Liveries and the City

City of London Corporation

The Corporation of the City of London is a local authority, with all the normal responsibilities which that implies. However, the formalities and tradition of the City precede any Local Government Act. The City is made up of 27 wards, each of which elects an Alderman to serve on the Common Council that controls the City of London Corporation. Aldermen are independent and not affiliated to a political party, and are elected by the ward council members. The Lord Mayor and two Sheriffs are elected by the liverymen of the City livery companies, who are summoned twice each year to attend Common Hall at Guildhall: once to elect the Sheriffs and once to elect the Lord Mayor. This privilege is unique to the livery companies.

Livery Companies

There are over 100 livery companies within the City of London and they form part of the City’s history. Many are over 500 years old, but new ones are still being formed. They vary considerably in size, in wealth and in procedures. Whilst many of the older livery companies are founded on trades no longer in demand, they have in general adapted to modern times and needs. For example, the Fan Makers Company now includes those working in the air-conditioning business. Some new companies, such as the Architects and the Solicitors, are very trade or profession-orientated. About one third of the companies have their own hall. The remainder, including the Paviors, are ‘itinerant’ – although Paviors’ House does include an office and meeting room, together with use of the facilities at the Charterhouse. A benefit to the ‘itinerant’ companies is for members and their guests to be able to dine in a variety of different livery halls. All companies devote considerable effort to charity, with both gifts and personal service, and a number of schools have been founded and continue to be supported by livery companies. The senior liveryman of a company is known by various titles, including ‘Master’, ‘Prime Warden’ and ‘Upper Bailiff’.

Livery Activities

There are some ceremonies and obligations common to all companies. Early in his year of office, the Lord Mayor invites the senior liveryman of each company to dinner at the Mansion House. This gathering enables the endeavours of the livery companies to be brought together with a common purpose. The Lord Mayor’s Show takes place each year, and maintains the tradition of ‘showing’ the new Lord Mayor to the citizens of London during a drive to the Law Courts to swear the Oath of Allegiance. Many livery companies and other City organizations join in to show support. Every spring, the United Guilds’ Service takes place at St Paul’s Cathedral. Each livery company is allocated pews for its Master, Wardens and as many liverymen as can coax a ticket from the Learned Clerk. Attendees hope for an inspired address, but will certainly witness a colourful procession: a ‘bundle’ of beadles (one for each Alderman), over a hundred Masters in varied and colourful gowns, the City Marshall resplendent in scarlet uniform and plumed hat, the Sword Bearer, the Mace Bearer, plus the Lord Mayor in full regalia. All liveries have the ceremony of the ‘loving cup’ at their dinners, although the detail of who stands and which way they face does vary. The principle is that the assembled company partake in a common drink of fellowship. This has led to many Masters gifting their livery with loving cups. The Paviors have a number of such cups, in addition to other silverware and artefacts which have been presented to the Company.

Lord Mayor’s Charity

The Lord Mayor’s Charity is different each year and is decided by the Lord Mayor, who appeals to the livery companies for support. The activities organized to raise money are usually very enjoyable. For many years, the Paviors have participated in a ‘swimathon’ to raise money for the Charity.

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