Livery Companies of the City of London

Livery Companies of the City of London

Livery Companies, referring to the distinctive clothing and badges worn by company members on special occasions, are said to have their origins in this country before 1066 and are similar to the fraternities and guilds which could be found throughout Europe. They began as informal arrangements amongst people, who followed the same craft or trade, to help regulate competition and maintain standards. In time the arrangements became more formal and the organisations developed to protect customers, employees and employers. They supervised training, settled disputes and helped provide for the welfare of members.

There are currently 110 City of London Livery Companies, all of which are or were involved with a particular trade or craft, the oldest Company is generally believed to be the Weavers’ Company who were granted their Royal Charter in 1155. The youngest Company is the Arts Scholars which received its Letters Patent from the Court of Aldermen in 2014.

In 1515, the Lord Mayor laid down an order of precedence for the forty-eight Livery Companies then in existence, based on their economic or political power. The first twelve companies are known as the Great Twelve City Livery Companies and the order of precedence is largely the same as established 500 years ago, with all post-1515 companies being ranked by seniority of creation.

The Great Twelve in order of precedence are:

  1. Mercers (general merchants)
  2. Grocers (spice merchants)
  3. Drapers (wool & cloth merchants)
  4. Fishmongers
  5. Goldsmiths (bullion dealers)
  6. Merchant Taylors (tailors)
  7. Skinners (fur traders)
  8. Haberdashers (clothiers in sewn and fine materials)
  9. Salters (traders of salts and chemicals)
  10. Ironmongers
  11. Vintners (wine merchants)
  12. Clothworkers

The Merchant Taylors and Skinners have always disputed their precedence, having both received their Charters in 1327 with no surviving proof as to which was granted first, and so each year at Easter switch between sixth and seventh place.

Today's walk was a stroll connecting the halls of the Livery companies - 39 of 110 companies own premises in the City/near the City, as well as the Watermen and Lightermen which although not strictly a "Livery Company", retains headquarters still in regular use.

istance: around 7.5 miles.

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