Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
Constructed in the 11th century, Westminster Hall was the Great Hall of the Palace of Westminster. In 1399, the roof was changed from pillar supports to a hammer-beam construction that allowed it to traverse the entire 69 feet span without the need for rows of pillars. The Royal Courts of Justice sat here, and all state trials took place here, including those of Sir William Wallace, Sir Thomas More, Guy Fawkes, the Earl of Strafford, and Charles I. An arch in the south-east corner of the Hall gave entry into the House of Commons. The rotting heads of Cromwell and his Generals were displayed outside the Hall.
On most days, however, the Hall served a different function as a shopping center of sorts. Many small shops were found here, open from dawn to dusk, and offering a variety of primarily English-made goods. Recently several shops have begun offering expensive specialty goods, taking advantage of the elite of society and court being nearby and often having business at Westminster. Some were little more than stalls with fold-down shutters that served as counter-tops while the shops were open but others were draped with silk as if advertising the desirability of their wares. They were most open front with counters and had interiors with shelves and places for fitting and perusing offering. The shops were as much social focal points as businesses; gathering points to exchange the latest gossip and people-watch. A discerning courtier might hear a bit of trade gossip or receive investment ideas from hearing the merchants talk about the procurement of their various wares. With new novelties showing up regularly based upon trade booms for English ships, one never knows when what they bought might become the next court fad and skyrocket in value.