The Court of Aldermen of the City of London has laid down a set of requirements that must be met by a group proposing to form a new Guild. The business of the proposed Guild requires a set minimum number of members and available financial resources. In addition the proposed Guild must not encroach upon the interests of any existing Livery Company or Guild and proposers must obtain the support of existing companies and guilds that may have a related connection.
A beginner’s guide…
Since the Norman Conquest of October 1066 the City of London has begotten more than one hundred Livery Companies. The current count of one hundred and ten is the highest since records began, and there are several prospective Livery Companies in the pipeline that will likely increase that count in the next decade.
In the distant past some Livery Companies have failed, others have merged and at least two split apart (Bowyers and Fletchers). Putting aside the first nine hundred years of the growth of the Livery Companies, the past 70 years have witnessed an enormous increase in the formation of new companies. With the exception of the Master Mariners (achieved Livery status in 1932) and the Solicitors (Livery in 1944) all the ‘Modern’ Livery Companies have formed since 1952.
Note well: Before we progress to the ‘how’ it is important to know that a Livery Company is a creature of the City of London and may only be created by the Court of Aldermen. A Livery Company is created by Letters Patent issued by the Court under powers that are the exclusive right of the City of London. No other town or city council may create a Livery Company or grant Livery status to an existing company.
The first thing to understand about Livery Companies is the single, unbending, universal truth and inescapable rule that applies uniformly to all Livery Companies, ancient and modern, to wit: “There are always exceptions”. Keep that to the fore as you read what follows.
The first step to forming a Livery Company is for a group of likeminded persons working in a common area of trade, craft or professional practice* to have the aspiration of forming a Livery Company. For that aspiration to move from the imagined to the practical, the group will need to have substance as some sort of association, whether that be unincorporated or more likely a company limited by guarantee. An existing professional institution may also be the point of genesis for a future Livery Company.
An example may be found in the Guild of Investment Managers Ltd, a company limited by guarantee that has formed with the intention of seeking Livery Company status to represent the Investment Management industry (and the occupations that directly enable it). In July 2017 the Guild held its first event inviting members of the Investment Management industry to learn more of its plans, and recruit members. The Guild is clear in its ambition to become a Livery Company.
* A Livery Company must be aligned with an occupation, and one which is closely connected with the City of London. A Livery Company is not a trade union or other form of representative body campaigning for the rights of workers in a given occupation. Neither is a Livery Company a Professional Body or Learned Society, although it will have an educational and training aspect to its life and may well support academia.