Livery Companies of London

Livery was adopted by the guilds of London in the reign of Edward III to distinguish their members from one another, consisted of a surcoat for the Freemen with the addition of a hood for Liverymen or a hat for the Master. The gowns are still worn today on ceremonial occasions. These liveries are peculiar to the Guilds of the City of London and make the City Livery Companies, as they are currently known, unique throughout the world.

Within the City of London whether you were a freeman also used to affect your ability to do business. No person born outside the City could become an apprentice to one of the guilds, which effectively controlled the business of their particular trade, unless he first swore that he was the son of a free man. Until 1835 membership of a livery company, the successors of the guilds, and freedom of the City were obligatory to all who wanted to exercise a trade in the City.