James Thomas’ membership number is 002. I thought that it would be a good idea for new members if he set down what he remembered of the beginnings of the Company.



James  (Past Master of the Company 1987) writes:

The driving force behind the idea of a livery company for architects was Stuart Murphy, who was then the City Architect and Planning Officer. (In those days the two functions, architecture and town planning were combined in one department). He was the son of a former Town Clerk and imbued with the traditions and grandeur of the City. Stuart had been promoted to this post in 1979 having been Deputy City Architect and Planning Officer for two years before then. I was appointed as Stuart’s Deputy City Architect and Planning Officer in 1979. Between us we had to service 29 different Committees!

He was a chap of enormous energy (and good humour) and very keen, not only to transform the rather staid department he inherited but to represent it on a wider stage and to use his considerable contacts within the RIBA, within the British Institute of Management and elsewhere to build up a network of architects and linkages between the City Corporation and the wider world; previously the Department had been very insular.


From the start of his tenure of office as City Architect and Planning Officer, one of the many things he was very keen to do was to get a livery company for architects up and running. To some extent he was knocking on an open door because Sir Kenneth Cork, Lord Mayor in 1978, and a powerful City figure, had urged the creation of more livery companies to represent those ‘modern’ professions which up until then were not fully represented. It was all very well having bowyers and fletchers, but where were the engineers, the information technologists and most glaring omission of all, architects?

Given this favourable climate for the creation of new companies, it still needed a huge effort to achieve the often talked about Company of Architects, and Stuart was the man for this huge effort. The right person at the right time.


In January 1984, he wrote to all the architects he knew who had an interest in the City and the livery movement, and the response was phenomenal and most encouraging. Seventy-four architects came to the first meeting in a committee room in Guildhall and they included some of the most influential architects of the day, such as Fitzroy Robinson and Richard Seifert.


It was decided that there would be support for such a Company with a view to becoming a livery company and an organising committee was appointed. Its members, ‘the Gang of 8’, for the most part had strong Livery Company experience and many of them had been masters of other, existing livery companies already. Norman Royce indeed had already been master of several – Fan Makers, Arbitrators, Air Pilots and Navigators and Gardeners. Derek Robinson had been Master Plaisterer. I, a Fan Maker, was made Secretary of this Organising Committee, and very cannily Stuart was not made the Chairman of the Committee but served as the eminence gris guiding all our efforts. The first chairman of the Organising Committee was the greatly respected Frank Stower, partner of Lord Holford, with offices in the City. The other members of the Committee were John Owen-Ward, already a Common Councillor and a Liveryman of the Masons’ Company, John Reid, the Pageant Master and Liveryman of the Furniture Makers’ Company, and Alan Luke of Ley Colbeck, a Painter-Stainer.


The rapid progress we made both in growth in numbers of members and towards livery status was, in my view, because of the very strong links we had already with the City Corporation and the livery movement, as well as very strong links with the RIBA. Early on we decided to be the Company of Chartered Architects and both the City fathers and the RIBA were supportive in this. But above all, our success in achieving livery status in only four years was due to the energy and knowledge of Stuart Murphy. We received excellent advice from key figures like Peter Milo, the Sword Bearer and our first Clerk, about how to behave and to proceed. Other companies were in the pipeline but ‘blotted their copybook’, like the Constructors who started ahead of us but fooled around during the Loving Cup ceremony. This was observed and they were ‘pricked down’ by the Aldermen present.


Those members of the company who were not there at the start (and I am member no. 002), and have only known the company as an established livery company with gowns and badges and traditions, may find it hard to realise that every one of those elements had to be achieved: the setting up of the Trust Fund, agreement on the Constitution and Ordinances, deciding to have a Clerk, and appointing the first one in 1985. There was the challenge of reaching the stage at which we could petition the Court of Aldermen, and achieving that. (I had the privilege of being the Master who signed that petition in April, 1988 after raising  the initial Charitable Trust fund of £100,000 to be able to do so.)

Frank Stowell became the first master of the Company in July 1985; John Owen Ward took over in 1986 and I succeeded him in 1987. Livery status was granted in the Alderman’s Court on 13 September 1988 by which time John Reid was Master. So he became the first Master of the Worshipful Company. We took the Aldermen for a jolly lunch in the Mansion House. Our sponsoring Alderman was Sir David Rowe-Ham who was Lord Mayor in 1986.

Stuart Murphy became Master in 1992 and we all rejoiced that his sustained vision and energy over so many years had led us to that moment. It was one of his great achievements and those who worked with him were privileged to know him and to share in it.


As an addendum to the above the Clerk Emeritus, David Cole Adams, writes:

As 1984 was the year in which the RIBA celebrated its 150th Anniversary, all branches of the Institute were – in 1983 – asked to propose ways in which mark this singular event (little knowing at that stage that the Prince of Wales would use the anniversary to make his mark in the book of architectural critique). The governing body of the Cities of London and Westminster (CLAWSA) was liberally laced with future members of the Company and Stuart Murphy – at that stage Vice President of CLAWSA (the Clerk was President) – proposed the formation of the Company – an idea which had been in Stuart’s thinking for some time. The enthusiastic endorsement by CLAWSA Council gave him the opportunity to obtain the backing of the Institute (of which he was at that stage, Honorary Treasurer) and to call the first meeting referred to by James in his history.