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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL/CP
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1380-1998
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 3 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

Guilds or companies controlled much of the industry and trade of London from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Their economic power waned in the Industrial Revolution and they transformed themselves into fraternal and charitable institutions. The guilds regulated the production of their product, promoted the quality of goods, ensured honesty in weights and measures, and trained future practitioners of their craft or trade. The principal goal of any guild was to create a monopoly over their branch of London's trade and to prevent the incursion of foreign merchants (that is, not from London). The guild was also a social and religious organisation, usually dedicated to a patron saint; members attended mass together, dined together and provided for their aged, poor or disabled brethren. The status of each London guild was confirmed by grant of royal charter, conferring on the guilds a corporate structure and giving them the privilege to regulate apprenticeship, prices, wages and the quality of production. Members of the guilds could progress through various ranks. The lowest was Freeman - for many years it was not possible to become a Freeman of the City of London without first becoming a Freeman of a livery company. After Freeman was the intermediate stage of Yeoman, then Warden and finally Master.

In the 14th century the right of the companies to have a share in the government of the City was recognised, reflecting their wealth, power and influence as well as the wish of the City of London to have civic regulation of the freedom, apprenticeship and trade. In 1467 the assembly of Freemen at Common Hall, where the mayor and other officials were elected, was reinforced by the addition of the masters and wardens of the Livery Companies. This was the first step in the direction of organising the assembly on the basis of the guilds. Wearing of a livery became of great importance when in 1475 attendance at Common Hall was restricted to liverymen, that is, men wearing a livery or uniform. This had the effect that in course of time more and more companies or guilds were allowed the privilege of a livery, hence their title of Livery Companies. Thus the original right of all freemen to attend came to be limited to those freemen who were sufficiently substantial to assume, or later to be elected upon, the livery of their companies. This privilege of the liverymen was confirmed by Statute in 1725 which requires that electors shall be freemen and liverymen of at least one year's standing.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records relating to Livery Companies [also known as City Companies], including histories, 1941-1975; list of Acts of Parliament relating to Livery Companies, 1553-1754; armorials containing the arms of the City and City Companies, 1677, 1701 and 1952; papers relating to the binding of apprentices, 1694 and 1808; manuscript copies of the charters of City Companies, 1700s-1985; names of the Clerks of the Companies, 1687-1832; various orders relating to the recognition and incorporation of companies, 1573-1672, compiled in [1810]; lists of liverymen, 1792, 1796, 1832, 1840-1845, 1852 and 1866; extracts relating to the power of the Court of Aldermen over the Livery Companies, 1428-1832; papers of the Reform Association, 1876; papers relating to the City of London Livery Companies Royal Commission into the alleged misuse of Company funds, 1884; booklet explaining the functions of the liverymen and of Common Hall, 1960, 1972 and 1986 and papers relating to livery cloth, 1604-1870.

Also papers relating to individual companies, 1380-1998, including Air Pilots and Air Navigators; Apothecaries; Armourers and Braziers; Bakers; Barber-Surgeons; Basketmakers; Blacksmiths; Bowyers (makers of bows); Brewers; Broderers (embroiderers); Butchers; Carmen (carters or carriers); Carpenters; Clockmakers; Clothworkers; Coachmakers; Combmakers; Cooks; Coopers (makers of casks, buckets and tubs); Copper Miners; Cordwainers (shoemakers); Curriers (dressers and colourers of leather); Cutlers (makers of utensils); Distillers; Drapers; Dyers; Fanmakers; Farmers; Farriers; Feltmakers; Fishmongers; Fletchers (makers of arrows); Founders (metal casters); Framework Knitters (makers of hosiery); Fruiterers; Furniture Makers; Gardeners; Glass sellers; Glaziers; Glovers; Gold and Silver Wire Drawers; Goldsmiths; Grocers; Gunmakers; Haberdashers; Horners (workers in horn); Innholders (innkeepers); Ironmongers; Joiners, Coilers and Carvers; Leather sellers; Long Bow String Makers; Loriners (worker in iron); Lustring (makers of silks); Masons; Master Mariners; Mercers (dealers in textiles); Merchant Tailors [or Taylors]; Musicians; Painter-Stainers; Parish Clerks; Patternmakers (person who arranges textile patterns for weaving); Paviors (layers of paving); Pepperers (dealers in spices); Pewterers (makers of pewter utensils); Pinmakers; Plaisterers [or Plasterers]; Playing Card Makers; Plumbers; Poulterers; Saddlers; Salters (dealers in salt); Sawyers (people who saw timber); Scientific Instrument Makers; Scriveners (scribes or clerks); Shipwrights; Shoemakers; Skinners; Soapmakers; Solicitors; Spectacle Makers; Stationers; Tallow Chandlers (makers of tallow candles); Tilers and Bricklayers; Tin plate workers; Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders; Turners (makers of objects using lathes); Upholders (dealers in second hand wares); Vintners (wine merchants); Watermen and Lightermen (boat men); Wax Chandlers (makers of wax candles); Weavers; Wheelwrights; Woodmongers (timber merchants) and Woolmen (wool merchants).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For records relating to Common Hall and the administration of livery companies, see COL/CN, COL/CN/LCN, COL/CN/LVC and COL/CP. Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section holds the original records of 85 City of London livery companies or related organisations.

Publication note:

There are many histories of the London Livery Companies. The Development of London Livery Companies: an essay and bibliography by William F Kahl, 1960 and London's Guilds and Liveries by John Kennedy Melling, 1973 were used to prepare this admin history.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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