The term livery originated in the specific form of dress worn by retainers of a nobleman and then by extension to special dress to denote the status of belonging to a trade. Livery companies evolved from London’s medieval Guilds, becoming Corporations under Royal Charter responsible for training in their respective trades and crafts, as well as for the regulation of aspects such as wage control, labour conditions and industry standards. Early guilds often grew out of Parish fraternal organizations, where large groups of members of the same trade lived in close proximity and gathered at the same church, the only place large enough to hold meetings.
A Liveryman is a full member of his respective company. When a Freeman becomes a Liveryman, the candidate is said to be ‘Clothed’: indeed, a clothing gown is placed on him at the Court ceremony and he is seen at the ensuing dinner wearing it. Thereafter only the master, wardens and assistants in companies are seen wearing these at company events.
Liverymen no longer have any local authority franchise in the City but retain the exclusive right of voting in the election of the Lord Mayor of the City of London (Michaelmas ‘Common Hall’ 29 September) and for the two elected Sheriffs (Mid-Summer ‘Common Hall’ 24 June) held in Guildhall as a ceremonial occasion.
Liverymen (this term is applied to all genders) are expected to support their company with their attendance, participation and charitable endeavour. In return they enjoy fellowship with their fellow members, an opportunity to support their trade, craft or profession and enjoy the culture and heritage of the City of London.