The Art and Mistery of the Livery Companies - their role in trade, craft and profession

How do the Livery Companies maintain their occupational links?

A survey conducted within and among the Livery Companies during the Autumn of 2018 revealed that many members of the older Livery Companies view their company's role as primarily charitable with a supporting social dimension. While it is true to say that the Livery Companies are all heavily involved in charity it would be wrong to think the Livery has lost connection with trade, craft and profession or to dismiss them as dining clubs.

It is a condition of formation of any new Livery Company that it must have a membership drawn from its chosen occupation, and the Court of Aldermen will want to see evidence that a majority of members are suitably qualified and active in the Company's field of endeavour before it progresses from Guild to Livery Company.

Several of the Livery Companies impose strict membership criteria that ensure the Company remains rooted in its profession. Examples include the Chartered Accountants, Chartered Architects, Chartered Secretaries & Administrators, Chartered Surveyors, Engineers and the Solicitors among others. Just as the older companies would have been formed by practitioners who followed an apprenticeship to become journeymen and eventually Freemen of the Company, the modern companies are all comprised of people who work (or have retired from) a specific occupation although the definition now extends to those in allied fields such as research and education. The membership of these companies tends to be drawn from senior leadership, scientists, researchers, educators and others involved in driving their occupation forward.

This strong focus on occupational alignment continues in the Guild of Nurses and Guild of Investment Managers, and even Livery Companies for unregulated professions such as marketing and information technology were founded by members drawn from among the senior ranks of their respective professional bodies (CIM and BCS). These companies continue to admit senior practitioners, business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics from the profession and maintain strong links to their respective professional bodies.

It would be lazy and incorrect to draw a divide between the ancient and modern Livery Companies where extant occupational connection is concerned. Even among the some of the older companies whose commercial activities are lost to history there is a trend to re-define links to a contemporary industry. The Tallow Chandlers alignment with the edible fats industry is an example, the Horners connection with the plastics industry is another. There are a few companies who appear to have lost all connection with their occupation, despite the occupation continuing to flourish! Where this has occurred it is down to a lack of vision and leadership on the part of the Company, thankfully such examples are few and diminishing.

Thankfully most of the older companies retain links with their respective trade, craft or profession, a fact evidenced during the Heritage Skills Festival held in Lincoln Cathedral during the summer of 2017 about which I wrote an extensive blog. Even that spectacular display didn't do justice to the depth and diversity of ways in which the Livery remains not just connected, but actively engaged in the support of a variety of occupations.

A summary of the Livery's continuing involvement is as follows:
  • Championing standards
  • Delivering occupational training
  • Inspection and enforcement
  • Continuous professional development
  • Examination and awarding (including Chartered status)
  • Recognising excellence
  • Supporting apprenticeships
  • Maintaining registers of competence
  • Prize giving for excellence
  • Showcasing careers
Despite what you might read on a popular internet encyclopaedia or poorly researched news articles, in general the Livery Companies remain frenetically active in their respective occupational fields. While the specifics of each company's involvement will vary from one to the next, the overall picture is one of continued engagement with trade, craft and profession in an immense variety of ways. There are far too many links to examine them all so this article explores five ancient and five modern in a decimal digest of examples:

Air Pilots

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots is the only Livery Company that has international sections befitting its profession. The Company only admits qualified pilots, whether civil or military and progression to the Livery is restricted to those who have contributed significantly to the Company and the profession of aviation.

Among the many ways the Company maintains its occupational links is by running a regular aptitude test for prospective pilots. The aptitude test is run at RAF Cranwell and draws on the relevant parts of the military selection process that apply to civilian pilots. The aptitude test is designed to advise the prospective pilot on their suitability for training before they embark on a lengthy and expensive process.

The Company also supports prospective pilots in both military and civil aviation with a dedicated website titled Flying Start. It provides a wealth of advice, guidance and resources for those considering a career as a pilot.

An illustration of the many ways in which the Company's membership support their profession is to be found in the various expert panel topics on which the Company may be called on for advice. The Company can provide expertise on subject as diverse as Aviation Law and Supersonic Flight.

The Company also awards Master Pilot, Master Air Navigator and Master Rearcrew certificates to aviators who have 'in the opinion of the Court displayed over a number of years those qualities of pilotage, air navigation, airmanship and character which have brought honour and respect to the profession'.


The Farrier Registration Act (1975) is the legislative basis for maintenance of a register of qualified farriers in England. It is a criminal offence for anyone to shoe a horse in UK who is not a qualified Farrier, indeed it is an offence to call oneself a Farrier or Shoesmith unless qualified.

Section 1 of the Act charges the Worshipful Company of Farriers with the responsibility of 'securing adequate standards of competence and conduct among persons engaged in the shoeing of horses (hereinafter referred to as “farriers”) and shall promote, encourage and advance the art and science of farriery and education in connection with the said art and science.'

The Act established the Farriers Registration Council which maintains register of qualified Farriers and grandfathered in all Farriers previously qualified under the Company's voluntary scheme along with those who had qualified through the British Army.

The Farriers' Company operates the register and awards the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (DipWCF). Additionally the Company owns the trademark Master Farrier® and allows those who hold higher qualification as Associates or Fellows of the Worshipful Company of Farriers to apply for this designation.

The Company maintains close links with both civil and military farriery, and is affiliated with the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the Light Cavalry of the Honourable Artillery Company.


The Fishmongers' Company has long performed an inspection role at London's Billingsgate Market and continues to appoint Fish-Meters (inspectors) who examine the quality of seafood sold at the market and have powers to order seafood removed from sale if found to be of inferior quality. In addition to their inspection and enforcement role these Fish-Meters also teach at the Billingsgate Seafood Training School (BSTS). The school was co-founded by the Fishmongers' Company in 1998 with support from the City of London Corporation and the London Fish Merchants Association.

The Company further maintains links with the industry by working closely with the Shellfish Association which has its offices in Fishmongers' Hall, and through its Fish & Fisheries team which comprises a salaried staff who implement the Company's fisheries strategy through communication, education, research and development of trade links.

More recently the Fishmongers' Company has introduced a national program of qualifications for Fishmongers and now awards the prestigious qualification of Master Fishmonger. In 2019 the first Master Fishmonger qualification was awarded to a woman and the event made the BBC News in the UK.


The Goldsmiths' Company also retains a close an intimate connection with its trade, as do its brethren in Edinburgh and Dublin. The three Goldsmiths' Companies are responsible for the testing and hallmarking of precious metals in England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland respectively. Additionally there are two further Assay Offices in England at Birmingham and Sheffield.

Hallmarking remains a core activity of the Goldsmiths' Company through the Assay Office in London. Photograph © Paul D Jagger

The Goldsmiths' Company of London has the unique privilege of hosting the annual Trial of the Pyx during which coinage of the realm is tested for purity in a judicial process conducted at Goldsmiths' Hall. The trial also tests the coinage of other Commonwealth Realms where the Queen is Head of State.

The Company also hosts and annual Goldsmiths' Fair in Goldsmiths' Hall, which is a showcase for many of the UK's leading jewellers to display and sell their pieces. Many of these jewellers will have started their careers as appendices of the Company and followed a program of training that has led to Freedom of the Company and the award of a City & Guilds qualification. The Goldsmiths' Company is truly involved in every aspect of its trade and craft.


The Gunmakers' Company is probably the most occupationally aligned of all the Livery Companies as it continues to test small bore firearms at its premises, Proof House, in Commercial Road. In the context of firearms testing 'small bore' means 30mm diameter and under, which includes everything from a .22 calibre pistol to the cannon on an Apache helicopter.

The Gunmakers' Company shares the responsibility for proving small bore firearms with the Guardians of the Birmingham Proof House which is a Crown corporation. Together these two companies form the British Proof Authorities and their marks may be seen on barrels that have been proved by either company (see pages 13-17 of the Rules, Regulations and Scales Applicable to the Proof of Small Arms, 2006).


The Worshipful Company of Marketors was conceived by a group of senior members of what is now the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) back in the early 1970s. The Company's relationship with the Institute has evolved as both organisation have sought to develop and maintain complementary roles. As such the Company has steered clear of examinations and CPD activities since these aspects of the profession are well served by the CIM.

The Company hosts an annual Marketing Lecture which invites a speaker of note to explore some topic of contemporary interest to the profession at large. Since marketing is represented by over 40 different professional bodies and trade associations spanning everything from marketing research to digital marketing the opportunities for exploration of new subject matter are legion.

Past speakers at the Annual Marketing Lecture have included, among others:

Lord Heseltine (former Secretary of State for Trade & Industry)
Lord Billimora (founder of Cobra Beer)
Sir Robin Saxby (former CEO of ARM)
Baroness Hogg (former Chairman of 3i Group)
Sir Martin Sorrell (founder of WPP Plc)

Prize giving is another aspect of the Company's commitment to the profession is by giving prizes for excellence in various aspects of marketing education. Several prize winning students have gone on to become members of the Company, and one is now a Past Master.

A recent innovation has been the creation of a mentorship scheme for younger marketing practitioners who seek the advice and guidance of a more experienced marketor. The time and expertise of the mentor is given free of charge and represents another commitment to developing the profession.

Master Mariners

The Honourable Company of Master Mariners is the most senior of the modern Livery Companies. Although the Solicitors' Company was formed before it, the Master Mariners achieved full Livery Company status in 1932. From the outset the Company had a strong occupational alignment and admits Freemen who are qualified Master Mariners (Class 1 Foreign going Master Mariner's Certificate) who are drawn from the Merchant Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Navy.

Sine 2013, under powers granted by its Royal Charter, the Company has conferred Chartered status on suitably qualified Master Mariners who exhibit the highest standards of excellence in the profession. The qualification confers the post nominal CMMar, representing the pinnacle of professionalism in the maritime industry.

In common with the Air Pilots, the Master Mariners provide expertise to external bodies including the All Party Parliamentary Group for Maritime and Ports, the Lloyd's Register Technical Committee and the Royal Navy among others. However the sharing of expertise isn't just outward to other bodies, in 2019 the Company's Future Skills Conference invited members and non-members to explore developments in seafaring such as the use of virtual reality and simulators to reduce time, cost and the associated risks of training at sea - very much at the cutting edge of the profession.

The Company also operates a mentorship scheme which enables Freemen and Liverymen to support mentees, who are apprentices of the Company, in their career progression.  The scheme provides a range of benefits to the mentee and is offered on a voluntary basis. This scheme also provides a route into the Company for those who go on to become Master Mariners.

The Master Mariners are linked with many other nautical and seafaring organisations in the UK and a quick review of their Twitter activity @HCMM_UK will show just how active the Company is in supporting its profession.

Security Professionals

The security industry spans the public and private sectors in both regulated and unregulated aspects of the profession. Security is a very broad field and includes aspects of policing, defence and commercial security practice.

Some parts of the private sector security industry are regulated by the Security Industry Authority, while the military and policing professions are statutory professions. Together with the Security Institute, the Company has developed a register of Chartered Security Professionals and now awards the post-nominal CSyP through the Security Institute.

The Company also funds and organises the annual Sheriffs Award for Bravery which recognises individuals who have acted in a selfless manner to confront danger to another person. The award is open to Police Officers, members of HM Armed Forces and the general public. Recipients of the award are invited to a presentation event and have their names added to a roll of honour in the Old Bailey.

There are a surprising number of active wheelwrights in the UK, many of them are Freemen or Liverymen of the Wheelwrights' Company. Photography © Paul D Jagger


One of the highlights of visiting the Heritage Skills Festival in 2017 was meeting a Master Wheelwright who followed an apprenticeship and was in turn training up an apprentice to continue his craft. The Company continues to support the craft and maintains an extensive register of practising wheelwrights in the United Kingdom.

The Company has indentured a number of apprentices who are learning their craft and in 2014 two of them visited Colonial Willamsburg in the United States for a month long residential with a Wheelwright specialising in skills that are no longer common practice in current times.

The Company maintains links with practising Wheelwrights and recently updated and republished a book on wheel making that was originally published by the defunct Rural Development Council. In 2018 the Company entered into a partnership with the Coachmakers' Company to sponsor another apprentice - possibly the first example of two companies coming together to support an apprenticeship that spans their respective crafts.

Surprising as it may be, the craft of the Wheelwright continues to be in demand, whether it be for heritage restoration of horse drawn carts and carriages, maintenance of military gun carriages, or repairs and replacement of wheels for the sport of carriage driving. What is often described as the world's first technological innovation continues to be well supported by the Wheelwrights.

In conclusion

The majority of Livery Companies maintain links to the Art & Mistery of their respective occupation and as further modern companies are formed from the Guilds they will add to the array of occupational links. This article has explored just a few of the ways in which some of the companies maintain a connection with their industry, many more are to be found among the other Livery Companies. I rather hope this article prompts some of them to be more open and communicative about their trade, craft and professional activities perhaps by posting relevant links in the comments below.

While the North Star of the Livery remains charity, the educational and fellowship aspects of the Livery find their roots in a membership grounded* in trade, craft and profession.

* Except the Air Pilots!

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, their customs, traditions, officers, events and landmarks. Available in full colour hardback and eBook formats and now in its fourth or Masterpiece edition. The guide is available online from Apple (as an eBook), Amazon (in hardback or eBook) Payhip (in ePub format) or Etsy (in hardback or hardback with the author's seal attached). Also available from all major City of London tourist outlets and bookstores.

The City of London Freeman's Guide is available in all major City retail outlets and online

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  1. The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers have close links to our three crafts of wall and floor tiling, roofing and bricklaying, and with the related trade associations.

    We have annual Craft Awards where we celebrate the winners of the National World Skills Competitions in our Crafts, together with Royal Engineer Sappers Class 1 & 2, and Cadets.

    We recently re-introduced Master Craftsmen Awards across our crafts and actively support initiatives to introduce new entrants to our Crafts.

    Our Triennial Awards celebrate the highest quality of workmanship on projects within the M25.

    There is much more information about our Company on our website. Check out

    Lesley Day
    Master, Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers


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