New Liveryman joining procedures
Download the Livery Application Form.
The Court administers the Livery. Livery joining procedures are conducted at five Court Meetings per year when oath-taking ceremonies take place. The dates when Court Meetings take place are detailed in the Livery Diary and on this website.
Applying to become a Liveryman
Stage 1 – Introduction and nomination
Having been introduced to the Livery by a Liveryman, the candidate (no distinction is made between men and women) must be proposed and seconded by a Court member. To facilitate the process, potential candidates will be sent an application form and invited to an informal dinner at which they will meet Court members and the Membership Committee (they should bring the completed application form with them). Following this dinner, Candidates will be informed of the status of their application. Assuming they are successful, the process to become a full Liveryman requires the completion of four further phases.
Stage 2 – Freedom of the Coachmakers Livery
The completed application form is considered by the Court in Committee, and the Clerk will invite successful candidates to return to him the Gift Aid and Direct Debit forms, together with the joining fine (fee). The candidate is then sworn to the Freedom of the Livery at one of the Court meetings. Persons attending Court meetings to join the Livery must present themselves at the appropriate hall at least 45 minutes prior to the start time of the reception before dinner. Once sworn to the Freedom of the Livery, the Clerk will provide the candidate with a certificate, which confirms that the individual is a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers.
Stage 3 – Freedom of the City of London
The qualifications and regulations governing Freedom admissions may seem few and not particularly demanding, but they are stringently enforced. A freeman of a Livery Company who is a British subject by birth or by naturalisation will be considered; above the age of 18 years; not an undischarged bankrupt; never having been convicted of a criminal offence. (Applicants need not disclose convictions which are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.)
The Livery Freeman now has the certificate to support their application for the Freedom of the City of London (to become a Liveryman, a candidate must be a Freeman of the City of London). The Livery Freeman is required to visit the Chamberlain’s Court in Guildhall to set in train the process of becoming a Freeman of the City of London. Applications and admissions are made in person. To make these arrangements, ring Guildhall central telephone number – 020 7332 1008/1369 and speak to the Chamberlain’s Office.
- Full birth certificate or adoption order. (If certificate is lost go to the family records centre at www.gro.gov.uk or call 0845 603 7788. There will be a charge for a replacement.)
- For married women only, a marriage certificate as evidence of change of name upon marriage.
- For divorced women only, a copy of the divorce order.
- Naturalisation documents where applicable.
- Freedom of Livery Company certificate (if you would like to retain this, please bring a photocopy).
- A cheque for £25 made payable to ‘The Chamberlain of London’.
Stage 4 – Clothing as a Liveryman
The Livery Freeman forwards to the Clerk evidence of their admittance to the Freedom of the City of London, on receipt of which the Clerk will expect the Freeman to attend the next Livery Court meeting to be ‘clothed’ as a Liveryman. Freemen becoming Liverymen at this Court meeting may bring a guest to witness this oath-taking ceremony, and as many guests as desired to the dinner. On this, and subsequent occasions, the Liveryman may bring guests to dinners, which must be privately funded.
Election Fines & Subscriptions
Are revised annually.
Information concerning the applicant is entered directly into a computer by the Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court or one of his staff. Applicants are encouraged to ensure the correct information is entered. The Chamberlain’s Court has been computerised since 1984 and such records are covered by the Data Protection Act of the same year. The computer produces a print out of an applicant’s personal details followed by this declaration:
‘I hearby declare that I am not an alien, but I am above the age 18 years and that I have not previously been admitted to the freedom of the City. I further declare that I have never been adjudged bankrupt, nor made any composition or arrangement with my creditors in respect of which I have not paid 100p in the pound, nor ever been convicted of any criminal offence.’
The information required for a freedom application is basic and covers full names, date and place of birth, home address, telephone number, occupation, Livery Company (if any). Parental details are also included because these are vital to researchers and especially to anyone trying to identify a specific freeman with a common name. For this reason full birth certificates or adoption orders are required because they show parents’ names, whereas the short ones do not.
When all relevant details have been entered the computer produces a print out of the information to be signed by the applicant. The applicant is also asked to subscribe to a declaration of good character (see above) but need not disclose any convictions which are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. At this stage the fee is paid and a computerised receipt is issued.
The application will be submitted for formal approval to the next Court of Common Council (for applications by nomination) or the Court of Aldermen (for Livery Company applications), the names of applicants being printed on court agendas. Common councilmen and aldermen may object to any application, although this rarely happens, and the Corporation of London has absolute discretion to admit or refuse to admit an applicant.
The insistence upon applicants’ attending in person ensures the complete accuracy of personal details, eligibility and so forth and avoids embarrassment or misunderstanding before the agenda stage is reached.
Note 2 – Fee
£25 cash or cheque made payable to ‘The Chamberlain of London’. Fees are given entirely to the City of London’s Freemen’s School, Ashtead, Surrey. There is no fee if your name appears on the City’s Ward List, i.e the City of London electoral roll. If your name appears on the City of London electoral roll your application does not require Court of Aldermen approval and only one appointment is necessary. Please state ‘Ward List, redemption, Livery Company’ when making your appointment.
Note 3 – Aliens
All applications for the freedom of the City of London are required to sign a statement which begins, ‘I hereby declare that I am not an alien’. Alien in this context means people who are not British or British Commonwealth citizens. Naturalised British or British Commonwealth citizens applying for the freedom are required to produce proof of nationality, usually a certificate of naturalisation, letter from the Home Office or passport.
The reason for the exclusion of aliens from the freedom of the City is that the declaration of a freeman commences with the words ‘I do solemnly declare that I will be good and true to our Sovereign’ which cannot be possible for a non-British or non-Commonwealth person.
Before 1884 naturalisation was effected by private acts of Parliament and, in an age before modern-style passports and naturalisation documents, aliens had to petition the Courts of Common Council or Aldermen to be admitted to the freedom of the City. British-born sons of aliens frequently petitioned Common Council in the first half of the 19th century, the last being in 1855.
In 1857 the officers of the Law, Parliamentary and City Courts Committee reported to the Court of Common Council that as the declaration of a freeman was equivalent to the oath of allegiance, persons not subscribing to the declaration could not be admitted to the freedom of the City.
Foreigners of distinction who are offered the Honorary freedom are not required to make the declaration of a freeman. The Honorary freedom is the only way a foreign national may be granted the freedom of the City of London.
‘Unadmitted’ refers to those who, having successfully made application for the freedom of the City, but fail to return for the actual freedom ceremony.
In earlier times, if an applicant did not take up the freedom within three months of the date of the Court order at which the application was approved, the order expired but this is no longer the case.
Note 4 – Admission procedure
The person to be admitted to the freedom of the City of London is referred to as ‘the freeman’ although this status is not actually assumed until the ceremony has been completed.
The hours for admission to the freedom of the City are each working day, traditionally between the hours of 10.00am and 3.30pm by appointment, and freemen may choose the day and time to suit themselves.
The short but solemn freedom admission ceremonies take place in the Chamberlain’s Court Room in Guildhall. Each ceremony is conducted individually unless double or group ceremonies for members of the same family, profession or other organisation are particularly requested.
Officers of the Corporation of London authorised to admit to the freedom are:
- The Chamberlain of London – the principal officer
- The Clerk to the Chamberlain’s Court
- The Assistant Clerk
- The Court Assistant
- The Comptroller and City Solicitor (as Vice-Chamberlain)
No special dress, gown or robe is worn by freemen but, as the Chamberlain’s Court is still technically a court of law, the dignity of a court of law is upheld. Chamberlains of London have been known to refuse to admit someone to the freedom because they were considered improperly dressed!
The Chamberlain wears a gown when admitting in his Court. In 1915 the makers described it as ‘of rich black silk trimmed with black silk velvet on sleeves and bottom edge, with broad facings and edgings of real sable fur’ and the same style is worn today. It is likely that a gown of this kind has been worn by Chamberlains of London for several centuries. Similar garments can be seen in paintings and portraits of the 16th and 17th centuries, the ‘business suit’ of wealthy merchants and noblemen.
The Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court wears a plain gown of Ottoman silk which has a rosette of the same material attached to the back of the collar, and the Assistant Clerk and Court Assistant wear plain black gowns.
The Comptroller and City Solicitor wears a black silk gown, and both the Comptroller and the Chamberlain wear bands or tabs, a pair of linen strips hanging down in front from the collar, as worn by barristers and by Protestant clergy of earlier centuries.
Friends and family of freemen are welcome to attend the ceremonies. Some people prefer to regard the occasion as a private matter between themselves and the Chamberlain’s Court staff. Nominators may attend but this is not essential.
At the appointed time freemen and guests, if any, are escorted to the Court Room by the Beadle and placed in position facing the bench. All remain standing throughout. If nominators are present they stand either side of the freeman; other guests stand to one side of the room where they are able to observe the proceedings.
The Beadle announces to the Court the name of the person to be admitted to the freedom and the way in which it is to be obtained, by redemption, nomination, patrimony or servitude. If by redemption the Beadle will also give the date of the Court of Common Council or Court of Aldermen at which the order for admission was passed. If the freedom is by nomination the names of the nominators may also be announced.
The admission officer, who stands behind the bench, bows to the assembly who return the bow. He then invites the freeman to approach the bench and read aloud the declaration of a freeman, beginning with his or her own names in full. When this has been done the freeman signs the Letter Book (also known as the freemen’s declaration book) which is countersigned by the officer in charge. The copy of freedom is presented, together with a copy of a book entitles, ‘Rules for the Conduct of Life’. The officer delivers a few words about the origins of the book, and may add something on the nature of the freedom. Finally, the freeman is offered the ‘right hand of fellowship’ and is greeted as a Citizen of London. Freemen who are members of a Livery Company, for example Coachmakers, will be greeted as ‘Citizen and Coachmaker of London’.
Proceedings may vary a little depending upon who is officiating at the ceremony, the number of freemen being admitted and guests present, but the reading of the declaration, signing the book, presentation of the copy of freedom and ‘Rules of Conduct of Life’, the handshake and the greeting are essential to the time-honoured ceremony of admission to the Freedom of the City of London.
The declaration – it is likely that an oath of some sort has always formed part of the ceremony of admission to the freedom of the City, and a 17th century inventory of the Chamberlain’s Court refers to a chained bible on which the freemen’s oaths would have been taken.
The 17th century oath was much longer than today’s declaration, and this version remained of similar length and wording until the restrictive laws concerning religion were relaxed in the early 19th century, when the oath underwent an important change and became a declaration, thus allowing Nonconformists, Roman Catholics, Jews and people of all other faiths to become freemen.
In the days before widespread literacy, the oath or declaration would probably have been read aloud to the freemen by the Chamberlain or his clerk, to which freemen would agree to swear and sign their names or marks. The declaration took its present form in the mid-19th century and has been in use ever since.
The declaration of a Freeman:
I [Names in full] do solemnly declare that I will be good and true to our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second; that I will be obedient to the Mayor of this City; that I will maintain the franchises and customs thereof, and will keep this City harmless, in that which in me is; that I will also keep the Queen’s peace in my own person; that I will know no gatherings nor conspiracies made against the Queen’s peace, but I will warn the Mayor thereof, or binder it to my power; and that all these points and articles I will keep well and truly, according to the laws and customs of this City, to my power.
Note 5 – Recording of a new Freeman of a Livery Company who already is a Freeman of the City of London
Following admission to the freedom of a Livery Company, a person who is already a Freeman of the City of London but not a freeman or Liveryman of any other London Livery Company should attend at the Chamberlain’s Court, Guildhall, to be recorded in the Company. This procedure is required only if this is the new freeman’s first or ‘mother’ company. If this is the new freeman’s second or subsequent Livery Company no action is necessary.
It should be noted that a freeman of a Livery Company who should follow this procedure but who does not, is ineligible to proceed to the Livery, to take apprentices, to vote at Common Hall, neither will children subsequently born to him/her have the right to the freedom of the City by patrimony in the Livery Company.