Today I watched the City’s annual inter-livery Pancake Race with 21 teams racing around the Guildhall yard at noon on Shrove Tuesday competing for frying pan trophies awarded to the winner of each class. It’s a colourful event organised by the Poulters’ Company who (of course) supply the eggs – essential in the making of the pancakes…
Every other aspect of the race is allocated to the relevant livery – the Gunmakers start each heat with a bang, the Clockmakers are responsible for the accuracy of the timing, the Fruiterers provide lemons, the Cutlers plastic forks and the Glovers the white gloves worn by each runner.
Spectators and contestants getting ready for the annual pancake race
The event was inaugurated in 2004 by the Poulters’ Company so it is definitely one of the most recent traditions added to the social calendar in the City. This is what makes the City interesting – a place with a rich history and fascinating traditions, but also a diverse place and a global business centre.
Indeed the City of London Corporation is a unique institution. As a historian by background I am passionate about its history, and as a Londoner I care immensely about its future.
Livery companies flourished all over Europe for centuries, but the City of London companies are unique in their survival, variety and relevance today. They play a crucial role in the workings of the City, in promoting their (modern day equivalent) trades and, through charitable giving and support for education in reaching out beyond the Square Mile.
In the Ward of Cheap alone there several livery companies situated. Including the premier livery company the Mercers, the illustrious Goldsmiths and Saddlers and the Weavers and Wax Chandlers. But also modern companies such as Actuaries and Chartered Secretaries & Administrators.
If you are interested to read more a good read is “The City of London Freeman’s Guide”.