Our insider: Michael Jeans (BA 1964), past Master Haberdasher
The origins of City Livery Company's were trade guilds, which protecting the standards of their craft and trained apprentices; they jealously guarded membership criteria in order to achieve these objectives. Many of the older companies have lost their links with their trade and now do charitable and educational work. The Haberdashers' Company, for example, actively governs eleven schools.
In common with most other Livery Companies, there are three routes into Freedom of The Haberdashers' Company:
Once a Freeman of the company, you are eligible to apply for the Freedom of the City of London with all sorts of privileges such as driving your sheep over London Bridge and marching through the City with your bayonet fixed!
Freemen between the age of 30 and 35 are eligible to apply to become Liverymen of the Company and are then interviewed as to their suitability.
The company therefore has a rich mix of Liverymen comprising those with historic family links, or strong connections with its schools or who can offer particular experience to its activities. The company is not a 'closed shop' but membership is tightly controlled.
The 'rules' have changed over the past 50 years or so in terms of age of admission; I was apprenticed at the age of 14 and became a Liveryman when I was 21.
Bristol alumna, Deborah Knight (BA 1971), will become the company's first female Master in two years' time. My son, James, is a Freeman and also an alumnus. Arguably the second was more difficult to achieve than the former!
The Haberdashers' Company is a City Livery Company whose ordinances can be dated back to 1371. It currently has around 320 Liverymen. Find out more at: www.haberdashers.co.uk.
Read more How to get into... stories in the summer 2010 issue of Nonesuch (PDF, 3.33Mb)
Note: some of the documents on this page are in PDF format. In order to view a PDF you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader