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Visit Report

Visit to City Livery Companies

Friday September 27th 2019

Bright and early, an inquisitive band of city slickers from TASHE set out for London to discover what goes on in the hallowed halls of the livery companies. At least, in two of them: The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, and the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.

Entrance Armourer's Hall   IT Hall

Entrances to the Armourers' and Brasiers' Hall                                                 and the IT Hall with its flag

The outing was organised and led by Paul Jagger, who had delivered a lecture to TASHE in June 2019 on the Treasures of the Livery Company Halls. Paul is a very active member of the Company of Information Technologists.

These two companies represent opposite ends of the age spectrum. Peter Bateman, the Armourers CEO, gave us a very entertaining presentation on the origins of Livery companies in general and his own specifically. It has been in existence since 1322. Their splendid dining hall (pictured) has been in continuous use since 1346, having miraculously and very narrowly escaped both the Great Fire of London and the blitz of WWII.

 Armourer's Hall

Armourers' and Brasiers' Livery Hall: A scary place to dine!

The Information Technologists date back only to 1992, and represent perhaps the fastest growth industry our planet has ever seen.

The livery concept is medieval. Originally just loose associations, they were formed to create a monopoly of the key trades, to protect their members in times of hardship, and to provide apprenticeships and set standards of work. As commercial and industrial life became more complex they had to discover a new purpose in life or their wealth would have been looked on askance (perhaps they would have gone the way of the monasteries under Henry the Eighth). They now operate as charitable bodies under Royal Charter, and their prime purpose is to provide financial support for education, both in its broadest sense (schools and universities) and also for specific research into their traditional fields of expertise.

The Armourers, for example, now engage in materials research in the widest sense, embracing critical new materials such as graphene. The Information Technologists, in conjunction with their ‘buddy’ livery company the 700-year-old Mercers, founded a school, the Hammersmith Academy, specialising in creative and digital media and information technology.

Many of the old customs – and costumes – are maintained. Outside the Guildhall we were greeted by a welcoming party of Aldermen, members of the Council of the City of London Corporation and presided over by the Lord Mayor of London. Aren’t they splendid? Everywhere else we just met men in suits. I’m tempted to say those garments are a fitting place to hide a corporation ....


Aldermen of the City of London in Guildhall Yard