VIII. "THE COMMON BOX." (fn. 1)
1. Under this expression the corporate funds of the Fraternity were formerly designated. The earliest bequests made
to the Company for "corporate" as distinct from "trust" purposes are found in the wills of Sir John and Dame Percival
in 1507 and 1508. Both gave "to the Common Box of the
Fraternity," the one "to the maintenance of their common
charges and need," the other "for the maintenance and supportation of their common charges." Another expression to
convey the same meaning is found in Donkin's Will (1570),
where, though grafting a trust upon them, he directs his rents
to be gathered "into the Company's stock"; and, again, in
Vernon's will (1615), where the term "stock of the house" is
used. The earliest benefactors to the Company were Sibsay
(1404), Churchman (1406), and Langwith (1483), and the later
ones, Moncaster (1517), Harris (1520), Slater (1521), Speight
(1527), Sir S. Jennyns (1527), Acton (1530), and Buckland (1531).
2. The receipts and payments are shown elsewhere, (fn. 2) but
the ordinary sources of income, as evidenced by the Company's
Ordinances, were (a) the annual and quarterly payments of
each member of the Fraternity (fn. 3) ; (b) The fines imposed on
those who "mysorder themselves" either in the presence of the
Master (fn. 4) or elsewhere; (c) The fees taken from citizens when
apprenticed, or admitted to the Freedom or Livery, or to office
in the Company; (d) The fines imposed on those refusing to
serve, having been chosen or appointed to office. (fn. 5)
3. (a) The "annual" payments towards the Master's elec
tion dinner have ceased for many years, that of 12d. from each
Freeman (fn. 6) in 1623 (when they ceased to be summoned), and
that of 3s. 4d. from the Assistants and Livery upwards of 220
years, the expenses of this dinner being (now partially as
formerly) borne by the Master and two Renter Wardens. When
made, the subsequent disbursement of these payments for this
entertainment appears, as the Records show, (fn. 7) to have been
more or less within the control of the Lord Mayor or Court of
Assistants of the Company.
4. (b) The quarterage of 2s. 2d. was raised to 4s. by order of
the Court in 1699, and in 1724 a Liveryman refusing to pay it
was fined 40s. by the Court, and the Clerk ordered to recover
the same by legal process. These payments, which were in the
nature of poor rates, have ceased for upwards of 30 years.
5. (c) The fees taken on apprentices must be divided into
Officers' and Company's.
The Clerk's fees were, in 1632, for binding, 1s. 10d., and
for presentment, 2d.; in 1678, 2s. 8d. upon a merchant's and
1s. 8d. on any other apprentice; in 1623, the apprentice fees
were raised to 1l., and in 1625 to 1l. 5s., with an extra fee on a
premium paid. The Beadle and Porter also had fees.
6. The Company's fees were 2s. 6d. on apprenticing and
3s. 4d. on freedom; when they were increased by the Ordinances
of 1661, in four grades, realizing, upon an average, 18s. 4d.
and 12s. 6d. for each apprentice and freeman. The Court
resolved in 1673 to return to the old fees; but in 1804, 1813,
and 1825, other fees were fixed; the Court, be it observed,
having always assumed the control and regulation of these
7. (d) The payments by Liverymen must also be distinguished as Stewards' and Livery fines.
The first arose from the custom which threw the expense
of the Lord Mayor's and several other dinners upon the Livery,
(three or four in number being chosen), who had to act as
stewards and to pay either the cost of these entertainments or
a fine, fixed arbitrarily by the Court, until the year 1705, when
10l. was established as the steward's fine.
8. The second was fixed in 1591 at 16l. 13s. 4d., in 1598 at
20l., in 1601 (fn. 8) at 25l.; in 1607 at 35l. to those seeking the office,
or at 30l. to those summoned; in 1663 at 25l.; in 1680 at 20l.,
with a fine of 30l. for those refusing to bear the expenses of
Steward; and in 1705 at 15l., and 10l. for the Stewards' dinner.
9. On the 28th July 1726, the Court resolved that the
Livery fine should for the future be 30l.; that the members
paying such fine should not be called on to serve the office of
Steward, that the Company should be at the charge of the
Lord Mayor's day and school feasts, and that the office of
Steward should cease. The fine was raised to 50l. in 1813, to
75l. in 1817, to 80l. 5s. in 1825, at which sum it now stands.
10. The "Livery" or the office of Assistant is now sought
for as a benefit, not imposed as a burthen, hence fines for
default of service are seldom incurred. The office of Master
is still, by some at least, deemed onerous, and the fine (100l.)
has been paid in recent years.
11. By provident care the resources of the Company accumulated, and so early as 1401 were invested in the purchase of real
estate in the City. The pressure of the Crown by threatening
forfeiture at the time of the Reformation obliged the Company
to buy up all superstitious charges on their estates, but what
in 1549–50 might have been deemed an evil has by the
increased value of land to money become a great benefit.
12. The extraordinary sources of the income, ultra the Ordinances, were assessments made on the members of the Fraternity by order of the Court of Assistants, or the precept or
command of the Lord Mayor as for a supply of corn. The
constitution of these guilds provided a convenient machinery
for taxation, (fn. 9) and the Common Council assumed the right of
ordering the Master and Wardens to raise men, (fn. 10) supplies (fn. 11) or
money (fn. 12) for municipal, no less than the Privy Council and
Parliament for imperial purposes.
13. As another source of extraordinary income, the liberality
of deceased members may be reckoned. With power to hold in
Mortmain, the Company was at an early period in its history
made the trustee of land for many benevolent objects. These
benefactors usually provided for the remuneration of the
Company's officers, and, having given fixed pecuniary charges
to charitable purposes, often left the residue for the common
profit of the Fraternity. With few exceptions these estates
remain as they were left; the rents being apportioned with the
sanction of the Charity Commissioners (appointed under the
16 and 17 Vict., c. 137) to the specific charitable purposes for
which they were originally devised. The enhanced value of
land given to the Company, as against money given to the
Charities, has not unfrequently raised the corporate as contrasted with the trust income of the Fraternity; an inequality
often reduced by the ruling body.
To turn to the other side of the account; the charges
created against the ordinary revenue were these:—
14. The primary charge—as of charity—appears to have
been the maintenance of Almsmen during life and their interment after death. They were "to be buried honestly at the
costs and charges of the said Fraternity; and the Master and
Wardens, and diverse of the clothing in their whole livery, to
15. A specific rate (in effect a poor-rate before the Statute
of Elizabeth), "for the poor of the said Fraternity," was levied
quarterly, under a penalty of double the amount, and "without
any remission or pardon," hence the cost of maintaining the
poor was a second charge on the common box.
16. After the establishment of the School, in 1561, its maintenance has been a charge on revenue, for by the 44th Rule
of the Foundation, the Company resolved to dedicate "40l.
yearly, to be paid out of the Common Box," to the Masters.
At that time this donation formed no inconsiderable part of
the Company's yearly surplus, for in 1566 (there being no earlier
account extant), the expenses of the School are shown as
56l. 13s. 4d., leaving only a residue of 46l. 6s. 8d. for the
general purposes of the Fraternity. (fn. 13)
17. The extraordinary charges were probably connected
with 16th Ordinance, which was directed against "those persons who denied to be partners or contributors, and to bear
their parts of certain charges concerning the worship, benefit
or credit of the Fraternity." A power of taxation was exercised by the Master, Wardens, and Court of Assistants, for
specific purposes which were deemed to be common to the
Fraternity, and to fall upon them as members of a Corporation subordinate to the supreme Common Council of the City.
These sums were applied or paid for the special objects for
which they were raised. (fn. 14)
18. The landed estates of the Company were usually subject,
by the wills of the donors, to extraordinary payments, and it
was the custom of the two Renter Wardens to divide the labour
and responsibility of collection and of disbursement by taking
one of two districts (into which they separated London),
receiving the rents of that district, paying thereout the disbursements, and handing over the balance after due audit to
the succeeding Master who, when the wealth of the Company
out-filled the "Box," placed it in what was soon termed "the
19. In days when "Banks" were unknown, the money was
held in specie, and with the plate, kept in this Treasury, under
several keys, one being given into the custody of the Master
and of each of the Renter Wardens, and of a trusted member
of the Fraternity. The orders of the Court justified expenditure, but the Treasury was only opened in the presence of the
Master and Wardens, the Master being the person into whose
hands the money was given for ultimate disbursement. (fn. 15)
20. At the "dreadful fire" of London (" which burnt down
about 1,400l. per annum of ground rents," (fn. 16) ) "the Treasury by
the Hall" was consumed, and all the plate melted, whereupon a
Committee was appointed, on the 20th September 1666, to
"view the same," and treat "with Mr. Taylor at the Tower
about the refining of the same, and to dispose of the said
plate to the best advantage and benefit of the Company."
What the plate realized is shown in the foot note. (fn. 17)
21. When the use of the Treasury was abandoned and the
money first placed in a Banking Account has not been traced.
The Company opened an account with the Bank of England by
order of the Court, of 15th October 1730, in these words:
"That for the future the cash of the Company be kept for the
respective Master and Wardens for the time being in the Bank
of England, or in such other place as the said Master and
Wardens will be answerable for;" the occasion of the order
being that, at the same Court, the Master (Dawson) had
previously memorialized and been relieved from 396l. 17s. 6d. of
corporate money, deposited by him with Mr. John Jenkins, a
Banker, then insolvent.