The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, 16 - 18 St-Mary-at-Hill, London, EC3R 8EF
Telephone: (+44) 020 7283 2373 Fax: (+44) 020 7283 0477 E-mail: admin
From ancient times the Thames has been a main highway for moving people and goods from the Estuary to London and beyond. The use of ferries was the only link across the River before the building of the first London Bridge by the Romans. However evidence of the importance of the River was provided by Stow, who in his survey of 1598 related that some 40,000 men earned a living on or about the River. The Act of 1514 passed by Parliament regulated the fares charged on the Thames. However the Watermen who carried passengers continued to act independently and an Act of 1555 appointed Rulers of all Watermen and Wherrymen working between Gravesend and Windsor, thus the Company was born. The Act of 1555 also introduced apprenticeships for a term of one year for all boys wishing to learn the watermen’s trade and this was extended to seven years by a further Act in 1603.
The Act of 1827 the Company was incorporated by a further Act of Parliament , thus ensuring its independence. Since then it has been governed by a Court of Assistants, which includes an annually elected Master together with four Wardens.
The present Hall dates from 1780 and remains the only original Georgian Hall in the City of London. The architect of the current Hall was William Blackburn who designed a small but beautiful building in the Georgian style, comprising a Court Room, Parlour and offices. This is the first Hall owned by the Company who had previously rented a mansion in Cold Harbour- situated on the north bank immediately east of the site of Cannon Street Railway Station. This was destroyed in the Great Fire of London with the loss of much of the Company’s records.
The existing Hall was extended in 1983 to include a more substantial dining and meeting facility, the Freemen's Room, which blends in perfectly with the intimate atmosphere of the Court Room, the Silver Room and Parlour to form a suite of rooms that are both elegant and adaptable to modern day requirements.