There are 105 Livery Companies in the City of London; below is a brief insight into four of them…
Upper Thames Street
London, EC4V 3BG
- First recognised as a trade and social guild on 15th July 1364
- Wine and spirit trades.
- The swan-upping voyage in July records the number of swans on the Thames,
when the company’s swans are ringed – The Company appoints a Swan Warden.
- The Vintners’ Hall is situated by Southwark Bridge. The nearby Garlickhythe was a dock where French garlic and wine were landed, from medieval times.
FACT: On 15th July, 1772, James Brown was found guilty of stealing a tackle rope (value 15 shillings) from the Vintners’ Company. John Hood, John Lee and William White all of the Vintners’ Company gave evidence against him at the Old Bailey. Brown, a previous employee of the company, claimed in vain that he only borrowed the rope. Punishment: Transportation.
8 Dowgate Hill
- Original fraternity of Corpus Christi – First Charter in 1327
- Traders in pelts and treated animal skins for fur dressing. Guild controlled the Fur Trade until the eighteenth century and now administers many charities, schools and almshouses.
- Five Skinners have been monarchs: Including Richard II and Henry V
- At the annual election of the Master and four Wardens comes the unique ceremony of Cocks and Caps, whereby a hat is tied on various assistants in vain, until it fits the man due for election.
- Under an order issued by the Lord Mayor of the City of London in the 15th century, the company ranks in sixth or seventh place (making it one of the “Great Twelve City Livery Companies”) in the order of precedence of the Livery Companies, alternating annually with the Merchant Taylors’ Company.
FACT: On 13th October 1686 Mr John Redhead and his brother William were both found guilty of making, counterfeiting, and stamping of half-Pence. William was working at Skinners Hall and stole from there metal pieces valued at 4s 8d. When questioned he said he took it away to make a hammer. At the Old Bailey both men were fined a total of 300 marks and to stand committed until they paid.
Tallow Chandlers’ Hall
4 Dowgate Hill
- Company formed in c1300 by Oynters (tallow melters), and as a religious fraternity with Our Lady and St John the Baptist as patron saint.
- First charter in 1462
- Dealt in tallow (rendered animal fat). Its role broadened out to encompass various other domestic goods, until it oversaw products including sauces, vinegar, soap, cheese and herrings.
- Tallow was cheaper than Wax, therefore every day candles were made of tallow.
1573 a law was passed by the City which meant that the company affectively controlled street lighting. Every householder in the City was required to hang a lantern lit by a candle at night. The company could search any house in the City for badly made candles.
- During World War II the Hall became home to 18 livery companies that lost the use of their halls during the Blitz.
FACT: On 26th February 1755 Mr William Ruggles was indicted for stealing one wooden drawer, called a till, value 3 s. and 3 s. in money, at the property of Josiah Shepherd, a tallow chandler who lived in Bear Lane. On 11th February between six and seven in the evening Mr Shepherd was at the back of his shop and heard a ‘rustling’, he went to the front and found his till had been taken. He saw a boy running away and shouted “Stop thief, stop thief!”. He chased him and in the commotion the thief dropped the till and some of its contents. A Mr John Haystings held the prisoner and brought him before the Lord Mayor and confessed to his crime. Mr William Ruggles punishment was transportation – destination unknown.
- First royal charter in 1364
- The full title of the Drapers’ Company is “The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London”.
- Merchants in woollen cloth but now it administers for several charitable trusts and institutions including almshouses, education, music, relief of need of textiles.
- The first mayor, Henry Fitzailwyn, is thought to have been a Draper and also Prince William of Orange, later King William III of England
- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and King Harald V of Norway are members of the Company.
FACT: On 11th September 1776 Mr Mark Brown was found guilty at the Old Bailey for stealing a silk handkerchief, value 10d from Mr James Hubbald. On the 15th August between eleven and twelve at noon Mr Hubbard was on his way to Drapers Hall when he heard somebody call out “Pick-pocket!” He felt in his pocket and found his handkerchief had gone. A witness George Hood saw the prisoner following Mr Hubbald up Throgmorton Street, he said: “I watched him, and just as he got to Drapers Hall, I saw him take the handkerchief out of Mr. Hubbald’s pocket; I secured the prisoner immediately, and found the handkerchief in his bosom”. The handkerchief was produced in Court, and deposed to by the prosecutor. Mr Brown was tried by the London Jury before Mr Recorder and found guilty.