Livery company

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The livery companies of the City of London comprise the City's ancient and modern trade associations, almost all of which are styled the "Worshipful Company of..." their relevant trade, craft or profession.[1][2]

London's medieval corporations originally developed as guilds and were responsible for regulating their respective trades, such as the control of wages and labour conditions. Like most medieval organisations these guilds or livery companies had close ties with the Church (at least up till the Protestant Reformation), endowing religious establishments such as chantry chapels and churches, and by observing religious festivals with ceremonies and their well-known mystery plays. The Livery Companies still retain religious connections today, although their members are free to follow any faith or none.

Most of the livery companies continue to have a trade, craft or professional role today: for example, the Scriveners' Company admits senior members of legal and associated professions, the Apothecaries' Company awards post-graduate qualifications in some medical specialties, and the Hackney Carriage Drivers' Company comprises licensed London black cab drivers who have passed the "Knowledge of London" Test. Several companies restrict membership to those holding professional qualifications in their trade, craft or profession such as the City of London Solicitors' Company and the Worshipful Company of Engineers. Other companies have evolved into being primarily charitable foundations, eg. the Longbow Makers' Company.[2]

The livery companies, which are currently 110 in number, play an important role in the City's civic and social life, providing networking and charitable-giving opportunities. They also retain voting rights for the senior positions, such as the Sheriffs and Lord Mayor, of the City of London Corporation, a local authority with extensive local government powers.[2]

After the Worshipful Company of Carmen was accepted in 1746 no new companies were established for 180 years until the Master Mariners in 1926 (granted livery in 1932).[2] Post-1926 companies are described as modern livery companies. The most recent livery company is The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars whose livery status was granted on 11 February 2014, making it the City of London's 110th company by precedence.[3]

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots is unique in having active regional committees in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States.

Governance[edit]

Livery Companies are governed by a Master (alternatively styled in a few companies as Prime Warden or Bailiff), a number of Wardens (who usually hold various titles such as the Upper, Middle, Lower, or Renter Wardens), and a Court of Assistants, which elects the Master and Wardens. The chief executive officer is known as the Clerk, normally the most senior permanent member of staff of the company.

Members generally fall into two categories: freemen and liverymen. One may become a freeman, or acquire the "freedom of the company", upon fulfilling the company's criteria: traditionally, one may be admitted by "patrimony", if either parent were a liveryman of the company; by "servitude", if one has served the requisite number of years as an apprentice to the company; or by "redemption", by paying a fee. The company may also elect to admit individuals as honorary freemen. Freemen are generally approved as liverymen by each company's court. Only liverymen are eligible to vote in the election of the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs and for the various other civic officers of the City, including Ale Conners and Bridge Masters.

Livery halls[edit]

Grocers' Hall, in Princes Street, is the home of the Worshipful Company of Grocers.

Many companies still operate from a Livery Hall where members and their guests can be entertained and/or company business transacted. Among the earliest companies known to have had halls are the Merchant Taylors and Goldsmiths in the 14th-century, but neither theirs nor any other companies' original halls remain: the few that survived the Great Fire of London were destroyed in the Blitz of the Second World War.

Today, 39 out of the 110 livery companies have halls in London, in addition to that of the Watermen and Lightermen which is not strictly a Livery Hall but is in regular use. Many can be hired for business and social functions, and are popular for weddings, commercial and society meetings, luncheons and dinners. The oldest hall now extant is that of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, dating from 1672. Several companies that do not have a hall of their own share office premises within the hall of another company on a semi-permanent basis, and examples are the Spectacle Makers' Company, which uses part of Apothecaries' Hall, and the Shipwrights, which co-habits with the Ironmongers.[2]

Three livery companies (the Glaziers and Painters of Glass, Launderers, and Scientific Instrument Makers) share a hall in Southwark, just south of and outside the City of London, while the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers is long been based at Proof House, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Master Mariners' "hall" is an historical ship, HQS Wellington, moored on the Thames which is shared by the Scriveners' Company. Companies without their own hall will customarily book use of another hall for their formal livery functions, thus giving their members the opportunity to visit and enjoy different City Livery Halls by rotation.[2]

Many Blue Plaques in the City of London indicate where companies formerly had their hall. Whilst several livery companies may aspire to owning or regaining their own hall it is appreciated that any increase in the overall number of livery halls would inevitably lead to some dilution of use of the existing halls. There is also attraction in belonging to a company which is peripatetic.[2]

Precedence[edit]

In 1515, the Court of Aldermen of the City of London settled an order of precedence for the 48 livery companies then in existence, which was based on those companies' economic or political power.[2] The highest-ranked 12 companies remain known as the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. There are now 110 companies, with all subsequent companies being ranked by seniority.[2]

The Merchant Taylors and the Skinners have always disputed their precedence, so once a year (at Easter) they exchange sixth and seventh place in the order. This alternation is one of the theories for the origin of the phrase "at sixes and sevens", as the Master of the Merchant Taylors' has asserted a number of times, although it is possible that the phrase may have been coined before these two companies (Taylors and Skinners) resolved their dispute.[4] The dispute arose from their both receiving Charters in 1327 but there is no proof as to which was the first.

List of companies in order of precedence[edit]

The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, whose hall is pictured, ranks fourth in the order of precedence of 1515.
Vinters' Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, 11th in the order of precedence.
The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers, which is positioned 73rd in the order of precedence, has been based at Proof House for over 300 years.
  1. Worshipful Company of Mercers (general merchants)
  2. Worshipful Company of Grocers
  3. Worshipful Company of Drapers (wool and cloth merchants)
  4. Worshipful Company of Fishmongers
  5. Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
  6. Worshipful Company of Skinners* (fur traders)
  7. Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors* (tailors)
  8. Worshipful Company of Haberdashers (traders of sewing articles)
  9. Worshipful Company of Salters (traders of salts and chemicals)
  10. Worshipful Company of Ironmongers
  11. Worshipful Company of Vintners (wine merchants)
  12. Worshipful Company of Clothworkers
  13. Worshipful Company of Dyers
  14. Worshipful Company of Brewers
  15. Worshipful Company of Leathersellers
  16. Worshipful Company of Pewterers
  17. Worshipful Company of Barbers (and surgeons and dentists)
  18. Worshipful Company of Cutlers (knife, sword and cutlery makers)
  19. Worshipful Company of Bakers
  20. Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers (wax candle makers)
  21. Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers (tallow candle makers)
  22. Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers (armour makers and brass workers)
  23. Worshipful Company of Girdlers (swordbelt and dressbelt makers)
  24. Worshipful Company of Butchers
  25. Worshipful Company of Saddlers
  26. Worshipful Company of Carpenters
  27. Worshipful Company of Cordwainers (fine leather workers)
  28. Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers
  29. Worshipful Company of Curriers (tanned leather dressers)
  30. Worshipful Company of Masons
  31. Worshipful Company of Plumbers
  32. Worshipful Company of Innholders (inn-keepers)
  33. Worshipful Company of Founders (brass and tinplate cast work)
  34. Worshipful Company of Poulters
  35. Worshipful Company of Cooks
  36. Worshipful Company of Coopers (barrel and cask makers)
  37. Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers
  38. Worshipful Company of Bowyers (long bow makers)
  39. Worshipful Company of Fletchers (arrow makers)
  40. Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths
  41. Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers (wood craftsmen)
  42. Worshipful Company of Weavers
  43. Worshipful Company of Woolmen
  44. Worshipful Company of Scriveners (court document writers and notaries public)
  45. Worshipful Company of Fruiterers
  46. Worshipful Company of Plaisterers (plasterers)
  47. Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers
  48. Worshipful Company of Broderers (embroiderers)
  49. Worshipful Company of Upholders (upholsterers)
  50. Worshipful Company of Musicians
  51. Worshipful Company of Turners (lathe operators)
  52. Worshipful Company of Basketmakers
  53. Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass
  54. Worshipful Company of Horners (horn workers and plastics)
  55. Worshipful Company of Farriers (horseshoe makers and horse veterinarians)
  56. Worshipful Company of Paviors (road and highway pavers)
  57. Worshipful Company of Loriners (bit, bridle and spur makers)
  58. Worshipful Society of Apothecaries (medical practitioners and pharmacists)
  59. Worshipful Company of Shipwrights
  60. Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers
  61. Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
  62. Worshipful Company of Glovers
  63. Worshipful Company of Feltmakers (hat makers)
  64. Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters
  65. Worshipful Company of Needlemakers
  66. Worshipful Company of Gardeners
  67. Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers
  68. Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights
  69. Worshipful Company of Distillers
  70. Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers (wooden-shoe makers)
  71. Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers
  72. Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers
  73. Worshipful Company of Gunmakers
  74. Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers (makers of thread for uniforms)
  75. Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards
  76. Worshipful Company of Fanmakers
  77. Worshipful Company of Carmen (cart drivers)
  78. Honourable Company of Master Mariners
  79. City of London Solicitors' Company
  80. Worshipful Company of Farmers
  81. The Honourable Company of Air Pilots
  82. Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders
  83. Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers
  84. Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers
  85. Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors
  86. Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  87. Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators
  88. Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants
  89. Worshipful Company of Launderers
  90. Worshipful Company of Marketors
  91. Worshipful Company of Actuaries
  92. Worshipful Company of Insurers
  93. Worshipful Company of Arbitrators
  94. Worshipful Company of Engineers
  95. Worshipful Company of Fuellers
  96. Worshipful Company of Lightmongers
  97. Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners
  98. Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects
  99. Worshipful Company of Constructors
  100. Worshipful Company of Information Technologists
  101. Worshipful Company of World Traders
  102. Worshipful Company of Water Conservators
  103. Worshipful Company of Firefighters
  104. Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers (licensed-London taxicab drivers)
  105. Worshipful Company of Management Consultants
  106. Worshipful Company of International Bankers
  107. Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers
  108. Worshipful Company of Security Professionals
  109. Worshipful Company of Educators
  110. Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars

Note: *The Skinners' and Merchant Taylors' Companies alternate position each year.

City companies without grant of livery[edit]

Neither the Company of Parish Clerks nor the Company of Watermen ever intend to apply for livery status; this is a long-standing tradition. The Company of Watermen and Lightermen was established by Act of Parliament in 1555 to control the watermen on the River Thames responsible for the movement of goods and passengers and remains the only ancient City Guild to be formed and governed by Act of Parliament.

A Guild which is recognised by the Court of Aldermen as a London Guild may apply to the Court to become A Company without Livery. After a term of years such a Company can apply to the Court for livery status, at which point it is entitled to use the style Worshipful Company of ... .

Other guilds aiming to obtain a grant of Livery[edit]

  • Guild of Entrepreneurs

Neither the City Livery Club nor The Guild of Freemen of the City of London are recognised as Guilds of the City, both being merely social clubs. The three City of London Manors at Southwark (Guildable, King's and Great Liberty) were ancient manorial courts who had an association of Jurors, and although they do not formally constitute Guilds, they retain legal-standing under the Administration of Justice Act 1977.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ List of livery companies
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Engel, Matthew (21 December 2012). "British institutions: livery companies". ft.com. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.artsscholars.org/
  4. ^ "At Sixes and Sevens"

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]