Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Leaflet Guides to Records:



1. This leaflet describes the locations and contents of records of apprenticeship and membership in the City of London livery companies, and in a few related City companies which were not granted a livery. It also outlines factors which affect searches in company records, and lists sources which may make such searches easier.

2. It is restricted to the ancient City companies (those established by the early eighteenth century). It excludes the modern companies which have been created in the twentieth century.


3. The following companies retain their apprenticeship and membership records, and enquiries about them should be made to the Clerk of the company at the address given:


Clothworkers' Hall, Dunster Court, London EC3R 7AH


Drapers' Hall, 27 Throgmorton Street, London EC2N 2DQ


Goldsmiths' Hall, Foster Lane, London EC2V 6BN


Leathersellers' Hall, 15 St Helen's Place, London EC3A 6DQ


Mercers' Hall, Ironmonger Lane, London EC2V 8HE


Saddlers' Hall, Gutter Lane, London EC2V 6BR (Note: some records of apprentices 1658-65 and members 1624-6 included in Court minutes in Guildhall Library, microfilm copy of apprentice bindings 1800-1962 held at Guildhall Library)


Salters' Hall, Fore Street, London EC2Y 5DE


Stationers' Hall, London EC4M 7DD (Note: microfilm copies at St Bride Printing Library, Bride Lane, London EC4Y 8EE; appointment necessary to view)

4. The non-current apprenticeship and membership records of the following companies are in Guildhall Library:

Apothecaries, Armourers and Brasiers

Bakers, Barbers (ca. 1540-1745 Barber Surgeons), Basketmakers, Blacksmiths, Bowyers, Brewers, Broderers, Butchers

Carmen, Carpenters, Clockmakers, Coach and Coach Harness Makers, Combmakers, Cooks, Coopers, Cordwainers, Curriers, Cutlers

Distillers, Dyers

Fanmakers, Farriers, Fellowship Porters, Feltmakers, Fishmongers, Fletchers, Founders, Framework Knitters, Fruiterers

Gardeners, Girdlers, Glass Sellers, Glaziers, Glovers, Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers, Grocers, Gunmakers

Haberdashers, Horners

Innholders, Ironmongers

Joiners and Ceilers

Longbowstringmakers, Loriners

Masons, Merchant Taylors#, Musicians


Painter Stainers, Parish Clerks, Pattenmakers, Paviors, Pewterers, Pinmakers, Plaisterers, Playing Card Makers, Plumbers, Poulters

Saddlers (some only, see paragraph 3), Scriveners, Shipwrights, Skinners, Spectacemakers

Tacklehouse and Ticket Porters, Tallow Chandlers, Tin Plate Workers, Tobacco Pipe Makers, Turners, Tylers and Bricklayers



Watermen and Lightermen, Wax Chandlers, Weavers

# In the process of being catalogued; ask Manuscripts Section staff for further details.

5. Details of the records of the companies listed in paragraph 4 are given in A Guide to the Archives of City Livery Companies and Related Organisations in Guildhall Library (available from the Lib rary's Bookshop) and more fully, in the catalogues in the Library's Manuscripts reading room.


6. Most companies kept chronological registers of the binding of apprentices to members (freemen) of the company and/or of their presentment to the Court (governing body) of the company at about the same time as their binding.

7. Details of apprenticeships may also be included in the company's Court minutes and Wardens' accounts. The former source may give more information than the registers; both sources may pre-date the registers. Apprenticeship inde ntures (the documents recording the contract between the master and the parent or guardian of the apprentice) are rarely found in company records.

8. Records relating to company apprenticeships were also kept by the Corporation of the City of London. They include the indentures of many of those apprentices who eventually became freemen of the City of London from 1681, and regis ters of the enrolment of many apprenticeships by the City Chamberlain from 1786. However, these records are not arranged by company: they are in chronological order and indexed by name. They are held by the Corporation of London Records Office, Guildhall, London EC2P 2EJ (to 1915), and by the Chamberlain's Court at the same address (from 1916).


9. They usually give the name of the apprentice and the date of his binding or presentment. They may also give his father's name (or occasionally his mother's or guardian's); his place of origin; his age; the term of the apprenticeship; the name, occupation and address of the master to whom he was bound; any consideration (sum of money) paid to the master; and any fees or gifts due to the company. They also usually record occasions on which an apprentice was tu rned over or set over from one master to another.

10. Most companies have separate series of orphans tax apprenticeship registers, kept from 1694 to c.1861. These list all apprentices bound in the company and usually record only the apprentice's name, the date of his binding or pres entment, and the tax paid into the Chamber of London. (The proceeds of this tax were used by the Chamber for the relief of orphans.)


11. Most companies kept chronological registers of those admitted to membership (the freedom) of the company. The freedom could be obtained by one of three methods:

a. Apprenticeship (also called service or servitude), on completion of a term of apprenticeship to a freeman of the company.

b. Patrimony, by being the legitimate child of a male freeman, born after his admission to the freedom.

c. Redemption, by payment of a fee.

12. Details of freedom admissions may also be included in the company's Court minutes and Wardens' accounts. The former source may give more information than the registers; both sources may pre-date the registers. Many companies also kept separate lists of freemen and/or members' quarterage books (recording quarterly membership dues). N.B. Published lists of members, both contemporary and retrospective, are held in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library.

13. Records relating to company members who became freemen of the City of London were also kept by the Corporation of London. These records are almost complete from 1681 and complete from 1786. However, they are not arranged by compa ny: they are in chronological order and indexed by name. They are held by the Corporation of London Records Office, Guildhall, London EC2P 2EJ (to 1915), and by the Chamberlain's Court at the same address (from 1916).



14. Records of admission to membership usually give the name of the freeman, the date and method of his admission, and sometimes his address. If the freedom was by apprenticeship, they may add some or all of the information descr ibed in paragraph 9; if by patrimony, they usually add only the father's name; if by redemption, they usually add only the fee paid.

15. Lists of freemen may give such information as addresses, occupations and numbers of apprentices taken - depending on the purpose for which they were compiled. Quarterage books may give addresses and occupations and often indicate the freeman's period of membership and date of death. Both these sources may be arranged alphabetically and thus serve as an index of members.

16. Most companies have separate series of stamp duty freedom registers, kept from 1694 to 1949, which usually record only the freeman's name, the date and method of his admission and the stamp duty payable to the Crown.

17. Those freemen not promoted to the next level of company membership (the livery) were sometimes termed yeomen or bachelors. Distinctions were sometimes made between journeymen (who worked for other freemen for wages) and household ers or masters (who had their own business and took apprentices). Those freemen admitted by redemption might include foreign brothers (from the provinces), or stranger brothers or alien brothers (from overseas).



18. Most companies kept registers, lists and/or quarterage books (recording quarterly membership dues) of those freemen who were admitted to the higher levels of membership within the company -the livery and the Court of assistan ts - and of those who became company officers, such as masters, wardens, stewards. Such information may also be included in the company's Court minutes and Wardens' accounts.



19. Additional references to members, especially those prominent in company affairs, may be found in most other categories of company record. Of particular value may be the Court minutes, which usually provide the fullest general record of company activities; the Wardens' accounts, which may record financial transactions between the company and a member; records relating to the company's regulation of its craft or trade, which may refer to a member's workmanship and conduct; and records relating to the company's pensioners and almspeople, which may give information about a member who became a dependent of the company.

20. However, such sources often require lengthy searches and are unlikely to reveal additional information about most members.



21. A few companies had powers of licensing, or examining, or inspecting the work of practitioners of their trade or craft regardless of whether they were members or where they lived. Those known to have historical records of the exercise of such powers are:

Apothecaries : from 1815 (medical practitioners)

Barber Surgeons : 1705-45 (Royal Navy surgeons)

Founders : 18th - 19th centuries

Goldsmiths : from 15th century (records with Company: see paragraph 3)

Gunmakers : from 19th century

Needlemakers : 17th - 18th centuries

Pewterers : 15th - 18th centuries

Pinmakers : 17th - 18th centuries

Stationers : from 16th century (records with Company: see paragraph 3)

However, in many cases the records are of uncertain scope and it is often difficult to locate information about particular individuals.

22. Many companies had charitable foundations (schools, almshouses etc.) whose benefits extended to non-members, and estates whose tenants included non-members. Many companies employed non-members as, for example, schoolmasters, esta te managers, architects, builders, clerks and porters. Details of all such persons may be contained in appropriate company records.



The scope of the records

23. The records of some companies are extensive and may be unindexed. Lengthy searches may be necessary to discover details even of a person known to have been a member of such a company. Ways of trying to discover a person's com pany are described in paragraphs 40 - 42. If the person's company remains unknown, a search is unlikely to be feasible.

24. On the other hand, some companies have hardly any surviving records and a few companies which are defunct or which have been merged into other companies have left no records at all. However, details of the apprentices and members of such companies may be discoverable from the sources described in paragraphs 8 and 40.

25. Company records about individuals usually concern only their relationship with the company. They are unlikely to give information about their personal or business activities, except incidentally.

Ages of apprentices and freemen

26. Apprentices had to be at least 14 and not more than 21 when bound. The term of their apprenticeship had to be at least seven years (reduced to four in 1889). Freemen were supposed to be at least 24, but in practice appear oft en to have been admitted from the age of 21.

The proportion of apprentices becoming freemen

27. Many apprentices, in some periods a majority, never became freemen of the company in which they were bound. Those who did not may have died, or have given up their apprenticeship, or have moved outside London on completing it .

Women in the companies

28. In some companies, women were bound as apprentices, single women and widows were admitted to the freedom, and widows of freemen were regarded as free by courtesy without formal admission. However, their numbers were very smal l.

Membership of more than one company

29. It was possible for a person to join more than one company or to be translated from one to another. However, such occurrences were rare.

The extent of company membership in London

30. Until 1856 any person practising a retail trade or craft in the City of London had to be a member of a company. This requirement was enforced strongly until the eighteenth century, but was probably gradually less so thereafte r. After 1856 many tradesmen and craftsmen still joined a company although they no longer had to do so.

31. Many persons practising a trade or craft in the area surrounding the City of London also became company members: see paragraph 37.

32. Merchants, professional men and those in business firms were generally not required to join a company, although many did so.

33. Women (see paragraph 28), unskilled men and the employees of tradesmen and craftsmen are unlikely to have become members of a company.

The relationship between occupation and company

34. Until the early eighteenth century, a tradesman or craftsman would probably have belonged to the company corresponding with or approximating to his occupation. After the early eighteenth century, in some trades and crafts he would still probably have belonged to the appropriate company, but in most trades and crafts it was increasingly likely that he would have belonged to a company unconnected with his occupation.

35. At all periods, merchants, professional men and those in business firms may have become members of almost any company, although they often preferred one in some way connected with their occupation. Wealthy inhabitants, often incl uding merchants, tended to join one of the "great" companies (Clothworkers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Grocers, Haberdashers, Ironmongers, Mercers, Merchant Taylors, Salters, Skinners and Vintners).

36. Persons in certain occupations may be mentioned in company records even if they were not members: see paragraphs 21 and 22.

The extent of company membership outside London

37. The areas from which the companies could take members are usually indicated in their charters of incorporation. Some companies were restricted to the City of London, but most could also take members from a surrounding area, u sually within a radius of between two and ten but sometimes up to 30 miles from the City. The Framework Knitters' and the Tobacco Pipe Makers' companies took provincial members. Since the early nineteenth century, some companies, particularly those which no longer had strong links with their trade or craft, have admitted members from outside the areas indicated in their charters.

38. Tradesmen and craftsmen living outside the London area are most unlikely to have been London company members. However, many young men and a few young women came from the provinces to live in London and to be apprenticed to a Lond on company member.

39. Persons in certain occupations may be mentioned in company records regardless of where they lived: see paragraphs 21 and 22.



40. There is no general list or index of livery company members. Each company kept records only of its own members. However, there are other sources which may enable a researcher to discover a person's company:

a. The Corporation of the City of London kept records of those company members who became freemen of the City, which name their company. Very few such records survive before 1681, but from 1681 they are a lmost complete and from 1786 complete. They are indexed from 1681. These records are held by the Corporation of London Records Office, Guildhall, London EC2P 2EJ (to 1915), and by the Chamberlain's Court at the same address (from 1916).

b. P. Boyd's The Inhabitants of London gives details of many (but only a small proportion of) inhabitants, including company members, and is arranged alphabetically. It includes names from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries but its coverage is fullest for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is held by the Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, 1 London EC1M 7BA. An index

to it is available on microfilm in the Printed Books Section.

c. The Apprentices of Great Britain 1710-74 (Society of Genealogists, 1929-41) includes many apprentices bound to masters who were company members. In such cases the name and company of the master are given. Th e masters are indexed 1710-62. For further details of this source and information about where it can be consulted, see paragraph 43.

d. Other sources, of lesser scope, are listed in the London Inhabitants file at Guildhall Library Printed Books enquiry desk. It is restricted to the Library's holdings, but includes information about copies in the Library of records held elsewhere and lists and indexes made from such records, and is believed to be a fairly comprehensive survey of surviving evidence. Among the sources itemised are alphabetical or indexed lists of the liverymen of all companies for 1700, 1710, 1713, 1722, 1768, 1792, 1796, 1831-9, 1853, 1894-1908, 1910-15, 1932-40, 1949- date.

41. A person's occupation may provide a clue as to his company, but does not invariably do so: see paragraphs 34 and 35. The main sources for occupations are London trade directories which date from 1677, but which do not provide a v ery detailed coverage until the 1740s. Earlier sources which may give occupations are listed in the London Inhabitants file at Guildhall Library Printed Books enquiry desk.

42. The way in which a person was described in contemporary documents may indicate his company. A person referred to as a "citizen and (for example) Joiner of London" would have been a member of the Joiners' company, even if not a jo iner by occupation. A person referred to as "joiner" or "joiner of London" would have been a joiner by occupation, but not necessarily by company.



43. The names (arranged alphabetically), dates of apprenticeship and sometimes the parentage of large numbers of apprentices bound in England, Scotland and Wales between 1710 and 1774 are given in The Apprentices of Great Brit ain (Society of Genealogists,1929-41). This source also gives the names, occupations and places of residence of the masters of the apprentices, and indexes their names for 1710-62. It was based on records (now in the Public Record Office) of a tax imp osed on fees paid to masters for taking apprentices and therefore excludes apprenticeships for which no fee was paid, or for which the tax on the fee was either exempted (in cases where it was paid by a parish, township, or charity) or evaded. The Appr entices of Great Britain is available in Guildhall Library Printed Books Section; the Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, London EC1M 7BA; and the Public Record Office, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU.

44. If The Apprentices of Great Britain does not provide the required information, advice should be sought from the local record office for the area in which the subject of the enquiry is believed to have lived. The addresses of such offices are given in the current edition of Record Repositories in Great Britain: a Geographical Directory (HMSO) which is available in most record offices and reference libraries and may be purchased from HMSO Bookshop, 49 High Holborn, ndon WC1V 6HB.

Last updated July 2001

Leaflet Guides to Records

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section