The Livery Companies of the City of London are historic trade associations or guilds whose primary task is to both promote and protect their relevant trade, craft or profession sometimes directly by regulating trade practices or the entry of apprentices but more often just by the promotion of education and training of that craft. Their secondary tasks are Charitable, particularly in relation to their craft but also more generally; Social, through regular banquets, dinners, luncheons and other social gatherings and events; Religious, particularly through their guild Anglican Church in the City; and participation in the civic affairs of the City of London, through being given freedom of the City of London and the right to elect the Sheriffs and Lord Mayor. Whilst their origins are ancient, these underlying objectives have little changed over the centuries.
The livery companies probably had their origins in this country before 1066 and are similar to the fraternities and guilds that flourished throughout Europe for many centuries. These early guilds controlled the provision of services and manufacture and selling of goods in the City of London which prevented unlimited competition, dishonest trading and poor workmanship or service. As the City of London website explains “In medieval times “livery” was the term used for the clothing, food and drink provided to the officers and retainers of great households, such as those of barons, bishops, colleges or guilds. The term became restricted to the distinctive clothing and badges which were symbols of privilege and protection. Since the members of each guild were distinguished from other people in this way, the guilds gradually became known as livery companies and also denoted a strong link with the City of London. It is still the custom to wear ceremonial dress on official occasions.”
The members of the Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers were wood craftsmen covering the crafts of wood joinery and wood carving. The history of the company goes back to 1375 when the Guild of St James Garlickhythe was established as the brotherhood of that guild were certainly early freemen of the Joiners Company. The Joiners and Ceilers are therefore one of the ancient companies who have evolved, developed and consolidated the structure of government in the City of London. The Livery Companies have always provided the representation of the people that underpins the democratic nature of the City and this continues to this day.
There are today 110 Livery Companies and in 1515 an order of precedence was established with the 12 wealthiest and most powerful companies at the head demonstrating the ascendancy of the merchants over the manufacturers. The order of the companies does not reflect chronological age but power and influence in 1515. The Joiners and Ceilers were ranked 41st.
The Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers shares with all its fellow Livery Companies, whether ancient or modern, a responsibility for maintaining the structure of the City of London, for protecting and promoting their craft not just in London but across the country, for being God-fearing people who do charitable good works and for being open and hospitable enjoying fellowship together as they represent much of what is good in the City of London. The Livery guilds have survived centuries of change and are now stronger than ever. The Joiners and Ceilers continue to play their part with pride.