An Introduction to the Marking of Carts
Here you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning the Marking of Carts and to serve as a guide for those entering or considering entering Carts into this important City event.
Much of the History of Cart Marking is recorded elsewhere, but certain factors are pertinent to the maintenance of the Tradition today. A Carman Fellowship has existed since before 1277. This became the Fraternyte of Seynt Katryne the Virgin and Master of Carters in 1517 which then agreed to serve the City in various ways and to carry goods at reasonable rates. After falling out with the City, control of Carts passed to Christ’s Hospital, back to the City and then back to Christ’s again in 1665.
At this time the decision was made that each Cart licensed to ply for hire in the City of London should be marked on the shafts with a City Coat of Arms and a number on a brass plate.
By 1835 there were 600 licensed Carts but in 1838 all previous legislation was repealed. The licensing of carts was then vested in the City under the control of the General Purposes Committee, with operations being vested in the Keeper of the Guildhall and records being maintained by the City Remembrancer. The annual fee was set at five shillings, and the penalty for operating without a licence, twelve shillings and six pence. It is important to remember that this legislation remains in force today, and ONLY the Corporation of the City of London (the City Civic) has the right to Mark Carts.
The conditions attached to Cart licensing require the ‘Cart Man’ be member of the Fellowship of Carmen and to have an authorised Carroom or stand (similar to a taxi rank) from which to ply for hire. By the turn of that century only 16 Carmen held licences, albeit between them they had 111 licences and 89 carrooms. By 1965 the remaining 16 carrooms were abolished as they were not utilised, although arrangements were made for one carroom to be available on one day per year in order that tradition could be maintained. This is used by new Master each year for Cart Hiring immediately following Installation. Interestingly, it is generally accepted that Cart Marking represents the first ever form of vehicle licensing.
Cart Marking Resumption
In 1982 five Liverymen decided to present Carts for marking in accordance with the legislation of 1838 and arranged with willing officials at Guildhall to attend together on a pre-arranged day in July. Guildhall kindly produced a brazier and branding iron and advised that the last previously used number was No. 230. Consequently the ‘Carts’ duly arrived bearing the numbers 231 to 235. After Marking had taken place a small party retired to a local hostelry for refreshment where it was decided to repeat the exercise the following year. In 1983 there were more Carts as others joined in.
Each year the event has grown in size and 2017 saw the largest number of entries in the Carmen’s 500th year. This is mainly owing to the support it receives from our Livery and increasing awareness by the Public. Less than a decade after its new beginning, attendances warranted a luncheon in Guildhall after Cart Marking, originally held in the Crypt but now a sell-out with over 600 guests seated in the Great Hall. The luncheon is a Carman event while Cart Marking itself remains the responsibility of the City Civic.
Cart Marking Today
The growth of the event, coupled with numerous legislative requirements, not least those related to Health and Safety, Highways and the Police, means that planning for each year’s event begins immediately after the previous one has finished. Although responsibility rests with Guildhall, the actual organisation is entrusted to our Livery and is exercised through a panel whose members embrace all interested parties, although not all are required to attend every meeting. The panel comprises a Chairman and Vice-Chairman (jointly responsible for Cart selection), several members with professional knowledge of ‘Carts’ – ancient, modern, specialized and horse-drawn – a lead commentator, an advertising sales person and a programme designer.
Other panel representatives are drawn from the police, City Highways (who advise on road works, meter closures and even the re-timing of traffic lights), and of course Guildhall who are responsible for seating, public address, yard security and more. The Carmen’s Clerk and Deputy Clerk are also involved in the planning as well as organising the luncheon.
Cart Marking Entries
While the ultimate decision about which Carts are submitted for Marking rests with Guildhall, it is effectively delegated to appropriately qualified members of the panel whose aim is to create a balanced, varied and interesting programme from the entries submitted. For guidance, ‘Carts’ in the following categories are considered by the panel;
- Handcarts designed for the carriage of goods,
- Horse-drawn carts and carriages constructed for the carriage of passengers or goods or for use in connection with trade
- Pedal cycles or similar used for trade purposes
- Steam driven road vehicles constructed for the purpose of either:
- the carriage of goods or passengers or,
- the towage of goods trailers,
- Fork-lift trucks or similar, conditional upon them meeting all appropriate current regulations
- Motor cycles used for courier or similar duties
- Goods vehicles which must be empty of all commercial cargo (although the use of effects for display purposes and authenticity is permitted) and which conform to the following criteria:
- Rigid goods vehicles without trailers,
- Small urban use tractor units with trailers not exceeding eight metres in length
- Goods vehicle tractor units without trailers
- Public service vehicles (buses and coaches) with seats for 12 or more passengers
- Licensed Hackney Carriages designed for that purpose which are, or have been, used as such
- Private hire cars of especial interest, conditional on them carrying a current licence plate of a local authority which identifies them as such but private cars will NOT be considered unless they are of very special scientific or historical interest
Entering a Cart
Any Member of the Carmen Company may apply to enter a Cart.
Non-members are not so permitted as per the 1838 Act of Common Council.
Entrants do not have to own the Cart themselves but must have effective ownership and full control on the day.
Entry forms are issued by the Carmen’s office and should be completed in every respect and returned within the time specified to the person named thereon.
Telephone ‘entries’, those sent to the office or third parties and late entries will not be considered.
Entries will not be acknowledged upon receipt.
Although many entrants are regular participants, new entrants are encouraged and welcomed.
Those already in possession of a marked board should use that board since boards are issued to members of the Company for their personal use in their lifetime and are not specific to any one Cart.
Numbered Boards are not transferable.
First-time entrants whose applications are accepted will be allocated a number and advised how to obtain a new unmarked standard board in respect of which a small fee is payable (which is subsequently donated to The Carmen Benevolent Trust).
The more interesting a Cart is, then the more likely it is to be accepted.
Cart Marking Day
In advance of the event successful entrants will receive instructions which will, amongst other things, set out the procedure for arrival, including the time and location (with plan). It is important that these instructions are complied with. The assembly areas allocated are measured and the parade order planning takes account of the declared lengths of the Carts in order to maximise the available space whilst minimising congestion and obstruction. Once in position the ‘driver’ or other responsible person must remain in attendance. This is a police requirement. It must also be emphasised that all Carts and drivers must meet all current regulations in force for the category of Cart concerned, especially those pertaining to Insurance.
Marking of Carts
Whilst the actual Marking is the prerogative of the Keeper of the Guildhall it has become customary for it to be shared between the Master Carman and the Lord Mayor. From time to time a third party may be given the privilege of Marking a Cart, but only with the consent of Guildhall. The Carts move forward under the direction of stewards, each driver having first parted with the mandatory five shillings (25p) for which a receipt is issued. The Cart is halted in front of the dais and the mark of the year branded onto the board, which must be affixed to the cart in an appropriate location on the nearside (not on or near to the fuel tank for example).
Occupants are not permitted to leave their ‘Cart’ during the Marking Ceremony for photo shoots unless requested to do so by the Lord Mayor or Master Carman. However, an official photograph will be taken of the Marking of each Cart and sent free of charge to each entrant after the event. After Marking, most Carts will be instructed to leave Guildhall Yard and complete a circuit ‘around the block’ in procession. After the last Cart has been Marked, the first then re-enters Guildhall Yard and leads a slow drive past during which the VIPs raise their hats in salute. The Carts then disperse, although by prior booking and the pre-event consent of the Guildhall, a small number may be permitted to park in Guildhall Yard during the luncheon which follows.
Cart Marking is now recognised as the second largest annual public spectacle in the City of London, surpassed only by the Lord Mayor’s Show. Unlike the Lord Mayor’s Show, however, there is no entry fee, although we recognise that entrants do incur costs. On the day up to 50 volunteers are involved in various roles to make the event a success. Entrants and guests alike can assist by complying with the above guidelines in advance, and any reasonable requests on the day.
There is limited space in Guildhall Yard, and limited seating. Cart Marking is a City Corporation event, and therefore open to the public. Seats are not reserved (except for a limited number for VIPs) and there is no charge for seat users or participants in general. Consequently, it is suggested that if you desire a seat, or the best vantage point, you should arrive early.
The financial success of the Event is wholly dependent upon:
a. The level of advertising revenue from the programme
b. Programme ‘donations’ on the day
c. Attendance numbers at the luncheon
Your support with any or all of these aspects will be most appreciated.