A flourishing Livery Company in the heart of the City of London, Merchant Taylors' is dedicated to Education and Philanthropy
The Merchant Taylors' Company is one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies, organisations that evolved from medieval London's guilds and fraternities. They took their name, livery, from the distinctive dress of their members and were rooted in religion and community, both of which remain key to the Merchant Taylors' spirit of fellowship and concern for others today. They also oversaw their respective crafts, regulating trade and the tradesmen operating within them.
The Company secured its first royal charter in 1327 from King Edward III, allowing it to manage its own affairs. As the Company grew, so did its ambitions, resulting in feuds with the other Livery Companies. The most intense of these was with the Skinners' Company. After a particular street brawl, the Lord Mayor, Sir Robert Billesden, in 1484 settled the matter by proclaiming that the two Companies must take turns alternating for precedence in perpetuity in the City's hierarchy. This may be the origin of the idiom, 'at sixes and sevens.'
As it grew in size and status, the Company operated less as a trade regulator and increasingly for the good of those less fortunate.
Today The Merchant Taylors' Company devotes itself to charitable initiatives, high-quality education (both state and independent) and plays an active role within the City of London's administrative and ceremonial life.
The Company operates social housing and works with up to 40 small local charities each year across key areas of London to change people's lives for the better. Find out more about the Company's almshouses here, and read about the Company's philanthropic work here.
Further information about the Company’s history can be found in The History of the Merchant Taylors’ Company by Matthew Davies and Ann Saunders (Maney, 2004). This includes a select bibliography of works about the Company and its treasures. Copies are available from the Company.
The Company Archives
The Company’s archives were loaned to the Guildhall Library in 1996, so that they could be available for study by the public. Accounts date from 1398 and minutes survive from 1562, and for the isolated years 1486-93. The catalogue can be viewed online and is available for consultation there without prior appointment. No permission is needed from the Company to access the archives for private study.
The Company has always had a large membership. We know that there were around 8,000 members during the Civil War. Genealogical enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, information about former members 1530-1928 can be obtained for a fee from Docklands Ancestors at www.ParishRegister.com. The Company’s charity fund receives a royalty from these fees. Other enquiries can be directed to LMA, as above, or to the Company Archivist, Stephen Freeth, at Freeth@ntlworld.com.