Modern Livery Companies

There is no hard and fast definition of exactly what makes a Livery Company ‘modern’ but it is generally accepted that the first among them was the Master Mariners who formed in 1926 and achieved Livery Company status in 1932. Any City Company which has achieved Livery status since 1932 is deemed to be modern even if formed before 1932 or its trade long predates the 1930s.

To illustrate the point, two other modern City companies formed before the Master Mariners:

  • The City Solicitors formed in 1908 but didn’t achieve Livery Company status until 1944.
  • The Newspaper Makers formed in 1931 and had plans for an enormous hall but it merged in with the Stationers in 1937; the Stationers having already achieved Livery Company status way back in 1559.

So forming before 1932 doesn’t make a company modern, but what about the age of its profession?

Among the Livery Companies that followed the Master Mariners we find plenty of Companies whose trade, craft or profession has long been recognised, and in some cases regulated. Two examples are:

  • Hackney Carriage Drivers (first regulated during Cromwell’s era) and granted Livery Company status in 2004.
  • Educators were granted Livery 2013, a mere 804 years after a group of scholars left Oxford to form Cambridge University…. rapid progress in academia.

So being an active, vibrant and regulated profession in the modern world doesn’t define modernity.

So why the arbitrary decision to pick the Master Mariners as the first modern Livery Company?

Prior to the Master Mariners we have to go back 84 years to find the next Company to achieve Livery status – the Carmen were elevated to the Livery in 1848. It is this hiatus of 84 years which seems to have given the opportunity to classify the Master Mariners as modern, but they and all companies who follow them will remain so as time passes. In 1,000 years’ time the Master Mariners will still be the first modern Livery Company.

NB. Longer hiatuses existed between Livery Company status being conferred prior to the Carmen achieving that status in 1848. The next oldest is the Fan Makers who incorporated in 1709, a full 139 years before the Carmen, but someone decided the gap between the Carmen and the Master Mariners warranted special recognition and the epithet ‘modern’ has stuck.

Companies representing active business professions such as the Actuaries, Tax Advisers, Scriveners, IT, Marketing, Management Consulting and the Chartered profession companies are represented by modern livery companies, however not all modern livery companies represent modern professions (e.g., Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders, Farmers). The rule of exception applies.

Paul D Jagger, Author & Blogger

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