Memorial XLI: Reports of Royal Commissioners on the Company, 1837

Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.

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'Memorial XLI: Reports of Royal Commissioners on the Company, 1837', in Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London, ed. C M Clode( London, 1875), British History Online [accessed 23 July 2024].

'Memorial XLI: Reports of Royal Commissioners on the Company, 1837', in Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Edited by C M Clode( London, 1875), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024,

"Memorial XLI: Reports of Royal Commissioners on the Company, 1837". Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Ed. C M Clode(London, 1875), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024.


1. Conduct of the Company. Documents.

1. (fn. 2) Upon our first application to the Clerk of this Company we received in reply a letter from him, accompanied by the copies of certain Opinions of Counsel, and Resolutions, (fn. 3) said to be passed at the Court of Assistants, held 24 October 1833, and 14 November 1833, by which they declared that they would meet us with "unqualified resistance"; and in reply to our circular of queries and the request to attend before us at Guildhall, we received a letter of the 3rd October 1834, referring us to the previous communication. No person appeared before us, on our public sittings at Guildhall, on behalf of the Company, to give any information or evidence. The Town Clerk, who attended us as usual, furnished some examples, taken from the City Archives, of the jurisdiction exercised by the City over the Company, which we have printed; and a Liveryman appeared for the purpose of giving information, and also of preferring various complaints. This gentleman had been long engaged in litigation with the Company, and at the time of our inquiry was under prosecution for a libel on the Clerk. He delivered to us a printed copy of an office copy of the Charters of the Company, which we have printed at length, because we found a difficulty in abstracting it, owing to some inaccuracy in the recitals, and several other documents noticed in our statement of his evidence. He also referred us for information to various printed papers (fn. 4) which had been delivered to us, three of which are subscribed by his name; others are anonymous. We have not deemed it expedient to make any use of the printed papers, excepting those portions which consist of documentary evidence, or letters signed with the real names of the parties.

2. Proceedings of Committee of Liverymen against the Company.

2. As introducing the evidence of this witness, it must be stated that, at a festival of the Company, held at the Hall, in August 1830, a discussion arose between the members of the Court and certain members of the Livery, of which discussion the primary cause was a letter, signed "Mercator," circulated by a member of the Livery, in which it was asserted that all executive officers ought to be annually chosen by the body of the Livery, on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, or as near as convenient. In consequence of the proceedings at the festival, a meeting of the Livery of the Merchant Tailors' Company, at which, however, not more than 20 attended, was held.

3. This was shortly followed by another similar meeting, at which several Resolutions were passed, protesting against the self-election of the executive authorities by the Court of Assistants, and against the uncontrolled receipt and disbursement of their revenues and bestowal of their patronage, recommending that funds be raised by subscription, to defray the expenses attendant on the efforts to restore the rights of the Livery, and requesting the co-operation of the other Liverymen. These Resolutions were advertised. The witness who appeared before us acted as Secretary to the meeting, and it appears to have been with reference to these proceedings that he procured much of the information communicated to us. (fn. 5)

4. He delivered to us the copy of an affidavit made by the Clerk to the Company, in the course of the legal proceedings (fn. 6) which we have already mentioned, from which the following account of the constitution of the Company is principally taken. The Company commonly called the Merchant Tailors' Company, is a Corporation, as well by prescription as by Charter. In the 18th year of King Henry VII., a Charter was granted by that King, purporting therein to grant the same by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal in Parliament, which was duly accepted and acted upon, and is now the governing Charter of the Company. By that Charter the said King did incorporate and confirm and translate the said Master and Wardens and their successors, by and unto the name of the Master and Wardens of the Merchant Tailors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist, in the City of London; and power was given to them and their successors to increase and admit Members into the said Fraternity, from time to time; and all the lands, tenements, rents, reversions, services and property of every description, real as well as personal, and all liberties, franchises, privileges, and grants, which the said Master and Wardens, or their predecessors, or the men of the said Mysteries, had before held, possessed or enjoyed, were thereby granted to the said Corporation of the Master and Wardens and their successors, by their now name, and they were thereby in and by that name authorized to purchase, receive, grant, alien and demise, lands and possessions, to sue and be sued, and to make Statutes and Ordinances for the good government, overlooking, scrutiny and correction, of the said Mysteries, and of the men of the said Fraternity, when and as often as necessity should require.

5. The Clerk in this Affidavit further states, that by the same Charter the Guild or Fraternity of Tailors and Armourers of the Linen Armoury of St. John the Baptist, in the City of London, were also incorporated, confirmed and translated by and into the name of the Guild of Merchant Tailors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist, in the City of London, and virtue of the same Charter or of former Charters, the Members of the said Fraternity as such, and by becoming eiher Freemen or Liverymen of the same, become entitled to and in fact enjoy many benefits and privileges, municipal and mercantile, in the City of London, and also become liable in the matters provided for by the said Charter, and by legal Bye-laws, from time to time duly made under the authority of the same, to the control and government of the said Corporation of Master and Wardens of the said Fraternity.

6. From the date of the earliest documents in the possession of the Master and Wardens down to the present time, a period of 340 years and upwards, there appears to have existed in the said community a certain body, varying in number, but not falling below 24, called Assistants or Counsellors, the Members of which appear to have been from the earliest period, and still are, Past Masters and others elected from the Liverymen or Freemen of the said Fraternity; and the right of the election of the Master and Wardens appears, from the earliest periods in which any evidence can be procured on the subject, to have been in the Master and Wardens, and Assistants elected as above-mentioned; the time, manner and other ceremonies of the elections are described and recognized as then existing by the earliest Bye-laws, as well as by the Book of Ordinances now in the possession of the Master and Wardens.

7. It appears from the records which are extant from 1488 to the present time, with the exception of two intervals from 1493 to 1562 and from 1663 to 1672, that the electors for the office of Master have always been the Master, Wardens, and Past Masters, or the Master and Past Masters of the said Fraternity, Members of the said Court of Assistants, and the electors of the Wardens have always been the Master and Wardens and Court of Assistants generally, and that in no case has the general body of Freemen or Liverymen, as such, interfered in such elections.

8. The electors of the Assistants, according to the earliest records, have uniformly been the Master, Wardens, and Court of Assistants, who appear in very early times to have elected commonly Past Wardens into the office, at other times to have elected members from the body of Freemen and Liverymen at once upon the Court of Assistants, without appointing them to any other post or office at the time, and in later years to have elected the person or persons who may happen to be chosen Wardens from the body of the Livery, at the same time mem bers of the Court of Assistants, which last-mentioned practice is that which now prevails, and has prevailed, as appears by the said records, with very few exceptions, for the last 150 years and upwards; and the Clerk believes there is nothing in the constitution or usages of the said Fraternity to prevent such elections being made at the freewill of the said Master and Wardens of the said Court of Assistants.

9. Of the 39 members which compose the present Court of Assistants, six had been from 20 to 30 years, nineteen from 15 to 20 years, nine from 12 to 15 years, and one 11 years and upwards, Liverymen of the said Fraternity, before their election into the said Court, and the remaining four members of the Court, who were Liverymen of the Company, were elected on the said Court immediately after their appointment as Aldermen of the City of London, in pursuance of an old-established custom; and among the said 39 members there are only eight who are related to each other by blood and marriage.

10. The Clerk admits that the Master and Wardens, but not the Fraternity, do possess property, real and personal, to a large amount, which has been given or bequeathed to them, from time to time, principally by individuals formerly Masters or Wardens, or Members of the Court of Assistants, part of which property has been given or bequeathed to them absolutely, and to be disposed of at their own free will, other part of which they hold as trustees, for purposes wholly unconnected with the Fraternity, other part specifically for the repair and sustentation of the Hall and premises of the said Master and Wardens, and the remainder as Trustees for charitable purposes; and that besides the property above-mentioned, the Master and Wardens receive, from time to time, certain fees and fines from the Members of the Fraternity upon their admission, and on other occasions, as hereinafter mentioned.

11. The Clerk states, that the only church patronage in the gift of the said Master and Wardens, or of the said Company or Fraternity, consists of the Rectory of St. Martin's Outwich, London, in which parish great part of Merchant Tailors' Hall is situate, and a Lectureship of the value of 75l. 8s. 4d. per annum, both of which are in the gift of the said Master and Wardens, and are usually bestowed upon the masters of the Merchant Tailors' School, of which the Master and Wardens are the patrons and special visitors, which was established in the year 1561, by the Master, Wardens, and Court of Assistants of that day, and has ever since been maintained by the Master and Wardens out of the estates, of which they are the absolute owners; and that no specific fund, provision, or other endowment, has been left, bequeathed, or set apart for its support, with the exception of a small sum of 8l. per annum, left for providing refreshments for the Masters and Examiners of the said School, during the progress of certain examinations, which take place on two days in the year; and of another small sum of 1l. 6s. 8d. paid to and divided among the four Masters of the said School on each of the probation days in the year.

12. The Master and Wardens expend out of their estates a large sum of money annually, towards the support of the said School; which is not, nor has it ever been since its first establishment, confined to children of Freemen or Liverymen of the said Fraternity, but is open to the children of any man.

13. There are 37 scholarships or fellowships in St. John's College, Oxford, which are supplied from the said School as vacancies occur therein, by the Master and Wardens and Court of Assistants, with the assent of the President and Senior Fellows of the said College, on the 11th of June in every year, pursuant to the statute of Sir Thomas White, the founder of the said College, who was himself a Liveryman of the said Fraternity, and a Member of the said Court of Assistants, and also successively a Warden and Master; there are also several other scholarships and exhibitions which have been left for the benefit of scholars educated in Merchant Tailors' School, and others educated in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. None of all these scholarships are confined or limited to the sons of Freemen and Liverymen of the Fraternity, who, as such, possess no advantage in the School or at the College over the sons of any other individual or citizen.

14. The Master, Wardens, and Court of Assistants possess, and have on numerous occasions exercised the power from the earliest periods, of varying the Fine payable on the admission of Freemen to the Livery of the Company.

15. It appears by the records of the said Master and Wardens, that in ancient times, the Master and Wardens required such Freemen of the Company as were of ability to take up their Livery, to do so, and imposed upon them such fines, and also assessed upon the Fraternity at large such sums of money as they thought proper, for the purpose of raising sums of money required to meet any particular exigency, in preparing costly pageants and entertainments on extraordinary occasions.

16. Besides the fines paid by Freemen on their admission to the Livery, the new Livery were charged with providing certain of the entertainments given at the Hall, not only to the Livery, but also the entertainment given to the President and Senior Fellows of St. John's College, Oxford, on the annual election, and on other occasions; and each Liveryman in his turn kept what was termed the Steward's Dinner.

17. From two to six members of the Livery were appointed for each dinner, which they provided at their own costs and charges; the number of the persons so appointed stewards varying according to the size and nature of the entertainment, and the Master and Wardens, when the expense was heavy, sometimes contributed towards it.

18. The Master and Wardens also possessed, and exercised at various times from a very remote period, the power of making the Livery and Freemen contribute with themselves, such sums as they might think proper to assess upon them, to raise supplies for Government to furnish troops and equipments for the purposes of the State, and to advance, by way of loan, to successive Sovereigns, large sums of money, for which they were often solicited, but seldom or never repaid.

19. The Livery were also from time to time assessed to the payment of corn money, (fn. 7) being a fund applied in the purchase of corn, as a provision against any scarcity or famine.

20. It appears, that it frequently happened that Liverymen applied to be excused, and were excused from keeping the said Steward's Dinner, upon payment of a fine, fixed at the discretion of the Master, Wardens and Assistants, and that this fine varied from time to time, until at length the practice of requiring the Livery to keep the Steward's Dinner was discontinued, and a fine was in all cases taken in lieu thereof.

21. The fines thus taken from the Livery were and are applicable to defraying the expense of the several dinners, which the new members in former times were wont to provide, and that three dinners are now annually provided by the Master and Wardens for the entertainment of the Livery, who were permitted, within certain limits, and with the permission of the Master and Wardens for the time being, to invite their friends; Towards James I.'s journey from Scotland and Coronation, the Company contributed 234l. See Appendix D (3), p. 589. and that each of the said dinners costs the Master and Wardens from 400l. to 500l., but that the average receipt of the Master and Wardens during the last six years, in respect of the Livery fines, does not exceed 600l. per annum.

22. The Freemen of the said Company are not, nor have they been for many years past, required to take up their Livery, but are suitors for it; and it has been for many years past the invariable custom, before any Freeman is admitted to the Livery of the said Fraternity, for him to procure himself to be proposed for that purpose by a member of the Court, and he is then apprized, if considered eligible, of some subsequent Court-day, on which he may attend for the purpose of being put up for election; upon which day, if in attendance, he is called into court before the Master, Wardens and Assistants, when the Master asks him if he be desirous of being admitted on the Livery of the Company, and on his answering in the affirmative, he retires, and a member of the Court proposes him to be elected on the Livery, after which the question being put, it is decided by vote.

23. The applicant, if elected, is then called in, and informed that he has been admitted upon the Livery, upon payment of 75l. fine and the usual fees, amounting together to 80l. 8s., and after having paid this sum, he is sworn and admitted on the Livery.

24. In addition to the above-mentioned fines, the Master and Wardens receive from every member of the Livery, who is elected into the Court of Assistants, a further sum of 105l. on such his election; which is immediately transferred to a certain Pension Fund, which they have voluntarily created to increase their means of relieving members of the same Company, and those relatives of Members who do not come within the scope of the specific Charities of which the Master and Wardens are the Trustees.

25. The sums of money expended by the Master and Wardens in Trusts and Charities exceed the amount they are bound so to apply, which excess of expenditure is borne out of the corporate funds, and the Master and Wardens voluntarily expended out of their corporate cash, about five years ago, the sum of 11,000l. and upwards in the erection of almshouses for the accommodation of 30 poor widows of Freemen and Liverymen of this Company.

26. The Clerk denies that from the earliest period, or at any subsequent period, according to the documents in the posses sion of the said Master and Wardens, which he has examined for this purpose with diligence, the Freemen or the Liverymen of the said Fraternity, as such, ever claimed to exercise, or in fact exercised the right of examining, or taking copies of all or any of the records, books and muniments of the Master and Wardens of the said Fraternity, except as hereinafter mentioned, and also except so far as relates to the books of registration of apprentices and of Freemen of the said Fraternity. and from which it hath been and still is the custom to grant extracts of any specified names and particulars to any individual, whether free of the Fraternity or not, applying for the same, upon the payment of a certain fee to the Clerk. He states the number of Freemen to amount to more than 1,100 as nearly as can be ascertained, and the Livery to 140, exclusive of the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants.

27. The Clerk further states, that it appears from the records of the said Master and Wardens, which contain the proceedings of the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants, that from the 4th Elizabeth, 1562, from which period, with the exception of those for a very few years in the reign of Henry VII., the said Minutes are first preserved, down to the present time, the accounts of the Master and Wardens have been, and are now annually submitted to and audited by a Committee of the Court of Assistants, appointed by the said Court as a Committee of Audit, by which Committee every item of receipt and expenditure is examined and checked with the proper voucher, and that this Committee reports annually to the Master, Wardens and members of the Court of Assistants, at a Court held for that purpose, the result of their examination.

28. No mention appears on the records of any objection being taken to this plan of auditing the Master and Wardens' accounts, nor of the Freemen or Liverymen of the said Company, as such, ever interfering or claiming to interfere in the auditing or allowing of the said accounts, save, that in one instance, in the fifth year of the reign of Henry VII., before the granting of the governing Charter, a new regulation appears to have been made as to certain fees and other payments then customarily paid by, and allowed to the Master for the time being, at a meeting of the then Fraternity at which the Commonalty of the said Mystery is stated to have been present, part of which regulation was afterwards, in the seventh year of the same reign, rescinded and varied by the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants, at a meeting at which the said Commonalty is not stated to have been present.

29. It appears by the said records, that in ancient times the Members of the Fraternity were summoned periodically to the Hall, for the purpose of having their names called over. (fn. 8)

30. In or about the year 1752, an application was made by five Liverymen of the Fraternity to the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants of that day, requesting to inspect and take copies of the Bye-laws of the said Fraternity, whereupon the Master and Wardens caused a Case to be laid before the AttorneyGeneral, Sir Dudley Rider, by whom they were advised not to grant the permission sought for. (fn. 9)

31. About the time of taking such opinion, the said Liverymen had sought to bring the matter under the jurisdiction of the Court of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, to which the Master and Wardens appear to have been unwilling to submit the internal affairs of their Corporation, and the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants, did, with an express reservation of their right, grant a limited permission to the said Liverymen, of the nature prayed for, with a distinct declaration, however, that such permission should not be drawn into precedent; but that no further or other proceedings appear to have been taken by the said Liverymen or any other individual in consequence thereof.

32. It appears from entries in the repertories, to which we were referred by the Town Clerk, that the particulars of this application were as follows: Five of the Liverymen petitioned the Court of the Mayor and Aldermen to order the production of the Bye-laws, stating their belief that they had not been enrolled; that the petitioners had been refused a general inspection of the Bye-laws, but had been informed that they should have notice of any Bye-law before they were called on to observe it; that they were also told that the Clerk had permission to show them the index of the Bye-laws, and that if they would specify which they desired to know the contents of, the Court would consider their application.

33. The Court of Mayor and Aldermen appointed a day for hearing the petition, and ordered the attendance of the Master and Wardens as well as the petitioners. On the day appointed, the Master and Wardens attended, and delivered in a paper signed by their Clerk, in which, with a saving of all their charters and other rights, they said that they had acted as they apprehended according to law, and hoped the Court would not interfere between them and their five members.

34. The Court of Mayor and Aldermen then resolved, that the several Companies of the City are under the government of the Court of Mayor and Aldermen, and adjourned the further consideration of the petition for a fortnight, recommending to the petitioners to apply to see the index, and to demand copies of such as they should desire.

35. On the 30th June 1752, being the adjourned day, the Court was informed by letter from the Clerk of the Company to the Town Clerk, that the five members had inspected the index, and specified certain of the Bye-laws of which the Company had ordered that they should have copies, so that it was apprehended the attendance of the Master and Wardens was no longer necessary. The matter was again adjourned for a fortnight, and no further entry appears of it.

36. These entries are printed, with some others which were produced to us by the Town Clerk, in order to illustrate the nature of the interference which the civic authorities had formerly exercised in the affairs of the Company. (fn. 10)

37. Three dinners are annually given to the Livery of the said Fraternity, and also an entertainment on the 11th of June to the President and Senior Fellows of St. John's College, Oxford, who attend in London on that day, to assist in the election of scholars from the Merchant Tailors' School to the vacant scholarships in their College, on which occasion the noble and honorary Members of the said Fraternity, and other persons of high rank, are invited, pursuant to a practice which has existed ever since the establishment of the School.

38. Besides this dinner, there are also two entertainments given to the Master and Examiners of the Merchant Tailors' School, on the days of public examination of the scholars; and an entertainment to the Master and Wardens of the Skinners' Company, in pursuance of a Decree made by the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen in the year 1484, upon a reference (fn. 11) to them of certain differences which existed between the two Companies, which dinner has been given ever since, except when interrupted by the plague or other inevitable accident, and to all of which entertainments the Master and Wardens, as hath been the custom for centuries past, invite such and so many persons as they think proper.

39. Several Courts and Committees are held throughout the year for the dispatch of the general business of the Company, upon many of which occasions the members are detained from an early hour in the forenoon until four and sometimes five o'clock in the afternoon; that upon Court-days and occasionally, but not frequently, on Committee-days, when thus detained, a dinner is provided for the Members of the Court (fn. 12) or Committee, to which, however, no strangers whatever are invited; the meetings of the Master and Wardens, the Court of Assistants, and the Committees for the dispatching the general business of the Company, amount upon an average of the last three years, to 65 meetings in the year, but the private dinners at the Hall at the Court of Assistants and Committees do not average more than 17 in the year.

40. The only entertainment given on a day not otherwise appropriated to any business of the Company, is an annual dinner at Richmond, the whole expense of which, however, is paid by the new Master and two Renter Wardens.

41. All the foregoing entertainments and dinners, with the exception of the last mentioned, are defrayed out of the fines above-mentioned, and the income left at the disposal of the said Master and Wardens according to their free wills and pleasures, and the rights and privileges of no one connected with, or in any manner interested in the said Fraternity or "Forasmuch as divers of the Assistants, by reason of their age and remote dwelling from the Hall, cannot make their appearance until a good parte of the day be spent, and also by reason the Court of Assistants holdeth so long that they cannot returne home to theire dynners in any convenyent time, doe therefore make default of appearance at many Courts that soe on account of the slender appearance of the Assistants, and theire hasty departing, the business cannot be performed with soe greate deliberation and judgement as otherwise might when the assembly is greater and longer tyme spent aboute the same. It is therefore Ordered and thought fitt that at every Court of Assistants there shalbe a convenient dinner in the Hall, the same to be p'vided by one of the Renter Wardens at the costs of the Company, soe as the charge of suche dinner doe not amounte to more than fforty shillings. And if any more be expended, that then the Renter Wardens shall bear the same at their owne charges, saving only that over and above the fforty shillings the ffynes of such Assistants as shall be absent, shall be collected by one of the Renter Wardens, and added to the charges of the said Dinner."—[May 17, 1606.] its affairs, are in the slightest manner injured or prejudiced thereby.

42. The account of the Company given by the witness who came before us was as follows:

43. The Ruling Body by Charter is the Master and Wardens; there is no mention of the Court of Assistants.

44. The Style is "The Master and Wardens, with the advice of the Court of Assistants." There is one Master, four Wardens, 35 Assistants; the Wardens are a chartered number; they are kept full. There are seldom less than 30 Assistants, but they are not always kept full. The Court is executive and legislative.

45. The Master is elected by the Master, Wardens and Courtof Assistants, from the Wardens and Assistants. The mode of electing is secret; there is no rotation. The Master is chosen for one year. The late Master was a Junior Assistant. He had passed the office of Renter and Upper Warden. The usual practice is to bring a new Member on the Court as Renter Warden and then as Upper Warden, and then he becomes a member of the Court of Assistants. The Charter Day of Election is St. John Baptist's, 24th June. There are two Upper Wardens and two Renter Wardens. After once serving the office of Renter Warden, he is eligible at once to Upper Warden. The Renter Warden has been chosen for many years from the Livery. It was not always so. Our informant believed that since the restoration of Charles there has been no instance of a Freeman not Liveryman being chosen Renter Warden, although a Bye-law, that the Members of the Court of Assistants should take up their Livery, seems to imply that formerly some used not to do so. (fn. 13) Any one chosen on the Court of Assistants, remains on it for life; there is no subsequent election, annual or otherwise. A vacancy is usually filled up within three or four months. Our informant inclines to think that vacancies are not filled up except on the election day of Wardens. There are oaths administered to the Master and Wardens; they are printed in the Returns made to the House of Commons, 24 and 26 March and April 1834, Sess. paper, 153; there are no others. A right has been claimed by several Liverymen, on behalf of the Freemen, to elect the Master. On 8th January 1833, a Rule was applied for and re- fused. Every candidate must be moved and seconded. The office of Warden and Assistant is much sought after, and there are often six or seven applicants for one vacancy. There was an old rule not to admit Members till they had been 14 years on the Livery, but that is not adhered to now. Part of the oath as to secrecy is read on every election. There is an Order of the Court that is read at every meeting. Our informant is not aware that any security is given by Assistants as such; he believes the Master gives security, but he does not know positively. It was stated to be the practice of the Company, as soon as an Alderman gets his gown, to bring him on the Court if his political principles agree with those of the majority; and four Aldermen are now on the Company's Court. Our informant stated this as a reason for not carrying his complaints before the Mayor and Aldermen. There is no open delaration of vacancies. No preference is shown to Members of the Common Council. The Members of the Court are all free of the City. Sir John Silvester, after being chosen Recorder, received the Freedom and Livery, and was raised to the Court of Assistants, not then being, as our informant believes, free of the City. He added, that there is a very strong family connexion in the Court, though the Clerk swears there are only eight who are related by blood or marriage. There are now on the Court many whose grandfathers and great grandfathers were also on it. Our informant cannot trace partnership; there are four of one family, two brothers, a son and son-in-law.

46. Two Members of the Court were discharged in 1810; they were Assistants. Our informant stated, that he found from the Minutes of the Company, that they were discharged for having influenced the election of the Clerk to the Company under the following circumstances: There were 10 applicants for the office of Clerk in 1806; only three were deemed eligible. The whole Court voted. After the succesful candidate had held the office five years, it was found that two of the Court had entered into an agreement to receive a moiety of the profits of his office, previous to his election. He was to allow 300l. per annum to one of those Members, and 150l. survivorship to his wife; the other Member was privy to the bargain, and was a Trustee. A Committee of the Court was appointed to consider the conduct of the Clerk and the two Members, and resolved not to expel the Clerk because of his services, but that he should be reprimanded instead. He continued to hold the office 12 years. The report recommended that the two Members should not in future be summoned as Members of the Court. The parties tendered their resignation on that resolution. The two places in the Court were filled up at the next election, but they were not deprived of their Livery. Some years after, a Member of the Court moved to consider their case, with a view to reinstate them. After discussion, the motion was withdrawn. Our informant stated, that six or seven years after the discovery, the Clerk was found a defaulter to the Company in the sum of 8,000l. The Clerk was continued five or six years longer; one of the Court became bond for him. This discovery was made in 1817. The Clerk got new securities, who gave a bond for 3,000l. He had law charges against the Company, and he was to insure his life to an amount to cover the deficiency, and to place the policy in the hands of the Master and Wardens. Within a month or two after the discovery, the Court passed two Minutes, one giving him a gratuity of 600l., the other increasing his salary from 400l. to 800l., and stating that the 600l. is to go in reduction of the debt due from him to the Company. The salary was several times altered, because the Company paid the policy, and subtracted that from his salary. He continued in office till a second defalcation, and then he was turned out of office. There was a dispute about the bond; and he compromised the 3,000l. by paying 1,000l. The policy had been allowed to drop. The account of this transaction given by the Clerk of the Company, is contained in his affidavit already mentioned, and is as follows:

47. The Deponent admits it to be true, that the Master and Wardens did lose a sum of money through the default of a former Clerk, who had been for many years in that situation, and had acquired the confidence of the said Master and Wardens, and in pursuance of a then old established rule of the Company, had been in the habit of receiving their rents.

48. Shortly after this default was discovered, the necessary means were taken to prevent his receiving any further rents, and the Master and two Renter Wardens have ever since received all rents due to them, and placed the same to an account opened in the names of five Members of the Court of Assistants, of whom the Master for the time being is always one, at the Bank of England.

49. And the Deponent further says, that the same Clerk was allowed to continue in the service of the Master and Wardens some time after his default, and a large portion of his salary, and also his law bills against the Company, for some necessary and expensive proceedings, were retained and placed to the credit of his account with the Company, by which the amount of his debt was considerably reduced; and that in the month of February 1822 he ceased to be Clerk and Solicitor to the Master and Wardens, when a statement of his account with the Master and Wardens was made out, and his sureties were thereupon applied to upon their bond, and contributed towards the said loss as far as they were considered legally responsible.

50. The Deponent further says, that neither the Freemen nor Liverymen, nor any of the individuals receiving alms of the Company, were in the slightest degree prejudiced or injured by the loss, the whole of which fell upon the Corporate Fund belonging exclusively to the Master and Wardens; and that the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants, did curtail their current expenditure, and reduce the number of their public entertainments for some time after and in consequence of the said loss, but that none of the Livery entertainments were curtailed.

51. Our informant was of opinion, that there can be no Byelaws as to non-residence, because nearly one-third of the Court lives away from London, in Dublin, Bath, Canterbury, &c. One of the Court recently became bankrupt; his name is still on the list. He was a Warden; he did not resign the Wardenship. Our informant believes it is considered that a bankrupt or compounder would not be eligible; but that it would not be matter to turn him out.

52. No fines are paid to the Company for coming on the Court. There is a private fund for making charitable allowances, to which our informant believes they now contribute 100l. on coming on the Court. No other payment is made for the office of Warden or Master. The fine for Master is 100l., for Warden 50l. It frequently happens that persons fine off, both for Master and Warden. The offices of Master and Warden used to be considered onerous, but now they are paid for each of their attendances on the Court and Committees; they receive one guinea for each attendance. (fn. 14) It used to happen often that Freemen petitioned to be excused from taking the Livery or serving office; and the petition used to be granted, except as to the office of Master.

53. The officers of the Company are the Clerk, Bedell, Porters, two Bargemasters, Housekeeper, Butler, Toastmaster; they are all elected by the Court of Assistants. The Clerk is the only one who has any important duties to perform. The office is desirable and lucrative. Till the last election, a vacancy was always published. Solicitors have generally been candidates, but it has not been a fixed rule to elect one. The last election is an instance of family influence. The late Clerk's resignation was compulsory. He had been in bad health for several years, and the present Clerk acted as Assistant Clerk. The present Clerk is not related to any Member of the Court. He had been Assistant Clerk during three years. He was appointed by the Court two years after the late Clerk first came into the office. There is an annual re-election of the Clerk and the other officers. Our informant did not know on what day the officers are chosen. The election takes place by ballot, and has been so during the last 70 years.

54. The Freedom of the Company is obtained by Patrimony Servitude and Redemption or Purchase, and by the Gift of the Court. Freemen by Patrimony and Servitude are admitted under the same circumstances as those of the City. The daughters of a Freeman can claim the Freedom under the same circumstances as the sons. There are not many instances in the last 15 years. Our informant remembers no instance of a Freeman claiming to come in as the son of an admitted Freewoman. Anyone wishing to become free of the Company by Redemption, has to apply to two Members of the Court of Assistants, who move and second him, and if considered eligible, he is admitted on payment of 116l. 5s. 8d. The following Table was produced to us as a copy of the Table of Fees, as it hung in the Hall till April 1831:—

"Fines, Fees, and Expenses of Admission to the Freedom and Livery of the Company and binding Apprentices, as regulated by Order of Court, 23rd February 1825.

Company. Clerk. Beadle. Porter. Stamps. Total.
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
Freedom by Servitude, enrolled 0 10 0 1 10 0 0 8 0 0 4 0 1 0 0 3 12 0
Not enrolled 1 0 0 1 10 0 0 8 0 0 4 0 1 0 0 4 2 0
By Patrimony 1 5 0 2 2 0 0 10 0 0 5 0 1 0 0 5 2 0
By Redemption 105 16 8 5 5 0 0 16 0 0 8 0 4 0 0 116 5 8
By Livery 75 0 0 3 10 0 1 4 0 0 14 0 80 8 0
Apprentices, without Premium 1 0 0 1 5 0 0 2 6 0 2 6 2 0 0 4 10 0
Apprentices, with Premium of 50l. and under, additional 0 5 0 0 10 0 All adq. to advalorem.
For every additional 50l.Premium 0 5 0 0 10 0 Ditto.

"It is ordained, that no servant of the Company do, on any account, take any fee whatever beyond those designated in the above Table; that no fee beyond on any petition for the Company's Almshouses, or other charity; and that printed forms be gratuitously furnished.

"J. B. De Mole, Clerk."

55. The Court of Assistants have altered the terms of admission from time to time. In 1705 the Redemption fee was 10 guineas, and so continued till 1795, when it was raised to 30l.; in October 1800, to 70l., and in 1811 to 105l. 16s. 8d. The Clerk gives notice to the applicant of his admission. The purchaser goes before the Master and Wardens, and is admitted by them. No copy of the Freedom is delivered to him. He takes an oath; it is administered to him by the Clerk. Quarterage of 4s. a-year is demanded from all the Freemen. A circular letter was shown to us, dated 1807, calling on parties to show cause why quarterage is not paid, and threatening in default to disfranchise; and no one is allowed to have an apprentice bound to him until the quarterage due is paid up. No quarterage is demanded from the Livery. Apprentices are bound before the Court; notice must be previously given, according to the paper handed in. The Clerk binds in the presence of the Master and Wardens. It is required that the Clerk of the Company should prepare the indentures. They may be bound to any trade. The number of apprentices which Freeman may take is unlimited. The master is required to sign a paper, pledging himself that the service has been duly performed. Parties would not be admitted as redemptioners under defective service. In cases of translation, the apprentices are often allowed the time they served while the master was in his old Company. It also happens that precedency is given to the Freemen as from the time when he became free of the other Company. This is matter of arrangement with the Ruling Body. There is no connexion now whatever between the tailoring trade and the Company There is not one tailor on the Court of Assistants. There are not more than three on the whole Livery of 360.

56. Our informant went with an apprentice in 1830 to take up his Freedom, and 4l. 2s. was demanded from him. He and the apprentice protested against the payment of this sum, but were told it was the practice. The apprentice paid the money. Our informant had some correspondence with the Company on the subject of the fees, brought a qui tam action against them, under 22 Henry VIII., and recovered the penalties. They let judgment go by default, and since then, he believes, they have returned to the old fees.

57. It is not very common to grant the Freedom; (fn. 15) those who so receive it are considered honorary Freemen; there are eight or ten. That admission is free of expense to the party. Instances were frequent formerly of disfranchisement for non-payment of quarterage; none are known in the last century, but frequent threats. Some have been disfranchised for disputes and ill language.

58. Our informant believes that all the Freemen of the Company are free of the City of London. The practice is for the Bedell to go the next day with the new made Freeman to the Chamberlain's office for that purpose.

59. There is no trade of which members are compelled to become free of the Company, nor is it connected more with one trade than another. The greatest number of the Company are members of the Stock Exchange, or corn factors.

60. Freemen generally apply to come on the Livery. If the party is respectable, he may apply for his Livery directly. The fine for the Livery is 80l. 8s. The number of applications has decreased much since the fine became so large. In 1705, the fine for the Livery was 30l.; in 1810, it was raised to 56l. 18s., and the fees were about 5l. more. In 1821, it was raised to 80l., and since that time there have not been more than 10 or 12 applications. Before 1821 they were probably six times as numerous. There were about 430 Liverymen in 1821. The Court holds it discretionary in them to grant or refuse the Livery. It was sworn by the Clerk in his affidavit, that the Master and Wardens may vary the fine as they please, and that there is no inchoate right in the Freemen. Our informant could not cite any instance in any Company in which the right to the Livery has been contested, nor did he know any instance of refusal by the Court, or any instance of the Livery being lost when once granted. There have been no compulsory calls during the last half century.

61. The Master and Wardens claim the whole property of the Company, and exercise control over it. The Clerk admits in his affidavit, the date of which is 3d January 1831, that the Master and Wardens, but not the Fraternity, do possess property, real and personal, to a large amount. He speaks also of the records of the Master and Wardens, also of the Hall and premises of the Master and Wardens. The Clerk denies altogether that there is any property belonging to the Fraternity.

62. The Master and Wardens act conjointly as Treasurers. No amount can be paid without the signature of three. The Clerk receives the rents; he gives receipts for them; the receipts are signed by the Renter Wardens. The Clerk pays over the money to the Renter Wardens. The Clerk gives security (3,000l.), and the sureties, pursuant to a recent order, must not be members of the Court of Assistants. That was made in consequence of the refusal of one of the parties who was on the Court, to pay the penalty. Counsel's opinion was taken, and he gave it that the bond was informal.

63. Security is given by the Master and Wardens; our informant does not know to whom; he fancies to the Court of Assistants. The Clerk's clerk has often 700l. or 800l. in his possession. There is an order from the Court to their tenants to pay their rents at the Hall. Before 1822, they were collected by the Clerk. The Master and Wardens audit their own accounts, at the end of December. In the Pocket-book, which is printed for the use of the Court, it is said, "A public audit of the accounts between 18th and 23rd December." Our informant often attended with Freemen, and offered to assist in the audit. In 1831, he wrote to the Master requesting to know the time, and offering to assist. He received an answer that the public audit would take place the next day, at which none but members of the Court of Assistants would be permitted to attend.

64. The Finance Committee attend a private audit between the 12th and 13th, and the next audit is the public audit. The Finance Committee is formed out of the Court of Assistants. In 1831 it consisted of 11 persons, lour of whom resided at Dublin, Bath, Canterbury and Morden. The Committees are chosen by the Court; none but members of the Court are on it. The result of the audit is not printed in any way, The Clerk's salary is now 400l., allowing 150l. for fees. On the election of the Clerk following the one who was dismissed, the order for raising the salary from 400l. to 800l. was rescinded. The office has been estimated at 2,000l. or 3,000l. He has all the business of the Company. The Clerk receives Solicitor's fees for all the business he does for the Company, besides his salary.

65. The Bedell receives a salary of 100l. and a house. The Clerk has a house and offices attached to the Hall, with coal, &c. Taxes and all expenses are paid. The Bedell's house is adjoining. He has perquisites: he receives a sum from the Master on the binding of apprentices, and on coming on the Livery or Court.

66. School tickets are a sum of two guineas paid to the Company on admission of a boy to the school. The Bedell's duty is to collect the quarterage, and to summon the Freemen and Liverymen. In 1720, he used to receive 3s. per 1l. for the quarterage he collected, and our informant believes that is still taken. The quarterage is not rigidly enforced.

67. The Liverymen have no privileges in the Company; the Courts of the various Companies claim to be qualified, as holding freehold offices, in the elections under 23 Geo. III., Paving Act. There are no Bye-laws now in force for monopolizing the trade of Tailors. Nothing but the survey and search is now exercised.

68. The ordinary Courts are those of the Master, Wardens and Assistants. They have a distinct Court as Master and Wardens. Our informant referred to a statement made by the Clerk, that the meetings of the Master, Wardens and Assistants and Committees, on an average of three years, are 65 per annum. The General Court of Assistants meets about six times. The Master and Wardens meet the first Wednesday in every month for binding and enfranchising. These meetings are all held in the Hall. No notice is given to any but members of the Court. The Master and Wardens are always in attendance, and are on all the Committees. One or two Wardens are often absent.

69. There are five Committees:—

Committee of Finance.

— Estates. (fn. 16)

— Charities.

— General Purposes.

— Mora Estate.

The Master and Wardens are on all. The Finance Committee consist of 11; the others from 12 to 14. They are chosen from year to year; they generally change. After every election the names are published. The guinea is paid for attendance on every Committee. Our informant believes there is no fine for absence. The fee has varied much in the last 50 years; the first amount was 2s. 6d.; the first instance was 18th December 1772; it has been at its present amount since 1802. (fn. 17) A Committee usually sits about two hours; the business is pretty equally distributed amongst all. The Courts usually meet about 2, and till 4 or 5. Disputes used to be settled by the Master and Wardens, but this has been disused 100 to 150 years. The Court has no business to transact beyond the binding and admission and management of property; he is not aware of any Report made to the Court of Survey and Search. There is a general search made at Bartholomew Fair of the measures; it is little more than a form; it is done nowhere else. The Bedell goes to make the survey. The Master and Wardens had not their Charter in their possession when our informant began his proceedings. He made application to the Court of King's Bench in January 1831 for the production of all Record Books, Papers and Muniments; the Rule was discharged. He made a new application for Bye-laws affecting him as a Freeman and Liveryman, which were furnished to him. They were all obsolete. There was nothing bearing on the present practice. 4th May 1613: Ordinances confirmed by Chancellor Ellesmere and the Judges. There were some among those furnished made and confirmed in 1652.

70. The Wardens of the Bachelors and their 16 Assistants were appointed, according to this document, 24th July 1562: (Extract from the Court Minutes.) There has been no attempt to revise them since the Order of the Court of Aldermen, 3 Will. & Mary. Neither Freemen nor Liverymen are ever convened for business.

71. The largest portion of the property is in London: it is generally leased for 21 years. The property is fairly let. There is no appointed Surveyor of the Company. They are let at rackrent. The occupier invariably has a preference. In their Irish estates the Merchant Tailors come in with the Clothworkers. The Company were obliged to sell most of their valuable property to individuals. There has been no part of the divisible property retained. The Merchant Tailors refused to take part in the suit with the Irish Society. No special account is fur- nished to the Company. The dividends arise from the funded property. The admissions to Merchant Tailors' School are in the patronage of the Court of Assistants. There is not much difficulty in obtaining it. The School has existed since 1561; it is not compulsory on the Company to keep it up. The School cost from 600l. to 700l. There are four masters, besides teachers. The usual charge of the School is 42s. per quarter. There is no complaint of election of masters. Only a limited number of boys are boarders. The Master and Wardens act as visitors. The exhibitions are paid by Sir Thomas White's bequest, not by the Company. The number of scholars is 300. The masters take boarders, for whom they make their own terms. In several instances masters have been displaced. The masters account with the Company for the tuition. The Company has no debt. At the time when our informant began his proceedings against the Company, he states that only two Liverymen were relieved; one receiving 7l. 4s., the other 8l. 4s. Since that time the Company have created a fund for the relief of 20, and the gifts to the poor have increased.

72. The objects of these benevolences are selected by the discretion of the Court. There are no Freemen relieved but from trust property. Our informant, quoting from the Clerk's affidavit, stated that neither Freemen nor Liverymen, nor any receiving alms of the Company were prejudiced by the loss (occasioned by the defalcation of the Clerk), the whole of which fell upon the corporate fund belonging to the Master and Wardens, and the current expenditure was reduced, but none of the Livery entertainments were curtailed.

73. Our informant stated that he knows that the majority of the Company, both Freemen and Liverymen, desire that they should return to the election of their corporate officers, giving it to Freemen at large; reducing Livery fines to a small sum, easily payable; making Liverymen eligible to offices. Putting out of question the voting for municipal offices, there is no advantage in the distinction between the Liverymen and Freemen.

74. No other person attended; and the statements thus made and the several documents delivered as above-mentioned, constitute all the evidence which we were enabled to obtain respecting the Company.


  • 1. Ordered to be printed 25th April 1837.
  • 2. Numbers have been put to the paragraphs for convenience of reference.
  • 3. See Appendices J (1) and (2).
  • 4. A publication called "The Free Enquirer," printed by E. Wilson, of the Royal Exchange, in 1831–2, entered into these disputes.
  • 5. See Appendix J (3).
  • 6. The King v. Merchant Taylors' Company, 2 B. and Adol., 118.
  • 7. They were warned for various duties by the Lord Mayor, as in October 1571, to watch the City Gates; in March 1579, to raise and train 200 men; in February 1586, for these soldiers to attend the funeral of Sir P. Sydney; in 1586, to provide gunpowder (under threat of imprisonment); and in 1588, to furnish 35 men, well armed (as a quota) to meet the Spanish Armada.
  • 8. At quarterly meetings held with great strictness for the dues payable to the Company in 1563 and 1575, the plague obliged a postponement. The Clerk (Nicholas Fullchamber) dying on the last occasion.
  • 9. See Documents 13 to 16, pp. 249–53.
  • 10. See Documents 1 to 16 (except 13), pp. 242–54.
  • 11. See Document 2, p. 243.
  • 12. "A Dinner at every Court of Assistants of forty shillings and not above that sum, saving the fines of such as shall be absent.
  • 13. In 1700 (December 6) the Court ruled that no Quaker should be admitted unless he subscribed the Oath.
  • 14. The circumstances under which the office was made annual are curious, and are stated in Appendix J (4).
  • 15. No doubt the free grant of this has long been an honour, and in 1606 (July 6) James I. wrote to the Company in favour of Miller and Hughes to be admitted, and in 1607 (July) the Livery was granted to Dr. John Bull for his services in the Company's Entertainment to James, when the National Anthem is said to have been first sung. See Mem. XXXIII.
  • 16. The Estate Committee probably originated after the Fire of London, as the Court was summoned with power for any 7 of them to agree with the Company's tenants for the rebuilding of their houses "and the said Committee was to meet weekly, and what they shall do therein this Court shall approve and allow of" (20 September 1666).
  • 17. An antient and accustomed fee, but nothing more, would be legally sanctioned by the Court of Queen's Bench? (Queen v. Saddlers' Company, 4 B. & S., 573.