Company Treasures

Company Treasures

Thanks to the generosity of Past Masters, Liverymen and other benefactors, over the centuries the Company has become the custodian of an unrivalled collection of historically interesting works of art, artefacts and other treasures.

Among the Company’s treasures are its archives, an almost unbroken run of minute books and other records from the 15th century to today. Much of the archive has been deposited at the Guildhall Library for safekeeping and where it can be accessed by researchers.

The Master’s badge

The practice of a badge of office for the Master seems to have been introduced during the second half of the 18th century. Every livery company has one but the beautiful, often bejewelled, examples worn today mostly date from the late 19th century. The Brewers’ Company Master’s badge is 17th century in style, with scrolling open work leaf design as the frame and the Company arms, helm, crest and motto in the centre. The charges are in heavy relief with the helm and crest modelled in three dimensions. It was presented to the Company in 1900 by William Thomas Paulin, Master in 1896-7. The Master’s badge is still in use today and is worn by the Master when representing the Company in an official capacity.

masters badge

The Mistress’s brooch

This is a modern piece of jewellery, the gift of Richard Lees-Jones, Master 2001-2. An oval wreath of hops and ears of barley surrounds a shield with the Company coat of arms: three gold tuns in a diamond set chevron, which in turn is on a ruby set ground with three gold crossed barley sheaves.

death mask

Death mask of Dame Alice Owen

This is perhaps the most curious item in the collection. Dame Alice Owen founded the eponymous school, originally in Islington where she lived but now in more spacious surroundings in Potters Bar, and established almshouses for the elderly. The story is that as a girl she narrowly missed being shot by an arrow by someone doing target practice. She vowed to do good works in later life as thanks for her narrow escape. Married three times, once to a Brewer, she become a wealthy widow. In her will she appointed the Brewers’ Company to be her Trustee. The Company is still closely involved with the school over 400 years later.

Dame Alice died aged 66 in 1613. Within hours of her death, an impression of her face and hand was taken, using wax, and from that a plaster cast was then made to create a death mask. Before the age of photography, this was a way to preserve a true image of what someone looked like.

knife and fork

Knife and fork

One of the oldest pieces of silverware in the collection is a late 17th century knife and fork. Forks were still a novelty in England at this time, not coming into general use until the 1700s. The fashion for using them came from Italy and Spain, and the Master’s use of a fork to eat with at Brewers’ Hall would have had a touch of the exotic about it.

The leather case decorated with silver bears the inscription “Ex dono Richard Haley to ye Worshipful Brewers Company Mr. Robt. Breeden Master and for ye Use of Every Master for the time being, 1691". The silver embellishments include the Company’s coat of arms and even the hinges are engraved with flowers and thistles. The ends of the knife and two-pronged fork show the Company’s heraldic emblem of the Moorish lady holding ears of barley.

The Charrington Cup

This important silver cup and cover was made by Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934), a leading sculptor and silversmith. As a boy he went to Aldenham School – his father taught music there for over 30 years – and he sent his own sons there too.

Gilbert’s best known work is world famous: the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (commonly known as Eros) in Piccadilly Circus. It is one of London’s most iconic landmarks and Aldenham School has a copy in the school grounds; a race takes place between the two statues each year.

One of Gilbert’s last works, the small figure at the top was not finished when he died and no one knows who it was going to represent. The cup was commissioned by Cecil Charrington, a Past Master (1930-1) and a famous brewer. His grandfather was a friend of Gilbert’s. After Gilbert died, Cecil gave the cup to the Brewers’ Company and had it engraved with a Latin inscription which states that Gilbert was an Old Aldenhamian.

The Charrington Cup