Livery Companies are an important part of the tradition of the City of London and our Company can trace its roots back over three hundred and fifty years.
In 1654, the Parliament which was the first of Cromwell’s Protectorate passed one of its first Acts which provided legislation setting up The Fellowship of Master Hackney Coachmen. This was under the authority of the Court of Aldermen, on similar lines to other trades in the City of London such as the Watermen and Billingsgate Porters. Though the Act was only to remain in force for three years, it was the forerunner of every future Act of Parliament concerning hackney carriages, including coaches, horse drawn cabs and taxis until the present day. The Court of Aldermen’s writ was within the ‘Late Lines of Communication’. This was a reference to a chain of defences erected around London during the Civil War in 1642, from Vauxhall to where the Elephant & Castle is today and from there via Aldgate to Oxford Street, Marble Arch site and back to the river on the north bank of the Thames. At that time, the number of coachmen were restricted to two hundred and the Act named the first thirteen overseers, who were entrusted the task of choosing the remainder.
Each man admitted to the Fellowship was required to pay £2 toward the costs of running the Fellowship. The Court of Aldermen in the City of London to whom the overall control was entrusted, were empowered to make additional byelaws concerning the number of coaches, where they were to stand and what the rate of fares were to be and the penalties for any disobedience according to Cromwell’s Ordinance. Provision was made for coachmen who refused to be hired, or pretended to be hired when they were not, who misbehaved by “uncivil carriage or used reproachful words.” The Overseers had authority to try a coachman for the first two offences but for a third offence he had to appear before the Court of Aldermen who were empowered to withdraw a man’s licence if he was found guilty of a serious offence. So the Fellowship continued – but not without its problems. The Overseers were accused of allowing Cavaliers to obtain licences to the detriment of men who had served in Cromwell’s ‘Model Army’ during the Civil War.