As the Foreword to the Jubilee publication (1961-1986) indicates, the Company arose out of early discussions by literally half a dozen men, in the forum of their trade association, wishing to come together as individuals, rather than as representatives of their respective companies, the better to achieve certain goals. They believed that these would best be attained within the framework of a City Livery Company.
As we are constantly reminded, the notion of a Livery Company proper dates back to the Middle Ages, as indeed do many of the surviving Companies themselves. Then, as now, one became a liveryman for life. This is enshrined in the form of ceremony used when candidates are admitted into the Freedom of this Company. Before anyone can become a liveryman of any Livery Company they must become a Freeman of the City of London, an honour conferred on the candidate in the Chamberlain's Court at Guildhall. It is significant that, when one does so one receives a certificate and a small red book entitled 'Rules for the Conduct of Life'.That is the kernel of the matter. It is because these principles are enduring and timeless that the officers for the time being of any Livery Company wear robes and badges of office that are themselves unchanging in time.
The essence of the commitment that a person makes in taking on the Livery is that one will conduct one's own personal life and business or trade life to a given high standard.One has no doubt obtained a certain affluence, and one will share a portion of that affluence with those who are less fortunate, starting with those in one's own trade and then widening the circle to charities related to the environment in which that trade is conducted.
The City expects a standard for its Livery Companies, creating a set of unspoken benchmarks by which any Company may judge itself and be aware of any way in which it might run the risk of falling short. By the same token a Livery Company should seek in all its activities to promote the setting, within an industry or trade, of a standard that would commend itself for emulation by every person in that industry or trade. It is profoundly to be hoped that that measure may be enhanced in this trade, on the one hand, by individual Liverymen and their behaviour in their companies, and, on the other hand, by this Company's support for the Institute of Builders' Merchants, with its duty of setting professional standards.
I believe that it was considerations of this sort that motivated those half dozen men who were the founding fathers of this Company. Membership was historically confined to those who earn their living as builders merchants but today includes a selection of people whose working life have been closely associated with the Builders Merchant industry. When the Customary Declaration refers to promoting 'the status, dignity and prestige of a Builders Merchant' it reflects the fact that there was, and is, a wish by many to pursue high standards. In a trade where these command respect, recruitment of high quality will ensue. People thus recruited can feel that they are entering a trade that will respect their efforts, contributions and legitimate aspirations.
This slim volume seeks to record how the Company has emerged, who has been instrumental in its development, how it seeks to maintain standards, and how its members have tried, by the gift of time or treasure, to make it a fitting forum in which the pursuit of personal and professional excellence would be paramount.
May this last quarter century be but the first of many stretching far into the future, and may our successors judge that the foundations were well laid.