Livery companies had their origins in the UK before 1066 and are similar to the fraternities and guilds (or mysteries) that flourished throughout Europe for many centuries.
Members paid to belong, and the word guild derives from the Saxon “gildan”, meaning “to pay”.
To a greater or lesser extent, these early guilds controlled the provision of services and the manufacture and selling of goods and food in the City of London. This prevented unlimited competition and helped to keep wages and working conditions steady in extremely unstable times.
In medieval times, “livery” was the term used for the clothing, food and drink provided to the officers and retainers of great households, such as those of barons, bishops, colleges or guilds.
The term became restricted to the distinctive clothing and badges, which were symbols of privilege and protection. Since the members of each guild were distinguished from other people in this way, the guilds gradually became known as livery companies and also denoted a strong link with the City of London. It is still the custom to wear ceremonial dress on official occasions.
Many of these livery halls, located around the City are available for private hire. They bring elegance and a sense of grandeur to any event.
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