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  • Michael Lok, Merchant of London (c.1532 - c.1621)
    Michael Lok (c.1532-c.1615) was an English merchant and traveller, the main backer of explorer Martin Frobisher. Family Michael Locke (son of William Locke and Katherine Cook) was born in London, M...
  • Sir Robert Palmer, I (1474 - 1544)
    After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, Henry VIII granted the manor of Parham, which had belonged to the Abbey of Westminster, to a London mercer called Robert Palmer. Parham’s foundation st...
  • Sir Thomas Bennet, Lord Mayor of London (c.1543 - 1627)
    From Wikipedia: Jump to: navigation, search Sir Thomas Bennett (died 20 February 1627) was an English merchant who was Lord Mayor of London in 1603. Bennett was a city of London merchant and a memb...
  • Richard Hill (c.1527 - 1568)
    Sir William Lok (1480 – 24 August 1550) was a gentleman usher to Henry VIII and a mercer, alderman, and sheriff of London. He was the great-great-great-grandfather of the philosopher John Locke (1632–1...
  • Sir Richard le Lacer (c.1320 - c.1361)
    Richard le Lacer of Bromley, Kent, was an English mercer and Mayor of London. He was appointed Sheriff of the City of London in 1329 and elected Mayor of London in 1345. He was married to Juliana, ...

The term mercer for cloth merchants (from French mercier, "notions dealer") is now largely obsolete. Mercers were formerly merchants or traders who dealt in cloth, typically fine cloth that was not produced locally. However inventories of mercers in small towns suggest that many were shopkeepers who dealt in various other dry commodities, not only cloth. Related occupations include haberdasher, draper and cloth merchant, while clothier historically referred to someone who manufactured cloth, often under the domestic system.

By the 21st century the word mercer was primarily used in connection with the Worshipful Company of Mercers, one of the twelve great Liveries Companies of the City of London.

Prominent Mercers

Worshipful Company of Mercers, London

Until about 1800, an adult male practising a trade or craft in or around the City of London would almost certainly have been a member (freeman) of one of the City of London livery companies. He would probably have served an apprenticeship and been a member of a company corresponding with his occupation, almost all of which are known as the "Worshipful Company of..." their relevant trade, craft or profession.

The Worshipful Company of Mercers is the premier Livery Company of the City of London and ranks first in the order of precedence of the Companies. It is the first of the so-called 'Great Twelve City Livery Companies'. Although of even older origin, the Company was incorporated under a Royal Charter in 1394, the Company's earliest extant Charter. The Company's aim was to act as a trade association for general merchants, and especially for exporters of wool and importers of velvet, silk and other luxurious fabrics (mercers).

Tracing your Ancestors

If your ancestor was a Citizen and Mercer of London he or she should appear in the Company’s membership records.

The Freemen and Apprentice records are available to search online via the Records of London's Livery Companies Online (ROLLCO), a freely accessible resource.

Please note that not all persons trading as mercers or selling silks in the City of London were members of the Mercers’ Company. This is especially true from the early 18th century onwards when the Company was becoming increasingly detached from its original trade. For information about mercers based outside of the City of London, researchers are advised to check the records of regional guilds in County Record Offices for the appropriate area.

Please add apprentices and those who worked as mercers to this project.

Sources