All livery companies come under an element of control by the City of London’s Court of Aldermen, since it is this body which grants livery company status on new groups. The livery companies, in turn, still play a pivotal role in the election of the Lord Mayor of London. Today, each Lord Mayor will belong to one (or more) of the City livery companies and must previously have served as a Sheriff. Liverymen of all 110 livery companies are eligible to vote in the annual elections of the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs, in ceremonies open to all members of the Livery. Liverymen of the Brewers' Company are invited to join the Master Brewer to represent the Company at these events.
Livery companies also play a prominent role in many important occasions in the City. The annual United Guilds’ Service at St Paul’s Cathedral sees the livery companies, City of London and church joining together for a magnificent ceremonial event, first established in 1943 "to help lift the spirits of the City following the Blitz during the Second World War". In November, many livery companies contribute spectacular displays for the Lord Mayor’s Show, which has celebrated the installation of the new Lord Mayor for over 800 years.
What is the City of London?
The City of London is not the same as the city called “London”! Often known simply as The City, or the Square Mile (since that is how big it is), the City of London is the historic centre and central business district of the much larger metropolis of London. The City of London is governed by the Corporation of London which, uniquely, is older than the United Kingdom itself and represents the oldest continuous government on the island of Great Britain.
Brewers' Lord Mayors
Before 1742 the Lord Mayor of London was almost invariably elected from one of the most wealthy and influential livery companies ("The Great Twelve"). It was therefore the practice for individuals from the "lesser" livery companies to 'translate' their membership to one of the Great Twelve Companies, regardless of the trade they followed, if they wished to become Lord Mayor. During this time, there were three Brewers Lord Mayors who translated to the Mercers', Drapers' and Fishmongers' Companies.
Since this practice ended in 1742, there have been three Brewers Lord Mayors: William Calvert in 1748-49, Crisp Gascoyne in 1752-53 (notable as the first Lord Mayor to use The Mansion House) and Harvey Christian Combe in 1799-1800. There has not been a Brewers Lord Mayor since this time, although there have been Brewers Sheriffs, the last being Alfred Henry Bevan in 1899-1900.
Freedom of the City
Historically, the Brewers’ Company had complete regulatory control over brewers and brewing in the City of London and only members of the Company could practise the “Mystery of Art of Brewing” in the City. Freedom of the City bestowed the right to trade within the Square Mile and was therefore an essential requirement to become a Liveryman of the Brewers’ Company. Today, most of the practical reasons for obtaining the Freedom of the City no longer exist, but it still remains a unique part of London’s history and is retained as a living tradition, being granted to members of the livery companies, as well as other individuals with a strong connection to the City. The Brewers’ Company retains the requirement for individuals becoming Liverymen to first be admitted as Freemen of the City of London.
Find out more
You can find a wealth of information about the livery companies and their connection with the City of London on the Livery Committee website: www.liverycommittee.org. The unofficial City and Livery website is also extremely informative: www.cityandlivery.co.uk.