Company Comment. Feb. 2010


Company Comment
Master's Report
By John Bishop,                                                 

Fellow Freemen, welcome to 2010 and another edition of Company Comment, Happy New Year to you all.

Since I last wrote, we had a significant ceremony, welcoming Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Ian Luder to Toronto on September 30.

My thanks to fellow member, Brian Rose of Stikeman Elliot, who generously stepped forward to offer the facilities of Stikeman Elliot for the ceremony and to Past Master and Events Chair, John Smith, who orchestrated the well-attended event.

Your Events Committee is now working on a February/March event, which we hope will be a “New Members” evening so we may welcome those who have joined the Company in the last few months.

On the question of new members, I am delighted to announce a New Member’s Certificate, please see below:

The certificate is pre-printed and then lasered with the member’s name and month and year of joining, mounted on card stock and measures approximately 7” high and 14” wide.

Certificates will be made available to all Members who email the Membership Committee Chair: and indicate how they wish to have their name displayed and the month and year of joining. We will then produce the certificate and forward it as requested.

I am also delighted to tell you that we commissioned a complete inventory and evaluation of all the Company Treasures. This has now been completed and the valuation is now lodged with our insurance company and a copy maintained by the Treasurer. The valuation, approved by your Court, was in the amount of $35,000.00. The Court decided to have a more extensive valuation of both the Master and Deputy Master’s Collars and I am currently waiting for that to be completed.

As I write this article, I am reminded that my tenure as Master comes to an end at the Annual Dinner on May 7th, 2010, at which time your new Master, Michael Green will be sworn in and assume command.

I have enjoyed my two years as Master and feel I have accomplished many of my goals in; launching a new website; separating the AGM from the Annual Dinner; improving communications; completing an inventory and valuation of the Company Treasures; achieving greater attendance at our events; contributing more to our Charitable Trust than in the previous two years; welcoming approximately 15 new members to the Company; and producing a new Member’s Certificate.

I know Michael will have his own agenda in continuing the reach, breadth and scope of The Honourable Company. I offer him my loyal support and best wishes for every success in his endeavours

To the other member’s of the Court, thank you for your valued support and contributions, they have been most welcome and much appreciated.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to serve as the Master of The Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North America for the past two years. In closing, may I thank all of you for your generosity, support and guidance.

My very best wishes to you all.


Report on the Visit by The Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor of the City of London   
Chair of the Events Committee
By John S Smith,         

The Honourable Company was proud to have the incumbent Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Rt. Hon. Ian Luder join us at a downtown Toronto reception at the end of September.

The Lord Mayor had included Toronto in a visit to North America that then took him to Vancouver and on to Los Angeles.

The Canadian law firm of Stikemans who also have offices in London, England were our hosts and our thanks to them and to senior partners Philip Henderson and member Brian Rose for a splendid reception.

The Lord Mayor was joined by the City Sword bearer Mr. Richard Martin and the British government was represented by HM High Commissioner to Canada Mr. Anthony Cary and the Deputy Consul General in Toronto, Mr. Ashley Prime also a member.

The visiting party was received by the Deputy Master Michael Green, in the absence of the Master, and among the 80 guests were members John & Vickie Overstreet who had traveled from Virginia to meet the Lord Mayor, a fellow Cooper. The Lord Mayor made a personal presentation to the Master as a token of his visit

The Lord Mayor graciously responded to the High Commissioner’s welcome and was thanked by the Deputy Master who presented him with a token of our appreciation.

This would be among the last of the Lord Mayor’s official engagements before the annual Silent Ceremony at the Mansion House, his official London residence, where he handed over to the 682nd Lord Mayor. Alderman Nick Anstee, a City lawyer with a Canadian born wife.


Lord Mayor's Reception 2009

Click here to see a collage


Membership Report
Membership Secretary
By Neil F. Purcell,

We offer our congratulations and welcome to the following new members of the Honourable Company:

John C. Harris, Major Alexander Moseanu, Anne Sheeres, Bonita Tulloch and Captain Thomas Tulloch.

New members are important to ensure the present vitality and the future success of the Honourable Company. Please keep this in mind and invite your family, friends and colleagues to join, the best way to encourage new members is to bring them as guests to our events.

For those members of the Honourable Company who are not yet Freemen, if you would like to apply for the Freedom of the City of London, or , if you have any questions, please contact me. I would be delighted to assist you in obtainig the Freedom and I look forward to hearing from you.


Company Treasures
Honorary Treasurer
By Michael J.Green

I am also delighted to tell you that we commissioned a complete inventory and evaluation of all the Company Treasures. This has now been completed and the valuation is now lodged with our insurance company and a copy maintained by the Treasurer. The valuation, approved by your Court, was in the amount of $35,000.00. The Court decided to have a more extensive valuation of both the Master and Deputy Master’s Collars and I am currently waiting for that to be completed.

For your additional information the valuation was conducted by D. Ross & Associates and consisted of a thorough review of the silverware and other unique items that have been acquired or donated by members over the years since our incorporation. Of particular interest are some of the insurable details surrounding the more valuable assets based on their historic and intrinsic values and I quote 1) Antique chain of office measuring 16 inches in length ( Master's Jewel subject to revaluation due to historic reasons) with silver gilt Cantons with 8 matching silver gilt lions rampant between each Canton with the suspended pendant of a larger silver gilt Canton.It is believed that the silver content is Continental, either Dutch or Swiss. The Chain is not easily replaced and estimated current replacement value at $4500. 2) Antique and historically important sterling silver covered trophy Circa.1919. The trophy is 14inches high and 9inches handle to handle weighing 32 ounces of sterling silver. This item is not easily replaced and is valued at $9500 3) Hand crafted sterling silver and genuine Amethyst presentation urn by Lois Etherington Betteridge. This is a custom design and not easily reproduced with an estimated value of $8500. Other asset value range anywhere between $150 and $1200 per item.

Adding the valued assets to our balance sheet significantly increases the Capital of the Honourable Company of Freemen of the City of London of North America.

All of the above noted assets are held in safe keeping with the contracted custodian and are usually on display at our annual general meeting dinners


Upcoming Events       

Fellow Freemen

I would like to draw your attention to our upcoming events.

New Member Event
Date and time: Thursday April 8th, 2010, Reception 6:00pm,
Location: British Consul General's Residence on Dunvegan
Details: To be confirmed
Dress: Business Attire

Annual General Meeting
Date and time: Wednesday 21st April, 2010, 6:00pm
Location: To be confirmed
Details: To be confirmed
Open to: Members and their spouses/partners

Annual Dinner
Date and time: Friday May7th, 2010, Reception 6:30pm, Dinner 7:30pm
Location: The National Club, 303 Bay Street
Details: To be confirmed
Dress: Black Tie or Business Suit

Meet the Master and Court Garden Party
Date and time: Saturday June 5th, 2010, Afternoon Reception Times to be confirmed
Location: Armour Heights Officers Mess, Canadian Forces Staff College, 215 Yonge Boulevard, Toronto
Details: To be confirmed
Dress: Jacket or Blazer required

Click here to register for any of these events .

The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers
The Worshipful Company was already well established in 1272 when it received formal approval of its ordinances and is number 27 in the Order of Precedence that was established in 1515. It becomes the fourth leather industry company to be introduced in this series of histories of Livery Companies of the City.

What is a Cordwainer?

Unlike so many other Worshipful Companies, the trade of the Cordwainers is not immediately obvious. It is not irrational to ask how the name originated and why it became the Company for the shoemaking industry. The name Cordwainer comes from the French “Cordonnier”, but you may still ask why Cordonnier has anything to do with shoes and shoe making. The history apparently goes back to the source of the leather that was used for the best shoes. The City of Cordoba in Spain became renowned for the quality of its leather before the Norman invasion of Britain. As a stronghold of the mighty Omeyyad Kalifs, Moorish Cordoba became renowned for both silversmithing and the production of Cordouan leather. Originally made from the skin of Musoli goats that were native to Corsica, Sardinia and parts of Spain, these skins were “tawed” with alum in a process that is claimed to have been exclusively known to the Moors. So we go from Musoli goats and the Moor’s tawing skill to Cordoba, to Cordouan leather, to the French Cordoue (fine leather) and Cordonnier, to the English Cordwain and Cordwainer.

The term “cordwainer” first appears around 1100 and may well be part of the legacy of the Norman invasion. Over time, the use of cordouan or cordovan leather has actually been applied to several different varieties of leather, but has always been associated with the highest quality available.

The first English guild to call themselves cordwainers was founded in Oxford in 1131 and it was only a few years later in 1160 that historians believe that the London leather workers (that used cordouan leather) formed their fraternity. With London as the principal port through which cordouan leather was imported, the London fraternity had unusual influence over the fine leather industry in England and contributed substantially to the growing prosperity of London. Over time, those using fine leathers for purposes other than shoemaking, broke away to form their own fraternities or guilds, leaving the Cordwainers with exclusive jurisdiction over the shoe-making industry in London.

The Early Days of the Company of Cordwainers.
The first written proof of the Fraternity of the “Mysterie” of Cordwainers is in ordinances dated 1272, making the company one of the older Liveries in the City. In 1439, during the reign of Henry VI, the Company obtained its Royal Charter. This officially confirmed the operations of the Company and permitted it to own property, including its own hall, and giving it formal control over the skill, training, and qualifications of shoe-makers and shoe quality within the City.

With the continual struggle for power in England between the Kings and various lords and barons during the early 13th century, the London guilds were solicited by opposing sides and they joined sides depending on where they saw the most advantage. In 1267, social divisions created by the Civil War were still intense, an armed battle took place in the streets of the City. This started between the apprentices of the Goldsmiths and the Taylors. The Clothworkers and Cordwainers joined the fray. When peace was restored, many of the 500 or so craftsmen involved were dead or wounded, and 13 of the leaders were hanged.

At the start of the 14th century, the wealth of the Cordwainers was growing rapidly and so, in 1316, the Guild acquired property on Cannon Street (or this may have been bequeathed to it). According to a plaque at this location, the Guild built its first hall (of five) on the site in 1440. The Royal Charter, which established the Guild as a Livery Company, also permitted the Company to own land and property in its own right. So, as the wealth of Cordwainers grew and the Guild followed suit, City property became a primary investment for them. In 1547, John Fisher became the Company's first recorded major benefactor, when he bequeathed property in Fleet Street adjoining Falcon Court. (This asset has contributed to the Company’s funds right up to the present day).

Like most of the City Livery Companies, the Great Fire of 1666 was disastrous for the Cordwainers. The Company lost not only its Hall but also much of its investment property and almshouses. Most of its records were lost, and, although the bravery of the Clerk saved many valuables, a significant number of these had to be sold to enable to Company to survive.

After the Great Fire
Using the same location, a new Hall was built to replace the first. This was only done after several years of regenerating some of the Company’s previous wealth.

For more than 100 years, the Company continued to control the London shoe-making trade, and required all makers to live up to quality standards. They also continued to support the training of apprentices, the schooling of the children of members, support to the widows and families of dead members, and charity to the community.

John Came, who served the Company in the 18th century, was another key benefactor, and he was joined later by other distinguished members of the Company, including Dr William Marsden, founder of the Royal Free and Marsden Hospitals, Master in 1849-50, and Sir Henry Doulton, the manufacturer of pottery who went on to found Royal Doulton, who was Master in 1889-90.

A photograph of this plaque appears later in this article. This states that there were 6 halls successively built on the site, but the Company’s website contradicts this. One might question whether the Guild would wait more than 100 years to build its first hall when it owned the site, but this may have something to do with the issuing of its Royal Charter in 1439 which gave the Company the right to own property.

In the 18th century, the industrial revolution brought an inevitable decline to the guilds’ control of their trades and the Cordwainers were no exception. However, with considerable wealth, status and property, the Company continued to prosper even though its original trade purpose vanished. In fact, the wealth of the Company was sufficient for them to secure the services of Sylvanus Hall to design and build a new Hall (the third). This was completed in 1788 .

It was not until late in the 19th century that they began to rediscover their role in education and their value as advisors to their trades. By the end of the 19th century, the Company was again flourishing and founded the Leather Trades School. With wealth, the Company set about the task of replacing its Hall, and in 1909 their fifth Hall was completed. This was a splendid building overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral. Regrettably, it was seriously damaged in the blitz in 1941, was torn down and never rebuilt.

By the 20th century, the Company had evolved and its main concern had become its charitable works. To the present day, these include its almshouses, cadets, pension schemes and care of the blind, deaf and dumb, the poor and the infirm.

A small blue plaque in the garden of St. Paul’s Churchyard facing Cannon Street commemorates five Halls built on the same site - a site which had been associated with the Company since 1316. An impressive new Hall was completed in 1909, but was destroyed during the Second World War.

The Company gratefully accepted the invitation of its President to use the facilities of the Law Society in Chancery Lane and continued to do so until the Company moved to Clothworkers’ Hall in the City of London in 2005.

The Company’s Arms

Building on the historic source of the best quality leather which came from goats, the Company’s arms show three goats heads. The motto reads “leather and art”.

Current Activities

Footwear and Leather Education

The Cordwainers provide scholarships, bursaries and prizes to students of footwear and leather goods at the London College of Fashion (part of the University of the Arts), the University of Northampton, Capel Manor College in Enfield, and De Montfort University.

Photographs of etchings and historic photographs can be seen by clicking here
The article editor has not been able to find any reference to the forth Hall

The Cordwainers’ BA Footwear Scholarship is a prestigious prize awarded each year to a talented student at the London College of Fashion to fund their final project. This prize was worth over £3,000 last year. At the University of Northampton, the Cordwainers offer scholarships to the top three Footwear Fashion students in all three years. Similarly, the Cordwainers give prizes to leatherwork students at Capel Manor College.

A new link was forged in 2008 with the footwear department at De Montfort University, further demonstrating the Cordwainers’ commitment to this sector.

Supporting Education

The Cordwainers provide scholarships and prizes to nurses at the Royal Free Hospital, and to medical students at the Royal Free & University College London Medical School. These include awards for the highest-achieving first year medical undergraduate and the best PhD thesis.

They also support the study of Music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The Cordwainers’ Scholarship is awarded to an exceptional music student and they award a similar prize at City University.

More recently the Company has supported the Hackney Free and Parochial Secondary School, a specialist sports school.

Social Housing

The Company owns almshouses in Chesham in Buckinghamshire and Shorne in Kent.
Cordwainers Court has been voted most preferred Hall of Residence at the University of the Arts, London for several years running. Students benefit from attractive rooms, a high standard of furnishings, internet access in each bedroom and a large common room.

Blind and Partially Sighted People

The Cordwainers have supported societies for the blind and partially sighted for centuries, strongly believing that visual impairment should not be a barrier to personal fulfillment
They support the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB) School at Dorton House near Sevenoaks. The Company also backs specialist charities that help blind people with financial difficulties.

Territorial Army and Cadets

The Cordwainers have supported the ‘C’ Company of the Territorial Army of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers for over 50 years. They also support Cadets by providing funding for annual training camps, boots and minibuses. In 2008, they funded the setting up of the new Corps of Drums.

Contact Information
The Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers is John Miller Esq:
The address is: The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers
Clothworkers’ Hall
Dunster Court
Mincing Lane
London EC3R 7AH
+44 207929 1121

Other Cordwainer Companies and Guilds

The UK

There are numerous references to the existence of other guilds and companies of Cordwainers in the UK: Oxford is the first reference although it may not have been the first guild as there are references to a London guild in some accounts as early as 1060 and there are records of similar guilds in many other towns and cities in England and Wales, notably Bath, Brecon, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Haverfordwest, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northampton, South Leith and York. Some of these are still actives. The York Guild was re-founded in 1977. The Arms of the York Company is not only almost identical to the Arms of the Worshipful Company in London (there is no motto), but includes the date 1669 but no explanation of this date has been found. The excavation of the site of the old Cordwainers Hall in York indicates that this was built in the late 13th or early 14th century.


Cordwainers were recognized throughout Europe. In particular, Ghent, being one of the major centres of shoemaking had a strong guild.

North America

The first English cordwainers landed in Jamestown as part of the City of London’s Merchant Adventurers plans to prepare for the building of permanent settlements in Virginia. By 1610, many tradesmen arrived in Jamestown including a number of Cordwainers and, by 1616, the secretary of Virginia recorded a flourishing shoe and leather community. Guilds of Cordwainers were formed in many North American cities but most have disappeared since. Others continue: Calafia (San Diego), Massachusetts and Philadelphia. Research has not uncovered any Cordwainers Guilds in Canada that remain active.

In the US, however, the Honourable Cordwainers’ Company was founded in 1984 in Virginia by a small group of shoe makers and historians. This was incorporated in 1987 as a tax-exempt non-profit educational organization. Dedicated to the study, practice, interpretation and preservation of historical and traditional shoemaking, the organization has grown substantially and now makes available an extensive collection of educational demonstrations, lecture, presentations and workshops in DVD format. It maintains a library and archive at the University of Tulsa. In the future, they intend to: establish a public museum and a public reference library; develop an educational training center; produce multimedia educational materials; and disseminate current research that will improve and change shoemaking.
Information on the HCC can be found at


This article was assembled by Peter Leach, past Master of the Honourable Company, from information on the website of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers (, the website of the Honourable Cordwainers’ Company(, Sir Ernest Pooley’s book “The Guilds of the City of London” published by William Collins of London 1945, the website of the Freemen of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (, the website, the website of the National Archives (UK) at, and searches on



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