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The Worshipful Company of Horners

Becoming A Horner

Individuals with an interest in becoming members of the Horners’ Company are usually introduced by friends who are already Liverymen, but if you are interested, new members are welcome so please contact our Clerk.

Candidates have also been admitted to the Company through the website, our military affiliated units and as prize winners of one of the company’s awards. The different levels of membership are shown below.

    Freedom of the Company

    To become a full member of the Company an individual will apply for and be granted the Freedom of the Company. In this the candidate will be sponsored by one or more Liverymen, to whom he or she is well known. It is likely that candidates will have attended Company functions. All candidates are interviewed and the successful ones are then admitted to the Freedom of the Company in a short ceremony before the Court.

    Freedom of the City of London

    The second stage is to obtain the Freedom of the City of London. Armed with the certificate of Freedom from a Livery Company applicants register at Guildhall. Applications are set before the Court of Alderman for approval. Thereafter they are granted the Freedom of the City in a short ceremony in the Chamberlain’s Court at Guildhall.

    The Livery

    The final stage is to be admitted to the Livery, which is normally considered after two years as a Freeman have elapsed and the Freeman has been granted the Freedom of the City. A Freeman’s attendance at Company functions is taken into consideration at this stage. Once again, being “Clothed in the Livery” takes place at a short ceremony before the Court.

    Associate Horners

    Associate Horners are drawn from younger candidates who are given the opportunity to decide whether or not to become full members of the Company in due course. The financial obligations facing Associate Horners are modest and they are able to attend Company functions at reduced rates. It is hoped that at the end of their time at this level that they will wish to become Freemen of the Company.

    The Origins

    From Saxon times, the trade Guilds of the City of London (Guild meaning Payment which was required of members), later to become Livery Companies (from the distinguishing clothing “Livery” worn by members), have been involved in the governance of their City. This came about through a succession of Charters granted by the Crown which established, first the Sheriffs (Shire-Reeves or officials) and then an elected Mayor. From this foundation gradually emerged the present government of the City.

    The City of London Corporation Today

    The City of London Corporation today is a local authority with the Lord Mayor as chairman, assisted a “Lower House”, termed the Court of Common Council, and the Court of Alderman; an “Upper House”. This structure is supported by the bureaucracy necessary to service the needs of the City.

    In the past, the two Courts were elected only by residents of the City. More recently, to improve the democratic nature of the City’s governance, the representatives of commercial and other organisations with offices in the City were added to the Electoral Roll. This greatly swelled the number of voters in City elections. Unlike other UK local authorities, voting for the Aldermen and Common Councilmen is not based on party political lines.

    The Livery Companies place in the Electoral Processes

    One of the main roles of Livery Companies is to support the Lord Mayor and the Livery still plays an active part in the City’s electoral processes. The City is divided into Electoral Districts, termed Wards. At this level, most if not all Companies are entitled and encouraged to vote for their ward representative Alderman and Common Councilmen.

    The Lord Mayor and the two Sheriffs are elected for a period of one year. To become Lord Mayor, an individual must be an Alderman who has served in the office of Sheriff. One of the ancient privileges granted to Liverymen is to elect the two Sheriffs and, following a summons from the Lord Mayor, this takes place annually in Common Hall at Guildhall. On a second such summons to Guildhall, the Livery assembled recommends a favoured candidate to the Court of Alderman, for Election as Lord Mayor. The Court of Alderman retires and its vote produces the Lord Mayor for the year ensuing.


    As we have seen, the Livery Companies evolved from the ancient trade Guilds of the City whose roots can be traced to Saxon times. As years passed more of these Guilds were formed and given official recognition by Royal Charter. The Charter is the means by which a Livery Company is governed and it sets out the way in which they were, and are to be run. The first Company to be granted a Royal Charter was the Weavers’ in 1155.

    The Purpose of the Livery Companies

    Guilds and later Livery Companies were established to ensure that they were the sole operator in their particular trade within the walls of the City and frequently for some distance into the countryside beyond the walls. They were responsible for seeing that goods were up to the standards expected on both quality and weight or volume. They had the authority to close any business which was not operating under the regulations governing their particular trade. Today this would be called a closed shop arrangement but thought perfectly reasonable in former times.

    The Livery Companies governed all aspects of their trade appointing masters who ran approved business with freemen and apprentices. To practice a trade in the City it was necessary to become a Freeman of the City, recommendation for which was required of the Court of a Livery, headed by an elected Master and two or three Wardens. Apprentices too had their indentures registered at Guildhall.

    Years Pass

    Disputes over seniority caused such conflict (and bloodshed) amongst apprentices in Tudor times that during the reign of King Henry VIII action was taken to stop the mayhem by officially listed the Companies in order of precedence. Thus today we have the first 12 Companies who in earlier time were the richest and most powerful. They are today still known as “The Great Twelve”. Not a few monarchs found the grant of Charters a most lucrative business and some Companies had several Charters, each of which would have helped the royal finances.

    A large number of trades were granted the own Royal Charters in the 17th century. More recently, other trades have sought Livery status and although the movement went into decline in the 19th century, at which time some trades disappeared and other were on hard times.

    Livery Companies Today

    There are now 110 Livery Companies of the City of London, of which some 33 have joined the roll since the Second World War.

    The Relevance of Livery Companies

    “The Livery is extremely relevant both in its own right and in the support it provides to the ethos of the City. For example, one of the main objectives of every Livery company is the pursuit of excellence in its own trade or craft. Many Livery companies are responsible for schools or training colleges; others support individual students. They also have a splendid reputation for caring; many of them supporting older people in sheltered housing. These things reflect important aspects of the City’s tradition and add up to perhaps the most important of all, which is the integrity of the Livery movement: they are trying to do things better in an honest and caring way. That notion of integrity is at the heart of the success of the City, and the Livery companies set a marvellous example.”
    (Sir Brian Jenkins – Lord Mayor 1991-1992)