The Beadle and the Worshipful Company
“The Beadle puts a livery gown on the candidate and says – I now clothe you in the Gown of the The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London”. There are a few occasions in one’s life which are truly memorable, that one will look back on and say that was really important. One has happened for me in 2009 despite delays through car accidents and hospital stays and all sorts of impediments. That was being admitted in early November to the Livery of the ancient London Guild of Glovers. The Glovers Company was founded in 1349 and despite a brief period between 1501 and 1639 when the power of capital over labour meant that it slipped into the hands of the Leathersellers has been independent since.
Historically Guilds throughout Europe got recognised somewhat as monopolies that controlled industries and slowed innovation. They were certainly centres of knowledge and hopefully of excellence. Francesco di Marco Datini was a 14th century Merchant from Prato in Italy and the excellent Penguin “The Merchant of Prato” tells us how he worked with, for and against the guilds in Prato and in Florence. In the time of Queen Elizabeth 1st in England the control of the Spanish tannage (a mimosa process) was given to Leathersellers to ensure that every delivery that was sold came with proper technology transfer.
In the last ten years the Guilds in London have come strongly back to life and stopped being benevolently minded rich men’s’ clubs. Of course tradition remains of importance but there is no reason that tradition cannot combine well with contemporary society. At the same time the older guilds have overcome the horror of the departure of so much of the manufacturing which sustained them for centuries to other parts of the world. Assembly of components into products is only one part of an industry structure than brings products to the consumer and in our case puts gloves on their hands.
The Glove Industry is very much alive
At the same time gloves are returning to favour in the ways they used to be used a couple of centuries ago – industry where now health and safety issues are given greater attention, fashion where style and image is back in favour, and in sports where a mix of protection and dexterity can make the difference. And who anyway is to say that glove making will always stay in India and China. Increasingly the value of locally made gloves for quick retail response, access to superb materials, and exceptional designs and quality is being recognised again. Some return of manufacture is quite likely.
I am hoping that I will be able to contribute to this superb institution which blends the best of the past into our hopes for the future. I hope our links with the University of Northampton will continue and expand and that we can help to put gloves closer to the forefront of the minds of the consumer.
There is no doubt as we were told at an excellent Livery Luncheon in Drapers Hall that our perspective on the world is being refashioned in the light of the current economic crisis, hopefully a small, not so wealthy, but very active Livery Company can make a difference