Exploring the City's Livery Halls in Lockdown

Enjoying a talk by the Clerk to the Armourers' Company during a tour of that Company's Hall
The City’s Livery Halls form an eclectic collection of scattered gems throughout the Square Mile - some are grand palatial buildings on par with England’s large country homes, others are more modest town houses and one is a ship - yet all are fascinating, have their own stories to tell, and treasures to reveal.
Guided Tours
During 2019 I began organising guided tours of several Livery Halls for Arts Society groups, usually one hall in the morning and another in the afternoon with a brief walking tour after lunch. These tours have been immense fun and endlessly fascinating, not least because of the excellent support from the Livery Halls. I've learned a great deal from organising tours and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, while not every hall is suited to tours, those that are do their utmost to put on a wonderful experience.
Virtual Tours
Sadly the impact of Covid19 has resulted i…

Virtualising the Livery

When I applied to join the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists in the winter of 2010 I made a decision to get involved in aspects of the Livery that were unconnected with my career in IT. This was partly because I wanted to do something new and challenging, and because I was very active in the professional body for the IT industry in the UK (BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT) I didn't need yet another extension to my career with IBM.

The decision to get involved in something new led me to take an interest in the history, culture, customs, traditions, quirks and foibles of the City of London in general and the Livery Companies in particular. So far as is possible I've tried to keep my day job and my activities within the Livery untangled so the latter doesn't become an extension of the former.

Occasionally my knowledge of IT and the digital realm has crossed over with the world of the Livery, most recently I co-delivered an event on Digital Heraldry at IT Hall…

The Livery's Perception Problem - Real or Imagined?

During 2019 several events occurred that caused me to stop and think long and hard about the way the Livery Companies may be viewed by persons outwith the Livery.
Oh to see ourselves through the eyes of others

The first event was my response to the Pan-Livery Initiative’s Attitudinal Survey. While I cannot remember exactly what I wrote in response to the survey’s several questions the overall thrust of my submission was informed by my experience of the Information Technologists’ Company.
The Information Technologists’ Company is rooted in a modern profession and exhibits a 21st century culture. The Company has admitted women to the Court from the earliest days, indeed the purchase of the Company’s Hall was enabled by a gift from Dame Stephanie Shirley CH. The Company has no history of admission by patrimony and has grown by being open, welcoming and inclusive. Almost all Company events are open to Freemen, Liverymen and guests - ensuring that new lifeblood joins the Company. 

My perspecti…

What exactly is a Livery Company?

The tragic terrorist attack of Friday 29th November 2019 that took place within and outside Fishmongers’ Hall at the northern end of London Bridge threw a spotlight on that building and the organisation that owns it, but also more widely on these curious City of London institutions called Livery Companies.

The events that took place in the hall and then spilled out onto the pavement caused a peak in interest on social media about the Fishmongers’ Hall, not least because of the heroism of the staff as reported by the Company's Clerk (Commodore Toby Williamson) on the BBC News. Social Media was alive with questions about whether the Fishmongers' Hall was a pub, a fishmonger's shop, perhaps even a fish and chip shop... it is none of those things.

This blog seeks to explain what a Livery Company is (in the UK) for those who may wish to learn more. Reduced the simplest description a Livery Company is an occupational guild formed by Royal Charter, but that hardly helps explain wha…

Vote for Vellum! The 'roll' [sic] of parchment and vellum in preserving history and heritage

Every Freeman of the City of London receives a small certificate as the physical token of admission into the Freedom. In times past this document was carried in a wooden tube and had to be available for inspection, something akin to a license to trade.

Most Freemen choose to have their Copy of Freedom (as it is described) framed by the Chamberlain's Court before they leave Guildhall. Because of this the Freemen rarely, if ever, handle the document to feel its texture, perhaps they assume it's just a piece of paper.

Every Copy of Freedom is written on fine quality parchment rather than paper. The parchment is made from the skin of a sheep and is produced in the UK by William Cowley of Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire (a family owned business founded in 1850).
William Cowley is thought to be the last commercial parchment (sheep) and vellum (calf or goat skin) maker in the world, and still crafts with traditional tools and techniques to produce the highest quality materials for …