Letter from the Coachmakers' Company

Pages 360-361

City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.

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Letter from the Coachmakers' Company

Skinners' Hall, London, April, 1883.

The Hall, Noble Street, E.C.,
26th January 1883.

In answer to the enquiry contained in your letter of 23rd November ult., whether the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coachharness Makers wish to call any witnesses before Her Majesty's Commissioners before they make their Report, I beg to inform you that I have submitted your letter to the Court of my Company, together with copies of the printed evidence already received by Her Majesty's Commissioners; and as this Company has not, like some other Companies, been pointedly attacked by any of the witnesses, the Court has, subject to the few observations herein-after contained, instructed me to inform you that, so far as they can at present see, they have no intention to produce any witness, but at the same time they are willing to answer in writing any further questions which Her Majesty's Commissioners may think fit to ask, but subject, of course, to the same protest as was annexed to their original returns.

The observations which I am respectfully to submit to the consideration of Her Majesty's Commissioners divide themselves into two heads. 1st. It seems to have been assumed that the Companies hold their "corporate property," as distinguished from their specifically "trust property," upon some trust, expressed or implied, for the benefit of the craft with which the name of the Company is associated, and that such corporate property has been acquired either by will or deed of gift; and, 2ndly, that the members of the various City Companies are disconnected with and have no interest in the craft supposed to be represented by the Company. Now, as to the first point:—on carefully perusing the Charter 29 Charles II., 31st May 1677, there is no single trust, charitable or otherwise, contained therein; the Company only had certain powers conferred on them for regulating the trade, and they never had any property given, devised, or bequeathed to them from the date of their Charter to the present time. In the year 1703 this Company bought of the Scriveners' Company their hall; and, to enable this Company to pay for it, 109 members of the Company (this shows that this Company has not much increased, as it has only about 120 at the present time, and it can scarcely be supposed that all the members contributed) subscribed various sums, amounting in the whole to 2,030l. 7s. 6d., and a list of the donors is still preserved in the present hall; and in 1843 a further sum of 257l. 10s. was subscribed by the then members of the Court to refurnish such hall. In the year 1867 the hall and all the old buildings were pulled down, and the present hall was built by the Company, and the surplus land was let for building purposes; but to enable the Company to build the new hall they had to mortgage the whole of the property they had so bought in 1703 for 3,000l., 'and such mortgage debt is still due, and may be called in at any time. From the above short statement it is clear how the Company acquired their present property; and if it he not corporate property, then it must belong to the representatives of the original donors rather than for public trusts.

As to the 2nd point, namely, that the Companies are now disassociated from their trades.—On careful perusal of the books of this Company I find that the master coachmakers of London have from the date of the Charter to the present time always been a majority or been largely represented on the Court of the Company; and as such Court is recruited from the Livery, it must, I think, be assumed that the majority of the Livery have been connected with the coachmakers trade, or, at any rate, with kindred crafts; and out of a present Livery of 120 members 70 are connected with the trade of which the Company bears the name, and out of a Court of 27 members 19 are master coachbuilders, or otherwise connected with the trade and it often happens that the Master and Wardens are all master coachmakers. Indeed, this Company is entirely identified with the trade; and this is proved by the efforts they have made both by exhibitions of carriage and other drawings at their hall, and the Mansion House, and at the Baker Street Bazaar, and for the prizes they have continuously offered, and the support they have continuously given in the case of technical education, and by admitting master coachmakers not only from London but throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Thus the Company exercises an influence over the whole of the trade (see question 620), and is considered in England and Europe and in the United States as representing the trade; and in all the International Exhibitions of Industry, whether in England or elsewhere, more than one member of the Court has been appointed on the the juries to adjudge the merits of carriages exhibited. It is from the fact of the Company being so intimately and closely connected with the trade that they, unlike many other Companies, have not been compelled to call in extraneous aid, but have been able not only to offer but to award their prizes free of the expense of skilled examiners, and their awards have met with general satisfaction in the trade. Further, as knowing the wants of the trade, this Company has preferred to support technical education in the midst of the workshops, rather than to support the City and Guilds Institution at a distance, where the workmen could not or would not go, as by so doing they were able to teach the workmen how to use their hands in the day, and how to acquire science and theory in evening classes (thus coinciding with Mr. Lucraft's evidence, 13th day).

Although this Company has no charity foundations, yet they do not ignore charity, and support, so far as their means allow them, charities in connection with the trade, and give donations and sometimes pensions to the indigent connected with the trade. They have occasionally extended their charity outside the trade.

In any Report which Her Majesty's Commissioners may make on this Company, my Court hope that the above observations may be carefully considered with the original return sent in by this Company.

I have, &c.,
H. T. Nicholson,

H. D. Warr, Esq.,
Secretary City of London
Livery Companies' Commission,
2, Victoria Street, Westminster.