The first mention in archival papers of a Committee of the Livery was in 1782, but the forerunner of the present Livery Committee began on 4th July 1864. It was originally established with the following brief “The Committee is to consider the best means and take such measures as they deem advisable for securing the Guildhall from the intrusion of strangers at the meetings in Common Hall”.
The Committee has undergone several reincarnations in the intervening over 150 years, and notably the role of the Committee was amended in 1942, with a widening of its terms of reference, “To consider any matters affecting the interests of the general body of the Livery and to report recommendations at the ensuing Common Hall.”
And thus it is today, with its two principal purposes – to oversee the arrangements for Common Hall: at the Election of Sheriffs on Midsummer Day (24th June*) and the Election of the Lord Mayor each Michaelmas Day (29th September). And to act as the conduit for communication between the livery (and its masters, prime wardens, courts, liverymen and clerks) and the “powers that be” at Guildhall (including the Chamberlain’s Court), Mansion House, and the Old Bailey, on any matter affecting the interests of the general body of the Livery (I cannot put it better!). The committee is also now a means of improving communications between the Corporation and the Livery, increasing the involvement of Liverymen in City affairs, and acting as a forum for discussion.
Between 1981 and 2002, as some readers will remember, these roles were split between the Livery Committee (the former), and a Livery Consultative Committee (the latter). But by a resolution of Common Hall on 24th June 2002, the two were merged to form the presently constituted Committee, consisting of two Alderman, six Common Councilmen, six Clerks of Livery Companies, and six Liverymen who are not on Common Council. The allocation of committee places to liverymen and clerks is laid down to ensure representation between the Great 12 companies, the Clerks’ Association companies (ie those with Halls), and the Fellowship of Clerks companies (broadly, the Rest).
Members are elected for a term of three years, and may stand for re-election once (ie to serve a total of six years). Ultimately members are elected by Common Hall, but the nominations are put forward by the three Clerks’ associations mentioned above (and also by the courts of Aldermen and Common Council). Any liverymen wishing to put their name forward should do so through their company clerk.
The committee meet three times a year (on the second Wednesday in February, June and September), and additionally at the two Common Halls. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman are elected annually (at the September meeting) and typically serve a maximum of three years (if re-elected). The convention is that the chair alternates between a Common Councilman and a liveryman who is not a member of the Court (of Common Council). But recent experience has shown that the time bar of six years has meant there can be a shortage of committee members with the experience to take on the chair without over-running their time on the Committee. For this reason, at Common Hall in October 2011, it was resolved that time spent in office (as chairman or deputy) would not count towards the six year maximum. The Clerks do not take the chair, nor the deputy chairmanship.
Much of the Committee’s work is done through its two Working Groups (WG). The Communications WG are responsible for all training courses and briefings – namely the City Briefings, Wardens & Court Assistants’ Course, Clerks’ Briefing, and new in 2012, a Masters’ After Dinner Speaking Course. The latter three are arranged annually, but there are four City Briefings each year, and if you are reading this and haven’t attended one - speak to your Clerk!
The second, the Livery Companies WG consider, amongst other matters, best practice amongst the Companies (whilst always recognising the sovereignty of each company), and appoint each member of the Committee to be the liaison member for up to eight livery companies.
The Committee has, in particular in recent years, deliberated on the matter of the voting arrangements for contested shrieval elections, and made proposals to encourage candidates and the livery to accept the “will of the Livery” as shown by their vote on 24th June, and not to demand a further poll. Their recommendation was accepted by Common Hall at its meeting in October 2011. And separately, it has instigated work on a new Livery Profile (giving updated clear facts as to the combined strength and contribution of all the livery companies, eg in education, charity, armed services affiliations etc); and has overseen the publication of a new edition of the orange coloured City Livery Companies booklet.
The Livery Committee, though administered at Guildhall, is not a committee of the City of London Corporation, and hence has some autonomy. However this may also mean some limitations as to its power, and so it largely works by influence and consultation. It has included the following in its brief:
a. To assist Livery Companies in their support of the Mayoralty and the
b. To create awareness amongst Liverymen and the general public, especially opinion formers, of the work of the Livery Companies in their trade, professions, educational, community support programmes and charitable activities.
c. To undertake such other tasks which are intended to be in the best interests of the general body of the Livery.
Chairman, Livery Committee,
7th November 2011 (with minor amendments to November 2013)
* As stated above, the election of the Sheriffs and Lord Mayor takes place on 24th June and 29th September. When that day falls on a weekend Common Hall is usually held on the Monday following.
This article first appeared in the Plaisterers’ Company Newsletter in October 2011.
I have drawn extensively from the leaflet A Brief History of the Livery Committee in compiling this article.
The Committee are indebted to the Mercers’ Company for again taking the lead role in compiling the Livery Profile.
The City Livery Companies booklet is published by the Public Relations Office (PRO) at Guildhall.
The programme of courses and briefings is administered and funded by the PRO at Guildhall. For Online bookings go to Briefings & Courses.
The Livery Committee is administered by the Town Clerk’s Department, for whose help I am most grateful. Any errors are, of course, my own.