On Tuesday 20th February 2018 the Chairman, Vice-chairman and members of The Chelsea Society visited the Hall in the City of London of the Worshipful Company of Drapers. We were joined by Sir Michael Craig-Cooper, who is a member of the Society. He is a past-Master of the Drapers’ Company, and has served as HM Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Kensington and Chelsea. We are grateful to Gaye Murdoch, a member of the Society, for arranging the visit.
We were shown around the magnificent building by the Archivist, who gave us a brief account of the history and traditions of the Company.
Founded over 600 years ago, the Drapers’ Company is incorporated by Royal Charter and is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies in the City of London. The Drapers acquired their Coat of Arms in 1439.
The medieval member might have had a shop where he sold drapery; wealthier members were merchants, traders in wool and cloth, and financiers.
The expansion of the English woollen cloth trade in the 15th century was reflected in the prosperity of the Drapers’ Company. When the order of precedence of the City Companies was set in 1516, the Drapers’ position was confirmed as being third, after the Mercers and the Grocers. The Drapers bought the site of Thomas Cromwell’s town house after his fall in 1543, and part of his garden still survives.
Whilst the Livery companies have their roots in medieval trades and crafts they have grown and adapted to modern needs. The Company currently supports many educational establishments and charitable causes. The tour included the magnificent Livery Hall – the finest surviving Victorian Livery Hall in England – the Drawing Room and Court Room, all of which contain the Company’s special collection of works of art, silver and artefacts which has been created and developed over the centuries.