Membership of the Shipwrights' Company may be held in two grades - Freeman and Liveryman. Men and women may apply to become Freemen in one of three ways:
- by right of Patrimony. In order to claim this right, you must have been born when one of your parents was already a Freeman of the Company
- by Servitude, following a full apprenticeship to a member. This way has for practical purposes almost ceased to exist.
- by Redemption, which requires an application supported by two members of the Court and two Liverymen. This has become by far the most common way.
In addidtion the Company may award the Freedom by Presentation honoris causa for those who are elected by the Court at its discretion by reason of their special contribution to the Company or distinction in maritime or national affairs.
Applications for admission by redemption must be supported by four Liverymen, two of whom must be members of the Court. All four sponsors are required to give their reasons in writing for supporting the applicant and no more than three sponsors should be with the same organisation. Sponsors should know the applicant well enough both professionally and privately to be satisfied that he or she will be a worthy Freeman or Liveryman and a credit to the Company.
Applications are considered by the Admissions Committee, which consists of the four Wardens chaired by a Past Prime Warden, and makes its recommendations to the Wardens’ Committee which submits them to the Court for formal approval.
Applicants for admission to the Company by redemption who do not know enough members sufficiently well to secure four sponsors may apply to be interviewcd by the Admissions Committee, but every effort will be made to introduce applicants to Shipwrights at suitable informal events.
The Freedom of the Company is for life - "shall be and continue a Freeman until he happen to die".
Freemen intending to become Liverymen of the Shipwrights' Company must fulfil two conditions:
- become a Freeman of the City of London
- have a close involvement in maritime affairs
To be eligible for the Freedom of the City through a Livery Company applicants must be:
- a Freeman of a Livery Company
- above the age of 21 years
- not an undischarged bankrupt
- never convicted of a criminal offence (convictions spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 need not be disclosed).
Admission to the Freedom of the City is conducted in two stages:
- application, in person; (In very rare instances, this can be done by the Clerk on an applicant's behalf.)
- the ceremony of admission to the Freedom at the Guildhall.
N.B. If an applicant's name appears on the City of London electoral roll, their application does not require the approval of the Court of Aldermen and only one appointment is necessary.
Both Freemen and Liverymen pay a "fine" on admission. Liverymen pay Annual Fines of Quarterage ("club subscription") and Tallage ("dining subscription"). There is a scheme whereby Liverymen and Freemen may elect to make an annual donation to the Company's charitable funds under Gift Aid.
The Company's administrative and financial year runs from 1st May to the following 30th April.