In the period 1449-1478 (in the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV) Sir Ralph Josselyn was a Warden and Master of the Drapers company and (as a result) Alderman and Mayor of London.
A less distinct link is that the Drapers company was one of the London Companies who were responsible for the plantation of Londonderry (Draperstown in southern Londonderry) in the 17th C. It is possible the Walls family were settlers with either the Salters or Drapers companies.
These associations adopted a religious complexion, and were known as fraternities. Having no common meeting house they chose as their nucleus a neighbouring church, monastery or hospital, to which they attached themselves, and whose saint they adopted as their patron, paying subsidies out of a common fund to provide lights for the altar and services for their deceased.
As the trading element of these associations developed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, so they became known as guilds. In the fourteenth century they began to obtain Charters from the Crown, giving them definite constitutions and rights of holding property, and defining their duties and responsibilities with regard to the trades with which they were connected.
Moreover, the guilds have, from the earliest times, played a vital role in the City. In particular, they have elected the Chief Magistrate or Mayor and his principal officers from among their own members.
The first contemporary official record of the Drapers' guild appears at the end of the thirteenth century. This document gives the names of the Wardens who were to govern the fraternity, and their duties: to instruct the members in their trade; and to regulate and settle disputes within the guild. In the preamble to the Drapers' ordinances of 1405 it is claimed that a fraternity existed in 1332; in 1351 there is evidence of drapers acting in a corporate capacity at the election of Common Council of the City.
Furthermore, a Brotherhood of Drapers is known to have existed in the 1360s. This was primarily a religious fraternity attached to the church of St. Mary Bethlehem. It was founded in honour of St. Mary by 'good people Drapers of Cornhill and other good men and women' for the amendment of their lives. Only brethren and sisters 'of good fame and good condition and behaviour' could be admitted to the fraternity. The location of St. Mary can hardly have been convenient for the majority of Drapers who lived in and around Cornhill, Candlewick Street (now Cannon Street) and Chepe (Cheapside). Possibly it was for this reason that the Drapers' Guild transferred its allegiance to St. Mary le Bow in Cheapside and later to St. Michael Cornhill. Despite these changes the guild has retained the Blessed Virgin Mary as patron saint.
Edward III perceived that the guilds were the mainspring of the trade of the kingdom, which he wished to encourage, and was therefore generous in granting charters to the influential guilds, confirming their privileges and giving them added stability and prestige. The charter or Letters Patent of 1364 officially inaugurated the Drapers' guild of London as an association of traders who enjoyed the monopoly of the cloth trade, wholesale and retail; it asserted the Drapers' predominance over the craftsmen allied to the cloth industry; and it gave the Drapers authority to govern their own guild by the election of four of their number to act as Wardens.
In 1438 the guild received their Charter of Incorporation recognizing the Drapers as a legal corporate fraternity a Company which had perpetual succession and a Common seal. Over the centuries the original privileges granted by Royal Charter have been confirmed and amended by successive monarchs. The acting Charter of today is taken to be that granted by James I in 1607, which has been amended by three Supplemental Charters, most recently in 1964.
'That is to say in honour of the very glorious Virgin and Mother Mary who is in the shadow of the sun and yet shines with all clearness and purity. I have devised in the blazon three sunbeams issuing from three flaming clouds crowned with three Imperial crowns of gold on a shield of azure'
Originally, apprenticeship to a master Draper was the usual means of gaining the freedom of the Company. Members are now admitted by redemption (on personal recommendation and after an interview) or patrimony (by virtue of the father being a Draper) and in both cases a fee is due. Occasionally, individuals are granted the honorary freedom such as William, Prince of Orange, Lord Nelson, H.R.H. Prince Charles and H.R.H. The Duchess of Gloucester.
Looking back over the centuries the Drapers' Company can claim many famous names among the membership royalty, politicians, merchants, authors, a succession of Lord Mayors of London, and men as diverse as Grinling Gibbons the wood carver and sculptor, and Hugh Dalton the socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The present Hall, situated in Throgmorton Street, was bought from King Henry VIII in 1543. This had been the house of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex and Chief Minister to Henry, but had been forfeited to the King on Cromwell's attainment and execution in July 1540. The Hall was entirely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. It was re built, and again seriously damaged by fire in 1772, since when it has from time to time been reconstructed and altered to its present form. A small part of the old garden still remains, and contains mulberry trees whose predecessors go back three centuries.
The Company possesses many works of art ranging from furniture and carpets to paintings, including portraits of the royal family, Lord Nelson and distinguished Masters and Clerks of the Company. It also possesses a valuable collection of plate and a unique archive.
Like other guilds, the Drapers' Company was from the first a benevolent institution, helping those of its members who fell into distress; it also had a religious side, its patron saint being the Virgin Mary; and in its Hall it gave dinners and entertainments.
With the passage of time, the Company's connections with the cloth trade have altogether ceased; but it still assists its members, worships annually at the church of St. Michael, Cornhill, and is privileged and delighted to show hospitality. Links with the cloth industry have recently been re established by the foundation of exhibitions, postgraduate and teaching awards and sponsorship in the field of textile design, conservation and technology.
The charitable and corporate wealth of the Company is derived from the bequests of individual Drapers who over the centuries have left money, land, rents, plate, paintings, documents or instructions. An example of one such benefactor is the Elizabethan antiquary, William Lambarde. He entrusted the Drapers with the governorship of the almshouses, Queen Elizabeth’s College Greenwich; he also presented the Company with a handsome silver gilt cup and four gallons of ippocras (a spiced wine cordial). Other benefactors specified that rents from property should pay for candles at an altar in the parish church, a sermon every Sunday or the distribution of penny loaves to the poor. Today, such wishes are interpreted in a modern context by grants for the relief of need.
As a consequence of these many and varied benefactions, the Company today acts as trustee of three groups of almshouses which provide sheltered homes for some two hundred elderly men and women. The Company also has historical links with a number of schools including Bancroft's School in Essex, the Howell's Schools in Denbigh and Llandaff, Kirkham Grammar School in Lancashire, The Thomas Adams School, Wem in Shropshire, Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Sir George Monoux College in Walthamstow and Thomas Russell Infant and Junior Schools and John Taylor High School in Barton-under-Needwood. Moreover, the Company appoints members to the Council of Queen Mary, University of London (QMC); and funds an exchange scheme for law students between QMC and the College of William and Mary in Virginia, USA.
From its corporate funds the Company supports a miscellany of charitable institutions medical, educational and general while from ancient trust endowments, the Company annually makes grants for the education and welfare needs of thousands of people.
The Drapers have been particularly determined to adapt its resources (charitable and corporate) to meet the changing needs of society. The Company's involvement with QMC is a fine example of this determination. Apprenticeship declined as an effective means of training during the nineteenth century, being replaced by technical education taught through purpose built colleges. The Company, therefore, looked for ways in which it could continue its support for practical training away from the apprenticeship schemes. In the 1870s the Company duly became heavily involved in the foundation of the City and Guilds of London Institute. Ten years later it turned its attention to the People's Palace in Mile End, which with the Drapers' Company ongoing and generous support developed into QMC, a recognized college within the University of London.
The continued prosperity and influence of the Drapers' Company, and the other medieval guilds of the City of London, is unique in the world; it is a remarkable instance of the continuity of English history and the stability of English institutions.