The Halls

King Arthur’s Great Halls is an atmospheric and historic building in Tintagel, Cornwall, legendary birthplace of King Arthur.

The Halls were built in the 1930s by Frederick Thomas Glasscock as the home of the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table of King Arthur.

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A brief history of the halls

A visit to the halls today
Paintings by William Hatherell
Stained glass windows by Veronica Whall




A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HALLS

Tintagel is the natural centre from which all things in connection with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table should radiate. King Arthur is a worldwide asset and it is fitting that at Tintagel, his birth place, something should be in existence which acts as the point to which thoughts of people can turn, and where the necessary inspiration can be disseminated to enable King Arthur's ideals to be a living force for all time.

To many, Tintagel is a hallowed spot, and the increasing number of people who visit it each year solely because of its association with this wonderful early King, testify to a desire to keep his ideals before them. The world would have been poorer in the past without King Arthur, and something less noble today or in the future.

Building on the halls commenced in 1929, being attached to Trevena House in Fore Street, Tintagel, a home that was originally built in the 1860s. Work was completed in 1933 and the official opening was at Pentecost the same year. It is possible to show within the building in a dramatic way, scenes which have been prepared and which refer to the principle symbolic events in the story of King Arthur, such as the choosing of Arthur to be King - the gift to him of the great Sword Excalibur - the presentation to him of the Round Table - the achievement of the Sangreal - the passing of King Arthur, etc.
Thus will the great story live again.

Local and Cornish workmen were employed during construction as far as possible, because of their love for the great King who once ruled over their land. The spirit of craftsmanship was revived so that the building is the result of the hands of those who have the personal interest that is given to good workmen.

The Halls stand as a central Temple of Chivalry where inspiration can be obtained by all who are interested in reviving the Ideal of Chivalry. This alone will enable the entire world to live in peace, which should be the foundation and standard of every civilised land, and yet will not interfere with the freedom of any person concerning their nationality or race, religion or creed or political opinion. When the Round Table was made it was said that all the world, Christian and heathen, could meet at it and that it was for the entire world to repair unto. Thus was forecast the means by which the Kingdom of God on earth should come to pass and our hope is that this centre may help to bring about that which is desired by so many.

Everything in these halls is based upon the Arthurian Romances; the whole of its symbols are directly associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

After the death of Glasscock in 1934, the Fellowship was wound up and the Halls could only be visited by prior appointment. The Freemasons of Tintagel purchased the building in 1952 and have looked after the building since that time. It is only since the early 1990s that the Halls have been opened on a full time commercial basis.

Over two million people have visited the Halls since they opened on 5th June 1933. The Hall was a venue in 1995 of the BBC's ‘National Lottery Live' television programme. The producer wanted to shift the Granite Round Table but it is eight feet in diameter, is in five sections and weighs a ton, so he dropped this idea!

(The above details are taken from the official book 'King Arthur's Great Hall of Chivalry, Tintagel', available from King Arthur’s Great Halls, Tintagel)



A VISIT TO THE HALLS TODAY

From the unassuming outside of the Halls it is quite difficult to imagine the delights that await within.

The Halls are entered through what is now a shop selling Arthurian and related books and artefacts. Upon leaving the shop, the visitor enters the Small Hall, where a brief audio visual presentation of the story of Arthur is given.

PAINTINGS BY WILLIAM HATHERELL

There are ten paintings by William Hatherell R.I. (1855 – 1928), who achieved fame as an illustrator and painter. He illustrated works by Thomas Hardy, William Blake and J.M.Barrie and in 1892 he joined the staff of Graphic Magazine. He exhibited extensively at the New Society of Painters, the Royal Academy of British Artists and at the Royal Academy. He was a keen cyclist, but his health was failing by the late 1920s when Frederick Glasscock commissioned ten paintings from him for King Arthur’s Hall to tell the story of the Arthurian legend.

Hatherell died in 1928 and it is suspected that this was before he could complete his commission. Only two of the ten paintings are actually signed ‘W.Hatherell’ (one of them being dated 1928), the rest are unsigned. A number of experts have examined the paintings, some claim to see a second or even a third hand at work; if this is so, it is possible that the commission might have been finished by pupils of William Hatherell.

The ten paintings in the Hall depict the Arthurian story, from Arthur as a baby through to his eventual death at the hands of Mordred. Scenes include Merlin, the Lady of the Lake, Guinevere, Lancelot and Galahad.

An illustrated booklet about the paintings is available from King Arthur’s Great Halls

Upon leaving the Small Hall, the visitor passes along a corridor into the Hall of Chivalry, that includes 125 shields of granite, set along its full length, representing the passage from darkness into light.

Granite is also used in the huge canopy over the throne, weighing six tons and supported by nine massive granite pillars. There is also a granite Round Table, along with two wooden ones.

 



STAINED GLASS WINDOWS BY VERONICA WHALL

The Halls contain seventy three beautiful stained glass windows designed and crafted by Veronica Whall during 1930 – 33. As the external light changes throughout the day, so do the colours shining through the stained glass into the Halls.

The galleries of The Hall of Chivalry contain ‘The Windows of the Knights’. Each Knight of the Round Table is illustrated by his unique shield depicted in the windows. By each window, the Knight’s story is told in words.

The Hall of Chivalry holds eighteen windows portraying the principal virtues which the Knights of the Round Table agreed to observe. In the Hall of Chivalry, these virtues are graded in quality, starting with the less spiritual ones such as Strength, Perseverance and Obedience, through to those considered more spiritual such as Purity, Faith and Love.

The large windows either end of the hall are reminiscent of the Pre –Raphaelite era and are referred to as the best post Pre – Raphaelite windows anywhere.

Veronica Mary Whall was born in 1887. Her father Christopher Whall was a stained glass expert who worked with William Morris in the Arts and Crafts movement. He taught at the London County Council School of Arts and Crafts, where Veronica became a pupil.

She helped out at the father’s workshop in Hammersmith and in 1922 they formed the company of Whall & Whall Limited, which produced stained glass windows until the 1950s, including many war memorials and ecclesiastical works.

Veronica retired in 1953 to a cottage in Huntingdonshire, looking after her dogs and goats until her death in 1967.

An illustrated booklet on the windows is available from King Arthur’s Great Halls.

 

Information about paintings and stained glass windows in the Halls reproduced from information kindly supplied by The Sword in the Stone Limited.

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