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A Brief History of Freedom of London

Hive Cleaning is proud to be associated with the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners and our very own MD Louis Beaumont is about to become a fully-fledged member after the Court of Aldermen recently passed an order for his admission to the Freedom of the City of London. A Freedom of the City in one of the oldest surviving traditions in London, here is some background and history about Livery Companies and the Freedom of the City.


The coat of arms of the worshipful company of environmental cleaners

Every year about 1900 people admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, and the first record of it being from the 13th century. It comes from the medieval practice of granting respected citizens from serfdom and in City of London, it’s closely linked to the livery companies. There are 110 trade associations and guilds in London, called Worshipful Companies, representing a wonderful selection of trades and crafts, uniting professionals for networking and charitable purposes.

Coming from middle ages, lots of rights and privileges reflect the long history of Freedom of London: a freeman has the right to carry a sword, the right to take a flock of geese down Cheapside, the right to be hanged with a silk rope and the right to avoid arrest for being drunk.

There are different ways of becoming a Freeman but one of the most common ways is through Livery companies, although famous people can also receive the Freedom in recognition of their achievements (like Stephen Fry or Dame Judi Dench). Many previous Prime Minsters have also been Freemen – Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson, Winston Churchill…

The oldest Livery Company is the Weavers Company, which received Royal Charter in 1155. Except maintaining networking and fellowship traditions, many freemen and liverymen are involved in philanthropy too, donating millions of pounds to various causes every year.

There are some curious and fascinating stories about the companies – for example, they all have a specific order of precedence, with the first 12 called The Great Twelve, determined in 1515, although we don’t know exactly how. However, two companies, the Skinners and Merchant Taylors, couldn’t agree who should be number 6 or 7, so they take it in turns alternating each year, coining the phrase ‘’at sixes and sevens’’.

The Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners was founded in 1972 and became a livery company in 1983, which has some 450 liveryman so far. The armorial bearings of the Company comprise a shield, helmet and crest, blazoned with the motto ‘Tergere est Servare’ (To clean is to preserve).

According the official history of the Company, ‘’The tincture of Azure and Argent (Blue and Silver), as well as the madonna lilies and above all the cross, have long been accepted as symbolic of cleanliness, purity and sacrifice – all being admirable aims for those connected with keeping the environment clean’’.

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