The origins of the London Livery Companies are thought to go back to the time of the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 but the earliest record of a Livery Company existing is 1130 when the Weavers were mentioned in the Pipe Roll (financial records of England) and gained their Charter from King Henry II in 1155. These early Livery Companies were similar to the fraternities and guilds or mysteries that flourished throughout Europe for many centuries. The term ‘mystery’ is still in use today and derives from the Latin ‘misterium’ meaning ‘professional skill’.
Around the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, Livery Companies were vying with each other as to their seniority and eventually, in 1515, an order of precedence was established amongst the existing 48 Companies that has lasted to this day. “My Good Darling, For God’s Sake Make Haste Since I’m Very Cold” is not a mediaeval love cry, but a mnemonic for remembering the order of The Great Twelve – the twelve companies with the highest order of precedence decided in 1515, namely the Mercers (Dick Whittington’s company), Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Taylors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers.
The order of precedence was not perfect as there was no resolution as to 6th and 7th, so each year the Skinners and Merchant Taylors alternate their number; hence the expression “all at sixes and sevens”! The last of the old Companies was formed in 1709 and no Companies were formed for over 200 years when, in 1926, the Honourable Company of Master Mariners became the first of the Modern Liveries and is 78th out of 110 that exist today.
The development of the Guilds and Liveries was not confined to London; many cities in Great Britain had Craft Guilds, some of which still exist today, Glasgow for example has 14. There were also comparable Guilds throughout Europe as well. However, it is in London that there is probably the greatest number of Companies, all active and with new Companies waiting to qualify for Livery status.
The early Companies were established as guilds and their roles included the regulation of the trades, ensuring quality control, labour conditions and looking after the welfare of their members. The Liveries are a combination between self-interest trade associations and members’ benevolence societies having a close connection with the Church, reflected in the word “Worshipful” in the title of most of them. Today, many of the Liveries still encompass those early concepts, fostering their trade in a wide context, serving the community, and embracing modern skills and professions. Over time, some Companies have failed to survive, some have spawned new companies and some have combined to ensure their continuance but the Livery movement has survived around 900 years and is still going strong.
Looking at the Livery Companies today, many of them are industry-specific, although some have “shifted” their trade support in moving with the times. The Fan Makers, for example, now support the mechanical fan trade including the use of the fan in heating, ventilation and in aircraft propulsion. Some of the Liveries are very active in their specific trades: the Gunmakers are still responsible for testing gun barrels and the Goldsmiths test precious metals for purity and operate the London Assay Office. Others are only open to those connected with the trade, such as the Shipwrights, and some only open to those qualified in the trade or profession, like the Chartered Surveyors. Some of the smaller Companies consist mainly of the original families and this is apparent when looking at their records. All of the Liveries continue to support education, with many supporting individual schools as well as providing bursaries, scholarships, awards and prizes. The charitable contribution of the combined Liveries exceeds £40 million per year.
Whilst the origins of the Guilds are ancient, the underlying purpose and driving forces that have sustained the Livery Companies for so many centuries also give them the flexibility, diversity and capacity for innovation to remain relevant. The work of the Livery Companies is as pertinent to the good health of the City of London as it has ever been. The principles, energy and purpose of the London Livery Companies, through shared philosophies, integrity and values, will ensure they continue to define their invaluable role well in to the future. There are now 109 livery companies in the City of London representing the diverse range of industries and commerce, currently or historically, relevant to the vibrant economic health of the City of London.
The Worshipful Company of Fuellers, often simply referred to as The Fuellers is 95th in the order of precedence and represents all aspects of the energy industry. The Fuellers’ origins can be traced back to the Woodmongers in the 14th Century but our modern membership now incorporates coal, oil, nuclear, gas, electricity and renewable energy industries, as well as representation from all aspects of those industries including, production, supply, distribution, marketing, research, finance, education and major consumers.
To become a Fueller you will normally need to demonstrate an interest in the energy industry through whichever facet including fuel extraction, upstream exploration and production, generation, distribution, supply, trading and marketing plus all of the related support services or more simply as a consumer or citizen with an interest in how energy fuels our lives, businesses and communities.