In this project, ‘crafts’ refer to formal associations of individuals who practiced the same occupation and joined together for religious, social, or commercial reasons. In this definition, gilds, misteries, and companies were all crafts, and their names are capitalized on this site to distinguish the association from the occupation, which is not capitalized. In London, crafts were regulated by the city government, but they also enjoyed a variety of economic privileges, such as the exclusive right to practice their occupation or sell certain goods within the city. The richest and most prestigious crafts were known as the Twelve Great Livery Companies. Members of the Twelve Companies were mainly wholesale merchants, but artisans dominated the ranks of the many other crafts in medieval London. Most crafts had their own ordinances and hierarchy, which included apprentices, journeymen, masters, and wardens. For a good overview of the wide variety of manufacturing crafts in medieval London and the problems with assuming that the structure and reguations of the well-known and richer liveried guilds were typical of all crafts, see E. M. Veale, “Craftsmen and the Economy of London in the Fourteenth Century,” in Studies in London History Presented to Philip Edmund Jones, eds. A.E.J. Hollaender and W. Kellaway (Leicester, 1969), reprinted in The Medieval Town: A Reader in English Urban History 1200-1540, eds.R. Holt and G. Rosser (London, 1990), 120-39.
Table 1: Occupations and Crafts in Medieval London lists all occupations we have found in medieval London, along with brief notes on how the occupation developed into a recognized craft, with references to essential works. Table 2: Civic Engagement by Medieval London Crafts records instances when the craft engaged directly with the city’s government, usually a good indication of the status of a craft at particular moments in time.
There is a published history or articles about the history of just about every guild in medieval London; these can be located by searching the Bibliography of British and Irish History (subscription-based but available through most research libraries). See also Tom Hoffman, comp., Guilds and Related Organisations in Great Britain and Ireland: A Bibliography. Part I: Introduction. The London Guilds (Draft, 7 Oct. 2011) for an extensive bibliography, organized by craft, of secondary and primary source works. Part III contains references to chartered companies such as the Staplers and Merchant Adventurers.
The works listed below, organized alphabetically by craft, are restricted to the chief primary sources on medieval gilds and companies in London.
The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online (ROLLCO). Searchable online database of apprentices and freemen members of ten of London’s most important companies from 1400 to c. 1900. The website includes over 366,000 named individuals, although the medieval records are extant only for the Drapers and Mercers. An ongoing and cooperative project between the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research and the London Livery Companies.
Memorials of London and London Life in the XIIIth, XIVth and XVth Centuries, ed. H. T. Riley (London, 1868). Translations of key texts from the Letter Books (often in a more complete form than in the printed volumes), organized chronologically with a detailed table of contents, in a massive volume of 706 pages. The Introduction notes early references to wards and streets, to trades, names and surnames, tavern signs, and miscellaneous issues, many relating to trade. The subjects chosen vary widely, but there is especially good coverage of craft regulations and charters and what could be called quality of life issues, such as maintaining safe streets, a clean environment, and fair trade. There are also records dealing with civic administration, including a list of the men elected from each ward to the first Common Council in 1347. On archive.org, BHO, and Haith Trust.
H. C. Coote, Ordinances of Some Secular Guilds of London, from 1354 to 1496. Reprinted from the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society [vol. 4, pt. 1, 1871] To which are added, ordinances of St. Margaret Lothbury, 1456, and orders by Richard, Bishop of London for Ecclesiastical Officers, 1597, ed. J. R. Daniel-Tyssen (London, 1871). Includes the ordinances of: the fraternity of Glovers in 1354; the brotherhood of St Loye with the craft of Blacksmiths in 1434; the fraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the craft of Shearmen in 1452; the fraternity of St Katherine in 1495; the brotherhood of St Christopher of the craft of Water-bearers in 1496; on clerks’ wages in St Mary Lothbury in 1456. On Haithi Trust and Google books.
H. F. Westlake, The Parish Guilds of Medieval England (1919). Provides short summaries of the origin, foundation date, dedication, religious provisions, purpose, and primary benefits for members of 30 London gilds (pp. 180-88), who submitted these returns as part of a 1389 inquiry into the properties and exemptions claimed by guilds. Most were religious gilds, but also included were the fraternities of the Barbers, Cutlers, Glovers, and Whitetawyers. See also C. M. Barron and L. Wright, “The Middle English Guild Certificates of 1388/89,” Nottingham Medieval Studies 39 (1995): 108-45. On archive.org, Haithi Trust, and Google books.
Barbers and Barber-Surgeons. The Annals of Barber-Surgeons of London Compiled from Their Records and Other Sources, ed. S. Young (London, 1890). The Barbers guild took responsibility for regulating barbers who practiced medicine (called Barber-Surgeons) from c. 1376 but did not formally merge with the Surgeons (school-trained physicians) until 1540. Few medieval records survive, but the volume contains their ordinances and extracts from city records on the barbers, as well as a list of all masters (the chief official of the guild) from 1308 and then 1376 onwards, the masters of barbers practicing surgery from 1415-28, and wardens of the Barbers from 1416 onwards. On archive.org and Haithi Trust.
Carpenters: E. B. Jupp, An Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters of the City of London. Compiled chiefly from records in their possession (London, 1848). Includes translations of Latin charters and transcriptions of Middle English records such as the Company accounts, which date from c. 1438, organized thematically.
Drapers: A.H. Johnson, The History of the Worshipful Company of the Drapers of London, vol. 1. An Introduction on London and her Gilds up to the Close of the XVth Century (Oxford, 1914). The appendices start with a full list of the company’s archival holdings and then include transcriptions of letters patent and charters granted to the Drapers, its early Wardens Accounts (in French, 1413-42, with gaps, then in English, 1475 on), the Book of Ordinances (some parts are transcribed, others are abstracted), the Renters Accounts (1481-85, 1506-24), the Repertories (minutes of the meetings of the fellowship, starting in 1515. The appendices also include evidence from other sources on specific drapers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Thomas Howell’s ledger of his commercial and property transactions (1519-27) in in vol. II (1915). Addenda, corrigenda, and the index to volumes I and II are in vol. V (1922). On Haithi Trust, archive.org, and Google books.
Founders: Wardens’ Accounts Wardens’ Accounts of the Worshipful Company of Founders of the City of London 1497-1681, ed. Guy Parsloe (London, 1964). Transcript of the Middle English accounts of the Wardens, which record fines, admission fees, and quarterage, as well as expenses on wages, guild suppers, and religious services, among other payments
Fruiterers: A. W. Gould, History of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers of the City of London (Exeter, 1912). Mostly early modern material but includes 1463 ordinances and extracts from medieval city records on the Fruiterers.
Goldsmiths: Book of Ordinances, 1478-83 T. F. Reddaway and Lorna E. M. Walker, The Early History of the Goldsmiths’ Company 1327-1509 (London, 1975). A detailed account drawn from primary sources of the development of the Goldsmiths Company, with appendices of primary sources. See Appendix I ‘The Book of Ordinances,’ a modern English calendar of the contents of the guild’s Book of Ordinances, containing oaths of guild officeholders, their royal charter and ordinances governing the craft; Appendix II ‘Biographical Notes,’ of many medieval goldsmiths; and Appendix IV, ‘Wardens of the Goldsmiths’ Company’ from 1335 to 1509/10. Limited search at Haithi Trust.
Goldsmiths Wardens’ Accounts and Court Minute Books, 1334-1446 Wardens’ Accounts and Court Minute Books of the Goldsmiths’ Mistery of London, 1334-1446, ed. Lisa Jefferson (Woodbridge, 2003). Some of the earliest guild records in London belong to the Goldsmiths’ Company. This volume includes both transcriptions in the original language (most of the records are in Anglo-Norman up to c. 1444) and modern English translations on the facing page of ordinances, charters, lists of apprentices, cases heard in the wardens’ court (both commercial and personal infractions like quarrelling), accounts of revenues from entry fees and fines, as well as expenses for feasts and pageants.
Grocers Book, 1345-1528 and 1428-1462 Facsimile of First Volume of Manuscript Archives of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London, A.D. 1345-1463, ed. John Abernethy Kingdon, in two parts (London, 1886). The facsimiles are large reproductions of the folios in the earliest Book of the Grocers, accompanied by transcriptions in the original language (often Anglo-Norman in the earlier period) and summary English translations. The Book includes lists of members, ordinances, fines and fees paid, copies of court disputes involving the Grocers, and many accounts of their revenues and expenses. A a free Google EBook and limited search of both volumes (downloadable with subscription) at Haithi Trust.
Grocers: List of Wardens of the Grocers’ Company List of the Wardens of the Grocers’ Company from 1345 to 1907, ed. John Abernethy Kingdon and W. W. Grantham (London, 1907). Lists the Wardens of the Fraternity of St Anthony associated with the Grocers (from 1345), and the Wardens of the company from 1373. At Haithi Trust.
Grocers: Accounts and Courts Baron Heath, Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London (London, 3rd edition,1869). The Grocers were wholesale merchants who focused on the trade in spices. They were founded in the late fourteenth century as an offshoot of the guild of Pepperers; the guild also included the Apothecaries, who dealt in medicinal herbs and spices. The Appendix contains some medieval records, including a list of members, ordinances of maritime law, and extracts from the accounts and courts of the Goldsmiths wardens. Free Google EBook. The first edition (1829) is on archive.org.
Leathersellers: W. H. Black, History and Antiquities of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers of the City of London; with facsimiles of charters (London, 1871). Includes transcriptions from the company’s medieval records, including Wardens’ accounts, inventories, ordinances, and charters. On Haithi Trust. And Google books.
Mercers: Acts of Court, 1453-1527 Acts of Court of the Mercers’ Company 1453-1527, introduced by Laetitia Lyell and Frank D. Watney (Cambridge, 1936). Transcription of the Middle English text of the minutes of the Mercers’ Company, as well as those of the Merchant Adventurers up to 1527. The original book was compiled in the early sixteenth century by the clerk of the Company from records belonging to the Mercers. The text includes ordinances, elections to Company office, payments and loans by the Company and its members, and notices about the watch, the role of Mercers in civic celebrations, the acquisition and management of Company property, and many other items. Limited search on Haithi Trust.
Mercers: The Medieval Account Books of the Mercers of London: An Edition and Translation, ed. Lisa Jefferson, 2 vols. (Farnham and Burlington, VT, 2009). Facing page of the original French (and from c 1447-8, Middle English) and modern English translation of the Wardens’ Accounts, which record fees paid for taking on apprentices, the completion of apprenticeship and entry into the company and freedom of the city, and entry into the livery of the company, and fines assessed on disobedience to the wardens or infringement of regulations. Expenses included food, clothing, entertainment, and transport for company ceremonies, as well as salaries of chaplains and other employees, alms, quit-rents and repairs on properties owned by the Mercers, and other business expenses. There are also rentals from the Renter Wardens’ Account Book for c 1431 and 1447. The accounts start in 1344 and includes early ordinances but are more complete from the 1390s onwards. Includes a very helpful introduction that explains the technicalities of the accounts.
Merchant Taylors: Calendar of Records: Henry Lennox Hopkinson, Report on the Ancient Records in the Possession of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St John the Baptist in the City of London (London, 1915). Calendar describing the extant books, charters, title deeds, and other documents of the guild, many dating from the medieval period. Appendix B has a list of the masters and wardens from 1300 to 1651. At Haithi Trust.
Merchant Taylors: Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London, ed. C. M. Clode (London, 1875). The Tailors (called the Merchant Taylors from c. 1502 on) were a craft company and a fraternity. Offers a history of different aspects of the guild, interspersed with copious extracts from the original records, including the guild’s accounts (the first, for 1400, is in French and here printed in full), inventories of their jewellery and plate, charters for 1326-1465, ordinances, oaths of members and officers, a menu for a fraternity dinner in 1430, and details from deeds and wills regarding property given to the guild. The accounts includes salaries of priests and clerks; repairs to the Hall and its two chapels; legal expenses, burials and obits; decorations and entertainment during feasts. On archive.org, BHO, and Haithi Trust.
Pinners and Wiresellers: Accounts The Pinners’ and Wiresellers’ Book, 1462-1511, ed. Barbara Megson, London Record Society, 44 (London, 2009). Includes the accounts of the Pinners craft between 1462 and 1511, along with wills of c. 30 members. The craft was very small and of low status, but the accounts also show their efforts to regulate craft practices, exercise control over the quality of their products, protest the competition from foreign products, license alien workers, and patronize such religious establishments as the Carmelite Friars and St James Hospital. They merged with the Wiresellers in 1497, and the new craft joined the Girdlers in the sixteenth century. On BHO.
Vintners: The Vintners’ Company, their Muniments, Plate, and Eminent Members, with Some Account of the Ward of Vintry, ed. and revised by T. Milbourn (London, 1888). Taken from papers in Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society 3 (1869-70). Includes excerpts from medieval deeds of properties given to the company, the early 16th century company accounts, and published and unpublished city records. On Haithi Trust.
Weavers: F. Consitt, The London Weavers’ Company. Volume I. From the Twelfth Century to the Close of the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 1933). The appendices include extensive transcripts from the company’s records.