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Worshipful Company of Drapers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2154
Held at: Drapers' Company
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Full title: Worshipful Company of Drapers
Date(s): 1364-present
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
View subfonds/series records
Extent: 190 shelf metres, 5 plan chests, and 8 filing cabinet drawers.
Name of creator(s): 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 | Drapers' Company | 1361


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Drapers' Company was formally founded in 1361, though there appears to have been an informal association of Drapers as early as 1180. A Brotherhood of Drapers, a religious fraternity attached to the church of St. Mary Bethlehem in Bishopsgate, is also known to have existed in the 1360s.

The Company's first Royal Charter given in 1364, states that the brothers and sisters were to meet four times a year, pay their fees, hold feasts and assist one another. In 1438 a Charter of Incorporation was given, which recognized the Drapers as a legal corporate fraternity, a Company which has perpetual succession and a Common seal. The original privileges granted by Royal Charter have been confirmed and amended by successive monarchs. The current acting Charter is that granted by James I in 1607, amended by three Supplemental Charters, most recently in 1964.

In the 1420s the Company built a Hall to house its headquarters and offices, in St Swithin's Lane. In 1543 they moved to the former mansion of Thomas Cromwell in Old Broad St (now Throgmorton St), and leased the old Hall. This mansion along with the old Hall were destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666, and a new Hall was built to a plan designed by Edward Jarman (d.1668) and completed by Thomas Cartwright. The present Hall has undergone successive alterations by John Gorham following damage by a fire in 1772, and has had further alterations by Herbert Williams in the 1860s, and Sir Thomas Jackson, 1897-1900.

Members of the Company's governing body were first called Assistants in 1521, and the Court of Assistants has controlled the administration of the Company since the early 16th century. In 1601, the Company was reincorporated by a Charter which required at least twelve governors. Assistants numbering between 26 and 53, were co-opted mainly from the Livery, and the Wardens were ex-officio court members. The Court of Council of Assistants originally met on quarter days, but moved to monthly meetings by 1819. In the 19th century, the Company administration was increasingly delegated to committees made up of 6 or 7 members of the Court, elected annually. Business of both the Committees and the Council of Wardens was submitted to the full Court for approval.

There were four methods of admission to the Company. Apprenticeship, was the main method and involved the master draper paying an annual fee to the Wardens for an apprentice. Apprenticeship normally lasted 7 years, and on payment of a further fee the apprentice was given entry into the Freedom. Redemption was a method of entry from the 1420s onward for those wishing to avoid the apprenticeship term. Entry via Patrimony instituted as early as 1481, was restricted to children born after their father had been admitted. All Freeman were required to pay Quarterage, for which the Livery in return was expected to provide four dinners annually.
Initially membership primarily consisted of drapers, by the end of the 16th century members included porters, tailors, solicitors and schoolmasters, as well as drapers.
Admission is currently by redemption (interview) or patrimony (by virtue of a parent being a Draper).

In the 16th century, benefactions to the Company led to the founding of almshouses, schools or hospitals, the donation of pensions to the old and distressed poor of the City of London.

The Drapers' were one of the City Livery Companies who took part in the colonization of Ulster along with the Irish Society in 1610. They acquired 38 800 acres of the barony of Loughinsholin in County Londonderry, comprising the Divisions of Moneymore, Brackagh, Slieve Gallion, and Ballinascreen. This estate was mostly sold between 1872 and 1900.


Scope and content/abstract:

Archives of the Worshipful Company of Drapers comprising:

Company charters including Letters Patent, 38 Edward III, 15 July 1364; Letters Patent, 17 Henry VI, 30 November 1438; Inspeximus Charter, 6 Edward IV, 26 July 1466; Letters Patent, 1 Richard III, 21 May 1484; Charter, 4 James I, 19 January 1606/7; Supplemental Charter, 56 Victoria, 1892-3; Charter, 1 Edward VIII, 1936; Supplemental Charter, 2 Elizabeth II, 1953-4; Letters Patent, 13 Elizabeth II, 14 May 1964;

records of governance including Ordinances and oath books, c 1460, 1662; Court of Assistants' Reperatory books, 1513-1603; Court of Assistants' rough minutes, 1525-6, 1531-6, 1553-5, 1711-1727; Court of Assistants' extracts from records and minutes books, 1507-1640; Court of Assistants' records 1603-1742; Court of Assistants' minutes 1734-present; Court of Assistants' agendas, 1836-present;

Court of Wardens' minutes, 1659- present;

Finance and General purposes Committee minutes, 1841- present; Estates Committee minutes, 1880-1996; Education Committee minutes, 1862-1994; Tottenham High School for Girls' minutes, 1887-1890; People's Palace Sub-Committee minutes, 1893-1895; Sir William Boreman Foundation minutes, 1905-present; Howells' School, Denbigh, Governors minutes, 1927-1999, and Finance and General Purposes Committee minutes 1927-1975; Bancroft's School minutes, 1838-2000; Charities Committee minutes, 1994-present; Investments Committee minutes, 1996-present.

minutes of ad hoc committees including Rebuilding Drapers' Hall, 1667-1672, View and Value of Lands, 1668-1672; Concerning Royley's Trust, 1679, Preparations for Lord Mayor's Show, 1675-1744, Special committee appointed to consider amendment of standing orders and other matters, 1945-1951, Special Committee appointed to review the Company's trusts, 1946-1965, Hall improvement Committee, 1959-1963, Drapers' Company Sexcentenary Committee, 1961-1964;

memoranda books, 1711-1902 (incomplete);

copies of Company letters out, 1823-1994;

Financial records including Wardens' accounts, 1431-1718 (incomplete); Renters Warden's accounts, 1605-1710; ledgers, 1710-1952; financial journals 1718-1963; cashbooks and rough cash books, 1665-1957; day books, 1894-1917; proof of cash books, 1834-1894; balance of cash books, 1908-1824; petty cash books, 1773-1938; receipt books, 1625-1919; analysis of expenditure books, 1871-1921; bill books, 1704-1784; tables of expenditure, 1907-1954;

records relating to apprenticeship and membership to the company including Freedom and Bindings books, 1603-present; Freedom lists, 1567- present; printed lists of Freemen, 1842-1859; Declarations of Freemen, 1814-1988; Quarterage books, 1605- present; Livery records including lists of Livery men and lists of Court members, 1604- present; Fee books relating to Bindings, Freedom and Quarterage fees, 1740-1965; Declarations of the Masters and Wardens including Disbelief in Transubstantiation, 1689-1876, and the Company Oath, 1871-1970; Wardens of the Yeomanry Books, 1560, 1615-1691; Dinner books, 1563-1860; guest books, 1821-1932; Waiters' account books, 1823-1892; Wine record books, 1806-1925;

records relating to rents from properties let by the company including Renters' account books, 1481-1719 (incomplete); Rentals books, 1581-1970 (incomplete); Rentals miscellaneous books, 1898-1940 (incomplete); Cartularies, 1490-1694. (incomplete); Rent Collection books 1808-1959 (incomplete); Land Agents' record books, 1858, 1874-1894; Surveyors' record books, 1822-1954 (incomplete); insurance books, 1833-1963;

records relating to charitable functions of the Company including Company Poor Roll books, 1779-1899; Pension books, 1760-1897; Register of Almspeople, 1844-1933; Bequest and legacy administration books, 1604-1685; Abstract of deed and wills, 1568-1674;

collection of Corporate documents including deeds and documents relating to property transactions, arranged alphabetically by parish, 12th- 19th centuries;

plans of farms and buildings, ground plans, and elevations relating to Company's properties, some no longer in their possession, throughout England, but mainly located in the South East.

photographs, depicting the furniture, fittings and works of art of the Company, interior and exterior views of the Drapers' Hall and buildings with connections to the Company, events and ceremonies, Masters, members and staff, 1870s-present;

microfilm copies of The Drapers' Company County Londonderry Estate Archive (D/3632) now held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

By appointment only. Contact the Archivist, Drapers' Hall, Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2DQ.
Material less than 30 years old is available at the discretion of the Master and Wardens. Some material is subject to the regulations of the Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies available subject to the condition of originals

Finding aids:

Boyds Roll -unpublished index if information on Company individual members extracted from the archive and compiled by Percival Boyd, 1935 (71 vols); Unpublished Catalogue of Drapers' Company Corporate Property, (4 vols with index); Photographs and Image catalogue, in-house databases; Handlist to Company volumes and Corporate documents.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Created and held in situ by the company.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Drapers Company also holds material relating to the administration of its Trusts - the Trust Documents collection.

Publication note:

The History of the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London, 5 vols, Rev A H Johnson, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1914-1922; A history of the Drapers' Company, Penelope Hunting, Westerham Press Ltd, 1989; The triple crowns, a narrative history of the Drapers' Company, 1364-1964, Tom Girton, Hutchinson & Co, London, 1964;

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; Drapers' Company website
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project

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:
October 2003

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