The Founders' Company began its existence as one of the early medieval "guilds" or associations formed by members of various crafts or trades in the City of London. Their main purposes were to defend the craft against unfair competition, to assist its members in their work, to help those in distress and to promote and control education.
Founders were workers in brass and brass alloys or tinplate known as "Iatten" or "laton", producing small cast articles such as candlesticks and pots and pans. Their workshops were situated in and around Lothbury, a street that still exists under that name.
From 1508 to 1987 their parish church was St. Margaret Lothbury. Before that time, the Founders were associated with the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, and indeed there is evidence to suggest that the medieval guild grew out of a parish fraternity known as the Brotherhood of St. Clement, based on the church of St. Lawrence Jewry, which served the spiritual and material needs of its members.
It seems likely that, as many of them were small founders, the original social and religious purposes of the fraternity became increasingly subordinated to the task of defending and organising the craft itself.
If the early historian, Stow, is right, the founders were not always popular citizens. Speaking of Lothbury, he remarks:
"This street is possessed for the most part by Founders that cast candlesticks, chafing dishes, spice mortars, and such like copper or Laton works, and do afterwards turn them with the foot and not with the wheel, to make them smooth and bright with turning and scrating (as some do term it), making a loathsome noise to the by passers that have not been used to the like, and therefore by them disdainfully called Lothberie."
The earliest surviving evidence relating to the Guild of Founders is a petition in Norman French which it made in 1365 to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen for its Ordinances to be enrolled at Guildhall, which was granted. The Company must already have been in existence at that date, but the year 1365 served as the basis on which the Company celebrated its 600th anniversary at Guildhall in 1965. The Wardens' Accounts go back to 1497 and only three other City Companies possess accounts starting earlier.
Early in the 14th century, the guilds came to be known as "mysteries", a name probably derived from the Italian word "Mestierii" used in Venice to describe crafts and trades. The term "Livery Company" was adopted in the reign of Edward III (1327- 1377), by which time the members of different guilds wore distinctive dress when summoned to appear on ceremonial occasions.
An Act passed in 1364 decreed "all artificers and peoples of mysteries shall each choose his own mystery before the next Candlemas, and that having so chosen it, he shall henceforth use no other."
The historian, Macaulay, said of this Act: "Here commences the history of the English nation". In lighter vein, Dr. Hibbert remarks in his History of the Company that the principles of trade unionism are clearly not of very recent origin.
In 1590, the Company secured the grant of a coat of arms, a distinction dear to the hearts of Englishmen throughout the ages.
A larger landmark in the progress of the Company in its earlier days was the Royal Charter it received in 1614 from James I. This required an outlay of about £175 a very considerable sum in those days, which was mostly spent on payments to the City Remembrancer and had to be financed by a loan from the Master, Richard Rowdinge.
The Company's resources, like those of many others, were severely taxed by the constant demands for money made on the City by the Stuart Kings. In 1634 the Company had to sell all the silver spoons presented by Liverymen on their admission, except for one given by Humphrey Bowen. In 1684, when Charles II sought to remove the Whigs from control of the City and replace them by Tories, the Livery Companies were faced with a threat of legal action for alleged breaches of their Charters. As the judges were Royal appointees, and likely therefore to find in favour of the Crown, the Company found itself compelled to surrender its Charter and to submit to the King's demand for the election of Royal nominees as office-holders. In 1688, however, these measures were hastily revoked by James II, on hearing of William of Orange's imminent arrival, and the Company's Charter was restored.
Since 1987 and the move of the Company's Hall to Cloth Fair, the Founders have been associated with the parish church of St. Bartholomew the Great, founded in 1123 by Rahere. The Company's annual Election Day Service is held at this church.
For over forty years the Company has run an autumn lecture in the name of Robert Warner, the tenth member of his family to become the Company's Master, in 1933; the family can trace their association from 1767 to the present day. Robert Warner by his will, left to the Company a fund to provide grants for metallurgical research at UK Universities which carries on to this day.
Education and charitable works were and are an important part of the Company’s ethos, and to-day the Founders, amongst a broad spread of charitable works, provide a range of undergraduate bursaries and post-graduate awards in industry related fields.
1979 Peter Dunn
“Finance and Industry in the 1980s”
1980 Solly J. Gross
“The Changing Role of Government vis-à-vis Industry since the Last War”
1981 Dr. A. Rees-Jones
“Business Judgement – A New Priority”
1982 Dr. Bryan C. Lindley BSc Eng PhD FIMechE FISE FIndP
“Wealth Creation and Engineering”
1983 William Hyde MA FCMA FCCA
“British Industry – Some Thoughts on its Development”
1984 Dr. Henton Morrogh CBE DSc FRS Feng
“The Foundry Industry Viewed from the Sidelines”
1985 Sir Denis Rooke CBE DSc FRS FEng
“British Gas – Past, Present and Future”
1986 Sir Adrian Cadbury
"British Industry in Perspective"
1987 David A Walker Esq
"External Finance, Intermediaries and Industry"
1988 Sir Ian MacGregor
"The Regeneration of Manufacturing Industry in the European Economy"
1989 Sir Gavin Laird CBE
"Trade Unions - Are They Really Necessary?"
1990 Martin F Llowarch
"The Steel Industries Challenge in the '90's"
1991 Francis Mer
"The Human Factor in the Future Success of Industrial Europe"
1992 Sir John Collyear FREng FIM FIEE FICeram FIMechE FRPI CBIM FRSA
"The Fall and Fall of UK owned Manufacturing Industry"
1993 Mark H J Radcliffe
"The Recovery of British Manufacturing Industry"
1994 Colin Powell
"Life Together" - Nissan's approach to research management
1995 Dr Bruce Farmer
"The Second Empire"
1996 Professor Sir Roland Smith
"The Challenge of Managing in a Global Competitive Environment"
1997*** Malcolm Ray
“The British Foundry Industry – Present and Future”
Cancelled due to speaker’s illness
1998 Keith Oates
"Innovation is Everybody's Business"
1999 Sir Paul Newall
“The Euro – Trick or Treat”
2000 Terry Mansfield
“Media in the New Millennium”
2001 Roger King
“The Future of Transport and its Impact on the UK Economy”
2002 Professor Colin Humphreys
“UK Energy Policy – Tilting at Windmills”
2003 Jon Moulton
“Private Equity and Public Equity – Declining Differences”
2004 Sir Peter Williams CBE FREng FRS
“The Next 25 Years in British Engineering – a Fast Boat to China?”
2005 Professor William Bonfield CBE FREng FRS
“From Concept to Patient – the Prospects for Biomaterials Innovation”
2006 Russell Sparkes
“Socially Responsible Investment”
2007 James Elles MEP
“Can the EU be competitive in tomorrow’s global market?”
2008 Sir John Parker FREng DSc (Eng) ScD (Hon) DSc (Hon) D.Univ (Hon)
Hon Fellow IMAREST, FRINA
“The Evolution of the Chairman and the Role”
2009 The Honorable Dr Raymond L Orbach
“Energy Futures: from deal killers to show stoppers”
2010 William Hopper
“The Puritan Gift”
2011 Stephen Bayley
“We built an Empire. Now we cannot make a thing”
2012 Robert-Jan Smits
“Putting the European Economy back on track”
2013 Sir John Armitt
“London 2012- Lessons learned and a way forward for Britain’s infrastructure”
2014 Professor Steve Cowley, FRS
“Beyond the Nuclear New Build: Generation Four Reactors to Fusion”
2015 Professor Sir Richard Brook OBE, Scd FREng
2016 Professor Tony Hey CBE, FREng FIET FInstP FBCS
“The Third Age of Computing, Machine Learning,
Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work”
2017 Ian McCafferty Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee
“The British Economy”
2018 Professor Sir Mike Brady
“An Academic in Medical Start-Up Land”
2019 Anne Richards, CEO Fidelity International
“Live Long(er) and Prosper(er)”
2020 Sir Colin Blakemore
"The Brain, Past, Present and Future”
*** The Industry Committee minutes of May 1996 in relation to the Warner Lecture record that:
“It was confirmed that Malcolm Ray would be the speaker for 1997, choosing as his theme The British Foundry Industry – Present and Future”
The Industry Committee minutes of October 1997 in relation to the Warner Lecture record that:
“With some sadness the Chairman reported to the Committee that Mr Malcolm Ray had been admitted to hospital and it was extremely unlikely that he would be well in time for the Lecture. It was agreed that the Lecture be cancelled and that the Chairman write to Mr Ray, sending the Committee’s wishes for a speedy recovery and adding that the Lecture would be re-listed as and when Mr Ray considered it practicable”
On the 18th February 1998, a subscription Dinner and Debate was held as replacement on the subject of the European Monetary Fund; Howard Flight MP spoke against and Sir Peter Petrie for the motion.