Livery company

The livery companies of the City of London, currently 110 in number, comprise London's ancient and modern trade associations and guilds, almost all of which are styled the "Worshipful Company of..." their respective craft, trade or profession. [1] [2] London's livery companies play a significant part in City life, not least by providing charitable-giving and networking opportunities. Liverymen retain voting rights for the senior civic offices, such as the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and City of London Corporation, its ancient municipal authority with extensive local government powers. [2]

The term livery originated in the specific form of dress worn to retainers of a nobleman and then by extension to special dress to denote status of belonging to a trade. Livery companies evolved from London's medieval guilds, becoming corporations under Royal Charter responsible for training in their respective trades, as well as for the regulation of aspects such as wage control, labour conditions and industry standards. Like most organisations during the Middle Ages, these livery companies forged close ties with the Catholic Church (at least prior to the Protestant Reformation) by endowing religious establishments such as chantry chapels and churches, by observing religious festivals with hosting ceremonies and their well-known mystery plays. Most livery companies retain their historical religious associations, although nowadays members are free to follow any faith or none.

Most livery companies still maintain contacts with their original trade, craft or professional roles. Some still exercise powers of regulation, inspection and enforcement, while others are awarding bodies for professional qualifications. The Scriveners' Company admits senior members of legal and associated professions, the Apothecaries' Company awards post-graduate qualifications in some medical specialties, and the Hackney Carriage Drivers' Company comprises licensed taxi drivers who have passed the " Knowledge of London" test. Several companies restrict membership only to those holding relevant professional qualifications, eg. the City of London Solicitors' Company and the Worshipful Company of Engineers. Other companies, whose trade died out long ago, such as the Longbow Makers' Company, have evolved into being primarily charitable foundations. [2]

After the Carmen received City livery status in 1746 no new companies were established in London for 180 years until the Master Mariners in 1926 (granted livery in 1932). [2] Post-1926 creations are known as modern livery companies. The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars, the newest, was granted livery status on 11 February 2014, making it the 110th City livery company in order of precedence. [3] The Honourable Company of Air Pilots is exceptional among London's livery companies in having active overseas committees in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand and North America.

Governance

Livery companies are governed by a Master (alternatively styled Prime Warden or Bailiff in some companies), a number of Wardens (holding various titles such as the Upper, Middle, Lower, or Renter Wardens), and a Court of Assistants (board of directors), responsible for company business and electing its Master and Wardens. The Clerk to the Company is invariably its most senior permanent member of staff, who as chief executive officer runs its day-to-day activities.

Membership generally falls into two categories: freemen and liverymen. One may become a freeman, or acquire the "freedom of the company", upon fulfilling certain criteria: traditionally, by "patrimony", if either parent were a liveryman of the company; by "servitude", if one has served a requisite number of years as an apprentice to a senior company member; or by "redemption", upon paying a fee. Most livery companies reserve the right to admit distinguished people, particularly in their sphere of influence, as honorary freemen. Freemen may advance to become liverymen, after obtaining the freedom of the City of London, and with their Court of Assistants' approval. Only liverymen are eligible to vote in the annual election of the Lord Mayor of London, the Sheriffs and various other City civic offices, including the Ale Conners and Bridge Masters.

The livery companies elect a majority of the members of the Livery Committee, a body administered at Guildhall. The Committee oversees the elections of Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor, educates liverymen regarding the City and its activities, represents the livery companies in communications with the City. [4] [5]

Other Languages