Like other corporate towns, Chester had a system of
craft guilds or companies through which urban manufacturing and retailing were regulated in the later
Middle Ages and the early modern period. Their
names and the composition of each by different
occupations underwent many changes. The companies
were closely connected with the corporation, not least
because the freedom of the city and membership of a
guild went hand in hand. The guilds staged Chester's
civic pageants, both the medieval 'mystery plays' and
the secularized processions and events which succeeded
them after the Reformation. In most other towns craft
guilds atrophied and disappeared in the earlier 18th
century with the ending of civic involvement in economic regulation. At Chester, however, the guilds
survived, turning themselves into a type of social club
and focusing on the convivial side of their activities
which had been present from the start.
Associations of craftsmen existed in Chester by the
early 14th century, a time when the unitary guild
merchant, in theory representing all the city's trades,
still flourished. (fn. 1) The Shoemakers' company later
claimed to have been established as the guild of
St. Martin before 1285–6 (though later still it alleged
a 12th-century origin), (fn. 2) while in the 1410s the
Tailors asserted a less precise claim to have existed
since ancient times, (fn. 3) and certainly had some form of
collective identity soon after 1300, when they made a
small annual payment to the earl of Chester to
ensure that no-one 'communed' with them on
3 September (the feast of the Translation of St.
Gregory the Great). (fn. 4) Both companies may have
emerged from what were originally religious guilds
formed by groups of craftsmen following the same
trade, since they alone of all the companies were
called guilds before 1500, when the preferred terms
were art (ars), craft (artificium), or simply the
occupational name. (fn. 5)
From the 1360s the Tanners and the Shoemakers
enjoyed exclusive and collective privileges in the
leather-dressing trade, (fn. 6) and during the earlier 15th
century many other craft fellowships emerged as
corporate bodies which participated in the Corpus
Christi festival and could be represented in the city
courts by their stewards. Probably most were in being
by the 1420s, perhaps crystallized by what was apparently a reorganization and elaboration of the Corpus
Christi play shortly before 1422. (fn. 7) The earliest documented references to individual guilds stretched over a
long period. The Bakers, Glovers, Weavers, Fletchers,
Coopers, Barbers, Goldsmiths, Ironmongers, Carpenters (or Wrights), and Smiths certainly existed by the
1420s; (fn. 8) the Fishmongers, Drapers, Masons, Mercers,
and Drawers of Dee (fishermen) were first noticed by
name in the 1430s; (fn. 9) the Saddlers and Skinners in the
1440s; the Butchers in the 1450s; the Cooks in the
1460s; (fn. 10) the Dyers in the 1470s; (fn. 11) the Painters in the
1480s; (fn. 12) and the Vintners and the Tapsters and Hostellers c. 1500. (fn. 13) Some of the larger trades also had separate
organizations of journeymen: bakers, shoemakers, and
tailors by the 1420s, (fn. 14) weavers by the 1440s, (fn. 15) and
glovers by the 1490s. (fn. 16)
Nineteen guilds agreed their entry fees in 1475–6
under the supervision of the mayor, (fn. 17) but six others not
party to the agreement clearly existed by then. By
c. 1500 the 24 parts of the Corpus Christi play were
staged by probably 26 craft guilds and the Worshipful
Wives, evidently a religious guild. Of the companies
known to have existed before c. 1500, only the Painters
did not participate. (fn. 18)
Organization Before 1700
Most guilds initially covered a single craft or a number
of closely allied trades. The Smiths' company, for
example, included locksmiths, farriers, and cutlers, (fn. 19)
while the Weavers, Walkers (fullers of cloth), and
Chaloners (blanket weavers) evidently formed a
single entity. (fn. 20) In 1488 the Cooks' company also
included innkeepers. (fn. 21) Already by the 1420s some
trades were collaborating with others in order to
stage a Corpus Christi pageant: the Fletchers, Bowyers,
and Stringers with the Coopers and Turners, for
instance, and the Weavers, Walkers, and Chaloners
with the Shearmen. (fn. 22) Sharing of costs continued
later: in 1521 the Smiths agreed with the Founders
and Pewterers to continue their joint contributions. (fn. 23)
Some of the pageant groupings resulted in the formation of guilds which combined men following disparate
trades, but others were simply ad hoc, if long-lasting,
arrangements between what always remained separate
companies. The Masons and Goldsmiths, for example,
put on a pageant together by the 1430s but were
distinct guilds, (fn. 24) as were the Cappers and Mercers
c. 1520. (fn. 25) Some crafts which were either wholly new
or newly prominent after the mid 15th century never
formed a guild of their own: makers of felt caps were
part of the Skinners' company by 1489, (fn. 26) and glaziers
belonged to the Painters' company by 1482. (fn. 27)
Changes in the arrangements of the pageants
between c. 1500 and the Reformation precipitated a
restructuring of certain guilds. Three guilds (the Tanners; the Cappers and Pinners; and the Painters,
Glaziers, Embroiderers, and Stationers) put on their
own pageants for the first time. Conversely the Cooks'
guild merged with that of the Tapsters and Hostellers
to put on a single play, and the Ironmongers similarly
collaborated with the Fletchers and Coopers. The last
arrangement, however, did not lead to permanent
union in a single guild, perhaps because at the Reformation they separated again in order to replace the
pageant previously put on by the Worshipful Wives. (fn. 28)
Only two companies were chartered by the city
before 1500: the Bakers in 1463 and the Fletchers
and Bowyers in 1468. Both charters simply reaffirmed
the guild's own regulations. The Fletchers' rules probably represented common practice, for example in
regulating entry fees and the length of apprenticeships,
forbidding master craftsmen from taking work from
their fellows, setting a limit to the length of the working
day, and punishing infringements by a monetary fine. (fn. 29)
Standardized regulations made it easier for the guilds
to control their members, but the courts of the city and
even the palatinate were a further resort. (fn. 30) In 1475–6
twelve companies fixed their entry fees at 6s. 8d. for
apprentices and 13s. 4d. for strangers, three at 6s. 8d.
and 10s., and one at 3s. 4d. and 6s. 8d., while three
others left the matter to be determined by the mayor
and his brethren. (fn. 31) From the 15th century guild
members were also required to pay annual dues. (fn. 32)
The size of individual guilds before 1500 is difficult
to determine. Nineteen men witnessed the Fletchers
and Bowyers' charter in 1468, (fn. 33) and in the 1490s both
the Bakers and the Butchers had a membership of
c. 18. (fn. 34) About 1576 the Cappers and Dyers had 6
members each, the Saddlers, Fishmongers, and Goldsmiths 9, the Skinners 10, the Barbers and Mercers 15
each, the Fletchers and Weavers 19 each, the Joiners 21,
the Butchers 23, the Drapers 26, and the Smiths 33. (fn. 35)
Women were not eligible for permanent membership,
but by c. 1490 some widows were allowed to join
certain guilds, notably the Butchers' and Bakers' companies, after their husbands' deaths; their membership
seems to have been permitted only until such time as a
male relative replaced them at the head of the family
business. (fn. 36) About 1575 there were five widows in the
Smiths' guild and one in each of the Fishmongers' and
Butchers'. (fn. 37)
From the 1530s more guilds sought to strengthen
their powers by obtaining charters. Only the Barbers'
charters of 1540 and 1550 (from the Assembly), (fn. 38) and
the Bakers' of 1552 (a royal inspeximus of the monopoly conferred by Arthur, prince of Wales, as earl of
Chester in 1495) (fn. 39) were not explicitly charters of
incorporation. Existing companies which were newly
incorporated included the Weavers in 1583, (fn. 40) the
Wrights, Carpenters, Slaters, and Sawyers in 1584, (fn. 41)
and the Brewers in 1607, (fn. 42) all by the mayor, and the
Merchant Drapers and Hosiers in 1577, by the Crown. (fn. 43)
The Assembly also created new guilds, in part by
formally incorporating groups of trades which had
long co-operated in the Whitsun and Midsummer
pageants, like the Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers,
and Stationers in 1534, (fn. 44) the Innholders, Victuallers,
and Cooks in 1583, (fn. 45) and the Mercers and Ironmongers in 1605. (fn. 46) The Drawers of Dee and Waterleaders petitioned the Assembly for a similar charter in
1578, apparently in vain, and in 1603 united without
one. (fn. 47) The Assembly also created wholly new guilds for
the Linendrapers in 1552 (fn. 48) and the Joiners, Carvers,
and Turners in 1566, (fn. 49) and incorporated the city's
curriers into the Saddlers' company in 1639. (fn. 50) In
1725 it refused to incorporate a group of 10 apothecaries as a separate company, insisting that they remain
part of the Mercers and Ironmongers' guild with which
they had long been associated. (fn. 51) The charters placed
the guilds on a firmer legal footing and emphasized
their dependence on the city authorities. The Assembly
was wary of royal charters, which usually granted wider
privileges, for example to the Merchant Drapers in
1577 and the Brewers in 1634. Other guilds revised
their constitutions and ordinances to strengthen control over members. (fn. 52) Record keeping also became more
systematic, at least 15 company books apparently
starting between 1580 and 1660. (fn. 53)
In the early 1420s the title of master was sometimes
given to officers representing a guild or the light which
it maintained for devotional purposes, (fn. 54) but in nonreligious contexts guild officers were invariably called
aldermen and stewards. (fn. 55) The working officials were
the stewards, two in number, whose election possibly
always took place on the feast day of the company's
patron saint. (fn. 56) Most companies also had two aldermen,
though there were some variations. In 1472 the
Saddlers had four, (fn. 57) and a few companies managed
with only one at various times, including the Bakers
in the late 15th century and the earlier 16th, (fn. 58) the
Linendrapers under their charter of 1552, (fn. 59) and the
Drawers of Dee in 1572. (fn. 60) The Merchant Drapers
switched to a master and two wardens under their
charter of 1577, (fn. 61) followed in 1607 by the Brewers,
under an Assembly charter (master and two stewards)
varied by a royal charter of 1634 (master and two
wardens), (fn. 62) and in 1679 by the Bricklayers when they
became a separate company; the last, however, went
back to an alderman and two stewards c. 1826 and two
aldermen and two stewards in 1832. (fn. 63)
Stewards or wardens usually served for two years
each, the aldermen or masters for longer. In combined
guilds there were rules to ensure that no single
occupation monopolized the offices. The aldermen
and masters conducted the meetings held quarterly
or more frequently; the stewards and wardens kept
records, enforced attendance, and supervised finances.
Income was derived from admission fees, fines for the
breach of ordinances, and quarterly dues, called
quarterage and usually between 3d. and 6d. a head.
Admission fees in the 16th and 17th centuries varied
from under £1 to £12 or even more, with a dinner in
addition or an extra fee in lieu. Regular expenditure
included the amounts spent on feasting and drinking
at meetings or special occasions; the expenses of
litigation or any other unforeseen demands had to
be met by special levies. (fn. 64)
Eventually each company had a set of ordinances,
similar for all guilds and subject to Assembly approval. (fn. 65)
They included rules about secrecy, the wearing of
livery, and attendance at brother guildsmen's funerals,
but more significantly covered working, trading, and
employment practices. An apprenticeship of seven
years was normally required, (fn. 66) but certain guilds
demanded more: the Barbers twelve years, the Drapers
nine, and the Shoemakers eight. At different dates the
Butchers, the Joiners, Turners, and Carvers, and the
Tanners all obliged newly qualified apprentices to serve
as journeymen before they could join the company.
From the later 16th century some guilds restricted
entry by imposing a high fee or insisting on a qualifying period before a new member could take apprentices. Guilds also controlled the numbers of
journeymen employed and limited the scope of their
work. In 1599 the Assembly prohibited associations of
journeymen, a ban ignored apparently with impunity
by journeymen shoemakers who retained their own
fraternity until the 1630s or later. (fn. 67)
The guilds were also concerned from the 15th
century to preserve their monopoly against outsiders
and against residents within the liberties who worked
without belonging to the relevant company. (fn. 68) Those
dwelling on the castle demesne or within the abbey
precinct were immune, and in the late 14th and early
15th century non-freemen could work elsewhere in
the city on payment of a small annual fine, though the
practice died out between the late 1420s and c. 1450
as the guilds grew stronger. (fn. 69) In the earlier 16th
century, with the support of the Assembly, some
guilds became more active in enforcing their monopolies. The Tailors, for example, seem to have brought
at least two or three cases every year between 1500
and 1550, and the Carpenters, Dyers, Skinners,
Tanners, and Smiths were also assiduous in hounding
'foreign' traders, 'foreign' clearly meaning anyone not
a freeman of Chester. (fn. 70) Even at the height of the guild
system in the later 16th and earlier 17th century,
however, the guilds did not find it easy to enforce
their rights against unqualified competitors in Gloverstone and the cathedral precincts, or from the countryside. By the 1630s Gloverstone in particular was
crowded with non-guild traders and craftsmen who
claimed the right to sell their wares in the city's
markets without hindrance. (fn. 71)
During the first third of the 18th century at least
some guilds were still active in economic regulation,
passing and sometimes enforcing rules about the
number of apprentices who might be taken on and
the length of apprenticeships, (fn. 72) and restraining members who tried to entice journeymen away from other
masters by offering higher wages. (fn. 73) Some still tried to
control access to their raw materials, (fn. 74) notably the
Tanners in the 1710s. (fn. 75) Most effort, however, was
directed towards preventing non-members from trading in the city. The Feltcappers frequently took action,
though it took two costly lawsuits over 10 years before
they finally put a non-member working from
Boughton out of business in 1740. (fn. 76) The Shoemakers
were vigorous in making prosecutions in the 1720s and
1730s, (fn. 77) and the Bricklayers in 1737 fined members
who sold bricks to unfree journeymen working on their
own account. (fn. 78) Such efforts gradually petered out after
the 1730s, (fn. 79) and by 1750 they had all but stopped. The
Brewers frequently asserted their monopoly before
1761, but not at all afterwards, and they last regulated
the price of ale in 1762. (fn. 80)
By then the support of the city authorities had
ebbed away. Already by the 1720s they were normally
willing to grant the freedom to men who had not
served a full apprenticeship locally. (fn. 81) Complaints
about non-freemen making and retailing goods
continued in the 1730s and 1740s, and the Assembly
still occasionally ordered fines, which had to be sued
for in the portmote court, and even closed a few
illegal shops. (fn. 82) Its increasingly half-hearted policy was
finally undermined after it sued a grocer trading in
Gloverstone in 1758. After prolonged legal manoeuvres a ruling was given in 1766 that the city was
not entitled to sue unfree traders in its own court,
since the freemen jurors there had a vested interest in
the case. (fn. 83)
Assay Office, Goss Street
The one exception to the collapse of the guilds'
regulatory powers was the Goldsmiths' company,
which, paradoxically, had not enjoyed any such role
in the 16th century, when local goldsmiths had been
subject to the London livery company. (fn. 84) In the earlier
17th century London craftsmen dominated the provincial market to such an extent that the trade almost
ceased in Chester, its guild kept alive during the Civil
War and Interregnum by a single member. In the 1660s
new demand for church plate led to a revival, especially
after the guild decided c. 1663 to admit watchmakers. (fn. 85)
By 1687 there were eight members, sufficiently selfconfident to set up an assay office which kept a register
of makers' marks and certified the fineness of all silver
and gold offered for sale in Chester. (fn. 86) The office was
closed under an Act of 1697 but reopened under the
Plate Assay Act of 1700, which made Chester an official
assay town, incorporated the goldsmiths and silversmiths under two wardens, and re-established the office
of assay master, to be elected by the company. (fn. 87)
The Chester assay office continued until 1962, when
the premises in Goss Street, dating from 1749, were
closed and its responsibilities were transferred to
Birmingham. (fn. 88)
Religious and Ceremonial Role Before 1700
The guilds were social and until the Reformation
religious organizations as much as economic ones,
with concerns which focused on burial of the dead
and camaraderie with the living. Members of the
Smiths' company, for example, were fined in 1501
for failing to attend a brother's funeral. (fn. 89) Their religious
concerns probably pre-dated their role as craft regulators, and were still well to the fore in the early 15th
century, when craft organizations were commonly
termed fraternities. (fn. 90) At least some maintained a light
on an altar in one of the city's churches, among them
the Carpenters in the Carmelite church, and the
Tanners on the altar of St. Mary Calvercroft at
St. John's. (fn. 91) Several bore the name of the patron saint
on whose festival the officers were elected, including
the Shoemakers that of St. Martin, the Smiths St.
Eligius (Loy), and the Weavers the Blessed Virgin. (fn. 92)
Above all the guilds played a crucial role in the civic
ceremonial of Chester, (fn. 93) taking part in the Corpus
Christi procession and play, in the Whitsun pageants
which succeeded them c. 1500 and were staged until
the 1570s, and in the Midsummer show from its
beginnings perhaps in the late 1490s until its demise
in 1678. In each the companies processed or performed
in a set order probably first assigned by the mayor. The
order did not reflect their relative social or economic
standing, and there were only a few obvious connexions between the subject of a pageant and the business
of the guild which performed it, with the Drawers of
Dee putting on Noah's Flood, the Carpenters the
Nativity, the Bakers the Last Supper, and the Ironmongers the Crucifixion, while the Mercers, richest of
all the guilds, staged the Gifts of the Magi. A few
companies had other, particular roles in the annual
round of customs: the Butchers' and Bakers' guilds
provided the bull which was baited when a new mayor
took office, and the Drapers, Saddlers, and Shoemakers
participated in the Shrove Tuesday festival. The Corpus
Christi play in particular made large demands upon the
guilds and their members: in 1437, for example, the
Masons paid 3s. a head. (fn. 94) The high cost of putting
together an elaborate spectacle was a factor in the
stability of the guilds after the 1420s, and certainly
affected the combination of separate trades into united
guilds. (fn. 95)
Such ceremonial activities encouraged other forms
of solidarity among guild members. Fellow guildsmen
regularly supported each other in court, loaned one
another money, witnessed the admission of craft
associates to the franchise, and acted as executors to
each other's wills. (fn. 96)
Activities and Organization After
In the later 18th century the Assembly sometimes still
had occasion to deal with the guilds over matters
concerned with their corporate economic activities.
For instance in the 1760s and 1770s it prevented the
Bakers' company from storing firing for its members'
ovens on the Gorse Stacks, and dealt with both the
Glovers and the Skinners over the tenancy of the Little
Roodee, which had been used since the 1710s for
drying skins (Fig. 67, p. 120). (fn. 97) Membership of the
guilds, however, was falling sharply in the mid 18th
century: the Cordwainers dropped from c. 45 in the
early 1730s to c. 25 by the 1750s, (fn. 98) the Skinners from
c. 25 in the late 1720s to 10 in 1760, (fn. 99) and the Tailors
from c. 40 in the 1730s to fewer than 10 in the early
1750s. (fn. 100) One of the 26 companies went out of existence
altogether: the Drawers of Dee wound up in or soon
after 1746, in part apparently because they had been
unable to prevent non-members from fishing in the
Dee. (fn. 101) The others survived principally because they
were beneficiaries of the Owen Jones charity, a
modest affair used to benefit poor guildsmen until
the 1750s, when it began to generate large sums of
money from the royalties on lead worked under its
land at Minera in Denbighshire. (fn. 102) The annual income,
which until 1808 was divided strictly among the guilds
in annual rotation, in the order in which they had
processed at the Whitsun and Midsummer shows,
exceeded £300 in the 1770s and £400 in the 1790s.
Although after 1785 the Assembly required recipients
to swear to their poverty before receiving a share, that
did not stop all 26 members of the Barbers' company
receiving £15 1s. apiece in 1792, or all 19 members of
the Smiths', including the mayor and his son, £19 10s.
each in 1797. (fn. 103) The abuse of the charity was ended only
after 1808. Its existence preserved the guilds. The only
new guild created, the Bricklayers (incorporated in
1683), took its place in the order of precedence after
the company from which it separated, the Cappers, and
the two divided one full share of the charity between
them. (fn. 104)
With the decline of economic regulation in the
earlier 18th century the guilds were already turning
themselves into private dining clubs. The dinner
traditionally held after the annual meeting became
more important than the meeting itself, and typically
sociable rules such as fining members for swearing
were kept up or introduced. (fn. 105) Until the late 18th or
early 19th century the guilds also joined in the civic
celebrations held on Oak Apple Day (marking the
restoration of Charles II, 29 May), 5 November,
coronation days, when war was declared, (fn. 106) and when
the bounds of the liberties were beaten. (fn. 107) Throughout
the 18th century they contributed towards a prize for
the St. George's Day horse race. (fn. 108)
Skinners' Houses on Little Roodee, before 1782
From the mid 18th century admission fees fluctuated wildly, and in particular were raised to as much as
£20 in some companies as their turn for the Owen
Jones charity approached. Such large sums, and indeed
ordinary revenues, were spent on a dinner, the residue
being divided up equally among the members each
year. From c. 1830, however, entry fees were forced
down to 3s. 4d. by a legal ruling. While some companies took care to keep numbers low, a handful in the
late 18th and early 19th century were still forcing men
to join, (fn. 109) though any residual claim to stop nonfreemen from trading was destroyed when a prosecution failed in 1825. (fn. 110)
The stimulus given to the guilds by the Owen
Jones charity clearly began to fail after 1808, and two
companies, the Fishmongers and the Dyers, became
extinct apparently between 1794 and 1815. (fn. 111) The 23
which survived in 1835 had an average of 17
members, but numbers varied widely from the Innkeepers' 64 and the Bakers' 42 to those of four guilds
which had only two or three. (fn. 112) Several guilds almost
disappeared later in the 19th century or early in the
20th: the Skinners, for example, never had more than
five members between 1812 and 1914, (fn. 113) the Barbers
fell to only one or two between 1901 and 1911, (fn. 114) and
the Butchers were believed in 1918 to have failed
altogether. (fn. 115) Even by 1835 many guilds had lost their
seals and charters, though all but two kept a banner
for display at their annual dinner. (fn. 116)
The guilds revived from the late 19th century. Some
local historians were showing an interest in them in the
1890s, (fn. 117) and by the 1900s Frank Simpson had begun to
study their records. (fn. 118) In 1890, in response to a further
reorganization of the Owen Jones charity, the guilds
united in order to lobby for the right to appoint
representatives as trustees of the charity. (fn. 119) A new
body, the Freemen and Guilds of the City of Chester,
had its own officers, but each guild continued to exist
under a single steward. (fn. 120) Gradually the guilds became
more active socially and charitably. A thrift club to
support sick members was formed c. 1903, (fn. 121) and in
1910 Simpson tracked down enough members to stage
a version of the Midsummer Show as part of the
Chester Historical Pageant, wearing gowns designed
by himself. (fn. 122)
The guilds then continued as a series of male social
clubs, some more active than others, with a further
revival of interest from the 1950s which gathered pace
after the Freemen and Guilds acquired the redundant
Holy Trinity church, in use as a guildhall from 1967. (fn. 123)
Most of the guilds had their own annual round of
social activities, especially dinners and dances; they
had a say in distributing small annual sums from the
charities of Owen Jones, John Lancaster, and Sir
Thomas White; (fn. 124) and from 1968 a number gave
annual prizes for day-release students in appropriate
subjects. (fn. 125) By the 1970s there were c. 500 freemen of
the city, all eligible to apply for admission to a guild.
After women were allowed to become freemen in
1992 (fn. 126) (over 200, mostly daughters of existing freemen, were admitted in the first two years), (fn. 127) the
council left it to individual guilds to decide whether
to admit women to membership; at least some did so
immediately. (fn. 128)
Although there were no guildhalls by that name in
Chester, permanent meeting places for the guilds
emerged by the late 16th century, such as the house
belonging to the Tailors' company near the Newgate
which was demolished in 1596. (fn. 129) The other meeting
places mostly belonged to the city. Several companies
met in the Phoenix Tower, which the corporation was
leasing before 1600 jointly to the Painters and the
Barbers, who used the upper room themselves and
sublet the lower room to other guilds. The two principal companies surrendered their lease in 1773. (fn. 130) The
other towers in use were the Water Tower, which the
Bakers may have rented in the 1630s (fn. 131) and the Grocers
were certainly using in 1772, (fn. 132) and the Saddlers' Tower,
in use by the company of that name by the mid 16th
century and until 1774. (fn. 133) The old common hall in
Commonhall Street was leased by 1592 to the
Smiths' company, which bought the building in 1700
and sublet to several other guilds, but the building was
disused by 1768. (fn. 134) The Skinners' hall stood by the city
walls at the end of Duke Street in the 1740s, (fn. 135) and was
possibly distinct from the Glovers' meeting place, also
in Duke Street, which they rebuilt in 1713, sublet to
other guilds, and sold c. 1797. (fn. 136) Both the Weavers and
the Shoemakers occupied houses in St. John's churchyard in the 18th century, the Weavers apparently
ceasing to use theirs between 1755 and 1775. (fn. 137) By
1835 all but two guilds were meeting at inns, (fn. 138) the
exceptions being the Skinners, who used the new
common hall (St. Nicholas's chapel), and the
Innholders, who met at the Exchange. (fn. 139)
List of Craft Guilds (fn. 140)
The variant forms of guild names given here are not
comprehensive, but an attempt has been made to
include every separate craft which was ever acknowledged as being part of a guild. The 23 guilds surviving
in 2000 are named in bold.
Apothecaries. See Mercers (before 1605); Mercers,
Grocers, Ironmongers, and Apothecaries (after 1605).
Bagmakers. See Wet and Dry Glovers.
Bakers. Earliest record c. 1422. (fn. 141) Called Bakers and
Millers 1550s and later 16th cent. Pageant: Last
Barbers, Surgeons, Wax and Tallow Chandlers.
Earliest record of Barbers c. 1423. (fn. 142) Called Barbers
and Chandlers (sometimes specifying Wax, or Tallow,
or both) or Barbers, Chandlers, and Leeches mid and
later 16th cent.; Barber-Surgeons and Tallow Chandlers earlier 17th cent.; Barbers and Chandlers (or
Tallow Chandlers) 18th cent.; Barbers, Surgeons,
Wax and Tallow Chandlers 19th cent. Pageant: Abraham and Isaac.
Barkers. See Tanners.
Beerbrewers. See Brewers.
Bellfounders. See Dyers.
Bowyers. See Fletchers, Bowyers, and Stringers
(before later 15th cent.); Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers,
and Stringers (after later 15th cent.).
Brewers. Incorporated by Assembly as Beerbrewers
1607 and by Crown as Brewers 1634. (fn. 143) Collaborated
with Drawers of Dee and Waterleaders for pageant in
earlier 17th cent. (fn. 144) and later replaced Drawers of Dee in
order of guilds.
Bricklayers. Collaborated with Cappers, Pinners,
Wiredrawers, and Linendrapers for pageant before
1603. Separated by Assembly from that guild
1619. (fn. 145) Incorporated as separate guild by Assembly
1683. (fn. 146)
Butchers. Earliest record 1457. (fn. 147) Apparently incorporated by Assembly 1665. (fn. 148) Pageant: Temptation of
Cappers, Pinners, Wiredrawers, and Linendrapers.
Cappers' guild emerged after c. 1500. (fn. 149) Called Cappers
and Pinners early 16th cent.; Cappers, Wiredrawers,
and Pinners 1550s and later 16th cent. Linendrapers,
then Bricklayers joined to assist with pageant before
1603. (fn. 150) Called Cappers, Pinners, Wiredrawers, Bricklayers, and Linendrapers early 17th cent. Bricklayers
separated 1619. (fn. 151) Afterwards called Cappers, Pinners,
Wiredrawers, and Linendrapers. Pageant: Balaam and
Cardmakers. See Skinners and Feltmakers (later 16th
cent.); Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers (c. 1576
Carpenters. See Wrights and Slaters.
Carvers. See Wrights and Slaters (c. 1576 only);
Joiners, Carvers, and Turners (1566 onwards).
Chaloners. See Weavers.
Chandlers. See Barbers, Surgeons, Wax and Tallow
Clockmakers. See Goldsmiths.
Clothworkers. See Shearmen (early 17th cent.);
Masons (from 18th cent.).
Cooks. Earliest record 1460. (fn. 152) Still a separate guild
c. 1500, afterwards merged with Tapsters and Hostellers to form Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers.
Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers. Evidently an amalgamation in early 16th cent. of two guilds: Cooks, and
Tapsters and Hostellers. Called Cooks, or Cooks and
Hostellers earlier 16th cent.; Cooks and Tapsters 1550s;
Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers, or Cooks, Tapsters,
Hostellers, and Innkeepers later 16th cent. Part of
amalgamated guild from 1583 (see Innholders,
Cooks, and Victuallers). Pageant: Harrowing of Hell.
Coopers and Turners. Earliest record 1422, when
already collaborating for pageant with Fletchers, Bowyers, and Stringers. (fn. 153) Called Coopers 1475–6. (fn. 154) Later
merged in Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers, and Stringers.
Cordwainers and Shoemakers. Earliest record 1364.
Called Tawyers (alutarii) and Shoemakers (sutores)
1360s; (fn. 155) Corvisers 15th and earlier 16th cent. and
1550s; Corvisers or Shoemakers later 16th cent.; Cordwainers (or Shoemakers) earlier 17th cent.; (fn. 156) Cordwainers 18th, 19th, and sometimes 20th cent. Pageant:
Entry into Jerusalem.
Corvisers. See Cordwainers and Shoemakers.
Curriers. See Saddlers and Curriers.
Cutlers. See Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers.
Daubers. See Wrights and Slaters.
Drapers. See Merchant Drapers and Hosiers.
Drawers of Dee. Earliest record 1438, as Fishermen
(piscatores). Called Drawers of Dee (occasionally
Drawers in Dee) 15th and 16th cent.; Owners and
Drawers of Dee Water later 16th cent. (fn. 157) Collaborated
for pageant with Waterleaders from 16th cent. or
earlier; amalgamated with them 1603. Disbanded in
or soon after 1746, certainly before 1757. (fn. 158) Pageant:
Noah's Flood. Brewers were associated with them for
pageant in earlier 17th cent. and later replaced them in
order of guilds.
Dyers. Earliest record 1475–6, as Hewsters. (fn. 159) Called
Hewsters or Dyers 16th cent.; (fn. 160) Dyers and Hewsters
earlier 17th cent.; Dyers 18th cent. Bellfounders collaborated for pageant later 16th cent. but probably not
part of guild. Disappeared probably between 1794 and
1815. Pageant: Antichrist.
Embroiderers. See Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers,
Feltcappers or Feltmakers. See Skinners and Feltmakers.
Fishermen. See Drawers of Dee.
Fishmongers. Earliest record 1434. (fn. 161) Disappeared
apparently between 1794 and 1815. Pageant: Pentecost.
Fletchers, Bowyers, and Stringers. Earliest record
1422, when already collaborating for pageant with
Coopers and Turners. (fn. 162) Chartered as Fletchers and
Bowyers 1468. (fn. 163) Called Bowyers and Fletchers 1475–6. (fn. 164) Later merged in Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers, and
Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers, and Stringers. Probably an amalgamation in later 15th cent. of two guilds:
Fletchers, Bowyers, and Stringers; and Coopers and
Turners. Called Fletchers and Coopers c. 1500; Fletchers, Bowyers, and Coopers (or Fletchers, Bowyers,
Coopers, and Stringers) earlier 16th cent.; Fletchers,
Bowyers, Stringers, Coopers, and Turners (order of
crafts varies) later 16th cent. Turners removed to
Joiners, Carvers, and Turners' guild 1566. Afterwards
called Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers, and Stringers.
Sometimes called Coopers in later 20th cent. Pageant:
Flagellation, closely connected with Ironmongers'
Founders and Pewterers. Earliest record 1521.
Already collaborating for pageant with Smiths, (fn. 165) and
soon merged with them.
Fullers. See Weavers.
Furbers or Furbishers. See Smiths, Cutlers, and
Fusters. See Saddlers and Curriers.
Girdlers. See Skinners and Feltmakers (later 16th
cent.); Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers (c. 1576 and
earlier 17th cent.).
Glaziers. See Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers, and
Glovers. See Wet and Dry Glovers.
Goldsmiths. Earliest record 1422. (fn. 166) Incorporated by
Act of Parliament 1700. (fn. 167) Called Goldsmiths and Clockmakers 18th and early 19th cent. Pageant: Massacre of
the Innocents, jointly with Masons.
Grocers. See Ironmongers (earlier 17th cent.); Mercers, Grocers, Ironmongers, and Apothecaries (after
Haberdashers. See Skinners and Feltmakers.
Hatmakers or Hatters. See Skinners and Feltmakers.
Headmakers. See Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers.
Hewsters. See Dyers.
Hosiers. See Merchant Drapers and Hosiers.
Hostellers. See Tapsters and Hostellers (c. 1500);
Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers (16th cent.).
Innholders, Cooks, and Victuallers. Incorporated by
Assembly as Innholders, Victuallers, and Cooks 1583 (fn. 168)
(previously two guilds: see Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers; Vintners). Called Cooks, Innholders, and Victuallers earlier 17th cent.; Vintners, Innholders, Cooks,
and Victuallers late 18th cent.
Innkeepers. See Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers.
Ironmongers. Earliest record 1422. (fn. 169) Called Ironmongers and Ropers 1550s and later 16th cent.; Ironmongers and Grocers earlier 17th cent. Part of
amalgamated guild from 1605 (see Mercers, Grocers,
Ironmongers, and Apothecaries). Pageant: Crucifixion,
closely connected with Fletchers' pageant (Flagellation). Separate Midsummer pageant even after amalgamation.
Joiners, Carvers, and Turners. Incorporated by
Assembly 1566. (fn. 170) Turners had previously been associated with Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers, and Stringers;
Joiners and Carvers with Wrights and Slaters.
Leeches. See Barbers, Surgeons, Wax and Tallow
Linendrapers. Incorporated by Assembly 1552. (fn. 171)
Merged with Cappers, Pinners, and Wiredrawers later
16th cent., definitive from 1603.
Masons. Earliest record 1436. (fn. 172) Incorporated by
Assembly with Plasterers 1705. (fn. 173) Called Clothworkers,
Walkers, and Masons (or Clothworkers and Masons)
18th and early 19th cent.; Masons 20th cent. Pageant:
Massacre of the Innocents, jointly with Goldsmiths.
Mercers. Earliest record 1437–8. (fn. 174) Called Mercers
and Spicers 1550s and later 16th cent.; Mercers and
Apothecaries earlier 17th cent. Part of amalgamated
guild from 1605 (see Mercers, Grocers, Ironmongers,
and Apothecaries). Pageant: Gifts of the Magi. Separate
pageant even after amalgamation.
Mercers, Grocers, Ironmongers, and Apothecaries.
Incorporated by Assembly as Mercers and Ironmongers
1605 (fn. 175) (previously two guilds: see Ironmongers; Mercers). Called Mercers, Grocers, Ironmongers, and
Apothecaries (occasionally Grocers, Ironmongers,
Mercers, and Apothecaries) by 1757.
Merchant Drapers and Hosiers. Earliest record of
Drapers 1437. (fn. 176) Incorporated by Crown as Merchant
Drapers and Hosiers 1577. (fn. 177) Pageant: Adam and Eve.
Merchant Taylors. Earliest record of Tailors 1302. (fn. 178)
Called Tailors until early 19th cent.; Merchant Tailors
1835; Merchant Taylors late 20th cent. Pageant: Ascension.
Millers. See Bakers.
Owners and Drawers of Dee Water. See Drawers
Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers, and Stationers.
Earliest record of Painters and Glaziers 1482–3. (fn. 179)
Embroiderers and Stationers collaborated for pageant
earlier 16th cent. Incorporated by Assembly as
Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers, and Stationers
1534. (fn. 180) Pageant: Shepherds.
Parchment Makers. See Wet and Dry Glovers.
Pewterers. See Founders and Pewterers (1521);
Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers (1550s onwards).
Pinners. See Cappers, Pinners, Wiredrawers, and
Plasterers. See Masons.
Plumbers. See Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers.
Pointers. See Wet and Dry Glovers (mid 16th cent.);
Skinners and Feltmakers (later 16th cent.).
Pursers. See Wet and Dry Glovers.
Ropers. See Ironmongers.
Saddlers and Curriers. Earliest record of Saddlers
1448. (fn. 181) Called Saddlers and Fusters 16th cent. Incorporated by Assembly as Saddlers and Curriers 1639. (fn. 182)
Pageant: Supper at Emmaus.
Sawyers. See Wrights and Slaters.
Shearmen. Earliest record 1429, when perhaps part
of Weavers' guild. (fn. 183) Separate guild by 1467. (fn. 184) Called
Shearmen 16th cent.; (fn. 185) Shearmen and Walkers 1550s;
Clothworkers and Walkers, or Walkers and Shearmen
early 17th cent. (fn. 186) Not recorded as a guild later, but see
Masons (whose guild included Clothworkers). Pageant:
Prophets of Antichrist and Doomsday.
Shoemakers. See Cordwainers and Shoemakers.
Silkweavers. See Weavers.
Skinners and Feltmakers. Earliest record of Skinners
1449. (fn. 187) Called Skinners 15th cent.; Skinners and Feltcappers later 15th cent.; (fn. 188) Skinners and Hatmakers, or
Skinners, Cardmakers, and Hatters 1550s; Skinners,
Cardmakers, Hatters, Pointers, and Girdlers (or omitting Hatters) or Skinners and Haberdashers (fn. 189) later 16th
cent.; Feltmakers, (fn. 190) or Skinners and Feltmakers early
17th cent.; Feltmakers and Skinners 18th and early
19th cent. Pageant: Resurrection.
Slaters. See Wrights and Slaters.
Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers. Earliest record of
Smiths 1427. (fn. 191) Merged with Founders and Pewterers
after 1521. (fn. 192) Called Smiths earlier 16th cent.; Smiths,
Furbers (or Furbishers, or Cutlers), and Pewterers
1550s and later 16th cent.; Smiths, Pewterers, Girdlers,
Plumbers, Cardmakers, and Furbers c. 1576; (fn. 193) Smiths,
Cutlers, Pewterers, Cardmakers, and Plumbers earlier
17th, 18th, and early 19th cent. (sometimes adding
Spurriers, Girdlers, and Headmakers earlier 17th
cent.); Smiths, Cutlers, Cardmakers, and Plumbers
1835. Pageant: (pre-Reformation) Purification; (postReformation) Christ in the Temple.
Spicers. See Mercers.
Spurriers. See Smiths, Cutlers, and Plumbers.
Stationers. See Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers, and
Stringers. See Fletchers, Bowyers, and Stringers
(before later 15th cent.); Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers,
and Stringers (after later 15th cent.).
Surgeons. See Barbers, Surgeons, Wax and Tallow
Tailors. See Merchant Taylors.
Tallow Chandlers. See Barbers, Surgeons, Wax and
Tanners. Earliest record 1361. (fn. 194) Called Barkers later
15th cent.; Barkers and Tanners later 16th cent.;
Tanners 1550s and from early 17th cent. Pageant:
Creation and Fall of Lucifer.
Tapsters and Hostellers. Earliest record c. 1500, (fn. 195)
afterwards merged with Cooks to form Cooks, Tapsters, and Hostellers.
Tawyers. See Cordwainers and Shoemakers.
Thatchers. See Wrights and Slaters.
Tilers. See Wrights and Slaters.
Turners. See Coopers and Turners (earlier 15th
cent.); Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers, and Stringers
(later 15th cent. to 1566); Joiners, Carvers, and Turners (after 1566).
Victuallers. See Innholders, Cooks, and Victuallers.
Vintners. Earliest record c. 1500. (fn. 196) Connected with
Merchants (not a craft guild) 1550s and collaborated
with them for pageant later 16th cent. Part of amalgamated guild from 1583 (see Innholders, Cooks, and
Victuallers). Pageant: Three Kings.
Walkers. See Weavers (15th and 16th cent.); Shearmen (16th and early 17th cent.); Masons (18th and
early 19th cent.).
Water Carriers. See Waterleaders.
Waterleaders. Earliest record after c. 1500, when
collaborating for pageant with Drawers of Dee. Also
called Water Carriers earlier 17th cent. (fn. 197) Merged with
Drawers of Dee 1603. (fn. 198)
Wax Chandlers. See Barbers, Surgeons, Wax and
Weavers. Earliest record 1422. (fn. 199) Called Weavers,
Walkers, and Chaloners (or Weavers and Walkers (or
Fullers) or Weavers and Chaloners) 15th cent. (fn. 200) Evidently included Shearmen 1429 but not 1467. (fn. 201) Called
Weavers and Walkers 16th cent.; Weavers 1550s.
Incorporated by Assembly as Weavers 1583. (fn. 202) Called
themselves Weavers and Silkweavers 1633 or 1634; (fn. 203)
Weavers 18th cent. and later. Pageant: Judgement Day.
Wet and Dry Glovers. Earliest record of Glovers
1422. (fn. 204) Called themselves Glovers, Pursers, Bagmakers,
and Pointers 1556. (fn. 205) Also called Glovers and Parchment Makers 1550s and later 16th cent. Called Wet
and Dry Glovers occasionally earlier 17th cent., regularly 19th and 20th cent. Pageant: Raising of Lazarus.
Wiredrawers. See Cappers, Pinners, Wiredrawers,
Wrights and Slaters. Earliest record of Wrights
(alias Carpenters) 1422. (fn. 206) Called Wrights and Slaters
earlier 16th cent.; Wrights, or Wrights, Slaters, and
Tilers 1550s; Wrights, Slaters, Tilers, Daubers, and
Thatchers later 16th cent.; Joiners, Wrights, Carvers,
and Slaters c. 1576. (fn. 207) Incorporated by Assembly as
Wrights, Carpenters, Slaters, and Sawyers 1584. (fn. 208)