Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters Volume I: Apprentices' Entry Books 1654-1694. Originally published by Company at the University Press, Oxford, 1913.

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'Introduction', in Records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters Volume I: Apprentices' Entry Books 1654-1694, (Oxford, 1913) pp. v-xiii. British History Online [accessed 3 March 2024]



It has not unfrequently been maintained that the Corporate Bodies of this country, while proud of their antiquity and jealous of privilege and position, to which as honourable trustees of an historic past they are entitled, are too often neglectful of the very records which might best interpret their claims to an outside world. For many years past the Carpenters Company, in common with others of the Livery Companies of the City of London, have been able to meet with confidence any such criticism as regards all material care of their ancient records; but it is only with the resolve to proceed with the printing and publishing of these records that a complete and triumphant answer is returned to every charge of indifference and neglect; for while the greatest care in the preservation of records may show an appreciation of their dormant value, publication reveals a more intelligent apprehension of their active value as original documents in the social history of London and England.

The Records of the Company are practically continuous from the year 1438, and deal mainly with the accounts of the Wardens, minutes of Court meetings, and personal Registers of the Livery, Freemen and Apprentices. Of the last class the registers that record the binding of Apprentices, here printed, are the earliest and of the most general interest.

Previous to 1654 (fn. 1) the entries of apprentices from the year 1573 are made in the Court Books, and the names are also given in the Wardens' Accounts; the provision of these separate books may be due to the suggestion of Roger Goodday, the newly appointed Clerk, made to meet a great increase in the annual total of bindings; from this date they are continuous, the series consisting of six Books, of which the following is a brief description.

Book I, 1654–1674; 11½ by 7½ inches, paper, unbound; in its present state it consists of 132 folios; on the first page is written, 'The booke of Entries of Apprentices for the wor11 Company of Carpenters London bound att theire hall. Begun by Roger Goodday Clerke of the said Company an Attorney att Law the vjth day of October 1654 marked wth the lre. A,' and on the second page are the 'Caveats' (printed on p. 150). The entries in this book are made in varying hands, which as a rule are legible and clear, but in parts where a running hand is used they are confused and obscured by flourishes; there are few blanks.

Book II, 1676–1683; 12½ by 8 inches, paper, roughly bound in parchment-covered boards; 80 folios, of which the first 11 are filled with an alphabetical index, the next 22 with the entries, and the rest (34–80) are blank. The writing is uniform and neat, and seems to be a not very correct (fn. 2) fair copy of a rough original.

Book III, 1685–1694, 14½ by 9 inches, paper, roughly bound in parchment; 90 folios, written on one side only, of which 1–11 are an alphabetical index to the first 8 folios of entries, the next 33 contain the entries, and 45–90 are blank. The writing, as in Book II, is uniform and good, and has the appearance of being a fair copy.

Book IV is on parchment and bound in parchment; it contains a Register of Apprentices and Fees from 24 June 1694 to 1 Sep. 1761.

Book V. Parchment, bound in vellum; registers of Apprentices 6 Oct. 1761 to 7 April 1892.

Book VI. Paper, original leather binding, a register of apprentices 6 Aug. 1765 to 5 April 1892 tabled under the headings: 'Date', 'Apprentices Name', 'Masters Name and Place of Abode', 'Trade', 'Sum'.

The first three of these books are here printed word for word and follow as closely as possible the form of the original; one leaf of Book I is missing (see p. 136), and only the bare names of the apprentices and their masters have been recovered from the Wardens' Account Books. Between Books I and II there is a gap of some twenty months which cannot be filled even in part from other Records of the Company; for the corresponding gap of two and a half years between Books II and III names of apprentices and masters have been taken from the Court Minute Book, and are probably complete except for those, if any, bound at the monthly Court of Feb. 1685/8; these have been added as an Appendix.


The Statutes of the Company, approved by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, and Chief Justice, 10 Nov. 1607, regulated at this period the terms on which apprentices should be bound and serve; they contain the following ordinances:

About taking Apprentices.

No person is to take an Apprentice unless he has been 3 Years free, and Served one Year at the least after the Expiration of his Apprenticeship with some freeman of the Company.

Number of Apprentices.

All that have been Master or Wardens not to keep at one time above 3 Apprentices.

Off the Cloathing or Livery not above 2
Not of the Cloathing above 1

No freeman of London or within 2 Miles of the same Exercising the said Trade as a housekeeper Seven Years at least not to Retain at one time above 2 Apprentices.

No freeman as aforesaid &c. a housekeeper 3 Years at the least not to Retain above one Apprentice at one time upon forfeiture of Every Month for Every of them 20 Shillings to the use aforesaid—A limitation Notwithstanding that the Master and Wardens may Appoint any person one Apprentice over and above the same Number as above, for which Apprentice Every person taking the Same to pay 2s 6d. Alsoe the Kings Carpenter may take Such Number of Apprentices as he might have done before the making this Ordinances.

About presenting Apprentices.

No person or persons within the limits aforesaid Shall take any Apprentice or Apprentices unless he present him or them before the Master and Wardens for the time being and to pay for ye same 2s 6d. Upon Disobeying this ordinance to forfeit and pay forty Shillings for Every time So offending or less at the Discretion of ye said Master & Wardens.

All Apprentices so presented within 3 Months after binding are to be Enrolled according to the Custom of the City upon forfeiture for Every offence 3s 4d to the use aforesaid.

About making the Indentures.

The Clerk to make all Indentures for all persons bound and to take Reasonable Fees. If made Elsewhere to forfeit 10s whereof one Moiety to the Clerk and the other Moiety to the use of the fellowship.

All apprentices of Carpenters of other Company's & freemens sons brought up to Carpentry to be bound to a free Carpenter.

All persons within the limitts aforesaid as shall occupy said Trade of Carpentry being Free of any other Trade shall not take an Apprentice untill he be bound to a freeman of the Carpentry and likewise Enrolled unto him then to be Brought to the Chamberlain of London & thereby the Carpenter be Turned over to the person of the other Fellowship. And at the End of his Terme to be presented before the Master and Wardens of Carpenters at their hall to be Examined &c. And to be sworn according to this oath provided. And then to pay for his Admission 3s 4d.

After the said Master with the Master & Wardens or one of them Is to present him before the Chamberlain and Cause him to be Admitted Into the Franchizes of said City and Art or Mistery of Carpenters and Else not nor otherwise to be presented upon pain that Every Master of such Apprentice Doing the Contrary to forfeit 5li one Moiety to the Chamberlain of London the other to the use of the Company of Carpenters.

Apprentices not to marry or run away.

If any Apprentice or Apprentices Marry or Absent themselves from their Master or Mistress During their Apprenticehood, then within one Month the Master or Mistress is to Bring their Indentures to the hall to be Registred and Entred.

If any such Apprentice Come again then the Master and Mistress within one Month after their Comeing are to Bring them to the Hall to be Examined and Punished for their offence at the Discretion of the Master and Wardens to the Intent that no person shall be admitted a Workman before he has served 7 Years at least and that the Freedoms mayn't be obtained unlawfully. Upon penalty to the Master or Mistress to forfeit for Every such offence 20 shillings to the use aforesaid.

Not to Receive other Mens Apprentices.

None to Receive or take into their Service or house any Man or Woman's Apprentice Covenant Servant or Journyman within the limitts aforesaid Unless it be otherwise ordered by the Master and Wardens or any 2 of them together with 2 or More of the said Company's as have been Master or Warden Those that do the Contrary to forfeit 5 Marke or 3l 6s 8d to the Master & Wardens for the use aforesaid.

Not to buy or sell ye Years of an Apprentice.

No Person within the limits aforesaid shall sell Contract or Bargain for the Years or Terme of his Apprentice nor Surrender his Terme to any person or persons without lycence from the Master and Wardens.

And no person shall accept take Receive or have any Apprentice from any other person whatsoever nor Contract for any Such with any Master of such Apprentices or any other for that purpose without Consent of the Master and Wardens upon forfeiture of 40 shillings for Every such offence.

The Master and Wardens to Dispose of an Apprentice if the Master dye or Give over his Trade.

If any person free of said Company within the limitts aforesaid Dye or leave of his Trade having an Apprentice or Apprentices that have not served out their Apprenticehood, Then the Master and Wardens or any 3 of them may Assign over said Apprentices to any of said Trade as they shall think fitt (Except he become Apprentice to some other Trade for 7 Years at least then to Come).

If such Apprentice so assigned without just Cause Refuse to serve yn the Master & Wardens or any 3 of them may Punish by Imprisonement or otherwise.

Every householder or Master taking such Apprentices not assigned or Sett over as aforesd to forfeit for Every such offence 40s More or less at Discretion of the Master & Wardens to the use aforesaid.

Against Misrule and Disorder.

Every householder of said Company within the limitts aforesaid to use Diligent Care & heed to see his Apprentices and Journymen goe to Church or to Some other place where God's word is preached at Due times in the Day on Sundays and Hollydays and to spend ye Rest of ye Same Sundays & Hollydays in honest & lawfull Exercises with their said Masters and not in Ale houses Taverns Plays Unlawfull Games or Such like upon pain that every Housekeeper or Journyman offending to forfeit to the Master & Wardens 3s 4d And all Apprentices offending to the Contrary to have Corporall Punishment as the Master and Wardens shall think fitt.

None to use Carpentry wch hath not served 7 Years.

No person within the limitts aforesaid shall Exercise the Trade of Carpentry or any thing pertaining thereto unless having been bound Apprentice to said Trade and served 7 Years at the least or otherwise orderly Admitted to be of said fellowship upon pain for Every offence to the Contrary to forfeit 3l one Moiety to the Kings Majesty his heirs & Successors the other to the Company as aforesaid.

None of ye fellowship to goe Idle— forfeit 6s 8d.

If any Apprentice or Journyman free of said Company Grow Idle or Refuse to Work when work is offered them shall forfeit Every time Six Shillings & Eight pence or less at Discretion of the Master and Wardens.

The chief modifications of these ordinances were that in 1640 the limit of two miles was increased to four, and the following order made within a year of the opening of our register on 11 Sep. 1655, which may be taken as at once the high-water mark of the Company's position as the effective governing body of the trade and its system of apprenticeship:

11 Sep. 1655.

Whereas divers persons of this Company have at present great imploymt in building (worke being now very plentifull & still increasing) & yett by the strict rules of the ordinances of this Company are limitted in their apprentices whereby they are in want of workemen & so are not able many times to performe their worke undertaken in due time To the great prejudice of themselves & damage of their worke masters wch hath caused divers suitrs to repaire unto the Court for apprentices extraordinary who upon deniall of their requests have gone privately to other Companys & procured them to be there bound & afterwards assigned over to them & such apprentices doe afterwards come to be made free of other Companyes & have & doe daily multiply and increase To the great injury and destruction of this Company (if not timely remedied) whereupon this Court for prevencon of that evill for the future as much as in the Compie lyes & upon reading of the ordinance wch enables the Mr & wardens for reasonable cause to allow an apprentice extraordinary doth think fitt & so order That liberty be given by the Mr & wardens to any person desiring the same that hath worke sufficient to imploy an apprentice extraordinary in to have & take one apprentice over & above the number limitted by the ordinances And likewise that the same liberty be given to any person requesting the same (though not compleatly three yeares a freeman) to have & take an apprentice Soe as such persons be thought capable thereof by the Mr & Wardens.

Finally, by an order of 4 April 1693, all restrictions on the number of apprentices were removed.


The information that a properly kept register of bindings might be expected to contain is well summarized in a rough note made probably for the guidance of the Clerk at the end of the Court Book, 1600–1618:

'Quere to be made when you bind an Appr.
what is the boys name who is to be bound
what is his Fathers name if living and where
if dead where did he live and in what County or Citty
what trade doth he follow or was of when living
To whom is he to be bound
where doth the mr live
for what Time when to begin
at a tyme past or to come
md. an Appr cant be bound for lesse than 7 years according to law from the tyme of the binding
for 7 years from the date of these present Indentures
from the day next before the day of these presents & the date of these presents
for 8 years from Xmas last past
for 7 years from the first of June next ensueing'

It will be seen that the entries in Book I do, as a rule, provide answers to all these questions; those in Books II and III, while generally giving all that was required about the apprentice and his father, seldom give more than the name of the master and assume the period assigned to begin with the date of entry. The absence of the address and occupation of the master, presumably a freeman of the Company, renders these Books of far less value than the first, where the frequent references to London streetnames immediately before and after the Great Fire are of much topographical interest.

In considering the actual information these books contain the first point to be noticed is one of numbers; the total number of apprentices here recorded is 2,753, and the yearly average is in Book I 91, Book II 40, and Book III 54; for the period 1654 to 1670 the number of apprentices is 1,658 and the number of admissions to the freedom of the Company 649, only a small proportion of whom would be by servitude, as these figures include the ever-increasing classes of those who became free either by patrimony or redemption; it is thus clear that the vast majority of apprentices were not bound with a view to becoming members of the Company or practising their craft in London and its immediate neighbourhood. The entries show that they came from every county of England, from Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and even from the lands known generally to seventeenth-century record-keepers as parts beyond the sea, and it is a fair inference that the majority returned whence they came when their years of servitude were ended. The explanation that the late Mr.W. Willmer Pocock in his supplement to Jupp's History of the Company has offered is, in view of the well-recognized interest that the Company has of late years taken in technical education, of much interest. London was regarded by the kingdom in general as a school of carpentry, and the carpenter of the country town who had served his time in the capital would ply his trade without special privilege indeed, but with the advantage of superior skill and methods of workmanship. As is to be expected in a Company the majority of whose members at this period still followed the craft of carpentry, these country-born apprentices are the sons for the most part of husbandmen, labourers, and the humbler trades-folk; 'yeoman' is of far less frequent occurrence than 'husbandman', 'gentleman' and 'clerk' are very rare, and of 'esquire' there are but one or two instances (see p. 44).

During this period twenty-one women were bound apprentice at Carpenters' Hall to members of the Company who either themselves or with the assistance of their wives followed trades that admitted of female workers, such as 'sempster', 'milliner', and 'childs-coat-seller'.


The forty years covered by these registers are years of the greatest importance in the Company's history; years in which the control of the trade in London and its suburbs, and that is in practice the control of all new building operations, passed out of its hands. At the opening, during the later years of the Commonwealth, as has been shown, there was a great increase of building, while houses were still being built of wood under the direction of carpenters, and this led to an increased number of presentations of apprentices in the Hall. Some ten years later London lay under the scourge of the Plague, and in the six months that follow July 1665 (fn. 3) only one apprentice was bound.

The Great Fire followed the Plague with effects of lasting importance to the Company; the sudden demand for new buildings on all sides was coupled with the recognition that these could no longer be either wholly or mainly of timber, while the numerical insufficiency of the Company's freemen of itself rendered necessary those provisions of the 'Act for rebuilding the City of London' (19 Car. II, cap. 3) by which they were deprived of their monopoly. The 'foreign' journeyman, against whom for some three centuries they had waged successful war, could now go to his work under the protection of the State, and the trade advantages of belonging to a Corporation no longer able to enforce its privileges lost much of their attraction. Unable to insist on the old condition of servitude, the Company was forced to examine the indentures of carpenters claiming a country apprenticeship; and in their Hall, where but shortly before the country carpenter had presented his son to learn his trade in town, journeymen already at work in London came forward with evidence of apprenticeship in Leicester, Beaumaris, and Carmarthen.

There is one other movement during this period with which apprentices are immediately concerned, and this was the final efforts made by the Company that all apprentices to carpentry should be bound to members of their own body. The City of London was concerned only with the privileges of the freeman, restriction of trades to their nominal Corporations was no part of its official concern, and the apprentice of a carpenter free of any other Company was the equal in the civic eye of the apprentice bound at Carpenters' Hall. The Company petitioned the Corporation in July 1658 that all apprentices of Freemen of other Companies should henceforth be Presented, Bound and made Free of the Carpenters Company; and at the same time continued a policy of paying the Chamberlain a retaining fee to keep an eye on the enrolment at the Guildhall of such apprentices. It is hardly possible to judge the measure of success that attended their efforts; that for some years they were successful in many cases is shown by the 'turn-overs' in these registers, where an apprentice is nominally bound to a Freeman of the Company (usually the Beadle) and then turned over to the member of some other Company who followed the trade of carpentry. Where the words 'using the art of his former master' are omitted it is possible that the Carpenters were following the malpractice they complained of and allowing an apprentice who should have been bound with some other Company to obtain his freedom with them.


It has been pointed out already how small a proportion of apprentices duly bound and presented at Carpenters' Hall would once again at the end of their service appear with their masters to be made free of the Company. The majority had learnt what London could teach of carpentry and departed to exercise their knowledge elsewhere, and their names occur no more in these records; indeed, during the time of service only those are recorded for whom apprenticeship for one cause or another had failed of success. On p. 150 a half-dozen caveats jotted down for the guidance of the Clerk on the outside leaf of the register have been printed which in five cases tell the story of unsuccessful apprenticeship. Of Thomas Dier nothing definite is stated; William Warner hath 'absented himself from his service and not served according to his covenant'; Emery Argis 'hath not served above half his time', while John Butcher and John Simpson are reported to have married while still apprentices. The offence of the two last-named is perhaps more easily understood when it is recollected that at a period when early marriages were usual in all classes of society the apprentice was unable to regard matrimony as possible before the age of twenty-four at the earliest. There is no explanation how Emery Argis, whose eight years' service had expired on the Christmas Day previously, had only served half his time, but doubtless the difficulty was capable of arrangement, and some twenty-two years after his son, another Emery, was presented as an apprentice in the same Hall.

A few more sample instances may be gathered from the Court Books of the Company: within the same month, Sep. 1655, James Battersby and William Brewer were bound (p. 11); in July 1657 the latter was reported as 'gone away', while in Oct. 1658 the order was made by the Court 'that James Battersby the apprentice of Mr Ralph Day may be turned over by the Mr and wardens to another Master whome the apprentice shall provide In regard Mr Day hath refused to receive him because he absented himselfe from his service and for other misdemeanours'.

The binding of John Hicks (see p. 25) to George Darby took place at Michaelmas 1656; on April 25th following Mr. Darby 'brought in the Indenture of one John Hicks his apprentice who is lately gone from him & he promised the Court never to meddle with him more upon the forfeiture of 20l to be paid to the Master and Wardens of this Company for the time being if he did the contrary'.

Nor was it always the apprentice who dissolved the tie by 'departing' or 'going away', for in July 1666 the Court are called on to consider the case of 'Richard Atwell (Atwood) Draper who is lately gon a side & left his apprentice at large'. No attempt has been made to trace further the history of those apprentices (fn. 4) whose connexion with the Company is limited to their binding, and those who passed by servitude into the freedom and livery of the Company would be more fittingly noticed under later Records.

Attention, however, must be drawn to the apprenticeship of one future Master of the Company, Matthew Bancks (see p. 29), who has himself recalled it in the inscription to the portrait of John Scott hanging at Carpenters' Hall: 'This Picture of John Scott Esqr Carpenter and Carrage Maker to the Offic of Ordnance In the Reigne of King Charles the 2d Was Placed Here By his Apprentic Matthew Bancks Esqr Master Carpenter to his Maje and Master of This Company this present yeare 1698.'


  • 1. The earliest mention of apprentices by name is in the accounts for 1458, and it is very possible that even in the fifteenth century there was a separate register of bindings, as in the accounts of 1479 occurs the item, 'payed for a boke for apprentices iiijd.'
  • 2. The last cryptic entry in the book (see p. 170) seems to record apprenticeship of Richard Bamford to Joseph Chitty.
  • 3. On 17 July 1665 'Nathaniel Whitfield [see p. 36] made free by vertue of his service with Richard Barrett his Master his service testified by a noate from Mr Barrett (being shut up of ye plague therefore could not come in person) wch was subscribed in ye presence of Gawine Atherton & Thomas Heake Beadle'. On Sept. 5th following Thomas Heake was buried from his residence at the Hall.
  • 4. On p. 46 will be noticed the name of John Ketch; there is nothing except the name and suitability of age to connect this apprentice with the too notorious executioner, of whose early life nothing seems known; no baptism of any one of the name is recorded at Milston in Wiltshire, and there is no local tradition connecting Ketch with that parish.