Archdale-Combs &c.
Corporation of the City of London
Freemen of the City of London
William de CUMBE, woolman, London, 1272
John COMBE, Woolmonger, 1333
William COUMBYS, Fishmonger, London, 1452
Thomas COMBES, Draper, London, 1506
John COMBE, Merchant Taylor, London 1509-1547
Robert COMBE, Leatherseller, St. Stephen (Walbrook? Coleman?), 1545
Robert COMBES, Draper, London, 1558
Thomas ARCHDALE, Draper, St. Antholin Budge Row, 1559
Thomas STACY, Mercer, London, 1559
Richard CLIFTON, Skinner, St. Antholin Budge Row, 1567
Martin ARCHDALE, Grocer, St. Margaret Pattens, 1575
Matthew ARCHDALE, Draper, St. Michael Paternoster Royal, 1580
Richard RIPTON, Draper, 1581
John COMBE, Draper, St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury, 1583
Richard ARCHDALE, Draper, Elbow Lane/College St., London, 1596
Ellis COMBE, Draper St. Stephen Coleman St, 1606
Randall MANNING, Skinner, London, 1606
John COMBE, Taylor, St. Thomas Apostle, 1613
Edward DITCHFIELD, Sewer, St. Mary Woolchurch Haw, 1606
Thomas DUTTON, Scrivener, London, 1632/3
William PALMER, Haberdasher, St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury, 1636
Francis LOVETT, Draper, Gracechurch St., London
Christopher LOVETT, Draper, London and Dublin, Ireland, 1646
John COMBES, Butcher, St. Olave, Southwark, 1652
John COMBES, Draper, St. Olave, Southwark, 1652
Archdale COMBE, Draper, Oxford & Dublin, Ireland, 1656
John ARCHDALE, Draper, London, 1656
Archdale PALMER, Shoemaker (cordwainer), St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury, 1661
Benjamin COMBE, Goldsmith, St. Mary Woolnoth, 1673
Richard COOMBES, Hatmaker (Haberdasher), London, 1685

Freedom of the City and
The London Livery Companies

Throughout the Combs &c. London research reports are men termed drapers, merchant taylors, mercers (general merchants), grocers, fishmongers, skinners (fur traders), leathersellers, butchers, cordwainers (shoemakers, fine leathers), haberdashers (hatmakers), watermen, scriveners (writers of court letters and legal documents) and goldsmiths. It is easy to think of these terms as "just occupations," but to the tradesmen who were "citizens and merchants of London," these were titles of dignity, much the same as those of the nobility. These were their badges of honor, the symbols of their status as freemen, and oftimes even preferable to being a "gent." 1

In medieval times, a "freeman" was a man who was not the property of a feudal lord, a man who enjoyed the privilege (not then a right) to earn money and to own land, and in London a man whose trade was - literally - his key to the : None other than members of the guilds (later known as livery companies) could engage in trade (commercial activity). In fact, until the mid-1800s, none other than the sons of freemen were even eligible for apprenticeship, and "admission to freedom of the city" was attainable only by (1) completion of apprenticeship (servitude); (2) patrimony (child of a freeman); or (3) redemption (purchase or gift). Only in one of these instances could a man (21 years being the minimum age) become a citizen of London. 2

Those who completed their apprenticeship and were admitted as members of their guild were, if they resided in the City, eligible to apply to the City of London Court of Common Council for admission to freedom, and if approved, required to make oath to both the Sovereign and the Lord Mayor of London. 3

London Guildhall Library
The London Guildhall

Most livery companies had several "levels of membership," beginning with "ordinary" members, then "liverymen;" members of their courts of assistance (governing bodies); and finally the master and wardens (those who kept a guild’s accounts and regulated its affairs). Most also maintained registers, some going back to the fourteenth century, that recorded either or both the binding of apprentices to masters and their presentment to the company courts. Although copies of individual articles of indenture were rarely kept, both warden accounts and court of assistant minutes frequently included much more information than just a name; i.e., the 1656 Drapers’ Company apprenticeship record of Archdale COMBE of Soulbury, Bucks, included the information that he was the father of John COMBE of Sparsholt, Berks, armiger, deceased, and Elizabeth COMBE, widow of Oxfordshire. 4

Most of the larger early livery companies still have early records, many including published rolls of apprentices and freemen, and in some cases substantially more. 5 As is borne out by Combs &c. Drapers Company research, examination of these records, some going back to the 1400s, can result in a treasure trove of information, both genealogical and historical. 6 See COMBS-COOMBS &c LONDON LIVERY COMPANY RECORDS to learn more about company records and specific members bearing the COMBS-COOMBS name.

Even just learning the dates can be helpful: to be apprenticed, one had to be at least fourteen years of age, and no more than twenty, and the period of apprenticeship a minimum of seven years; thus an individual freed by apprenticeship in 1583 was probably not much older than 27 years of age, and no less than twenty-one. 7 Knowing to whom the individual was apprenticed can also be helpful. In the above example, Archdale COMBE was apprenticed to his maternal uncle, Christopher LOVETT (documented by parish and other records), and the Drapers’ records of Christopher LOVETT document that he (and presumably his apprentice) was in Dublin, Ireland by 1662. In another example, Richard RIPTON is apprenticed as a Draper to Thomas ARCHDALE, whose 1611 St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury will includes a bequest to his "cousin" Richard RIPTON.

Further identifiers relate to the level of membership. All men entered as "ordinary member," but the next level, "liveryman," required the payment of fee, but also permitted the member to wear the company "livery" (distinctive clothing a.ka. uniform identifying their trade). Moreover, one had to be a liveryman to sit on a company’s court of assistants, or to be elected as a Warden or Master. 8

That the guild system was successful and in good part responsible for London’s rapid growth as a trade center in the late 1500s is borne out by a number of statistics, including that over 11,000 people were apprenticed to just the eleven major livery companies between 1530 and 1609; that during this same period, 913 were apprenticed with four of the major cloth and clothing companies alone (Clothworkers, Drapers, Haberdashers and Merchant Taylors), experiencing a whopping increase of 132%. 9

In fact, the term "tradesman" takes on an entirely different meaning when one considers that England’s international trade "adventures" (including the London and Virginia Companies, the Levantine and East India, etc.), were supported and sponsored by the London guilds, with the entire nation and its colonies depending on the guilds to finance and settle new lands won. 10

One result was that the power of the liveries in respect to governance of the City increased commensurately: From early on, municipal authority had rested with the Lord Mayor and his Aldermen (elder men), initially one from each of London’s 25 wards, but by 1285, a second level of authority that came to be known as "common councilmen" (citizens elected from each ward to "counsel" the Aldermen on "common" affairs of the City). Eventually the responsibilities (and thus authority) of the Common Council became greater than that of the Aldermen, and the Court of Common Council more powerful in many ways than the Court of Aldermen. 11

London Court of
Court of Common Council, Guildhall Library, London
Common Council

Those eligible to vote for, or be elected to, the Court of Common Council were required to be liveryman, with Common Councilman being the first step toward Alderman, then Sheriff and finally Lord Mayor. 12 At least two Combes achieved the position of Common Councilman, John COMBE, draper of Aldermanbury and Harvey Christian COMBE, fishmonger and brewer, who went on to become an Alderman by 1790 (through 1817), and Lord Mayor in 1799.  13 William COMBES (COUMBYS), also a fishmonger, was an Alderman from 1437-1452  (14), the year he died testate in London, probably a resident of St. George, Eastcheap (Early Combs &c. of London)

The "political bent" of John COMBES, draper, was possibly due to his master, Sir Thomas PULLYSON, who served as an alderman from 1573 to 1588, and as mayor in 1584 , just one year after John was admitted to freedom. John’s brother-in-law, William PALMER, haberdasher, may have been the same who served as an alderman in 1625-1626. John’s son-in-law was Randall MANNING, Jr., a skinner, and his father, Randall MANNING, Sr., may have been the R. MANNING, skinner, who served as an alderman in 1604. (14)

Resources for researching London freemen and livery companies, in addition to those included in the end notes below, include The London Guildhall’s Livery Company Membership Guide and List of Livery Companies.

Photo Credits:

  1. The Corporation of London graphic is the badge created from the City’s Arms.
  2. The Guildhall graphic was created from an engraving on paper, and is described as a "Front view of Guildhall, looking north, with figures in Guildhall Yard, executed by an anonymous artist ca 1830.
  3. The London Guildhall Council Chamber graphic was created from an aquatint on paper, and is described as a "Group portrait of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council in the Guildhall Council Chamber" executed in 1825 by artist Richard Deighton.
  4. All are copyright Corporation of London, courtesy of their Guildhall Library, for which we thank them. Full-size reprints are available from the Guildhall Collage database.
- Combs &c. Research Group

End Notes:

  1. Being a tradesman might be more lucrative than being a gent, but in fact, the two were not mutually exclusive: The funeral certificate of Martin ARCHDALE, Grocer of St. Margaret Pattens, was signed by no less than William SEGAR himself (of the College of Arms - see Harleian Visitations), and more than ten years after his death, London Draper John COMBE was still termed a gent (the 1622 admission record of his son, John, to the Middle Inner Temple).
  2. Although the scope of their activies was more varied than those of labor unions, the guilds were essentially "closed shops" until a variety of "reformation" acts were passed in the 1800s, and until 1835, anyone wishing to become a City Freeman first had to become a member of one of the City livery companies. (Sources for Tracing Apprenticeship and Membership in City Livery Companies and Related Organisations, Guildhall Library) Research Guide 1: City Freedom Archives (PDF file).
  3. History of the Corporation of London
  4. Archdale-Combs &c. of the Worshipful Company of Drapers by Denise Mortorff
  5. Sources for Tracing Apprenticeship and Membership in City Livery Companies and related organisations, Guildhall Library pamphlet.
  6. The Drapers Company of London, Its History, Function and Usefulness to Genealogical Researchers by Denise Mortorff
  7. Sources for Tracing Apprenticeship and Membership in City Livery Companies and related organisations, Guildhall Library pamphlet, which adds that the term of an apprenticeship had to be at least seven years (reduced to four in 1889); and that Freemen were supposed to be a minimum of 24 years of age, but in practice appear to often have been admitted from the age of 21. Note that there are conflicts between the various sources as to terms of apprenticeships, and that these are probably caused by factors such as the year, location and individual company charters (research in progress).
  8. The City Livery Companies - an Introduction, Heraldic Media Limited
  9. Worn Worlds: Clothes And Identity On The Renaissance Stage by Peter Stallybrass (website unavailable)
  10. John COMBE of Aldermanbury and Richard ARCHDALE of Elbow Lane (son of Barnard and Anne FERNE Archdale) were Drapers who both invested in a variety of trading companies, including the Levantine, East India and London companies (the latter spearheading efforts to colonize Virginia).
  11. Development of Local Government, Corporation of London
  12. Lists of City of London Inhabitants, (PDF file) Corporation of London; History of the Office of Lord Mayor of London, Corporation of London
  13. Both Draper Company, Corporation of London and St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury parish records show that John COMBE was a "common counsellman" at the time of his death in 1610.
  14. Extracted by Researcher Peter Wilson from "The Alderman of the City of London" by Rev. Alfred Beaven, printed 1908, by Eden Fisher & Co., Vol. 1, pp.342-343. Past Lord Mayors of London (PDF file) also includes Harvey Christian COMBE, of St. Peter Cornhill as well as Thomas PULLYSON.