The Role of Livery Companies in the City of London

The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and the City
The livery companies and the City of London have developed and adapted together over the centuries to sustain London's pre-eminence as a financial and business centre.

As London grew, its population, trade and craft industries expanded to such an extent that it was no longer possible for all Freemen to be directly involved in determining the evolving structure of local government. The direct involvement of Freemen in the government of London thus gave way to indirect government through the Masters and Wardens of their guilds and livery companies.

There are now 110 Livery Companies, the "youngest" of which, the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars, received its Charter in 2014. There are also several Guilds (including the Guilds of Human Resources Professionals, Entrepreneurs and Nurses) waiting in the wings for their Charter and/or Livery status.

The Spectacle Makers' Company is pleased to enjoy very strong relationships with a number of other Liveries - particularly the Health Group (the Apothecaries, Barbers, Cutlers and the Guild of Nurses) and those with interests in science (the Clockmakers, Lightmongers and Scientific Instrument Makers).  

The livery companies still provide the City with its 25 Aldermen, and they are responsible for nominating one of them each year to act as its presiding officer, the Lord Mayor of the City of London. Since 1475, Liverymen have also had the exclusive right to elect the City's Sheriffs.  The Spectacle Makers are delighted to have among their Livery one of the current Sheriffs of the City of London, Alderman Vincent Keaveny.  Alderman Keaveny is the Alderman for the Ward of Farringdon Within, in which the Company's offices are based.  The links have been reinforced by the recent appointment of the Company's Clerk, Mrs Helen Perkins, as Honorary Clerk for the Ward of Farringdon Within.

The elections of the Sheriffs and of the Lord Mayor take place in "Common Hall" in Guildhall, at the end of June and the end of September, respectively, each year. All Masters of the Livery Companies process into the Hall and all Liverymen who have satisfied the time period for qualification have the right to attend and vote by outcry.

The Lord Mayors Show

Today, the formal link between the companies and the City is through the Livery Committee. Besides organizsng and supervising the two annual meetings of Common Hall, the Committee's key tasks are:

  • To maintain a close liaison with the Mansion House and Officers of the City of London Corporation on matters affecting the livery companies generally.
  • To research and advise livery companies on current practice and to develop best practice generally.
  • To act as a forum to which livery companies can bring matters of concern for discussion.