[Companies.] The TEMPORAL GOVERNMENT.173


Freemen of the City, called BARONS. The COMPANIES, or CORPORATIONS: Their Coats of Arms, Charters, Times of their Incorporations. The MERCERS; GROCERS; DRAPERS; FISHMONGERS; GOLDSMITHS; SKINNERS.

AS the Government of this City is chiefly maintained by the Superiour Magistrates before spoken of, viz. Maior, Sheriffs, and Aldermen; so a necessary part of the Government thereof consisteth in the Companies of the Freemen: Which Freemen seemed anciently to be called Barons. Which word Baron was brought in by the Normans, to answer the word Thane used by the Saxons. Which, we are told, they used sometimes in a large Signification to mean a Freeman, born of Free Parentage. And so did the Normans take the Word Baron; calling their Free Citizens of their best esteemed Cities and Burroughs by the name of Barons. And so Bracton meaneth when he writeth Per Barones London, i.e. By the Barons of London; that is, by the Free Citizens of that City. There are divers Charters, wherein mention is made of such like Barons; as, the Barons of Warwick, in Doomsday: And in our time, the Burgesses of the five Ports, are called the Barons thereof.

The Government of the City by Companies.

J. S.

Barones Lond. who Treat of the Nobility of the Realm, p. 47.

Aldermanni in unaquaq; Warda colligunt omnia quæ sunt Regi debita.

Pat. 11 H. III. m 4.

Barones auxilium eorum dant Regi. Non trahatur in exemplum.

Pat. 11 H. III. m 9

Of these Barons, or Free Citizens, consist the Companies. And the City of London consisting of various Tradesmen, that is, of such as make and sell Commodities; for the Regulation of them there must be Laws and Rules, according to which they should follow their Trades, Arts, and manual Occupations. And for this end those of each Trade or Mystery (as it is also stiled) are distinguished into Companies, or Societies, or Fraternities. Which have their several Halls and Places of Meeting (generally magnificent Buildings) to confer together monthly, or oftner, concerning their proper Businesses, as also for Feasting on set Days. They have also Masters, Wardens, Assistants, Clerks, and other Officers to consult for, and to direct and order all things relating to the good Estate of their respective Societies, and to punish and restrain all Abuses incident to their Trades.

Pet Le Neve, Norr.

The Companies.

Their Halls.

These are called also Corporations, because they are incorporated, or embodied together by Charters from the Kings and Queens of England, or by Acts of Parliament, with certain Liberties and Privileges; for the better Government of their respective Members. And most of these Companies have weighty Trusts of Charity reposed in them; and are richly endowed with Lands and Livings for that purpose.

Why called Corporations.

Such Respect is given to the Masters and Wardens of the said Companies, that when they meet at their several Halls, either sitting upon Business, or Feasting, they take the Precedency at their Tables of all the rest of the Society, tho' they be Batchelour Knights, or Baronets.

Precedency of the Master and Wardens.

Of these Companies there be as many almost as there be Trades and Mysteries practised and professed. But the Twelve first are the Chief, and are by some stiled Honourable. None is capable of being Lord Maior, but he must be of one of these Twelve Companies. And therefore if any of an inferiour Company be chosen to that Honour, he must quit his former Company, and make himself a Member of one of the Twelve.

The Preference of the Twelve Companies.

We shall next proceed more particularly to set down the Names of the Twelve Companies, and of all the rest; together with their Coats of Arms, their Charters, and the Time of their Incorporations; and also various Remarks concerning many of them, according as the Notices thereof have come to hand from ancient Papers, Records, or good Information.

A Specification of all the Companies.

The FIRST of the Twelve, and which hath the Precedency of all the Companies of London, is that of the


[ Click here to view Image of coat of arms, Mercers' Company   ]

THEM MERCERS were enabled to be a Company, and to purchase Lands, to the Value of 20l. by the Year, the 17th Year of King Richard II. Anno Domini 1393.

The Mercers, when first a Company.

This Company in former times consisted much of such as sold rich Silks brought from Italy; and lived chiefly in Cheapside, St Laurence Jury, and the Old Jury: And afterwards the Mercers were generally Merchants. And when in the Year 1585, a great Muster was to be made at Greenwich before the Queen, of the Citizens, to consist of 6000 Men. the Mercers sent out 294 Soldiers: who were out seven Days and a Night, at 16d. a Day each. Which, with all other necessary Expences of Arms, Provisions, &c. cost them 392l. 10s.

Were chiefly Merchants.

J. S.

Their Charge at a Muster.

This Company are the Overseers of the flourishing School dedicated to the Child Jesus, situate near St. Paul's Church.

Overseers of Paul's School.

Of this Company was Sir Thomas Gresham, Kt. that renowned Merchant, who built the Royal Exchange, and founded the Lectures in Gresham College.

Sir Thomas Gresham.

None for many Years successively have been Masters of this Company but Knights, or Aldermen, or Sheriffs, or such as have fined for those Places: Or having some other Honourable Qualification. As in the Year 1702, was chosen John Morice, Esq; lately a Parliament-man, and Son of Sir William Morice, sometime Secretary of State, &c.

Their Hall standeth on the North side of Cheapside, next the Poultry, having a graceful Stone Frontispiece, with divers Figures over the Gate cut in Stone, one whereof is Charity and her Children.

Their Hall.