The Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights is one of the 110 Livery Companies of the City of London having been incorporated by Royal Charter in 1670. The status of the Company as a trade association has lessened over the years and we are now, as are most other Livery Companies, primarily a charitable body.
Whilst the wheelwrights craft has been practised for more than 4,000 years, it was only in 1630 that the Wheelwrights of London, having become sufficiently wealthy to pay the costs and legal fees involved in incorporation, formed a committee to approach the City authorities. Later that year the leading Wheelwrights and Coachmakers came together and petitioned for incorporation as a single company.
In the next thirty years or so the City was preoccupied with other matters including the Civil War, the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, the Dutch War, the Great Plague and the Fire of London.
The Wheelwrights, independently of the Coachmakers made a separate petition for incorporation and on 3rd February 1670, Charles II granted the Wheelwrights a Charter.
The Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights became, in order of precedence, the sixty-eighth Livery Company of the City of London. After receiving the Charter the Wheelwrights Company carried on the work of the former Guild but the legal status of the Charter enhanced its power and gave it the right to make its own bye-laws and thus govern the operation of the trade.
The jurisdiction of the Company covered all wheelwrights working within the City but did not extend far outside its boundaries.
The Traditional Craft
The method of making wheels for horse-drawn vehicles was unchanged in its essentials for 4,000 years, but with the development of the first bicycle and then the motor car, not only did the craft rapidly diminish, but also its very language has almost been forgotten.
The Company continues to be an active supporter of the ancient wheelwright’s craft, through its Apprenticeship Scheme, maintaining contact with practising wheelwrights in the UK and keeping an up-to-date list of them.
Modern Wheels and Tyres
Over the years the craft has evolved and expanded into other areas, so our focus has changed to encompass mobility in general, including such areas as modern vehicle wheels and tyres.
The Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights set up the Wheelwrights’ Charity in 1983. The appointment of trustees, who are all members of the Company, is governed by the Trust Deed.
The main charitable objectives of the Charity are to support:-
- Education and training in the craft of wheelwrights
- Mobility for disabled people, especially children and young people
- Access to sport, educational and recreational activities for disabled people, especially children, young people and disabled ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen.
- City charities and causes including the Lord Mayor’s chosen charities.
Associations & Affiliations
The Company has many links with different organisations, all focused around education and mobility as well as maintaining close historical links with different parts of the military, including:
- National Tyre Distributors Association
- Burnt Mill Academy
- Treloar’s School & College
- Riding for the Disabled
- Military Affiliations:
The rules governing the Livery are contained in the Charter and in the subsequent Bylaws of 1670 & 1714. These have been adapted for modern usage and are contained in Standing Orders under which the Master, Wardens and the Court operate.
Under the Bylaws the Court comprises the Master, 2 Wardens (the Upper and Renter Wardens) and 18 Assistants.
Many of our events are held in spectacular locations such as the Mansion House and livery halls of other Livery Companies and are usually aligned to regular Court Meetings.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our annual events had to be conducted remotely via Zoom. Whilst this was not ideal, it did allow us to continue to maintain our links with many of our members and to enjoy key events in the calendar.
Whilst we were originally established to support the craft of Wheelwrighting, our current membership is made up of a very eclectic and friendly group of people, who have joined for a variety of reasons, including:
- To have fun and contribute to supporting an organisation that is part of the fabric and traditions of the City of London.
- Supporting the continuance of the ancient craft of wheelwrighting and mobility charities.
- Meeting and networking with like-minded individuals.
- Celebrating Company events in some extremely prestigious surroundings and getting to visit places that are not usually open to the public.
The most common way of joining is to be accepted as a Freeman of the Company (either by Patrimony or Redemption) following an interview with the Membership committee and approval by the Company’s Court, then progressing to becoming ‘clothed’ as a Liveryman, once the candidate has become a Freeman of the City of London. A prospective Freeman/Liveryman needs to be proposed and seconded by existing members of the Company.
There is a joining fee (or ‘fine’ as it is known) as well as an annual fee (or ‘quarterage’) to become and maintain membership. Members are also encouraged to pay annually into the Company’s charity funds.
An alternative route to becoming a member is via Servitude, where the son or daughter of a Liveryman (aged between 14 and 21) is indentured to the Master or a Past Master of the Company for a period of four to eight years.