A timeline showing the history of the Mercers' Company from the 12th century to the present day.
Thomas Becket was born in his father's house on Cheapside. His father, Gilbert, was a merchant and property owner in the City of London.
Serlo le Mercier was a wealthy merchant and property owner. He served as sheriff of London in 1206/7 and was Mayor in 1215 during the crisis leading up to Magna Carta. Although the Mercers' Company probably did not exist as a formal association at this time, it was common for people like Serlo to take the name of their trade as a surname.
In the late 1220s a monastery called the Hospital of St Thomas Acon was founded on the site of St Thomas of Canterbury’s (Thomas Becket) birthplace on Cheapside.
A lawsuit in 1304 contains the first written references to the Mercers acting as a corporate body.
One of the earliest records held in the Mercers' Company archive is a copy, made in the early 1390s, of ordinances which had been drawn up in 1348. The ordinances lay out rules for the governance and running of the Company.
Richard Whittington (c1350-1423) is best known today as Dick Whittington, a figure of folktale and pantomime, a poor boy who came to London, had a cat, made a fortune, and was thrice Mayor of London.
In 1394 King Richard II granted the Mercers' Company its first Royal Charter allowing it to conduct itself as a business known as a perpetual commonality. The Charter provided for four members to be elected each year to run the Company, and for a chaplain to be appointed. Most importantly it allowed the Company to own and manage land to the value of £20 and specified that it would make provision for members who fell on hard times.
Whittington College, an almshouse for thirteen poor men and women, was founded under the terms of the will of Richard Whittington.
William Caxton, famed as the printer of the first book in English, was a mercer by trade and a member of the Mercers’ Company.
In 1473 an Italian galley on its way to London was reported to have been seized at sea by enemies. Many Mercers had goods on her and stood to lose a great deal of money. Gerard Caniziani, an Italian representative of the Florentine Medici family in London, helped the Company discover what had happened.