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

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.


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.


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)

Monday, 22 May 2017

The role of the Beadle

The City of London has many civic and ceremonial officers which are unknown in other towns and cities throughout the United Kingdom such as: the Ale Conners, the Bridge Masters, the Chief Commoner, the Clerk to the Chamberlain's Court, and the Secondary and Undersheriff to highlight just a few. The Beadle is the one office holder which is common to both the City of London and its Livery Companies, but in typical City style the role is not the same in every Company and certainly not between the Companies and the City. Such is the way of the City that delights in creating exceptions to, and variations on, a common theme!

There are other Beadles (sometimes 'Esquire Bedell') to be found in some of the ancient universities in the UK and the Commonwealth, and these are ceremonial officers who keep the customs and traditions of the university in addition to performing a role similar to that of the Livery Company Beadle.

The Ward Beadle

Each of the City's twenty-five wards has at least one Beadle, some of the larger wards have more than one Beadle (up to a maximum of three for the largest wards), but the norm is for a ward to have a single Beadle. The Ward Beadle is an office probably dating from the Anglo-Saxon period, and may be as ancient as that of Sheriff - nobody can say for certain.

The Ward Beadle (or Beadles) are nominated by the Alderman for each ward and elected at the ward-moot with the Common Councilmen for each Ward. They serve as ceremonial officers who carry the ward's mace (otherwise kept in Guildhall) and assist the Alderman in the performance of civic duties, especially during ceremonial events, meetings of Common Hall and during a ward-moot or any folk-moot as may be called. They wear a colourful ceremonial robe and tricorn hat, the colour of the gown varying from ward to ward.

Ward Beadles of the City of London
Ward Beadles of the City of London here seen outside Guildhall © Paul D Jagger
In times past the Ward Beadle would maintain a list of the Freemen living in their ward, being those persons who were eligible to vote in elections to Common Council and for the Alderman. Since residents and business voters now form the electorate for the wards, this role has been absorbed into the responsibilities of the Corporation of London, specifically the Town Clerk's department.

The Ward Beadle also had responsibility for fining Freemen who failed to attend a ward-moot without sufficient cause. Theoretically this power still exists, but is never exercised.

The principal surviving duty of the Ward Beadle is that of opening each ward-moot, keeping order during proceedings and bringing the meeting to a close.

Another duty of the Ward Beadle is that of informing the Alderman of any person of 'bad and evil life' or hucksters of ale, or persons keeping a brothel. In this respect they are something akin to a police officer, or at least a watch keeper.

The Livery Company Beadle

Each of the City's Livery Companies has a Beadle, who may be a full-time salaried employee or a part-time retainer, perhaps working for several companies. Livery Company Beadles, like their City brethren, are most often seen performing a ceremonial role by making announcements and carrying the Company's staff at the head of the procession during dinners, banquets, church services and other events.

The Beadle of The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists in his robe of office seen here in Guildhall
Mr Alan O'Connor, Beadle to The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. Image copyright Alan O'Connor
Those companies which own a hall will usually, but not always, combine the role of Beadle with that of Hall Manager responsible for upkeep of the hall and safe keeping of the Company's treasures, something akin to a caretaker while retaining the ceremonial role. In the very largest halls the Beadle may have his own flat (and currently all Beadles in the City are male).

Livery Company Beadles are responsible for keeping order and ensuring that only members of Court are admitted to Court meetings, and only Liverymen of their Company are admitted to Common Hall. In this regard they perform a similar role to the Ward Beadle.

In times past when Livery Companies had many young apprentices in their charge, the Beadle was responsible for their discipline, and today a Company Beadle might have a quiet word in the ear of any Freeman or Liveryman who requires a bit of close quarter counselling on his or her dress, behaviour or timekeeping. If the Court of a Livery Company awards a fine for misbehaviour to one of the Company's Freemen or Liverymen, it is the Beadle who is responsible for administering the fine.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Livery Companies Beadles are often former police officers or non-commissioned officers from the Armed Forces.
A group of Livery Company Beadles in their ceremonial uniforms during the annual Lord Mayor's Show in London
Livery Company Beadles during the annual Lord Mayor's Show. Image copyright Alan O'Connor
During ceremonial events it is the Beadle who calls the gathering to order, introduces speakers, and keeps the event running to time. The Beadle will also announce guests to the receiving line and acts as the liaison between the host and the catering staff since he is the only person (other than the catering staff) who is permitted to move around the room during a formal dinner or banquet. The Beadle must be at home speaking with royalty, the Lord Mayor, masters of Livery Companies, bishops, politicians, judges, senior military officers and the youngest apprentice.

While the Beadle must be able to administer a quiet word from time to time his role is much aided if he has a thunderous voice that commands attention - a Beadle is often heard more than seen; never the less he usually wears a brightly coloured gown that echoes the colours of the Company's coat of arms unlike the Clerk's which is a sober legal gown based on that of a Barrister at Law. In addition they carry a staff of office which may be raised up like a tour guide's umbrella to lead the way in church or during the entry and exit of the top table at a Livery Company dinner. Some Beadles wear a tudor bonnet, others a bicorn hat worn athwart.

Bicorn Hat worn by the Beadle of the Engineers' Company © Paul D Jagger

The Beadle must be a man* of many talents, able to seamlessly adapt to a number of roles, and for those that manage a hall they will also have the responsibility of guiding visitors and guests, and perhaps liaison and negotiation with clients who hire the hall on a commercial basis.

The Beadle must maintain a commanding but diplomatic presence no matter what the circumstances. Image copyright Alan O'Connor.

Together the Beadles of London have their own Guild, which is raising awareness of this ancient and multi-facetted role, one which has perhaps received less attention and importance than it should. You may discover more about the role and history of the Beadle at this website:

* There is no restriction on the role of Beadle being held by a man. The current Junior and Senior Esquire Bedells of Cambridge University are both women.

The Junior Esquire Bedell of Cambridge University carrying the University's silver plated ebony mace © Paul D Jagger
If you would like to learn more about the City's many customs, ceremonies, traditions, institutions, officers and landmarks, you may enjoy The City of London Freeman's Guide available online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) or Etsy (in hardback or hardback with the author's seal attached)

The front cover of The City of London Freeman's Guide LORD MAYOR'S edition

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The City's relationship with the Armed Forces

The City of London has a particularly close and long-standing relationship with the Armed Forces of the Crown, one that continues to flourish in the 21st century through the City's privileged regiments and the plethora of Livery Company affiliations with ships, shore stations, regiments, squadrons and other military formations.

This is all the more surprising when one considers that from a legal perspective, the City of London seems rather unwelcoming to the military. 

The City is the only place in the Kingdom where Her Majesty’s Forces may not enter without the prior permission of the Lord Mayor having been sought and obtained. Even HM's Lord Lieutenant for Greater London may not enter the City in uniform without the permission of the Lord Mayor.

This right to refuse troops of the crown entry to the City is codified in a Royal Charter presented to the City by Edward III in 1327 and last tested in court as recently as 1842 (in City terms that’s very recently). During the exigencies of the Second World War several officers were required to write formal letters of apology to the Lord Mayor for allowing their troops to enter the City without permission, including several responding to police callouts to deal with un-exploded bombs. 

Even when the Lord Mayor grants permission for troops to enter the City they must be escorted by an Esquire of the Mansion House going by the title of the City Marshal – the only civic military posting in the Commonwealth. In recognition of this unique role the City Marshal is provided with a military uniform, sword, spurs and horse.

The restrictions placed upon HM Armed Forces aren't limited simply to marching through the City. Recruiting for the Armed Forces of the Crown is illegal in the City and Freemen of the City of London may be pleased to learn they are exempt from the clutches of the Royal Navy press gang - since Freemen are deemed too valuable a contributor to the national economy. 

That said, there is no restriction on the City recruiting its own forces, and until 1872 the Commission of Lieutenancy in the City of London, headed The Lord Mayor, could and did issue its own commissions in the reserve forces. Of course these officers needed men, but where to get them? 

On Easter Sunday 1596 the Lord Mayor and Alderman set the tone for recruiting in the City when they barred the doors of all the City churches and after sifting out the women, children, elderly and infirm over 1,000 willing 'volunteers' were recruited for overseas service.
Whatever the legal situation, the City’s relationship with the armed forces is in truth particularly close and affectionate. Several regiments and squadrons have received the honour of including ‘City of London’ in their title, and twelve regiments have achieved City Privilege status – allowing them to march in the City with drums beating, bayonets fixed and colours unfurled. One of the most recent grants of City Privilege status was made just last year to 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD) – suitable recompense for all those apologetic letters written to the Lord Mayor by EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) officers during WWII. 

The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) achieved City Privilege status in 1924 after having exercised the right without official sanction for many centuries, despite the fact that Aldermen are automatically members of the HAC.

Another aspect of the City's connection with the military is evident in The Company of Pikemen and Musketeers of The Honourable Artillery Company. They form the Lord Mayor’s bodyguard, a role previously performed by the Light Cavalry HAC, and confirmed by Royal Warrant in the 1950s. The Pikemen and Musketeers are seen at many City events, especially during the Lord Mayor's Show, but in every case they may only parade with the permission of the Lord Mayor. Overall the Lord Mayor's Show includes more troops than participate in the Queen's annual birthday parade (Trooping the Colour).

There are well over 220 regular and reserve units of the armed forces affiliated with one or more of the City’s 110 Livery Companies, and a further 120 Cadet Forces units are affiliated with the Livery. The nature and scope of each affiliation varies from one Livery Company to the next, but overall the picture is one of strong and friendly bonds that have, in some cases, been maintained over many years. 

On a practical level the City has long been a source of money, material and expertise for monarchs engaged in battles at home and overseas. The 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt in 2015 recalled how the City of London and its Livery Companies had backed Henry V with equipment, supplies, money and even troops to fight his campaign in France. 

For this generosity Henry V gave the Lord Mayor of London a crystal sceptre that has recently been described as the greatest thank you gift in history. The relationship between the City and the Armed Forces remains just as strong today - something for which we can all be thankful.