Their motto: At commandment of our Superiors. gives what records of lightermen are available in the Guildhall Library

Michael Lyons 1861-1915 was a member of the Guild of Watermen & Lightermen, (City Livery Company- dates back to 1627). Apprenticed Bermondsey 1877, master Tucock, who dies 1879, then a new master William Taylor, took him on in February 1880. One was not supposed to marry whilst an Apprentice, but Michael did, but under the name of Joseph Lyons. But as one was meant to be given board & food by the master, William Taylor must have known that Michael/Joseph married in April 1880. He was freed from the apprenticeship in 1882.

JL examined their records in Feb 2011 & again in 2012 & found that Michael's son,

Stephen Patrick Lyons , b.10/3/1882 Horsleydown, was bound as an apprentice 12/9/1899, freed 18/9/1906, the master being given as Michael Lyons - his father . Another son,

John Lyons, b.12/8/1884 St Olave, was bound 8/12/1903, freed 8/6/1909, the master being given as Cornelius F Clemens. . . .Later on the 3 sons of Stephen Patrick Lyons, were in their turn apprenticed:

Michael Joseph Lyons, born 1887, died 1905, not listed.

Stephen James Lyons,  b.14/5/1906 St Olave Bermondsey, bound apprentice 29/6/1920, to his father, Stephen patrick Lyons, freed 8.11.1927, from bindings record book 6298/20 , apprenticed to Stephen Patrick parish of Bermondsey. . (checked bundle 106, no documents found). . . not photographed. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .

.James Michael Lyons , b.26/2/1911 Bermondsey , seemingly bound 14/2/1928, freed 16.5.1933, apprenticed to Stephen Patrick Lyons. from bindings record book. . 6298/20 - not photographed. . . .& Michael Lyons, b. 4/8/1920 Bermondsey . bound 18/6/1935. No date of freedom - called up for WW2?


Apparently,to be a Waterman or Lighterman was in its day a highly regarded profession. Normally required a 7 year apprenticeship [ only 5 years in 1877] and annual licensing by the river authority. Men wore  distinctive badges to identify themselves to fare paying passengers or other cargo vessels. But the pay would seem to have been very low - as Michael seemed to live in dire poverty: -6 people in 2 rooms in 1901C and he & his wife in just one room in 1911C.

Lightermen unloaded the cargo from ships too large to dock. A detailed knowledge of the tides and currents was required . Oars were their only means of propulsion.

Watermans Guild said that apprentice cards were given to the trainee on completion -an example of one is shown below- and no records of service exist. The uniform was a special one worn for boat races [ seemingly competed for annually by newly freed Apprentices, just 6 being awarded these Doggett coats] but they do have photos of badges, example shown below, best to visit they said

Extract form My Ancestors were Watermen - Legon.

Before 1700 Lightermen were members of the Woodmongers. They joined the Company of Watermen - people carriers - in 1700. Their job was the process of lightening a ship of its load. Goods were then either rowed to shore or loaded onto another ship. As the Port of London flourished, so the number of lightermen increased. From 1603-~1900, a lad was apprenticed for 7 years: after 1900 this period was reduced to 5 years - not true! They were not allowed to marry during the Apprenticeship period - this might explain why Michael Lyons married in 1880 using the name of Joseph Lyons, as he was only 3 years into his apprenticeship then!!. Their master was also meant to provide board and lodging. At the end of the Apprenticeship period master & apprentice presented themselves to the Company at Waterman's Hall at St. Mary-at-Hill for examination, before gaining the freedom

More reading: Men of the Tideway Dick Fagan & Eric Burgess

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2 year Renewal of a Waterman's license - 1943

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1911 Indenture Certificate for a Waterman & Lighterman . . . . . . . . . .Doggett Coat - 6 awarded annually to apprentices. . . . . . .The Guild of Watermen . . . . . . .

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Retirement Home for watermen & their families . . .A Waterman's Badge - number 267 . . . . . . . 1927 photo of Watermen.

Lightermen descended from my gggrandfather Stephen Lyons 1827-1890

Michael Lyons 1861 - 1915

& 2 of his children: Stephen Patrick Lyons 1882 -1953 John Lyons 1884 Another son Michael Joseph 1887-1905 seemingly was not apprenticed ~1902-5 but could recheck this

& 3 of Stephen Patrick's children: Stephen James Lyons 1906 - 1994, James Michael Lyons 1911-1987, Michael Lyons 1920


I visited the Guildhall Library in April 2012 to look through Lyons Lightermen records, but did not have enough time there. They hold Bundles - listed in MS6291 - with details and b.cs of Apprentices, bundle 107 = 1921[quickly looked at], 88 = 1902, 87 = 1901 etc, which might hold the b.cs of the above Lyons members. . Also MS6400 gives records of pensioners of the company - maybe Stephen Patrick around 1950 or James Michael ~1966 onwards?? Also 4888, 4889, 4890, 4891, 4892 to restudy.

I failed to find out if Lightermen were a reserved occupation during WW1 - staff did not know, nor did Legon book tell me.

Could also visit the Watermen's Hall on a subsequent visit to London. -