City Livery Companies
The history of the livery movement in the City of London probably goes back at least as far as the eleventh century and documents from the twelfth century reveal the existence of guilds regulating their own trades and taking responsibility for training young entrants to their trade or craft. By controlling the provision of services and the manufacture of goods, the guilds maintained standards and helped to keep wages and working conditions stable, which enabled the City of London to become a pre-eminent commercial city. Today our Company supports the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, which is responsible for our profession.
The size and complexity of industry and commerce in the City has undergone enormous change since then, but the Companies have survived by adapting to changing conditions, whilst continuing to support their trades and, now, professions, through education, charity and fellowship. From early times the guilds and Companies have taken part in the Governance of the City and continue to do so. It is the livery who elect the Sheriffs, and other offices of the City Corporation which is the local government of the City, and, together with the City Aldermen, elect the Lord Mayor.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century there were some 77 Companies, who are now usually referred to as the ‘ancient companies’. Their order of precedence was settled in the early sixteenth century and the numbering continues through modern times based on the date of formation. The first twelve Companies are known as ‘The Great Twelve’. The ‘Modern Companies’ are those formed during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with more new Companies waiting to be granted livery status. In this ranking system our Company is at No. 87. When livery companies process on ceremonial occasions they walk in numerical order, usually the newest first.