Above: The front of the hall in Bartholomew Close. Not a good day to take the picture because the road had just been dug up on the right.
The City Companies are still quite a puzzle to many Londoners. In normal English a company is thought of a commercial organisation. City Companies derived from the early guilds or crafts – like butchers, ironmongers, brewers and fishmongers. Each group of craftsmen grouped together in the City of London to regulate their trade and keep up the standards set within it. The members usually formed into what was called a ‘guild’. Gradually the guild grew, often building a hall and having a ‘Master’ of the guild.
As time went by the guilds were incorporated into a company and were granted ‘livery’ with a Royal Charter. A grant of livery was originally meant a uniform as a means of identification. As each company was formed, it was numbered. For example the Mercers’ Company is number 1; the Grocers is number 2. Most of the companies relate to ancient trades – like vintners, salters, clothworkers, haberdashers and cutlers. However, companies are still in the process of being formed and their names now reflect modern occupations.
That brings us to consider the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, also known as the Information Technologists’ Company which was granted livery status by the Court of Aldermen in the City of London on 7 January 1992. This company became the 100th Livery Company. At the time of writing there are 110 companies. The process of obtaining a Royal Charter is a slow one and the Information Technologists had to wait until 17 June 2010 for it to be granted, being presented to them by Prince Edward.
Some of the well-established companies have halls which have been on the same site for centuries. It is unusual for companies formed in modern times to have their own hall but in the case of the Information Technologists they acquired a hall at 39a Bartholomew Close, a short distance from Smithfield. There are currently only 39 companies with halls
Prominent members of the Company include Tim Berners-Lee (who is credited with inviting the Internet) and Bill Gates (who almost everybody knows founded Microsoft) which, in the world of the Internet and computers could hardly have people of better pedigree. The motto of the Company is ‘Cito’ which is Latin for ’Swiftly’.
If you wonder what these companies do – in addition to attending the usual posh annual dinner – the main activity is charitable works. In the case of the Information Technologists they have set up computer technology in some London schools. They have also provided technology assistance for charities and help for those starting out in the world of business.