The Worshipful Company of Drapers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London; it has the formal name of The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London but is more usually known as the Drapers' Company. It ranks third in the order of precedence of Livery Companies, thus being one of the "Great Twelve City Livery Companies". The Company's motto is Unto God Only Be Honour and Glory.
A Brotherhood of Drapers, a religious fraternity attached to the church of St. Mary Bethlehem in Bishopsgate, is also known to have existed in the 1360s. 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. 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 allegiance was transferred to St. Mary le Bow in Cheapside and later to St Michael, Cornhill, where the Company continues to worship today. Despite these changes, the Drapers have retained the Blessed Virgin Mary as patron saint.
Originally, the organisation was a trade association of wool and cloth merchants. It was one of the most powerful companies in London politics. Over one hundred Lord Mayors have been members of the Company; the first mayor, Henry Fitzailwyn, is thought to have been a draper. During the Plantation of Ulster, the company held land around Moneymore and Draperstown in County Londonderry.
Today, the company exists as a charitable, ceremonial, and educational institution. This has included providing the site and some of the buildings of Queen Mary College in the University of London. It also administers almshouses such as the Henry Lucas Hospital. It is a trustee for Bancroft's School, who use the Drapers Coat of arms and motto. It administers charitable trusts relating to relief of need, education, and almshouses; it provides banqueting and catering services; and it fosters its heritage and traditions of good fellowship.
The Drapers’ Company continues to play a role in the life of the City. Its Liverymen carry out important functions in the elections of the government of the City of London and certain of its officers.
Three royal princes joined the Company, though none were expected at the time to become kings:
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and King Harald V of Norway are members of the Company. Another, who would have become king had he survived his elder brother, was Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.
The building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt to designs by Edward Jarman. After another fire in 1772, it was rebuilt again. This time the architect was John Gorham. Further alterations were made in the 19th century. The hall survived the bombings of the city during World War II. The hall includes four lavishly decorated main rooms, which are used for the company's functions.
The largest room is the Livery Hall, which can accommodate up to 260 for dinner. These rooms are also available for hire. Groups may book a guided tour of Drapers' Hall. A donation to the company's charitable work is requested in return.