Regular readers will appreciate my commitment to ensuring that lessons of the past are fully recognised in planning for the future.
Transport is the lifeblood of commerce and since the City has always been a central hub of the nation’s prosperity, The Corporation of the City of London has exercised its rights over carts and carriers, regulating the trade of these 'Carmen' since 1277.
Whilst some might view Livery Companies of the City as archaic institutions, they have and continue to have a vital role in the life of the City. By the 16th century, cartage was costly, sewage was uncollected and the City needed help. The challenges have a familiar ring.
The Carmen obliged. They formed ‘the Fraternyte of Seynt Katryne the Virgyn and Marter of Carters’ in 1517, and undertook to ‘clense, purge and kepe clene’ the streets, and carry goods at a reasonable price. They acquired 'carrooms' or stands to ply for hire, effectively licences to trade. It was agreed that all licensed vehicles should be marked with the City’s arms on the shafts and numbered on a brass plate.
The Hallkeeper is empowered to license and mark carrs and carts to stand and ply for hire in the City’s streets, so long as the owner is a freeman of the City and a member of the Fellowship of Carmen.
Last week, as they do every year, Carmen must bring their horse-drawn wagons and carriages, steamers, veteran and vintage lorries, buses and coaches, and modern trucks and tractor units, to the Guildhall to be branded, or marked, with a red-hot iron, on a wooden plate, with the year letter and the carr number, as a reminder of centuries of service to the City and to maintain their ancient tradition.
As this YouTube Video shows, the Carmen of today are still the carriers of the nation’s goods.
The City retains the right of marking and the traditional Corporation event is open to the public. Cart Marking has now raised over £150k for the Carmen's charitable giving.
To find out more about Cartmarking follow this link.