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 events of Friday 29th November 2019 in and outside Fishmongers’ Hall at the northern end of London Bridge have thrown 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 have caused, and will likely continue to cause for some time, 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. 

There is a time and a place for calm analysis of the events that took place in the hall, and my thoughts are with the loved ones of all who were killed, injured or otherwise affected by the actions of a terrorist. This blog seeks only to explain what a Livery Company is for those who may wish to learn more.
A thing without comparison

The first challenge one faces when explaining a …

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 …

The City's Ward Clubs and their place in the 21st Century

The Ward Clubs of the City of London are one of those curious creatures that exist only in the eco-system of the City and find no direct parallel anywhere else in the UK. Part social club, part residents' association, part platform for engagement with voters, and part fabric of the City's cultural heritage the Ward Clubs vary in age, size, vibrancy and engagement with the residents, workers, voters and institutions of their respective ward.

This blog article explores the origins, role and relevance of the Ward Clubs in the 21st century, at a time when many (but not all) of them appear to have retired to comfortable obscurity as quiet social clubs for persons of a certain age, but perhaps they are needed more than ever to engage with the growing and changing City residential and working population.

When did the Ward Clubs begin?

The origins of the several of Ward Clubs may be found in early residents or rate payers associations, initially formed to keep down the rates in their re…