A small group of Connectors and Connectees visited Tuckers Hall, which has hosted the Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearman since 1471.
‘The Beadle’ of the Hall greeted us and explained their job title has its origins in Ancient Rome, when messages would be relayed by ‘The Beadle’. It’s a also term familiarised by Charles Dickens in ‘Oliver Twist’, with the incarnation of Mr Bumble.
We were also told of the way in which Tuckers Hall was affected by the decision to alter the gradient of Fore Street to allow it be used as a tram route – where it was once accessible at street level it now has to be reached by steps.
In the downstairs room of the Hall, that was historically used as a chapel, we were introduced to our guide, Jerry, who played a short video describing the timeline of the building. We were then shown the large print that covered an entire wall and depicted the roles of both Exeter and the River Exe in the success of the cloth trade. The ‘finishing’ (or drying) racks are visible on the print and we learned they were positioned deliberately along the River, to maximise exposure to the sun. We also learned the modern phrase ‘on tenderhooks’ derives from the practice of taut cloth being stretched on such racks.
Moving to the second room of the building, we were introduced to its ornate wood panelling, a feature that was strongly associated with wealth at the time of its design. A long wooden table that fills the middle of the room continues to be used for gatherings and alongside the large fireplace, lends itself to a sense of grandeur. Jerry pointed out the engravings of faces that feature along the top of the wall panels become more grotesque the closer they get to the head of the table – this is believed to represent the authority of the occupant!
The visit offered the group a sense of the significance of the cloth trade in Exeter and its role in developing the local economy. The Hall is open to members of the public on Thursdays and Saturdays 10.30am–1pm, free of charge. It is well worth a visit.