Livery Companies explained

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Back in 2016, while I was a Master of the Worshipful Company of Marketors, I was asked to give a short explanation about what Livery company is.

That’s how this short video came to life.

Livery company – history

There are currently 110 Livery companies in the City of London. All of the Livery companies evolved from London’s medieval guilds. This is a centuries-old tradition.

Way back in medieval ages, most companies had a guild or a meeting hole. Many of these old guilds were, sadly, lost in the Great London Fire of 1666 and during World War II. But, 39 out of 110 companies still remain in their historical buildings.

Back in those days, livery companies were trade unions of an all-embracing kind. Livery companies offered mutual support to their members and set the standards for their trade.

As fashion and technology changed, some of the companies vanished and other emerged.

Why do we call these organizations by a Livery company name?

The term livery originated from a type of clothing. It was a specific form of dress. Historically, the livery was worn by retainers of a nobleman. Later, it was an extension to special dress to denote the status of belonging to a certain trade.

Livery company – today

In modern London, the purpose of livery companies has somewhat changed. Important goals today are conviviality, charity, education, and fellowship.

It seems that the main purpose, however, is charity. The companies give away around 30 to 40 million pounds every year. Almost a third of the money is given to welfare.

Half of the money usually goes for educational purposes. There are many schools that have livery connections. Some livery companies take great pride in helping to make the next generation of professionals.

Goldsmiths’ Centre, for instance, has workshops, exhibition spaces, events rooms, educational facilities. It offers a unique combination of education and training alongside workspace.

Some may say that livery company is maybe even more important today than in the past.

They merge the past, the present and the future; taking an astonishing task of keeping the centuries-long traditions alive, supporting efforts of today and helping trades evolve and adapt to the future.