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'Introduction: Apprenticeship', Calendar of the plea and memoranda rolls of the city of London: volume 2: 1364-1381 (1929), pp. XXX-XLVII. URL: Date accessed: 29 November 2014.


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(a) Its origin

No great antiquity is generally allowed to the system of apprenticeship in England, doubtless owing to the lack of evidence (fn. 1) . Instruction of sons by fathers is admittedly ancient. But some kind of arrangement whereby a craftsman or trader, for a consideration, taught another man's son appears so natural that one would be disposed to consider it almost as ancient as the crafts and trades themselves. Not all craftsmen had sons of their own to teach. Moreover the early association of workers into guilds would tend to break down family exclusiveness. Hence it is not unreasonable to suppose that apprenticeship was common long before it is first recorded as a normal custom.

In certain statutes of the City, which the present writer has already given reasons for dating about 1230 (fn. 2) , occurs the first mention of apprentices.

Because many persons of the City travelling throughout England claim to belong to the liberty of London, whereby disputes and tumults arise, in order that it may be known whom of the City to defend as freemen, it is provided that no foreigner nor any apprentice departing from his lord shall enjoy the liberties of the City, nor sell retail in the City, unless they are found to have been enrolled. And they shall give for their enrolment, their entrance (into the freedom) and the protection of the City, half-a-mark, and if they are men of substance, whatsoever is just.

Because by the taking of apprentices many contentions and discords arise owing to the ambiguity of their covenants (pactum), and in order that such ambiguities may henceforth be removed, it is provided that no one receive an apprentice unless they cause the covenant to be enrolled, and of what condition the apprentice is, and 12d shall be paid for enrolment. And if any lord take an apprentice henceforth in any other wise, he shall be in mercy of the City. The same shall be done with apprentices born in the City, if they will.

It is evident from the above, and also from the fact that apprenticeship was enforced throughout its history by an action of covenant in the courts, that the relations of masters and apprentices were originally a matter of private contract. But inasmuch as apprenticeship resulted in citizenship and trading rights it was early regulated both by the City authorities and the misteries. Thus in 1260-1, the Loriners, with the assent of the Mayor and other barons of London, ordained that no man should entice away another's apprentice within his term, nor receive an apprentice for less than ten years and a less sum than 30s, and that apprentices should be sworn to keep their ordinance (fn. 3) . The Cordwainers in 1271 ordained that no one should take an apprentice except with the consent of the Mayor and Commune, that he should be of good fame and conduct and pay 40s for his teaching, 2s to the Commune and 25s to the poor of the mistery, with correspondingly lower payments for the workers in bazen, and further that he should not be allowed to work at the trade until his term was completed (fn. 4) . The Fishmongers in 1278-9 say that no one shall take more than two or three apprentices at most, and then only if he is able to support them, nor shall he take an apprentice for less than seven years. The master and apprentice must bring the covenant to be enrolled at Guildhall, and at the end of his term the apprentice shall be presented again by his master, or if his master be dead, by four reputable men of the mistery, after which he may be allowed to engage in trade (fn. 5) . It must not of course be assumed that such regulation was general. The established misteries were few. But the Loriners, Cordwainers and Fishmongers were setting up a model on which succeeding misteries organised themselves.

Meanwhile in 1294 the City authorities, in the interests of peace and good order, made the keeping of registers compulsory on all organised crafts (fn. 6) . In certain articles of ancient usage, proclaimed yearly, it is enjoined that only masters themselves free of the City may take apprentices and that the latter, before exercising their craft, must be sworn to the franchise and be enrolled (fn. 7) . Steps were taken in 1300 to enforce enrolment, two Aldermen being associated with the Chamberlain to deal with all cases where the name of an apprentice was not enrolled by his master within the first year of his term (fn. 8) . About the same time certain membranes of the Chamberlain's Rolls, fortunately preserved among the Mayor's Court Rolls, show that this officer had a fully developed court and that there was already in existence a considerable body of legal custom covering the personal, commercial and contractual relations between apprentices and masters (fn. 9) . It was natural that the matter should engage the earnest attention of the authorities. The premiums mentioned above were no small sums in the 13th century and could only have been paid by well-to-do families, which were able to set up their sons in business. "The majority of the workers in the trade," said Prof. Unwin of the Cordwainers, "could never have been apprenticed at all (fn. 10) ." In fact the apprentices were qualifying for the master-class, the enfranchised aristocracy of the City.

(b) The records of 1309-1312

The transcript of the Chamberlain's register for 13091312 (fn. 11) , already mentioned, affords a valuable insight into the condition of apprenticeship at the time, and shows to what extent the ordinances were obeyed. Altogether in this period 909 persons were admitted to the freedom, of whom 656 were redemptioners paying sums varying from 5s to £5, as against 253 admittances by apprenticeship. Thus only one-third of the new citizens had served apprenticeships in London, though some of the redemptioners may have been apprenticed elsewhere. The number of enrolments of apprentices' indentures was 294. That the rule as to enrolment within a year and a day was not fully observed is shown by the fact that 100 apprentices were brought in after the time-limit, paying extra fees for default. There were many cases of men who had not been enrolled either on ingress or exit, their apprenticeships having apparently been regarded as private arrangements, until the necessity of citizenship was brought home to them. Of the large number who had not paid their fees immediately on completing their term, some 20 had been in employment for many years, before they took up the freedom (fn. 12) . They were doubtless journeymen who were not sufficiently prosperous to set up in business and take apprentices for themselves, for which the freedom was essential (fn. 13) . In certain cases, apprentices were admitted, though they had not fully served their term, the reason being that their masters, or their masters' widows and executors, had released them. Such releases and admissions also took place when a master failed to keep the covenants of the indentures (fn. 14) .

Though seven years was the minimum term, one-quarter of the apprentices served for longer periods, one boy being bound for no less than 16 years. There were 66 apprenticeships for 8 years, 19 for 9, 42 for 10, 8 for 11, 11 for 12, 2 for 13, 5 for 14 and 1 for 16 years, and these were mainly in the selling trades, where some knowledge of figures and writing was probably necessary. Such long instruction is almost equivalent to adoption, an element of which was present in all London apprenticeships. Clearly many of the masters were kinsmen of the apprentices and it frequently happened that a master received only boys from the village where he had himself been brought up.

(c) Localities from which apprentices were drawn

As regards origin, the evidence suggests that the great majority of apprentices were country born. Of the 536 mentioned, 185 were indubitably "foreigners," e.g. "John, son of William Walrond of Stuntefeld." Another 221 bear as surnames the names of places outside London, e.g. "Thomas de Bolnhurst." It is, of course, possible that some of the latter may have been the sons of citizens originally hailing from those places. Of the small residue of one fifth, who bore names derived from trades or personal characteristics, doubtless some were Londoners. But the general impression conveyed is that apprentices were mainly country-born, and that London's net was spread over the whole kingdom, from Cornwall to Northumberland, from Westmoreland to Kent.

(d) The records of 1551-1553

For comparison, the Chamberlain's record for the period 22 Dec. 1551 to about the end of Sept. 1553 (fn. 15) is worthy of examination. During the intervening two and a half centuries apprenticeship has become the predominating method of acquiring citizenship. There are only 31 entries of freedom by redemption and 75 by patrimony, against 986 admittances by apprenticeship. Of the latter, 878 are noted as being the sons of men living outside London. They came from every part, even from Calais, but the greater number were North countrymen and the sons of yeomen and husbandmen. Of the 109 Londoners, at least 25 were the sons of unenfranchised parents. Thus practically as many sons of freemen obtained their freedom by apprenticeship as by patrimony, and, taking both together, the contribution made by London citizen families was very small, being less than one seventh of the total. The same tale is told by the files of apprenticeship indentures preserved in the Chamber from 1680 onwards. From the 14th to the 19th century the great majority of the privileged enfranchised class of London citizens, the rulers of the City and the masters in the trades, have been countryborn. Many reasons may be suggested. The City's fame as a centre of opportunity acted as a magnet throughout the country. The Husting Deeds and Wills show that in the unhealthy London of the Middle Ages and Tudor and Stuart periods, surviving male children were few and that families rarely persisted in London for more than two or three generations. The sons of wealthy merchants settled again in the country-side, while those of the unsuccessful sank into the unenfranchised labouring class. And meanwhile from generation to generation fresh streams of virile country blood poured into the City, reinvigorating its life and enterprise and creating its wealth.

(e) Control of the misteries

In the 16th century practically every apprentice, on taking up the freedom, was vouched by the warden of the craft to which he ostensibly belonged, though the trade he exercised might be different. By this time the Company organisation was an integral part of the City's constitution and was assumed to cover and regulate every trade occupied by the citizens. Actually, it was only by fiction that all the complex activities of London life and the ever-increasing number of tradeprocesses could be comprised within a system too small for them. In 1516 appears a list of 48 crafts or misteries (fn. 16) , which was drawn up to prevent disputes as to precedence in processions. Several of them had in the past gathered into their fold lesser misteries (fn. 17) , but even so they touched only a portion of the trades. Fresh combinations were continually taking place which ran athwart their membership, and as they drew into distinctness sought recognition and incorporation as new Companies. A residue was left of craftsmen, too few for combination, engaged in various specialised occupations, who might belong to any company and yet could be accurately classified under none.

In the 13th and 14th centuries no such fiction gave unity to the working life of the City. Though there was a small number of ancient misteries, increased in 1262 by certain crafts newly organised under the protection of a democratic Mayor, Thomas Fitz Thomas (fn. 18) , the formation of misteries, or at any rate their recognition by the City authorities, had not proceeded far by 1309-12. So far as we can judge, few had then any official standing in the enfranchisement of apprentices. The latter were entered in the City books, not by trades but by their Wards, and where it was necessary to prove that an unenrolled apprentice had duly served his term and was eligible for the freedom, testimony was usually given by the good men of the neighbourhood (fn. 19) . Taking apprentices and redemptioners together, over 120 occupations, not in cluding clerks and household servants, are mentioned in that period. The mirror-makers, callers, tableters, quilters, limeburners, bucklers, chaloners, chalicers, paternosterers and whetstone-makers may have drawn together in private associations, but neither then nor later do they appear to have been formally recognised. The London Lay Subsidy of 1332 (fn. 20) gives 45 occupations, and of the surnames some 80 are occupational. Another list of "crafts exercised from of old" is preserved in a list drawn up in 1422 by the Brewers "in case it may in any wise profit their hall and company (fn. 21) ." Here we have III distinct associations, all apparently tolerated, though not all possessing regulations approved by the City authorities. The list does not include 56 of the occupations indicated in 1332, though 16 may appear under different names. Moreover many of the trades now mentioned failed to survive as separate organisations. The crafts of London in the 14th and 15th centuries are seen as in an ever-moving kaleidoscope— the coalescing of divers misteries into one company and the breaking up of large companies into separate misteries—yet always with a general tendency to diminution in the numbers of the companies, and to the inclusion of all citizens within their folds.

The movement of the crafts towards closer organisation and a share in the City government, which was encouraged by Fitz Thomas, took a new impetus in the first years of the 14th century, and was no doubt responsible for the transcript into Letter Book D of the admissions to the freedom between 25 Oct. 1309 and 30 Nov. 1312. Three days before the last of these entries the good men of the commonalty of every mistery (officium) presented a petition to the court of Aldermen, dealing with the question of the franchise (fn. 22) . Claiming that at all times the City had been defended and governed by the wealth and counsel of the good men of the trading and the handicraft misteries, they put forward a number of recommendations for regulating the admission of freemen. Prof. Unwin regarded this petition and the constitutions granted in 1319 by Edward II (fn. 23) as marking a civic crisis and a political victory for the misteries (fn. 24) . "At this time," says the French Chronicle, "many of the people of the trades of London were arrayed in livery (de suite) and a good time was about to begin (fn. 25) ." Much of what they had to say was concerned with redemption and will be considered later. As regards apprentices, a saving clause in the constitutions declared that the ancient manner and form of the city should be maintained. Meanwhile the Aldermen had agreed that the statutes and ordinances regulating the various trades and handicrafts should be enrolled in a register and read in public assembly once or twice yearly.

From this time forward an increasing number of misteries brought their ordinances to be confirmed and enrolled. They seem to have drafted them on the model of those already established, embodying old City customs and adding new provisions suitable to their own peculiar needs. Almost all contain rules for masters and apprentices. The Whitetawyers say that no time-expired apprentice shall be presented for the freedom until the overseers for the time being or four persons of the trade have testified that he is sufficiently skilled (fn. 26) . The Braelers lay down that no master shall take an apprentice until it be testified by the good men of the craft that he is fit to teach and provide for him (fn. 27) . The Tapicers will not allow any nonfreeman of their trade to take an apprentice except with the permission of the Mayor and Aldermen (fn. 28) . About 1364 the commons of the City bring in a schedule of recommendations, in response to which the Common Council ordained that, whenever a master came to enfranchise his apprentice, the rulers and governors of his mistery should be summoned to attend before the Aldermen and Chamberlain and if they showed no cause to the contrary, the apprentice should be admitted as of old on the testimony of his master (fn. 29) . Possibly this plan proved difficult in trades which were not fully organised, since, two years later, it was repealed (fn. 30) .

Some of the rules were obviously designed to protect the apprentices' interests and to save them from competing with unqualified men. Thus the Leathersellers agreed not to set any person, except their own wives and children, to work unless he had served an apprenticeship (fn. 31) . The Forcermakers ordained that no one but apprentices should receive instruction (fn. 32) . In 1408 the craftsmen of the City complained that the freedom was so cheaply bought that it was folly to serve an apprenticeship, wherefore they prayed that the freedom might be obtained by apprenticeship only (fn. 33) . Though this proposal implied the abolition of redemption, the petition was actually granted. Possibly there was some temporary refusal of redemptioners, but matters soon reverted to the old order.

Other rules were intended to protect the masters' interests against apprentices. The Painters in 1466 were of opinion that in certain cases the craft was not fully learnt within seven years, and accordingly they ordained that every apprentice, on the expiry of his term, should be examined by four men of the mistery as to his sufficiency. If they assigned him as a covenant servant to a man of his craft for further teaching, the agreement was to be "so as the Maister may lyve and the said servaunt may have his lernyng (fn. 34) ." The Bowyers (fn. 35) , Hurers (fn. 36) and others had similar rules. The Turners demanded that an apprentice should be worth at least 5 marks of his own goods and pay fees to the mistery before he set up as master (fn. 37) . A proposal was made in 1536 that all apprentices should serve their masters as journeymen before they were made free, to the intent that they might have something of their own (fn. 38) . But though nothing came of it, it appears to have been fairly general among the companies to ordain that a period should elapse between the fulfilment of indentures and the setting up as householder, and several of the crafts insisted on the pro duction of a masterpiece (fn. 39) . Thus step by step the companies set up bodies of rules governing apprenticeship, and since their ordinances, on being approved by the Mayor and Aldermen, became City ordinances, the control of the companies took a recognised place in City law and custom.

(f) Restriction of apprentices

Another feature of this control is seen in the restriction of the number of apprentices. As early as 1279-80 the Fishmongers had limited the master to two or three at most, and that only if he were able to support them (fn. 40) . Another motive is indicated in a prosecution by the Saddlers, who complained that the saddle-bow makers agreed not to take apprentices, in order that a limited number of masters might control prices (fn. 41) . In the next century restriction of apprentices was general and various good reasons were given—the craft could not find place for them; there were already so many that poor workmen were squeezed out, becoming labourers or leaving the City to cart and plough; masters who could scarcely support themselves would take three or four apprentices, which was a scandal to the City and unjust to parents in the country (fn. 42) . On the whole the City authorities left each trade to deal with the matter in accordance with its own circumstances, while enforcing their decisions (fn. 43) , and gradually a uniform practice obtained. The companies were inclined to think one or two apprentices a reasonable allowance for ordinary masters with some provision for maintaining the succession, while the rulers of the misteries should have one or two more (fn. 44) . Usage varied slightly by companies, but, generally speaking, it was recognised by all that apprenticeship must not be degraded into child labour and that the apprentice was being prepared, not only for mastership in his craft, but also for participation in the City government.


It has been noted above that already in 1299-1300 there was a considerable body of City law and custom regulating apprenticeship. This was enlarged and defined by civic ordinances, by case and statute law, and by such ordinances of the misteries as were sanctioned by the Courts of Aldermen and Common Council and therefore were enforceable in the courts.

(a) Free condition

A primary qualification for apprenticeship was that a boy or girl should be of free condition and not a villein. Probably it was originally sufficient that he or his father should have become of free condition by residence in the City for a year and a day. But in the case of a son born while the father was a villein, even though both were free by residence, there was always an element of doubt; he might be seized by a lord as a villein's sequela if he were found in his villein nest. No doubt this uncertainty was partly responsible for the prejudice against villein blood exhibited in 1387 (fn. 45) . It was then ordained that no "foreigner" should be enrolled as an apprentice unless he first swore that he was a free man and not a serf, and later serf is defined as the son of a man who was a serf at the time the boy was born. We may take this to mean that if a villein became of free condition by residence, his sons born subsequently were eligible for apprenticeship, but that sons born previously, even if they became of free condition themselves, were excluded as having the taint of servile origin. This appears to have been the interpretation put upon the act by the companies, which almost invariably adopted the rule that none of their misteries should take an apprentice who was not of free birth and condition.

(b) English birth

In the 15th century it was usual to insist that all apprentices should be English born (fn. 46) . Apparently some civic ordinance had dealt with the matter, for a century earlier there is an instance of a Florentine boy being enrolled as an apprentice of a Florentine master (fn. 47) , whereas in 1453 a glover petitioned that his two apprentices should be admitted to the freedom notwithstanding that they were born in Flanders, a fact of which he was ignorant when he took them (fn. 48) . From 1483 onwards the apprenticeship of alien-born children was frequently forbidden alike by company and City ordinance (fn. 49) .

(c) The twenty-shilling qualification

A further limitation was temporarily introduced by the Statute 7 Henry IV c. 17 which, after confirming the Statute of Labourers and 12 Ric. II c. 3, recites how children from the country were put as apprentices at the age of twelve years in towns (fn. 50) , though the parents had no land or rent, but only their service or mistery, hence causing a deficiency of labourers and husbandmen. It was enacted that henceforth no person put his son or daughter as apprentice unless he have land or rents of the annual value of 20s. The measure was regarded as a grievance in the City and means were taken to override it. A clerk of the court in 1428 brought a bill of contempt and trespass against a writer of the court-hand for taking as apprentice a boy whose parents had less than the legal minimum. The defendant pleaded that though the act forbade such a parent from putting his son or daughter as apprentice, nothing was said touching a son or daughter putting himself or herself apprentice as they pleased. Thereupon the bill was declared bad and the plaintiff was in mercy for a false plaint (fn. 51) . About the same time the Mayor, Aldermen and Commons in a petition to the King declared that they had been grievously. vexed and disquieted by the act, which was contrary to City custom, which they rehearsed (fn. 52) . Their petition was successful and the Statute of 8 Henry VI c. 11 after reciting their complaint granted that they should continue to enjoy their liberties and customs in the matter.

(d) Physical requirements

Regulations as to the physical fitness of apprentices first appear in the 15th century and became a common feature of company ordinances. The Cutlers (1420) say that the apprentice shall be handsome in stature, having straight and proper limbs (fn. 53) . The Brewers provided for an examination in the common hall of their craft as to the "clenesse of their bodies and other certeyn poyntes (fn. 54) ." The Bowyers ordain that no one shall take an apprentice who is greatly disfigured in any part of his body, and the Saddlers expect their wardens to satisfy themselves that the apprentice is clean and whole limbed (fn. 55) .

(e) The apprentice as a chattel

In those rules preserved in Ricart's Kalendar which appear to date from the first half of the 14th century, it is said that any man having an apprentice may sell or devise his said apprentice in the same manner as his chattel (fn. 56) . This claim is seen in practice to be only a half-truth. It is the term of apprenticeship, rather than the apprentice, which is a chattel, and the same covenant which gave to a master proprietary rights to services confers upon the apprentice corresponding rights to services from his master. There are indeed several instances of the devising of apprentices in City wills. Executors set over apprentices to the widows of their masters or to other men of the same trade (fn. 57) . In 1312 a purser sells the remainder of his apprentice's term to another purser (fn. 58) , and in 1381 a salter, by deed of gift, conveyed all his goods and chattels including debts, apprentices and all other things in the City and elsewhere to a body of trustees (fn. 59) . But it may be surmised that the consent of the apprentice or his parents was first obtained and that the system worked without friction. Only one dispute on the point is recorded in our rolls. An apprentice complained that his master, a mercer, intended to take him abroad, to the prejudice of his training. The master admitted that he was going abroad on business and was uncertain as to the time of his return, but since the apprentice was his chattel and he could dispose of him by gift or sale like any other chattel, he asked the Court's permission to turn him over to another mercer. The apprentice resisted this claim and prayed to be exonerated from his apprenticeship, and to be put to serve another mercer of his own choice. His petition was granted, on the ground that an apprentice was not bound to serve any other person than his original master against his will (fn. 60) .

(f) Trading by apprentices

As an apprentice was still in statu pupillari and technically a foreigner, he was not entitled to set up house or traffic with his own property, though he was allowed to trade on his master's behalf (fn. 61) . There are instances of apprentices travelling both in England and overseas with their master's goods, from the sale of which they purchased and freighted cargoes to England. The need of defining the master's responsibility was felt early. In 1285 when the King took the City into his hands, he ordained, inter alia, that if a servant or apprentice bought goods, which came into his master's possession, and such apprentice or servant was in the service of the master at that time, the latter should be answerable for the value of the goods, and this ordinance was made because in such cases some masters had discharged and disavowed their servants and apprentices, while retaining the goods (fn. 62) .

The master thus being responsible for the apprentice, the latter was within certain reasonable limits legally responsible to his master, who had a variety of remedies by plaints of covenant, trespass, deceit and account. In 1300 a master sued an apprentice to render account of £200 worth of goods and chattels entrusted to him for nine months. On being found indebted in £15 14s 1d, the apprentice was committed to the custody of the Sheriff (fn. 63) . Another apprentice was sued to render account of £10. The jury found that he had traded successfully at St Botolph's Fair until he fell ill and that he still owed 40s, for which judgment was given (fn. 64) . The rendering of an account, including receipts of large sums of money and goods, and payments of expenses which apprentices might reasonably incur, was often a complicated business. When it was completed, the Court was generally disposed to give the master his full due (fn. 65) . On the other hand, when an apprentice's brother and surety came into court and explained that the master had entrusted the boy with money for six months' independent trading before he knew the business, and the jury also found that he was too young to trade, judgment was given for the defendant (fn. 66) . On the whole, few cases of this kind came into court; apparently the system worked well, and apprentices were trusted as business-men. In 1468 a debtor under a bond for 10 marks attempted to plead a custom that if an apprentice made a bond without permission of his master, and the citizen to whom the bond was made knew that he was an apprentice, the bond was void. The creditor denied any such custom, and the Mayor and Aldermen certified that such a custom did not exist (fn. 67) .

(g) The master's qualification

The original qualification of a master to take apprentices was that he should be a freeman of the City, bearing scot and lot and resident in the City. The Saddlers and Fusters (1308) ordained that the master should be in a condition to sustain and perform the agreements of the indentures (fn. 68) ; the apprentice's remedy was an action of covenant. It was also enjoined that no freeman of the City who inhabited sanctuaries or privileged places, i.e. places within the City but not subject to its jurisdiction, should be permitted to enrol an apprentice (fn. 69) . In the 16th century, when there was a great influx of highlytrained aliens, experts in the manufacture of fine fabrics and gold and silver ware, it was brought home to citizens that the rule as to freemen was a disadvantage. Citizens, having taken apprentices, began to put them to work with aliens (fn. 70) . In fact, if aliens showed a disposition to teach only their own compatriots, it was looked upon as a grievance (fn. 71) . At first the City authorities frowned upon the practice, until its benefits became manifest (fn. 72) . One tradesman was fined a dozen leather buckets for such an offence (fn. 73) . But in 1562 the custom for a freeman artificer to put his apprentice within his term to a stranger to learn his craft, and then to make him free, so that he honestly serve the stranger for seven whole years, was declared a lawful custom (fn. 74) .

(h) The master's covenant duty

The relations between masters and apprentices were constantly defined, alike in ordinances and by case-law. The master was bound to supply board and lodging, necessary woollen and linen clothing, and instruction in the trade (fn. 75) . But equity orders for specific performance, though not unknown in the City (fn. 76) , were rare in the 13th and 14th centuries. The usual remedies were judgments for damages, and the exoneration of the apprentice from his indentures, with liberty to transfer to another master, or admission to the freedom by favour of the Mayor and Aldermen. Such exonerations were granted when a master gave up his trade of saddlery for that of a painter (fn. 77) , when he fell on evil days and could not keep shop (fn. 78) , when he was a prisoner for a long time in Newgate (fn. 79) , when he left the City and settled elsewhere (fn. 80) , and when he fled as a fugitive debtor to Westminster, the sanctuary of St Martin le Grand or the liberty of St Helens, with no prospect of return (fn. 81) . Nevertheless, the Court was chary of extinguishing a master's proprietary rights in his apprentice. An armourer's apprentice, who complained that his master had left the City, was permitted to serve any other armourer till his master's return, but was exonerated a week later, on the refusal of others to take him because his master's return was pleadable (fn. 82) . Another apprentice, whose master had gone to reside in Cornwall, was released on condition that he made satisfaction to him if the latter returned within a year and a day (fn. 83) . Since many citizens travelled to fairs at home and abroad, arrangements for the sustenance and instruction of their apprentices during their absence were usual. Even a fugitive debtor might make provision of this kind. Thus an apprentice, whose master had fled to Westminster, was released on condition that he should return to the master, if the latter appeared within a year and a day and could prove that he had provided for his keep and teaching (fn. 84) . Part of the instruction given consisted of due correction, about which the medieval conscience was probably less sensitive than ours. However, two young brothers, who had been fed insufficiently and bore the marks of cruel beating, were exonerated (fn. 85) , and there were other cases of what the Court considered excessive punishment (fn. 86) . Again, a master had no right to give an apprentice tasks outside his trade. An unreasonable goldsmith was bound over not to send his apprentice to thresh corn and do continuous field-work in the country (fn. 87) , and a draper paid damages of 30s because he had turned his apprentice into a mere house-boy (fn. 88) . As might be expected, the main offenders in this matter were the masters' wives, about whom bitter complaint was made in the 17th century (fn. 89) .

(i) The apprentice's covenant duty

The apprentice, for his part, was expected to be obedient, industrious and orderly, and he must not waste his master's goods. If it were a serious matter he could be sued in the Mayor's Court; for small breaches of discipline he was brought before the Chamberlain—committals by the Chamberlain to Newgate or Bridewell continued within living memory. But angry householders frequently turned offending apprentices out of doors, rendering themselves liable for breach of contract (fn. 90) . One such pleaded that the apprentice lent his goods without leave (fn. 91) . Another said that he had no desire to keep him, but that he refused to present him for the freedom since he had caused him (the master) losses of 1000 marks. Evidently he had some justice on his side, for though the Court exonerated the apprentice, it excused the master from making him a freeman (fn. 92) . A fishermonger pleaded that his apprentice consorted with a woman night and day and took his master's goods with him (fn. 93) . In all these disputes, the fact that apprentices had paid premiums, often of a considerable amount, was important. In one case the master agreed to repay the premium of 60s less an agreed amount for a year's board (fn. 94) . An action for return of a premium where a boy died under age reveals that no less a sum than £22 was paid to a spicer (fn. 95) . The rule that an apprentice must not marry during his term appears to be ancient (fn. 96) and was strictly enforced, but the further rule that no wages must be paid is illustrated only by instances in the 16th century (fn. 97) .


1 Cunningham, Growth of Eng. Industry and Commerce, i, p. 349.
2 Liber Ordinacionum, fo. 173. See Cal. of EM.C. Rolls, p. xvii, n. i. To the reasons there given, it may be added that the giving of judgment in the Husting by others than the Aldermen, which was forbidden at the Iter of 1243, is treated as a living issue.
3 Lib. Cust, i, pp. 78-9.
4 Liber Horn. fos. 339 b-340.
5 Ibid. fo. 220; Lib. Alb. i, p. 383.
6 Cal. of B, p. 241.
7 Lib. Alb. i, p. 272.
8 Lib. Cust, i, p. 93.
9 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. 46-8.
10 Unwin, Gilds, p. 83; Cunningham, Ind. and Comm. p. 347.
11 Cal. of D, pp. 35-179.
12 Cal. of D, pp. 42, 65, 104-5, etc.
13 Ibid. p. 140.
14 Ibid. p. 170.
15 Lond. and Mid. Arch. Soc., C. Welch, Freemen of London, 1908. See above, p. xxix, n. 5.
16 Rep. 3, fo. 66 b.
17 E.g. the Leathersellers, see Black's Leathersellers.
18 Lib. de Ant. Leg. fo. 86 a.
19 Cal. of D, pp. 149, 151. But see pp. 143, 150, for two exceptions, apprentices being vouched by good men of the trade of frippery and of the Fusters respectively.
20 Margaret Curtis, London Lay Subsidy of 1332, in Finance and Trade under Edw. III, ed. George Unwin, pp. 61-92.
21 Unwin, Gilds, pp. 370-1.
22 Liber Horn, fos. 327 b-328; Cal. of E, pp. 12-14.
23 Lib. Cust. i, pp. 268-73.
24 History, 1925, pp. 253-4.
25 French Chronicle (Camd. Soc. 1844), p. 41.
26 F, fo. 126 b; H. T. Riley, Memorials of London, pp. 232-4.
27 G, fo. 32; Riley, Mem. pp. 277-9.
28 E, fo. 210; Riley, Mem. pp. 178-9.
29 Cal. of G, p. 180.
30 Cal. of G, p. 211.
31 H, fo. 313 b; Riley, Mem. p. 547.
32 I, fo. 52 b; Riley, Mem. p. 564.
33 I, fo. 66.
34 L, fos. 43-4.
35 L, fos. 266 b-269.
36 L, fos. 262-3.
37 L, fos. 149 b-150.
38 Journals of the Court of Common Council 14, fo. 14 b; See E. Lipson, English Economic History, Middle Ages, p. 293.
39 C. Welch, Pewterers, i, p. 201.
40 Liber Horn, fo. 220; Lib. Alb. i, p. 383.
41 Cal. of P. and M. Rolls (i), p. 238.
42 Cal. of K, pp. 200, 375-6.
43 Jour. 8, fo. 55.
44 Lipson, Econ. Hist. pp. 285-8; Unwin, Gilds, pp. 346-8; Rep. 13, fos. 20, 23; 17, fo. 284 b; 22, fo. 199 b.
45 Cal. of H, p. 309.
46 E.g. Cutlers (1420), Cal. of I, p. 250; Greytawyers (1488), L, fo. 243; Saddlers (1490), L, fos. 280-1.
47 Cal. of D, p. 153.
48 Cal. of K, p. 353.
49 Cal. of L, pp. 261, 263; L, fo. 281; Jour. 20 (i), fo. 176 b; Reps. 18, 19, 20, passim.
50 This was taken in the City to fix the age under which no child could be apprenticed. I, fo. 258 b, "and that the apprentices shall be of full age according to the statute of apprentices lately made at Cambridge" (12 Ric. II c. 3). See Lipson, Econ. Hist. p. 284. Early Chanc. Pet. 19/466.
51 Cal of K, p. 87.
52 Ibid. p. 105; Rot. Parl. iv, p. 354 b.
53 Cal of I, p. 250.
54 Cal of L, pp. 201-2.
55 L, fos. 263, 281.
56 Ricart's Kalendar, pp. xxi, 102-3; Cal, of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. xxv-xxvi.
57 E.g. Cal. of D, pp. 102-3, 158.
58 Ibid. pp. 171-2.
59 Below, p. 294.
60 Below, p. 202.
61 See two interesting cases where masters, after releasing their apprentices from the remainder of their terms, avowed private trading by them, as though they were still apprentices dealing with their master's goods. Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. 46, 47, 48. See also Cal. of D, p. 150.
62 Lib. Alb., i, p. 286. Cf. Bickley, Little Red Book, i, p. 66; M. Bateson, Borough Customs, i, p. 222; ii, p. lxxxv. For an action touching the point, see Cal. of P. and M. Rolls (i), p. 217.
63 Cal of C, pp. 184-5.
64 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. 237-8.
65 Cal. of P. and M. Rolls (i), p. 268.
66 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, p. 158.
67 Cal. of L, p. 77.
68 Liber Horn, fo. 314 b-315; Lib. Cust. i, p. 81; Cal. of E, p. 7; F, fo. 173; G, fos. 149, 272; Jour. fo. 42 b.
69 Jour. 5, fo. 198.
70 Rep. ii, fo. 28 b.
71 Cal. of K, pp. 335-6.
72 Jour. 13, fo. 471 b (1536); 14, fo. 41 (1537).
73 Rep. ii, fo. 318.
74 Rep. 15, fo. 50 b.
75 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, p. 166; Cal. of P. and M. Rolls (i), pp. 268-9.
76 Below, pp. 24, 116-17, 137.
77 Below, p. 57.
78 Cal. of P. and M. Rolls (i), p. 268.
79 Below, pp. 128-9.
80 Below, p. 197.
81 Below, pp. 60, 87-8, 246, 263.
82 Below, pp. 194, 195.
83 Below, p. 219.
84 Below, p. 263.
85 Below, pp. 128-9.
86 Jour. 4, fo. 85 b.
87 Below, p. 18.
88 Below, p. 58.
89 Unwin, Gilds, pp. 334-5.
90 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. 168, 222.
91 Ibid. p. 166.
92 Below, pp. 86-7.
93 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. 82-83.
94 Cal. of P. and M. Rolls (i), pp. 268-9.
95 Below, p. 125.
96 Cal. of E.M.C. Rolls, pp. 47-48 (1299). See also Jour. 5, fo. 140 b (1454); Rep. 10, fo. 152 (1540), 255; Rep. 12 (2), fo. 547; Rep. 14, fo. 368 b.
97 Rep. 10, fo. 249 b (1542) and passim.