The Worshipful Company of Mercers.
As laid down by the Court of Alderman in 1516, the Mercers rank number 1 in the order of precedence. Their Charters are dated 1394, 1425 and 1559. The original aims were fully religious, social and trade and although the individual members were all merchants the company exercised only moderate control over their activities’
There is some confusion over the origin of the name Mercer which may be derived from the French for merchant or more likely from the trade of 'mercery' itself is first mentioned in the 1130s. This term derives from the Latin merx, mercis, meaning wares or merchandise.
Famous Masters of the Mercers include Dick Whittington (1395, 1401, 1408), Sir Thomas Gresham (1569, 1573, 1579) and Lord Baden-Powell (1913). Other well known Mercers include John Colet and Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton).
The records of the Mercers’ Company date back to 1348 but the Company is certainly older than this for in that year new ordinances were drawn up for the conduct of its affairs.
The Company's links with the active trade died out over the centuries. This was mainly because admission to the Company was mainly possible by patrimony. In effect a member could become a member, because his father was a member, without necessarily practising the trade of mercery itself. The other form of admission to the Company was by an eight year apprenticeship. Apprenticeship had to be genuine, rather than token, but as links with an active trade declined this became difficult. By the 18th and 19th centuries apprentices were being bound to Masters who were no longer practising mercers. No more apprentices were bound after 1888.
Although the Company no longer has any trade to control, its modern life is busy and productive. Through the charitable trusts under its control, the Mercers' Company administers a large programme of charitable grant making.
The Company also provides housing for the elderly, wide ranging support for education and has active links with many churches.
For more information, visit www.mercers.co.uk