The Key to the City of London
There are 111 livery companies representing different professions, trades and crafts, both ancient and modern.
They play an active role in nurturing their crafts and professions, and currently give £75 million to charity each year.
Livery companies probably had their origins in this country before 1066 and are similar to the guilds and fraternities that flourished throughout Europe for many centuries. Members paid to belong and the word ‘guild’ derives from the Saxon ‘gildan’ meaning ‘to pay’.
These early guilds controlled the provision of services and the manufacture and sale of goods in the City. They protected their members and customers by checking for substandard work.
To this day, street names in the City of London such as Milk Street, Bread Street, Ironmonger Lane, Poultry, Cloth Fair and Masons' Avenue bear witness to those early times.
Today's livery companies represent different professions, trades and crafts, both past and present.
They play an active role in nurturing their crafts, trades and professions, serve the community through voluntary work and charitable giving, support the City of London and promote their professions within it. Livery companies donate millions of pounds to charity each year, either directly through financial contributions or pro bono support.
There are 111 livery companies. The oldest include the Weavers, Mercers, Grocers, Merchant Taylors, Haberdashers, Stationers and Vintners. Newer companies include the World Traders, Tax Advisers, Security Professionals, Solicitors, Hackney Carriage Drivers, International Bankers, Management Consultants, Marketors, Educators, and Arts Scholars. There are currently four other guilds and companies on their way to achieving full livery status, including the Company of Communicators.
Ancient traditions associated with livery companies include the right of liverymen and women to elect the City Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor. The livery companies also play a prominent part in occasions such as the Lord Mayor's Show in the City of London, the United Guilds' service held at St Pauls Cathedral and at the annual Sheep Drive over London Bridge. Pageantry and ceremony form the more colourful aspects of livery life.
Freedom of the City
We encourage members to take the Freedom of the City of London.
Once we achieve full Worshipful status, those members who have gained the Freedom of the City will be entitled to become 'liverymen', with all the rights and privileges this infers including the right to stand for election and vote for the Lord Mayor and other elected officers of the City of London. Other members will remain as 'freemen'.
The very first Freedom is believed to have been presented in 1237. A 'freeman' could refer to someone who did not 'belong' to a feudal lord and bestowed a number of privileges such as the right to earn money and own land. Town dwellers who were protected by the charter of their town or city were often 'free' - hence the term 'freedom' of the City.
The Freedom enabled members of a guild or livery to carry out their trade or craft in the Square Mile. A fee or fine would be charged and in return the livery companies would train apprentices in the craft and be responsible for ensuring that the goods and services provided were of the required standard. In 1835, the Freedom was widened to incorporate not just members of livery companies but also people living or working in the City or those with a strong London connection.
The Freedom confers other privileges, such as the right to drive sheep over London Bridge, to carry a sword, to be hanged with a silk rope and, perhaps more usefully, the right to avoid arrest for being drunk.
Today it remains as a unique part of London's history to which many people who have lived or worked in the City have been proud to be admitted. The Freedom in the City today is still closely associated with membership of the City livery companies.
There are several way to apply for the freedom but the easiest to apply via company
Applicants will receive a letter from the Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court inviting them to make an appointment for their Freedom admission ceremony, following approval by the Court of Aldermen.
Each Freedom ceremony is carried out individually in the Chamberlain's Court Room, in the Guildhall.
Friends and family are welcome to attend. By becoming a Freeman, you will be following in the footsteps of all City Livery members as well as honorary freemen such as Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, as well as freemen by special nomination including Sir Michael Caine, Dame Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Annie Lennox, Sir Ian McKellen, J. K. Rowling, Stephen Fry, Bob Geldof, Luciano Pavarotti and the aptly named Morgan Freeman.
At the ceremony, you will be presented with a framed parchment certificate.
Contact the Company Clerk for further information at: email@example.com