Worshipful Company of Gardeners
The Worshipful Company of Gardeners is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. An organisation of Gardeners existed in the middle of the fourteenth century; it received a Royal Charter in 1605. The Company no longer exists as a regulatory authority for the sale of produce in London; instead serving as a charitable institution. The Company also performs a ceremonial role; it formally presents bouquets to the Queen and to Princesses upon their wedding, anniversary, or other similar occasion.
The Gardeners' Company ranks sixty-sixth in the order of precedence for Livery Companies. Its motto is In The Sweat Of Thy Brows Shalt Thow Eate Thy Bread.
The current master is Rex Thornborough Esq. RD*, the Upper Warden is HRH the Earl of Wessex KG, GCVO, the Deputy Upper Warden is Nicholas Evans Esq. and the Renter Warden is Stephen Bernhard Esq. the Immediate Past Master is Daniel Caspi Esq. and the Spadebearer is Bernard Williams Esq.
The Worshipful Company of Gardeners, first mentioned in City Corporation records in 1345, is a survivor from the medieval craft guilds which exercised control over the practice of their particular crafts and ensured a proper training through the system of apprenticeship.
In 1605, after existing for centuries as a "mystery" or "fellowship", the Guild was incorporated by Royal Charter. The Charter sets out the operations controlled by the Company: “The trade, crafte or misterie of gardening, planting, grafting, setting, sowing, cutting, arboring, rocking, mounting, covering, fencing and removing of plants, herbes, seedes, fruites, trees, stocks, setts, and of contryving the conveyances to the same belonging ... ".
In the 21st century control over the craft is neither feasible nor desirable. Instead, the Company pursues three main objectives. To:
I Promote the art and practice of good gardening throughout the country and especially in the London area. Further, to encourage and support educational establishments which are centres of horticultural excellence.
2 Support charitable activities connected with horticulture or with the City of London. The Company does not benefit from large endowments and has never owned property. The Charitable Fund is therefore limited and largely dependent upon the generosity of its Liverymen and Freemen (i.e. members of the Company) who are expected to contribute to the Fund as a condition of membership.
3 Promote the fellowship of gardening by introducing new members to the Company and to beautify the City of London and elsewhere by encouraging the display of flowers and foliage wherever and whenever possible. There is a wide knowledge of gardening and horticulture within the Company which can be drawn upon as practical support for new projects.
Organisation and structure
Membership of the Company, as prescribed by the Court of Aldermen of the City of London, shall not exceed 300 Liverymen. The number of Freemen is unlimited.
The Company is administered by the Court of Assistants, consisting of the Master, who acts as Chairman and is supported by the Upper Warden and Renter Warden, and 24 Assistants. Of these, not more than 12 are Past Masters and 12 are "below the Chair". The Master holds office for one year and is normally succeeded by the Upper Warden. The Clerk is the Chief Executive. He or she has responsibility for day-to-day administration of the Company and acts as secretary to the Court.
Five committees, comprising Assistants and Liverymen, address specific matters relating to the Company's activities and make recommendations to the Court. The opportunity of participating in the running of the Company is thereby provided to Liverymen.
The livery and freedom
The Company is a "living" guild and numbers among its members both professionals and amateurs who are actively involved in the craft. All are united by the common bond of gardens and gardening.
Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Earl of Wessex are Royal Liverymen. Their Majesties The King and Queen of the Belgians are Royal Freemen of the Company, reflecting the strong links between the two countries in the world of gardening.
As a City of London Livery Company, there are close links with the Corporation of London and members of the Company are strongly represented on the Court of Common Council. Since 1891, the year in which the Company was granted City Livery status, 11 Lord Mayors have been Gardeners. Of these, eight served as Master.
Admission to the Company is usually by one of four routes: Patrimony, Servitude, Redemption or Presentation. Candidates for admission to the Freedom and advancement to the Livery are subject to interview and recommendation by a committee appointed by the Court. A fifth category of membership is that of Honorary Freedom (Freedom Honoris Causa) which the Court has the power to award to persons who have distinguished themselves by public service or individual merit.
The company's year
Installation Court, at which the Master and Wardens are installed, takes place on the first Thursday in July. It marks the beginning of the Company's year and is followed by a dinner. Court meetings followed by dinner take place in November (Autumn Court) and April (Spring Court), with a Harvest Court preceding the Harvest Thanksgiving service in October. Guests are invited to all dinners and Guild Services.
The Fairchild Lecture, delivered in accordance with the will of Thomas Fairchild, Citizen and Gardener, takes place on the first Tuesday in Pentecost at St. Giles, Cripplegate. Churches for the Guild services are decorated by the Flower Arrangers group within the Company, who also arrange flowers in St. Paul's Cathedral and on other Company occasions.
Highlight of the year is the annual Livery and Ladies' Banquet held at Mansion House, in the presence of the Lord Mayor, at which the Master presents a donation for the Lord Mayor's Charity.
Visits, led by the Master, take place throughout the year to gardens and horticultural establishments at home and abroad and the Company pursues a busy programme of events. The Company produces a magazine called The Spade, giving details of recent events and visits. Please view the Contact & Download section to obtain the latest version of The Spade.
The Company makes donations through its independent Charity Board to registered charities only. The charities must be linked to horticulture and gardening. Individuals and groups in the horticultural industry who have fallen on hard times should consider applying to Perennial. The Company provides funds and advice for charitable garden projects and awards prizes to students of horticulture at Capel Manor College, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, RHS Wisley, Writtle College and City and Guilds. The Prince of Wales's Trophy is presented annually to the student adjudged to have contributed most to the field of organic gardening. Trophies are also awarded to other deserving organisations and causes.
The Company organises the "Flowers in The City" Campaign in close co-operation with the Corporation of London. The aim is to encourage the planting of gardens, courtyards, atria, window boxes, troughs, tubs and hanging baskets to beautify the City. The award, by the Lord Mayor, of trophies and plaques for meritorious displays (Summer) takes place annually at Mansion House. The award for winter displays takes place annually at Cutlers' Hall.
The Master, whilst in office, represents the Company on a variety of charitable committees. Other members of the Company sit on those committees in their own right and also contribute their time and expertise to numerous other organisations for the furtherance of the craft and in pursuit of the Company's objectives. The Company is privileged to present a gift of produce each year to the Lord Mayor.