EC3 London

Livery Companies and Guilds

The history of Livery Companies began with the trade Guilds where those who worked in the same craft came together to regulate competition between members and to set standards for the craft, e.g. Goldsmiths, Clothworkers, Dyers.

The Guilds grew in power during the medieval period and effectively controlled who could sell goods and services in the City of London.

To sell your goods in the City of London you had to be a member of one of the Guilds.

With the growth in their power and wealth, Guilds built halls in which their members could meet and resolve any conflicts or disagreements, and they began to introduce their own costumes to distinguish their members from others. 

The clothing was called livery and gradually the Guilds became known as Livery Companies.

Most companies are known as ‘The Worshipful Company of …’ because from their earliest days there was a strong religious connection. Companies had a Patron Saint and were linked with a church.

Members would pray together and when a member died, company members would gather together at their funeral. Companies also cared for members who became sick or old.

Today there are more than 100 Livery Companies in the City of London. Their links with their trade vary but many are involved in supporting young people develop skills through education, training and apprenticeship.

Some continue to play a part in setting standards and the Goldsmiths continue to operate the London Assay Office and mark gold and silver as they have done for over 600 years.

The Livery Companies have a long tradition of charitable giving and each year donate tens of millions of pounds.

See Livery Committee for more information about Livery Companies and their role in the City of London.

EC3 is home to three of these livery companies and one working Guild.


The Worshipful Company of Bakers
Bakers

Located on Mincing Lane since 1456, The Worshipful Company of Bakers plays an active role in the continuing development of the baking industry and allied trades.

The Clothworkers’ Company
Clothworkers

Located on the same site in Harp Lane since 1506, The Clothworkers’ Company retains an interest in its craft roots, fostering the development of textiles in innovative ways and supporting the nation’s textile heritage.

The Leathersellers’ Company
Leathersellers

Located in St Helen’s Place since 1543, The Leathersellers’ Company was founded by royal charter in 1444 with authority to control the sale of leather within the City.

The Company no longer has this regulatory role but instead supports the British leather trade.

Its seventh new hall was completed in 2016. Designed by architect Eric Parry the new hall sits behind the twentieth century St Helen’s Place façade. See Leathersellers’ Hall for more information.

The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames
Watermen & Lightermen

The only Guild in EC3 is located in St Mary at Hill. The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames is a working guild and actively involved with the life of the River and those who work on it.