A group of men in costumes come out of a grand building near the Thames and parade along the street, making their way to a nearby church. They are preceded by a man waving an old-fashioned broom and another carrying a nosegay of flowers.
It is the annual Vintner’s Parade, one of a number of quiet ceremonies that recall the history of the City of London through its Livery Companies. The Vintners' Company are based in Vintners' Hall, a 30-minute walk south of Shoreditch. The City still has 108 such companies, the descendants of the trade guilds set up to regulate business.
Butchers, Bakers, Glovers, Stationers & Newspaper Makers, Tallowchandlers and many other ancient trades have been joined by modern companies such as the Information Technologists.
Many still conduct ancient ceremonies similar to the Vintner’s Parade to St James Garlickhythe every July, which marks the installation of a new Master. The broom carried by the Wine Porter was once necessary to clear away horse manure, while the posy of flowers helped cover the smell of the streets.
Since 1715, apprentices of The Watermen have competed annually over a 7.5 kilometer stretch of the Thames in Doggett’s Coat & Badge Wager, the prize being a red coat and silver badge. It is the oldest continually run boat race in the world.
Every summer, the Lord Mayor of London and members of the Worshipful Company of Carmen gather at the Guildhall to mark horse-drawn, vintage and modern-day vehicles with a hot branding iron in line with an Act of 1681, which regulated how many trade vehicles were allowed in the City. The Liverymen elect the Lord Mayor every year and he is sworn in the day before the Lord Mayor’s Show during a 20-minute ceremony conducted in silence.
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