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Livery companies

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Livery companies

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.[1][2] 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.[2]

The active Companies, which currently number 109, 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.[2]

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).[2] Post-1926 Companies are often called modern Livery Companies.

Formed in 2001, the Educators' Company became the 109th Livery Company on 10 September 2013 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; two further guilds (Public Relations Practitioners and the Company of Arts Scholars) aim to obtain a grant of livery.

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


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.

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 109 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.[2]

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.[2]

Many Blue Plaques in the City of London indicate where a number of companies used to have halls. 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.[2]


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.[2] The first 12 Companies are known as the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. There are now 109 Companies, with modern Companies 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 the first use of the phrase may have been before the Taylors and the Skinners decided to alternate their position.[3] 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

  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
  33. Worshipful Company of Founders (brass and bronze workers)
  34. Worshipful Company of Poulters
  35. Worshipful Company of Cooks
  36. Worshipful Company of Coopers (barrel 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 plastic)
  55. Worshipful Company of Farriers (horseshoe makers and horse veterinarians)
  56. Worshipful Company of Paviors (road and highway pavers)
  57. Worshipful Company of Loriners (harness 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 (wire 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
  78. Honourable Company of Master Mariners
  79. City of London Solicitors' Company
  80. Worshipful Company of Farmers
  81. Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators
  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

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

City companies without grant of livery

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

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.

See also


External links

  • City of London Corporation: City Livery Companies
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