The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers has its origins in medieval times. Throughout six and a half centuries it has moved away from its historical involvement in the trade of haberdashery and developed into a significant supporter of schools and education in England and Wales
The Company has its roots in a fraternity, a group of people who lived in the same area doing the same sort of work and who worshipped at St. Paul's Cathedral. Members were haberdashers by trade. They sold ribbons, beads, purses, gloves, pins, caps and toys and in 1502 were joined by the hatmakers' fraternity. Thereafter there were two types of haberdasher: haberdashers of hats and the original haberdashers of small wares.
The first surviving ordinances were recorded by the Mayor's Court in 1371. In 1446 the Company adopted its first Coat of Arms, an important symbol when many people could not read. In 1448 the Company was granted a charter of incorporation by Henry VI enabling it to hold land and to have its own Hall in which to hold meetings. The first of three subsequent Halls was built on the corner of Staining Lane and Maiden Lane (now Gresham Street) in 1459.
By 1650 the population of London had grown to such an extent that it was no longer possible to control the haberdashery trade. This resulted in a change of direction, over a long period, to the Company as it is now, with its emphasis on education and charitable giving. To this day the Company continues its historical involvement in the governance of the City of London.
The history of the Company is contained in its archives held in the Guildhall Library and information on the history of the Company can be obtained from the Company’s archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org
History of the Company Halls
The Company's first Hall was completed in 1458. The Hall was located on the corner of Staining Lane and Maiden Lane (now Gresham Street) and subsequently destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The second Hall was built on the same site between 1667-71 and was designed by Edward Jerman (who had worked in the City with Sir Christopher Wren). This hall was periodically extended and improved and stood until 1940 when it burnt down after an air raid.
The third Hall was opened in June 1956 and integrated within a commercial office development. In 1996 the offices were redeveloped and the Company moved to temporary offices in Bartholomew Close, EC1, while it acquired a new site in West Smithfield where the current Hall, designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners, was built.
The Current Haberdashers' Hall, opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002.