Evidences, 1883: Needlemakers' Company

Pages 350-351

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

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Needlemakers' Company

The deputation withdrew.

Deputation from Needlemarks' Company.

The following gentlemen attended as a deputation from the Needlemakers' Company:—
Dr. Ramsay, and Major Charles Harding.

3348. (Chairman to Dr. Ramsay.) You attend here as representing the Needlemakers' Company, I understand?—We do.

3349. I have been told that your object in coming to give evidence here is to contradict certain statements which have been made in the evidence which has been put before us?—Just so.

3350. Will you tell me what are the statements to which you refer?—(Major Harding.) Those in regard to the Company having been resuscitated for the purpose of advocating particular political views.

3351. It is the fact, is it not, that it was in a very moribund condition and that it has lately been revived by a considerable addition of members?—I may explain that the circumstances were these. Some of us had it in contemplation to join a City company when the opportunity offered, and we heard of this Company, which we joined simply with a view to being members of a City company. Opportunities presented themselves for inducing a number of our friends to join, but without any notion of political views whatever.

3352. You simply wished to belong to a City company and you selected this one as one that might be revived ?—Yes, at a moderate cost.

3353. Is there anything else that you wish to put before us?—(Dr. Ramsay.) I think I may as well inform your Lordship, and the other members of the Commission, that we had no object in view in reference to obtaining political votes by reason of resuscitating this Company.

3354. As a matter of fact, the Company was on the point of dissolution, was it not, when this effort was made to revive it?—It was on the point of dissolution.

3355. It was a question whether the property should be divided?—Decidedly.

3356. (Mr. Pell.) I see in the return under the head of technical education that your Company promised 250l. in five instalments to the City and Guilds of London Technical Institute; have they not been asked to pay that?—We have paid the instalments every year.

3357. You promised a subscription?—As soon as ever we were formed we set about to see whether we could advance the interests of technical education in any way from the very first time of our re-constructing the Company; and we found that at Redditch in Worcestershire the needle making had concentrated itself there, and we set about to see if we could advance it, and offered prizes and various inducements. At first we thought it would be a good thing; however, the jealousies among the masters of the trade were such that we were advised not to try it again, otherwise we contemplated giving prizes for a series of years.

(Major Harding.) Anyhow the whole sum has been contributed up to the present time. The Company had no funds, and we subscribed funds to put the Company into a state of prosperity.

3358. (Mr. Firth.) There were no funds you say at the time it was resuscitated?—(Dr. Ramsay.) Scarcely any.

3359. Therefore there would not have been any funds to divide in case it had come to an end?—Yes, there would have been. There were some funds to divide, but not of any great amount.

3360. How many members were there at this time ? —A good many members.

3361. At the time that it was resuscitated?—(Major Harding.) I should think about 20 or 30.

3362. Can you tell me without difficulty what your object was in resuscitating this Company?—I had no object myself, being one of the first to enter that Company, to resuscitate it at all. I was only too desirous, for my own part, to join a City company, and I happened to mention incidentally my desire to an amiable friend who would have been with me to-day but for some misfortune in not sending him due notice. In fact, I spoke to him about it and he thought that he would like also to be associated with a company, and I was recommended to join the Tin Plate Workers' Company, but subsequently I was told of the Needlemakers' Company. The mere ambition to be a member of a City company because one's interest lay generally in the City was the motive which animated me, and we found among many of our friends a desire to join us in membership.

3363. But what advantage did you propose to yourselves?—I do not see what advantage we have got out of it, or are likely to get out of it, excepting the ordinary pleasurable idea of being associated with a City company.

3364. Did you make application to the court of aldermen to have the livery increased?—Yes.

3365. In what form was that power given ? Did the court issue an order increasing your livery ?— Yes.

3366. Did you appear before them?—Certainly.

3367. By petition?—(Dr. Ramsay.) In the usual manner.

3368. The court of aldermen have a control over these companies, then, according to your experience ?— Yes.

3369. Were you aware that this Company, when you joined it in this way, was governed by charters controlling the trade, and was subject to the government of the city by charters?—(Major Harding.) Yes.

3370. Were you aware that it was bound to instruct and examine people in this trade?—(Dr. Ramsay.) Quite so.

3371. Did you not consider that you had any liability in that direction at the time that you joined ?— We were quite aware of that.

(Major Harding.) We had, but the question was as to exercising it. Of course, the question of exercising rights is a thing to be advised upon.

3372. Did you know that apprentices to this Company had to be tested?—Certainly, we knew the terms of the charter.

3373. As a matter of fact, as an incident to your membership, you have a vote for the City, have you not?—That is an incident, but it need not be an incident, because votes are regulated, in the case of most of us, by actual rates and rents, and so on.

3374. Is there any other advantage, but that incident to membership, in the Needlemakers' Company ? —I should think not, not to any of the members that constitute that Company, certainly not to the new ones, and I do not think there can be any to the old ones.

3375. (Mr. Alderman Cotton.) You answered the learned commissioner just now to the effect that the court of aldermen had a control over the City companies. Beyond allowing you to increase the members of your livery they have no other control over you, have they?—(Dr. Ramsay.) Certainly not.

3376. Then you answered the question correctly when you answered it in that way?—(Major Harding.) I thought so.

3377. The Commission will understand thoroughly that they have no control over you except the right to increase your members?—(Dr. Ramsay.) None whatever. We were informed that it was necessary if we wished to increase the number of our members that we should make an application to the court of aldermen. We did so on the usual form, and they gave us that increase. I believe some observation was made that we were manufacturing faggot votes. We repudiated that at once, because we had no intention of manufacturing any votes at all, but of advancing the interests of our Company which we resuscitated.

3378. In your efforts to promote technical education in the interests of your own trade you signally failed?—We failed, inasmuch as we found the jealousies amongst the manufacturing needlemakers of Redditch in Worcestershire were such that we were advised to postpone any further offer of prizes for a year or two until we saw how it got on.