History of the Glovers Company

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London is one of the City's ancient Livery Companies. A guild existed well before 1349, the date when the company's first formal Ordinances were made. These decreed that no one of the trade was to be admitted to the Freedom of the City without consent of the Wardens, fixed the price of sheepskin gloves at a penny per pair and ordained that gloves must not be sold by candlelight as "folk could not tell whether they were of good or bad leather or lawfully or falsely made". The latter, described in another document as "naughtie and deceitefulle gloves" could be confiscated or destroyed by order of the Wardens.

Owing to a decline in trade, the Glovers amalgamated with the Pursers in 1501 only to be taken over by the Leathersellers a year later. However, the changes in fashion which occurred during the reign of Elizabeth I and in the 17th century allowed the Glovers to prosper and become independent again, their status being confirmed by a new Charter granted by King Charles I in 1638. In 1662 a Hall was established in Beech Lane, Cripplegate.

The next two centuries saw enormous social and economic changes. The extension of the franchise, the move to the suburbs by the new middle classes and, above all, the Industrial Revolution meant that the artisan workshops of the City were being replaced by factories outside it. In the first half of the 18th century the Glovers Livery still numbered 120; by the end of the century it had fallen to 14 and the Hall was given up for lack of funds to maintain it.

This decline in fortune affected the great majority of Livery Companies and, in common with them, the Glovers have survived and flourished by adapting to modern times. They maintain strong links with their trade, support the City by active participation in many of its projects, provide educational bursaries, and carry out an extensive programme of "Charity through Gloves". With all this, the Company has not forgotten its debt to the past or its obligations to posterity. It maintains a magnificent collection of 16th, 17th and 18th century gloves and is now embarking on an ambitious policy of expanding the Collections from 1800 to the present day.

For further details of the history, see A History of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London by Ralph Waggett (a Liveryman of the Company) published by Phillimore in 2000, 2nd Edition 2007, ISBN 1 86077 123.

For details of the City of London, and of other Livery companies, visit the City of London website www.cityoflondon.gov.uk . For direct access to the Lord Mayor's pages go to www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lordmayor which have recently been revised. The Mansion House page links to new pages about the history, art collection, plate room and tours of the house.



Glove Trade Associations

When The Glovers Company was formed it was essentially a trade association; by the 20th century the connection with the trade had all but disappeared, and separate organisations fulfilled this role, with ever-increasing links to the Livery.

The National Association of Glove Manufacturers (NAGM) was formed in 1941 under the presidency of Ralf Southcombe of Southcombe Bros Ltd. Its principal objectives were to "foster the welfare of the Glove Manufacturing Trade generally, and to enhance its prestige", to promote the amicable working of the industry and to represent its members at national level in dealings with the government and employees' organisations, including the negotiation of a national agreement for terms and conditions of employment." Its members were drawn from both the industrial and dress glove trades and, at their peak, totalled in excess of a hundred manufacturers and their suppliers.

The Glove Guild of Great Britain (GGGB) was formed around 1965 and was essentially an association of wholesalers, importers and high street retailers whose main objective was to promote the sale of dress gloves. To this end, it organised a number of regular promotional events, including glove fairs, the naming of an annual "Glove Personality", and an annual student glove design competition. John Meier, of Speciality Gloves Ltd, was the Guild's long-serving President from 1973 until 1998.

The NAGM remained a robust trade association until the end of the 1980s when the economic climate changed forever. In 1972 there had been over fifty members in the industrial glove section alone, whilst ten years later in 1982, there were still over sixty members in the association as a whole; however, the deep economic recession in the early 1980s which caused permanent damage to UK manufacturing, combined with the increasing tide of low cost imports of both industrial and fashion gloves from the Far East meant that, by 1993, membership had dropped to a mere two dozen full members and half a dozen associate (supplier) members.

A decline in membership of the GGGB over the same period meant that, by the mid 1990s, it had become impractical and uneconomic for either organisation to continue independently, and with several key players in the industry being members of both organisations, amalgamation seemed the obvious solution to the problem of falling membership; negotiations commenced in late 1996 under the aegis of The Glovers Company, acting through the Master, Alan Fishman, and were concluded in early 1998 when the British Glove Association (BGA) was formed. The Immediate Past Master, Michael Down, was appointed as its first President at its inaugural meeting in April of that year, handing over to Assistant Roderick Morriss at the 2001 AGM.

During the 2000s the number of gloves made in the UK continued to reduce, and imports continued to rise; membership of the BGA reduced to 14 (virtually all the major players in the industry), many of whom were also members of other trade associations more relevant to their specific areas of glove manufacture. The BGA was failing to provide any unique advantages to its members, expenditure exceeded subscription income, so it was agreed at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 14 July 2010 under the presidency of Past Master John Spanner (who had taken over from Roderick Morriss in May 2006) that the BGA be dissolved at the end of 2010, with its small amount of residual funds being gifted to The Glovers Company for use in glove-related projects.

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