Membership usually, but not always, is in three stages:
- Admission as a Freeman
- Obtaining the Freedom of the City of London, and
- Progression to full membership as a Liveryman.
Some companies have other initial categories of membership which are specifically designed to attract younger people, such as Apprentice, Yeoman or Journeyman.
Each livery company has its own admission procedures but all admit new freemen by one of three methods: patrimony (through a parent who is a liveryman), redemption (by paying what is known as a ‘fine’) or servitude (by serving an apprenticeship).
The most common route to membership is through redemption. Usually, you have to be proposed for membership by one or sometimes two liverymen of the company to which you are applying. This however isn’t always essential; if someone applies who doesn’t know any of the members, they might be interviewed instead.
Before applying, it is a good idea to attend a company event if possible, so you can get a feel for the company and how it works, and what will be expected of you if you join. Membership is seen as a lifelong commitment.
For what are known as the Modern Companies, those formed from 1926 onwards to represent professions such as architects, accountants, information technologists, insurers, management consultants and solicitors, etc., membership is only open to qualified members of that particular profession. For the Great 12 and the ancient companies, the membership criteria vary. Details can be obtained from The Clerk of the Company.
After the company has considered your application, and interviewed you, if applicable, you will be told whether or not your application has been successful. Assuming that your application is approved, the clerk will then arrange for you to be admitted to the Freedom of the Company at a Court meeting. You will then be known as a Freeman and will be eligible to apply for the Freedom of the City of London. The clerk will tell you how to do this.
Once you have been admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, you can apply to become a liveryman of the company. Admission to the Livery takes place at a Court meeting and you will then be a Liveryman.
Freemen and Liverymen are usually required to pay an annual membership subscription, known as ‘quarterage’. This varies from company to company. Members are also expected to attend company events and to contribute regularly to the company’s charity. It is important for members to support the company’s philanthropic objectives, which will be at the heart of the company’s activities.
Once you have become a Liveryman, you will be entitled to vote at Common Hall for the elections of the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs.
Other grades of membership include Honorary Members, who are usually distinguished people in the relevant profession. Some companies have International Members.
How do I join a Guild?
The initial application stage is very similar to that of a Livery Company and full details will be found on the guild’s website. Membership terminology varies; in some guilds, members are called Members, in others, Freemen of the Guild. As in the case of Livery Companies, an annual subscription is payable and you will be expected to support the guild’s charitable activities.