United Guilds’ Service

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The annual United Guilds’ Service is held two Fridays before Good Friday at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The date for 2024 is Friday 15th March 2024

The date for 2025 is Friday 4th April 2025

Eligibility: each livery company is allocated 22 seats.

Held in St Paul’s usually two Fridays before Good Friday, starting at 11.15am (but you are requested to be in your seat by 10.45am). Each company is allocated 22 places in the company pew (if the pew seats < 22, other seats are allocated elsewhere), plus one for the master’s spouse or consort. They are in a different (and much better!) pew. [failure to fill these individually reserved ‘mistress’ seats is highly conspicuous, and a great waste!]

Tickets are issued automatically to clerks.

Though of relatively recent origin (see below), the UGS is the “big daddy” of such services. Attended by the Bishop of London and the Lord Mayor, who arrive with considerable ceremonial, and a distinguished preacher, the Cathedral is invariably packed to capacity. The procession of livery masters is limited to the Great 12, plus 12 others by rotation. However all masters and wardens are expected to attend, fully badged and robed! [the night before will invariably have been the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House Banquet for all Master and Prime Wardens.]

Arrangements are overseen by a board of UGS trustees (Charity Commission Registration Number 1060419) administered by the Fishmongers’ Company; all liveries are expected to make an annual fixed contribution towards the cost of arranging the service (£150 in 2015).

Most companies will individually or jointly arrange a lunch after the service.

History. The UGS was first held in February 1943 as a coordinated response to the challenges faced by the City of London following the Blitz of 1940-41.

It was also a reminder of the religious origins of the Guilds. The first service to be conducted was held on Lady Day – 25th March 1943 - the first day of the year by the old calendar.

The King was petitioned to attend, along with Masters and Prime Wardens in their robes with such of their livery as ‘may be able’. The King did not attend; but the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen did. Dr Fisher, the Bishop of London, gave the address.

The Lord Mayor (Sir Samuel Joseph, father of Sir Keith Joseph) hosted an ‘austerity luncheon’ after the service for the Masters and Prime Wardens. The Lord Mayor hoped that the service would be held annually as an opportunity for the Livery to ‘approach God with one voice of united prayer’. His hope has been fulfilled!

© Nigel Pullman 2023