The Livery Companies: A list in progress

This is a work in progress, with the beginnings of details and possible projects being sketched out along with critical resources for completion.  All advice, feedback, and suggestions of source material are appreciated at this stage of things.

Not all of the projects will happen in this order and not all are set in stone. Everything is an idea at this point and I’m not done with the list either. (Hey, I still have a few months, right?) Nevertheless, I’m looking for all the help I can get.

Critical Online Source for Background info: The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online:  Apprentices and Freemen 1400-1900

Section 1.01: What shall we eat?

(a)     The Worshipful Company of Salters
Modern Iteration:

The salters began in the manufacture and trade of salt, a key commodity in a time when salt-curing was the only real way to preserve meat for any length of time.

” By the fourteenth century, salt was an essential commodity in England. It was used mainly for preserving meat and fish before the advent of tin cans and refrigeration. Other uses included any operation where ‘chemical’ action was required, such as cleaning, dyeing fabric, bleaching, degreasing, dehairing and softening leather and in the formulation of medicines and ointments.  As well as dealing in salt, Salters were experts in the dry salting of fish and meat and also dealt with flax, hemp, logwood, cochineal, potashes and chemical preparations. The modern day association of The Salters’ Company with chemistry and science can therefore be traced right back to its roots.”

– From the modern guild’s website

Project: Curing meat. Make some bacon.

(b)    The Worshipful Company of Grocers
Modern Iteration:

Originally the Guild of Pepperers, the grocers became the merchant guild supporting the importation and sale of bulk foodstuffs.Projects: Wheat — from the field to the ovens. Also the tao of peppercorns.

(c)     The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers
Modern Iteration:

The Fishmongers were granted a royal monopoly on the sale of fish in the city of London in 1399 by Richard II. Through most of the period before the Reformation, Three days a week were ‘fast days’ not counting Lent, making fish (not considered a meat by doctrinal standards) a supremely lucrative market to corner.

Project: Get on a boat and go catch a fish.  No, really. Out to sea with you! Then bring it home and cook it.

(d)    The Worshipful Company of Brewers
Modern Iteration:

Brewers brewed beer on an industrial scale, setting the standards and trade practices for an important comestible in the days before water purification. Historians estimate that northern Europeans drank an average of three liters of beer a day; it was of widely variant alcohol content (hence Henry VI proposing that drinking ‘small beer’ be a crime in Shakespeare’s play) but that’s still a lot of beer.
Research Note: Strangely, the spectacles makers first aligned under the brewer’s banner before being granted their own charter in the next century.

Project: Period beer brewed in a proper oak barrel. Maybe some spectacles as a bonus project?

(e)     The Worshipful Company of Bakers
Modern Iteration: 
The other half of the twin staples of the medieval and renaissance diet: bread and beer, the bakers were immensely powerful in early modern society. Most villagers could not afford an oven of their own, so communal ovens were often created or the village baker would bake the loaves of the village goodwives for a nominal fee.

Note: The function and nature of yeast was not understood until the latter half of the 18th century. The brewers and bakers worked together in this mystery, the bakers obtaining their yeast from the brewers stocks as often as from natural sources such as apple trees, oddly enough.
Project: Build a wood-fired oven and bake some bread

(f)      The Worshipful Company of Cooks
Modern Iteration:

Near and dear to my foodie heart (especially considering the inspiration of this project) this is also the smallest of the livery companies, the cooks were a confederation of those who made food for others.

Project: Cooking in ceramic vessels over open flames. (Demo)Project: Cooking in ceramic vessels over open flames. (Demo)

(g)     The Worshipful Company of Butchers
Modern Iteration: (website currently inactive 09/21/2012)

They are just as you might think they are, those who guide and control the slaughter of livestock and the sale of their meat. A crucial force in a time before refrigeration, it was the butchers who held their members responsible for selling meats that had been properly cured or freshly killed and punished those who sold bad meat to the detriment of public health.

Project: Meat in the Elizabethan diet. Cooking demo on the rotisserie.

(h)    The Worshipful Company of Poulterers
Modern Iteration:

The poulters were responsible in much the same way as the butchers for the regulation of trade and husbandry for all poultry, including chickens, ducks, swans, pigeons, as well as rabbits.
Project: Count your chickens before they hatch.

(i)      The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers
Modern Iteration:

The orchards and gardens of England produced many fruits for the tables of the renaissance. The fruiterers governed the trade and quality of the fruits both fresh and preserved imported into the city.
Project: Cider from the tree to the press to the bottle.  Get thee to Yakima!

Section 1.02 What shall we wear?

(a)     The Worshipful Company of Dyers
Modern Iteration:

Those who held and protected the mysteries of dyed cloth and traded in the dyestuffs used for same.Project: Experiment with period dyestuffs, maybe a madder and an indigo.

(b)    The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers
Modern Iteration:

The combination of the Shearmen and the Fullers, combining two aspects of the creation of woolen cloth. Taking the woolens from the weaver and then fulling and trimming it into the material used for darn near everything in the 16th century.

Project: Time for a discussion of the many period forms of woolen cloth available in the 16th century and how they differ from the modern ideas of wool.

(c)     The Worshipful Company of Merchant Tailors
Modern Iteration:

Tailors and creators of clothing, both made to measure and off the rack (though little of it was off the rack unless it was used, the province of the fripperer.)
Project: Patter drafting and draping techniques with Joel Reid, who has graciously volunteered.

(d)    The Worshipful Company of Skinners
Modern Iteration:

Trade in furs and the management of the trade of furs and fur garments in a time when the wearing or possession of same could be a crime.

Projects: Zibellini and the Victorian imagination — the myth of the flea fur.

(e)     The Worshipful Company of Mercers
Modern Iteration:
See the Haberdasher’s, below.

Project: ??? Yeah, not sure about this one.

(f)      The Worshipful Company of Drapers
Modern Iteration:

See the Haberdasher’s, below.

Project: ???

(g)     The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers
Modern Iteration:

Three associations of merchants and purveyors of cloth, the Mercers, Drapers, and Haberdashers are weirdly intertwined and overlapping, often to the point of creating confusion even in their own ranks.  The haberdashers at least had a focus on sewing supplies, needles, pins, and cetera.
This one will be a dawdle to demonstrate, but a b**** to explain in a non-wonky manner.

Great Google Books source material here.
Project: Create and demonstrate the proper use of period sewing kit and various basic tradegoods.

(h)    The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers
Modern Iteration:

A guild that controls the sale of leather goods and inspects every hide and leather good in London to verify quality and origin, punishing imposters who attempt to substitute one skin for another. This gives them control over the crucial supplies that are the lifeblood of  those whose livelihoods require leather, including the Cordwainers, Curriers, Girdlers, Glovers, Glovers, and Saddlers as well as some of the ancillary goods that arise from the manufacture of leather, such as the Tallow Chandlers.

It’s interesting to note that despite their prominence on the Leatherseller’s website, the making of leather bottles was the province of the Horners Company.

General leatherworking. Gloves or a purse, perhaps?

(i)       The Worshipful Company of Girdlers
Modern Iteration:

Makers of luxury goods: fine belts for the gentry, including sword belts and hangers.

Project: Swordhanger.a cloth one Discussion: The myth of the Hollywood BIG BUCKLE SWASHBUCKLER BELT.

(j)      The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers
Modern Iteration:

Fine leather used in the production of shoes and other luxury goods, mostly from cordovan, a goat leather developed in Spain and considered to be the finest available in the period.

Projects: Shoes — Need to track down and get an introduction to a proper shoemaker working in a period style and methodology.

(k)    The Worshipful Company of Weavers (The Most Ancient)
Modern Iteration:

Quite possibly the earliest craft mastered by human hands, the weavers style themselves “The Most Ancient” for good reason.  Originally the most powerful of all the textile guilds, the weavers waned in power as the specialist textile guilds rose: the mercers especially.
Projects: Warm up that loom that’s in the living room.

(l)      The Worshipful Company of Woolmen
Modern Iteration:

Spinning, sheep, and selling raw wool. Wool was England’s strongest and most important industry up to the Industrial revolution. “So concerned was Queen Elizabeth I about the wool trade that she had Parliament make everyone over the age of six (except the wealthiest) wear on Sundays “a cap of wool knit and dressed in England”. Under Charles II Parliament passed a law requiring coffins to be lined in fleece and shrouds to be made of wool. Later, carriages had to be lined with it.” – Guild website

Project: Herding, Shearing, Carding, and Spinning. THEN, knit something because the knitters never formed a guild and deserve some notice. A nice hat, perhaps.

(m)  The Worshipful Company of Curriers
Modern Iteration:

Those who cured leather for eventual use by others to create trade goods.
Project: Cure a hide? I am so very much not looking forward to this one.

(n)    The Worshipful Company of Broderers
Modern Iteration:

The broderers were artists in thread, the embroiderers who adorned everything from tapestries to clothing, even creating home embroidery kits reminiscent of modern cross stitch kits.
Stitch demos, simple blackwork

Section 1.03 Makers of Hard Goods

(a)     The Worshipful Company of Pewterers

Project: Soapstone casting — make a pendant or a hat badge.

(b)    The Worshipful Company of GoldsmithsIncluded workers in silver.

Project: Yeah, I still dunno.

(c)     The Worshipful Company of Cutlers

Project: Hilt an eating knife or cooking knife?

(d)    The Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers

Project: Beekeeping and wax candles.

(e)     The Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers

Project: Rushlights! LARD; it’s not just for dinner anymore.

(f)      The Worshipful Company of Armorers & Brasiers

(g)     The Worshipful Company of Saddlers
Modern Iteration:

Obvious, isn’t it? They made saddles but not usually tack.
Project: No ideas. All of the horse-related items together in one. I think I might need to discuss this with Neb & Gordon first. They’re the most knowledgeable people I know about these things…             

(i)     Loriners (edited)– Makers of tack. A Loriner produced horse furnishings in leather, fabric and metal such as traces, bridles, bits and spurs. (via Leatherworking Rev)

I didn’t know that bit about the spurs, but it certainly makes sense. Their status as an independent entity is uncertain (to me) at this time, but tied to the saddlers.

(h)    The Worshipful Company of Founders (Brass and Bronze)

Project: Lost wax casting in Brass.

(i)      The Worshipful Company of Coopers

Project: Make a Mary Rose stein and maybe a butter churn.

(j)      The Worshipful Company of Bowyers

Project: Visit Patrick’s Friend. Maybe a trip to Maryland?

(k)    The Worshipful Company of fletchers
Project: Learn to shoot the bow and arrow from Robin Hood. Yes, Robin Hood. If he will deign to teach me, of course…

(l)      The Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilerers

Project: The hand-jointed X-chair sans nails.

(m)  The Worshipful Company of Stationers

Project: Making paper.

(n)    The Worshipful Company of Upholders

Project: Upholster an X-chair?

(o)    The Worshipful Company of Turners

Project: Human-powered lathe

(p)    The Worshipful Company of Basketmakers

Project: Weave a basket, of course.

(q)    The Worshipful Company of Glaziers

Project: Glass in an Elizabethan home.

(r)     The Worshipful Company of Horners (And Bottlers)

Project: Beaker, Spoon, leather Bottel

Section 1.04 Services & Labor

(a)     The Worshipful Company of Barbers

(b)    The Worshipful Company of Carpenters

Making period nails and assembling something with them. Perhaps a nice chest or something?

(c)     The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers

(d)    The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths

Make some stuff: Pinking chisels, stonemason’s chisels, hinges, hasps, etcetera…

                (i)     Farriers are still in the mix in this period, I think. Once again, I should email Gordon for leads on this one…

(e)     The Worshipful Company of Masons

Projects: Carve a Mortar & Pestle? Not really a mason’s main gig, but still it’s pretty fiddly as stonecutting goes…

(f)      The Worshipful Company of Plumbers

(g)     The Worshipful Company of Innholders

(h)    The Worshipful Company of Tilers & Bricklayers

Project: Build a brick hearth for the back yard.

(i)      The Worshipful Company of Scriveners

Project: Quills, inks, and the strange mysteries of Elizabethan secretary script.

(j)      The Worshipful Company of Plaisterers

Project: Would this include plaster moulding or maybe just painting a fresco?

(k)    The Worshipful Company of Musicians

Project: Recorder lessons


  1. Thank you. Wasn't sure about additional horse furnishings beyond basic tack. What I can't quite sort out at this point is whether they were a standalone guild at this point, perhaps among the many that were not yet liveried, as it were, or folded in with the Worshipful Co. of Saddlemaker's. I have some books on order that I hope will clear these things up.


  2. Looking to give you a hand on the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. I am a coin-maker (Moneyer), and descendant of a Minster of the Mint of York under Henry VIII. I make coins for Historical Groups, and have done so for almost 30 years. Would love to share what I know for your project.


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