Using Livery Company Records
London craftsmen and Traders of the past belonged to ‘guilds’ or livery companies.
- The guilds acted as a sort of union and trading standard department, all rolled into one.
- They were responsible for setting standards of goods, controlling imports as well as setting wages, training apprentices and any other measures necessary for the trade to function as a coherent whole.
- They are very ancient bodies and have probably been in existence for over a thousand years
- Until 1856 any person practising a trade or craft in the City of London had to be a member of a company.
- Being a member of a guild had all sorts of advantages attached to it, such as offering education, apprenticeships or help for your family if you were ill or died
What records are available?
- Not all livery companies have records
- Some companies have extensive records and their own archives and archivists
- Records of admission give name of freeman and sometimes other details
- Membership dues which may include details of address, illness or date of death
- A list of livery companies is available from the Guildhall, with details of records available for each one
The Guildhall in London hold the original records of 85 companies. You can search the catalogue online