London’s Livery Companies

Grocers' Hall, Prince's Street Grocers' Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, which ranks second of the City Livery Companies and was originally known as The Guild of Pepperers. Their earliest records date from the year 1180. Grocer's Hall is hidden in a court off Prince's St, and is easy to miss, as larger buildings surround it and entry to this court is through alleys under these buildings. The current building is the 5th Grocers' Hall and was completed in 1970 to replace the previous building which was destroyed by fire on 22nd Sept 1965. See the Grocers Company website http://www.grocershall.co.uk/

Grocers’ Hall, Prince’s Street Grocers’ Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Grocers, which ranks second of the City Livery Companies and was originally known as The Guild of Pepperers. Their earliest records date from the year 1180.
Grocer’s Hall is hidden in a court off Prince’s St, and is easy to miss, as larger buildings surround it and entry to this court is through alleys under these buildings. The current building is the 5th Grocers’ Hall and was completed in 1970 to replace the previous building which was destroyed by fire on 22nd Sept 1965.
See the Grocers Company website http://www.grocershall.co.uk/

The Livery Companies of the City of London are various historic trade associations almost all of which are known as the “Worshipful Company of…” their relevant trade, craft or profession. The medieval Companies originally developed as guilds and were responsible for the regulation of their trades, controlling, for instance, wages and labour conditions. Until the Protestant Reformation, they were closely associated with religious activities, notably in support of chantry chapels and churches and the observance of ceremonies, notably the mystery plays.

Some of the Livery Companies continue to have a professional role today: for example, the Scriveners’ Company admits senior members to that profession, the Apothecaries’ Company awards post-graduate qualifications in some medical specialties, and the Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Company comprises licensed London taxicab drivers who have learnt the “knowledge of London.” Other Companies have become purely charitable foundations, such as the Longbow Makers’ Company.

The active Companies, which currently number 108, play an important part in social life and networking in the City and have a long and proud history of cultural and education patronage. They retain voting rights for the City of London Corporation, the local authority with extensive local government powers.

After the Worshipful Company of Carmen was accepted in 1746, no new Companies were formed for over 100 years until the Master Mariners in 1926 (granted livery in 1932). Post-1926 Companies are often called modern Livery Companies.

Formed in 1999, the Security Professionals’ Company became the 108th Livery Company on 19 February 2008 when the Court of Aldermen approved their petition for livery. Two bodies, the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks and the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, are recognised as City companies but without the grant of livery for historical reasons; three further guilds (the Company of Educators; Public Relations Practitioners; and, the Company of Arts Scholars) aim to obtain a grant of livery.

Governance
Livery Companies are governed by a Master (known in some Companies as the Prime Warden or Bailiff), a number of Wardens (who may be known as the Upper, Middle, Lower, or Renter Wardens), and a Court of Assistants, which elects the Master and Wardens. The chief operating officer of the Company is known as the Clerk.

Vinters' Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, 11th in the order of precedence.

Vinters’ Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, 11th in the order of precedence.

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 was 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 vote to admit individuals as honorary freemen. Freemen are generally entitled to advance to becoming liverymen by a vote of the court of the Company. Only liverymen can take part in the election of the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, and the other traditional officers of the City.

Livery Halls
Many Companies still operate a livery hall where members and their guests can be entertained and 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 108 livery companies have halls in London, in addition to that of the Watermen and Lightermen, which is not strictly a livery hall but in regular use. Most are commonly available for business and social functions, such as 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 their own hall share office premises within a 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-habit with the Ironmongers. Three Livery Companies (the Glaziers and Painters of Glass, Launderers, and Scientific Instrument Makers) share a hall in Southwark, just south of but outside of the City of London, while the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers is based at Proof House, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Master Mariners’ ‘hall’ is an historical ship, HQS Wellington, moored in the Thames and shared with 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 appreciate a large number of livery halls by rotation. Many Blue Plaques in the City of London indicate where a number of companies used to have halls. However, whilst several livery companies may aspire to eventually owning, or again owning, 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 some attraction in belonging to a company which is peripatetic.

The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, whose hall is pictured, ranks fourth in the order of precedence of 1515.

The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, whose hall is pictured, ranks fourth in the order of precedence of 1515.

Precedence
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 the Companies’ economic or political power. The first 12 Companies are known as the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. There are now 108 Companies, with modern Companies ranked by seniority.

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 the first use of the phrase may have been before the Taylors and the Skinners decided to alternate their position. The dispute is due to their both receiving their charters in 1327, but there is no proof as to which was the first.

List of Companies in 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.
The Worshipful Company of Mercers (general merchants)
The Worshipful Company of Grocers
The Worshipful Company of Drapers (wool and cloth merchants)
The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers
The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
The Worshipful Company of Skinners* (fur traders)
The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors* (tailors)
The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers (traders of sewing articles)
The Worshipful Company of Salters (traders of salts and chemicals)
The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers
The Worshipful Company of Vintners (wine merchants)
The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers
The Worshipful Company of Dyers
The Worshipful Company of Brewers
The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers
The Worshipful Company of Pewterers
The Worshipful Company of Barbers (and surgeons and dentists)
The Worshipful Company of Cutlers (knife, sword and cutlery makers)
The Worshipful Company of Bakers
The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers (wax candle makers)
The Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers (tallow candle makers)
The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers (armour makers and brass workers)
The Worshipful Company of Girdlers (swordbelt and dressbelt makers)
The Worshipful Company of Butchers
The Worshipful Company of Saddlers
The Worshipful Company of Carpenters
The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers (fine leather workers)
The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers
The Worshipful Company of Curriers (tanned leather dressers)
The Worshipful Company of Masons
The Worshipful Company of Plumbers
The Worshipful Company of Innholders
The Worshipful Company of Founders (brass and bronze workers)
The Worshipful Company of Poulters
The Worshipful Company of Cooks
The Worshipful Company of Coopers (barrel makers)
The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers
The Worshipful Company of Bowyers (long bow makers)
The Worshipful Company of Fletchers (arrow makers)
The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths
The Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers (wood craftsmen)
The Worshipful Company of Weavers, the most ancient Company
The Worshipful Company of Woolmen
The Worshipful Company of Scriveners (court document writers and notaries public)
The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers
The Worshipful Company of Plaisterers (plasterers)
The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers
The Worshipful Company of Broderers (embroiderers)
The Worshipful Company of Upholders (upholsterers)
The Worshipful Company of Musicians
The Worshipful Company of Turners (lathe operators)
The Worshipful Company of Basketmakers
The Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass
The Worshipful Company of Horners (horn workers and plastic)
The Worshipful Company of Farriers (horseshoe makers and horse veterinarians)
The Worshipful Company of Paviors (road and highway pavers)
The Worshipful Company of Loriners (harness makers)
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries (medical practitioners and pharmacists)
The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights
The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
The Worshipful Company of Glovers
The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers (hat makers)
The Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters
The Worshipful Company of Needlemakers
The Worshipful Company of Gardeners
The Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers
The Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights
The Worshipful Company of Distillers
The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers (wooden shoe makers)
The Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers
The Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers
The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers
The Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers (makers of thread for uniforms)
The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards
The Worshipful Company of Fanmakers
The Worshipful Company of Carmen
The Honourable Company of Master Mariners, the first of the 20th-century Companies
The City of London Solicitors’ Company
The Worshipful Company of Farmers
The Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators
The Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders
The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers
The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers
The Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors
The Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
The Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators
The Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants
The Worshipful Company of Launderers
The Worshipful Company of Marketors
The Worshipful Company of Actuaries
The Worshipful Company of Insurers
The Worshipful Company of Arbitrators
The Worshipful Company of Engineers
The Worshipful Company of Fuellers
The Worshipful Company of Lightmongers
The Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners
The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects
The Worshipful Company of Constructors
The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists
The Worshipful Company of World Traders
The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators
The Worshipful Company of Firefighters
The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers (licensed London taxicab drivers)
The Worshipful Company of Management Consultants
The Worshipful Company of International Bankers
The Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers
The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals
Note: *The Skinners’ and Merchant Taylors’ Companies alternate position once per year.

City Companies without Grant of Livery
The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks
The Company of Watermen and Lightermen
Neither of these companies intends ever to apply for livery; 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 controlled by Act of Parliament.

A guild which is recognised by the Court of Aldermen as a ‘London Guild’ applies to the Court to become ‘A Company without Livery.’ After a term of years the company applies to the Court for livery status, at which point it adopts the name “Worshipful Company of … ”

Other Guilds Aiming to Obtain a Grant of Livery
The Guild of Public Relations Practitioners
The Company of Arts Scholars
The Company of Educators
Neither the ‘City Livery Club’ nor ‘The Guild of Freemen of the City of London’ is recognised as a ‘guild’ by the City; they are merely social clubs. The three City of London Manors in Southwark (Guildable, King’s and Great Liberty) are manorial courts and their associations of Jurors and are not guilds, but are legally institutionalised under the Administration of Justice Act 1977.

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About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, Georgian Era, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Victorian era and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to London’s Livery Companies

  1. Gerri Bowen says:

    That was very interesting, Regina.

  2. carolcork says:

    Fascinating article, Regina. I didn’t realise just how many livery companies there were.

Comments are closed.