A livery company is a name used to describe a n organisation which is a member of the 100 or so chartered companies registed within the City of London, The name itself comes from the elaborate ceremonial robes worn by the Guildmaster and his officers during official ceremonies. Many of the institutions can trace their heritige back to the medieval craft guilds that were in existence around the 11th century, but many more have been created far more recently.

The early companies, known as the Twelve Great Livery Companies, were originally created to protect customers, employers and employees alike by checking standards of work, quality of workmanship, weights and measures used, and enforced these laws by imposed severe penalties on all who broke them. The trading aspect of the guilds (the word coming from the Saxon word 'gildan' meaning payment) began to develop in the 12th and 13th centuries, and in the 14th century the Guilds had become so powerful that they obtained Charters from the Crown, giving them property rights, which were normally reserved for nobility and requiring that they be ruled by definite constitutions, whilst also defining responsibilities with regard to the trades they represented. All alterations to these charters still have to be approved by the Court of Aldermen, who also regulate the formation of new guilds of the Livery, as they have sole responsiblity for granting Letters of Patent and the Mayoral Seal required by all Livery Companies . In 1515, after much argument,an order of precedence was set up, determining the standing of each Guild in relationship to all others at official events. This system is quite arbitrary however, and the rankings have no direct connection with the age or seniority of a guild, as outside the original twelve, it is only those companies formed after 1515 which have been placed in the order of their incorporation.

The livery companies were closely connected with the freedom of the City of London. Among the privileges of a Freeman of the Guild were immunity from tolls at markets and fairs throughout the Realm, the right to vote in Ward and Parliamentary elections and protection against impressment into the Navy or Army - although these werer counterbalanced by the duties of a Freeman which included that of bearing arms in the defence of the City. The whole municipal structure of London was based on the status of the Freemen, and the continuing admission of Freemen is today one of the significant differences between the Corporation of London and every other local authority in Great Britain.

Many of the original guilds have played, and still do play, a role in the traditions of the City of London. In particular, they elect the Lord Mayor of London and his principal officers from among their own members, and also participate in the annual Lord Mayors Show, when the new Lord Mayor is invested. Many livery companies are involved in charity work and several run schools throughout the UK. Each company is governed by a series of annually elected officials, listed below:

The Master (elected from the Wardens)
The Upper Warden, Middle Warden, Lower Warden, (elected from the Court assistants)
Between 10 and 20 Court Assistants (elected from the Livery)
Liverymen
Apprentices
In attendance: a Clerk to keep the records and a Beadle to enforce the guild laws

There has been a recent resurgence in the creation of Livery Companies, started by the Guild of Master Mariners, which when created in 1932 was the first new livery company for 223 years, In waiting for official recognition of their status are the Guild of Firemen. and Guild of Thespians. Listed below, in order of precedence are all 102 incorporated companies:-

Mercers
Grocers
Drapers
Fishmongers
Goldsmiths
Merchant Taylors
Skinners
Haberdashers
Salters
Ironmongers
Vintners
Clothworkers
Dyers
Brewers
Leathersellers
Pewterers
Barbers
Cutlers
Bakers
Waxchandlers
Tallowchandlers
Armourers & Brasiers
Girdlers
Butchers
Saddlers
Carpenters
Cordwainers
Painter Stainers
Curriers
Masons
Plumbers
Innholders
Founders
Poulters
Cooks
Coopers
Tylers & Bricklayers
Bowyers
Fletchers
Blacksmiths
Joiners
Weavers
Woolmen
Scriveners
Fruiterers
Plaisterers
Stationers & Newspaper Makers
Broderers
Upholders
Musicians
Turners
Basketmakers
Glaziers
Horners
Farriers
Paviors
Loriners
Apothecaries
Shipwrights
Spectaclemakers
Clockmakers
Glovers
Feltmakers
Framework Knitters
Needlemakers
Gardeners
Tinplate Workers
Wheelwrights
Distillers
Pattenmakers
Glass Sellers
Coachmakers & Coach Harness Makers
Gunmakers
Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers
Makers of Playing Cards
Fan Makers
Carmen
Master Mariners
Solicitors
Farmers
Air Pilots & Air Navigators
Tobacco Pipe Makers & Tobacco Blenders
Furniture Makers
Scientific Instrument Makers
Chartered Surveyors
Chartered Accountants
Chartered Secretaries & Administrators
Builders Merchants
Launderers
Marketors
Actuaries
Insurers
Arbitrators
Engineers
Fuellers
Lightmongers
Environmental Cleaners
Chartered Architects
Constructors
InformationTechnologists
Water Conservators
World Traders

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