The Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers received its Charter from King Charles II on 31st May 1677, creating the 72nd Livery Company of the City of London.
By the Charter no one could lawfully carry out the trade of coachmaker or coach harness maker within 20 miles of London without being a member of the Company.
The Charter states that the Company may purchase and hold lands, plead and be impleaded in law, possess a Clerk and a Beadle; that no person other than a Freeman of the Company shall follow the trade; and that, after obtaining a warrant from the Lord Chief Justice, and accompanied by a constable, the Master, Wardens and Assistants may enter “shopps, cellars, sollars, stables, coachhouses and suspected places,” and examine coaches and materials, find out defects, and prosecute offenders.
Initially the Court met at various locations, including the Painter Stainers’ Hall, at Guildhall or in taverns before the Company bought its own hall from the Worshipful Company of Scriveners for £1,600 in 1703.
The site, in Noble Street, was rebuilt in 1843 and 1870, but was destroyed in an air raid in December 1940. The Company’s library and many of its possessions, including a Master’s chair from 1670, were lost. Luckily, the plate, and other treasures including an original model of the Royal State Coach from 1761, had been removed.
The Company has long established links with all three branches of the armed services. In 1900, the Company organised a competition for improving the design of horse-drawn ambulances for the Boer War. Today the Company maintains strong connections with the services which foster mutual understanding of arms, industry and the City.
Five members of the Royal family have honoured the Company by accepting membership and office, including the Duke of Edinburgh in 1863 and HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught in 1927. Current Royal Liverymen include HRH the Duchess of Kent, HRH Prince Michael of Kent and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. In 1865 the Company began to give prizes for the encouragement of good design and workmanship in the construction of vehicles. The encouragement of technical education and the improvement of design are objectives which the Company has always supported.
The subjects reflect the changes in fashion and habits of the day. In 1884 there was a prize for ‘a lady’s driving phaeton’, and in 1904 a design was invited for ‘a motor car to carry four people in the hind part and one or two in the driver’s seat, suitable for a petrol engine.’
When the horse-drawn carriage was superseded by the motor car, the number of coachmakers who changed with the times was not great, and their number diminished even more when handmade motor coachwork gave way to the mass-produced car.
Fortunately the growing number of motor manufacturers were recognised by the Coachmakers Company and they were soon joined by makers of the ‘coaches of the air’. The two industries – motor and aircraft – became the modern equivalents of the coachmakers of old.
Whilst not the wealthiest Livery, the Coachmakers is arguably one of the City’s most active Livery Companies – in its enduring and dynamic support for the Lord Mayor’s efforts to extol and promote British industry across the globe, and in its support and encouragement for British automotive and aerospace companies.
The modern Livery has not faded – membership increases year-onyear. Having adopted these two evolutions of the original craft of coachmaking, the Coachmakers has embraced its responsibilities, from helping young people to become engineers and designers in these industries to providing outstanding contacts and communications to help British business succeed in all viable markets.