Merchant Adventurers' Hall - The Undercroft
The Undercroft of the Merchant Adventurers' Hall was used from 1373 to 1900 as a hospital for poor men and women. Leading off the Undercroft is the Chapel (built in the same period), so here in one place the Company attempted to care for both the physical and spiritual needs of its community.
The floor level of the Undercroft has been raised by nearly 1.5 metres (over 4.5 feet) to protect it from flooding. The frame of the arch leading into the Chapel shows marks indicating the height reached by flood waters over the years. Against the far wall of the Undercroft a plate of glass set into the floor lets visitors look down to the original floor level.
Beside that plate of glass is a "Pancake Bell" (see photo below). This bell was originally installed at the church of St Crux (now demolished). On Shrove Tuesday the bell was rung at noon to signal that all servants had the rest of the day off and an extra shilling in pay. The afternoon of Shrove Tuesday was often taken up with pancake races and other traditional events, hence the unusual name of the bell.
The most noticeable aspect of the Undercroft is the profusion of colourful banners lining the hall. These are banners of the various city guilds, or livery companies, and each banner shows symbols relating to the occupation of the guild it represents. It makes for fascinating entertainment to see if you can guess which medieval guild is represented by each company. (See the photos below for a selection of these banners).
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