Worshipful Company of Grocers
The Worshipful Company of Grocers is one of the 110 Livery Companies of the City of London and ranks second in their order of precedence. Established in 1345, it is one of the original Great Twelve City Livery Companies.
The Company was founded in the fourteenth century as the Guild of Pepperers, which dates from 1180. The Company was responsible for maintaining standards for the purity of spices and for the setting of certain weights and measures. Its members included London's pharmacists, who separated into the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1617.
The guild was known as the Company of Grossers from 1373 until 1376 when it was renamed the Company of Grocers of London. In 1428, two years after founding its first hall in Old Jewry, the Company was granted a Royal Charter by King Henry VI of England. It is one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies, ranking second in the Companies order of precedence after the Mercers' Company. It is said that the Grocers' Company used to be first in the order, until Queen Elizabeth I, as Honorary Master of the Mercers' Company, found herself in procession, after her coronation, behind the Grocers' camel which was emitting unfortunate smells. As a result, the Mercers were promoted.
Today, the Grocers' Company exists as a charitable, constitutional and ceremonial institution which plays a significant role in the election of the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs of the City of London. The Company's motto is "God Grant Grace". The Company also maintains banquet and conference facilities at Grocers' Hall in Prince's Street, next to the Bank of England.
The Grocers' first hall in Old Jewry was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666 and replaced by a new building within the old walls, paid for largely by the Company members. This second hall existed until 1802, when the Company's needs for a more spacious and satisfactory base meant a third hall was constructed. However, frequent and extensive repairs were required due to defective foundations in the building, which was replaced by a fourth hall, completed in 1893 on Prince's Street. The hall survived the Blitz with only minor damage to its north wing, but was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1965, apparently caused by a lightbulb left on in the grand staircase beneath an oak lintel which smouldered and eventually caught fire. A fifth and final hall was constructed nearby in 1970, also on Prince's Street, which remains the Grocers' home today.
Oundle School in Oundle, Northamptonshire, uses the Badge of the Grocers Camel as their school badge. The Company is responsible for the maintenance of the school and of The Elms School in Colwall, Herefordshire, and is represented on the council of University College School in Hampstead, northwest London.
As part of the Company's work, a school was founded in Hackney, east London, in 1876 for the sons of middle class gentlemen. The school, The Grocers' Company School, was later handed over to the London County Council and changed its name to Hackney Downs School; it closed in 1995. The school had as its school badge a camel, for the lower School, and a shield with cloves and the motto of the Grocers' Company for the Upper School; the Camel and Cloves are remembered to this day by old boys of the school through the Clove Club (their alumni).
Eglinton Village in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland was founded by the Grocer's Guild, under the name Muff and therefore the "Castle", now a Credit Union, bears its crest, as does the Primary School.
- Jean Bellamy. "The Worshipful Company of Grocers". TimeTravel-Britain.com (History Magazine) July–September 2006 issue.
- "The Worshipful Company of Grocers: Arms & History". Heraldic Media Limited. "By 1373 the Company became known as Grocers or, more properly, grocers because they dealt in bulk, i.e. were wholesale merchants."
- "A Modern Interpretation of Classic Cuisine: A Culinary Experience at the Grocers’ Hall". London Launch, 24 April 2007.
- "CIBSE Presidential address: Look back and learn to complete the circle". Voltimum: The First European Portal for the Electrical Industry. "The CIBSE Annual General Meeting and Presidential Address took place at the Worshipful Company of Grocers on 3 May 2007."
- John Benjamin Heath (1829). "Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London". Books.Google.com. London: W. Marchant, Printer. 1829 history of the Company by the Governor of the Bank of England, 1845-1847.