Barbers aided monks, who were at the time the traditional practitioners of medicine and surgery, for Papal decrees had prohibited the members of religious orders from spilling blood. Soon surgeons with little expertise in the art of the barbers began to join the Company.
In 1368, the Surgeons were allowed to form their own Guild. However, the Barbers' Guild retained the power to oversee surgical practices. The Barbers' Guild continued its oversight after it became, under a Royal Charter of 1462, a Company. The Surgeon's Guild merged with the Barbers' Company in 1540 to form the Company of Barber-Surgeons. In 1745 the surgeons broke away from the barbers to form the Company of Surgeons becoming the Royal College of Surgeons in 1800.
This historical relationship is also demonstrated by the fact that the Company's Hall is still called "Barber-Surgeons' Hall", long after the change in Company name. The Hall is located in Monkwell Square in Aldersgate ward, within the precincts of the Barbican estate.
The Company no longer retains an association with the hairdressing profession. It does however retain its links with surgery, principally acting as a charitable institution to the benefit of medical and surgical causes. Around 30% of the Company's liverymen are surgeons or other medical practitioners.
The Barbers' Company ranks seventeenth in the order of precedence of Livery Companies. The Company's motto is De Praescientia Dei, Latin for From the Foreknowledge of God.