Who we are

Although one of the oldest crafts and professions in the world, Launderers had no recognition as a worthy member of the of The City of London Livery until after a momentous, if slightly inauspicious, meeting when thirty-two interested and influential Launderers met together with the object of pursuing the long and arduous path to achieving ‘Livery’ status.

That was in 1957 but it was not until three years later, that thirty-two members of the laundry and associated industries approved the ordinances and formally constituted themselves as the Company of Launderers, thus the journey to full City Livery status began in earnest.

In 1960 the Worshipful Company of Launderers was constituted and in 1963 a charitable and education trust was formed whose aims are to give scholarships for the further education of people pursuing studies of benefit to the laundry industry.

Twenty-one years after the inaugural meeting of 1957, on March 10th 1978, full Livery status was granted to the Company of Launderers at a specially convened meeting of the Aldermen of the City of London. It had been a long road but the journey was surely worth the effort. The Worshipful Company of Launderers thus became the 89th Livery Company of the City of London and now numbers more than two hundred Liverymen on its roll. All liverymen have a connection to the industry.

Historical Background

Over half the Livery Companies started life as guilds in medieval times when they played a vital role in the business and political life of London. The Livery Companies controlled standards and had the right to inspect and condemn inferior workmanship, protecting both their customers and their craftsmen.

During the centuries, many of the Companies’ original trades died out and they have, in many cases, embraced the modern equivalent, adapting from their old craft traditions to modern day practices. For example, the Worshipful Company of Fan Makes supports the heating and ventilation trades and the Horners, the plastics industry.

Since the 1950s, the number of Livery Companies has grown from seventy-nine to well over one hundred.

Royal Charter

Many Companies became Livery Companies by being granted Royal Charters and their titles start “The Worshipful Company of …..”. Also, often mentioned is the phrase the “art and mystery” of a Livery Company which is the medieval term for work. The term “Livery” comes from feudal times when an allowance for clothing was given by barons, monasteries, colleges or guilds to their own retainers. The Guilds were allowed to wear liveries as a form of identification at a time when others were not, which is how they came to be known as Livery Companies.

In June 2007, the Court agreed to proceed with enquiries and to move towards obtaining a Royal Charter for the Company’s 50th Anniversary. The process, lead by Past Master Terry Winter and with the assistance of Keith Lawrey of the Foundation for Science & Technology, ensured smooth passage for the Company’s application.

At the Privy Council meeting held at Buckingham Palace on 10th February 2010, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, approved an Order for the application of the Great Seal to the Company’s Charter. It had been the intention that the Royal Charter would be formally presented to the Company at our 50th Anniversary Banquet held on the 23rd February 2010 at Guildhall. But regrettably this was not to happen as there was still a considerable amount of work to be carried out before we could formally receive the Royal Charter. The whole process was duly completed on 17th June 2010 and presented to the current Master, Martyn Lewis at Southwark Cathedral on 8th November 2010.

Coat of Arms

The central feature on the shield is a representation of a mechanical washing machine, invented in 1782 by Henry Sidgier of London. It operated on a rotary principle which set a trend for successive machines for the next two hundred years. Surrounding Sidgier’s machine on the shield are three antique flat irons.

On the crest sits a domestic cat, the cleanest of all animals. Surrounding it are lilies and sunflowers, symbols of purity, warmth and brightness.

The right hand or dexter, supporter of the shield commemorates a royal laundress, Princess Nausicaa. The sixth book of Homer’s Odyssey recounts how the Princess and her maidens are surprised by the shipwrecked Odyssseus as they are washing the linen of the royal household on the beach.

The sinister, or left-hand supporter is and eighteenth century laundrywoman of humbler origins. She carries a dolly which, with the tub, was long considered the only apparatus necessary for washing clothes. A progression from beating cloth in running water.

The motto, Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, comes originally from the Talmud, the ancient book of Jewish law and doctrines. It became widespread in England after its adoption by John Wesley for use in his sermons.

Governance

The Company comprises Liverymen, Honorary Freeman, Freeman and Journeymen. Liverymen are the backbone of the Company and are the people associated with the craft.

The Company is governed by the Court and this is chaired by the Master of the year. The Court comprises the Deputy Master, who is the immediate Past Master, the Senior and Junior Wardens (who are next in line to be Master), the Senior Past Master, other Past Masters, Assistants and Past Masters Emeritii. Past Masters Emeritii are those Past Masters who have chosen to retire from full participation in the Court. Assistants are those Liverymen who have been elected by the Court with the expectation that they will become Master. The Court is limited to 25 members.

Stewards also attend the Court but do not have voting rights. The Master and Wardens each appoint a steward for their term in office. Stewards perform a hospitality role at official functions.

The Livery also has an Honorary Chaplain – The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn.

Management

The Company is governed by the Court with the day-to-day running of the organisation entrusted to the Clerk.

Masters and Wardens Committee

The Master is installed in June of each year and his / her term runs one full year. Images of current Master and Wardens.

The wardens normally serve one year in each of the roles. Names of Liverymen who have contributed to the work of the Company and who it is thought will bring useful skills to the Court are put forward to the Court.

The Court is supported by the Master and Wardens Committee which reports directly to the Court.

The Master and Wardens Committee is comprised of the Master, Wardens, Senior Court Assistant and the Treasurer and convenes four times each year approximately two weeks prior to the Court.

Other Committees

There are four committees, Livery and Protocol, Finance, Benevolent and Education which meet four times each year before the Master and Wardens and report to the Master and Wardens Committee.