"The Master, Wardens and Comonalty of the Art or Mistery of Tanners of the Parish of St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey of Surrey" was incorporated by Royal Charter by Queen Anne on 15 July 1703. Its authority was to check on the quality of tanning within Bermondsey and an area of thirty miles from it and to apprentice suitable persons to qualify as tanners to a Master i.e. member of the Company. It is therefore a guild.
Its practical authority and control of the trade was abolished by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 but it remained a membership organisation and was largely an association of the leading Bermondsey tanning firms throughout the 19th Century, they created the Leather Market and gentlemen's club on Weston Street building still extant. These were the families of Bevington, Gale, Barrow, Hepburn and Enderby, among many others. Although the last remnant of the leather trade in Bermondsey was lost in 1990 when Barrow and Hepburn, the makers of the Maundy Money Purses and Red Boxes, relocated to Peckham, the guild remains to conduct its educational activities through making educational and training bursaries, gifts and prizes to local youth and other worthy causes.
The Master and Two Wardens are elected and sworn in to office "on 24th June or fourteen days therafter" by and from the Court of Assistants who number between 14 and 24 members. The Clerk is meant to be 'learned in the Law'; the senior members do not wear gowns but Tanned Leather Aprons. This is done after a Thanksgiving Service in the ancient guild church of St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey and is followed a procession along Bermondsey Street to the Leather Market were a feast is held.
- Patent Rolls, 2 Anne, Part 4, No. 8, National Archives, C 66/3441