To The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty.
May it please Your Majesty,
We, the undersigned Commissioners appointed by Your Majesty to investigate
the affairs of the Livery Companies of the City of London, humbly present to Your
Majesty the following Report.
A minority of the Commissioners dissent from the conclusions of the majority.
We regret that, as the result of an inquiry in every stage of which all Your Majesty's Commissioners have cordially co-operated, it should be necessary for us to
record our dissent from the conclusions arrived at by our colleagues. We have, however, carefully considered their Report, and we find ourselves unable to agree with it
in several important particulars.
Brief statement of the conclusions of the minority.
Under these circumstances we conceive that we shall best discharge our duty to
Your Majesty by briefly stating the conclusions which we have ourselves formed with
regard to the several heads of Your Majesty's Commission.
Heads of Commission.
These heads relate (1) to the foundation and object of the Livery Companies of the
City of London; (2) to the constitution of these companies, and the privileges enjoyed
by those who are members of them; (3) to the salaries paid by the companies to
their officers and servants, and the mode in which these persons are appointed;
(4) to the sources of their corporate and trust income, the capital value of their
property, their administration of it, and the mode in which the income arising from it
is expended; (5) to the question of an alteration in the constitution of the companies
should any three or more of the Commissioners consider an alteration "expedient and
Foundation and object.; Misconceptions as to the origin of the Companies.
1. As regards the circumstances under which the City Companies were founded, we
are of opinion that at the time when Your Majesty was pleased to issue this Commission some misapprehension prevailed. It was supposed that the companies had till
recent times consisted of members of the trades the names of which they bear, (fn. 1) that
the objects of their foundation had been the organisation of these trades, and that
their present condition, which is that of societies having for the most part only a
nominal connection with these trades, where such still exist—and many are known to
have become obsolete, or to have disappeared from London—is one different from their
former condition. The researches of archæologists and the passages in the returns
of the companies relating to their early history (fn. 2) seem to point to a different
The companies of London prove to have sprung from a number of guilds, which were
associations of neighbours for the purposes of mutual assistance. Such associations
were very numerous in the Middle Ages, both in town and country, and they appear to
have abounded in London at a very early period. A "frith guild" and a "knighten-
guild" seem to have existed in London in Anglo-Saxon times, (fn. 3) and at the time of
the Norman Conquest there were probably many other bodies of a like nature in
London. Their main objects were the relief of poverty and the performance of masses
for the dead.
Localization of trades in London in early times.
The trades of London appear to have had in early times their recognised quarters
in the City, and owing to this localization they formed themselves into guilds, of which
the principal objects were those above mentioned. (fn. 4) These guilds, however, also
undertook the regulation of the trades to which the members belonged. They appointed
overseers to inspect the wares produced or sold, and also umpires to adjudicate in
cases of disputes between masters and workmen. They generally had halls, at which
meetings of the principal members took place for purposes of inspection, arbitration,
and the consideration of claims to charitable relief, and at these halls banquets were
frequently given. (fn. 5) They were purely voluntary associations, and required no licence
from the State.
Ordinances of the guilds.
"Ordinances" were framed for the internal regulation of the guilds at the time of
their formation by the most influential members. Such ordinances were (1) religious;
(2) social and charitable; (3) industrial. Examples of the first class were rules for
the attendance of the members at the services of the church, for the promotion of
pilgrimages, and for the celebration of masses for the dead; examples of the second,
ordinances relating to common meals and the relief of poor brethren and sisters;
examples of the third, regulations as to the hours of labour, the processes of manufacture, the wages of workmen, and technical education.
Inns of Court and Chancery similar bodies.
The Inns of Court and Chancery and Serjeants' Inn were probably originally bodies
in some respects similar to the guilds, though not corporate bodies. (fn. 6)
Charters.; Inspeximus charters.
Charters were granted by Edward III. or Richard II. to many of the Companies.
Such grants were made for valuable consideration. Succeeding sovereigns renewed
the charters down to the time of the accession of the House of Hanover. The sum
paid by the companies to the national exchequer in respect of the original and
inspeximus charters seems to have been very considerable. (fn. 7)
Effect of charters.
The terms of the charters are in most cases obviously founded on the ordinances.
They recognise the guilds as existing, "administered," to quote the words of the Bishop
of Chester, "by their own officers, and administering their own property in the usual
way, the aldermen of the guilds holding the estates when the guilds possessed estates
direct from the King." (fn. 8) The hospitals and Inns of Court of London and many
provincial guilds received their first charters about the time of the incorporation of
the London companies, and inspeximus charters afterwards in the same way at the
commencement of each reign.
At the time of their incorporation the then existing members formed "byelaws"
to control the details of their organisation.
Effect of incorporation.
On their incorporation the companies of London, like all incorporated bodies,
became amenable to the processes of scire facias and quo warranto; but there is
nothing in their history from the time of their incorporation to the present day to
warrant the supposition that they could ever have been legally dissolved. From the
time when the State recognised their existence, the only obligation of the governing
bodies, which succeeded the "aldermen" or head men, has been to carry out, so far as
has been practicable having regard to change of times, the terms of the charters and
byelaws, and to apply the trust funds to the purposes for which they were bequeathed.
The corporate property of the companies, as distinguished from that which they
hold as trustees for charitable purposes, has always been in the eye of the law their
own, just as much as if the companies were private individuals.
Custom of London as to mortmain lands.
A licence in mortmain was contained in most of the charters, and some of the
charters of inspeximus contain lists of the lands held by the companies at the time
they were granted, and expressly recognise the title of the companies thereto; (fn. 9) but
licences of mortmain were not of much importance as regards the companies of the
city of London, for by the immemorial custom of the City "free burgage" lands,
i.e., lands held, as stated, "direct from the Crown," could be devised to corporations
without any limitation as to value. At the time of their incorporation, and for
centuries afterwards, land was throughout England the principal kind of property,
and it was only natural that, having the advantage of this custom of the City, the
Companies should soon become, as they in fact did become, large holders of real
property within the walls of London. (fn. 10)
Aristocratic constitution.; Companies of— (1.) Merchants, (2.) Tradesmen, (3.) Manufacturers.; Patrimony.
Their constitution was always aristocratic. The administrators, who are generally
named in the first charters, were the principal capitalists and employers of labour, or
else distinguished citizens not connected with commerce or manufactures, and by the
terms of the charters these boards had complete control over the associations.
Some of these, such as the Mercers' and Grocers' Companies, appears to have consisted, to a great extent, of merchants and wholesale dealers; others, such as the
Fishmongers' Company, and the other companies deriving their names from trades,
of shopkeepers and their apprentices; others, such as the Goldsmiths' Company,
the Clothworkers' Company, and the other companies deriving their names from
"arts and mysteries," of master manufacturers and artizans. But, the names of
the companies are misleading, for the reasons that (1), from time immemorial the
privileges of membership of a London company have been hereditary, one mode of
admission having always been by patrimony, which causes the right to the freedom
to descend to all the lineal descendants, male and female (fn. 11) of every freeman;
(2), from time immemorial a system of apprenticeship has entered into the constitution of the companies, under which members of the companies, irrespective of
whether they were or were not members of the trades the names of which were
borne by the companies, were privileged to receive apprentices. These reasons have
caused the companies to consist largely of non-craftsmen from the earliest times,
and the proportion of non-craftsmen seems always to have been particularly large
among the administrators or governing bodies. (fn. 12)
Powers of search.; Monopolies.
The charters, particularly the later ones, generally extend the area of the trade
control assumed by the companies in their original state as guilds. Under some the
companies acquire power to prevent persons from carrying on their callings without
belonging to a company, and powers of searching for and destroying defective wares
within a radius of several miles from St. Paul's. It is needless to say that monopolies
and powers of search of this description are contrary to law, and that the companies
never really received from the Crown either of these privileges. From the time of
their incorporation, however, down to a period which is difficult exactly to fix, they
exercised them within the City and its liberties; never, probably in the more extended
area over which by virtue of some of the more recent charters they acquired a nominal
control. (fn. 13)
Cessation of connection with trades at the end of the 16th century.
Their decay as trade organizations had certainly commenced at the outset of the
16th century; and probably by the end of it they had practically ceased to be of any
use for industrial purposes. (fn. 14)
Cessation at about the
same period of connection with religion.
The period of the cesser of the connection of the companies with the trade and
manufactures of London is approximately that of the Reformation, and as Catholicism
was of the essence of their religious rules, at the time when they ceased to have any
control over the trades and industries from which they took their names, they also
ceased to be in any real sense religious fraternities. Thus, of their three original functions two, those of common worship and association for commercial purposes, became
obsolete about four centuries ago. Their remaining function, that of hospitality and
charity, has since this period been the only one which it has been possible for them
to discharge. It appears (fn. 15) to us to be important to insist on this side of the case. We
think that one of the results of this Commission has been to prove very clearly that for
the last four hundred years the companies of London have been mainly what they
are at the present day, viz., associations identified in name with-trade and manufactures, but whose real objects have been rather hospitality and benevolence. They
have certainly received charter after charter from Your Majesty's Royal predecessors
at periods when such associations could not possibly have been called into existence
for any other purposes.
Corporate and trust estate.; Protest of the companies.
The companies are at the present day possessed of a large corporate and trust estate,
the principal element in which is a considerable amount of land let on building leases
in the City of London. With respect to that portion of it which is corporate property,
the companies have in their returns, while giving full information as to the situation and
rental of the property, protested (fn. 16) against this part of the inquiry as illegal. It is
obvious that the companies are perfectly justified in making this protest, for their corporate property is as much their own, and with as full a right of disposition in the eye of
the law, as that of any private individual, and the Crown has no more right to inquire
into the mode in which it was acquired and the way in which the income arising
from it is spent, than it has to make similar inquiries with respect to the estate or
income of a landed gentleman or merchant.
Evidence in the returns and the Reports of H.M. Inspectors of Charities.
The returns, however, of the companies, the Reports of the Charity Commissions
appointed between 1818 and 1837, the Reports of Your Majesty's present Inspectors of
Charities, and the proceedings which have taken place in Chancery in respect of the
informations filed by Attorney-Generals against the companies contain jointly a considerable store of information on the subject of the nature and origin of the corporate
estate of the London companies. Of such information the following is a summary:—
Sites of halls probably purchased.
1. There can be little doubt that some of the first property acquired by the companies
must have consisted of the sites of their original halls. The land was probably bought
and the halls built out of contributions made for the purpose by existing members.
The sites of some (not by any means of all (fn. 17) ) of their original almshouses were
probably similarly acquired.
Custom of City with respect to free burgage lands.; Investment in land of corporate savings.
2. There is a strong probability that a large amount of the corporate savings of the
different companies, i.e., monies arising from fees and fines as hereinafter explained, was
in the earliest times invested in the purchase of building land in the City. Such purchases would of course have been impossible apart from the custom of the City, which
dispensed with the necessity of a licence in mortmain in the case of land held in free
burgage. The amount of land in respect of which the companies have obtained
licences in mortmain seems to be comparatively small. On the contrary the amount
purchased under the custom outside the licences seems to have been large, and we
think it probable that much of this was paid for out of the accumulations of the contributions of then existing members, or members very recently deceased, to the
common purse. (fn. 18)
Fire of London.
The then existing members, who rebuilt the halls and house property, the second founders of the companies.
3. The Fire of London for a time ruined the City Companies. Their halls, almshouses, and schools, and almost all their house property in the City was destroyed.
At this time the charities of which the companies were trustees were not nearly so
numerous as at present; but they were still even then both numerous and opulent, and
the income which supported them consisted almost entirely of rents and rentcharges.
Fire insurance was unknown at the time, and the expense of repairing the ravages of
the fire was borne solely by the companies without State or municipal aid. There is
no doubt that the then existing members made large contributions out of their private
means for this purpose. The principal persons connected with the companies were
determined that their schools and almshouses should not be closed, and to prevent this
they subscribed a very large sum. These persons may be regarded as the second
founders of the companies, which must have become extinct, along with all their
great charities, without their assistance. The present income, both corporate and
trust, of the companies is really the interest of the capital which was thus invested.
At the time when the house property of the companies was rebuilt they had long
ceased to have any connection with the trades which they originally to some
extent represented, and were precisely what they are now—private associations
having for their main objects charity and hospitality. The companies did not
recover from the effects of the fire, to which must be added the impoverished condition produced by State exactions, till the middle of the last or even the commencement of the present century. (fn. 19)
Lands in London acquired by purchase from the Crown.
4. The lands of the City companies, or rather the rent-charges issuing thereout,
which were confiscated by the State at the time of the Reformation as being held to
superstitious uses, were purchased back from the Crown in the time of Edward VI.
The purchase money was probably to a great extent subscribed by then existing
members out of their own pockets. In any case it is clear law that all such property
is the absolute property of the purchasers, with as unlimited a power of disposition
as if it belonged to private individuals. (fn. 20) A very large amount of the City house
property of the companies was thus acquired.
Ulster estate acquired by purchase from the Crown.
5. The Ulster estate of the City companies was also acquired by purchase from the
Crown, in the reign of James I. The money with which it was bought consisted of
the subscriptions of existing members. At the time of the purchase there can be no
doubt that the companies were constituted precisely as they are at present, and there
is no pretence for suggesting that the land was conveyed subject to any express or
implied trust, or that it passed to the companies otherwise than as their absolute
property, with as unlimited power of disposition as if it had been conveyed to private
individuals. (fn. 21)
Proceedings in Chancery.; Companies generally successful.
6. After the Reports of the Charity Commissions, which sat between 1818 and
1837, a number of informations were filed by the Attorney-General against the
companies, mainly, it would appear, at the instance of the parochial authorities of the
City, who laid claim to the increment of certain rents as being charitable income
available for the relief of the poor. The result of the litigation was that the
companies succeeded in almost every case in demonstrating their clear legal right to
deal with the increment as in every respect their own. (fn. 22)
Recent cases.; Donkin's and Kendall's charities.
Since Your Majesty's present Inspectors of Charities have reported there have been
two cases in Chancery which have attracted some attention—the Merchant Taylors'
Company v. the Attorney-General (Donkin's Charity) (fn. 23) , and the Attorney-General v.
the Wax Chandlers' Company (Kendall's Charity) (fn. 24) . In the former case the Merchant
Taylors' Company were plaintiffs. On Mr. Hare, one of Your Majesty's Inspectors of
Charities, mentioning to the court of the company that he had some doubt as to the
increment of the rents left under the will being corporate income, the company at
once took the best available legal opinion, and finding that counsel agreed with
Mr. Hare, they instituted a suit claiming a declaration that the whole rent of Donkin's
estate was trust as opposed to corporate income and subject to the specific payments
mentioned in Donkin's will. This claim was granted in the Court of First Instance by
Lord Romilly, then Master of the Rolls, and in the Court of Appeal this ruling was
affirmed, the Lord Chancellor, however, Lord Hatherley, describing the case "as one
of very great nicety," in which he arrived at a conclusion "with considerable
hesitation." (fn. 25) The information against the Wax Chandlers' Company, was not, it is
true, a friendly suit, but the case was one of extreme difficulty, and the decision of the
House of Lords declaring the increment to belong to the charity as opposed to the
company has been much canvassed.
Results of litigation.
We think it clearly appears from the history of this litigation, which commenced in
1837 and has only just ended, (1) that the courts of the companies, as might be'
expected from bodies of honourable men, have had their titles carefully investigated in
all doubtful cases; (2) that it is certain that the law officers of the Crown would at
the present time direct few, if any, proceedings in Chancery, if they were granted
inspection of all the title deeds of the companies.
Favourable reports of (1) First Charity Commissioners, (2) present Inspectors of Charities.
We desire to add: (1) That the reports of the first Charity Commissioners are very
favourable to the companies. The points made use of at their suggestion in the
informations were of an abstruse and technical kind, arising on the construction of
obscurely expressed wills, and the Commissioners never imputed to the companies
anything worse than an erroneous interpretation of difficult language. They speak
also in the highest terms of the liberality of the companies as regards their charities.
(2) That the Reports of Your Majesty's present Inspectors of Charities are perhaps
even more favourable, and show that the courts were between the years 1860 and
1865, as the returns show that they are at the present time, excellent bodies of trustees,
who spend far more than they are bound to spend on the charities which they
administer. (fn. 26)
Moral as well is legal claim to complete control of corporate property.
We have thought it right to lay the above facts before Your Majesty and before the
public, because the position of the companies of the City has been in our opinion
greatly misunderstood, and because we conceive that the result of this inquiry has
been to establish a moral no less than a clear legal right on the part of the bodies
which have been the subject of it to be allowed to retain the complete control of their
corporate or private property.
Some misconception also appears to us to prevail as to the attitude assumed by the
companies towards the Municipal Commission appointed by Your Majesty's Royal
predecessor King William IV. in 1834. Many of the companies gave the Commissioners a full account of their charters, byelaws, and general constitution, but declined
to answer questions put by the Commissioners relating to their corporate, i.e., as we
have explained, their private property. Such questions were clearly ultra vires for the
reasons above given, (fn. 27) and the refusal of the companies was perfectly justifiable.
Some of the companies refused altogether to answer the questions of the Commissioners,
and they were, in our opinion, justified in so doing, as there was no pretence for
regarding them as within the purview of a "Municipal Commission," for the reason
that these bodies are not at law "municipal corporations," nor in any sense an
integral part of the municipality of the City of London. (fn. 28)
Constitution of the companies well ascertained at the time when the Commission was issued.
Observance of charters and byelaws.
2. The second part of your Majesty's Commission relates to the constitution of the
companies of the City and the privileges enjoyed by the members. The organisation of
the companies is really a matter of public knowledge. Their charters and byelaws
were carefully examined by the Municipal Commissioners appointed in 1834, and are
set out at length in the valuable Appendix to that Report, from which it is obvious that
the courts or governing bodies have always striven to abide by the spirit and even the
letter, wherever it is possible, of these instruments. Of course they contain much
that is archaic and impossible nowadays to carry out. The same careful observance
of their charters and byelaws, in so far as they affect the companies as associations for
the promotion of charity and hospitality, is visible in those parts of the returns
received by us which are addressed to this subject.
Privileges of freemen and liverymen.
As to privileges, the companies consist partly of mere freemen, who are as a
rule artisans, partly of liverymen, who are members for the most part of the middle
class, and who pay a considerable fee to the common purse on "taking out their
It is certain that there are 10,000, and there may very possibly be 15,000 freemen,
members of the working classes, who mostly pursue their callings in London. The
only privilege which they enjoy is a claim to charitable relief in case they or their
widows or orphan daughters fall into poverty or other undeserved misfortune. The
relief of poor members, their widows, and orphans was undoubtedly one of the chief
objects of the foundation of the companies, and it is regarded by all the courts as a
principal duty. Not only the trust incomes, but also the private incomes of the
companies are available for this purpose, with the result that many poor members are
thereby prevented from becoming a charge on the parochial rates.
Misfortune is not confined to the artisan class, and liverymen, of whom there are
7,000, their widows and orphans, are as much entitled as freemen or freewomen to
relief out of the companies' funds; but it is a rule in, as we believe, all the companies
that a liveryman must always give up his livery, his fine being returned to him, at the
time when his petition is sent in.
The relief consists in admission to the almshouses or in pensions, those paid to
destitute liverymen or their relations being of greater value than those paid to
freemen and freewomen.
Great pains appear to be taken by the companies to prevent imposition, and we
believe that their internal charity relieves in a delicate manner much undeserved
misfortune. (fn. 29)
Courts.; Numbers of liverymen receive nothing from inherited funds.
A place upon the court of one of the more prominent companies is a position of
some dignity and influence, but it is not reached till after many years of membership,
nor without considerable expense in the payment of fees (1) on entrance; (2) on "call"
to the livery; and (3) on promotion to the court and to office, which is always taken by a
new member of a court. (fn. 30) Members of the courts are the hosts, and have a place at all
the entertainments of the companies; but the sum spent on the entertainments to
which a liveryman of one of the opulent companies is invited often represents little
more than the interest of his livery fine; while there are many companies which
have absolutely no corporate income, except such as arises from the accumulations
of the contributions of past and present members. We think it probable that of the
7,000 liverymen, about half receive nothing in any way from inherited funds, though
their contributions in fines and fees amount to a very considerable sum.
Modes of admission.
The three modes of admission—patrimony, apprenticeship, and redemption—are
of great antiquity, and are essential features in the constitution of the companies
of the City of London. The Reports of Your Majesty's Inspectors of Charities make
it impossible to doubt that the courts, which consist of persons who have entered
the companies by these means, are admirable boards of trustees, and this circumstance,
coupled with the entire satisfaction with the proceedings of the courts which the
liverymen at large show, appears to prove that this constitution works well in
Officers and servants.; Paid out private income.
3. The third part of your Majesty's Commission relates to the salaries of the
officers and servants of the companies of London, and the mode in which such persons
are appointed. The returns show that the stipends and salaries of the companies'
officers are paid almost wholly out of the private income of the companies. (fn. 31) This
circumstance would, in our opinion, justify us in passing the matter over. But, as our
colleagues have not adopted this course, we think it right to state that the few really
highly-paid officials who are in the employment of the companies hold positions of importance, and are professional men of ability, who could easily have found equally remunerative occupations. With respect to "court fees," i.e., the payments which are made to
members of the governing bodies of the companies for their attendance at the meetings
which are held for business purposes, these too (fn. 32) are taken almost entirely out of
the private income of the companies. In several of the companies no fees are paid,
in many fees only of a nominal amount, and in the cases in which fees of more than
a nominal amount are paid there is usually a considerable amount of important
business transacted at the meetings.
Corporate and trust income.
4. The fourth part of Your Majesty's Commission relates to the sources of the
corporate and trust income of the companies, the capital value of their property, their
administration of it, and the mode in which the income arising from it is expended.
Origin of corporate estate.; All private property.; Evidence of the Lord Chancellor.
As to the origin of the corporate or private estate of the companies we beg to
refer to the previous part of this Report. The corporate estate consists of (1),
the companies' halls and a large amount of house property in the City of London
purchased by the companies with their own private funds in the market in the
ordinary way; (2), a large amount of house property in the City of London purchased as private property from the Crown; (3), rents of houses or ground rents
in the City of London on which there are in some cases fixed or proportionate
charges for the support of charities, such rents being clearly as a matter of law
their private property; (4), an estate in Ulster purchased as private property from
the Crown; (5), a considerable sum invested in the funds and other securities representing (1) the price of lands the private property of the companies which have been
sold for the purposes of public improvements, (2) accumulations of fees paid to the
common purse by present or past members; (6), a considerable amount of plate, almost
all presented by past or present members. This corporate estate is, in our opinion, clearly
in the strictest sense of the term the private property of the companies, as they have
themselves stated in their returns, and we are glad to say that our views have received
confirmation from a legal authority of the highest rank, the present Lord Chancellor,
who did us the honour to come before us as a member of a deputation, representing the
City and Guilds of London Technical Institute. (fn. 33)
Letter from Mercers' Company with respect to private expenditure.
With respect to the way in which the income arising from this private property is
expended, we cannot do better than quote the following passage from a letter addressed
to us by the Mercers' Company, the first of the "great" companies of London in order
of civic precedence. "As regards the mode in which the company's income is expended,
the company trust that the same sense of the duties attaching to the possession of
property which has hitherto guided them in the administration of their own will
continue to do so; and they venture to think that in this respect they have no reason
to fear a comparison with the most liberal among the wealthy nobility and gentry
of the realm. But considering this point to be one affecting themselves only, they
decline to notice either the censure or the commendation which may have been
expressed by others in reference to it." (fn. 34)
Private expenditure on public and benevolent objects.
These remarks appear to be very just; but we cannot but think that the returns of
the companies with respect to their private expenditure on public and benevolent
objects, will, when laid before the public, be found to merit commendation rather than
censure. There prove to be several companies which devote half their private income
to such objects, and the proportion of the private incomes of most of the companies
which is thus spent is very considerable.
Judicious selection of such objects.; Support of companies charities.; Support of education and of the charities of London.
Moreover, we consider that in the selection of the public and benevolent objects
which they support, the companies show remarkable judgment. Their first thought
appears to be of the charities which they administer as trustees, and which in the
17th century they saved from destruction. Many of these are at present in debt to
them to a large extent, and have been converted from poor into comparatively rich
foundations. (fn. 35) They also largely support education in all its branches. They have
founded several schools, and have recently formed the above-mentioned City and
Guilds of London Technical Institute, which has for its object the promotion of that
most important object, technical education, in London and the provinces. They
also, as is well known, contribute largely to the charities of London.
As to the trust estate of the companies, it supports upwards of one thousand
charities, and Your Majesty's Inspectors appear to be of opinion that no charities in
England are better administered. (fn. 36)
The Companies have only recently become rich.
As regards both these estates, not only did the financial difficulties above alluded
to (fn. 37) continue up to a comparatively recent date, but the income of the companies
probably did not become considerable till about 50 years ago, when a large number of
building leases in the city fell in, and it became possible for the guilds to raise the
ground rents of their city property so as to participate in its increased value.
Their Irish estate has only recently become remunerative.
The Irish estate of the companies, in the purchase of which they sank in the reign
of James II. an amount of their private capital which for the time was
extremely large, did not become really remunerative till an even later period.
Admirable conduct of the Companies with reference to their Irish estate.
Nothing can be more admirable than the conduct of the London companies with
respect to these Ulster lands (fn. 38) . They found them a desert, and by their care and
munificence they have made them one of the most prosperous parts of the United
Kingdom (fn. 39) . Indeed they may be said to have founded at their own expense the loyal
province of Ulster, a service to the Crown perhaps without a parallel, except the
service rendered by the Honourable East India Company (fn. 40) .
Increase of amount of corporate property devoted to public objects.; Universities.
In times past when their incomes were small, the chief companies always devoted a
substantial portion of them to public objects, and their expenditure upon such objects
appears to have grown in proportion to the growth of their revenues. Thus in
1822, the Goldsmiths' Company, whose income was not then large, founded six exhibitions
of 20l. a year, three tenable at Oxford, three at Cambridge. The Company has since
then gradually increased the number and value of its exhibitions, till at the present
time it has 75 exhibitions, each of the value of 50l. a year, tenable at the two Universities. We believe that, if the matter were inquired into, many examples of the same
steady increase in their annual contributions to public objects would be found in the
recent history of the London companies. The Fishmongers, Grocers, Ironmongers,
Clothworkers, and several of the minor Companies have similarly increased their
exhibitions, or have founded exhibitions out of their private means. Indeed the Companies largely subsidize in this respect the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and
also University and King's College, London, two bodies which appeared before us by
Schools.; Middle class education.
They also support, to a considerable extent, out of their private income between 30
and 40 schools, some classical schools, e.g. St. Paul's (fn. 41) , Merchant Taylors' Schools (fn. 42) ,
Tunbridge School (fn. 43) , Aldenham School (fn. 44) , and Great Crosby School (fn. 45) , others,
middle class schools, such as those admirable institutions, Bancroft's Hospital (fn. 46)
the Aske Schools (fn. 47) , and the Grocers' Middle Class School at Hackney Downs. These
schools are distributed over 14 or 15 counties, and not less than 12,000 scholars are
educated at them. Mr. Matthew Arnold, who has had much experience as one of your
Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, and who has interested himself greatly in the promotion
of "middle class" education, has stated to us his opinion that the Companies of London
have done much useful service in this respect. We have also received a favourable
account of these schools from the Secretary of the Cambridge Local Examination
Board (fn. 48) .
Merchant Taylors' Schools.
On Merchant Taylors' School, a school without endowment, the Merchant Taylors'
Company proves to have expended in recent years, out of its private income, a sum of
no less than 140,000l.
To the support given by the Companies of London to Technical Education we have
already alluded; and to the City and Guilds of London Technical Institute, a body
which sent a deputation before us, consisting of the Lord Chancellor (Lord Selborne),
Sir F. Bramwell, F.R.S., and the late Mr. Spottiswoode, then President of the Royal
Society, accompanied by the three secretaries, Mr. Watney (fn. 49) , Mr. Sawyer (fn. 50) , and
Mr. Owen Roberts (fn. 51) , gentlemen who have done much to promote the objects of the
Committee of companies on technical education, 1878.; Reports to committee.
This body was founded in 1878 by a committee sitting at Mercers' Hall and composed of Lord Selborne, Sir F. Bramwell, F.R.S., Sir Sydney Waterlow, and other
members of the principal companies, together with representatives of the City of
London. In the autumn of this year the committee communicated with and received
reports on the subject of technical education from six gentlemen of great scientific
or practical knowledge of the question, viz., Sir William Armstrong, F.R.S., Mr. G. T.
C. Bartley, Lieut.-Colonel Donnelly, Captain Douglas Galton, F.R.S., Professor Huxley,
F.R.S., and Mr. H. Trueman Wood.
Suggestions. (1) Central Institute. (2) Local Schools.
All the reports agreed in suggesting the establishment in London of a Central
Institution or Technical University in London for training technical teachers and providing instruction for advanced students in applied art and science. The reports also
for the most part recommended the establishment of elementary schools of science and
art in London and the chief towns, and the encouragement of technical study by
means of laboratories, scholarships, and courses of lectures.
Professor Huxley's "complete system of technical education."
Professor Huxley's report stated that "a complete system of technical education
should be directed towards the following objects, viz.:—
1. The diffusion, among artizans and others occupied in trades and manufactures,
of sound instruction in those kinds of theoretical and practical knowledge which bear
upon the different branches of industry, whether manufactures or arts.
2. Adequate provision for the training and supply of teachers qualified to give
such instruction; and for the establishment of schools or isolated classes, to which
the industrial population may have ready access; and, further, for a proper system of
examinations whereby the work done in the schools and classes may be tested.
3. The organisation of arrangements for effecting the apprenticeship of scholars of
merit in the branches of industry for which they show aptitude; for enabling such
scholars to continue their studies beyond the ordinary school age, by means of exhibitions; and for opening to the rest of them a career as teachers or as original
workers in applied science." (fn. 52)
1878. Vote by certain companies of 12,000l. a year out of their private incomes to technical education and formation of "City and Guilds of London Technical Institute."
In the autumn of 1878, the Mercers', Drapers', Fishmongers', Goldsmiths', Salters',
Ironmongers', Clothworkers', Armourers', Cordwainers', Coopers', Plaisterers', and
Needlemakers' Companies agreed to provide about 12,000l. a year out of their private
funds for these purposes, and the "the City and Guilds of London Institute for the
advancement of technical education," was provisionally constituted with the following
objects, viz., (1) the foundation of a central institute in London for technical education,
(2) the establishment of or assistance to, trade schools in London and the provinces, (3)
technological examinations, (4) grants in aid of existing institutions having for their
object technical education.
1879. Cowper Street Schools.; Examinations.; King's College.; University College.
In the year 1879 the institute was incorporated. In this year the Council commenced negotiations for the purchase of a site for the Central Institute, established (1)
Technical classes in connexion with the Middle Class Schools, Cowper Street,
Finsbury, (2) a department of applied fine art at the Lambeth School of Art, and took
over (fn. 53) the examinations in technological subjects which had hitherto been carried on
by the Society of Arts. It also subscribed to several existing institutions, such as
the British Horological Institute, Clerkenwell; the London School of Wood
Carving; the Mining Association of Devon and Cornwall; the Nottingham Trade
and Science Schools; the Artizans' Institute, St. Martin's Lane; the Birkbeck Institute Building Fund; and the Lancashire and Cheshire Union of Mechanics'
Institutes Technical Education Fund; and added to the stipends of the professors
of mechanical and chemical technology at University College, London, and founded a
professorship of applied Art and a professorship of Metallurgy at King's College,
1880. Subscription for Central Institute.; Finsbury College.
During the year 1880 the corporation continued its negotiations for a site in South
Kensington for the Central Institute, and obtained an estimate of the cost of a building
suited, as regards class-rooms, workshops, and laboratories, to the technical teaching of
(1) chemistry, (2) physics, (3) mechanics, (4) art. The estimated cost of such a
building was 76,000l. A building fund was formed, and four companies, the Fishmongers', Goldsmiths', Clothworkers', and Cordwainers' Companies, agreed to subscribe
upwards of 30,000l. to this fund. It was also resolved to erect a technical college in
Finsbury at an expense of 20,000l., as an institution intermediate between the Cowper
Street Schools and the Central Institution. (fn. 54)
Effect of technological examinations in the provinces.
During this year the effect of the technological examinations of the Institute in the
provinces was seen in the interest awakened in the subject of technical education
among manufacturers and the members of mechanics' institutes in Leeds, Bradford,
Huddersfield, Nottingham, Belfast, and other places. The manufacturers in several
instances made arrangements for the instruction of the artisans in their employment,
and the mechanics' institutes engaged teachers with the assistance of the institute. (fn. 55)
The number of students examined increased from 200 in 1879 to upwards of 800 in
1880. (fn. 56) The income of the Institute was materially increased this year by the accession
of new companies, and by several of the original companies adding to their subscriptions.
In 1881 a Royal Commission was appointed "to inquire into the instruction of the
industrial classes of certain foreign countries in technical and other subjects for the
purpose of comparison with that of the corresponding classes of this country, and
into the influence of such instruction on manufactures and other industries at home
and abroad." The appointment of this important commission, which has just published
its report, was to a great extent brought about by the exertions of the London
Central Institution.; Finsbury College.
During this year the foundation stone of the Central Institution in South Kensington
was laid by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, that of Finsbury Technical
College by His Royal Highness the lamented Duke of Albany. The sum to be
expended on the former was estimated at 70,000l., that on the latter at 35,000l. The
number of students at the London colleges, and the number of candidates for diplomas
in the technological examinations of the Institute largely increased.
Recognition in cy-près scheme.
The subject of technical instruction was also for the first time recognised this year
by the Chancery Division of your Majesty's High Court of Justice in the formation of
a cy-près scheme.
1882.; Applications from provincial towns.; Bradford Technical College.
During 1882, the work of the Institute steadily progressed. The report for the
year, which is signed by Lord Selborne, as chairman of the Institute, states :—"In
reviewing the three great divisions of the Institute's operations, (1) the establishment in the metropolis of a central institution, and of other schools for technical
instruction; (2) the examination of candidates in technology, and the encouragement by means of grants to teachers, of technical instruction, as supplementary to
the State-aided teaching of pure science; and (3) the subvention in the great
manufacturing centres of technical colleges affiliated to the Institute, your Council
have every reason to be satisfied with the advance that has been made in each
division of their work." During this year the Council received applications for
grants in aid of technical schools at Nottingham, Manchester, Middlesborough,
Sheffield, Leicester, Bolton, Bradford, and several other provincial towns. Some of
these applications were entertained, the promise being in every case "conditional on a
sufficient sum of money being subscribed from local sources for the erection and
maintenance of an efficient school." During this year also a technical college, towards
the building and endowment of which the Clothworkers' Company largely contributed, was opened at Bradford.
1883, 1884. Steady progress.; Finsbury College.
Central Institute.; Income.; Building fund.
From this time to the present the Institute has continued to make steady progress.
Finsbury College is now built with a splendid apparatus of physical and chemical
laboratories, and affords technical instruction to upwards of a thousand students. The
lists of candidates and of subjects in the technological examinations have increased fourfold. Finally, the Central Institute, which is in Exhibition Road, South Kensington, is
built and will shortly be opened. All the great companies and most of the minor companies have associated themselves with the Institute, which has an income of 25,000l. a
year arising from the private funds of the companies, and has raised, in addition, from
the same source for the buildings above mentioned, upwards of 100,000l.
The contributions of the several companies during the period over which the inquiry
has extended are to be found in the Returns. We are informed that between 1881 and
1884 they have contributed about 120,000l. to the funds of the Technical Institute.
The companies of London have thus founded in England a system of technical
education, a service to the State which it is difficult to over-value, and an undertaking
strictly in accordance with their original constitution. (fn. 57)
Royal College of Music.; Fisheries Exhibition.; Health Exhibition.
The companies have recently contributed 13,000l. to the Royal College of Music.
The Court of the Fishmongers' Company bore the brunt of the labour of organization
in respect of the "International Fisheries' Exhibition," held with so much success last
year, and this and other companies made a large contribution to the expenses. They
have also made a considerable contribution to the "International Health Exhibition"
which is now being held. The Grocers' Company has recently founded a scholarship
for "scientific research."
Suggestions as to reform.
5. The fifth part of Your Majesty's Commission requires us "to consider and report"
to Your Majesty "what measures, if any, are expedient and necessary for improving
or altering the constitution of the companies or the appropriation or administration
of the property or revenues thereof." As regards this part of Your Majesty's
Commission, we beg to report to Your Majesty as follows:—
Mr. Hare's scheme.
1. The only person of importance who appeared before us to suggest a scheme for
reorganising the Companies of London, was Your Majesty's Senior Inspector of
Charities, Mr. Hare, and Mr. Hare's scheme, we say it with respect, appeared to all
the Commissioners impracticable.
The companies' corporate property absolutely private.; Law.; History.; Public spirit.; Technical Education.
2. We refer as regards the corporate or private property, and corporate or private
income of the companies to (1) the law of the land on the subject as explained to us
by the Lord Chancellor, according to which this property and this income is as absolutely the companies' own as the property or income of any private person; (2) the
circumstances under which this property was acquired as stated in the above historical
survey, and also in the evidence of the Lord Chancellor, viz., partly by purchases made
out of the private incomes of the companies, partly by gifts "intended (in Lord Selborne's
words) to be for the absolute use" (fn. 58) of the companies; (3) to the public spirit shown by
the companies of London in past times, and at the present time, in the good use which
they have made of their private incomes, in past times in saving their charities
from bankruptcy, and in the colonisation of Ulster, at the present time in their support
of useful objects, and in particular in the establishment by them of Technical Education,
a movement which has revived in the only way possible at the present day the connection of the guilds of London with the arts and manufactures which they
formerly represented, and which they will shortly be supporting by means of the
Central Institute and its affiliated schools throughout the whole of the United
Their property being at law the companies' own, the product partly of their own
savings, partly of absolute gifts to them, and the income from it being in great part
spent for the public good, we join with the Lord Chancellor in "declining to contemplate" any State interference with this property or with the companies in their
administration of the income arising from it.
As regards the trust property of the companies and the charities of which they are
the managers, and which are as above stated upwards of one thousand in number, we
refer to the facts that (1) their existence at the present day, that is to say, the existence
of several great and many small schools, and of eleemosynary charities, in the benefits
of which almost every county in England participates, is due to the liberality and
public spirit shown by the companies of London in past times; (2) the reports of the
early Charity Commissions and those of Your Majesty's present inspectors of charities
show that the same liberality and public spirit still exists among the members of the
courts of the companies of London.
Control of (1) Chancery Division, (2) Charity Commission.
This part of the companies' property is also under the control of (1) the Chancery
Division of Your Majesty's High Courts of Justice; (2) the Charity Commission, and
we are not aware that any dissatisfaction exists as to the schemes framed either by the
Court or by the Commission. Neither the general reform of the law of trusts nor
the reorganization of the Charity Commission is a matter within the scope of the
Commission with which we have been entrusted by Your Majesty.
Failure of the case against the Companies.
3. It is only right that we should state that if the inquiry in which we have been
engaged is to be regarded as a proceeding between our colleague, the honourable and
learned Member for Chelsea, acting as a Government prosecutor, and the companies of
the City of London, the prosecution has failed, and the companies have been successful.
They easily defeated Mr. Firth as regards every part of the case set up by him in his
work called "Municipal London," and a motion by Mr. Firth, in favour of disestablishing and disendowing the companies, was rejected in our deliberations by a majority of
ten to two. The gentlemen who appeared before the Commission to support Mr.
Firth's views were, in our opinion, examined by us ultra vires, as they could not be
judged," we say it with respect, to be "competent by reason of their situation,
knowledge, and experience, to afford correct information on the subjects of the
inquiry" within the meaning of the terms of Your Majesty's Commission.
No movement against the City or the Companies.
4. So far as we can judge, no movement whatever exists in London either against
the City or against the Livery Companies, and our honourable and learned colleague,
Mr. Firth, and the few persons who are associated with him, have never been appointed
by the citizens of London to act as their representatives as regards either so-called
"Municipal Reform" or any other matters.
Suggestions of the majority. Restraint of alienation.; Serjeants' Inn.; Doctors' Commons.; Provincial companies.
5. As to the suggestions made by our colleagues in the principal report—
(1.) We consider that their recommendation with respect to "restraint of alienation"
is invidious and unnecessary. No one supposes that the courts of the London companies are likely to sell and divide their corporate property, even if it were practicable
for them to do so, which is itself doubtful, considering that they contain certainly
20,000, more probably 30,000, members, of whom two-thirds are poor persons. Moreover two bodies, not exactly, it is true, " in pari conditione," but of similar constitution,
viz., Serjeants' Inn and Doctors' Commons, have actually sold and divided their
corporate estates, yet it has never been proposed to apply "restraint of alienation" to
the Inns of Court and of Chancery in general. Also nothing can be more unfair than
to place the companies of London under a disability which is not to be imposed upon the
companies of Bristol, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and the other provincial towns in which
mediæval guilds survive.
Limitation of trusts to fifty years.
(2.) We consider that the proposal to limit the validity of the numerous charitable
trusts administered by the companies to a period of 50 years from their foundation is
unjustifiable and inexpedient. There appears to us to be no pretence for treating the
charities of the London companies in any exceptional way, and we are of opinion that
the number of new charities would seriously decrease if the law were that the trusts
declared by the founders were liable to be pronounced obsolete at the close of so short
Appointment of a Commission.; Reorganization imprac-
Superiority of spontaneous action.
(3.) We do not agree with our colleagues as to the necessity for appointing a Royal
Commission for the purposes of the reorganization of the constitution of the companies,
and the permanent allocation of a part of their corporate incomes to "objects of
acknowledged public utility." We think, some of us speaking from experience as
members of the courts of companies, that the former purpose is impracticable, as if
their constitutions were much modified the London Companies might cease to
be what they now are, in the words of the Grocers' excellent minute, (fn. 59) "nurseries of
charities and seminaries of good citizens." We also think that "objects of acknowledged public utility" are more likely to be promoted by the spontaneous action of the
courts than by schemes forced upon the Companies by a Commission.
(4.) Any person having the slightest knowledge of the London Companies must be
aware that patrimony is the very essence of their constitution. But for the hereditary
nature of the privileges which they confer, they would probably have long ago ceased
to exist, and few new members would now join them. (fn. 60)
(5.) We do not regard the question of the Parliamentary Franchise of the liverymen
as within the scope of Your Majesty's Commission.
Publication of accounts. Succession Duty.
(6.) We agree with our colleagues in their recommendation with respect to the publication of the Companies' accounts, and we think the Companies have done right in
themselves proposing that they should pay Succession Duty.
Publication of incorrect report
The proceedings of this Commission have, we regret to say, been attended with some
interference from without, and an incorrect account of the recommendations of our
colleagues has appeared in a morning newspaper. The scheme suggested in this
account was one which no considerable number of Your Majesty's Commissioners
would ever have sanctioned.
(Signed) RICHARD ASSHETON CROSS.
N. M. DE ROTHSCHILD.
W. J. R. COTTON.
I sign this report subject and without prejudice to the protest against the report of
the majority of the Commission which I have previously made, but I am unable to
agree with the passages relating to the Technical Education movement, of which I do
not approve. I also dissent from the above paragraph relating to the publication of
3rd June 1884. W. J. R. Cotton.