Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
On the south side of , Ward, stood Gerrard's Hall, originally the dwelling and mansion of John Gisors, Mayor of London in the year , and of Sir John Gisors, Knt. Mayor of London and Constable of the Tower anno , who, with divers others of his name and family, since that time, have resided here. It takes its name of Gerrard's Hall from a fabulous legend of a giant named Gerrard having, in times long since, occupied it; and in Stow's time a fir pole, which reached to the roof, was shown as of the staves that Gerrard the giant used in the wars to run withal; there stood also a ladder of the same length, which, it was said, served to ascend to the top of the staff. The pole measured nearly feet: and what did not lessen the belief of many in the size and strength of the marvellous owner, may be acounted for, from the assertion of a grave historian of the time of Queen Elizabeth: R. G. (Richard Grafton), in his Brief Collection of Histories says, ", [*] . " Out of this Gisors' Hall, at the building thereof, were made divers arched doors, yet to be seen, which seem not sufficient for any great monster, or other than men of common stature to pass through. The pole in the Hall might be used, in old time, as then the custom was in every parish, to be set up in the street in the summer as a May-pole, before the principal hall or house in the parish or street; and to stand in the Hall before the scrine, decked with holly and ivy, at the feast of Christmas; and the ladder might serve for the decking the May-pole and roof of the Hall.
The house was built upon arched vaults, and with arched gates, of stone brought from Caen in Normandy; which clearly proves the foundation to have been shortly after the Norman conquest, anno .
In the troublesome reign of Edward II. it was ordained in Parliament, that every city and town in England, according to its ability, should raise and maintain a certain number of soldiers against the Scots, who at that time, by their great depredations, had laid waste all the north of England as far as York and Lancaster. The quota of London to that expedition being men, it was times the number that was sent by any other city or town in the kingdom. To meet this requisition, the mayor in council levied a rate on the city, the raising of which was the occasion of continual broils between the magistrates and freemen, which ended in the Jury of making a presentation before the Justices itinerant and the Lord Treasurer, sitting in the , saying, "That the commonalty of London is, and ought to be common, and that the citizens are not bound to be taxed without the special command of the king, or without their common consent; that the mayors of the city, and the in their times, after the common redemption made and paid for the city of London, have come, and by their own authority, without the king's command and commons' consent, did tax the said city according to their own wills once and more, and distrained for those taxes, sparing the rich, and oppressing the poor middle sort; not permitting, that the arrearages due from the rich be levied, to the disinheriting of the king, and the destruction of the city; nor can the commons know what becomes of the monies levied of such taxes."
They also complained, that the said mayor and aldermen had taken upon them to turn out of the commoncouncil, men at their pleasure; and that the mayor and superiors of the city had deposed from acting in the common council, because he would not permit the rich to levy tallages upon the poor, till they themselves had paid their arrears of former tallages. Upon which Sir JOHN GISORS, some time lord mayor, and divers other principal citizens, were summoned to attend the said justices, and personally to answer to the accusations laid against them. But, being conscious of guilt, they fled from justice, screening themselves under the difficulty of the times.
How long Sir JOHN GISORS continued absent from London does not appear; but probably, on the dethronement of Edward II. and accession of Edward III. he might join the prevailing party, and return to his mansion without any dread of molestation from the power of ministers and favourites of the late reign, who were at this period held in universal detestation. Sir John Gisors died, and is buried in Our Lady's Chapel, , Faringdon Within.
Gerrard's Hall, on the decease of Sir John Gisors, came into possession of William Gisors, of the sheriffs in ; afterwards to Thomas Gisors, who, deceasing in , left unto his son Thomas his messuage, called Gisors. Hall[*] , in the parish of St. Mildred, in ; of which John Gisors made a feoffment in , and alienated it from his family.
To what use Gerrard's Hall was applied after the Gisors family had quitted it, does not appear; but most likely it was purchased to the use we find it afterwards converted to, namely, an inn for accommodation of travellers, foreign traders, merchants, &c. Maitland speaks of it as in his time an inn of good repute, and notices the arched vaults, supported by pillars, as a great curiosity.
The general appearance of these vaulted chambers of ancient mansions has induced many persons to imagine them as appropriated solely to religious uses, particularly as they so frequently occur under the foundations of religious stuctures: but there is every reason to think they were appropriated at to the purposes they are at present applied to, that is, store chambers to desposit goods; of which merchants in a large way of traffic always stood in need. The yaults of Gerrard's (or Gisors') Hall, at present belong to Messrs. Jervis and Moore, wine-merchants, and are used to store the commodities they deal in.
A gigantic figure holding a truncheon, representing a military character of the early ages, still ornaments the entrance to Gerrard's Hall Inn and Tavern, at present in the occupation of Mr. Ivatts.
[*] It certainly must have been a stray tooth of the mammoth Grafton describes; or such a fabricated deception he as readily received and gave credit to, as his succeeding brother historian, Sir Richard Baker, has recorded in his very marvellous and faithful Chronicle of England. Still he has rendered his giant a dwarf in proportion, as it would require a shin bone of sixteen rather than six feet in length, to carry a mouthful of teeth, one of which weighed near a pound.
[*] By this it appears, that Gisors' Hall by corruption hath been called Gerrard's Hall; as Blossoms Inn for Bosom's Inn, Bevis Marks for Burie's Marks, Mark Lane for Mart Lane, Billiter Lane for Belzeter's Lane, Gutter Lane for Guthurun's Lane, Cry or Cree Church for Christ Church, St. Michel in the Quern for St. Michel at Corn, &c.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.