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.
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 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.
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
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
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.