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The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies, is an ancient merchant guild of London associated with the silk and velvet trades. The Company received its first Royal Charter in 1448 and holds records dating back to 1371. The formal name under which it is incorporated is The Master and Four Wardens of the Fraternity of the Art or Mystery of Haberdashers in the City of London.
The company was originally responsible for the regulation of silk and velvet merchants, but began losing control over those trades as the population of London increased and spread outwards from the City after the Industrial Revolution. Through careful stewardship of corporate bequests and funds, the company now serves as a significant educational and charitable institution whilst maintaining links with its heritage by giving awards for fashion education.
As an educational foundation, the Haberdashers' Company maintains a strong tradition of supporting schools. It founded a boys' school in Hoxton and then expanded to schools in Hatcham in south London and Hampstead in north London; the Hampstead school moved in 1961 to become the Haberdashers' Aske's School, Elstree and the separate girls' school, founded in Acton, has now relocated to an adjacent site in Elstree. The Haberdashers' Company also runs a Hatcham Academy, open to girls and boys; other schools are situated elsewhere in the United Kingdom: e.g. William Adams, a haberdasher by trade, founded in 1656 the Adams' Grammar School in his home town of Newport, Shropshire. In 1990, at Haberdashers' School, Monmouth, the Glover Music School was established funded by Dr Jane Glover CBE, sister of the present Master.
In keeping with its Christian tradition, the Haberdashers' Company continues to present copies of the King James Bible to starters at all its schools. The company is sole trustee of two major educational charities: Haberdashers' Aske's Charity and the William Jones's Schools Foundation.
The company ranks eighth in the order of precedence of City livery companies and, as such, it is recognised as one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. Like other livery companies, it supports the work of the Lord Mayor, the City of London Corporation and the Sheriffs of London. HRH The Earl of Wessex currently serves on the Haberdashers' Court of Assistants.
Haberdashers' Hall was situated near the Guildhall in Bassishaw Ward for many centuries, but from 2002 the company took additional premises in the City Ward of Farringdon Without where it is now based.
An 1831 heraldic property mark of the Haberdashers' Company
The Haberdashers' Company moved to its new hall at 18 West Smithfield on 15 April 2002, located opposite the King Henry Gate of St. Bartholomew's Hospital.
On 24 October 2002 Queen Elizabeth II was welcomed by the Master Haberdasher, Nicholas Lund, to formally declare its Hall open. Haberdashers' Hall, with its various meeting and function rooms as well as offices, is centred on a cloistered courtyard, entered through the fašade at Market View, Smithfield, and also includes residential apartments and retail units. On the south side of the property, the company has developed office space which opens onto Hosier Lane. Within the hall, its cloisters to the right-hand side lead via a circular staircase to the first floor where its Court Room, Committee Room and a luncheon room lead off a reception gallery. The reception gallery leads to the banquet hall, which has a high vaulted ceiling and is entirely oak-panelled. There are also offices for company staff, facilities for catering staff with storage and cellars below the hall, together with accommodation for the Master and the Beadle. The Clerk to the Haberdashers' Company, since 2013, is Commodore Philip Thicknesse RN, and the Revd Canon David Parrott serves as Honorary Chaplain.