Livery Companies trace their origins from their craft: making fans for instance in the 15thC was a prolific industry (for cooling the brows of elegant ladies in their tightly girdled gowns), the Fan Makers now support the aerospace industry. Emily and I are members of the Worshipful Company of Masons supporting the use of natural stone in the built environment – which gives us endless opportunity to discover the treasures of hidden London.
This week I arranged a city walk, guided by Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon Vice Lord-Lieutenant of London who is absolutely fascinating, he took us through the unfolding history of the City Livery Companies. We set off from Smithfield Market’s Grand Avenue with its brightly coloured ironwork and found ourselves in the back doubles – exposed to the hidden treasures of the City.
Mike is the most marvellous story teller and brought to life the buildings, the Liveries and their history, with the Farmers and Fletchers, Saddlers, Iron Mongers, the Mercers, the Goldsmiths, Cloth Makers, Tallow Chandlers and the Butchers’. The Butchers’ have moved out of their hall whilst a construction firm takes over their elegant space to manage the redevelopment of the city, before no doubt returning it to its former glory! A good move I must remember that one when I’m ready for a refurb. I have always been fascinated by the city and at every turn there was a story.
One of my favourite discoveries was that the Queen doesn’t own every swan – the Vintners and the Dyers also own swans. The swans are identified through nicks – swans with a single nick on their beak are owned by the Dyers, those with two nicks by the Vintners and lastly those with no nicks belong to the Queen.