History of the Fanmakers

The Fan Makers have provided the City with six Lord Mayors in the three hundred years since it received its Royal Charter. Unlike many livery companies, WC of Fan Makers is no longer a trade association, as the production of the traditional handheld fan ceased in the City many years ago. This has given the Company the opportunity to maintain its relevance in today’s world, by embracing modern technologies, such as wind turbines and jet engines, yet at the same time retaining its rich history.


City Livery Companies have been active in London for over a millennium with their origins in the Guilds that developed all over Europe. Early companies set wages, controlled standards and checked quality as well as training apprentices and controlling imports. 

Early records of the Fan Makers have been lost but it is known that a Guild of Fan makers existed during the reign of Charles II as evidenced by their petition to Parliament in 1670 concerning the threat from the importation of foreign fans. Parliament responded by imposing a duty on imported fans in 1672.

1800 - 1900

Although the company saw dwindling numbers in the latter 1700s it applied for Livery in 1809. A number of Companies had Livery –selected Freemen with business experience and personal wealth from whom Assistants, Wardens and Masters were chosen. This may have been because Liverymen were obliged to pay fees to the Company. One hundred years after their charter, on 20th June 1809 the Court of Aldermen granted 60 Liverymen to the Fan Makers. The Livery was scarlet gowns trimmed with fur for the Master and wardens, black gowns for the Assistants, and a black gown with fur trim for the Senior Past Master.

That was until 1877 when Sir Homewood Crawford was elected Master. London’s City Solicitor from 1885 until 1924, Crawford revitalised the company to the extent that he lobbied for, and was granted, an increase in the number of Liverymen from 60 to 200 on 18th February 1879, just two years after his election. During his year as Master the Court resolved to hold a competitive fan exhibition and John Sugden (who was to follow Crawford as Master in 1878) presented a Banner of the company arms.

1900 - 2000

In 1939 mechanical fans, especially those used in ventilation and air conditioning, and latterly in aircraft engines were added to encourage continued participation and modern relevance to the Company.

Furthermore, the Company managed to maintain quarterly meetings throughout the Second World War, despite the Blitz and V1 and V2 rocket attacks. After the war, in 1948, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, became an Honorary Freeman of the Fan Makers’ Company. She opened St Botolph’s Hall, Bishopsgate in 1952 as the new, permanent Hall for the Company for the next 40 years. Some £10,000 had been raised in subscriptions and the Company had renovated the neglected hall and improved its decor, including the ceiling and a specially commissioned carpet of fan design. Banners belonging to past Masters were displayed on the walls. Also in 1948 the Company elected its first Master (Donald Hughes) whose business was the manufacture of mechanical fans.

2000 - Present Day

In 2005 a major milestone was reached in the Company. HRH The Duchess of Gloucester was admitted as the Fan Makers’ first Lady Liveryman in modern times. In 2009 the Company celebrated the Tercentenary of its incorporation as a Company. Our Royal Charter was the last to be granted to a Livery Company for nearly 300 years. Thus the Company rightly regards itself as the last of the ‘old’ companies because those which have followed have usually been incorporated by the City alone.