- Worshipful Company of Drapers
The Worshipful Company of Drapers is one of the 108 Livery Companies of the City of London; it has the formal name of The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London but is more usually known simply as the Drapers' Company. It ranks third in the order of precedence of the Livery Companies, thus being one of the historic Great Twelve City Livery Companies. The Company's motto is Unto God Only Be Honour and Glory.
An informal association of drapers undoubtedly existed as early as 1180. The organisation was founded in 1361; it received a Royal Charter three years later. It was incorporated as a company under a Royal Charter in 1438, and was the first corporate body to be granted a coat of arms. The charter gave the company perpetual succession and a Common seal. Over the centuries the original privileges granted by Royal Charter have been confirmed and amended by successive monarchs. The acting charter of today is that granted by James I in 1607, amended by three supplemental charters, most recently in 1964.
A Brotherhood of Drapers, a religious fraternity attached to the church of St. Mary Bethlehem in Bishopsgate, is also known to have existed in the 1360s. It was founded in honour of St. Mary by "good people Drapers of Cornhill and other good men and women" for the amendment of their lives. The location of St. Mary can hardly have been convenient for the majority of drapers who lived in and around Cornhill, Candlewick Street (now Cannon Street) and Chepe (Cheapside). Possibly it was for this reason that allegiance was transferred to St Mary le Bow in Cheapside and later to St Michael, Cornhill, where the Company continues to worship today. Despite these changes, the Drapers have retained the Blessed Virgin Mary as patron saint.
Originally, the organisation was a trade association of wool and cloth merchants. It was one of the most powerful companies in London politics. Over one hundred Lord Mayors have been members of the Company; the first, Henry Fitzailwyn, is thought to have been a draper. During the Plantation of Ulster, the company held land around Moneymore and Draperstown in County Londonderry.
Three royal princes joined the Company, though none were expected at the time to become kings:
- Prince William of Orange, later King William III of England
- Prince Carl of Denmark, later King Haakon VII of Norway
- Prince Albert Duke of York, later King George VI of the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and King Harald V of Norway are members of the Company. Another, who would have become king had he survived his elder brother, was Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.
Today, the company exists as a charitable, ceremonial, and educational institution. This has included providing the site and some of the buildings of Queen Mary College in the University of London. It also administers almshouses such as the Henry Lucas Hospital. It is a trustee for Bancroft's School, who use the Drapers' coat of arms and motto, and a sponsor of Drapers' Academy who use a similar logo. It administers charitable trusts relating to relief of need, education, and almshouses; it provides banqueting and catering services; and it fosters its heritage and traditions of good fellowship. The Court of Assistants is its governing body.
The Drapers' Company continues to play a role in the life of the City. Its liverymen carry out important functions in the elections of the government of the City and its officers.
Like many other livery companies, the Drapers' Company is based at a grand building named after itself. Drapers' Hall is located in Throgmorton Avenue, near London Wall. The Company has owned the site since 1543, when it purchased the London mansion of Thomas Cromwell from King Henry VIII. Cromwell had been attainted and executed in 1540.
The building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt to designs by Edward Jarman. After another fire in 1772, it was rebuilt again. This time the architect was John Gorham. Further alterations were made in the 19th century. The hall survived the Blitz during the Second World War.
The hall includes four lavishly decorated main rooms, which are used for the Company's functions. The largest room is the Livery Hall, which can accommodate up to 260 guests for dinner. These rooms are also available for hire and have often been used for film locations, including for The King's Speech, GoldenEye, The Lost Prince and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. Groups may book a guided tour of Drapers' Hall; a donation to the Company's charitable work is requested in return.
The Company's archives, works of art, silver and artifacts are in the care of an archivist. The document collection has items dating to the 13th century, including charters and coats of arms, charity records, and records of the Company's landholdings, including the Londonderry estates. The silver collection includes an ancient Celtic decorative collar found on the Londonderry estate, and pieces of the Company's own silverware from the 16th century onwards. There is also a collection of paintings, mostly of former members. Researchers may view the collections by appointment.
- ^ http://www.thedrapers.co.uk/Membership.aspx
- ^ On the set of 'The King's Speech', Time Out
- ^ Location of the Month March 2004, Film London
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