The beginning of our Company
Although one of the oldest crafts and professions in the world, the 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 32 members of the laundry and associated industries approved the ordinances and formally constituted themselves as the Company of Launderers, that the journey to full City Livery status could commence in earnest. In 1963 a charitable and education trust was formed which aims to gives scholarships for the further education of people pursing studies of benefit to the laundry industry.
Twenty one years after the inaugural meeting of 1957, full Livery status was granted to the Launderers at a specially convened meeting of the Aldermen of the City of London on March 10th 1978; 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 and fifty Liverymen on its roll.
The Company is a shareholder in Glaziers Hall or Launderers Hall as we prefer to call it. All liverymen are connected with the industry.
Aims and principles
The aims and purposes of the Livery as an institution dedicated to the improvement and indeed betterment of the craft, trade and profession of Launderer and Cleaner. From the outset the Company has set out to develop educational and charitable links and provides an annual award to the outstanding student on the Diploma in Dry- Cleaning and Laundry Technology course at Derby Lonsdale College of Art and Technology. The Company has endowed a berth on the Winston Churchill and, since 1979, has run a stall at the Lord Mayor’s Red Cross Market which has become one of the event’s most popular and leading money raiser for the City of London Red Cross.
In 1965 the Company established an Apprenticeship Scheme that aimed to encourage the entry of young people into the industry.
The earliest Guilds
English trades and crafts had formed themselves into associations or Guilds as long ago as Saxon times between the 7th and 9th Centuries, but it was not until after the Norman Conquest in the 11th and 12th Centuries that the early Guilds began to exert quite remarkable economic and political power in the realm.
The ancient Trade Guilds were dedicated to the maintenance of quality standards of work, the relief of distress caused by sickness or misfortune to a member and they were governed by very strict rules of conduct. Guild members had a monopoly of any particular trade or craft in the City thus expulsion from a Guild for any reason – usually monetary problems, sharp practice, or failure to maintain work standards – meant that the culprit was deprived of his ability to attract new work and he was forced to remove himself to a town where tradesmen could work as ‘freemen’ outside the jurisdiction of their former Guild.
From these early beginnings arose a close relationship with the Crown and in the mid 14th Century, ‘Charters’ were granted to certain Guilds, for example, The Merchant Taylors, which not only provided the Monarchy with huge revenues but also assured the King of the support of the entire commercial class represented by the Guilds. From these charters the Livery Companies were created and confirmed in a position of real power over their membership and over their members’ work.
The ‘Twelve Great Companies’ of senior Livery Companies thus emerged and established for themselves a strict order of precedence – following the lead of The Mercers Company.
The economic importance of the numerous Livery Companies to the growth of the City of London and indeed to the entire nation and especially to the Crown is not to be underestimated. In days prior to the 19th Century and the rise of Parliamentary Government, ruling Monarchs relied on taxation of trades and professions to finance foreign wars.
The financial strength of the Livery Companies was critical to these adventures and the Monarchy was intricately bound in to the successful growth of the Companies and this symbiotic relationship is readily seen in the frequency and number of Royal Charters and other benefits bestowed on the medieval Livery Companies.
Such a relationship saw the rise of the political and economic power of the City of London and is one of the major factors which have led to the current pre-eminence of the City as the leading centre of world financial power. This is the underlying historical background to the vibrant story which exists behind every Livery Company.
Most, if not quite all, are part of an unbroken thread of commercial life which stretches back over a thousand years. This was a principal reason behind the clear determination of the 32 members who met in 1957 to decide to try and achieve Livery status for the ‘Launderers of London’ – that phrase used in the Freedom of London Certificate, presented to all persons on becoming Freemen of the Company, a necessary step before any aspiring member of the Livery is accepted as a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company. Subsequently, on February 23 1960 the original 32 aspiring members approved the ‘Ordinances’ of the proposed Company and formally constituted themselves as the Company of Launderers at Tallow Chandlers Hall.