|Title||Merchants of the City: Situating the London Estate of the Drapers’ Company, c. 1540-1640|
Through a case study of the Drapers’ Company, this thesis examines the role London’s livery companies played in the built environment of the early modern City.1 Broadly, it is concerned with tracing institutional topographies of the urban environment and examining the city’s development in relation to these systems of governance. Specifically, it investigates the
Pushing against the ‘Elizabethan silence’ of this period as perceived by architectural historians, I demonstrate that the accelerated acquisition of buildings, anxiety about their condition and canny negotiations with tenants for rebuildings reveal a Company proactively seeking to maintain corporate honour and profit through their valuable urban estate. At the same time, it explores how this transition, and the erosion of their original base of authority in the trade of drapery, was expressed or suppressed in corporate spaces such as the
Notably, the starting point for the research was an unusual book of accounts relating to thirty-six dinners held in the sixteenth century Hall. The ‘Dinner Book’ served as an unconventional entry point into an exploration of over 300 diverse documents in the Drapers’ Archive. Taking such a holistic approach to the Archive, the study is more widely about what can be achieved in utilising the records of London's livery companies as a source for urban architectural histories as it is about the guilds' role as co-producers of city space. In giving voice to the architecture of the early modern city and its inhabitants, it challenges architectural historians in particular to re-assess their view of appropriate methodologies and legitimate evidence in relation to the urban environment.