The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames was established by Act of Parliament in 1555 to regulate watermen and wherrymen carrying passengers by boat under oars on the River Thames. The lightermen who carry cargo joined the Company from the Woodmongers in 1700. It remains the only ancient City Guild to be formed and controlled by Parliament.
The Act of 1555 introduced apprenticeship for a term of one year to learn the watermen's trade, and the Company has continued to train watermen and later lightermen upon the present time. On completion of their apprenticeship, young Freemen of the Company are eligible to compete in the oldest sculling contest, Doggett's Coat and Badge Wager, first rowed in 1715. This gruelling race is held in July each year starting at London Bridge with the finish line at Chelsea. The winner has the honour of wearing the scarlet coat, breeches and silver arm badge similar to the traditional costume of watermen.
The present Hall dates back to 1780 and remains the only original Georgian Hall in the City of London. It was designed by William Blackburn and is a perfect example of eighteenth century domestic architecture, with Parlour and Court Room.
On the Ground floor the Parlour and Silver Rooms are both ideal for small meetings, breakout rooms or discrete dining.
In the heart of the building there is the Court Room, this beautiful room is ideal for meetings or small receptions. With its large windows, it enjoys natural daylight and the many fine paintings provide an interesting backdrop and introduction to the Company's history.
The Hall was extended in 1983 to include a larger dining and meeting facility, the Freemen's Room; this has recently been refurbished to the most exacting standards. It features extensive natural daylight but also has the benefit of complete black-out facilities for presentations
All this provides a suite of rooms that are both elegant and adapted to modern day conference and banqueting requirements.