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 inferior work that did not come up to standard, was of bad quality or underweight. To this day, City of London names such as Milk Street, Bread Street, Ironmonger Lane, Poultry, Cloth Fair and Masons’ Avenue bear witness to those early times.
Today’s Livery Companies still 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 some hundreds of millions of pounds to charitable causes each year, either by means of financial contributions or through pro bono support.
There are 110 Livery Companies. Some of the oldest include the 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. In addition, at present there are four other guilds and companies on their way to achieving Livery status.
There are old and ancient traditions associated with Livery Companies, including the right of Liverymen and women to elect the City Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor. The Livery Companies also play a prominent part in many great 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 one of the more colourful aspects of Livery life.
More information about Livery Companies can be found at:
More information about the City of London can be found at: