THE WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF UPHOLDERS of the City of London can trace its history back to the early days of the Craft Guilds in which were fostered the high quality of goods and the high standards of workmanship that have always been the pride of English industry.

The craftsman in Upholstery was known by a name that varied from Upheldere to Uphouldesterr, but mainly as an Upholder and it is under this latter name that the Company came into existence “On the Saturday after the Feast of St. Matthias in the 35th year of the reign of Edward III” (i.e. the 1st March 1360, Old Style).

The election, in February 1360, of Wardens “to survey and govern the men of the mistery” is recorded in the City archives together with the grants in 1474 of the right to search for and seize all wares in the City pertaining to the Craft that were insufficiently or not truly made.

The Company received the grant of its Coat of Arms in 1465 in the reign of Edward IV, and its Royal Charter was granted by Charles 1 on June 14th, 1626. The original Charter was destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire, but a new exemplification was obtained in 1668 and the grant was therein confirmed by Charles II.

Further information can be found in:Featherbedds and Flock Bedds by J F Houston.

The Clerk holds several copies which may be borrowed by Liverymen upon request.

Upholders Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms


Featherbedds and Flock Bedds
Featherbedds and Flock Bedds – J.F. Houston


In 1645 Andrew Yardly made a gift of £500 for the purchase of a Hall. The Rolls of Chancery for 1646 show the purchase of a property called “Wingfield House or Wingfield Place, between Lambeth Hill and St. Peter’s Hill, in the Parish of St Peters, in the Ward of Castle Baynard.”

Unfortunately this was destroyed in the Great Fire and never replaced. A Blue plaque marks the site on the left as you walk from the Millennium Bridge up St Peter’s Hill towards St Paul’s Cathedral.

Today the Upholders are one of the Livery companies that do not have a Hall. This enables us to enjoy functions in the splendour of many of the 41 Livery Halls in the City of London and hold our annual Ladies Night Banquet in The Mansion House by kind permission of the Lord Mayor.

The booklet written by Past Master Anthony Usher in 2003 includes photographs of our treasures which are seldom seen since they are stored in bank vaults. Our very rare triangular William III salt is however on permanent display in Salters’ Hall.

The Master’s Badge
Few Liverymen have the opportunity to study our Master’s Badge at close quarters. The current badge is a silver cushion surrounded with gold braid modelled in three dimensions and displayed diagonally.  The full achievement of arms of the Company is depicted in precious metals and enamels. On its reverse the badge bears  the inscription ‘The MASTER’S BADGE To Commemorate The Millennium. Presented by C F Hayman, Master 1989-90, A V Kinsey, Master 1991-92 B E Chapman, Master Elect 20 January 2000’

The Master’s Chain of office is a chain of two strands in silver-gilt with 24 spacers. The oval clasp is inscribed ‘Presented by A.W. Schuster MBE, Master 1958’.
When not wearing his full regalia the Master wears his badge using a ribbon.

Earlier Badges
The Senior Warden’s Badge is the original Master’s Badge dating from 1876 and it bears the enamelled coat of arms of the donor, Edward Hunter, Master 1876. This was replaced in 1963 when supporters and a motto were added to the Company’s grant of arms. A new badge for the Master comprising the full achievement was presented by P Tyson Woodstock TD, Master 1963. This badge became The Warden to the Trade’s badge when the Millennium Master’s Badge was presented.   Information in this article was compiled for Richard Goddard’s book “Masters’ Badges of the Livery Companies” which was published in November 2010.

The Origin of Livery Companies

The Livery Companies of the City of London can trace unbroken descent from medieval Trade Guilds.

The term “Guild” is said to derive from the Saxon word “gildan”, to pay, since members paid towards the costs of the brotherhood. Guilds were craft or trade societies. They protected consumers and employers against incompetence or fraud by training sufficient apprentices to provide an adequate supply of skilled craftsmen selling goods of true quality and weight. They helped workers by preventing unlimited competition and ensuring reasonable wages and conditions. They searched out inferior work and punished the offenders. They settled trade and domestic disputes by arbitration, while their halls served as centres for meeting and recreation.

Members paid contributions as to a benefit society, then received relief when ill, infirm, or old, and had their burial expenses paid.

There was a strong religious element in the Guilds, each adopting a patron saint and being attached to a local monastery or church. Their distinctive costumes, or liveries, the colour of which varied according to the Company, were perhaps based on the several habits worn by monks.

Thus the Guilds became known as “Livery Companies”.

An ancient term for the Livery companies is Mystery derived from the Latin “misterium” meaning “professional skill”. However like many Liveries the Upholders maintain some mystery and mysticke about our ceremonies. So installation ceremonies for Freemen, Court Assistants, Wardens and the Master are open only to full Liverymen.

Upholding the City of London

One of the Upholders’ 5 objectives is to Uphold our links with the City of London. We do this in many different ways: We are proud that Past Master, William Hunter was Lord Mayor 1851-1852, Sir William Rawlings was Sheriff 1801 and more recently Past Master Jonathan Charkham was Sheriff 1994/95 and Chief Commoner 2002. A sense of civic duty is close to the heart of many of our Court and Livery so Upholders have strong representation on many City organisations.

We have also built close links with the Court of Aldermen and the Common Council many of whom have joined us for our Livery events.   As an ancient Livery our Liverymen hold posts in many financial, commercial and manufacturing businesses as well as in our trades and this brings into our Livery a breadth of experience and knowledge of the working life of the City of London and elsewhere that few other Liveries can match.

One of the most important duties of Liverymen is to participate in the Shrieval and Mayoral elections.

Common Hall
Common Hall is summoned by the Lord Mayor, by formal notice to the Masters and Wardens of the livery companies that they should give notice to their Liverymen to attend at Guildhall on a certain day. The Sheriffs and other officers are elected on Midsummer Day, and the Lord Mayor on Michaelmas Day (or the next weekday). Voting is by a show of hands but if a poll is demanded, one is held a fortnight later.   The Lord Mayor is elected from the Aldermen. There are 27 Aldermen in the City of London each elected to represent one of the electoral Wards.

Castle Baynard Ward

The Worshipful Company of Upholders maintains close links with the Ward of Castle Baynard within which was the site of our Hall 1646 – 1666.  Past Master Michael Gilham was Chairman in 2011-12 and Liveryman Graham Packham CC in 2013-14.  In 2009 the Upholders’ Livery was honoured to join the Ward Club at Mansion House for a Banquet to mark its centenary year during the Mayoralty of its President Alderman Ian Luder.

Lord Mayor’s Show

Lord Mayor's Show
Court Assistant & Hon Archivist Judy Tayler-Smith, President City Livery Club in the 2012 Lord Mayor’s Show

This is the biggest event in the City as each year the new Lord Mayor makes his way to the Royal Courts of Justice to swear his or her allegiance to the Queen. Each year the event is different with organisations associated with the incoming Lord Mayor invited to participate. The event is also one of the biggest fund-raising events for the Lord Mayor’s Charities with Liveries and other organisations donating many thousands of pounds to participate

Sheep Drive

Among the ancient rights of Freemen of the City of London dating back to 1189 is the right to herd sheep over London Bridge without need or cause of having to pay a toll or fine. In 2008 and 2009 Freemen have exercised this right and in the process raised around £100,000 for City Charities.

Sheep Drive
Sheep Drive