Twenty Questions

Christopher Holford’s A Chat About The Broderers’ Company originally published in 1910 has for some years been out of print. The opening chapter of the sequel, Plain Dealing Fellows by Past Master Percy R Levy, published in 1986, set out in question and answer form some useful information about the Broderers’ Company. The questions are typical of those asked by guests when they dine with the Broderers for the first time. (The answers have been updated where appropriate.)


Question Number One
When was the Company founded?
There is evidence that the Company existed as a corporate body late in the 14th Century. Unhappily, the earliest records were destroyed by successive fires and by war damage.

Question Number Two
When was the Company granted its Arms and its first Charter?
The Grant of Arms is dated 1558. Queen Elizabeth I granted the Company its first Charter in 1561.

Question Number Three
In precedence, how does the Broderers’ Company rank in line with the other 107 livery companies of the City of London?
Number 48.

Question Number Four
Was there ever a Broderers’ Hall?
Yes, at No 36 Gutter Lane, off Cheapside, in the City of London. This working Hall was bombed and totally destroyed in 1940. Under compulsory purchase, the site was sold by the Company in 1957.

Question Number Five
The Broderers possess a considerable collection of Plate. Which items are most treasured by the Company?
Undoubtedly the Nuremberg Cup given by Master and Royal Broderer John Parr in 1606 and the cup given by Master and Royal Broderer Edmund Harrison in 1628.

Question Number Six
What about that quaint ceremony of passing the Loving Cup?
Procedures for passing the Loving Cup vary among the livery companies but the ‘drill’ at the Broderers is reasonably uncomplicated. Only three persons should be upstanding at one time. After sipping the potion and handing on the cup, the drinker performs an about-turn to protect the back of his now-drinking neighbour from sword thrusts! The repeated toast for the John Parr Cup (to the right of the Master) is: ‘To the Immortal Memory of John Parr, Citizen and Broderer’. The toast for the Edmund Harrison Cup (to the left of the Master) is: ‘To the Pious Memory of Edmund Harrison, Citizen and Broderer’.

Question Number Seven
What is the origin of the Associated Companies?
In the reign of King James 1, the Mercers, in a. In the reign of King James 1, the Mercers, in association with the Innholders, the Cooks, the Broderers and the Masons, combined to assist the City of London in the colonisation of Ulster.

Some three hundred years later (1905-1909), the Mercers sold virtually all their estates in Ireland, dividing the proceeds between the Associated Companies. The Innholders had, by this time, resigned from the Association. The Broderers’ share amounted to £9,868 15s 9d for an original investment of £233! Thus ended a 300-year partnership which had worked smoothly without any document or written contract.

Question Number Eight
How have the Broderers maintained their special relationship with the Mercers?
From 1930 the Company was granted the privilege of holding its banquets in the Mercers’ Hall, which was to be so tragically destroyed by enemy action in 1941. The new Mercers’ Hall was opened in 1958 and Broderers today continue to enjoy their privilege of dining at Mercers’.

In 1948 the Associated Companies partnership was renewed when the Broderers joined the Mercers, the Masons and the Cooks in another overseas venture – this time in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Once again, as for the Irish Estates, no formal written document was drawn.

Question Number Nine
How many functions are there now on the Broderers’ calendar?
At the present time there are two major dinners each year: the Election Dinner in June with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs and the Associated Companies Dinner in October
After the Election Day Service in May, the company holds a buffet supper. It has become the custom for the Master to organise a Ladies’ Night but this is not an official function of the Company and it is required to be financially self-supporting. The Court of Assistants now meets six times a year. After three of these meetings there is a Court Dinner to which guests are invited, but the proceedings are informal and there are no speeches. The other three meetings are held on Election Day and prior to the two major dinners.

Question Number Ten
What is the history of the Master’s Song?
Research indicates that this song, beloved by all Broderers, is unlikely to be more than 150 years’ old. Among the City livery companies the Broderers’ Company is unique in having a Master’s Song. Its four verses are sung solo by the Master (seated) at all major Broderers’ functions in reply to the Toast to the Company. The chorus is joined vigorously by all assembled but no encores are permitted.

Question Number Eleven
What is the history of the Master’s Jewel?
The Master’s Badge of Office was given to the company in 1874 by Charles J Leaf (Master 1870/71 and 1871/72). The Badge’s supporters, a gift of Past Master Anthony J Hart OBE DSC, were added in 1980.

Question Number Twelve
How many Master’s Chairs are recorded as having been owned by the Company?
The first is thought to have been made around 1670. The right arm of this chair was hinged enabling it to be raised to assist the Master when vacating the chair! It bore a fine carving of the company’s crest but was destroyed when Mercers’ Hall and Chapel were burnt to the ground on the night of 10th/11th May 1941. The second chair now used by the Master, was presented to the Company by Colonel C F Hitchins DSO in 1949 to commemorate his two years as Master. This early 19th Century chair is made from walnut wood.

Question Number Thirteen
Is the Master’s Gown of historic importance?
Not yet, but it is undoubtedly a work of great beauty. It was the gift of Wilfred A Button (Master 1956/57, 1969/70). The embroidery was executed in 1976 by The Royal School of Needlework.

Question Number Fourteen
Does the Company still support the craft of embroidery?
Yes it does. It makes annual donations to The Royal School of Needlework and to The Embroiderers’ Guild; and by a trophy and awards it encourages proficiency in embroidery among Broderers and their families.

In 1999 the Competition was extended to all Liverymen of the City of London and their immediate families.

Question Number Fifteen
How does one become a Broderer?
Candidates for admission to the Livery have to be proposed by a Member of the Court and seconded by another Broderer. The grades of membership are: 1. Freeman, 2. Liveryman, 3. Member of the Court of Assistants. The Freedom of the Company may be obtained by Patrimony (father a Broderer at time of candidate’s birth) or by Redemption. The Livery of the Company is unlimited in number, but all candidates must have attained 21 years of age. In 2007, the total membership is 156.

Question Number Sixteen
Do Members pay fines?
Yes, on being admitted to the Freedom and Livery, and again on being elected to the Court of Assistants. In addition, since 2004, an annual subscription, known as Quarterage, is paid by all Liverymen.

Question Number Seventeen
For a new Liveryman, what is the expectation in years for him to have a chance of being elected Master of the Company?
In recent times a Liveryman who regularly supports Company activities has had a chance of being invited to join the Court some 10 to 12 years after being admitted to the Livery. Seniority and attendance, however, are not the only measures of fitness for advancement in the Company.
The Court has complete discretion should it seek to promote a Liveryman out of turn. Once on the Court of Assistants, the normal period for progression through the offices up to Master is seven years. The Officers of the Court are: Master, Warden, together known historically as ‘Keepers or Wardens’, Renter Warden, Senior Auditor, and Junior Auditor. The balance of the Court is made up of Past Masters, two junior Assistants without Portfolio and others who have been invited onto the Court through merit. Past Masters remain on the Court of Assistants until death or resignation. At a Court held in 1884 an order was made whereby any member adjudged a bankrupt ‘shall cease to be a Member of the Court’.

Question Number Eighteen
The Broderers’ coat of arms carries the motto Omnia Desuper. Is ‘Everything of the Finest’ too free a translation?
Yes, much too free! ‘All Things Are From Above’ is the correct interpretation.

Question Number Nineteen
Are there any Lady Broderers?
Yes, ladies have been admitted to the Livery since 2011, the fist being Mrs Elizabeth Elvin. Notably, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan are Honorary Freemen.

Question Number Twenty
Does the Company give to charity?
Yes. The Broderers are a small Company when compared with The Great Twelve but, since the Broderers’ Charity Trust Fund was created in 1978, charitable donations made by the Company have shown a marked upward trend.

 Last updated May 2007