A PLAIN GUIDE TO THE LIVERY COMPANY
Being a Livery man is a life-time commitment. It is not just a career move. It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with colleagues and friends in the industry after retirement, as well as during one’s working life. (And to help make the life-time commitment possible, we do offer a reduced-rate ‘Quarterage’ (or membership subscription) to those of pensionable age.)
Background to the Livery
There are 110 City of London Livery Companies. All have a trade title but, unlike ourselves, many of them have only a tenuous connection with the trade they represent, or originally represented. Indeed, some of the trades, such as that of the Fletchers, have more or less disappeared. Our Liverymen, however, at the time they join come either from the Builders’ Merchants’ industry or their suppliers, and we are therefore known as a ‘closed ’ Company’.
All Liverymen in the City (once they have been Liverymen for a year) are entitled to vote in the elections of the Lord Mayor and of the Sheriffs. In the case of the Lord Mayor, the result is generally a foregone conclusion, but there are occasionally contested elections for the Sheriffs.
All the Livery Companies participate in the ceremonial of the City, but in every case a key function is to raise money for their charities. In the case of the older and wealthier Companies, such as the Mercers and the Merchant Taylors, these charitable funds are now valued at millions of pounds and include extensive property portfolios and investments.
Our Company was founded in 1961 , received its coat of arms in 1975 and its letters patent in 1976, and became a full Livery Company in 1977 . In September 2012, the Company was granted a Royal Charter .
After World War II, there was a realisation by the City that the Livery movement needed new life breathing in to it, and therefore the foundation of new Livery Companies was encouraged. We are, therefore, one of the ‘Modern Livery Companies’, and rank number 88 out of the 110. The Livery movement is a little bit like the famous ‘We know our place’ sketch. The first 12 Companies in order of precedence are known as the Great Twelve, and their privileges are jealously guarded. Nevertheless, in the main, there is a productive liaison between the Livery Companies and, as far as possible, we try to work in concert. You may hear the ‘Livery Committee’ mentioned – the membership of this committee is formed of a mixture of City Corporation and Livery members, and exists to facilitate liaison between the Lord Mayor and the City Corporation and the Livery Companies. It also organises a number of courses for Liverymen about how the City Corporation works and the part the Livery Companies play in it.
In common with the majority of Livery Companies, we do not have a Hall. There are only 44 Companies that do. Many have been lost over the centuries as a result of development, particularly railway development in the City, and many more were lost in World War II. However, we currently share offices in College Hill, close to Cannon Street Station, with another Livery Company – the City of London Solicitors ’ Company – and the advantage of not having a hall is that we are able to hold our functions in the wide variety of Halls that do exist within the City, many of which are beautiful buildings containing some fascinating objects.
Charter, Bylaws and Ordinances
The Company operates under the terms of its Royal Charter, which sets out the objects of the Company, and under a set of Bylaws which sets out such things as criteria for membership and Court details, and Ordinances which set out such things as procedural detail s and the rules according to which the Court is run. T he Charter, Bylaws and Ordinances are included in the information pack given to new Freemen and can also be supplied to members in pdf format, on request to the Clerk.
The Court is essentially the Board of the Livery Company. It consists of the Officers, plus a number of Court Assistants. The Officer s are, first, the Master ( who holds office for one year). The candidate for the coming year is put forward by the Court at the Election Court General, usually held in April, and s/he is installed as Master at the Installation Court in October. S/ He is in a sense the Chairman of the Company, responsible with the Court for its governance during that year, and participates in the ceremonial side of the City, and as the Company ’s representative in the City, during that year. (According to City tradition, if the person occupying the role is female, they are still called ‘Master’ – just as a female Lord Mayor is still t he ‘Lord Mayor’.) The Master nominates a lady (usually his spouse) as his Mistress or, if male, his Consort. The role of Master involves significant personal cost, but Past Masters agree that it is massively rewarding and a great privilege.
The positions below Master are usually making their way towards being Master. These positions form a sort of ‘training ladder’, up which individuals make their way from Keeper of the Roll to Junior Warden to Senior Warden and finally to Master. The Wardens and Keeper of the Roll are generally members of at least two Committees, and have specific roles within Court meetings.
The Clerk, essentially the CEO of the Company, is responsible for the day-to-day administration, organising the Master’s programme and all the events of the Livery Company, attending and preparing papers for the Court and Committees, managing the membership, and overseeing the interface between the Company and the City. The Clerk, who works three days a week, is (fortunately) assisted in much of this activity by a secretary whom we share with the Solicitors’ Company, and who is in the office full-time. The Clerk and the Beadle (who undertakes ceremonial duties at events) are the only paid employees of the Company; the other Officers carry out their responsibilities on a voluntary, unpaid basis.
The Almoner is a member of the Court – usually a Past Master – who is responsible, along with other members of the Charities and Education Committee (which includes the Trustees of the Company’s Charitable Trust) for determining, among other things, which causes to support with charitable grants . The Trustees are responsible for the Charitable Trust’s financial health and ensure that any grants further the objects of the Charitable Trust. The Almoner deals with much of the administration of both outward and inward donations (i.e., s/he both deals with requests for donations and manages the contributions from members, including dealing with Gift Aid).
The Bursar (Finance Officer), with assistance from the Clerk and according to the instructions of the Court (of which s/he is also a member ), prepares the Company’s annual budget, manages the collection of Quarterage, prepares VAT returns, and prepares the annual accounts for the auditor. The Bursar also carries the title of Assistant Clerk.
Both Almoner and Bursar are elected by and installed at the Courts General mentioned below.
The Immediate Past Master (that is, the person who was Master in the previous year) acts as Deputy if the Master is absent – and helps to ensure continuity, as do all the Past Masters .
As mentioned above, the Court is essentially the Board of the Worshipful Company and consists of the Officers plus a number of Court Assistants. T he Bylaws attached to our Royal Charter stipulate that the total membership of the Court must be no fewer than 12 and no more than 27 persons. Past Masters can remain on the Court as full voting members for 15 years after they have been Master , or longer if they are continuing to serve on a Committee; after that time , they may still attend Court meetings but do not have a vote. New Court Assistants emerge from among the Liverymen: following discussion in the Court, Liverymen (usually of some years’ standing) may be invited to join the Court. In agreeing to do so, they are also agreeing to progress to be Master at some point.
The Court meets four times a year, usually in January, March, June and September. In addition, there are two ‘Courts General’, to which all Liverymen and Freemen are summoned. One of these is the Election Court General, held in April, at which officers for the ensuing year are elected; the other is the Installation Court General, held in October, when the elected officers are duly installed. Courts General are also the occasions when Freemen can be made up to Liverymen, having been admitted as Freemen at an ordinary Court meeting.
The Master’s Committee consists of the officers and is designed to support the Master, offer advice when requested, and generally act as a sounding board. It provides a forum for the Master to bounce off ideas and any particularly confidential or difficult problems that might arise before they go to the Court.
There are a number of Committees, each chaired by a Court member, which report at Court meetings: Charities and Education; Education and Training (a Sub Committee of Charities and Education) ; Development ; Election; and Events and Marketing.
In summary , donations by our Charity Fund are dealt with by the Charities and Education Committee, under the chairmanship of the Almoner (as described above) ; the Company’s involvement in various educational initiatives, such as the Livery Schools Link, is overseen by the Education and Training Sub Committee , which reports to the Charities and Education Committee ; the Development Committee looks ahead to consider the future development of the Company and considers the strategic implications of any suggested new initiative, as requested by the Court ; selecting new members and monitoring their progression from Freemen to Liverymen make up a large part of the business of the Election Committee; and the Events and Marketing Committee is responsible for the overseeing and planning of the programme of annual events. The Chairman of each Committee is currently a Past Master – except for the Events and Marketing Committee where it is the Senior Warden. The Chairmen are appointed by the Court and can serve for up to seven years ( two terms of three years each , with the possibility of serving for one further year) . Besides Court Assistants, each Committee includes a number of Liverymen and the Terms of Reference also include the possibility of co – opting other members of the Livery as need arises. All the Committees are directly responsible to the Court, much of the business at each Court meeting being taken up with reports from the various Committees.
Individual Court members are also appointed to oversee and report on our various affiliations and external liaisons – such as with the Third Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, the Beckenham and Penge Sea Cadets’ Unit , the Construction Liveries Group and the Institute of Builders’ Merchants .
The Trustees, who must abide by charity law, are responsible for the financial health of the Company’s Charitable Fund; this includes overseeing its investments, which currently stand at over £1,500,000 . The current investment advisers are Quilter Cheviot. The Trustees are appointed by the Court, but the Charitable Fund is a separate registered charity and the Trustees must act in its best interests. The Master is appointed as a Trustee for his /her year, and the other Trustees are usually Past Masters .
Honorary Liverymen and Court members
We have one Honorary Court Assistant in Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf, a former Lord Mayor; and three Honorary Liverymen – Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf ; Alderman Dr Andrew Parmley, the current Lord Mayor; and General The Lord Dannatt, the former Constable of the Tower .
The Company has connections with two City of London Ward Clubs. We are a corporate member of the Vintry and Dowgate Wards Club (as our office is located in the Ward of Vintry – o f which the current Lord Mayor is the Alderman), and various members are individual members of the Candle wick Ward Club. T he Alderman of Candlewick and President of the Ward Club is Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf .
Ward Clubs run various interesting events and offer another way of being involved in the life of the City; Company members who would like to know more about membership of either or both of these Ward Clubs should contact the Clerk.
Website and Newsletter
The Company’s website, at www.wcobm.co.uk, has a members – only section and, on becoming Freemen, members receive a password from Liveryman Lucia Di Stazio of MRA Marketing, who maintain the site. (Anyone who has not received a password, or who has lost the one they had, should contact Lucia or the Clerk.) Through the members’ section you are able, among other things, to find the details of and make contact with your fellow Liverymen and Freemen. The Company’s accounts are posted on the website for members to view.
The Company’s Newsletter , also produced by MRA, is published twice a year.
The Annual Programme for the next 12 months is published in December/early January, and Liverymen/Freemen are encouraged to attend as many event s as they can to support the Company. Particular events to try to get to are the Election and Installation Courts (and their respective Dinners), and the City and Awards Luncheon – the latter being a particularly good occasion to which to bring younger colleagues in the industry, to introduce them to the Company as potential future members. In addition, there is the ever – popular Carol Service and Supper in early December , and the Annual Divine Service in April; both services are held in the ancient surroundings of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London , and are important annual events for the Company. ‘Common Hall’, when the two Sheriffs and the Lord Mayor are elected on two separate occasions each year, are big Livery – wide events which Liverymen are expected to attend; likewise with the United Guilds Service at St Paul’s Cathedral, when the Cathedral is packed with members from every Livery Company in the City . (In practice, few Liverymen are able to attend these day-time events every year, but you are encouraged to attend whenever you can and it is certainly worth making the effort to do so. They are followed by a lunch in one of the Livery Halls, where you have an opportunity to meet members of other Livery Companies.) In addition to the ‘big’ events, each Master lays on a number of smaller visits to interesting places, and during his/her year will also invite Liverymen to a Master’s Weekend, which is held at a venue of his/her choice, usually in the area where s/he is based.
The support of good causes is historically a key part of any Livery Company, and all Liverymen are asked to make an annual donation to our Charitable Fund, ideally via an annual Standing Order, which saves costs.
You may have ideas for events, items to be included in the Newsletter, charities you would like to see supported, and /or possible recruits into the Company. In the latter case, please do not mention to the individual concerned that you are going to recommend them, but speak to the Chairman of the Election Committee (the Clerk will give you the Chairman’s contact details, if you do not have them) . We are looking for people who have achieved distinction or have achieved senior roles within the industry, and who we believe would be keen to embrace the objectives of the Livery movement. If agreed by the Election Committee and endorsed by the Court, the individual concerned will be approached .
If there are particular charities you are connected with and that you would like to be considered for a donation from the Company’s Charitable Trust, please contact the Clerk in the first instance.
If you would like to get involved in any of the Committees, please mention this to the Clerk, Master or one of the Wardens. A volunteer is always worth two pressed men.
Dress at events is a question that often arises. The guiding principle is to err on the side of the formal . Unless it is specifically cited as casual, an event will involve wearing a jacket/suit and tie (for men). For the assistance of members, the dress for functions is also indicated in the Annual Programme of events.
If you have any suggestions as to what else you would like to see included in future editions of this guide, or other suggestions, queries or requests, please do not hesitate to contact the Clerk.