Livery companies grew out of the medieval guilds. The guilds were set up to:
The earliest known charter still in existence is from 1155 and belongs to the Weavers’ Company. However, it is very likely that there were companies around several centuries before this. Livery refers to the distinctive clothing that each company wore to distinguish themselves from other companies.
In 1515 the Lord Mayor established the order of precedence for the existing 48 companies. After then new companies took the next available number. Companies formed after 1925 are known as ‘Modern’ Livery companies with those established before then being known as ‘Ancient’ companies.
Concerned with a particular industry, the companies provided a means of guaranteeing the workmanship and trustworthiness of both members and the quality of goods produced. In fact, in order to trade within the City of London, it was necessary to be a Freeman.
There are now 110 Livery companies of whom about 70% are still directly connected to their trade through accreditation schemes, apprenticeship programmes and wider support for their trade. Livery companies continue to provide sponsorships, awards, trade support and also have associated charitable operations even if their trade is no longer current. Some companies have modernised with their trade, others have diversified into associated areas.
The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT) is 100 in the order of precedence. The Company combines centuries-old tradition with a modern focus, energy, and innovation.
Like all Livery companies, we look to give something back to the industry and community, and focus on four areas of activity that we call pillars:
In 1989 the Company received its grant of armorial bearings, or Coat of Arms. Each Livery company has an armorial bearing or coat of arms designed to proclaim a company’s identity and objectives. The bearings of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists are symbolic of its work and objectives.
* Mercury is part of the Crest. You will see his Mantle is reflected in the Liveryman’s sash.
In 1996 it was commemorated in a painting by Martin Yeoman of the first Court of the Company, presented by Dame Stephanie Shirley CH and our Founder Master, Barney Gibbens.
On 8 December 1986, a group of leading IT professionals resolved to petition the Court of Aldermen of the City of London for permission to create a City Company of Information Technologists without Livery. The Petition was presented on 31 March 1987 and it was granted on 9 June 1987.
Petition granted by the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen.
Immediately prior to the Lord Mayor’s Show on 14 November 1987, the Master, Barney Gibbens presented an illuminated address to Sheriff Brian Jenkins.
In one of its many charitable ventures, the Company raised several thousand pounds for the Skin Treatment and Research Trust (START), beginning in 1989 and continuing through the 1990s. The WCIT’s 1994 Charity Walk alone raised more than £10,000. Some of this funding enabled the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to build a Clinic and Day Treatment Centre for dermatology patients. This was opened by HRH Duchess of Gloucester on 14 March 1996.
The Company had a float in the Lord Mayor’s Show.
The concept of Panels was introduced, through which Freemen could act charitably and philanthropically to advance the use of IT in numerous areas of society such as the Arts, Education, Employment, Industry, Medicine and Health. This has been one of the Company’s most outstanding success stories and there are now almost 20 Panels (and equivalent Committees and Working Groups) operating in areas from IT Accessibility, through Entrepreneurship and Medicine and Health, to Security and Technology.
Recognition of a formal relationship with the Royal Corps of Signals. There is a long tradition of links between City of London Livery Companies and units of the British Armed Forces. The Royal Corps of Signals is the leader in Information Technology and Communications for the British Army and our relationship has expanded continuously with several Royal Signals service personnel being admitted to the Company.
Bill Gates becomes an Honorary Freeman and delivers the inaugural Informatics Lecture to the Company.
The lady Court Members wore medieval costume and accompanied the Lady Mayoress’s carriage in the Lord Mayor’s Show.
The Master, Sir Brian Jenkins, launched Focus on IT in the City at the Bank of England to representatives of government, the City, business leaders and members of the Company. The aim of the project was to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the City’s use of IT, and to recommend measures that would improve its overall information infrastructure and thus the competitiveness of the City in the global arena.
A working group of the Medicine and Health Panel developed Good Practice Guidance on Information Management for NHS Board Members. Published by the NHS Executive and issued to all NHS organisations in England and to several in the rest of the UK, the guidance was supported by the signatures of: The Master; the Head of IM&T, NHS Executive; the Controller and Auditor General; the Controller of the Audit Commission; and the President of the British Computer Society. An updated version of the guidance was produced in 2002, again with assistance from the Medicine and Health Panel and with the same level of senior signatures in support.
In 1998 the WCIT Charity received an endowment of £5 million from the Shirley Foundation, which has been the enabler of the charity ever since.
It also enabled the purchase of 39a Bartholomew Close to serve as the Company’s Hall. A Celebration Lunch was held, at which the astronaut, Dr Buzz Aldrin, was guest of honour. A further £1 million was raised by the members to re-purpose and outfit the Hall.
WCIT Charity supported the creation of the Lifelites charity which delivers technology to childrens’ hospices throughout the UK.
20 September 2001 saw the official opening of the Company’s Hall by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Howard.
iT4C (IT for Communities) was set up by the WCIT Charity to bring together would-be volunteers and charities requiring IT support. Since that time, it has registered several thousand volunteers serving a not dissimilar number of charities, and delivered over £6.25m worth of support in terms of business benefit to the charity sector. iT4Communities (iT4C) now operates as an independent entity, CITA.
In education, the Company began a programme of support to the Lilian Baylis Technology School, which had been branded as a failing school in a report. The main focus has been raising the aspirations of students, advising the school on ICT issues, providing governors and providing the students with IT career information. The results of the Company’s support showed dramatic success, with the school being ranked in the top 5% for “added value” performance in 2003.
The Arts Panel created an outward facing organisation IT4Arts. The panel works through IT4Arts to help arts organisations make effective use of IT regarding audiences, artistic content, and organisational efficiency.
In collaboration with the Royal Corps of Signals, the Company entered a float in the Lord Mayor’s Show.
Originating as a spin-off from the Industry Committee, the Entrepreneurship Panel rapidly became one of the most vigorous and enterprising of the Company’s panels.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world-wide web, accepted the Honorary Freedom of the Company at a ceremony in the Livery Room of the Company’s Hall.
Vint Cerf, widely regarded as the father of the Internet, joined the Company as an Honorary Freeman.
WCIT was invited to join the Financial Services Group. This group of twelve Livery Companies was formed in 2006 to support the Lord Mayor in his overseas visits, meetings in the City with overseas delegations and in his role of promoting “the City” brand of UK financial and other business services.
Working with the Royal Corps of Signals, the Employment Panel introduced a programme of workshops to assist the transition of service personnel into civilian technology careers at the end of their military service.
The Royal Corps of Signals also featured in the Lord Mayor’s Show in a combined float with the Company and the British Computer Society.
After three years preparation, our Royal Charter – one of only 1,000 dedicated over the past 800 years – was granted at a ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral on 17 June 2010. After the service, the Lord Mayor’s Pikemen escorted the Royal Charter to the Mansion House, where members and guests celebrated the award at a dinner. The Company was honoured by the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex.
In September 2011 the Hammersmith Academy, a new build secondary school co-sponsored by WCIT and the Mercers’ Company, opened its doors to an intake of 120 Year 7s and 120 sixth-formers.
Court Liveryman, David Wootton became Lord Mayor and the barge was out again for the Lord Mayor’s Show in November and has participated in the show ever since. WCIT also walked in the procession with the Mercers’ Company, a giant balloon and newly enrolled pupils in the Hammersmith Academy to celebrate the opening of the school.
The Entrepreneurship Panel established the annual Enterprise Awards. These prestigious awards are in three main categories:
The awards recognise both the entrepreneurs’ personal and their company achievements such as growth, profile, and innovation and have the objective ‘to establish truly independent awards for rising technology entrepreneurs in the UK and to harness the experience, connections and knowledge of our Livery Company members to create new technology world champions from the UK.’
The WCIT Thames Waterman Cutter ‘the Barge’ took part in Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant with the Master, Jonathan Soar, as passenger.
The Journeyman Scheme rose to its highest engagement level with 25 Journeymen enrolled.
WCIT joined Livery Schools Link which joins together schools who benefit from patronage, sponsorship or support from the livery movement.
Past Master Dame Stephanie Shirley CH published her book ‘Let IT Go’ about her career in IT followed by her life as a philanthropist.
The OFSTED inspectors found Lilian Baylis Technology School to be ‘outstanding in all aspects’. Meanwhile the new Hammersmith Academy was rated ‘Good with some outstanding features’.
Freeman Kirstin Duffield won the Ladies Race in the Inter-Livery Pancake race and the duly engraved Pan Trophy took its place in the Treasures Room.
The WCIT Ski Club achieved two top ten places in the inter-livery ski competition at Morzine.
The affiliation with the 46F (Kensington) Air Training Cadets was approved by Court on 16 January and this was shortly followed by the affiliation with the Beckenham and Penge Sea Cadets being approved by Court on 10 April.
The Employment Panel’s workshops, coaching and mentoring scheme with the Royal Corps of Signals worked with the 400th soldier in the programme.
WCIT introduced a new tradition of a Combined Panels Christmas Lunch in the Hall, cooked by Liveryman Chris Haden. All funds raised were donated to the WCIT Charity.
New military affiliations with the Beckenham and Penge Sea Cadets and also the Air Cadets – 46F (Kensington) Squadron of the ATC, were reflected in a carpet guard at the New Freemen’s Dinner.
Liveryman Tom Ilube became the first winner of the City Livery Club’s Root & Branch Award ‘for his outstanding record of service to education and young people.’
Liveryman Paul Jagger published ‘The City of London Freeman’s Guide’.
Honorary Freeman Sir Tim Berners-Lee was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of London in a ceremony at Guildhall with the entire City of London Corporation. Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf presented the certificate.
The Master arranged a tour of the Normandy battlefields to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord in which Bletchley Park’s Colossus had played a major part.
In the inter-livery pancake race, Liveryman Howard Skidmore won the Best Novelty Dress award, dressed in a papier mache globe.
Past Master Ken Olisa OBE (later Sir Kenneth Olisa) was appointed as Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London and bears the responsibility for the organisation of all official Royal visits to Greater London.
Liveryman Kirsten Duffield won the Ladies Race in the inter-livery Pancake Race for the second time.
The WCIT Charity introduced the Outstanding Information Technology Student Awards. From the seven finalists, David Richardson from the University of Warwick was chosen as the first winner.
Celebrating our military affiliation, the float in the 800th Lord Mayor’s Show included both the White Helmet Motorcycle Display Team and service personnel from the Royal Corps of Signals. The float was the most technical float ever in the show and included at 20m rolling video wall and provided a live stream via the WCIT app. The float celebrated Talent Unleashed – the support offered to the service personnel in their transition to a civilian IT career.
The Shooting Club raised £580 for the WCIT Charity at the annual Capercaillie Cup run by Liveryman Nick Harris.
WCIT Charity sponsors the first IT Professor at Gresham College and engages Professor Martyn Thomas CBE.
Thames Reach become a strategic partner of the WCIT Charity as they open an IT suite to training vulnerable people.
iT4C evolved into the larger-scale Charity IT Association (CITA), a stand-alone charity.
WCIT supports the MSC in Data Science at Birkbeck, University of London.
Past Master Nicholas Birtles gifted a new Master’s Jewel to WCIT. This is a modern, elegant and vibrant design with a story to tell about the IT industry. It includes “Hardware”, in the form of Silicon; some Binary to represent both Software & Data; “loops” to represent Communications and Universality; and finally showing Information flowing around the globe via the Internet, with our Company’s Coat of Arms in the centre.
The Lord Mayor’s Show saw WCIT participating with the Hammersmith Academy and a giant balloon.
The 25th anniversary of livery was celebrated at Guildhall on 4 May 2017.
An affiliation was formed with the Joint Forces Cyber Group, part of the UK Strategic Command and a tri-service reservist group. The ceremony took place on 21 September on board the HQS Wellington, on the occasion of the 97th Business Lunch.
As part of its first major grant, the WCIT Charity awarded £300,000 to both Missing People and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). These were chosen from over 70 charities who applied for the grant. WCIT Charity also sets up the Artificial Intelligence Learning Exchange (now AI4C) to assemble and disseminate best practice in this technology area for the benefit of the Charity Sector.
The WCIT’s 100th Business Lunch was held on 16 May. The Speaker was Mark Smith, Founder and CEO of Ada, the National College for Digital Skills.
A Tri-Livery event was held with the Stationers’ and Marketors’ Companies on how businesses can benefit from the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Jointly with the Real Time Club, a debate was held upon the motion “Technology is the Enemy of Democracy”, chaired by Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls.
WCIT worked with the Lord Mayor, Peter Estlin, to promote digital inclusion, innovation and to enhance the digital skills pipeline.
Professor Richard Harvey took over as the Gresham College Chair of IT with a three year series of lectures.
New Clerk, Susan Hoefling joins and immediately begins an overhaul of the company’s IT system!
Master Lady Parmley held the New Freemen’s dinner at Vintners’ Hall, Sir Andrew Parmley was Master Vintner at the same time.
The WCIT Charity University IT Award was won by Rachel Lee Mekhtieva from Imperial College, London who ably demonstrated the outstanding calibre of the entrants for this award.
Past Master Dr Stefan Fafinski took over as Chair of the WCIT Charity on the retirement of Past Master Jo Connell OBE DL.
The unprecedented year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the Hall staff working from home, a cessation of all in-person events and a challenging year for everyone.
Online events began immediately the lockdown was declared, with ‘First Thursday’ an early adopter of technology. It was evident that this had opened up the event to more members, so a Third Thursday was also implemented.
The Equality Panel led the way with an online dinner in June, followed by the annual Summer Banquet in July when the three course meal was delivered fully prepped for home consumption and Zoom attendance. A first for the company, it was again apparent that a wider reach of the membership were able to be involved.
A brief window allowed a much reduced installation of Master Mark Holford, which was broadcast to members during the online Installation Dinner.
‘Carols in the City’ was introduced as a virtual service across the livery and beyond, raising significant funds for a number of charities including the WCIT Charity.
The first WCIT Yearbook was produced to capture Master Ray Long CB’s year which included the new affiliation with HMS Collingwood approved at Court on 16 January 2020.
WCIT creates its Social Value Leadership Group for the IT Industry. The group provides a forum to stimulate thinking and collaboration on how the IT industry can operate with clear purpose and social responsibility, whilst still meeting its commercial objectives.
WCIT attracts an audience of over 400 to its virtual webinar ‘How to end Digital poverty?’. Following on from this, WCIT signs up as a community board member of the newly established Digital Poverty Alliance. This is a collaboration of organisations which support people with access, skills, infrastructure and affordability to a digital world.