Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Livery Companies and Freemasonry

This blog article is based upon an earlier comparison of the similarities and differences that exist between the Livery Companies and Freemasonry that originally appeared on my website (www.cityandlivery.co.uk). It has been updated based upon more recent discoveries and a deeper understanding of the role of Freemasonry and how its relationship with the Livery.

The subject of Freemasonry is something of a 'marmite' topic among Liverymen, there are those that love it, and those that would rather not partake, but by and large the knowledge of Freemasonry's links to the Livery are not widely known and remain poorly understood by both Freemasons and Liverymen. In particular Freemasonry has many stories of its origins that are built on foundations of historical quicksand, providing no firm facts and every opportunity for the unwary to get trapped in myths and legends.

In the beginning...

The origins for Freemasonry are lost in the mists of time; never the less some learned historians have put forward the plausible theory that Freemasonry grew out of the Livery probably in the late 17th century in the City of London following a split between operative and speculative members of the Masons’ Company. 

How did the split come about?

Records exist of operative and speculative Masons meeting at Masons' Hall in Masons' Lane in the City of London during the 17th century. As with many Livery Companies whose power to regulate their trade was passing from their grasp at the time, the Masons were probably keen to invite wealthy gentlemen to join their ranks and swell coffers. These gentlemen were not craftsmen and certainly not skilled in the mysteries of the mason and therein lies the root of potential conflict with those members of the Livery Company who had done their time as an apprentice, journeyman and become master craftsman.

When, how and if this split between operative and speculative Masons occurred is open to conjecture,  but there remain a bewildering array of similarities between the Livery and Freemasonry despite being entirely separate and organisationally unconnected groupings.

Let's examine some of the similarities

To the casual observer it may appear that the City of London Livery Companies are a branch or offshoot of Freemasonry since they have a passion for dressing up in unusual outfits, for participating in arcane ceremonies and they use similar titles for many of their officers, to wit: Master, Past Master, Warden, Steward, Almoner, Chaplain, etc. However some these titles are also used by many other organisations including the ancient universities. They are reflective of the social structures and officials who were commonplace at the time when early medieval Guilds formed.

So, we should not assume that just because the Livery Companies and Freemasonry look and sound superficially similar, that they are therefore in some way connected. On the other hand, the similarities are too numerous to simply dismiss the idea of common origins. Here are some of the observable and verifiable facts that draw comparisons between the two:


  1. Some but certainly not all of the City of London Livery Companies have ‘closed’ (i.e. restricted membership) Masonic Lodges of their own, all formed between 1897* and 2013. At last count (January 2016) there were 24 such City Sister Livery Circuit Lodges.
  2. There is a Masonic Lodge that restricts membership to Freemen of the City of London (the Freedom of the City of London is a legal status not connected in any way with Freemasonry).
  3. There is a Masonic Lodge for installed Masters of Lodges who are either Freemen or Liverymen of City of London Livery Companies or employees/officers of the City of London Corporation.
  4. Several Masonic Lodges meet in Livery Company Halls in the City, one even meets in the Crypt of Guildhall (home of the City of London's government). 
  5. There are numerous Freemasons among the members of the Livery Companies and vice versa but there are also many Liverymen who are members of the National Trust, their local golf club, the Rotarians, and so on. Liverymen are joiners! 
  6. The structure of a Lodge is similar to that of a Livery Company although Livery Companies vary widely in the precise details of their structure and governance from one to another. 
  7. All Lodges and all but one of the Livery Companies elect their Master for a one year term of office.
  8. The United Grand Lodge of England and its provincial Grand Lodges use a Coat of Arms in part based upon those of The Worshipful Company of Masons. It should be noted that the law of arms requires that every coat of arms be unique with a least two differences, not including a simple change of colour. The arms of The Worshipful Company of Masons feature a sable (black) field on the shield with a white chevron, three castles and a pair of compasses on the chevron, whereas the variant used in the Masonic arms uses a gules (red) field. This does not constitute a difference that would satisfy the law of arms in England and Wales. In theory the Masons’ Company could have taken the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) to the Court of Chivalry for libel - but that’s not likely to happen as the UGLE arms have been since been registered at the College of Arms in 1919, from whence the Masons also received their grant of arms just a little earlier in 1472.
  9. Some Masonic Orders have a strong history of members receiving a grant of arms, as is often the case for Past Masters of Livery Companies, but any suitably eminent subject of Her Majesty may petition for arms, so it's not a privilege or right linked to Freemasonry or the Livery.
  10. There are certain customs and aspects of ceremonial that both organisations share, such as The Loving Cup and the Sung Grace (usually sung to the tune of Laudi Spirituali) and toasts to the Monarch. Again, these customs are not insular to the Livery and Freemasonry as one may experience similar at Oxbridge Colleges and in regimental messes.
  11. There is similarity among some (but not all) of the regalia employed by Livery Companies and Freemasonry such as the Masters Jewel and Livery Badges / Medals - often suspended from a collar.
  12. There are similarities in the various grades or degrees of progression within the Livery and the Freemasons. 
  13. The Lodge where a Freemason is first made a Mason is known as his ‘mother lodge’, in the same way the first Livery Company in which a Freeman is admitted is known as their ‘mother company’ although it is possible to translate to a new mother company in the Livery.
  14. The Worshipful Company of Masons having been originally titled the Company of Freemasons from as recently as 1530. In 1619 the Masons’ Company is known to have incorporated or was otherwise very closely connected with an organisation known as the ‘Acception' which met in Masons Hall in the City of London and comprised members who were not operative masons (i.e., they were speculative).
  15. Both Freemasonry and the Livery Companies have a strong charitable (relief) and fraternal (brotherly love) ethos, and some closed Masonic Lodges donate time, talent and money to Livery Company charities or collaborate on joint projects.
  16. The role of the Beadle in a Livery Company that has a hall is very similar in scope and responsibilities to that of a Lodge Tyler or Outer Guard.
  17. Some Masonic Lodges find their foundation in particular trades, crafts or occupations.
  18. Freemasons participate in the annual Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London, one of the very few occasions that Freemasons will be seen parading in all their finery. 
  19. The Goose and Gridiron Tavern (originally the Mitre) that once existed in the City of London is where the earliest recorded Masonic meetings where held in 1717, this pub’s sign was actually that of Apollo’s Swan and Lyre (which are also the modern arms and crest of The Worshipful Company of Musicians). The pub was also well known as a meeting place for minstrels at a time when all musicians operating in the City would have been members of the Musicians’ Company (formerly the Ancient Company of Minstrels).
* This is 767 years after the oldest documentary evidence of the existence of a Livery Company

So far, so good and it appears the Livery and Freemasonry have a lot in common, but so do the Boy Scouts and the Boys Brigade, yet they are not one and the same.

Let's examine some of the differences

There are also numerous ways in which Freemasonry and the Livery Companies differ, some of the more pertinent differences that disprove any suggestion they are connected include:

  1. The Livery Companies predate any documented existence of Freemasonry (myths, legions and folklore aside) by at least 600 years, and the oldest City of London guilds are undoubtedly of Anglo-Saxon (pre-Norman conquest) origins. By contrast the first Masonic Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1717 - a fact the Freemasons will confirm and is carved into the wall of Freemasons' Hall in London.
  2. The Livery Companies are all legal corporations, most formed by Royal Charter, some by prescription. They are subject to the laws governing corporations and in the case of Royal Charter companies they are ultimately governed by the Privy Council. Masonic Lodges don't get anywhere near this level of official recognition by the state. The right to confer a Royal Charter is a reserved power of the Monarch.
  3. The overwhelming majority of Livery Companies (108), all Companies without Livery (3) and all Guilds (3) are open to women as equal members and none explicitly forbids women from joining. Unlike Freemasonry* no Livery Company forbids its members, irrespective of gender, to communicate with, visit or participate in the activities of another company because the company admits women. Women have been admitted to the Livery and to the Freedom of the City of London for centuries.
  4. Only about 1/6th of the Livery Companies have a closely related Masonic Lodge and the degree of relationship between the Lodge and the Company varies widely from one to the next. Generally even those Livery Companies that have a Lodge will keep strict separation between the governance, finances and activities of the two entities.
  5. There is no overarching regulatory authority governing Livery Companies whereas there most definitely is for Freemasonry. Neither is there a provincial organisational structure for Livery Companies as they are creatures of the City of London.
  6. Livery Companies are part of the body politic of the City of London (in that their members still have a civic role as an electorate) whereas Freemasonry operate in many countries and have no civic or political role. By custom all Aldermen, Sheriffs and Lord Mayors of the City of London are Liverymen.
  7. Many Livery Companies require their members to be professionally qualified and practising in their respective trade, craft or profession. The Worshipful Company of Engineers for example will only admit Chartered Engineers who are also Fellows of a professional body recognised by the Engineering Council. Freemasons have no such explicit professional membership criteria.
  8. Membership of a Livery Company passes by right of Patrimony to sons and daughters so long as their parent was a Freeman before his/her children were born.
  9. Livery Companies all have a clear trade, craft or professional foundation, and most are still very active in their respective field in ways as diverse as education, training, professional development, examination, awarding, research, inspection, enforcement, standards and other ways.
  10. There are no appendant orders within the Livery in the way that exists in Freemasonry.
  11. Each Livery Company is a legal entity unto its own, and not part of a greater whole. There is no such thing as the ‘Livery movement’ rather there is friendly but deeply entrenched rivalry among the companies and a strict pecking order. The Livery is not a fraternal body comprised of chapters, branches or lodges, it is 110 separate companies who are sovereign.
  12. Livery Companies have a love of ceremony, but it’s all done in public (such as participation in the Lord Mayor’s Show) and the ceremonies are essentially civic in nature rather than allegorical. Most Livery Company ceremonies are derived from practical or legal procedures, such as the presentation of the Boar's Head by the Butchers' Company to the Lord Mayor in lieu of payment of a fee.
  13. There is no requirement to hold a religious faith in order to join a Livery Company, whereas certain degrees and orders of Freemasonry do require members to be of Trinitarian Christian faith and all Freemasons must declare a belief in a supreme being. That said Livery Companies have an association with the Anglican Church and members often do worship together (e.g., at the United Guilds Service) in public. Livery Companies also welcome those of no faith.
  14. Progression within the Livery is a matter for each Company, and there is but one common pre-requisite that applies to all Liverymen - that they be admitted as Freemen of the City of London, a status which is a matter of public record and nothing what-so-ever to do with Freemasons and Freemasonry.
  15. The Livery Companies could not reasonably be described as ‘a society with secrets’ (a term sometime erroneously applied to Freemasonry), neither does any Livery Company describe itself as such, although Livery Companies are private entities with as much right in law to privacy as any individual in the United Kingdom.

* Freemasonry as regulated by UGLE does not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, religion, political views or social standing but it is an exclusively male preserve. 
There are female and mixed Masonic Lodges in the UK but they are explicitly not recognised or governed by UGLE which in clause 4 of its Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition forbids 'Masonic intercourse of any kind with mixed lodges or bodies which admit women to membership' (their words, not mine). 

In this respect Freemasonry does exclude prospective members based upon the random allocation of chromosomes and also forbids collaboration and communication with lodges that admit women, although as a private association it is entirely lawful for Freemasonry to hold this position. The same is true for Freemasonry following the Scottish and Irish traditions and governed by their respective Grand Lodges. 

Whether or not that is a morally defensible position to maintain in the 21st century is a question I leave for others to ponder.
In conclusion 
The Livery Companies and Freemasonry are entirely separate, distinct and independent bodies, albeit they have some similarities and some members in common. Neither is an offshoot of the other, and it is most definitely not a requirement for progression to the highest levels within a Livery Company that one be a Freemason (i.e., no advantage or privilege is afforded to Freemasons in the Livery or vice versa). 
The same is also true for those Liverymen who go on to elected office as Common Councilmen, Aldermen, Sheriffs or to the estate and dignity of The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of the City of London. In fact there is no legal requirement for anyone to be a Liveryman to stand for election to these and other offices in the City, even if most candidates are Liverymen.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

What has the City of London ever done for Canada?

The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson’s Bay

The City of London merchant company that founded a modern nation

Arms of the Hudson's Bay Company © Paul D Jagger
Among the merchant adventurer companies that were formed in London to develop trade in the emerging empire only one survives to this day as a trading company. The once mighty East India Company closed shop in 1874 after the Indian subcontinent came under Imperial governance, the New Zealand Company and the Levant Company are long forgotten and the Muscovy Company exists only as a charitable foundation, but the Hudson’s Bay Company remains a household name in the nation which it did so much to build.

Today no major town or city in Canada is without its branch of The Hudson’s Bay Company but the historic roots of this iconic Canadian retailer are firmly anchored in to the City of London where the Company’s headquarters were located for the first 300 years of its existence. It wasn’t until 1970 that the Company became a Canadian corporation and moved its governance from London to Toronto. This article explores the company’s role in building a modern nation and the lasting links with London and England.

Roots in the City of London

The Company was founded in the City of London on 2nd May 1670, initially under the name of The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England into Hudson’s Bay. The concept of a joint stock merchant adventurer company was by no means unusual for the period and there remain Merchant Adventurer companies in York and Bristol operating as social and philanthropic fellowships. The Company’s investors were all men of standing in society ranging from nobles of the Royal Court to the Lord Mayor of London and many City merchants such John Portman who is mentioned in the opening paragraph of the charter as a “Citizen and Goldsmith of London”.

The Company was in many ways structured in a similar fashion to a City of London Livery Company and its charter conferred the right to admit ‘Freemen’ to the Company conditional upon their entering in to a ‘corporal oath’ in the presence of the Governor of his deputy. This is hardly surprising considering the Company’s principal backers and that its customers in the City were invariably members of the Skinners Company.

The first Governor was His Highness Prince Rupert of the Rhine, a privy counsellor, Admiral of the Fleet and a founder of the Royal Society appointed by Charles II after the restoration. He served in office until his death in 1682. The second Governor was HRH The Duke of York, later James II - but the Glorious Revolution caused him to pursue other career options. Thereafter the Governorship passed to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries the Governors were a succession of successful merchants, bankers, barristers and politicians. The last British governor was Derick Heathcoat-Amory, 1st Viscount Amory who served in office until 1970. The London centric governance of the Hudson’s Bay Company was such that the first Governor to actually visit operations in Canada took office in 1931 and made a brief tour of trading posts in 1934.

From before its formal founding as a Royal Charter Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s headquarters was located in the City of London. Initially the Company’s officers and financial backers would meet either in London coffee houses or one of the Governor’s homes in the City. Very quickly the Company needed permanent premises in the City and a lease was taken on Scriveners’ Company Hall[1].

The Company moved several times but its headquarters remained in the City of London - close to its shareholders and bankers. By the mid 1920s the Company had premises on Bishopsgate (Hudson’s Bay House) and on Great Trinity Lane[2] (Beaver House) the latter now being the Royal Bank of Canada Centre. The former of these two premises still exists in its original (1925) form and is adorned with Canadian symbolism and the arms of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Look up to the weathervane atop the cupola on Hudson’s Bay House and you will see a Beaver weather vane - the animal upon which the Company’s fortunes were built.

The Royal Charter

The Hudson’s Bay Company is privileged to have their original Royal Charter of incorporation that is now held in their head office in Toronto. The document is in excellent condition considering its age and recently featured in the Ray Mear’s documentary ‘The Company That Built a Country’ about the early exploration and opening up of Canada by the fur trading companies. When the Royal Charter was granted in May of 1670 one of its clauses permitted the company monopolistic trading rights in all the lands that have rivers and streams draining into the Hudson’s Bay. It cannot have been known at that time that the area encompassed by this clause would represent over 40% of what is now Canada - a truly vast area of untamed wilderness that extended from the Rocky Mountains in the West to Labrador in the East, Southward into what is now South Dakota in the USA and beyond the Arctic circle in the North including much of Baffin Island.

For many years the Royal Charter was kept in the Company’s boardroom at Beaver House (also called Beaver Hall) in the City of London. As a safety precaution during World War II[3] the Royal Charter was relocated to Hexton Manor on the Hertfordshire / Bedfordshire border, home of the then Governor of the Company - Sir Patrick Ashley Cooper (the one who first visited operations in Canada). The Royal Charter moved to Toronto when the company’s governance ceased to operate from London. In 1996 the Charter underwent a period of conservation and analysis following a request by HRH Prince Charles to see the Charter during a visit to Winnipeg. A 1987 National Geographic Magazine article about the Company revealed that a former Private Secretary to HM The Queen confirmed that royal family still retain shares in the Company.

The Charter is now kept in a purpose built display case in the Company’s Headquarters in Toronto. When it was granted the Company was obliged to present two Beaver and two Elk furs to any member of the Royal Family who visited Hudson’s Bay Company lands - a remarkably good deal for what become the largest commercial landowner in the world. The last time this obligation was undertaken was in 1970 when HM The Queen visited Canada on one of her many tours. Two live Beavers were presented in lieu of pelts and The Queen donated them to Winnipeg Zoo.

From Fur Trading Posts to Department Stores

The success of the Hudson’s Bay Company relied on the supply of Beaver pelts to Europe. The under fur of the Beaver, when felted, is both insulting and waterproof, ideally suited to making outer garments especially hats. Whilst the fur trade existed before the foundation of the Hudson’s Bay Company it wasn’t until the formation of several competing fur trading companies that the Canadian wilderness began to open up to European settlers. The native people of Canada quickly took to trading with the European fur trade companies and the cultures of the native and European peoples intermingled. The native peoples benefited from access to metal tools and woollen clothing, the Europeans benefitted from the birch bark canoe and vital wilderness survival skills. Recent studies have shown that the native peoples were fully attuned to the commercial realities of trade with the Europeans - encouraging competition between different trading companies and being exceptionally discerning about the quality of European goods. Far from exploiting the native peoples, some native tribes actually monopolised the supply of furs to the trading posts.

A reconstructed Hudson's Bay Company fort in Heritage Park, Calgary © Paul D Jagger
The Hudson’s Bay Company wasn’t the only fur trading company operating in Canada and there was fierce rivalry between French and English companies, but the Hudson’s Bay Company out competed or politically out manoeuvred them all to become the dominant company. Many of the early Hudson’s Bay Company forts grew in to small towns some of which such as Winnipeg and Fort Edmonton grew in to modern cities. Modern interpretations of these early fur trading posts may be seen in Fort Edmonton and Heritage Park (Calgary) where Hudson’s Bay Forts have been faithfully restored. Through these trading posts the Hudson’s Bay Company did more than other to open up Canada and bring British culture to most of modern Canada.

By 1869 the Company had largely moved beyond its fur trading roots and agreed the return of its lands to the British Crown, which handed the lands over to the nascent Canadian government thus paving the way for the westward expansion of the Dominion of Canada former two years earlier.

Store frontage of the Hudson's Bay Company in Banff, Alberta © Paul D Jagger
The Hudson’s Bay Company has transformed over 345 years from a fur trading company running outputs in the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Canadian wilderness, operating as a de facto government agent to being Canada’s equivalent of The John Lewis Partnership - an upscale retailer of household goods and clothing serving middle class Canadians. The Company has recently introduced a range of HBC heritage branded products that are evocative of the Company’s history - canoes, paddles, blankets, pen knives and even hand axes!

Hudson’s Bay Company Flag - flown from their fur trading posts throughout Canada - 
Image © Wikicommons 
The Point Blanket

Of all the Hudson’s Bay Company merchandise, none has stood the test of time or been a more emblematic symbol of the Company than the wool blankets that were the mainstay of trade with the native people of Canada for much of the company’s fur trading period since 1780. The term ‘point blanket’ refers to the number of short lines or points sewn in to the woven wool blankets to indicate their size (and hence weight). A common misconception is that the number of points indicated the number of beaver pelts that the blanket was worth, and whilst the exchange value of blankets and pelts remained fairly stable there was no direct correlation between the number of points on a blanket and the number of beaver pelts it was worth.

The point blankets were first manufactured in England and remain so to this very day by A W Hainsworth and Sons of Pudsey in West Yorkshire - the same company supplies fabric for the scarlet tunics worn by the various British and Canadian regiments of Foot Guards and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Hudson’s Bay Point blankets can command very good prices at auction especially if they were manufactured for a particular event such at HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. In 2002 the Company commissioned a book on the subject, simply titled ‘The Blanket’.
The multi colour stripes of the Hudson’s Bay Company blanket © Paul D Jagger  
The Hudson’s Bay Company still sells their heritage point blankets and will ship world wide although annoyingly they have no outlet in the UK.

Conclusion

The Hudson’s Bay Company has been governed from the City of London by English and later British Governors for most of its history yet the Company is little known in the United Kingdom in modern times. Perhaps this is entirely appropriate given than its most important legacy is not in England, but rather the founding of a modern nation through was has been aptly described as the most important commercial contract in history.

One final link with the City and the Skinners Company is maintained, albeit a familial one. The current Chaplain of the Skinners’ Company is the son of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s last Chairman in London.

The Honourable Company

This City of London’s connections with Canada are maintained by The Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North America, an association for Freemen living in Canada and the USA. The Honourable Company was founded in 1977 and remains in rude health, with a regular series of annual events held in Toronto. Although ostensibly a North American association, the membership is 98% Canadian. The Honourable Company is unique in having two Clerks, one in Canada and the other based in the City of London. Freedom of the City of London can be arranged through the Company, which maintains a close relationship with the Guild of Freemen of the City of London (a social club for Freemen who are not members of a Livery Company)
  
Further Reading

The Blanket: An Illustrated History of the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket (Tichenor, 2002)
Emperor of the North - Sir George Simpson and the remarkable story of the Hudson’s Bay Company (Raffan, 2008)
Company of Adventurers, Volume 1 (Newman, 1985)
Caesars of the Wilderness: Company of Adventurers, Volume 2 (Newman, 1997)
Hudson’s Bay Company heritage website
A map of Hudson’s Bay Company offices (and earlier meeting locations) may be viewed here

Note: This article first appeared in the newsletter of London Historians in 2016



[1] The Scriveners’ Company no longer own a hall but have offices in HQS Wellington, which is the hall of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners moored on the northern side of the Embankment.
[2] During the writing of this article I learned that my father visited the Hudson’s Bay Company warehouse on Great Trinity Lane sometime during the late 1950s. At the time he lived in Gracechurch Street and as a young Boy Scout he openly carried a Bowie knife. Apparently it was all the rage for boys to cover the leather sheath of their knife in some Davy Crockett or Apache style covering. My father cycled to Great Trinity Lane and persuaded someone in the Hudson’s Bay warehouse to give him some offcuts of fur that he used to cover the sheath of his Bowie knife.
[3] The Hudson’s Bay Company have two memorial tablets recording the names of those employees who died during both World Wars in the Church of St James Garlickhythe (Vintry Ward) in the City of London.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Know your Heraldic ABC (Arms, Badge and Crest): Part 2 - Armorial Achievements Explained

It's this Liveryman's opinion that every Liveryman should have a working knowledge of heraldry sufficient to explain their Livery Company's coat of arms to friends, family and guests. Heraldry has been described as the shorthand of history and in that respect the arms of a Livery Company are, or perhaps should be, a concise representation of the Company's origins and purpose.

This article is the second in a two part series that provides Liveryman with the knowledge required to learn their heraldic ABC (Arms, Badge and Crest). It is not intended to explain the coat of arms of each and every Livery Company, there are two excellent books that do that far better than I can (details at the bottom of this article).

This second part explains an Armorial Achievement and its component parts. If you haven't already done so you may wish to read the first part on debunking the myths of heraldry before going further.

What's an Armorial Achievement?

Earlier this year my daughter joined the Brownies and quickly made a plan to obtain every badge by Christmas. She is making rapid progress against that plan and my wife and I have already sewn nine badges on her sash. The sash is a visual record of my daughter's achievements and affiliations of which she is rightly proud to display.

So it is with an Armorial Achievement, a written and visual record of all the heraldic achievements granted to the armiger (person to whom the arms are granted). The record is in the form of a document called Letters Patent, simply a 'Letter lying open' for all to see, that grants armorial bearings to a single named person, or to an entity that is a legal person e.g., a corporate body such as a Livery Company or corporation sole such as an ecclesiastical office. A person who has one or more Armorial Achievements is said to be armigerous.

Who grants Armorial Achievements?

The Letters Patent is granted by a heraldic authority of which there are three in the Commonwealth Realms: HM College of Arms in London (covering England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Australia, New Zealand, and so on), The Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh (covering Scotland) and the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Ottawa (covering Canada); each derives its authority to grant arms from the Sovereign as fount of honour.

Since the ultimate authority to grant arms is the exclusive right of the Sovereign, it is possible for a reigning monarch to grant arms directly, but as a practical matter the granting of arms even to members of the Royal Family is delegated to the various heraldic authorities.

It is possible for an armiger to be granted several achievements, for example they may start with arms and a crest and later be granted supporters if they reach a certain rank (e.g., peer of the realm, knight of an Order of Chivalry). Just as with my daughter's badge collecting progress in the Brownies, higher achievement can result in the addition of new heraldic achievements for the armiger.

Letters Patent Granting Arms and Crest to the Armourers & Brasiers' Company

This all starts to get a bit technical, tied up as it is in legal and heraldic language so let's explain with the example.

The Arms, Badge, Crest and Supporters (ABCs) of The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists


The Arms, Crest and Supporters of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists
Arms

The Information Technologists' Company were granted arms in 1989 when still a City of London Guild. Strictly speaking the term arms refers to everything on the shield, i.e., the key and sparks on the green and blue background below the gold section at the top of the shield.

That said, the phrase 'coat of arms' has become widely accepted as meaning the combination of arms, crest, supporters and motto scroll. Only a purist would argue the point outside of learned heraldic discourse.

The arms of the Information Technologists' Company are described in Blazon (the language of Heraldry) thus:

Per pale Vert and Azure a double-warded Key in pale the bow in base and the wards in chief radiated Or amid six Mullets each of six points also radiated Or a Chief Gold

You will notice the absence of punctuation in the blazon, this is normal practice. While this blog article isn't a lesson in blazon, if you read the sentence slowly and break it down you can probably work out what some of the less obvious words mean.

While on the subject of meaning, the Information Technologists' attach certain meanings to the charges (symbols) and tinctures (colours and metals) employed in the arms. Green is for the colour of the data display terminals of the early computing era, blue is the colour of electricity, the key implies knowledge, the sparks are also for electricity and gold is used for its conductive qualities.

Crest

As explained in the first part of this blog article, a crest is a separate thing to the arms and sits atop a helm. In this case the crest is Mercury issuing from a crown of rays.

There is a convention in heraldry that the orientation of the helm is an indication of social rank. It is more conventional for the helm of a Company to be shown facing off to the left as you view the arms. Such an arrangement would mean Mercury was sitting sideways on the helmet so the helm is shown facing forward.

The crest is described in the blazon thus:

In a Crown rayon Or a demo-figure of Mercury vested Vert purfled Or over his sinister shoulder a Mantle Azure lined Or on his head a Petasus Argent winged Or and his dexter arm raised pointing with the index finger upwards to and supporting at its lowest point a Mullet of six points radiated Gold

Having read this, I now realise why Liverymen of the Information Technologists' Company (myself included) wear a royal blue sash, trimmed with gold, over their left shoulder when in formal dress.

Mercury is a messenger, and a speedy one at that, so he is an appropriate character to represent the role of Information Technology in transferring information swiftly, and he does it through the medium of electricity, hence the spark.

Supporters

The shield is held up by supporters which are a Griffin and Pegagsus. For reasons I won't bore you with the position and direction of the arms, crest and supporters is described as if from behind the shield looking out toward the viewer, so the Griffin is on the right or Dexter side of the arms.

The supporters are described in the blazon thus:

Dexter a Griffin and Sinister a Horse both gorged with a Wreath Argent and Gules and both winged Azure the under-wings Vert and all semi of Mullets of six points radiated Gold

The supporters stand on a motto scroll, which in English heraldic law does not form part of the armorial achievement and can be changed at will. Not so in Scotland where the motto forms part of the legal grant.

The motto of the Information Technologists' Company is CITO meaning swiftly

So far, so good, but what happened to the Badge?

A Badge is a heraldic device that is never worn or displayed by the armiger, rather it is to be used by their followers. In times past a Badge might have appeared on the uniform of servants, staff and other persons who owed allegiance to the armiger.

The Information Technologists' Company were also granted a badge in 1989 although it is rarely seen or used. The badge appears below on a pennant that was flown from a yacht and is now preserved in IT Hall.

The badge is described in the blazon thus:

A Falcon affronty wings displayed head to the dexter per pale Vert and Azure beaked and charged on the breast with a Mullet of six points radiated Or alighting upon a Book expanded proper leathered per pale Azure and Vert clasped Or the page inscribed CITO in letters Sable and edged Gold


The Badge of the Information Technologists' Company
So now you know some of the components of an Armorial Achievement which are Arms, Badge, Crest and Supporters. There are other achievements that an armiger may be granted including a Standard (tapering flag) and various accoutrements that can surround the shield or hang from it, particularly the collars of Orders of Chivalry and insignia of Crown honours. Those topics are beyond the scope of this article and may be a source of inspiration for further reading.

Displaying the Armorial Achievements

There are endless ways in which an armiger may display their achievements, some of those employed by the Information Technologists' Company include: Livery Company ties, cufflinks, placemats, stained glass windows, engraving on gold and silver plate, embroidery on robes, a flag and my personal favourite the CITO cap which uses 'charges' (symbols from the arms) and the City's sword and mace to decorate a rather fine cap.


The CITO cap of the Information Technologists' Company
Further Reading

If you have enjoyed this two-part blog article and would like to explore the heraldry of the Livery Companies in more detail there are two exceptional books on the subject. The first known affectionately as 'Bromley and Child' was published in 1960 and covers the period from the earliest armorial bearings to a corporate body, the Drapers' Company in 1439, through to the development of the Modern Livery Companies up to 1954.

The second book was published earlier this year by Richard Goddard, Past Master of the Watermen and Lightermen's Company and covers the period 1954 to 2017 during which now fewer than 55 City of London Livery Companies or ancient Companies without Livery have either been granted arms or have been granted supporters or a badge to their existing arms.

The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London (Bromley and Child, 1960)
The Heraldry of the Livery Companies of the City of London since 1954 (Goddard, 2017)

Monday, 7 August 2017

Know your Heraldic ABC (Arms, Badge and Crest): Part 1 - Myths Debunked

It's this Liveryman's opinion that every Liveryman should have a working knowledge of heraldry sufficient to explain their Livery Company's coat of arms to friends, family and guests. Heraldry has been described as the shorthand of history and in that respect the arms of a Livery Company are, or perhaps should be, a concise representation of the Company's origins and purpose.

This article is the first in a two part series that provides Liveryman with the knowledge required to learn their heraldic ABC (Arms, Badge and Crest). It is not intended to explain the coat of arms of each and every Livery Company, there are two excellent books that do that far better than I can (details of which in part 2).

This first part deals with some of the myths that have become 'common knowledge' regarding heraldry since before we can learn, we must first unlearn.

Heraldic myths debunked

You don't have to look far to understand why myths, legends and misconceptions have become so readily attached to the subject of heraldry. The Royal Coat of Arms of England and of Scotland, both are supported by that noble heraldic beast, the unicorn.

Royal Coat of Arms England (Top) and of Scotland

Any subject which includes unicorns is likely to embrace fantasy more readily than facts, yet heraldry is surprisingly rational and practical in nature. A coat of arms should be designed to be instantly recognisable when approached at speed while mounted on the back of a horse, with a limited field of view such that the rider can recognise it before being run through with a lance.

Modern road traffic signs follow the same principles: Clear, uncomplicated and illustrated in bright contrasting colours that give information to the driver so they are able to drive safely.

Myth #1: Heraldry has no place in the modern world

Some may view heraldry as anachronistic, a hangover from the past that has little relevance in the 21st century, others may view the study of heraldry as an esoteric pastime akin to philately, yet heraldry is omnipresent in our every day life in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth realms and dependent territories. A quick perusal of current coinage will dispel this myth.

Heraldry in your pocket!
Myth #2: A Crest and a Coat of Arms are one and the same thing

How often have you read about or seen a 'family crest'?

In heraldry a crest and a coat of arms are separate, but connected things, they are not synonymous. Technically the arms comprise everything shown on the shield, which may be held up by supporters (heraldic beasts or humans) and is surmounted by a helm.

The crest is a unique combination of objects e.g., a sword held by a bent arm, that is placed on top of a helm and usually fixed to it with a wreath (also called a torse) or occasionally with a coronet. The helm upon which the crest is displayed is placed above the shield of the arms, although it's often the case that the crest is omitted as is the case for my digital avatar on this blog.

Returning to the road traffic analogy, the crest is a bit like a roof box on top of a car. Its contents will vary from one vehicle to the next, you can leave it at home if you like, but if you do attach it to the roof of the car, you still refer to the roof box and the car as distinct and separate entities.

The crest on top of my arms is crammed full of objects, each with their own symbolism known only to my family. Rather like our car roof box it contains all sorts of personal effects but it is not the same thing as our car.

The crest of my arms is an arm in armour holding the sword of St Paul with various other objects all issuing from a ducal coronet (which does not mean I am a Duke).

Myth #3: There is a coat of arms for your surname

One of the fundamental principles of heraldry is that arms are hereditary. In English and Scottish heraldic law the inheritance of arms is via the male line. One can quickly see how arms and surnames became implicitly connected, as right to the arms seems to follow the surname through the generations. The good news is that sons and unmarried daughters can use their father's arms immediately and don't need to wait to inherit the right to use the arms.

Arms are granted to a single named person, not to all their relatives with the same surname, and certainly not to everyone on the planet with the same surname. In point of fact a person who has arms can change their surname and it in no way changes their right to use their arms. The arms granted to that person are their property, and may not be sold or licensed for others to use.

Note: Fiztalan Pursuivant of Arms Extraordinary, Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, has reminded me that a Scottish Clan Chieftain can appoint a successor by a curious Gaelic process known as tanistry which confers to the tainist (the Chief's nominated successor) the right to use the arms of the Chief.

Enough of curious Scottish heraldic practices and back to the vehicular comparison: If you are the registered owner of a car, it belongs to you, not to anyone who happens have the same or similar surname to you. If you change your surname, the car is still yours (ok, you have to update the vehicle ownership records, but the analogy only stretches so far).

Myth #4: There are Pantone® colours for heraldry

Pantone® and other standardised colour models were developed many centuries after heraldry which takes its start point as the Norman Conquest of October 1066 in England. The colours used in heraldry are those of the child's paint box - simple and bright.

The depiction of arms is a matter for the artist and consequently the exact shade of red, blue, green, purple, yellow (also gold), white (also silver) used in different depictions of the same arms can, and often does vary. So long as the artist doesn't change the fundamental nature of the design (e.g., changing a white horse to a unicorn), or the colours used for each object (changing a white horse to a black horse) then all is well.

As a matter of legal precision the design of the arms is described in written form in a language called Blazon which has its own terminology and grammar. The blazon of a coat of arms is what precisely defines the arms in law and not the visual depiction of the arms. This means that all coats of arms are unique because the blazon for each is different. It therefore doesn't matter if one depiction of a coat of arms uses a slightly brighter red than another, they will both fade in sunlight anyway but the blazon will remain unchanged.

Myth #5: You can buy your coat of arms from a shop or website

This is the only myth likely to damage your wallet or purse.

For England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and most Commonwealth Realms and Territories the heraldic authority is HM College of Arms in the City of London. Scotland has its own heraldic authority at the Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, and Canada has its own heraldic authority in the office of the Chief Herald of Canada based in Rideau Hall, home of the Governor General of Canada.

There is no other lawful authority capable of granting arms in any country where HM The Queen is Head of State.

The motor trade has used car dealers of all grades of legitimacy and honesty from Arthur Daley upward. All dealers in coats of arms that you might discover on the web, in a tourist shop or operating from a pop-up stall at a heritage event have all the credentials of the most dishonest and disreputable car dealer you may have the misfortune to meet. CAVEAT EMPTOR.

A note to readers from outside the UK, Commonwealth realms and dependent territories

Very few countries have a heraldic authority that regulates the use of heraldry, and this is especially true of former colonial possessions of the British Crown as was illustrated by the recent actions of one particular citizen of the United States of America who purloined the arms of another person whose ancestor had been lawfully granted the arms in Britain as recently as 1939. The Constitution of the United States of America is silent on heraldic matters, and no authority or laws exist to govern its usage in the USA or its dependent territories. Essentially the USA is a 'wild west' where heraldry is concerned and there are plenty of heraldic carpet baggers and snake oil salesmen plying their wares in the fifty States of the Union.

In part two...

That's the myths dealt with and in part two I will deconstruct the arms of my own Livery Company, the Information Technologists, to explain the component parts and the meaning attributed to the symbols and colours employed in the arms.


Friday, 14 July 2017

How to form a Livery Company - A Beginner's Guide

Since the Norman Conquest of October 1066 the City of London has begotten more than one hundred Livery Companies. The current count of one hundred and ten is the highest since records began, and there are several prospective Livery Companies in the pipeline that will likely increase that count in the next decade.

In the distant past some Livery Companies have failed, others have merged and at least two split apart (Bowyers and Fletchers). Putting aside the first nine hundred years of the growth of the Livery Companies, the past 70 years have witnessed an enormous increase in the formation of new companies. With the exception of the Master Mariners (achieved Livery status in 1932) and the Solicitors (Livery in 1944) all the 'Modern' Livery Companies have formed since 1952.

How does one go about forming a new Livery Company?

The first thing to understand about Livery Companies is the single, unbending, universal and inescapable rule that applies to all Companies, ancient and modern, to wit: "There are always exceptions". Keep that to the fore as you read what follows.

The first step to forming a Livery Company is for a group of likeminded persons working in a common area of trade, craft or professional practice* to have the aspiration of forming a Livery Company. For that aspiration to move from the imagined to the practical, the group will need to have substance as some sort of association, whether that be unincorporated or more likely a company limited by guarantee. An existing professional institution may also be the point of genesis for a future Livery Company.

* A Livery Company must be aligned with an occupation, and one which is closely connected with the City of London. A Livery Company is not a trade union or other form of representative body campaigning for the rights of workers in a given occupation. Neither is a Livery Company a Professional Body or Learned Society, although it will have an educational and training aspect to its life and may well support academia.

An example may be found in the Guild of Investment Managers Ltd, a company limited by guarantee that has formed with the intention of seeking Livery Company status to represent the Investment Management industry (and the occupations that directly enable it). In July 2017 the Guild held its first event inviting members of the Investment Management industry to learn more of its plans, and recruit members. The Guild is clear in its ambition to become a Livery Company.

The Logo of the Guild of Investment Managers Limited © Guild of Investment Managers

The formation of a Guild is the first concrete milestone on the road to Livery Company status

However, the act of forming the legal person (in this case the limited company) and titling it 'The Guild of so-and-so' does not make it a City of London Guild anymore than the Guild of Master Craftsmen (a trade association in the UK) is a Guild recognised by the City.

For a Guild to progress and achieve recognition by the City's Court of Aldermen, several criteria must be satisfied. The Guild must have:

1) A sponsoring Aldermen*
2) Sufficient paying members to provide confidence that the Guild will not collapse (circa 50+)
3) General funds of no less than £10,000 (2017 figures)

* The General Purposes Committee of the Court of Aldermen must agree the appointment of a Sponsoring Alderman.
+ There is no magic figure, but the number should be sufficient to show clear support from among those operating within the trade, craft or profession.

The Guild of Investment Managers is fortunate to have a Sponsoring Alderman whose occupation was within the industry, and is hence well placed to guide the Guild's progression and understand the industry from within. Furthermore the Guild of Investment Managers operates within a regulated industry, which makes it easier to define who is or is not in the business of investment management.

It is wise for the Guild to seek letters of support from other Livery Companies, and perhaps for relevant professional bodies, trade associations or industry regulators attesting to their support for the Guild's aspirations to progress toward Livery Company status.

In many cases, such as that of the Marketors' Company whose early membership were all fellows of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the involvement of a professional body or trade association may be important in both supporting the Guild and differentiating between the two, since a Guild should not seek to duplicate the functions of a professional body or trade association, even if it represents the same occupational area.

The critical stage is reached when the Guild presents a Letter of Intent to the Court of Aldermen expressing its desire to achieve formal recognition by the City. As such it is advisable for the Guild to informally seek the views of the Aldermen and Magistracy sub-committee before submitting the Letter of Intent.

Acceptance of the Letter of Intent by the Court of Aldermen gives the City recognition to the Guild

Having obtained this vital recognition, the Guild will then need to grow its membership and general funds, in addition to opening a charitable fund.

Progression to the next stage, that of City Company without Livery, will usually take at least four years (exceptions are known) and the financial requirements for progression will be reviewed periodically by the Aldermen and Magistracy Sub-Committee.

For the Guild to progress and achieve City Company without Livery, several additional criteria must be satisfied. The Guild must have:

1) General funds of no less than £30,000 (2017 figures)
2) Charitable funds of no less than £150,000 (2017 figures)

The Guild must also:

3) Represent a trade, craft or profession not already represented among the Livery Companies, Companies without Livery or other City Guilds. This will usually have been demonstrated at the Guild stage (at least one exception exists) and it is the Sponsoring Alderman's responsibility to ensure no substantive overlap exists.
4) Demonstrate a commitment to the civic life of the City, through charity, education and finance.
5) Demonstrate that a majority of members are actively engaged in the trade, craft or profession which the Guild represents (CVs may be required).
6) Hold its meetings within the City limits (i.e., the Square Mile), although at least one Livery Company was carefully 'placed' outside the City owing to its noisy and explosive occupational activities (again, there are always exceptions).
7) Show that its membership comprises 'fit and proper persons' with City connections.
8) Have grown its paid up membership to at least 100.
9) Show evidence that its engagement with trade, craft or profession have produced beneficial results (e.g., hosting occupational events, supporting education, apprenticeships, awarding, etc)
10) Have a comprehensive business plan with evidence of four years of audited company accounts.

The climb gets steeper as the Guild progresses, and this is why early soundings should be taken before embarking on the journey, and mature consideration given to the requirements and timescale. Some Guilds have progressed quickly, notably the Marketors who progressed from Guild to full Livery Company status in two years, and the Insurers who completed the entire process in under a year, but these are notable exceptions. Other Guilds have taken longer than the four year 'minimum' outlined earlier.

The Aldermen and Magistracy Sub-Committee will want to be sure the Guild will not collapse through lack of leadership, support from its membership or adequate funds.

When the above criteria are met, the Guild may petition the Court of Aldermen to be recognised as a City Company without Livery.

Acceptance of the Petition to the Court of Aldermen elevates the Guild to a Company without Livery

The formation of a City Company without Livery puts the Company on the City map as a strong contender to progress to full Livery Company status. It is possible to stop at this stage, and there is one City Company without Livery that has no intention of progressing further. Curiously there is another Company, which is recognised by the City, but is not a City Company without Livery since it was formed by Act of Parliament. Recall the rule of exceptions!

The Marketors and Insurers managed to skip this intermediate stage entirely, how and why is lost to the mists of time, but it seems unlikely that exception will be repeated in the era of more stringent corporate governance.

At the time of writing there is a single Company without Livery which intends to become a Livery Company, although its progress has been rather longer than one might expect. Time will tell if it progresses or perhaps merges with another Livery Company as happened to the Newspaper Makers' Company when they realised their future was best served by joining with the Stationers.

A period of four years as a Company without Livery should pass before a petition for Livery Company status is presented to the Court of Aldermen.

For the Company without Livery to progress and achieve Livery Company status, several additional criteria must be satisfied. The Company without Livery must have:

11) General funds of no less than £60,000 (2017 figures)
12) Charitable funds of no less than £300,000 (2017 figures)

It is also wise for the Company to seek informal advice from the Corporation's Officers on the form and procedure, although this advice is received without obligation or commitment.

When ready, and particularly when the right signals have been received, and the mood music is conducive, the Company without Livery may petition the Court of Aldermen for Livery Company status.

Acceptance of the Petition to the Court of Aldermen elevates the Company to Livery Company status

Throughout this process the Sponsoring Alderman has a pivotal role to play in guiding and advising the progress of the Guild and Company without Livery to the point of becoming a full Livery Company.

It is beyond the scope of this blog article to describe the role of the Sponsoring Alderman in full, and there are many other Corporation Officers who will also play a role in the progression of the Guild. These are no less important than the role of the officers of the Company who will shoulder the burden of the Guilds operational leadership, fund raising, recruiting and other activities.

Taken in the whole, rather than step-by-step, the process ensures that new Livery Companies are sufficiently robust as to ensure they are permanent. The length of the process also serves to dissuade casual interest or ambitious Guilds in a hurry.
Letters Patent granting Livery Company status to the Information Technologists' Company in 1992 © Paul D Jagger

Allied to the above process, there are several adjuncts to the process which although not vital are befitting of the status and dignity of a City of London Livery Company, they include but are not limited to:

A) A successful petition to the College of Arms for Letters Patent granting armorial bearings
B) Purchase of robes and insignia for the Guild's principal officers
C) The acquisition of treasures (usually gifted) for display and use at banquets

Robes worn by the Master and Wardens of the Fan Maker's Company showing the Company's arms (prior to grant of supporters) © Paul D Jagger
For all Modern Livery Companies the process of elevation to Livery Company status involves the setting of a limit on the number of Liverymen the Company may clothe. This limit is usually 300 and may be incremented by the Court of Aldermen as the Company grows and if circumstance warrant, but it is by no means a given that the limit will be raised simply on request.

Most Livery Companies, even the Modern ones, go on to petition the Crown for a Royal Charter and, if successful, become Royal Charter companies. This in no way diminishes the Livery Company status, rather it unifies the previously individual members into a single body politic, which surrenders certain aspects of its governance to the Privy Council.

Progression to Royal Charter Company is the apex of achievement for that now long forgotten nascent Guild, and the subject for a future blog.

Want to learn more about the Livery Companies?

The City of London Freeman's Guide is the definitive concise guide to the City of London and its ancient and modern Livery Companies. Available in full colour hardback and eBook formats and now in its third or Lord Mayor's edition featuring a Foreword from the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of London.

Available online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) or Etsy (in hardback or hardback with the author's seal attached)


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Ancient Livery Companies and their role in the 21st Century

The City of London's Livery Companies represent an immense range of trades, crafts and professions. Some companies such as the Butchers and Carpenters were probably active prior to the Norman Conquest, others such as the Air Pilots and Information Technologists are creatures of the 20th century. What they all have in common are roots in a particular occupation whether it be ancient or modern. For most companies the occupational links remain strong even if the particular craft, such as that of the Bowyer or the Wheelwright, is no longer a major field of employment.

Are these companies still relevant in the 21st century?

All too often public awareness of the Livery Companies is limited to the floats in the Lord Mayor's Show or photos on social media of white tie banquets in the City. This can reinforce the erroneous perception that the Livery Companies are fancy dining clubs with no substantive role in trade, craft or profession. Freemen and Liverymen will know that the reality is very different. Livery Companies are all immensely active in charity, education and fellowship and most are still well connected with their respective occupations.

Some companies, including the Goldsmiths, Scriveners, Gunmakers, Farriers and Apothecaries are particularly noteworthy for their role in regulation, inspection, examination, trading standards and enforcement. Others including the Furniture Makers, Pewterers and Turners advance their craft through competitions, awarding and exhibitions. The range of ways in which Livery Companies support occupations is both diverse and far reaching.

There is a resurgence of occupational links among the Livery, and these were very much in evidence at the Heritage Skills Festival held at Lincoln Cathedral on 23/24 June. The Lord Mayor attended on the 23rd and participated in a ceremonial procession, Evensong and organ recital followed by dinner in the Cathedral. This set the tone for an exhibition of the highest standard in a magnificent setting.



I visited the Festival on Saturday 24th and toured the stalls, exhibits and practical displays of the various companies. What follows is a small selection of the stalls I visited and the crafts I saw in action that illustrate the ongoing role of the Livery Companies.

Liveries on Lincoln's Green

Some twenty-three Livery Companies were present at the Heritage Skills Festival, alongside leading businesses working in the trades and crafts represented by the Livery and a number of colleges and professional bodies that provide education or professional development in the same fields.

The panoply of Livery and trade stalls were interspersed with displays related to the life of the Cathedral, such as the Guild of Vergers, a 'have a go' bellringing rig (if that's the correct term) and exhibits showing the work to preserve or repair church organs and stained glass. The Cathedral and the green outside were packed with all manner of displays, some of which, such as stone carving, invited audience participation, others such as moulding with molten lead, were in the safe hands of professionals.

My first stop was at the Saddlers' Company stall, where I watched a saddle being stuffed and stitched by hand using some of the tools of the craft. The Saddlers' Company is particularly well known within the saddlery trade, and is a vital funding partner to the Society of Master Saddlers. The Company also supports the British Equestrian Trade Association and the British Equestrian Federation. Britain's role as a global centre of excellence for horse breeding, training and racing ensures that the Saddlery trade remains vibrant. It is no surprise to that HRH The Princess Royal is Perpetual Master of the Saddlers' Company.

The craft of the Saddler in action as demonstrated by a member of the Saddlers' Company © Paul D Jagger
Next on my visit was the Basketmakers' Company, the only Livery Company to have been exiled from the City, and one which cannot be certain that status has been rescinded. Never-the-less the Basketmakers' are once again active in the Square Mile. The Company had an extensive display of finished wares and several members were actively demonstrating their intricate craft weaving mats, baskets and ornate centrepieces.

In the City the Basketmakers are well known for their work in creating the pagan giants known as Gog and Magog that parade in the Lord Mayor's Show, demonstrating that whether you are interested in wicker or wicca - there's something in the City of you!

Basketmaking in action © Paul D Jagger
Some of the wares of the Basketmaker © Paul D Jagger
From weaving of baskets to weaving of a more conventional kind the next stall in my tour was the that of the Worshipful Company of Weavers. The Weavers' Company, while not wealthy, does have the distinction of the oldest extant Royal Charter dated 1155 AD. They are mentioned in documents held in parliament at the earlier date of 1130 and it seems likely this Guild was operative at the time of the Norman Conquest.


The relatively modern contrivance of the handloom was demonstrated by members of the Company as were many examples of finished products.

The Weavers' Company demonstrating the handloom © Paul D Jagger
The Upholders' Company were proud to introduce their young apprentice and his Masterpiece (that's where the term comes from). I was fortunate enough to spent some time talking to both the apprentice and a craftsman who demonstrated the tools and techniques used in tensioning straps on a chair. I also learned that upholders and undertakers share a common occupational lineage.

Apprentice Upholder and his Masterpiece, surely amply qualified to become a Freeman of the Company!
The master of his craft demonstrating a tensioning aid.
The Joiners and Ceilers Company describe themselves as the 'Jolly Joiners' on Twitter and they can certainly be pleased as punch with the quality of work produced by this young lady apprentice whose Masterpiece was proudly displayed alongside practical demonstrations of joinery. The current Master of the Company did little to dampen expectations by saying the young apprentice would one day be Master!

Young lady apprentice who was identified as a future Master of the Company © Paul D Jagger
Not to be outdone the Plaisterers showed that their Master remains a master of his craft, by demonstrating how to release a plaster ceiling rose from its mould. Another apprentice was working on a plaster lion's head while other plasterers were busy filling plaster moulds.

The Master Plaisterer who is a master plasterer © Paul D Jagger
From plastering to plumbing and the rather more dangerous medium of molten lead. It wasn't obvious to me until I explored the Plumbers' Company stall that plumbing involves all manner of working with lead, and isn't confined to installation and maintenance of pipework for the transit of liquids and gasses. I also learned that the Plumbers' Company have a museum exhibit at the Weald & Download Living Museum in Singleton near Chichester.
Casting lead cherubs using a reusable mould © Paul D Jagger
Lead cherubs immediately after the molten lead has been poured © Paul D Jagger
Next in my tour was the Masons' Company and a considerable display of masonry work in action at various stages of carving from rough stone to near finished smooth work. I spent quite some time speaking with the Master Mason and learning about the various qualities of stone, and particularly the special qualities of Welsh or Cumbrian green slate.

This lady stonemason was busy carving a frog. There was no sign of it turning into a prince! © Paul D Jagger
From frogs to snails, presumably these pieces were commissioned by a French gastronomist for their chateau © Paul D Jagger
I was particularly pleased by the number of women engaged in the various crafts on display, as stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, turners, scriveners, many of whom I spoke to. Particularly fascinating was the discussion I had with the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths' Company, the first female to hold the post in the history of the Company.

The Goldsmiths' Company had an extensive display of fakes, forgeries and fraudulent hallmarked items that showed how sophisticated, and greedy, some forgers have become.

The hall marking process is the oldest form of consumer protection still in operation today and the Assay Office in London (run by the Goldsmiths' Company) sets the gold standard of testing and quality assurance for gold, silver, platinum and palladium.

Some of the items shown to be fakes or forgeries by the Goldsmiths' Company © Paul D Jagger
Young apprentice of the Goldsmiths' Company demonstrating a mass spectrometer © Paul D Jagger
The Tylers and Bricklayers' Company were demonstrating a wide array of skills with slate and concrete tiles, including the light weight pantiles (for roofing) and some very impressive encaustic tiles for interior decoration.

Showcasing various types of roofing tile and the art of cutting slate © Paul D Jagger 
This emerging turret shows the skill of the Bricklayer and may prove useful for the item donated by the Clockmakers' to the Heritage Skills Festival auction (read on below). © Paul D Jagger
In the interest of keeping this blog to a manageable size I have skipped several of the companies I visited including (in no particular order) the Scriveners, Borderers, Glovers, Coachmakers, Wheelwrights, Builders' Merchants, Paviors, Turners, Glaziers and Farmers. Also on hand were the Parish Clerks who enacted a medieval Mystery Play, one of the ancient roles of the Livery Companies that has largely disappeared from the London scene but remains strong in York.

My day ended with a visit to the joint display by the British Horological Institute and the Clockmakers' Company. The former were keen to emphasise their antiquity by stating they had 'been around a long time' (established 1858). This was not a boast I would make seated alongside the Clockmakers' Company (established 1631) never-the-less they had some marvellous timepieces on display and were demonstrating clock repair.

Demonstrating clock repairing skills to a youthful audience of potential apprentices © Paul D Jagger
Truly a Masterpiece, this astrological clock shows the clockmakers' skill and art © Paul D Jagger
The Clockmakers' Company donated this turret clock to the Heritage Skills Festival auction, handy if you have a turret that's in need of a clock © Paul D Jagger
This seems an appropriate point in time to wrap up this article but before I close, a few final reflections on the Heritage Skills Festival.

The event was superbly organised by the team at Lincoln Cathedral, well supported by the Livery Companies and associated business, and crowded throughout the day by a steady stream of visitors, most of whom knew nothing of the Livery Companies. The very best of each trade, craft or profession was on display, there was something for everyone and if this event is repeated I will definitely return with my young family.

Even though the event was very well supported by the Livery there was scope for more companies to participate, particularly those in heritage crafts or the victualling trades. The Skills Festival would also have benefitted from some overarching context for the general public on the role of the Livery Companies and their beneficial impact on trade, craft, profession from an education and skills perspective. The Livery Committee and the Livery Skills Council have a vital role to play in getting the message out there about the work of the Livery.

May the Heritage Skills Festival continue to flourish root and branch.

Want to learn more about the Livery Companies?

The City of London Freeman's Guide is the definitive concise guide to the City of London and its ancient and modern Livery Companies. Available in full colour hardback and eBook formats and now in its third or Lord Mayor's edition featuring a Foreword from the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of London.

Available online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) or Etsy (in hardback or hardback with the author's seal attached)