New book on the London Livery Companies

From: David Palfreyman, MA MBA LLB FRSA, Fellow, New College, Oxford, OX1 3BN; Member of the Company of Educators

Dear Company Member,

I attach a flyer for a new book on the London livery companies: the first comprehensive and substantial text on the guilds/companies for some 75 years.

The book is titled ‘London’s Livery Companies: History, Law and Customs’. It puts the evolution of the City Companies from the medieval guilds in the context of the wider history of England, explains their legal status, and explores the protocol & process and the pomp & pageantry surrounding them both over the centuries and still today. Their sizeable charitable assets, expenditure and activities are assessed, perhaps for the first time on a methodical basis since the 1884 Royal Commission Report on their then fitness-for-purpose. The book concludes by considering their fitness-for-purpose in the twenty-first century.

A former Lord Mayor, Alderman Sir David Lewis, has graciously provided a Foreword to the book in which he kindly comments that the text ‘is nothing less than a mine of information and, like a mine, you never know what will be around the corner... this fascinating book’. Similarly, the Chairman of the Livery Committee, Geoffrey C. Bond OBE, has also generously found time to read the manuscript and he recommends this ‘excellent new work’.

I hope you will consider the attached detail on the book and perhaps take this opportunity to place a pre-publication order that will ensure you can obtain it in a first edition handsome binding (the book will continue to be available as a rather plain and functional ‘print-on-demand’ edition from 2011).

Yours sincerely,

David Palfreyman.

I wish to order 1 copy / [ ] copies of ‘London’s Livery Companies’ at £27.50 per copy (including p&p; £2.50 extra for postage to non-UK addresses), and I enclose a cheque (payable to: ‘College Publications Ltd’ – Registered Company No. 07053715) for a total of £[ ].
I note that the book will be posted to me during March and my address is (please complete clearly in CAPITALS):

London’s Livery Companies: History, Law and Customs
David Palfreyman, 2010; h/bk and cased; c350 pages, plus 50 b&w illustrations; with an extensive bibliography and a listing of details/websites for all the guilds/companies.

Some 40,000 people belong to over 100 City Companies within the Square Mile of the City of London. These organizations are commonly referred to as livery companies, and date back as far as 1155 in the case of the Worshipful Company of Weavers. This book answers the many questions posed about this social and charitable livery activity, and for the first time data from the accounts of the charities controlled by the City Companies is collated to show just how extensive is the annual financial support provided by them to a huge range of charitable endeavours not only in London and nationally but also internationally: quaint, quirky, eccentrically English, and generous.

CONTENTS: Foreword; Preface; Introduction; History: 1100-1500, 1500-1700, 1700-2000; Law: Corporations, Charities, Miscellaneous; Customs: Protocol & Process – importance of community & charity, Pomp & Pageantry – their conviviality & commensality; Fit for Purpose?; Note on the charitable assets/expenditure of the Great Twelve; List/details of all the City Companies; Note on similar guilds/companies elsewhere in the UK; Bibliography; Index

Recommendation from Geoffrey C. Bond, OBE:
Over the years there have been a number of books on the London Livery Companies but none as comprehensive in its coverage as this by David Palfreyman who tells the reader not only of their history but the law and custom relating to them and their place in the 21st century. As Alderman Sir David Lewis says in his Foreword, the Livery Companies are independent charities pursuing their own objectives but at the same time co-operating with each other, contributing much, not only to the Square Mile but also to this country. The success of the Livery Companies is reflected in their ancient lineage but also in the fact that there have been many new Companies created to meet the needs of the modern world - for example, the Water Conservators, Information Technologists, World Traders, and Security Professionals. The Livery Companies are in a healthy state and for those who wish to know more about them then I recommend David Palfreyman's excellent new work.
Geoffrey C Bond, OBE DL FSA (Chairman, Livery Committee; Sheriff of London, 2003/4)

Comment on this book from Nigel Rich, CBE, one-time Master of the Tobacco Pipe Makers’ and Tobacco Blenders’ Company:
Spending a year as Master of a Livery Company exposes one to a wealth of City history and tradition. There was not, however, a recently published book that, by way of preparation, I could turn to for a composite history of the Livery Companies and their role in the life of the City of London and in charitable giving over more than 700 years. Now we have David Palfreyman’s book: it should be essential reading for any liveryman aspiring to be Master of his/her Company, or indeed Lord Mayor of London. Moreover, it is pleasing that the author does firmly conclude that, despite some of their quirky customs, the Livery Companies remain very much fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.

Remarks on this book from John Sichel, Member of the Court of Assistants of the Merchant Taylors’ Company:
This remarkable exegesis on the Livery Companies has all the objective questioning that I would expect from a historian seeking to explain how institutions adapt over the centuries, and its gentle and charming iconoclasm makes it an enjoyable read. While not ignoring the interesting links between the City and the Companies, the author also carefully examines the convoluted tapestry of trusts, charitable-giving, and the law which gives the Livery Companies both their mystery and at the same time their continuing relevance in the present day. The book is an essential vade-mecum for ordinary liverymen wanting to be better informed about Livery Companies and for court members charged with fiduciary and charitable duties.

Are these liverymen (and liverywomen) some kind of secret society, like the Freemasons; or simply an innocent lunching-club like the Lions or Rotary?
How did the medieval craft or trade guilds ('misteries') evolve into the wealthy – and not so wealthy – livery companies that still flourish today?
If now there are precious few shipwrights or clothmakers around in our post-manufacturing economy, who does become a member of the Shipwrights' Company or the Clothworkers' Company, still less of the Bowyers, the Broderers, and the Loriners? 
Why and how are new companies added to the list – the World Traders in 2000, the International Bankers in 2001, and the Tax Advisers in 2005 as examples of the 'misteries' of modern economic life?
Were the medieval guilds a drag on economic development, or a valuable social support network in a harsh world?
Did the liverymen of the 1640s back the King or Parliament in the Civil War, and why were they crucial in the process that led to Charles I being beheaded?
How were the respectable livery companies linked to the distinctly not respectable Hell-Fire Club in the 1760s?
Why did these City Companies come close to being abolished as supposedly corrupt in the 1880s?
How has the livery movement been portrayed in literature: have they had a good press from the likes of Dickens, Thackeray and Trollope, as well as in Punch or Private Eye?
What creature links 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', the character of Mr Groggles created by Dickens, and menus of City Company feasts in the nineteenth-century?
Have such guilds and companies survived from the Middle Ages beyond London in the form of, notably, the rather grand Merchant Venturers of Bristol, or similarly in, say, Sheffield and Newcastle, Shrewsbury and York, Glasgow and Aberdeen?
What is the legal status of a livery company, and is it a charity?
Who runs the company, and does it pay tax?
How are the City Companies linked to the Corporation of London, and why do the liverymen elect its Lord Mayor?
What do the liverymen eat and drink at the dinners and feasts in their sumptuous historic Halls, and who pays for it all?
Which livery company has a somewhat saucy coat-of-arms? Which has the grandest Hall? Which uses a floating 'Hall? Which owns the most eclectic range of treasures? Which proudly displays the dagger used by Lord Mayor Walworth to slay the leader of the rebels in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381? 
Where does the money come from to fund their charitable giving of some £40 million a year?
Which are the richest, and most generous, livery companies?
Once the Art Dealers and the PR Practitioners shift within the next few years from being Guilds and become City Companies (as have the Educators very recently), and then go on to acquire Livery status, what other craft, trade or profession can possibly be left to add to what the tally of City Companies? Perhaps Copy-editors or History Book Writers or Travel Guide Writers or Project Managers or Undertakers or ... ? 
Why are the Americans so intrigued by livery companies? – for example, the august Wall Street Journal reported the Thames 2009 swan-upping event on its front page; and way back in 1879 the influential New York Times explored the assets of the companies, declaring some so rich that ‘like the fly in the treacle-pot, [they] could not move for wealth’! 
Are these City Companies fit-for-purpose in the twenty-first century, or well past their institutional sell-by-date? Are they still ‘Nurseries of Charities and Seminaries of Good Citizens’ (as described in 1687)? Are they still important because (as Disraeli commented of them in 1866): ‘Individuals may form communities, but institutions must found a nation’?
Quaint and quirky, and eccentrically English like the Oxford & Cambridge colleges and the Clubs of Pall Mall – to be tolerantly and even lovingly cherished, or to be unsentimentally and even ruthlessly 'modernised'?
And, anyway, just why are they called 'The Worshipful Company of ...'?


‘Five Great Points of Fellowship: Charity, Citizenship, 
Commerce, Comradeship and Conviviality’
(From Blackham’s 1931, ‘London’s Livery Companies’, 
as the last comprehensive and full-length book on the 
Livery Companies prior to this one over 75 years later.)

‘We are invited to dine with the Worshipful Company 
of Bellows-Menders, at their splendid Hall in
Marrow-pudding Lane.’ (Thackeray)

Please feel free to pass this email on to any friend or colleague whom you think may be interested in purchasing the book: thank you for reading this far... David Palfreyman.