|CITY LIVERY COMPANIES|
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The City Livery companies originated in the Medieval period as craft guilds. They decided who could trade, controlled prices & wages, working conditions & welfare. They also controlled quality in return for a trade monopoly, carrying out inspections and punishing poor workmanship. In return they would care for members unable to work and ensure they had a decent burial. Several companies still retain their special pall cloth. The term 'livery' was adopted with the custom of wearing a uniform, still used on ceremonial occasions. Companies are generally governed by a Master, one to four Wardens and a Court of Assistants aided by a Clerk and Beadle. Admission is by three routes: servitude (an apprenticeship), partrimony (for the child of a liveryman) or redemption (nomination & payment). Liveryman are often also Freemen of the City of London, responsible for choosing the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs.
An order of precendence was established in 1515 occording to company wealth. To settle a dispute the Skinners and Merchant Taylors take positions six and seven on alternate years. Some companies such as the Goldsmiths, Fishmongers, Saddlers and Gunmakers are still active in their trade. Others such as the Horners and Fan Makers have changed to modern equivalents (plastics & air-conditioning) whilst many have lost their trade. Loriners and cordwainers are as unfamilar names now as information technologists or air pilots would have been in Medieval times. The majority of the newer companies cover specialist professions to which members belong. Most companies support associated industries with prizes, fellowships, scholarships etc. Some have founded or support schools & colleges and maintain almshouses or provide pensions. In addition to their own almshouses & schools Livery Companies were often appointed to administer establishments set up by individuals. Their funds originate from purchases of land & properties or bequests from members. Look for company badges on city buildings which denote ownership.
Note: Dates are as attributed by the City of London but most companies pre-date their 'official' formation date.
Companies with an asterisk undertake a role in one of the ceremonies detailed below.
Where companies do not have a livery hall (some are shared) a contact address can be obtained from the database maintained by the Fishmongers' Company.
|Pos||Site||Company & date||Hall Address|
|81||Air Pilots & Air Navigators 1929|
|58||Apothecaries 1617||14 Blackfriars Lane EC4V 6EJ|
|22||Armourers & Brasiers 1453||81 Coleman Street EC2R 5BJ|
|19||Bakers* 1486||Harp Lane, Lower Thames St EC3R 6DP|
|17||Barbers 1308||1 Monkwell Square EC2Y 5BL|
|14||Brewers 1437||Aldermanbury Square EC2V 7HR|
|88||Builders Merchants 1961|
|24||Butchers* 1605||87 Bartholomew Close EC1A 7EB|
|26||Carpenters 1333||Throgmorton Avenue EC2N 2JJ|
|86||Chartered Accountants 1977|
|98||Chartered Architects 1985|
|87||Chartered Secretaries & Administrators 1977|
|85||Chartered Surveyors 1976|
|12||Clothworkers 1528||Dunster Court, Mincing Lane EC3R 7AH|
|72||Coachmakers & Coach-Harness Makers 1677|
|36||Coopers 1501||13 Devonshire Square EC2M 4TH|
|18||Cutlers 1344||Warwick Lane EC4M 7BR|
|3||Drapers 1364||Throgmorton Street EC2N 2DQ|
|13||Dyers* 1471||Dowgate Hill EC4R 2ST|
|97||Environmental Cleaners 1972|
|76||Fan Makers 1709|
|80||Farmers 1952||3 Cloth Street EC1A 7LD|
|103||Firefighters 2001||20 Aldmanbury EC2V 7HY|
|4||Fishmongers* 1272||London Bridge EC4R 9EL|
|39||Fletchers 1371||3 Cloth Street EC1A 7LD|
|33||Founders 1614||1 Cloth Fair EC1A 7HT|
|64||Framework Knitters 1657|
|83||Furniture Makers 1963|
|23||Girdlers 1327||Basinghall Avenue EC2V 5DD|
|71||Glass Sellers 1664|
|53||Glaziers & Painters of Glass 1637||9 Montague Close SE1 9DD|
|62||Glovers* 1349||Harp Lane, Lower Thames St EC3R 6DP|
|74||Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers 1693|
|5||Goldsmiths* 1327||Foster Lane EC2V 6BN|
|2||Grocers* 1428||Princes Street EC2R 8AD|
|8||Haberdashers 1371||18 West Smithfield EC1A 9HQ|
|104||Hackney Carriage Drivers 2004||HQS Wellington, Temple Stairs EC2R 2PN|
|100||Information Technologists 1992||39a Bartholomew Close EC1A 7JN|
|32||Innholders 1515||College Street EC4R 2RH|
|92||Insurers 1979||20 Aldmanbury EC2V 7HY|
|106||International Bankers 2001|
|10||Ironmongers 1463||Barbican EC2Y 8AA|
|41||Joiners & Ceilers 1571|
|89||Launderers 1960||9 Montague Close SE1 9DD|
|15||Leathersellers 1444||St Helen's Place EC3A 6DQ|
|75||Makers of Playing Cards 1628|
|78||Master Mariners 1926||HQS Wellington, Temple Stairs EC2R 2PN|
|1||Mercers 1394||Ironmonger Lane EC2V 8HE|
|6/7||Merchant Taylors 1327||30 Threadneedle Street EC2R 8AY|
|28||Painter-Stainers* 1283||9 Little Trinity Lane EC4V 2AD|
|56||Paviors 1479||Warwick Lane EC4|
|16||Pewterers 1384||Oat Lane EC2V 7DE|
|46||Plaisterers 1501||1 London Wall EC2Y 5JU|
|25||Saddlers 1362||Gutter Lane, Cheapside EC2V 6BR|
|9||Salters 1394||Fore Street EC2Y 5DE|
|84||Scientific Instrument Makers 1955||9 Montague Close SE1 9DD|
|59||Shipwrights 1387||Barbican EC2Y 8AA|
|6/7||Skinners* 1327||8 Dowgate Hill EC4R 2SP|
|79||Solicitors 1944||Warwick Lane EC4|
|60||Spectacle Makers 1629||Blackfriars Lane EC4V 6EJ|
|47||Stationers & Newspaper Makers 1403||Stationers Hall Court EC4M 7DD|
|21||Tallow Chandlers 1462||4 Dowgate Hill EC4R 2SH|
|107||Tax Advisors 2005|
|67||Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers 1670|
|82||Tobacco Pipe-Makers & Tobacco Blenders 1960|
|37||Tylers & Bricklayers 1416|
|11||Vintners* 1364||Upper Thames Street EC4V 3BJ|
|102||Water Conservators 2000|
|20||Wax Chandlers 1484||Gresham Street EC2V 7AD|
|Companies without Livery|
|Watermen & Lightermen*||18 St-Mary-at-Hill EC3R 8EE|
At Midsummer liverymen meet at Guildhall and choose two sheriffs and on Michaelmas Day they nominate two Alderman one of whom will become Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor's Show takes place on the second Saturday in November and originates from the grant of 1215 which required the appointed Lord Mayor to swear loyalty to the crown. Masters of livery companies attend the event and companies often produce floats for the parade. The Feltmakers, Scriveners and Glovers provide the new Lord Mayor with his hat, quill & gloves. In December the Butchers present him with a boar's head which used to be made in payment for land on which to carry out their business. The Fruiterers make a gift of fruit in the autumn to mark the abolition of tolls payable on fruit entering the City and the Bakers & Gardeners donate bread & flowers, which are usually passed on to hospitals.
A United Guilds service is held
in St Paul's Cathedral in March and there is a Cakes & Ale
ceremony at the Stationer's Hall on Ash Wednesday. In June the
Fishmongers process from their hall to St Magnus the Martyr
Church and the Skinners go to St James Garlickhythe on Corpus
Christi Day. In July the Grocers process to St Stephen Walbrook,
the Vintners to St James Garlickhythe and the Watermen &
Lightermen to St Mary-at-Hill. In October there is a Harvest
Festival of Bakers at St-Mary-at-Hill and on the second Tuesday
the wine harvest is celebrated by the Vintners and Distillers at
St Olaves, Hart Street. Also in October is the Painter-Stainers
procession to St James Garlickhythe and the Basketmakers to St
The Trial of the Pyx which tests the coins of the realm originated in the 13thc at Westminster but since the 1870s has been carried out at Goldsmith's Hall (usually on the second Thursday in February).
Swans on the Thames belong to the sovereign or the Dyers or Vintners. The Queen's Keeper of the Swans presides over the ceremony of Swan Upping assisted by swanherds of the Dyers & Vintners in July. They wear colourful costumes and travel in boats decorated with banners. In 1980 the length of river covered was shortened and it now takes place between Sudbury and Pangbourne. Originally the beaks of new cygnets were nicked: one for Dyers, two for Vintners and none for the Queens but in 1997 this practice was replaced with ringing.
Doggetts Coat & Badge Race is the oldest annual event in the British sporting calendar and was instigated by Thomas Doggett, a comedian and joint manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, who had relied on the Watermen to carry him from his home in Chelsea to his place of work, sometimes in poor weather conditions. When he died in 1715 his will provided £5 for a silver badge and scarlet coat. The race is from London Bridge to Chelsea Pier, a distance of 4 miles 5 furlongs, and takes place in July with (originally against!) the tide. The first boats were skiffs but are now light sculling boats which average a time of 30 minutes. Men and women in their first year of freedom of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen are eligible to enter and from the 1990's unsuccessful entrants could row again in their second and third years. The original bequest no longer covers the cost of the prize which is supplied by the Fishmongers who organise the event and make the presentation to the winner at a special dinner.
The Cart Marking ceremony takes place in Guildhall Yard in mid-July and is organised by the Worshipful Company of Carmen with assistance from the Glovers. More information including pictures of the event in 2002 is available on a separate page.
Guildhall - pictured in
The medieval Guildhall was severely damaged in the Great Fire but reconstruced by 1671. Alterations were carried out by Sir Horace Jones in the Victorian period but the hall was set on fire during the bombing in December 1940. The roof collapsed and a new one was constructed in 1953 to the designs of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Its oak interior is decorated with shields bearing the arms of City Livery Companies and banners of the twelve principal companies hang beneath the clerestory windows. A livery hall intended for the use of companies which do not have their own hall was also provided by Scott in 1957. The west crypt was restored in 1973 and has 19 stained glass windows depicting coat of arms of City Livery Companies. The Guildhall Art Gallery has five new stained glass windows depicting the Shipwrights, Environmental cleaners, Gardeners, Air Pilots & Air Navigators and Engineers Companies. The windows, installed to mark the Queen's Golden Jubliee in 2002, were designed by Stella Timmins.
There are now only 38 company halls in the City, varying in date from the 17thc to 2002, and all have been rebuilt or altered at some time. Many were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and during WWII.
More information including some photographs is available on a separate page.
Assuming you don't have contacts or the funds to hire the premises these are the options:
Tours can often be arranged for groups - apply in writing to the clerk.
Some Companies offer tours to the general public. Free tickets can be obtained from the City Information Centre SW of St Paul's Cathedral at the beginning of the year.
Goldsmiths Hall is the venue for exhibitions which are open to the public - details will be on their website.
The City of London Festival which takes place in June/July uses some halls for events and organises architectural tours which may include Livery Halls.
Some Halls open for London's Open House Weekend in September. In 2005 the Butchers, Drapers, Leathersellers, Mercers, Painter-Stainers, Vintners and Watermen & Lightermen took part.
The Guildhall is open to the public when not in use.
The London Encyclopaedia by Weinreb & Hibbert has notes on all the livery companies and their halls.
'Buildings of England - London 1: The City' by Bradley & Pevsner includes descriptions of 34 livery halls
'Discovering London's Guilds & Liveries' by John Kennedy Melling (Shire publication)
The City of London has produced a booklet 'City Livery Companies'. Copies should be available at the City Information Centre or Guildhall
The Guildhall Library bookshop has books on some individual companies as well as general titles including the Directory of Livery Companies.
The Guildhall Library has archive material relating to the livery companies [more info].
The Collage database has plans and drawings of some of the halls.
The Clockmakers have a museum within the Guildhall Library.
Some companies have their own archive collections which are available to researchers by arrangement.
If you have an interest in a particular company or hall you can write to the clerk for information.
There are links to company websites in the listing above.
The City of London website has a list of companies with links and a contact list which can be downloaded as a PDF document.
The Fishmongers website includes a database with contact details and coat of arms for all the companies. This can be downloaded from the site as a Excel file.
The Coachmakers website includes a map of the livery halls [click here]
Try a quiz click here
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