On the external walls of Little Hall there are a number of pargetted crests set into the plasterwork. These depict a lion and a tree and are the combined emblems of the Gayer Anderson family.
The tree symbol is said to come from Egypt and signify ‘home’. Thomas Gayer Anderson wrote in his house guide: “The Gayer-Anderson Crests in Concrete (a lion and a tree) also designed and made by me, appear on this and all the other ancient houses that we have restored in Lavenham.” Can you spot the others around the village?
Robert Grenville Anderson and Thomas Gayer Anderson, identical twin brothers, were born in Ireland, sons of Henry Anderson and Mary Morgan. Mary’s grandmother with whom she spent much of her childhood was Charlotte Gayer. It was partly the pride that the Anderson family felt for their romantic ancestor that led them to incorporate the name “Gayer” by deed poll in August 1917. It would also help to distinguish between names should any of the boys be killed or injured in the First World War.
The Lion Sermon
The Gayer line boasted Sir John Gayer, born in Plymouth at the end of the sixteenth century he was a merchant, a member of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, who became, among other things, Lord Mayor of London in 1646.
In 1643, as a member of the Levant Company, he journeyed to Arabia on a trading mission. Here, on the 16th October he became separated from his companions and, as dusk fell, he became aware that a lion circled him but did not attack. In the morning his companions found him sleeping peacefully, with the lion’s footprints all around him.
On his return to London, Sir John, in gratitude for his providential deliverance, made generous gifts to various good causes. His will (1649) established the annual commemorative sermon known as the ‘Lion Sermon’ which is still preached at St. Katharine Cree Church, in the City of London every October. The bequest provided for the expenses of the sermon, to contain a lion theme, and an amount to be distributed “amongst the poor of the parish on the same day”.
Last year our volunteer Dinah James, having talked about the story of the crests many times, was able to attend the 370th anniversary of The Lion Sermon. She said “I found the font, with the Gayer coat of arms, and the engraved brass floor place which covers the grave site…. I enjoyed my visit enormously”.
It is hoped that the service will take place again this year on Thursday 15th October (subject to virus recommendations). Please consult the website https://stkatharinecree.com/what_is_on/92-371st-lion-sermon-join-us-thursday-15th-october-2020-1-00pm/ for further details.
The story of Sir John and the sermon was recounted in the “Memoirs of the Family of Gayer”, a private publication in 1870 by Arthur Edward Gayer. This can be found online at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=iiYAAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA18 from which you can see more about the sermon and the man in the subsequent 3 pages, through to p22.