City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.
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EIGHTEENTH DAY. Wednesday, 11th April 1883.
The Right Honourable LORD COLERIDGE, in the Chair.
His Grace the Duke of Bedford, K.G.
The Right Hon. Viscount Sherbrooke.
The Right Hon. Sir Richard A. Cross, G.C.B., M.P.
Sir Nathaniel M. de Rothschild Bart., M.P.
Sir Sydney H. Waterlow, Bart., M.P.
Mr. Alderman Cotton, M.P.
Mr. Walker H. James, M.P.
Mr. Joseph Firth, M.P.
Mr. H. D. Warr, Secretary.
Deputation from Culers' Company. 1 April 1883.
The following gentlemen attended as a deputation from the Cutlers' Company:—
Mr. Graves, and
Mr. Beaumont, the Clerk of the Company.
3072. (Chairman to Mr. Beaumont.) I understand that you wish to make some explanation with regard to this passage, which appears in Mr. Firth's book "Municipal London:" "The responsibility of a seat in the court carries with it a salary: the meetings of the committees are duly paid for; some Companies have dinners of some kind as often as once a week, and lucky are the committee-men of such Companies, for in addition to their salaries, they sometimes find a bank-note delicately secreted under their plates, and sometimes find huge boxes of bon-bons upon them"?—I only wish to do so if that statement can be treated as referring, as I understand Mr. Firth has done, to the Cutlers' Company.
3073. Do you wish to state that, so far as you can state it, you are a stranger to anything of the kind ?—I should wish to state, as representing the Company, that I have been concerned for the Company as assistant clerk and clerk for very nearly 20 years, and my father was clerk before me for 35 years. During the period that I have been assistant clerk and clerk the whole of the affairs of the Company have been before me, and I am prepared most positively to contradict the statement.
3074. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) What statement ?— The statement that my Company has at any time placed bank-notes under the plates of the court or given them any sums of money beyond the fees which were formerly two guineas, and which are now three guineas. Mr. Firth seems to have confined his statement to a period within the last 20 or 25 years. Accordingly I have gone through the accounts of the Company carefully for the last 50 years. I find they have always been kept with strict accuracy, that the fees paid to the various members of the court are entered in detail, and that there is no trace of any payment made to any member of the court beyond the fees sanctioned by the court for the time being.
3075. (Chairman.) What are the fees for?—The fees are for attendance at the monthly meetings. The court of my Company meets monthly, and the fee which was formerly paid to a member of the court was two guineas, but it has been increased within the last 25 years to three guineas.
3076. How was it usual to be paid; in what form ? —I ventured to suggest in a letter to Mr. Warr, that if there was any foundation for this statement it might arise from this: The practice of my Company is to place the fees in small sealed envelopes, which are placed either beside the members of the court or on a tray where they can take them immediately after the court business is over.
3077. Not on the dinner table ?—Not on the dinner table but in the court room.
(Mr. Graves.) I have been on the court for 20 years, and never met with a case of the kind suggested, and my wife's father and grandfather have been connected with the court for the last 100 years, and they have never heard of such a thing existing in the Cutlers' Company; certainly during the nearly 50 years that I have known it, such a thing has never occurred.
3078. Is there anything else that you wish to add ? —No.
3079. (Mr. Firth to Mr. Beaumont.) I should like to ask you whether you ever read this evidence before the Commission of 1854: "It is still customary to place a five or ten pound note under the plate of a liveryman invited if a member of the Court of Assistants" ?—I do not know what you are referring to, Sir; what evidence is this? Is it with reference to my Company ?
3080. No; I ask you in the first instance whether you ever heard of that evidence given before the Commission in 1854 by Mr. Hickson?—No; I never heard of it.
3081. Have you ever heard of a case which supports the truth of that evidence ?—No.
3082. You do not contest the part of the book which has been quoted as to bon-bons, I suppose ?— Bon-bons are frequently given.
3083. I see you have ladies' dinners, at which presents costing sums varying from 65l. and upwards to 100l. or 150l. are given ?—We have a ladies' banquet every year, and give them presents; which probably amounts to 60l. in a year.
3084. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) In what form do you give the presents?—Either some small piece of cutlery or some small thing which the lady could wear, but nothing to the members of the court.
3085. (Mr. Firth.) You had a clerk, I notice, two years ago who defaulted to the extent of 1,133l.; was he the clerk of the Company ?—No, he was my clerk.
3086. I notice that last year you expended 2,880l. in court fees, divers bills, and wine; that is more than half your income. I should like to ask you how the court fees were paid ?—The court fees paid are 3l. 3s. to each member of the court who attends the court; but they are not paid until the court business is over.
3087. So far as you know, you say that you have never heard in your Company of a bank note being put under the plate ?—Certainly.
3088. Have you ever heard of it in any other Company ?—No.
3089. Mr. Pryor was a member of your Company, was he not ?—Yes, a very highly respected member.
3090. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) Your ladies' dinners have not been given until very recently, have they ?— Many years ago there used to be ladies' dinners, which were discontinued because our Company was somewhat poorer than now. Within the last five or six years the ladies' dinners have been renewed.
3091. Not later back than five or six years ?
(Mr. Graves.) It is about five or six years.
3092. (Chairman to Mr. Beaumont.) What is the total income of the Company ?—Speaking without the figures before me, I think it is about 6,000l.
3093. (Sir N. M. de Rothschild.) You have not a large funded income, have you ?—No, it is mostly from house property.
3094. (Sir Sydney Waterlow.) How long do the courts last for which the fee of 3l. 3s. is paid ?—They vary; the fee includes the committee meeting as well as the court, and the entire business generally last from two to two-and-a-half hours.
3095. There is no separate Committee, is there? —There is no separate fee for the members of the Committee.
3096. Do the members meet before the court ? —They meet one hour before the court.
3097. What would be the average value of each lady's present ?—Under 1l., about 15s. I should say, speaking roughly.
3098. (Mr. James.) The court always dine together after their monthly meeting, do they not ?—Yes.
3099. Is the tray on which these envelopes are placed in the same room as that in which the dinner takes place ?—No, the tray is placed in the court room immediately after the business, so that each member can take his fee as he leaves, unless it is handed round to him.
(Mr. Graves.) A great deal of the funds have been derived from persons purchasing their livery.
3100. (Mr. Alderman Cotton to Mr Beaumont.) Your general custom is to hand the fee round, is it not ?—Yes.
3101. (Mr. James.) What are the duties of the beadle of your Company. I see he has a salary of 150l.?—He has to look after the hall; he is nearly always at the hall to answer all messages sent there, and to attend to the court and the committee meetings.