By the 1500s, we were looking after London’s trade in a wide range of domestic goods, including sauces, vinegar, soap, cheese and herrings. We were also intimately involved in the service of the City. Our tallow candles played a key role in the compulsory street lighting for the City of London, and we were supplying the City Watch with 60 men.
We bought the site of the Tallow Chandlers Hall in 1476. The modern Hall, a Grade I listed building, was built in 1672 after the destruction of the original hall during the Great Fire of London. Having survived the Blitz, it is one of the few Livery Halls to remain unchanged since then. We still make regular use of it for charitable, trade and social events.
Our fortunes declined at the end of the 17th century. New candle making materials, such as spermaceti and paraffin wax, replaced tallow. In the 1800s gas lighting arrived, to be replaced by electric lighting in the 1900s. However, that was offset by tallow’s increasing importance in the manufacture of soap. In fact, in 1853 Palmerston – seeking to encourage public cleanliness – removed all duty on tallow.
Nowadays, few livery companies still police specific areas of commerce. There are some exceptions; gold is still assayed at Goldsmith’s Hall, pharmacists sit their exams at Apothecaries’ Hall, the Vintners are still involved in wine regulation and the Watermen still control professional standards on the Thames.