In the olden times the Skinners' Company of the city of London was an association of furriers and skin dressers established under royal charter granted by Edward III.
At that period the chief concern of the body was to prevent buyers from being imposed upon by sellers who were much given to offering old furs as new; a century later the Skinners' Company received other charters empowering them to inspect not only warehouses and open markets, but workrooms. In 1667 they were given power to scrutinize the preparing of rabbit or cony wool for the wool trade and the registration of the then customary seven years' apprenticeship. To-day all these privileges and powers are in abeyance, and the interest that they took in the fur trade has been gradually transferred to the leather-dressing craft.
The following are the twelve great companies in order of civic precedence: Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant Taylors, Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners, Cloth-workers.
The Skinners have the Tonbridge Grammar School; the Mercers, St Paul's School; the Merchant Taylors, the school bearing their name, &c. The constitution of the livery companies usually embraces (a) the court, which includes the master and wardens, and is the executive and administrative body; (2) the livery or middle class, being the body from which the court is recruited; and (3) the general body of freemen, from which the livery is recruited.