Origins of Livery Companies

Photo of the Court of the COmpany, nineteenth centuryLivery Companies probably had their origins in this country before 1066 and are similar to fraternities and guilds (or ‘mysteries’) that flourished throughout Europe for many centuries.
 
People following the same craft or trade tended to live and work near each other and made informal arrangements amongst themselves to regulate competition and maintain standards.
 
These arrangements evolved into more formal organisations which protected customers, employers and employees.  These organisations supervised the training of apprentices and ensured standards of workmanship.  Disputes were settled at the Companies’ halls, which also served as a meeting place for fellowship and hospitality.
 
Welfare of members has always been a concern for Livery Companies, including education and skills (through apprenticeships and schooling), and caring for the elderly (through the provision of almshouses) and the needy (through charitable relief and pensions).
 
The term ‘Livery’ refers to the distinctive clothing and badges worn by members of each company on special occasions.