Two Wards – One Club, and a Long History

The Vintry Ward Club was founded in 1877 and the Dowgate Club in 1896. The current arrangement is the result of the two clubs joining together in 1957 as the resident population declined and each club membership fell.

The two articles below detail some of the rich history of the Wards.


Vintry Ward in the 16th century

by Common Councilman Tom Hoffman

Although Vintners’ Hall is the only livery hall remaining in Vintry Ward, towards the end of the 16th century there were many others, for Vintry Ward was then one of the smartest corners of the City of London. Down by the river was the Vintry, a large building of stone and timber where the merchants of Bordeaux landed and stored their wines.

To the west of the Vintry was Vintners’ Hall, together with the Vintners’ Company’s thirteen almshouses for thirteen poor people. Leading north from the Vintry was Broad Lane at the top of which stood the Parish Clerks’ Hall, and nearby was the Plumbers’ Hall and the Fruiterers’ Hall, all of which were subsequently demolished. Next to the Plumbers’ Hall was Worcester House belonging to the Earls of Worcester.

Vintry Ward had a number of churches: St. Thomas Apostle, St. Martin Beremand, Trinity Church, St. Michael Paternoster, founded by Dick Whittington who was later buried there, and St. James Garlickhythe, socalled because this was the corner of London where garlick was sold. St. Michael Paternoster and St. James Garlickhythe are the only two churches still standing.

At the top end of Vintry Ward was Horsebridge Street with Cutlers’ Hall in Cloak Lane behind St. Michael Paternoster. Between them, in College Hill, was Turners’ Hall, sadly demolished in the eighteenth century. At a later date, the Cutlers moved to Warwick Lane where they built a splendid new Hall. Near to St. James Garlickhythe was Knightrider Street where there was the old Glaziers’ Hall, and next to it Ormond Place where the Earls of Ormond lived.

During this period, Vintry Ward was a favoured part of London, where many noblemen and other wealthy people owned large houses, where there were five churches, and where seven guilds had fine halls. Of these five churches only two still remain (although under the recently enacted boundary changes St. Michael Paternoster is now within Dowgate Ward), and of the seven guilds, the Vintners’ Company is now the only one remaining in Vintry Ward.


Dowgate Ward then and now

by Alderman Alison Gowman, Alderman for Dowgate

Dowgate is one of the 25 Wards in the City of London. Historically its name is said to derive from the Anglo Saxon word “dou” meaning water as the Ward was the site of the original water gate into the City. The river access also meant that it was the ideal spot to eject the City’s rubbish and so it was either literally dumped into the River or else placed on small boats and rowed out to sea. Just to show that things do not always change, the City’s Environmental Services Department is still on the Thames at the boundary of Dowgate Ward. The City’s rubbish now goes in barges down the River and what cannot be recycled is dumped into a landfill site at Mucking (that really is its name).

The Romans made their home in this part of London and the site that is now Cannon Street Station was the Roman Governor’s Palace. There has not been a full excavation of the area but further investigative work has been carried out as the new Cannon Place is being built and the results of this will add to the Museum of London’s knowledge. Not surprising that a new building (now the headquarters of the Prudential) was named Governor’s House after the Roman site.

The 13th 16th Centuries saw a busy trading time for the English economy that was much assisted by the Hanseatic merchants who had privileged rights to trade in the City. They were based in the Stalhof ‐ Steelyard ‐ that is now remembered in the small passageway called Steelyard Passage. The Stalhof sat on the River right under the current Station. The riverside walkway by Cannon Street Bridge has been renamed Hanseatic Walk to commemorate their contribution to City life.

Samuel Pepys is said to have run up the river steps (now by The Banker pub) to warn the Lord Mayor of the Great Fire and those steps are recorded in the badge of the Vintry and Dowgate Wards’ Club. Not far from this spot is the only fire station in the in the City ‐ Dowgate Station. This has now one fire engine which boasts the name Dowgate on its door. The Station has been coping with the redevelopment of the building all around it and has remained operational throughout. It will soon be undertaking a wider role of centralising the London Fire Brigade’s Fire Investigation team at Dowgate Station.

The four Livery Halls in the Ward reflect the original business carried out here. The Dyers and Skinners both needed access to water to carry on their trades and the odours of their respective crafts were probably not noticed in the general effluence flowing in the Ward. The Tallow Chandlers were likewise the sort of business that you did not particularly want in your back yard. Only the Innholders positively attracted custom to this area. Sadly none of those businesses are actually carried on in the City but the ensemble of Georgian buildings make this area a delightful architectural haven of courtyards and interiors.

Dowgate saw the founding of the Bible Society 1804 and the British Communist Party in 1920 and although there is a predominance of offices in this area there is still room for innovation but no party politics please.