II. THE YEOMAN OR BATCHELORS' COMPANY.
1. Seeing that this organization was abolished in 1691, (fn. 1) no
practical importance can attach to its former existence; but as
a "memorial" of the past I have thought it well to collect
together these few incidents, because the Yeoman or Batchelors
were the channel or connecting link between the Fraternity as
a Corporation, and Tailory as a craft or art.
2. An early trace of the Yeomen Tailors is to be found in a
Decree or Ordinance of the Court of Aldermen, dated 1415, (fn. 2)
extracted from the City Archives. The Company had an old
hall at Dowgate which is noticed upon the Court records so
recently as the year 1593. (fn. 3) These yeomen possibly lived in
"3 Shears Court," described by Stowe in his Survey (fn. 4) as lying
adjacent to the church of St. James', Garlick Hill, (fn. 5) and the
complaint against them was that they "lived by themselves
alone in companies," against the licence or will of the Master,
and "without head or government."
3. This was an evil in those times too serious to be borne
with, and hence two of these offenders were summoned to
appear before the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, who adjudged
"that the servants of the foresaid trade shall be hereafter under
government and rule of the Master and Wardens of the aforesaid trade, as other servants of other trades in the said City are,
and are bound by law to be, and that they shall not use henceforth livery or dress, meetings or conventicles, or other unlawful
things of this kind."
4. In two years after this award,—viz., 5th August, A.D.
1417, they, "as a Brotherhood of Yeoman Tailors," approach
the Lord Mayor for liberty to assemble "on the Feast of the
Decollation of St. John the Baptist (fn. 6) next following and so henceforth yearly, in the church of St. John of Jerusalem, near
Smythfield, there to offer for the deceased brothers and sisters
of the said brotherhood, and to do other things which they
have been accustomed to do there"; but the Court, obviously
distrustful of them, thought fit to "order and consider that in
future times no servant or apprentice of the said trade shall
presume by themselves to make or enter assemblies or conventicles at the foresaid church of St. John or elsewhere, unless
with and in presence of the Masters of the said trade, etc., on
pain of imprisonment and fine."
5. I gather from the Records of the Fraternity, (fn. 7) that, at a
very early period, Wardens and Assistants for this branch of the
Fraternity were instituted. The separate (fn. 8) establishment consisted of four persons who acted as Wardens' Substitutes, sixteen
other persons who acted as the Assistants, and they had a
Clerk, (fn. 9) a Beadle, and a Treasury (fn. 10) distinct from those of the
general Fraternity; in fact, an "imperium in imperio" was set
up, producing discord as the consequence.
6. In an M.S. record, "the Occasion of the Constitution of the
Wardens of the Yeomanry and their sixteen Assistants," is thus
described:—"The Members of this Company growing very
numerous and their affairs being also great by the many
charities they had to manage and otherwise, the Court of
Assistants began to consider of every means to make business
more easy to them, and thereupon did substitute some of the
inferior members who were Taylors by trade, and for method's
sake constituted them the Wardens, called Warden Substitutes,
and sixteen persons to aid and assist them in such matters as
the Court of Assistants should direct and appoint, and that
they should meet at the Hall at such times as the Master and
Wardens should think fitt and when they should give them
7. "The office to which they were appointed by the Court
was to collect the quarterage, and also to make searches and
see whether the Taylors were regular in their trade, and to
take notice of what abuses happened, and then to give an
account to the Court of Assistants from time to time what
quarteridges they had collected and what irregularities or
abuses were committed, so that the Court might take such care
to rectify those abuses as the offence required."
8. In the year 1649 (the apprenticeship monopoly probably
being found to press heavily upon a population whose industrial
pursuits had been seriously interrupted by many years of civil
commotion), the poor working taylors made urgent appeals to
the Company to protect them from the free traders (termed
foreigners) entering within their franchises and working under
nominal apprenticeships or without any qualification, at lower
wages, to their prejudice.
9. London was, at that time, divided into four quarters for
trade purposes—a Warden Substitute being chosen for each
quarter. Thus, "This day" (a Court entry of the 28th August
states) "being appointed for the Election of ffour Wardens
Substitutes of the Batchellors Company, for the yeare ensuing,
there was presented by the old Wardens' Substitutes and sixteen men, eight names, upon wch bill indented the Company
proceeding to the election by scrutiny, the choice by most
voices fell upon—
"Thos. Wood, for Watling Street Quarter;
Humphrey Wigan, for Fleete Street Quarter;
Mark Buckland, for Candlewick Street Quarter;
Thomas Fox, for Merchaunttailors' Hall Quarter."
After they had served in this office, they were not unfrequently
called to the Livery on the payment of a reduced fine.
10. At the same Court a long petition of grievances was
presented from the working taylors of the Company, alleging
that strangers worked within the liberties; that foreigners
were kept as household servants (though really working as
tailors); that many apprentices were taken, whereby the poorer
workmen were injured; that smaller Companies granted the
Freedom of the City at lower fees; and that these freemen
had no payment to make to the Merchant Taylors' Company.
11. Their prayer for relief was definite, and was debated by
the Court of Assistants, in the presence of the Petitioners, on
the 28th September, with these results. They desired—
1st. A general search beyond the powers of the Company's
Charter;—which, after debate, was admitted would be
illegal, and therefore was not insisted upon.
2nd. That all apprentices should be bound at the Common
Hall, so that the Company might thus have a record
of all those owning allegiance to the Master;—which
the Court admitted to be expedient, and referred for
3rd. That no apprentice should work for a Foreigner;—which
was also admitted should be stopped, as being against
the present Law.
4th. That all tailors should be compelled to pay quarterages;—but which the Court pointed out could only be
levied from Freemen of the Company.
5th. That the sufficiency of all salesmen of tailory should be
tested by the Company and their officers;—which the
Court seemed to think could be done under the
6th. That the bonds taken for departing out of the franchise
should be enforced;—for which the Court referred the
Petitioners to the Warden Substitutes.
7th. That the informers employed by the Company should
be called to account (as so little good appeared to
result to the trade from their employment);—which the
Court also thought to be necessary.
8th. That the Annual Feast might be kept according to the
"guift";—which the Court "in these times did not think
to be expedient." (fn. 11)
9th. That the good ordinances might be put in force;—which
the Court agreed to.
And lastly, that no workmen be employed as tailors without
first showing their Freedom to their employer;—which
the Court agreed to.
12. The Petitioners did not quit the meeting without further
complaints, the first of which had a somewhat ominous bearing
upon what has ultimately come to pass. The working tailors
thought they perceived a desire to exclude the tailory members
of the Fraternity from all office or place of credit, and therefore
they requested that two of these members might be yearly
chosen as Warden Substitutes; further, they desired (2) that
the orders which had been agreed to should be put in force, at
the charge of the Fraternity; (3) that six additional Informers
should be employed to act against Foreigners, under the direction of a Sub-Committee of ten tailors; and lastly, that no
"cutting tailor" should be permitted to purchase his Freedom.
13. Upon these additional matters the Court were not prepared to give any decision until the subject had been referred
for report to the Warden Substitutes and the sixteen men.
Their report of the 14th November gave no encouragement to
the appointment of a Sub-Committee (whose duty and authority
would soon supersede or conflict with their own), but the Court
of Assistants, possibly willing to please the poor brethren, at
the risk of displeasing the Warden Substitutes and Sixteen
Men, thought fit to grant the Sub-Committee. As to the
appointment of the members, an angry controversy arose with
the Petitioners, who desired to have their own nominees chosen,
but the Court insisted upon making the selection.
14. In other respects the Petitioners were satisfied; for the
six additional Informers were appointed to act under this composite body, whose meetings were to be held in the "Long
Gallery," (fn. 12) on the first Wednesday in each month, at 8 a.m., to
commence in January and continue until Midsummer.
15. The trade was overrun with foreign workmen, for the
records (fn. 13) show that the Company was appealed to by the taylors
who were freemen of other Companies, to put their powers in
force for the protection of the franchised class. Prosecutions
were undertaken, (fn. 14) and the Common Council appealed to to
expel all foreign tailors from the houses of the citizens, "and
from priviledged places within and without the City," but with
little beneficial result, for when the working tailors applied for
further relief, in August 1651, the Court revived the Committee
with evident reluctance, as this entry proves:—
"Upon the consideration (fn. 15) a petition of divers the working
Tailors of this Compie for the removing of divers grievancies
concerning the Taylory of this Company, our Master declared
unto the Petitioners, that in regard so little fruit hath arisen,
notwithstanding the expence of about 100l., in prosecution of
suites agt fforreyners tailors, and in charge of the Committee
sitting, the Company hath very little or no encouragement to
continue the said Committee longer, notwithstanding to give
them all reasonable and just satisfaction, this Court doth order
that the said Committee for the cutting Taylory be revived, and
continue to sitt in the Long Gallery, untill Midsomer next."
A similar entry is traced on the 20th August 1653, (fn. 16) but the
desire of the Company to prosecute soon died away.
16. Another official document, (fn. 17) prepared by the Clerk,
describes the extinction of their offices by the Court in 1661,
and their subsequent appeal in 1668, setting forth:—
"That their trade was ruined and that their families would
be undone if the Court would not take some care of them, and
praying that they might be re-admitted and promising that they
would not put the Company to any charge, but would be
diligent in finding out the abuses and irregularities of the
trade in order to have them rectified."
17. The result of this appeal was their re-admission for
year, and their subsequent dismissal with this arrangement:—
"That if they or any other person should at any time
acquaint the Court with any irregularities in the trade, the
Court would take care to redress them as much as they possibly
could, they not having the power to domineer as before."
18. Their petition was then addressed to the Court of Aldermen, and "Upon full hearing, with Counsel on both sides,
the Court dismissed the Petition and would give no relief."
To show that the Court of Assistants had power to discharge them by law it was argued—
"First. That they were creatures of the Court of
Assistants' own making and no part of their constitution in any grant or charter.
"Secondly. That they neither had nor could pretend to
have any legal power or authority to act in any sort
whatsoever but what was delegated to them from the
Court of Assistants, and it would be hard if the Court
had not power to revoke the authority they have given,
as this would be to make the substituted power above
the power of the Substitutor.
"Thirdly. That they being substituted by the Court of
Assistants in whom lies the government of the constitution to some particular purposes, they could never
upon this account derive to themselves an inherent
right and absolute power to act and perform whatever
they thought fit, for by so doing they would be without
controul, and let their actions tend never so much to
the destruction of the Company, they were not to be
contradicted and the Court of Assistants would only be
responsible for their irregularities."
19. "These men being dismissed not only by the Court of
Assistants but by the Court of Aldermen, (fn. 18) filed a Bill in the
Court of Chancery, and then Petitioned the King in Council
to be restored. The case was referred from the Council to the
Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, and upon their report
the Council made no Order but left them to the Law." (fn. 19)
20. The Yeomen—few being "Tailors"—still exist as Freemen, and as such receive the alms of the Company.