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Ep 166: Loving Cups and Demi-virgins, an A-Z of London Livery.

A fine array of gowns at the United Guilds Service at St Paull's Cathedral. Image from St Paul's

Ever since the pancake episode last year we've been promising to tell you more about The Livery Companies of the City of London, and this week Fiona is using the alphabet to explain all.

I like the image above as the liverymen are all facing away, and from the outside the Livery companies can feel unwelcoming. Their halls dotted around the city, mostly don't allow access to non members. They can seem a leftover from a previous age, of apprenticeships and closed shops. Of patrimony and privilege. But dig a little deeper and it's a colourful riot of traditions and events. They are networking organisations, but they do do good. And in some cases, still regulate their trades.

Mercer's Maiden in Corbet Court and Covent Garden

Here's the Demi-virgin of the Mercer's. She's the most distinctive coat of arms, and the easiest to spot. Partly because the Mercers own so much land around the City and north of Long Acre in Covent Garden. Can you spot her in amongst the Great Twelve coats of arms?

They aren't in order. You can find the salamanders of the Ironmongers, and the Vintner's swans.

livery coats of arms as published in the Boys Own Paper around 1900

Without supporters the coats of arms look like this. Or at least they did, in 1900. Since then there's plenty more foundations, including the most recent:

The Young Freemen were both helpful for my A-Z and yet another dragon to add to my list.

Yesterday, as I was strolling the City, I passed a couple of halls with their flags out:

Watermen's and Furniture Maker's Halls

On the left are the Worshipful Company of Watermen and Lightermen. ( I would have taken a better photo, but I was in the middle of a walk at the time.) to right are The Furniture Makers. Both fairly modest halls in old buildings. What's the claim to fame of the Goldsmiths Hall? Listen to find out. Theirs is one of the grander ones.

Goldsmiths Hall Katie Chan C BY-SA 3.0

While this staircase inside welcomes you in with a promise of opulence inside. Many of the halls can be hired for weddings, meetings and special events. For a sneaky peak inside the Goldsmiths, visit their annual exhibition of work by contemporary Goldsmiths.

At the moment there's a gap next to Fishmongers Hall. Allowing us to see the Portland stone façade - always visible, and the much plainer brickwork behind - normally hidden. Fishmongers has grand riverside façade, which is barely one room deep. (the beige bit between the lamppost and the Shard in this photo.)

Fishmongers Hall from the river, left of London Bridge

You could stroll from there, along the river to see the Millenium Marker. Just underneath the Millenium Bridge, - You can see the shadow of the bridge in this photo. Designed by Joanna Migdal by and for the Scientific Instrument Makers ( who share the Glaziers Hall, just across the river from the Fishmongers.) Migdal specialises in making sundials. This photo makes me wonder, Could we put markings on the ground all around the shard, and it as a giant sundial? That would be fabulous!

Keep your eyes peeled if you are walking the city. You'll see little plaques all over the place, on buildings owned by the Companies. Here's the Drapers coat of arms either side of drainpipes, and incorporated into the doorway of no 25 Austin Friars. They are not rocket propelled beehives, they are three stacks of three crowns, with light spilling out beneath. Someone explained it to me once, and it made sense while he was talking - something to do with the Virgin Mary (again!), about 15 seconds after he stopped talking, I'd forgotten what he said. So you'll have to look that one up for yourself. If you want to know more, this is a good starting point: Click on the livery database on the right side, to get links for all the different Livery Companies.

And finally. We talked about the Loving Cup. Well I tried to find some images to show you. But they all involved copyrights and people. So I thought I'd draw you a little diagram instead:

They are standing up, because you need their knees to see which way they are facing. Look at this, and listen the pod, and the loving cup ceremony should be completely clear. Nowadays you are encouraged to wipe the cup before passing it on to the next person. And, if you don't fancy drinking (or teeth) you can just mime!

Obviously it doesn't look quite like this artis'ts representation. Because it's usually done at the end of a meal, next to a table, and with other people nearby. So maybe something more like this*:

* nothing like this. For a start the tables aren't transparent...or quite so low down, or sparsely decorated...

Hope that's all clear. Any questions about the Livery Companies please do get in touch. Or questions generally. Or just let us know how your day is going, when and where you listen to the pod, and any other matters arising.

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