Statements, 1883: Ironmongers' Company

Pages 352-354

City of London Livery Companies Commission. Report; Volume 1. Originally published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1884.

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SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT OF BEHALF OF THE IRONMONGERS' COMPANY. Presented to the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the City of London Livery Companies.

The Ironmongers' Company, having carefully read the statements to the Commissioners, do not consider it necessary in any way to refute the theories propounded in those statements with respect to the duties of the Livery Companies, but desire merely to put the Commissioners in possession of certain facts with a view to correct mis-statements which have been published. It is quite clear from the records in the possession of the Company, that their Mystery was established as a guild upwards of 100 years, at least, before incorporation by charter in 1463.

These guilds had their origin in Anglo-Saxon times, and were communities of persons associated together for purposes of mutual fellowship, protection, and support, called into existence by the exigencies of those times; and naturally those having a common trade made common cause, and were attached to each other by common interests. There is no record of funds or land coming to them from any source external to their own body. Their property has all been acquired by contribution or bequest of members.

In 1457 they, out of their own private funds, subscribed money for the purchase of land and a hall for the meeting of the members.

In the 3rd Edward IV. (1463), all the freemen of the Mystery and Art of Ironmongers were incorporated by Royal Charter in general terms, without special duties of any kind being imposed, as appears from the charter set out in Return, part 1, B.; and neither by this charter, nor by any subsequent charter, is there directly or indirectly any declaration of a trust.

Lands and funds have from time to time been left to the Company by members of their body and others, subject to certain express charitable trusts, and these the Company have faithfully discharged to the present time; and in many cases in which these funds have been exacted by the Crown, they have been replaced by subsequent contributions of the livery from their individual private funds, so that the objects of the trusts should not suffer; and this Company respectfully, but firmly, protests that no one outside their own body has either legal or moral right to participate in any property other than that which is actually impressed by the donor with a trust, and the whole of which is administered under the supervision of the Charity Commissioners.

Questions 728, 827–9.

It has been contended before you, that the whole of the charters are bad, because the King had (according to the witness's construction of the 16th section of Magna Charta) parted with his right to grant charters conferring the right of search. Assuming, however, this construction to be correct, the contention falls to the ground in the case of this Company, as no such right is directly or indirectly conferred by any of the charters; and the records of the Company show that statutory legislation for the protection and regulation of the iron trade was enacted in the reigns of Henry IV., Richard III., Henry VIII, and Edward VI., and that on certain occasions this Company have laid abuses of the trade before the Common Council, that they might deal therewith, this Company not having the power in itself.

Amongst its own commonalty only, this Company exercised supervision and control of trading, but, as none of the trade joined the Company other than of their own free will and for their own good, obedience to such control can only be regarded as voluntary, and not as infringing the liberty of the subject, contrary to the provisions of Magna Charta.

Question 39.

It has been suggested that "the connection of the Companies with the arts, crafts, and trades which, according to the terms of their constitution, they are designed to comprehend, should be restored." In reply, it may be stated that not one of the several charters and confirmations by which the Ironmongers' Company is constituted designate any craft or trade. Whatever connection this Company may have had with the trade was outside its constitution.

Questions 74 and 1324.

More than one witness states that in many, or nearly all the old, charters, the Companies were endowed with power to hold land, contrary to the statute of mortmain, for the benefit of the poor. So far as the Ironmongers' Company are concerned, this statement has no foundation; the license is granted in every case without condition of any kind.

Question 106.

The bequest of money for a dinner, as alleged in this question, is erroneous. There has been no such bequest.

Question 674.

The statement in the reply to this question, viz., "you have raised the fees of admission to a price which no artizan can pay," is not correct, as any boy of 14 may be bound apprentice for a nominal fee of 1l. 7s. 0d., who, when he has served his apprenticeship, may be admitted on the payment of 3l. 5s. 0d. for fees and stamp duty.

Question 863.

This Company is entirely independent of any control by the City (if thereby is meant the Corporation) or by the Crown, other than as subjects of the Throne; in fact, notwithstanding a servitude of seven years is required by the Corporation, they have, in the interest of those desirous of being admitted to their freedom by apprenticeship, made it optional with the apprentice to serve for five years only.

Question 1351.

There is no known instance in the records of the Ironmongers' Company of anyone being compelled to join the guild. It has always been a voluntary act, and the statements made by the witness in this and the following answers are not founded on fact so far as concerns this Company.

Questions 865–74 and 1412–23.

The right of electing the chief officers and of making ordinances for the good government of the City was claimed by the livery companies in the reign of Edward III., and obtained by them actually in contravention of an order made in the 20th year of that reign, by which that right was restricted to the representatives of the wards; thus showing that they acted in furtherance of their private interests, independently of and not as subject to the Corporation, as alleged by Mr. Beale; not as discharging a public function conferred on them, but as exacting a voice in the election of their officers for their own protection. In 17 Richard II. (1384) these rights were withdrawn, and the previous practice of choosing the common council by the wards, instead of the mysteries, was reverted to.

Questions 1445–6.

In the Ironmongers' Company the rule is, that no freeman is allowed to change the copy of his freedom, but chiefly (i.e., solely) hold of his fellowship.

Questions 1423–4.

It has from time immemorial been the custom of the Ironmongers' Company to admit to the freedom by patrimony, and for many centuries to admit by redemption; the assumption, therefore, is strongly against the witness's statement, that at the time of the grant of the charter there was not any member who was not a member of the trade.

IRISH ESTATES. Statement By The Ironmongers' Company.

On evidence given on the 12th July 1882, before the City of London Livery Companies Commission concerning the Irish Estates of the Livery Companies.

The statement made by the deputation that the Irish Estates were granted to the Companies subject to public trusts is not true.

In the beginning of the reign of James I. a considerable part of Ulster had become vested in the Crown by Act of Attainder consequent on the rebellion in the previous reign. The country being then in a most disturbed condition, a project was set on foot in 1608 for planting and establishing a Protestant colony in the North of Ireland. Certain conditions (viz., those set out in the appendix to Dr. Todd's evidence) were issued by the Privy Council, in accordance with which His Majesty's subjects were invited to undertake the project. Though many private individuals offered to become undertakers, the Crown, in view of the magnitude of the Scheme, deemed it advisable, in July 1609, to offer the undertaking to the City of London on the same conditions. This offer was declined.

In August 1609, a committee was appointed by the City to conduct negotiations which had been re-opened by the Privy Council, and which resulted in the City undertaking the Plantation on articles of agreement entered into with the Privy Council on the 28th January 1609 (O.S.), and set out in the Schedule hereto. It is these articles, and the charter subsequently granted by James I. on 29th March 1613, which may be said to "form the limits and bases of the title by which the Companies hold their Irish Estates," and not "the articles concerning the English and Scotch undertakers" as set out by Dr. Todd.

The Committee recommended that a company he constituted in London, and that the undertaking should be managed in Ireland by direction from the Company in London. On 30th January 1610, the Common Council ordained, in accordance with such recommendation, that a Company be instituted in London in order to carry out the Plantation; and on the 29th March 1613 this Company was incorporated by charter under the name of "The Irish Society"; therefore the fact of the Society being "a corporate body and non-resident" cannot now be alleged as a reason for State interference.

The sums required for the Plantation were raised "by way of companies of the City and in companies by the poll."

The Court of the Ironmongers' Company ordered each member "to pay his proportion, and further ordered that the proportions of those unable to pay should be taken up at interest, and the Company to bear the same." There is no evidence that money was raised from any but members of such of the Companies as joined in the undertaking, and the money so raised was paid, not to the Crown, but to the Chamberlain of the City, for the purposes of the Plantation.

In July 1611, on the occasion of a further levy by the City of a sum of 10,000l. for carrying on the Plantation, notice was given that if the money should not be paid the defaulting Companies would forfeit their claim to the amount already disbursed towards the said plantations.

The Coopers' Company, one of the Companies associated with the Ironmongers' Company in the undertaking, being unable to pay their contribution, the Corporation directed the Chamberlain to pay it: and it was declared that "the City is to receive all the benefit and profit as well already due as hereafter shall grow due to the said ("Coopers'") Company by the said Plantation of Ireland."

On 13th September 1615, a license in mortmain was granted by James I. to the 12 Companies respecting their Irish Estates, wherein one of the reasons for granting such license is "that the Companies may in future reap some gain and benefit of their great travails and expenses taken and bestowed thereon."

The Manor of Lizard was created by the Irish Society on 15th October 1618, and a conveyance of this manor to the Ironmongers' Company from the Society was executed on the 7th November 1618.

By this deed the Society did "fully, clearly, and "absolutely grant" the Manor of Lizard, and all the rents, advowsons, tithes, and all other profits whatsoever, except timber, &c., at the yearly rent of 11l. 6s. 8d., to the Ironmongers' Company, their successors and assigns for ever, to the only use and behoof of the said Company.

In 1630 Paul Canning, who was then a member of the Ironmongers' Company, and their agent in Ireland, sold his estate in England for 2,000l., and spent it in planting and stocking the Company's estate, and also at his own charge built a church.

The charter to the Irish Society granted by James I. was revoked in the reign of Charles I. by decree of the Star Chamber in Hilary Term, 1638, and all the estates were escheated to the Crown; but in 1641, on the petition of the Corporation, Parliament, upon mature consideration, resolved that "the sentence in the Star Chamber was unlawful and unjust, and that the citizens of London, and those of the new Plantation, and all under-tenants, and all those put out of possession, should be restored to the same estate in which they were before." In this petition it is set forth that 150,000l. had been expended on the Plantation by the Irish Society and the Companies in addition to any outlay by the tenants.

In 1656 the Lord Protector, by letters patent, restored and confirmed the Irish Society as criginally ordained under the charter of James I.; and in 1662, 14th Charles II., letters patent were issued, containing, with but little alteration, all the clauses of the charter of James I.; and the renewed grant from the Society to the Ironmongers' Company of the Manor of Lizard, dated 13th May 1663, recites, that "the King takes into consideration the vast sums of money the Society and the several Companies of London had laid out and disbursed in their building and planting."

The Manor of Lizard, as originally created, contained 38,470 acres (English), and the estate was apportioned by the undertakers as follows:—

Church lands and glebe 12,403
Freeholds at quit-rents 13,742
Retained by the Company 12,325

In 1842 the Company's estate contained 12, 686 acres, then valued, by the well-known valuators Messrs. Nolan, at 5,610l. per annum, and let at 5,509l., chiefly on yearly tenancies to the tenants actually in occupation at the expiration of the last lease which had been granted by the Company on lives.

In 1860 the estate comprised 12,735 acres, and was again valued by Messrs. Nolan at 7,055l., and in 1863 the annual rent was fixed at 6,718l.

The present annual rental of the estate is 7,100l. There are now only four leases on the estate, the tenants preferring yearly holdings, of which there are 541 (see Original Return A., 2, 9, question 5, page 45). The population at the last census numbered 1,583 males and 1,808 females; total 3,391.

In 1764, in consequence of a report to the Company of the harshness with which the tithe was exacted from the tenants, the Company redeemed it for 1,115l. and extinguished it solely in the tenants' interest.

The tenants for many years were supplied by the Company with lime at a nominal price, and with timber, slates, roofing and draining tiles, also with large quantities of quick for fences, and young trees for shelter, besides grants of money for iron gates and pumps; and the Company make a considerable outlay on the construction and upkeep of roads, bridges, and fences, altogether averaging upwards of 625l. a year, in addition to an annual expenditure of 400l. on schools, churches, charities, exhibitions, and clergy of various denominations. The Company also subscribed 200l. towards the preliminary expenses of the Derry Central Railway, and guarantee 5l. per cent. interest on 5,000l. of the stock for 23 years if necessary, and are now paying it, and they gave the land required for the railway without charge, and this amounted to 40 acres.

The Memorial to the Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, dated 18th March 1881, and purporting to be signed by George Williamson on behalf of the Ironmongers' tenantry, has been read to the principal tenants by the agent, and they say they none of them ever heard of the Memorial, also that the statements therein are untrue so far as concerns the Company's tenantry, and that George Williamson was not to their knowledge authorised to represent the tenantry. One of the tenants, the Rev. Mr. McCay, who has been examined before the Commissioners, denies any knowledge of the Memorial.

As to the statements in the Memorial, it is not the fact that the under-tenants held from the middlemen from year to year; they held on lease from the middlemen for 41 years or three lives; the last lease commenced in 1798 for the Bishop of Meath's life, who died in 1840. Since then the tenants have virtually held from valuation to valuation at intervals of upwards of 21 years, and in effect such a holding as a tenancy at will is not known on the estate.

It has been previously shown what is the rental of the estate since it came into hand in 1840; and to enable the Commission to form an opinion as to the fairness of such rents, it may be stated that Griffiths' valuation in 1852 was based on the average of produce as shown in Table I.; and the actual prices realised in Belfast market for 31 years, 1850–1880, average as in Table II.

Table I.—Griffiths.

Wheat. Oats. Flax. Pork. Butter. Beef. Mutton.
7/6 4/10 6/11½ 32/- /7 35/6 41/-

Table II.—1850–1880.

10/10¾ 7/7½ 9/11½ 43/2 1/- 64/2 68/6

In 1703 the best beef fetched 3s. 6d. per 120 lbs. in Dublin market, and in 1725 had risen to 16s. per cwt.

No increase of rent has occurred on this estate for 22 years, and the present rental is more than 6l. per cent. below Griffiths' valuation; it is therefore evident that the tenants have reaped the full benefit of the increased market value of produce.

When the estate came into hand in 1840 there was no tenant-right existing; but in 1860 the Company established a tenant-right equivalent to 10 years' purchase of the rent, and yet within the last year tenantright has realised from 18 to 50 years' purchase.


Articles agreed upon the xxviii. daie of Januarie betweene the Right honble the Lords of his Maties most honble Privie Councell, on the Kings Maties behalf, on the one pte, and the Committees appointed by act of Comon Councell, on behalf of the Maior and Comunaltie of the cittie of London, on the other pte, concerning the plantacon in pte of the Province of Ulster.

1. Imprimis, it is agreed that xxtie thousand pounds shall be levied, 15,000li to be expended on the said plantacon, and 5,000li for the clearing away of private men's interest in things demanded.

2. Agreed that at the Derry 200 houses shall be built and room left for 300 more, and that 4,000 acres lying in the Derry side shall be laid thereunto; bogg and barren mountains to be no parcel thereof, but to go as waste for the cittie.

3. The Bisshoppe and Deane of ye Derrie shall haue conuenient plotts of ground for their states of their houses at the Derry.

4. Agreed that Colraine shallbe built on the very same ground of the abby side, that 100 houses shall be built and room left for 200 more, and 3,000 acres of land shall be laid.

5. Agreed that measure and account of land shall be after the Balliboes.

6. Agreed that the rest of the territory and entire countie of Colraine, estimated at 20,000 acres, be cleared from all pticular interest except the Bishop and Dsane of Derry, and except certain porcons of land to be assigned to three or four Irish gentlemen at the most now dwelling and settled in the countie of Colraine, who are to be freeholders.

7. Item, it is agreed that the woods and grounds of soil of Glancan-Kerne and Killetroughe be wholly to the cittie, and the timber used for the plantacon.

8. Agreed that the lands within the woods of Glane and Killtroughe, which stand charged as surveyed lands, be undertaken by them in like form as Colraine.

9. Agreed that the cittie shall haue the patronage of all the churches in Derry and Colraine.

10. That the 7,000 acres of land to the cittie of the Derrie and town of Colraine shall be in fee-farme at the rent of liiis iiiid.

11. And to be held of the King in free burgage.

12. The residue of all the lands and woods to be undertaken to be holden of the King in comon socage.

13. The customs of all goods imported to be exported, &c., to be enjoyed by the cittye for 99 yeares within the citty of the Derrie, town and county of Colraine, aad ports and creeks thereof, paying yearly to his Matie vis viiid as an acknowledgt.

14. That salmon and ell fishing of the Ban and Loughfoyie, and all other fishing so far as Loughfoyle floweth, and the Ban to Loughcagh, shall be in perpetuitie to the cittie.

15. The cittie shall haue liberty to transport all prohibited wares growing upon their own lands.

16. The cittie shall haue the office of Admiral in the coasts of Triconell and Colraine, and all royalties belonging thereto; and if their shippes and goods be wrecked at the sea in Ballesman or Olderflute, and in all other coasts, &c,, alongst and betweene saved and reserved to themselves.

17. That the cittie shall haue like fishing and fowling upon all the coasts as other subjects haue.

18. That no flax, hemp, or yarne unwoven be carried out of the ports of Derrie and Colraine without licence from the cittie officers, and that no hides be transported raw without licence.

19. That the cittie and town of the county of Colraine be freed from all patents of privileges heretofore granted to any pson, and that hereafter no pat of privileges be granted to any pson within the said county, &c., and that they be freed from all taxes and impositions of the Governor of those pts.

20. That the cittie shall have the castel of Colmore and the lands thereunto in fee farme, they maintaining a sufficient ward of officers.

21. The liberties of the cittie of Derrie and Colraine shall extend three miles every way.

22. That the cittie shall have such further liberties to the Derrie and Colraine as upon view of the charters of London, the Cinque Ports, Newcastleupon-Tyne, or the cittie of Dublin, shall be found fit for those places.

23. That all particular men's interest in and about Derrie and the counties of Colraine &c., be cleared and offered to the cittie (except as is excepted in 6th art.).

24. That sufficient forces shall be maintained by the King for safety of the undertakers for a conuenient tyme.

25. Agreed for settling all things touching the said plantacon, his Matie will give his royal assent to Acts of Parliament here and the like in Ireland to passe.

26. The cittie to have time for seven years to make such other reasonable demands as time shall show to be needful.

27. Lastly that the cittie shall wt all speed set forward the plantacon, as that 60 houses be built in Derry, and 40 at Colraine by the 1st of November which shall be in the year of our Lord 1611.

April 1883.