexit had not been a major issue although certain materials and key components were pre-ordered “to keep ahead of any threat that Brexit might pose”.

Bookings for events in the reopened Hall for July looked “incredibly good”, according to Fagan.