City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
To The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty.
We regret that, as the result of an inquiry in every stage of which all Your Majesty's Commissioners have cordially co-operated, it should be necessary for us to record our dissent from the conclusions arrived at by our colleagues. We have, however, carefully considered their Report, and we find ourselves unable to agree with it in several important particulars.
Under these circumstances we conceive that we shall best discharge our duty to Your Majesty by briefly stating the conclusions which we have ourselves formed with regard to the several heads of Your Majesty's Commission.
These heads relate (1) to the foundation and object of the Livery Companies of the City of London; (2) to the constitution of these companies, and the privileges enjoyed by those who are members of them; (3) to the salaries paid by the companies to their officers and servants, and the mode in which these persons are appointed; (4) to the sources of their corporate and trust income, the capital value of their property, their administration of it, and the mode in which the income arising from it is expended; (5) to the question of an alteration in the constitution of the companies should any three or more of the Commissioners consider an alteration "expedient and necessary."
1. As regards the circumstances under which the City Companies were founded, we are of opinion that at the time when Your Majesty was pleased to issue this Commission some misapprehension prevailed. It was supposed that the companies had till recent times consisted of members of the trades the names of which they bear, (fn. 1) that the objects of their foundation had been the organisation of these trades, and that their present condition, which is that of societies having for the most part only a nominal connection with these trades, where such still exist—and many are known to have become obsolete, or to have disappeared from London—is one different from their former condition. The researches of archæologists and the passages in the returns of the companies relating to their early history (fn. 2) seem to point to a different conclusion.
The companies of London prove to have sprung from a number of guilds, which were associations of neighbours for the purposes of mutual assistance. Such associations were very numerous in the Middle Ages, both in town and country, and they appear to have abounded in London at a very early period. A "frith guild" and a "knighten- guild" seem to have existed in London in Anglo-Saxon times, (fn. 3) and at the time of the Norman Conquest there were probably many other bodies of a like nature in London. Their main objects were the relief of poverty and the performance of masses for the dead.
The trades of London appear to have had in early times their recognised quarters in the City, and owing to this localization they formed themselves into guilds, of which the principal objects were those above mentioned. (fn. 4) These guilds, however, also undertook the regulation of the trades to which the members belonged. They appointed overseers to inspect the wares produced or sold, and also umpires to adjudicate in cases of disputes between masters and workmen. They generally had halls, at which meetings of the principal members took place for purposes of inspection, arbitration, and the consideration of claims to charitable relief, and at these halls banquets were frequently given. (fn. 5) They were purely voluntary associations, and required no licence from the State.
"Ordinances" were framed for the internal regulation of the guilds at the time of their formation by the most influential members. Such ordinances were (1) religious; (2) social and charitable; (3) industrial. Examples of the first class were rules for the attendance of the members at the services of the church, for the promotion of pilgrimages, and for the celebration of masses for the dead; examples of the second, ordinances relating to common meals and the relief of poor brethren and sisters; examples of the third, regulations as to the hours of labour, the processes of manufacture, the wages of workmen, and technical education.
The Inns of Court and Chancery and Serjeants' Inn were probably originally bodies in some respects similar to the guilds, though not corporate bodies. (fn. 6)
Charters were granted by Edward III. or Richard II. to many of the Companies. Such grants were made for valuable consideration. Succeeding sovereigns renewed the charters down to the time of the accession of the House of Hanover. The sum paid by the companies to the national exchequer in respect of the original and inspeximus charters seems to have been very considerable. (fn. 7)
The terms of the charters are in most cases obviously founded on the ordinances. They recognise the guilds as existing, "administered," to quote the words of the Bishop of Chester, "by their own officers, and administering their own property in the usual way, the aldermen of the guilds holding the estates when the guilds possessed estates direct from the King." (fn. 8) The hospitals and Inns of Court of London and many provincial guilds received their first charters about the time of the incorporation of the London companies, and inspeximus charters afterwards in the same way at the commencement of each reign.
On their incorporation the companies of London, like all incorporated bodies, became amenable to the processes of scire facias and quo warranto; but there is nothing in their history from the time of their incorporation to the present day to warrant the supposition that they could ever have been legally dissolved. From the time when the State recognised their existence, the only obligation of the governing bodies, which succeeded the "aldermen" or head men, has been to carry out, so far as has been practicable having regard to change of times, the terms of the charters and byelaws, and to apply the trust funds to the purposes for which they were bequeathed. The corporate property of the companies, as distinguished from that which they hold as trustees for charitable purposes, has always been in the eye of the law their own, just as much as if the companies were private individuals.
A licence in mortmain was contained in most of the charters, and some of the charters of inspeximus contain lists of the lands held by the companies at the time they were granted, and expressly recognise the title of the companies thereto; (fn. 9) but licences of mortmain were not of much importance as regards the companies of the city of London, for by the immemorial custom of the City "free burgage" lands, i.e., lands held, as stated, "direct from the Crown," could be devised to corporations without any limitation as to value. At the time of their incorporation, and for centuries afterwards, land was throughout England the principal kind of property, and it was only natural that, having the advantage of this custom of the City, the Companies should soon become, as they in fact did become, large holders of real property within the walls of London. (fn. 10)
Their constitution was always aristocratic. The administrators, who are generally named in the first charters, were the principal capitalists and employers of labour, or else distinguished citizens not connected with commerce or manufactures, and by the terms of the charters these boards had complete control over the associations. Some of these, such as the Mercers' and Grocers' Companies, appears to have consisted, to a great extent, of merchants and wholesale dealers; others, such as the Fishmongers' Company, and the other companies deriving their names from trades, of shopkeepers and their apprentices; others, such as the Goldsmiths' Company, the Clothworkers' Company, and the other companies deriving their names from "arts and mysteries," of master manufacturers and artizans. But, the names of the companies are misleading, for the reasons that (1), from time immemorial the privileges of membership of a London company have been hereditary, one mode of admission having always been by patrimony, which causes the right to the freedom to descend to all the lineal descendants, male and female (fn. 11) of every freeman; (2), from time immemorial a system of apprenticeship has entered into the constitution of the companies, under which members of the companies, irrespective of whether they were or were not members of the trades the names of which were borne by the companies, were privileged to receive apprentices. These reasons have caused the companies to consist largely of non-craftsmen from the earliest times, and the proportion of non-craftsmen seems always to have been particularly large among the administrators or governing bodies. (fn. 12)
The charters, particularly the later ones, generally extend the area of the trade control assumed by the companies in their original state as guilds. Under some the companies acquire power to prevent persons from carrying on their callings without belonging to a company, and powers of searching for and destroying defective wares within a radius of several miles from St. Paul's. It is needless to say that monopolies and powers of search of this description are contrary to law, and that the companies never really received from the Crown either of these privileges. From the time of their incorporation, however, down to a period which is difficult exactly to fix, they exercised them within the City and its liberties; never, probably in the more extended area over which by virtue of some of the more recent charters they acquired a nominal control. (fn. 13)
Their decay as trade organizations had certainly commenced at the outset of the 16th century; and probably by the end of it they had practically ceased to be of any use for industrial purposes. (fn. 14)
The period of the cesser of the connection of the companies with the trade and manufactures of London is approximately that of the Reformation, and as Catholicism was of the essence of their religious rules, at the time when they ceased to have any control over the trades and industries from which they took their names, they also ceased to be in any real sense religious fraternities. Thus, of their three original functions two, those of common worship and association for commercial purposes, became obsolete about four centuries ago. Their remaining function, that of hospitality and charity, has since this period been the only one which it has been possible for them to discharge. It appears (fn. 15) to us to be important to insist on this side of the case. We think that one of the results of this Commission has been to prove very clearly that for the last four hundred years the companies of London have been mainly what they are at the present day, viz., associations identified in name with-trade and manufactures, but whose real objects have been rather hospitality and benevolence. They have certainly received charter after charter from Your Majesty's Royal predecessors at periods when such associations could not possibly have been called into existence for any other purposes.
The companies are at the present day possessed of a large corporate and trust estate, the principal element in which is a considerable amount of land let on building leases in the City of London. With respect to that portion of it which is corporate property, the companies have in their returns, while giving full information as to the situation and rental of the property, protested (fn. 16) against this part of the inquiry as illegal. It is obvious that the companies are perfectly justified in making this protest, for their corporate property is as much their own, and with as full a right of disposition in the eye of the law, as that of any private individual, and the Crown has no more right to inquire into the mode in which it was acquired and the way in which the income arising from it is spent, than it has to make similar inquiries with respect to the estate or income of a landed gentleman or merchant.
The returns, however, of the companies, the Reports of the Charity Commissions appointed between 1818 and 1837, the Reports of Your Majesty's present Inspectors of Charities, and the proceedings which have taken place in Chancery in respect of the informations filed by Attorney-Generals against the companies contain jointly a considerable store of information on the subject of the nature and origin of the corporate estate of the London companies. Of such information the following is a summary:—
1. There can be little doubt that some of the first property acquired by the companies must have consisted of the sites of their original halls. The land was probably bought and the halls built out of contributions made for the purpose by existing members. The sites of some (not by any means of all (fn. 17) ) of their original almshouses were probably similarly acquired.
2. There is a strong probability that a large amount of the corporate savings of the different companies, i.e., monies arising from fees and fines as hereinafter explained, was in the earliest times invested in the purchase of building land in the City. Such purchases would of course have been impossible apart from the custom of the City, which dispensed with the necessity of a licence in mortmain in the case of land held in free burgage. The amount of land in respect of which the companies have obtained licences in mortmain seems to be comparatively small. On the contrary the amount purchased under the custom outside the licences seems to have been large, and we think it probable that much of this was paid for out of the accumulations of the contributions of then existing members, or members very recently deceased, to the common purse. (fn. 18)
3. The Fire of London for a time ruined the City Companies. Their halls, almshouses, and schools, and almost all their house property in the City was destroyed. At this time the charities of which the companies were trustees were not nearly so numerous as at present; but they were still even then both numerous and opulent, and the income which supported them consisted almost entirely of rents and rentcharges. Fire insurance was unknown at the time, and the expense of repairing the ravages of the fire was borne solely by the companies without State or municipal aid. There is no doubt that the then existing members made large contributions out of their private means for this purpose. The principal persons connected with the companies were determined that their schools and almshouses should not be closed, and to prevent this they subscribed a very large sum. These persons may be regarded as the second founders of the companies, which must have become extinct, along with all their great charities, without their assistance. The present income, both corporate and trust, of the companies is really the interest of the capital which was thus invested. At the time when the house property of the companies was rebuilt they had long ceased to have any connection with the trades which they originally to some extent represented, and were precisely what they are now—private associations having for their main objects charity and hospitality. The companies did not recover from the effects of the fire, to which must be added the impoverished condition produced by State exactions, till the middle of the last or even the commencement of the present century. (fn. 19)
4. The lands of the City companies, or rather the rent-charges issuing thereout, which were confiscated by the State at the time of the Reformation as being held to superstitious uses, were purchased back from the Crown in the time of Edward VI. The purchase money was probably to a great extent subscribed by then existing members out of their own pockets. In any case it is clear law that all such property is the absolute property of the purchasers, with as unlimited a power of disposition as if it belonged to private individuals. (fn. 20) A very large amount of the City house property of the companies was thus acquired.
5. The Ulster estate of the City companies was also acquired by purchase from the Crown, in the reign of James I. The money with which it was bought consisted of the subscriptions of existing members. At the time of the purchase there can be no doubt that the companies were constituted precisely as they are at present, and there is no pretence for suggesting that the land was conveyed subject to any express or implied trust, or that it passed to the companies otherwise than as their absolute property, with as unlimited power of disposition as if it had been conveyed to private individuals. (fn. 21)
6. After the Reports of the Charity Commissions, which sat between 1818 and 1837, a number of informations were filed by the Attorney-General against the companies, mainly, it would appear, at the instance of the parochial authorities of the City, who laid claim to the increment of certain rents as being charitable income available for the relief of the poor. The result of the litigation was that the companies succeeded in almost every case in demonstrating their clear legal right to deal with the increment as in every respect their own. (fn. 22)
Since Your Majesty's present Inspectors of Charities have reported there have been two cases in Chancery which have attracted some attention—the Merchant Taylors' Company v. the Attorney-General (Donkin's Charity) (fn. 23), and the Attorney-General v. the Wax Chandlers' Company (Kendall's Charity) (fn. 24). In the former case the Merchant Taylors' Company were plaintiffs. On Mr. Hare, one of Your Majesty's Inspectors of Charities, mentioning to the court of the company that he had some doubt as to the increment of the rents left under the will being corporate income, the company at once took the best available legal opinion, and finding that counsel agreed with Mr. Hare, they instituted a suit claiming a declaration that the whole rent of Donkin's estate was trust as opposed to corporate income and subject to the specific payments mentioned in Donkin's will. This claim was granted in the Court of First Instance by Lord Romilly, then Master of the Rolls, and in the Court of Appeal this ruling was affirmed, the Lord Chancellor, however, Lord Hatherley, describing the case "as one of very great nicety," in which he arrived at a conclusion "with considerable hesitation." (fn. 25) The information against the Wax Chandlers' Company, was not, it is true, a friendly suit, but the case was one of extreme difficulty, and the decision of the House of Lords declaring the increment to belong to the charity as opposed to the company has been much canvassed.
We think it clearly appears from the history of this litigation, which commenced in 1837 and has only just ended, (1) that the courts of the companies, as might be' expected from bodies of honourable men, have had their titles carefully investigated in all doubtful cases; (2) that it is certain that the law officers of the Crown would at the present time direct few, if any, proceedings in Chancery, if they were granted inspection of all the title deeds of the companies.
We desire to add: (1) That the reports of the first Charity Commissioners are very favourable to the companies. The points made use of at their suggestion in the informations were of an abstruse and technical kind, arising on the construction of obscurely expressed wills, and the Commissioners never imputed to the companies anything worse than an erroneous interpretation of difficult language. They speak also in the highest terms of the liberality of the companies as regards their charities. (2) That the Reports of Your Majesty's present Inspectors of Charities are perhaps even more favourable, and show that the courts were between the years 1860 and 1865, as the returns show that they are at the present time, excellent bodies of trustees, who spend far more than they are bound to spend on the charities which they administer. (fn. 26)
We have thought it right to lay the above facts before Your Majesty and before the public, because the position of the companies of the City has been in our opinion greatly misunderstood, and because we conceive that the result of this inquiry has been to establish a moral no less than a clear legal right on the part of the bodies which have been the subject of it to be allowed to retain the complete control of their corporate or private property.
Some misconception also appears to us to prevail as to the attitude assumed by the companies towards the Municipal Commission appointed by Your Majesty's Royal predecessor King William IV. in 1834. Many of the companies gave the Commissioners a full account of their charters, byelaws, and general constitution, but declined to answer questions put by the Commissioners relating to their corporate, i.e., as we have explained, their private property. Such questions were clearly ultra vires for the reasons above given, (fn. 27) and the refusal of the companies was perfectly justifiable. Some of the companies refused altogether to answer the questions of the Commissioners, and they were, in our opinion, justified in so doing, as there was no pretence for regarding them as within the purview of a "Municipal Commission," for the reason that these bodies are not at law "municipal corporations," nor in any sense an integral part of the municipality of the City of London. (fn. 28)
2. The second part of your Majesty's Commission relates to the constitution of the companies of the City and the privileges enjoyed by the members. The organisation of the companies is really a matter of public knowledge. Their charters and byelaws were carefully examined by the Municipal Commissioners appointed in 1834, and are set out at length in the valuable Appendix to that Report, from which it is obvious that the courts or governing bodies have always striven to abide by the spirit and even the letter, wherever it is possible, of these instruments. Of course they contain much that is archaic and impossible nowadays to carry out. The same careful observance of their charters and byelaws, in so far as they affect the companies as associations for the promotion of charity and hospitality, is visible in those parts of the returns received by us which are addressed to this subject.
As to privileges, the companies consist partly of mere freemen, who are as a rule artisans, partly of liverymen, who are members for the most part of the middle class, and who pay a considerable fee to the common purse on "taking out their livery."
It is certain that there are 10,000, and there may very possibly be 15,000 freemen, members of the working classes, who mostly pursue their callings in London. The only privilege which they enjoy is a claim to charitable relief in case they or their widows or orphan daughters fall into poverty or other undeserved misfortune. The relief of poor members, their widows, and orphans was undoubtedly one of the chief objects of the foundation of the companies, and it is regarded by all the courts as a principal duty. Not only the trust incomes, but also the private incomes of the companies are available for this purpose, with the result that many poor members are thereby prevented from becoming a charge on the parochial rates.
Misfortune is not confined to the artisan class, and liverymen, of whom there are 7,000, their widows and orphans, are as much entitled as freemen or freewomen to relief out of the companies' funds; but it is a rule in, as we believe, all the companies that a liveryman must always give up his livery, his fine being returned to him, at the time when his petition is sent in.
Great pains appear to be taken by the companies to prevent imposition, and we believe that their internal charity relieves in a delicate manner much undeserved misfortune. (fn. 29)
A place upon the court of one of the more prominent companies is a position of some dignity and influence, but it is not reached till after many years of membership, nor without considerable expense in the payment of fees (1) on entrance; (2) on "call" to the livery; and (3) on promotion to the court and to office, which is always taken by a new member of a court. (fn. 30) Members of the courts are the hosts, and have a place at all the entertainments of the companies; but the sum spent on the entertainments to which a liveryman of one of the opulent companies is invited often represents little more than the interest of his livery fine; while there are many companies which have absolutely no corporate income, except such as arises from the accumulations of the contributions of past and present members. We think it probable that of the 7,000 liverymen, about half receive nothing in any way from inherited funds, though their contributions in fines and fees amount to a very considerable sum.
The three modes of admission—patrimony, apprenticeship, and redemption—are of great antiquity, and are essential features in the constitution of the companies of the City of London. The Reports of Your Majesty's Inspectors of Charities make it impossible to doubt that the courts, which consist of persons who have entered the companies by these means, are admirable boards of trustees, and this circumstance, coupled with the entire satisfaction with the proceedings of the courts which the liverymen at large show, appears to prove that this constitution works well in practice.
3. The third part of your Majesty's Commission relates to the salaries of the officers and servants of the companies of London, and the mode in which such persons are appointed. The returns show that the stipends and salaries of the companies' officers are paid almost wholly out of the private income of the companies. (fn. 31) This circumstance would, in our opinion, justify us in passing the matter over. But, as our colleagues have not adopted this course, we think it right to state that the few really highly-paid officials who are in the employment of the companies hold positions of importance, and are professional men of ability, who could easily have found equally remunerative occupations. With respect to "court fees," i.e., the payments which are made to members of the governing bodies of the companies for their attendance at the meetings which are held for business purposes, these too (fn. 32) are taken almost entirely out of the private income of the companies. In several of the companies no fees are paid, in many fees only of a nominal amount, and in the cases in which fees of more than a nominal amount are paid there is usually a considerable amount of important business transacted at the meetings.
4. The fourth part of Your Majesty's Commission relates to the sources of the corporate and trust income of the companies, the capital value of their property, their administration of it, and the mode in which the income arising from it is expended.
As to the origin of the corporate or private estate of the companies we beg to refer to the previous part of this Report. The corporate estate consists of (1), the companies' halls and a large amount of house property in the City of London purchased by the companies with their own private funds in the market in the ordinary way; (2), a large amount of house property in the City of London purchased as private property from the Crown; (3), rents of houses or ground rents in the City of London on which there are in some cases fixed or proportionate charges for the support of charities, such rents being clearly as a matter of law their private property; (4), an estate in Ulster purchased as private property from the Crown; (5), a considerable sum invested in the funds and other securities representing (1) the price of lands the private property of the companies which have been sold for the purposes of public improvements, (2) accumulations of fees paid to the common purse by present or past members; (6), a considerable amount of plate, almost all presented by past or present members. This corporate estate is, in our opinion, clearly in the strictest sense of the term the private property of the companies, as they have themselves stated in their returns, and we are glad to say that our views have received confirmation from a legal authority of the highest rank, the present Lord Chancellor, who did us the honour to come before us as a member of a deputation, representing the City and Guilds of London Technical Institute. (fn. 33)
With respect to the way in which the income arising from this private property is expended, we cannot do better than quote the following passage from a letter addressed to us by the Mercers' Company, the first of the "great" companies of London in order of civic precedence. "As regards the mode in which the company's income is expended, the company trust that the same sense of the duties attaching to the possession of property which has hitherto guided them in the administration of their own will continue to do so; and they venture to think that in this respect they have no reason to fear a comparison with the most liberal among the wealthy nobility and gentry of the realm. But considering this point to be one affecting themselves only, they decline to notice either the censure or the commendation which may have been expressed by others in reference to it." (fn. 34)
These remarks appear to be very just; but we cannot but think that the returns of the companies with respect to their private expenditure on public and benevolent objects, will, when laid before the public, be found to merit commendation rather than censure. There prove to be several companies which devote half their private income to such objects, and the proportion of the private incomes of most of the companies which is thus spent is very considerable.
Moreover, we consider that in the selection of the public and benevolent objects which they support, the companies show remarkable judgment. Their first thought appears to be of the charities which they administer as trustees, and which in the 17th century they saved from destruction. Many of these are at present in debt to them to a large extent, and have been converted from poor into comparatively rich foundations. (fn. 35) They also largely support education in all its branches. They have founded several schools, and have recently formed the above-mentioned City and Guilds of London Technical Institute, which has for its object the promotion of that most important object, technical education, in London and the provinces. They also, as is well known, contribute largely to the charities of London.
As to the trust estate of the companies, it supports upwards of one thousand charities, and Your Majesty's Inspectors appear to be of opinion that no charities in England are better administered. (fn. 36)
As regards both these estates, not only did the financial difficulties above alluded to (fn. 37) continue up to a comparatively recent date, but the income of the companies probably did not become considerable till about 50 years ago, when a large number of building leases in the city fell in, and it became possible for the guilds to raise the ground rents of their city property so as to participate in its increased value.
The Irish estate of the companies, in the purchase of which they sank in the reign of James II. an amount of their private capital which for the time was extremely large, did not become really remunerative till an even later period.
Nothing can be more admirable than the conduct of the London companies with respect to these Ulster lands (fn. 38). They found them a desert, and by their care and munificence they have made them one of the most prosperous parts of the United Kingdom (fn. 39). Indeed they may be said to have founded at their own expense the loyal province of Ulster, a service to the Crown perhaps without a parallel, except the service rendered by the Honourable East India Company (fn. 40).
In times past when their incomes were small, the chief companies always devoted a substantial portion of them to public objects, and their expenditure upon such objects appears to have grown in proportion to the growth of their revenues. Thus in 1822, the Goldsmiths' Company, whose income was not then large, founded six exhibitions of 20l. a year, three tenable at Oxford, three at Cambridge. The Company has since then gradually increased the number and value of its exhibitions, till at the present time it has 75 exhibitions, each of the value of 50l. a year, tenable at the two Universities. We believe that, if the matter were inquired into, many examples of the same steady increase in their annual contributions to public objects would be found in the recent history of the London companies. The Fishmongers, Grocers, Ironmongers, Clothworkers, and several of the minor Companies have similarly increased their exhibitions, or have founded exhibitions out of their private means. Indeed the Companies largely subsidize in this respect the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and also University and King's College, London, two bodies which appeared before us by deputations.
They also support, to a considerable extent, out of their private income between 30 and 40 schools, some classical schools, e.g. St. Paul's (fn. 41), Merchant Taylors' Schools (fn. 42), Tunbridge School (fn. 43), Aldenham School (fn. 44), and Great Crosby School (fn. 45), others, middle class schools, such as those admirable institutions, Bancroft's Hospital (fn. 46) the Aske Schools (fn. 47), and the Grocers' Middle Class School at Hackney Downs. These schools are distributed over 14 or 15 counties, and not less than 12,000 scholars are educated at them. Mr. Matthew Arnold, who has had much experience as one of your Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, and who has interested himself greatly in the promotion of "middle class" education, has stated to us his opinion that the Companies of London have done much useful service in this respect. We have also received a favourable account of these schools from the Secretary of the Cambridge Local Examination Board (fn. 48).
To the support given by the Companies of London to Technical Education we have already alluded; and to the City and Guilds of London Technical Institute, a body which sent a deputation before us, consisting of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Selborne), Sir F. Bramwell, F.R.S., and the late Mr. Spottiswoode, then President of the Royal Society, accompanied by the three secretaries, Mr. Watney (fn. 49), Mr. Sawyer (fn. 50), and Mr. Owen Roberts (fn. 51), gentlemen who have done much to promote the objects of the undertaking.
This body was founded in 1878 by a committee sitting at Mercers' Hall and composed of Lord Selborne, Sir F. Bramwell, F.R.S., Sir Sydney Waterlow, and other members of the principal companies, together with representatives of the City of London. In the autumn of this year the committee communicated with and received reports on the subject of technical education from six gentlemen of great scientific or practical knowledge of the question, viz., Sir William Armstrong, F.R.S., Mr. G. T. C. Bartley, Lieut.-Colonel Donnelly, Captain Douglas Galton, F.R.S., Professor Huxley, F.R.S., and Mr. H. Trueman Wood.
All the reports agreed in suggesting the establishment in London of a Central Institution or Technical University in London for training technical teachers and providing instruction for advanced students in applied art and science. The reports also for the most part recommended the establishment of elementary schools of science and art in London and the chief towns, and the encouragement of technical study by means of laboratories, scholarships, and courses of lectures.
1. The diffusion, among artizans and others occupied in trades and manufactures, of sound instruction in those kinds of theoretical and practical knowledge which bear upon the different branches of industry, whether manufactures or arts.
2. Adequate provision for the training and supply of teachers qualified to give such instruction; and for the establishment of schools or isolated classes, to which the industrial population may have ready access; and, further, for a proper system of examinations whereby the work done in the schools and classes may be tested.
3. The organisation of arrangements for effecting the apprenticeship of scholars of merit in the branches of industry for which they show aptitude; for enabling such scholars to continue their studies beyond the ordinary school age, by means of exhibitions; and for opening to the rest of them a career as teachers or as original workers in applied science." (fn. 52)
In the autumn of 1878, the Mercers', Drapers', Fishmongers', Goldsmiths', Salters', Ironmongers', Clothworkers', Armourers', Cordwainers', Coopers', Plaisterers', and Needlemakers' Companies agreed to provide about 12,000l. a year out of their private funds for these purposes, and the "the City and Guilds of London Institute for the advancement of technical education," was provisionally constituted with the following objects, viz., (1) the foundation of a central institute in London for technical education, (2) the establishment of or assistance to, trade schools in London and the provinces, (3) technological examinations, (4) grants in aid of existing institutions having for their object technical education.
In the year 1879 the institute was incorporated. In this year the Council commenced negotiations for the purchase of a site for the Central Institute, established (1) Technical classes in connexion with the Middle Class Schools, Cowper Street, Finsbury, (2) a department of applied fine art at the Lambeth School of Art, and took over (fn. 53) the examinations in technological subjects which had hitherto been carried on by the Society of Arts. It also subscribed to several existing institutions, such as the British Horological Institute, Clerkenwell; the London School of Wood Carving; the Mining Association of Devon and Cornwall; the Nottingham Trade and Science Schools; the Artizans' Institute, St. Martin's Lane; the Birkbeck Institute Building Fund; and the Lancashire and Cheshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes Technical Education Fund; and added to the stipends of the professors of mechanical and chemical technology at University College, London, and founded a professorship of applied Art and a professorship of Metallurgy at King's College, London.
During the year 1880 the corporation continued its negotiations for a site in South Kensington for the Central Institute, and obtained an estimate of the cost of a building suited, as regards class-rooms, workshops, and laboratories, to the technical teaching of (1) chemistry, (2) physics, (3) mechanics, (4) art. The estimated cost of such a building was 76,000l. A building fund was formed, and four companies, the Fishmongers', Goldsmiths', Clothworkers', and Cordwainers' Companies, agreed to subscribe upwards of 30,000l. to this fund. It was also resolved to erect a technical college in Finsbury at an expense of 20,000l., as an institution intermediate between the Cowper Street Schools and the Central Institution. (fn. 54)
During this year the effect of the technological examinations of the Institute in the provinces was seen in the interest awakened in the subject of technical education among manufacturers and the members of mechanics' institutes in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Nottingham, Belfast, and other places. The manufacturers in several instances made arrangements for the instruction of the artisans in their employment, and the mechanics' institutes engaged teachers with the assistance of the institute. (fn. 55) The number of students examined increased from 200 in 1879 to upwards of 800 in 1880. (fn. 56) The income of the Institute was materially increased this year by the accession of new companies, and by several of the original companies adding to their subscriptions.
In 1881 a Royal Commission was appointed "to inquire into the instruction of the industrial classes of certain foreign countries in technical and other subjects for the purpose of comparison with that of the corresponding classes of this country, and into the influence of such instruction on manufactures and other industries at home and abroad." The appointment of this important commission, which has just published its report, was to a great extent brought about by the exertions of the London Companies.
During this year the foundation stone of the Central Institution in South Kensington was laid by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, that of Finsbury Technical College by His Royal Highness the lamented Duke of Albany. The sum to be expended on the former was estimated at 70,000l., that on the latter at 35,000l. The number of students at the London colleges, and the number of candidates for diplomas in the technological examinations of the Institute largely increased.
During 1882, the work of the Institute steadily progressed. The report for the year, which is signed by Lord Selborne, as chairman of the Institute, states :—"In reviewing the three great divisions of the Institute's operations, (1) the establishment in the metropolis of a central institution, and of other schools for technical instruction; (2) the examination of candidates in technology, and the encouragement by means of grants to teachers, of technical instruction, as supplementary to the State-aided teaching of pure science; and (3) the subvention in the great manufacturing centres of technical colleges affiliated to the Institute, your Council have every reason to be satisfied with the advance that has been made in each division of their work." During this year the Council received applications for grants in aid of technical schools at Nottingham, Manchester, Middlesborough, Sheffield, Leicester, Bolton, Bradford, and several other provincial towns. Some of these applications were entertained, the promise being in every case "conditional on a sufficient sum of money being subscribed from local sources for the erection and maintenance of an efficient school." During this year also a technical college, towards the building and endowment of which the Clothworkers' Company largely contributed, was opened at Bradford.
From this time to the present the Institute has continued to make steady progress. Finsbury College is now built with a splendid apparatus of physical and chemical laboratories, and affords technical instruction to upwards of a thousand students. The lists of candidates and of subjects in the technological examinations have increased fourfold. Finally, the Central Institute, which is in Exhibition Road, South Kensington, is built and will shortly be opened. All the great companies and most of the minor companies have associated themselves with the Institute, which has an income of 25,000l. a year arising from the private funds of the companies, and has raised, in addition, from the same source for the buildings above mentioned, upwards of 100,000l.
The contributions of the several companies during the period over which the inquiry has extended are to be found in the Returns. We are informed that between 1881 and 1884 they have contributed about 120,000l. to the funds of the Technical Institute.
The companies of London have thus founded in England a system of technical education, a service to the State which it is difficult to over-value, and an undertaking strictly in accordance with their original constitution. (fn. 57)
The companies have recently contributed 13,000l. to the Royal College of Music. The Court of the Fishmongers' Company bore the brunt of the labour of organization in respect of the "International Fisheries' Exhibition," held with so much success last year, and this and other companies made a large contribution to the expenses. They have also made a considerable contribution to the "International Health Exhibition" which is now being held. The Grocers' Company has recently founded a scholarship for "scientific research."
5. The fifth part of Your Majesty's Commission requires us "to consider and report" to Your Majesty "what measures, if any, are expedient and necessary for improving or altering the constitution of the companies or the appropriation or administration of the property or revenues thereof." As regards this part of Your Majesty's Commission, we beg to report to Your Majesty as follows:—
1. The only person of importance who appeared before us to suggest a scheme for reorganising the Companies of London, was Your Majesty's Senior Inspector of Charities, Mr. Hare, and Mr. Hare's scheme, we say it with respect, appeared to all the Commissioners impracticable.
2. We refer as regards the corporate or private property, and corporate or private income of the companies to (1) the law of the land on the subject as explained to us by the Lord Chancellor, according to which this property and this income is as absolutely the companies' own as the property or income of any private person; (2) the circumstances under which this property was acquired as stated in the above historical survey, and also in the evidence of the Lord Chancellor, viz., partly by purchases made out of the private incomes of the companies, partly by gifts "intended (in Lord Selborne's words) to be for the absolute use" (fn. 58) of the companies; (3) to the public spirit shown by the companies of London in past times, and at the present time, in the good use which they have made of their private incomes, in past times in saving their charities from bankruptcy, and in the colonisation of Ulster, at the present time in their support of useful objects, and in particular in the establishment by them of Technical Education, a movement which has revived in the only way possible at the present day the connection of the guilds of London with the arts and manufactures which they formerly represented, and which they will shortly be supporting by means of the Central Institute and its affiliated schools throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
Their property being at law the companies' own, the product partly of their own savings, partly of absolute gifts to them, and the income from it being in great part spent for the public good, we join with the Lord Chancellor in "declining to contemplate" any State interference with this property or with the companies in their administration of the income arising from it.
As regards the trust property of the companies and the charities of which they are the managers, and which are as above stated upwards of one thousand in number, we refer to the facts that (1) their existence at the present day, that is to say, the existence of several great and many small schools, and of eleemosynary charities, in the benefits of which almost every county in England participates, is due to the liberality and public spirit shown by the companies of London in past times; (2) the reports of the early Charity Commissions and those of Your Majesty's present inspectors of charities show that the same liberality and public spirit still exists among the members of the courts of the companies of London.
This part of the companies' property is also under the control of (1) the Chancery Division of Your Majesty's High Courts of Justice; (2) the Charity Commission, and we are not aware that any dissatisfaction exists as to the schemes framed either by the Court or by the Commission. Neither the general reform of the law of trusts nor the reorganization of the Charity Commission is a matter within the scope of the Commission with which we have been entrusted by Your Majesty.
3. It is only right that we should state that if the inquiry in which we have been engaged is to be regarded as a proceeding between our colleague, the honourable and learned Member for Chelsea, acting as a Government prosecutor, and the companies of the City of London, the prosecution has failed, and the companies have been successful. They easily defeated Mr. Firth as regards every part of the case set up by him in his work called "Municipal London," and a motion by Mr. Firth, in favour of disestablishing and disendowing the companies, was rejected in our deliberations by a majority of ten to two. The gentlemen who appeared before the Commission to support Mr. Firth's views were, in our opinion, examined by us ultra vires, as they could not be judged," we say it with respect, to be "competent by reason of their situation, knowledge, and experience, to afford correct information on the subjects of the inquiry" within the meaning of the terms of Your Majesty's Commission.
4. So far as we can judge, no movement whatever exists in London either against the City or against the Livery Companies, and our honourable and learned colleague, Mr. Firth, and the few persons who are associated with him, have never been appointed by the citizens of London to act as their representatives as regards either so-called "Municipal Reform" or any other matters.
(1.) We consider that their recommendation with respect to "restraint of alienation" is invidious and unnecessary. No one supposes that the courts of the London companies are likely to sell and divide their corporate property, even if it were practicable for them to do so, which is itself doubtful, considering that they contain certainly 20,000, more probably 30,000, members, of whom two-thirds are poor persons. Moreover two bodies, not exactly, it is true, " in pari conditione," but of similar constitution, viz., Serjeants' Inn and Doctors' Commons, have actually sold and divided their corporate estates, yet it has never been proposed to apply "restraint of alienation" to the Inns of Court and of Chancery in general. Also nothing can be more unfair than to place the companies of London under a disability which is not to be imposed upon the companies of Bristol, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and the other provincial towns in which mediæval guilds survive.
(2.) We consider that the proposal to limit the validity of the numerous charitable trusts administered by the companies to a period of 50 years from their foundation is unjustifiable and inexpedient. There appears to us to be no pretence for treating the charities of the London companies in any exceptional way, and we are of opinion that the number of new charities would seriously decrease if the law were that the trusts declared by the founders were liable to be pronounced obsolete at the close of so short a period.
(3.) We do not agree with our colleagues as to the necessity for appointing a Royal Commission for the purposes of the reorganization of the constitution of the companies, and the permanent allocation of a part of their corporate incomes to "objects of acknowledged public utility." We think, some of us speaking from experience as members of the courts of companies, that the former purpose is impracticable, as if their constitutions were much modified the London Companies might cease to be what they now are, in the words of the Grocers' excellent minute, (fn. 59) "nurseries of charities and seminaries of good citizens." We also think that "objects of acknowledged public utility" are more likely to be promoted by the spontaneous action of the courts than by schemes forced upon the Companies by a Commission.
(4.) Any person having the slightest knowledge of the London Companies must be aware that patrimony is the very essence of their constitution. But for the hereditary nature of the privileges which they confer, they would probably have long ago ceased to exist, and few new members would now join them. (fn. 60)
(6.) We agree with our colleagues in their recommendation with respect to the publication of the Companies' accounts, and we think the Companies have done right in themselves proposing that they should pay Succession Duty.
The proceedings of this Commission have, we regret to say, been attended with some interference from without, and an incorrect account of the recommendations of our colleagues has appeared in a morning newspaper. The scheme suggested in this account was one which no considerable number of Your Majesty's Commissioners would ever have sanctioned.
I sign this report subject and without prejudice to the protest against the report of the majority of the Commission which I have previously made, but I am unable to agree with the passages relating to the Technical Education movement, of which I do not approve. I also dissent from the above paragraph relating to the publication of accounts.