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C.J. (Charles James) Billson.

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It would seem as if some of the Leicester traders resented
these regulations, and aspired to self-management as early as
the 13th century. The fullers, for instance, held meetings
on their own account before the year 1260, and even, it would
seem, appointed their own overseers, and fixed their own prices.
It was resolved, however, by the Chapman's Guild, " vv^ith the
consent of the merchants and the weavers and fullers," that, after
that year, the fullers should not hold any " morning-speech,"
except in the presence of two merchants of the Guild of Merchants,
who should have been chosen for that purpose from the
community of the Guild ; and also that they should conform
to certain customs and rules then settled by the Guild. The
weavers at the same time also consented to the regulations of
their trade then laid down. But, five years afterwards, when a
resolution had been passed by the Guild fixing their wages, and
ordering them not to weave any cloth of country villages as long
as they had enough work from the men of Leicester, they again
took matters into their own hands, and made " a certain provision
about weaving against the community of the Guild of Merchants."

12^



The fullers too had to be fined soon afterwards for holding an
independent meeting. In the next century the Mayor and Com-
munity appointed two Wardens to look after defaulting fullers
and " to present their short-comings when they find any." And
when the weavers again became troublesome, two men were
chosen " by all the town of Leicester " to rule their craft. Both
in England and on the Continent, Weavers were the earliest crafts-
men to form Guilds, and their unions had been recognised in
many other towns long before this is known to have been the
case at Leicester. At London and Oxford they received charters
as early as the reign of Henry I, and the Weavers' Guild at
Nottingham was acknowledged by Henry H. But Doering
suggests (Studien zur Verfassungsgeschichte von Leicester,
Hanau, 1908, p. 68.) that the Leicester Guild did not admit
working Weavers^ because there was an outside Weavers'
Company as early as the first Guild-rolls^ where only one Weaver
is mentioned (a guildsman's father.)

In the 14th century an attempt was made by the Leicester
Water-men to organize themselves into a Company, but the
Guild Merchant suppressed it immediately by ordering procla-
mation to be made that " henceforth the lochel-men, called
water-men, shall be separated, and shall serve the commune well
and loyally according to the custom before used, and if any
association be found among them, and they shall be attainted of
this, that the Chamberlains cause 3s. 4d. to be levied from each
of them at the first default, to the use and profit of the
community, and at the second default, 6s. 8d., and so on increasing
3s. 4cl. at each default, until they will submit to this ordinance."

In spite of these occasional differences between particular
classes of tradesmen and the general body of merchants, a number
of Leicester trades became organized into distinct unions, which
were commonly known, in the 15th and i6th centuries, as " Occu-
pations." They were not independent of the Guild Merchant ;
in fact all their regulations were subject to the approval of the
Mayor and his brethren. Thus, in the year 1521, it was ordained
by the Guild that " Mr. Mayor and his brethren 4 or 5 or 8 shall
accept and prove all Ordinals of all the Occupations, within this

124



town, and those customs that be good to allow them, and those
that be evil to damn them." Some years later the duty of con-
sidering and approving, or condemning, fresh additions to any
Ordinal was given to a Common Hall "or at least to the Mayor
and two Justices of the Peace." It was afterwards required by
Statute that every Ordinal should be confirmed by the Judges
of Assize.

According to Thompson, the companies which were in
existence and recognized as semi-independent organizations in
the early part of the i6th century, were the Tailors, the Smiths,
the Shoemakers, the Bakers and the Butchers. The Tailors'
Occupation was undoubtedly one of the earliest. Thompson
gives the date of its establishment as 1450 ; and it was certainly
existing in the time of the mayoralty of John Fresley (1466),
when it was agreed " by the Wardens and all the Occupation of the
craft of Tailors that there shall no tailor set up his craft as a master
within the town of Leicester but the Wardens of the said craft
shall bring in los. in money and pay it to the Chamberlains for
his duty to the Chapman's Guild, a fortnight before the Chamber-
lains enter into their account, upon pain of forfeiting 20s. of the
guild of Tailors' money to be levied by the Chamberlains."

The Occupations that are referred to in the published Records
of the Borough number seventeen, and a list of them is subjoined,
together with the dates at which they were first mentioned. The
date, as a rule, shows only that the Occupation was then existing ;
it may have been established, in some cases, long before. And
it must be borne in mind that the town records are entirely missing
from 1380 to 1465.

Date of Reference in the

Occupation. iirst mention. Borough Records.



1. Tailors. . . 1466

2. Bakers . . 1488

3. Shoemakers .. 1531

4. Butchers .. 1540

5. Smiths .. 1540

6. Barbers . . 1553

7. Glovers . . 1553

8. Coopers . . 1553

9 . Fullers , or Walkers 1557
10. Chandlers . . 1558

125



Vol. II. 363.

Vol. II. 318.

Vol. III. 31.

Vol. III. 45.

Vol. III. 44.

Vol. III. 78.

Vol. III. 78.

Vol. III. 78.

Vol. III. 91.

Vol. III. 89.







Date of


Reference in tile




Occupation.


first mention.


Borough Records.


II.


Drapers


1560.


Vol. III. 99.


12.


Shearmen


1560.


Vol. III. 99.


13-


Tanners


1566.


Vol. III. 119.


14.


Weavers


1573-


Vol. III. 152.


IS-


Ironmongers


• 1573-


Vol. III. 152.


i6.


Cutlers


IS73-


Vol. III. 152.


17-


Brewers


1574-


Vol. III. 154.



The Glovers were not granted an Ordinal in proper form
until 1600, but they had an Ordinal in use as early as 1559.

The Brewers' Occupation was established in 1574, when
it was agreed at a common hall that " the Brewers shall together
become a fellowship or brotherhood and to have certain orders
and decrees made amongst them by the consent of the Mayor
before the 25th day of March 1575, and then amongst them to
appoint Wardens and such other officers as shall be needful,
and the same to be ratified and allowed from time to time by
the Mayors there." The Master and 2 Wardens were appointed
by the Mayor.

Half of the fines which were incurred for breaches of the
rules contained in a trade's Ordinal were paid over to the Chamber-
lains for the Guild Merchant. Entrance fees were also paid to
them by the Steward of an Occupation, when members set up
their craft. Moreover, the keeping of apprentices was regulated
by the governing body of the town. No one, in the i6th century,
might keep an apprentice unbound above forty days, and every
apprentice had to be enrolled before the Mayor. All persons
entering a craft were required to swear the same Oath, which
ran thus : —

" I shall truly do and execute all good rules and customs
contained and specified within mine Ordinal. I shall be obedient
to my Wardens' commandment at all times convenient. I shall
truly and duly pay all such duties and forfeits as shall be due
within the said Ordinal and all other good rules and customs
belonging to the said Ordinal to my knowledge and power I
shall maintain and keep. So God me help and all His Saints."

The Occupations appear to have been managed, as a rule,
by two Wardens and a Steward. The Oath taken by these
officials is thus given by Nichols in its 17th century form : —

126



" You shall swear truly to observe and keep and of your
and every of your parts cause to be observed and kept all the
good and lawful rules, ordinances and constitutions contained and
specified within this your Ordinal, so far forth as in you is, and
by the law of the realm you ought. You shall truly without
partiality collect and gather up or cause to be collected and gather-
ed up all and every such fines, pains, penalties, forfeitures and sums
of money whatsoever that shall be forfeited, payable or due by
any of you, or any of your Occupation, or by any other person or
persons whatsoever by reason or force of this your Ordinal ;
and therefore shall at the end of your year make and yield up
in writing a just and true account to all the rest of your said
Occupation, or to the most part of them, that shall to that purpose
assemble together : and shall also truly without fraud or delay
yearly and at the end of your year, or at the furthest within one
month before the Chamberlains of the said Borough of Leicester
shall make their accounts, pay or cause to be paid to the said
Chamberlains of the town, and to the use of the town, the just
moiety or one half of all the said fines, pains, penalties, forfeitures
and sums of money as shall come to your hands by force of the
said Office. These and all other things belonging to your said
office and offices you and every of you shall well and truly perform
to the best of your power and skill. So help you God."

In the first roll of the Guild Merchant, which dates from 1 196,
the men who are described as entering the guild were members
of more than 50 different callings, a list of which is subjoined.





Trade.


Description. Kumbers.


I.


Baker


Pistor, furnur . . 15.


2.


Mercer


9




3-


Smith


Faber . . 9




4-


Merchant


Mercator, marcant 6




5-


Dyer


Tinctor, brasiler . . 6




6.


Cook


Keu, coc. . . 6




7-


Parchment-maker


Parcheminer . . 5




8.


Waterman


Aquarius, ouarius 5




9-


Forage-merchant


Avenator, avener,

plantefene 5




10.


Goldsmith


Aurifaber . . 4




II.


Leatherworker .


Parmentor . . 3




12.


Cooper


Cuuer . . 3




13-


Miller


Molendarius, muner 3




14-


Wheelwright


Rotarius . . 3




15-


Saddler


Seler, paneler . . 3







Traiie.


Description.


Numbers.


i6.


Farhier


Ferator, ferur


2.


17-


Carpenter




2.


i8.


Tanner


Tannator


2.


19.


Fisher


Piscator


2.


20.


Butcher


Carnifex


2.


21.


Hosier


Hoser


2.


22.


Shoemaker


Corvisor, sutor


2.


23-


Tavernkeeper


Belhoste


I.


24.


Tailor




I.


25-


Turner




I.


26.


Porter




I.


27.


Leech


Medicus


I.


28.


C order




I.


29.


Grassmonger


Gressemonger


I.


30-


Girdlemaker


Seinter


I.


31-


Potter




I.


32.


Ostler


Stabler


I.


33-


Granger




I.


34-


Woolpacker


Packere


I.


35-


Woolcomber


Combere


I.


36.


Cloth-binder


Liur de dras


I.


37-


Cloth-driver*


Pannebetere


I.


38.


Clothdubber


Dubbere


I.


39-


Confectioner


Flauner


I.


40.


Palmer . . •




I.


41.


Mason


Macun


I.


42.


Painter


Pinctor


I.


43-


Plumber


Plummer


I.


44.


Hospital Attendant


Spitelman


I.


45-


Serjeant


Servians


I.


46.


Chancellor


Cancellariusf


I.


47-


Preacher




I.


48.


Clerk


Clericus


I.


49-


Maltmonger




I.


SC-


Mustarder




I.


SI-


Groom, or Squire . .


Daunsel


I.


52-




Hallknave


I.


53-




Vilein


I.



It will be noticed that the Bakers' trade was more fully
represented than any other. No other trade, indeed, was quite
so essential to the community ; none was so jealously watched
nor so stringently governed ; and therefore, in order to learn
how the Guild Merchant dealt with mediaeval trade, and how
the Leicester Occupations were regulated, it may be well to
gathersomeinformationaboutthis ancient andlife-giving fraternity.



*Miss Bateson has panbeater, or Tinker, but a derivation from /)awM«x,
cloth, seems more probable.

tDoering suggests that some names, of which this is one, may be
nicknames. This man, hovi^ever, appears elsewhere as "


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Online LibraryC.J. (Charles James) BillsonMediaeval Leicester → online text (page 12 of 21)