Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
MEMORIALS OF THE FRATERNITY.
I. THE COMPANY.
1. It will be convenient, as an introduction to the different Memorials printed in the subsequent part of this volume, that a brief sketch be given, in chronological order, of the various incidents relating to the Company which have come under my notice, from the earliest period until the year 1691, when it ceased to have any direct connection with trade.
2. One of the earliest civic records mentioning the Taylors as a separate craft or mysterie, (fn. 1) is the "Chronicle of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London," which narrates their dispute with the Goldsmiths, and the subsequent conviction of the rioters of both sides by Laurence de Broc, the Justiciar, in November 1267. (fn. 2)
A.D. 1299 and 1300.
3. The next event in order of date is mentioned by Stowe, who writes that Edward I., in the 28th year of his reign, granted them his licence to adopt the name of "Taylors and Linen Armourers of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist," and to hold their feast and to choose their Master and Wardens on the Midsummer Day yearly. According to his authority (and the Company's books if forthcoming (fn. 3) should confirm it) upon St. John Baptist's Day, 1300, a Master (Henry de Ryall) and four Wardens were chosen, and called, until the 11th Richard II., the first, the "Pilgrim," as travelling for the whole Company, and the others the "Purveyors of Alms" or "quarterages," plainly showing that the Guild in its original institution was a charitable rather than a commercial fraternity.
4. The earliest ordinances (fn. 4) in the year 1322, ordained in the Husting Court, relate rather to the trade of Armourers than of "Linen" Armourers. To prevent worthless and unserviceable armour being covered, these ordinances provided that no smith that made, should henceforth himself cover, any basnet for sale, but should sell them out of his hand quite new and uncovered. Further, they were to remain uncovered until they had been seen and passed by four men inspecting them for the purpose of determining, under oath, whether they were fit for covering or not. (fn. 5)
5. In March 1326, the first Charter (fn. 6) was granted to the Company by Edward III. Their petition to Parliament set forth that they had been accustomed, "from the time whereof there is no memory," to hold their Guild once a year to govern their mysteries and to settle the state of their servants, and prayed a confirmation of their privileges. Under the Charter which was then granted to them, they were to hold their Guild once a year, to govern their mysteries and servants by view of the Mayor, and to correct "the same by the more honest and sufficient men of the mysteries." No one was to hold a shop of the said mysteries within the City unless free, nor should any one be made free "unless vouched by honest and lawful men of the mysteries that he is honest, faithful, and fit for the same."
6. In 1331, the Company acquired that portion of their Threadneedle Street estate upon which their present Hall stands. (fn. 7) In 1351 they enrolled their first honorary member, and during the episcopacy of Symon of Sudbury (1361 and 1371) obtained a grant (fn. 8) (noticed upon our records, but not by Dugdale in his History of St. Paul's) of a chapel at the north side of the mother church of St. Paul's, in honour of St. John the Baptist, for daily service and prayers for "the preservation of them that are or shall be of the Fraternity." In 1382, Thomas Carleton devised a rent-charge to the Master and Wardens for religious services in this chapel.
7. In 1371, the Company, under the first Charter, with the approval of the Lord Mayor, made an ordinance (fn. 9) to regulate their trade, with the especial object of recovering damages from workmen miscutting the cloth which was intrusted to them. For each offence a fine was imposed, payable in part to the Chamber of the Guildhall, and in part to the alms of St. John, that is, to the priests and poor.
8. In 1385, Richard II. became an honorary member, and in July 1390 granted the Company their second Charter, under which, "in honour of St. John Baptist," they were to hold and exercise the Guild of Taylors and Linen Armourers, and to receive members into their Fraternity. They were also to elect a Master and Wardens from amongst themselves [de seipsis] as often as they pleased; to have a livery (fn. 10) of a garment of one suit in every year; "to hold meetings in places of the City belonging to them, and in an honest manner their feast of meat and drink on St. John Baptist's Day," whereat they were to make ordinances amongst themselves as they should see fit for the government of their Fraternity.
9. In 1401, Henry IV. and the Prince his son were admitted to the honorary freedom of the Company, and the same year the Company made their first purchase of real estate (being the Saracen's Head, Friday (fn. 11) Street), out of their Common Box. In January 1404, the first devise was made in favour of the Company, that by Thomas Sibsay, of houses in Bread Street; and in 1406 the Company received a large accession of property adjacent to the Hall, by Churchman's gift of the advowson of St. Martin's, and of houses in Bishopsgate and Threadneedle Streets, (fn. 12) which, in the seventh year of the same reign, (fn. 13) they obtained a licence to hold in mortmain.
10. In August 1407, King Henry IV. granted the third Charter, (fn. 14) under which the Master and Wardens and their successors were made "a sound, perpetual, and corporate Fraternity," and acquired their name of "the Master and Wardens of the Fraternity of Taylors and Linen Armourers of St. John the Baptist in the City of London," and a "Common Seal." Of more importance, however, was the licence thereby granted to them to hold in mortmain (under the various names set out or any other name) all the lands which they had hitherto acquired to the use of the Company.
11. The year 1412 is memorable as the first in which the Guild was made the trustee of lands for benevolent purposes. In this year, one Peter Mason (fn. 15) devised the corner-houses of the Poultry towards Bucklersbury to the Company; therefore, for 460 years and upwards, the rents of this estate have been faithfully given to those objects whom the testator designated as recipients of his bounty. It was followed in 1418 by another trust devise (fn. 16) (Creek's), and three others—viz., Sutton's, Candish's, and Holland's—were made in the same century.
12. In 1415, the condition of certain apprentices—Yeoman Taylors (as they were then, and have since been called)—living without supervision in "Three, Shears Court, at Garlick Hill," excited the notice of the City authorities, and became the subject of legal investigation. The Master and Wardens were summoned by the Mayor to discuss the matter, and explain how it was that they permitted their servants and apprentices to live apart, without a "superior to rule them." Having expressed their grief at such misconduct, the offenders themselves were summoned by the Mayor, and, after reprimand, told to disperse, under pain of fine and imprisonment. (fn. 17)
13. In 1417, the same Brotherhood of Yeoman Taylors became petitioners for the privilege of going, without the Master, to the church of St. John, but this the Lord Mayor denied them, telling them, that "in future times no servant or apprentice should presume by themselves to enter assemblies or conventicles at the aforesaid church, unless with the Master." (fn. 18)
14. It was not long after the acquisition of Churchman's gift, i.e., in 1414, (fn. 19) that the Almshouses were established. The terms show the object of that gift to have been the promotion of charity, and the will of Sutton in 1432 makes express reference to the "Almshouses near the Hall" as an established institution at that date.
15. In 1434, King Henry VI. was admitted to the honorary freedom of the Company, and in the year 1436–7, Parliament, by the 15 Henry VI., cap. 6, legislated upon the subject of City Guilds, obliging them—1st, To register their Charters or Letters Patent before the Lord Mayor; and, 2ndly, To submit their Ordinances for his approval, and for subsequent record in the City Archives. (fn. 20) So long, therefore, as this enactment was in force the Lord Mayor had a controlling authority over the Guilds, and his Court was one of appeal, at the instance either of the Company or of any recalcitrant member. (fn. 21)
16. In February 1439, the fourth Charter was granted to the Company, under which they acquired an exclusive right of search in and concerning the mysteries, and concerning those persons who are or may be privileged with the Taylors, within the City and the suburbs thereof, and to correct and reform the same. (fn. 22) Under this Charter a search was annually made at St. Bartholomew's Fair until its abolition.
17. In 1442, the Taylors sought to set aside the election of Robert Clopton as Lord Mayor, in favour of their Brother (and future benefactor), (fn. 23) Ralph Holland. They became so outrageous in their opposition that some of the rioters were committed to Newgate by the Lord Mayor (Sir John Paddesley), and punished as they (are said to have) deserved. (fn. 24) Possibly it was in revenge for this contention that Clopton, when he was Lord Mayor, impeached, before the Privy Council, the legality of the Charter of Henry VI., and obtained an order for the suspension of its operation. (fn. 25)
18. In June 1455, the chapel at St Paul's being too small, a petition was addressed to Rome (fn. 26) for a grant of a free chapel at the Hall, setting forth that their "brethren had founded and endowed another perpetual chapel in the Hall or Inn of the Brotherhood, called Taylor's Hall (within the community of the parish of St. Martin's), with an altar in the chapel for the more commodious performance of the devotions of the Brotherhood. The prayer of this petition was granted by Pope Calixtus III., and, by his Bull, free and lawful permission was given to have masses celebrated, whenever necessary, on the altars in the chapel of "Taylor's Hall."
19. In 1460, King Edward IV. became an honorary member of the Company, and in August 1465 granted the fifth Charter (fn. 27) confirming the last Charter, which had previously been a subject of controversy. (fn. 28)
20. In October 1480, the Company received the first grant of arms, taking emblems essentially religious, as "an holy lamb (fn. 29) set within a sun; the crest, being within the pavilion, our Blessed Lady St. Mary the Virgin, Christ her son standing naked before her, holding between his hands a vesture called tunica inconsutilis." (fn. 30)
21. In 1484 arose the celebrated controversy with the Skinners for precedency, which was settled on the 10th April by the award (fn. 31) of the Lord Mayor (Robert Billesden), the terms of which award from that date have been annually complied with in the Halls of the Merchant Taylors and Skinners. (fn. 32) From its perusal it will be seen that a controversy had arisen between the two Companies "for the roume and place in their going afore in processions within the City," and that "for norishing of peas and love," the Lord Mayor adjudged a dinner at the Hall of each Company; and that as to precedence, the Skinners should go before the Taylors "from the fest of Easter then next coming unto the fest of Easter then next coming," and that the Taylors, from the same fest of Easter then next ensuing, shall go in all processions before the Skinners for a year fully to be complete, (fn. 33) but if either Company had a Lord Mayor of the Fraternity (which gave precedence over all Companies) then that yeare was to be taken out of the award.
22. It was not until the reign of Henry VII. (in 1502) that the Company attained to the full privileges which they afterwards enjoyed. Early in his reign the King became an honorary member, and in his 18th year of it granted to the Company their final Charter, (fn. 34) save those of mere confirmation. As "the men of the mysteries" (to use the quaint language of it), "in all quarters and kingdoms of the world," used "all and every kinds of merchandizes" to the renown, honour, and benefit of the kingdom, "buying and selling of all and every wares and merchandizes whatsoever," "as well wholesale as retail," the title of "Merchant," before that of "Taylors," was conferred upon their Company.
23. Under this Charter they ceased to be exclusively Taylors, for it enabled them to take in "whatsoever persons, natives, whom they might be willing to receive into the said Fraternity, without the hindrance or disturbance of any person or persons of any other art or mystery." (fn. 35)
24. But the highest powers conferred were those of making ordinances for the governance by punishment and correction of the mysteries for offences therein. Certainly the Master and the Wardens exercised, if they did not possess, the powers of fine and imprisonment (the criteria of a Court of Record), (fn. 36) and their Court Minutes show that they heard and judicially deter mined the causes or complaints of those who were subject to their special jurisdiction.
25. And lastly, the Charter conferred upon them the exclusive monopoly "in the working, cutting, or making of men's apparel within the city and suburbs"; while no one was to presume to search any liege subject of the Fraternity, or the workmen of men's apparel within the city or suburbs, or their goods, ells, or measures, except the Master and Wardens of the Company, whose authority was, however, always to be exercised without prejudice to the higher authority of the Lord Mayor.
26. That the power of making ordinances might not be abused, Parliament, in the year succeeding this Charter, enacted, by the 19 Henry VII., c. 7, that no ordinance should be made in diminution of the Royal prerogative or against the common profit of the people. Further, it required that all ordinances should be approved by the Lords Treasurer and Chancellor and Chiefs of the Bench, or any three of them, and that no ordinance should usurp the authority of the supreme courts by restraining its members from sueing therein.
27. The prime mover in getting this Statute passed is said to have been the Recorder, Sir Robert Sheffield, who felt a higher regard for the prosperity of his profession than of his fellow citizens. Under this Act of Parliament ordinances were prepared for the Company, and approved in 1507 by William, Archbishop of Canterbury (as Lord Chancellor), Thomas, Earl of Surrey (as High Treasurer), and by the two Chief Justices of the King's and Common Bench. These were entered by that assiduous Common Clerk of the Company, Henry Mayour, in the old Ordinance Book, which is still extant amongst the Company's muniments of title. (fn. 37)
28. A study of the Charter and Ordinances of Henry VII.'s reign, together with the oaths of the several members and officers of the Fraternity, will enable the reader to understand the constitution of the Guild, and the objects for which it was founded.
29. Tracing the subject under two divisions, the Company comprised the governors and the governed; the former consisted, as it now consists, of these officers (fn. 38) —
1st. The Master, whose summons or order the Clerk or Beadle has to deliver or execute.
2nd. The four Wardens, in whom, with the Master, the corporate powers and property are vested.
3rd. The Court of Assistants, chosen from the Livery as Counsellors, who are to be consulted upon the affairs of the Company as often as the Master may deem needful.
30. The latter consisted, as it now consists, of these members—
1st. The Livery, who as men of substance, are called by the Court to accept the clothing or livery of the Company, and by whom certain special charges of the Fraternity were formerly borne. (fn. 39)
2nd. The Yeomen or Batchelors, (fn. 40) who as Freemen, had also to contribute to the Common Box, and were (as now they generally are) the working or labouring part of the Fraternity.
31. The members now known as "honorary," and who are gratuitously admitted only to the freedom of the Company, stand in a different position to that occupied by Kings and others, who, in earlier times, were admitted to the Livery by a payment, always equal and sometimes more (fn. 41) than that made by ordinary members, to the Guild. What the advantage of taking the Livery was deemed by such persons to be is not apparent, but that they paid for the honour of admission (fn. 42) is clear; and at a time so recent as James I.'s reign, we find the exemption of Dr. John Bull from the payment of his livery fine treated of as an act of grace to him by the Company. (fn. 43) A list purporting to contain the names of all the honorary members was presented to James I.; but a recent investigation of the early account books has brought many other names to notice which, it would seem, should have been included therein. These are printed in a note. (fn. 44)
32. The servants of the Fraternity were, as they now are:—
1st. The Common Clerk, who is the recorder of the proceedings of the Master and Wardens, and their channel of communication with the Fraternity.
2nd. The Beadle, who as the summoning officer, is charged with the execution of such process or orders as formerly were, or now are, issued by the Court against the Fraternity.
33. Accepting the record of Henry Mayour, as stating the truth, in 1508, it is clear that the Master and Wardens exercised a primary judicial power over all members of the Fraternity in relation to trade controversies, and therefore the Court was, in a certain sense, a tribunal of commerce or of conciliation, which if failing "to pacify the matter and cause of complaint," then gave to the parties a free liberty to sue in the ordinary Courts "where they listed." (fn. 45)
34. The benefits of this tribunal (according to the same authority) were "good obedience," "perfect love and charity," "by reason whereof the citizens did richly increase and grow into wealth and prosperity." Evil therefore would appear to have been the day when the Recorder, Sir Robert Sheffield, "by his great labour, subtle wit, and crafty means caused an Act of 19 Henry VII., cap. 7, to be made," the effect being practically to abolish these tribunals, and to throw the law open to every one.
35. The principal object of the Guild was the preservation of the trade or calling of the Fraternity; no one being permitted to work in London, as a "Tailor," unless a freeman of the Company. This freedom was only to be obtained (1) by patrimony; (2) by apprenticeship; (3) by purchase or redemption,—though the latter method was urgently protested against by those whose living was dependent upon monopoly. (fn. 46)
36. For the protection of the trade the right of search (fn. 47) was vested in the Guild, such search being a guarantee to the public that the honest usages of trade were observed, and to the Fraternity, that their monopoly was not infringed. Moreover, by the ordinances, the Master had supreme authority to summon any member before him (each member having by oath agreed to obey his summons) and to protect the King's lieges from dealings with incompetent men, "without ability or cunning," as a license to open a shop was needed, which the Master and Wardens only granted after they were satisfied of the competency of the freeman.
37. The authority of the Master over the Fraternity was maintained by an ordinance directed (as were the orders of 1415 and 1417) against assemblies or conventicles which, if he did not preside, were unlawful, and justified the infliction of fine and even imprisonment upon members attending thereat. Even to associate or company with one breaking an ordinance was, after warning, a criminal offence for which a fine might be inflicted.
38. The Judicial integrity of the Court was upheld by the oaths (fn. 48) of its members. "The Master was wisely and discreetly to examine the matter of complaint," that with the consent of the parties "it might be truly determined," and "that no favour nor partiality be showed to either party, otherwise than right, equity, and good conscience asked"; and the Wardens were sworn in like words. The Assistants, by their oath, were "acting after their wisdom and discretion," to give "their opinion and sentence according to truth and good conscience, not sparing any man for favour, affection or love, nor hurting nor hindering any man for malice or hate, but equally and truly to bear and behave in all causes and matters between party and party according to equity, indifference, and good conscience."
39. For the sustentation of the poor, every member of the Fraternity was put under quarterly contribution for sums regulated according to the status of his membership. Hence, therefore, the difficulty of getting transferred from one to another Company, as being thereby released from the charges that were due to the Common Box from each member of the Fraternity. Besides these payments, fines and other charges were imposed for delinquency, the object of which was not only disciplinary, but to obtain, when no other poor law existed, a fund for the relief or sustentation of the poor members. (fn. 49)
40. After this date, till the great event of the Reformation, there is little to record. From the contents of an inventory of the Company's effects, which was taken in 1512, no less than from the ordinances of 1507, it is apparent that the religious element entered largely into the Corporate life of the Guild. From the commencement of its history we find a chapel and priest at the Hall and at the north side of Powles, and to the middle of the 16th century many gifts or devises were made to the Company for religious or superstitious uses. (fn. 50) Another fact worthy of notice is that, so early as the year 1512, Sir Stephen Jenyns (fn. 51) (the Master of the Fraternity in 1492), by Letters Patent of 22nd September, established and endowed (under the management of the Company) a free Grammar School at Wolverhampton—now one of the most prosperous of those schools which have been refounded under the Endowed Schools Act, 1869. (fn. 52)
41. Parliament, which at the Reformation suppressed all purely religious Guilds, preserved those connected with trade —but secularized them. The interrogatories exhibited by the King's Commissioners, and the certificate (fn. 53) given in by the Company, enable the reader to ascertain the number and purpose of the religious endowments of which, in 1547, the Company were trustees. They disclaimed having any chapel, but set forth that they had endowments for nine priests, and twenty-three obits or services, which were to be performed in these City churches:—
The Chapel on the north side of St Paul's (endowed by Thos. Carleton in 1382).
St. Martin Outwich, six obits.
St. Mary Abchurch, four obits.
St. Mary Woolnorth, three obits.
Aldermary, two obits.
In seven other churches, one obit in each.
42. The policy of Parliament was to sweep away these payments for superstitious uses, by declaring them forfeited to the Crown that the Crown might, with this property, found Grammar Schools or Collegiate Institutions. In the case of the Merchant Taylor's (as of other Companies) these annual charges (amounting to 102l. 0s. 10d.) were sold to the Company, who, to redeem these, sold other lands (to the extent of 2,006l. 2s. 6d. in value). (fn. 54)
43. The year 1552 brings to notice one of the most celebrated members of the Company—Sir Thomas White. As the purchaser of the dissolved monastery, in the name of the Corporation of Coventry, he directed a deed, dated the 26th July, to be prepared between the City of Coventry and the Company, under which the proceeds of the estate, then 70l. per annum, were, after his death (which happened in February 1566) to go in certain proportions to five towns—viz., Coventry, Nottingham, Northampton, Leicester, and Warwick, with a proportionate yearly sum to the Company, to be paid at the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, at their Hall, for their labour and pains in seeing the said matter duly performed. (fn. 55)
44. In anticipation of the future establishment of a School (fn. 56) by the Company, Sir Thomas White, in the years 1555–7, founded the College of St. John's, Oxford, and out of the fifty fellowships created and endowed he reserved forty-three for the Company's scholars, with a prior claim as to six of such fellowships in favour of the founder's kin. By this act of munificence his name has been associated with the annals of the Company and of St. John's, Oxford.
45. One of the first fruits of the Reformation in regard to the Company was the establishment of their school at St. Lawrence, Pulteney Hill, in 1561. The principles upon which this was established are to be found in the Statutes of the 24th September in that year, adopted on the model of Dean Colet's, for the foundation of St. Paul's School. The school was to be essentially of a religious type. "In the honor of Christ Jesus" the Masters "shall teach the children, if need be, the catechisme and instructions of the Articles of the Faith and the Ten Commandments in Latin," and that the religion so taught should be "National," the same Statute (20) explains "that is to say: such a catechism as shall be approved by the Queen's Majesty that now is, and by the Honorable Committee of Parliament of this realm from time to time."
46. And it may be incidentally mentioned that the Court Minutes of a quarterly meeting of the Fraternity at about the same period bear the same impress of the religious spirit prevailing. Then (as is the practice of Parliament now) their meetings were opened by the Chaplain, and prayer was made for "Church and Queen," for the increase of the common weal, —against the "enemies of the Gospel, the Pope, the Turk, and their adherents." (fn. 57)
47. From the contents of a certificate, dated 24th January 1566, of their real and personal estate, made to the income-tax assessors appointed under the 8th Elizabeth, cap. 18, the school would appear to have consumed more than one-half the Company's surplus income. (fn. 58) By the Statutes, the Masters' salaries were made a charge on the Common Box (fn. 59) "until such tyme as the same shall be otherwise discharged by the gifts and legacies of good and well-disposed"; but—strange as it may appear to some readers—the benefactors have chosen rather to give their property to the Company to be disposed of in most instances at its absolute discretion than to create any separate endowment in favour of the school.
48. Looking at the twenty-six benefactions made to the Company either as a trustee or as a beneficiary during the 16th Century, they may be classed as fourteen before and twelve after the Reformation, though upon the post-Reformation gifts no strictly religious use is grafted. It was after the establishment of the school, and chiefly in the 17th Century, that a number of benefactions were made to the Company, none of these having, as I have before observed, any trust whatever in favour of the school.
49. After the decease of Sir Thomas White, the City of Bristol, (fn. 60) by a deed of the 1st July 1566, in which they were of the first part, St. John's College, Oxford, of the second part, and the Company of the third part, declared the trusts of a fund contributed by his bounty entitling the Company as one of twenty-four Corporations to a sum of 100l. as loan money every twenty-fourth year, (fn. 61) which trust continues in operation.
50. In the year 1567 we have a trace of the Company's corporate action in their search (fn. 62) for the protection of their own trade or mystery, and in the year 1568, they took an active part in the Lord Mayor's inauguration festival—a member of the Fraternity (Sir Thomas Rowe) holding that office. At that period, having no official residence or plate allowed him out of the Civic funds, each Lord Mayor had to look to his Guild for aid enabling him to sustain "the dignity of his office." In this instance the Company voted money towards the charges of Rowe's Mayoralty, and as the records give a complete account of the "order of attendance and arrangement of the Feast," they will be found well worthy of perusal. (fn. 63)
51. The year 1571–2 presents the Company in the aspect of discharging the duties (1) of attending upon the Sovereign (fn. 64) with part of an armed retinue on May day, and (2) of setting an armed watch (with the Vintners' Company) over the Gates of the City (fn. 65) to prevent the admission of idle or disorderly persons—duties which, before a Standing Army or an organized Police were established, usually fell upon the Citizens of London to discharge.
52. When a new English edition of the Bible was put forth, the Master and Wardens decreed "that a Bible of the new form lately printed by Christopher Barker, the Queen's Majesty's Printer, shall be bought and set up in their Common Hall in some convenient place that such as resort unto the said Hall may occupy themselves at Court days while they attend for the hearing of their causes." (fn. 66)
53. To raise money for the Public Service, the Crown resorted to the expedient of a lottery, and addressed the Lord Mayor with the object of his persuading the City Companies to make an adventure therein. (fn. 67) The letter of the Privy Council is printed at length, (fn. 68) and the reader will not fail to notice the inducement which is held out to the Mayor and his colleagues the Sheriffs in the promised gift "of a bason and ewre of 100l." to the Lord Mayor, "and of a bason and ewre of 100 markes" to the Sheriffs between them. "Loving brethren of the Mysterie" were appointed to attend the drawing at the "west door in Pawle's Church Yard," but the result is not recorded.
54. In 1586, the Company took advantage of the Herald's Visitation throughout the kingdom (to register pedigrees and to regulate the use of armorial bearings), to secularize their armorial bearings by casting off the religious emblems which are to be found in the earlier grant, (fn. 69) and by taking two camels as supporters, and, as a motto, the words of Sallust, which are at present found in the arms of the Company.
55. As the Almshouses at the Hall were originally designed for Liverymen who might be married when or (the Company assenting) after they were appointed, it frequently happened that their widows had to be removed, for the vacancy was usually given away in reversion—i.e., while the Almsman was alive. To provide for these and other widows, Mr. Richard Hilles (who benevolently aided in the establishment of the School) proposed, and in fact established, other Almshouses at Tower Hill—which there remained till the institution was transferred to Lee, in Kent. (fn. 70)
A.D. 1592 to 1605.
56. It may be noticed that at this period John Stowe, who was not only the author of the "Survey of London," but a working freeman (as a tailor), was a pensioner of the Company; a worthy Master and benefactor, Robert Dowe, having provided for him first at his own cost and then by asking the Company to aid him with an increase of pension. (fn. 71)
57. The early years of the 17th Century show the Fraternity as occupying a position of increased importance. In 1602–3, we have a list of the names of the whole Company who were assessed (fn. 72) to bear the expenses of King James' coronation, but the more notable event to record is the entertainment given by the Company to the King in 1607. The Court Minutes, and an accurate statement of expenditure—every item being entered —are, as valuable records of the period, printed verbatim. (fn. 73)
58. In the year 1609, James I. proposed to the City Guilds that they should aid in the general scheme for colonization. The settlements in Ireland are matters of civic history, and the record of those in Virginia (fn. 74) appear to be worthy of notice from the advantages then foreseen as flowing from them. The immediate benefits were, first, the city and suburbs should "be eased of a swarme of unnecessary inmates," the cause of dearth, famine, and plague. To the emigrants, if they should demand "what would be their present maintenance, what their future hopes" in this new world, "it may please you to let them know that for the present they shall have meate, drink, and clothing, with an house, orchard, and garden (for the meanest family), and a possession of lands to them and their posterity." But as affecting the public weal, colonization was spoken of in higher terms, "as an action concerning God and the advancement of religion, the present ease, future honour and safety of the kingdom, the strength of the Navy, the visible hope of a great and rich trade, with many secret blessings not yet discovered," nor were these advantages exaggerated, as we now see them developed in our great Colonial Empire.
59. An entry (fn. 75) of the Quarterly Court for Michaelmas, 1607, presents to us the fact of the same religious spirit pervading their assemblies as was noticeable in earlier days. The whole fraternity assembled, and at the common feast around their hospitable board they gathered not only the wives of the same members but the "almsmen" of the Livery, "as in antient time hath been accustomed."
60. In the following year an entry is found having reference to an assembly of the fraternity for the burial of a deceased member, upon which occasion (November 1608) "a commendable grace or thanksgiving drawn by a learned divine" was adopted for use. To make this use perpetual, the worthy Robert Dowe, in 1610, created an endowment of an annual sum of 5s. to the Common Clerk for reading the grace. (fn. 76)
61. Nor is this the only benevolence of Robert Dowe which should be recorded. He contracted with the Company "to perform for him certain deeds of charity by God and grace for ever," the particulars of which are entered in the Company's records, and noticed upon the pages of Stowe by his successor Strype. (fn. 77) He made a provision for singing in divine service by the boys in Christ's Hospital, and, besides the perpetual maintenance of almswomen in the Company's House, he left an annual provision for sixty poor to be selected by the ecclesiastical authorities of Aldgate parish. The gift was to be bestowed in the church, and the recipients were to be exhorted "to kneel down, and with all humility and reverence to say (after the minister) the Lord's Prayer, and then, God receive all good benefactors and bless the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors." Afterwards they were to leave quietly, with a benediction from the minister. Of the same religious character was another object which he provided for—viz., the exhortation (fn. 78) to repentance of Newgate criminals condemned to execution—1st, by an exhortation in their cells over night, and then, on the morning of execution, by the "Passing Bell," and an admonition to them as they went by St. Sepulchre's Church wall to execution. (fn. 79)
62. Of greater importance was the foundation of Great Crosby School by John Harrison in 1618. His father was, according to local tradition, a shepherd boy who left his employment for the search of wealth in the great City, and his (the founder's) connection with the Company till he became a member of the Court of Assistants is shown in the footnote. (fn. 80) The history of the school until its re-foundation in 1874 by the Endowed Schools Commissioners (1869) is given in a separate record. (fn. 81)
63. About the same time, Dr. Thomas White selected the Company as his auditor in regard to the endowment which he made by deed of August 1621 for the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, and in the following year he established Sion College, giving to the Company the nomination to eight of the twenty almshouses which he connected with the College. (fn. 82)
64. The subsequent events of the century may be noted as those incident to the "Great Rebellion" and the "Dreadful Fire," both events being equally disastrous to the Company. At the close of the "Rebellion" the State was indebted to the Company in the sum of 24,731l., an accumulation of debt which is thus described by a Finance Committee in 1769 as having arisen from the repeated calls made upon the Company.
"In the year 1640 the Company were obliged to raise 5,000l., to be paid into the Exchequer for the service of the King and the Kingdom, and in 1642 the sum of 200l. towards the relief of Londonderry. The same year paid into the Chamber of London, for the relief of Ireland, 7,000l. In the year 1643, 3,000l. for the further relief of Ireland. In 1644, for the King's use 4,050l., as their proportion of 50,000l. borrowed of the several Companies. In 1645, towards the maintenance of fortifications about the City of London, 150l. For the maintenance of the Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax, 150l. All which sums added together amount to the sum of 19,550l.
65. "In the year 1640, being distressed to raise the sum of 5,000l., they called in the debts due on Bond, and in 1642, when a further demand was made upon them for 10,000l. for the preservation of Ireland, they were obliged to borrow that sum on the credit of their Common Seal at 8 per cent., and, in order to supply after demands, the Master and Wardens were directed to sell part of the Company's Plate for furnishing the same. And in 1644 they sold Plate to the amount of 875l. 19s. 6d., and were under the necessity of borrowing further sums at the same rate of interest, so that their debt in the year 1646 was increased to 20,000l. and upwards.
66. "By an account taken in 1646, from sums lent to the State, there was due from the Government at Ladyday 1647, for Principal and Interest, 24,731l. 8s. 2d., of which no part was received until 1668. In this year they received 2,250l. in part of the Principal, which was the only sum the Crown ever paid on that account; and 94l. 15s. for interest, and having likewise received 1,000l. for fines of some estates, and in the following year 1669 having made an extraordinary call upon their members to take up their Livery, a sum of 2,010l. was raised, by which the Company was enabled to pay off the 4th part of their debt, and the remainder by instalments."
67. The sympathy of the Company was with the Parliament. When the arrest of the 5 members was attempted by Charles I., in January 1642, a Committee of the Commons adjourned and sat at the Company's Hall; (fn. 83) and after the taking of Chester by the Parliamentary Forces, in February 1645, (fn. 84) when thanksgivings were to be celebrated in all the City Churches, the Company appear to have added a dinner in honor of the event with an increased allowance to the stewards. (fn. 85)
68. The distress brought upon trade by the Rebellion led to the infringement of the Apprenticeship Laws, hence in 1649 originated the schism between the Yeomen Taylors and the Guild, which after 50 years of controversy led to the severance of the working trade from the Guild of Taylors.
69. The "Dreadful Fire" brought immediate ruin to the resources of the Company. (fn. 86)
"The losses sustained by the Fire of London obliged the Company to let their Land in the City upon small Ground Rents to enable their Tenants to rebuild, which rendered them incapable of paying their Instalments of loans borrowed. They were therefore obliged to sell to Edward Backwell, Esq., for 5,000l., the Lands devised to them by Sir John Percival and Giles Slater in Lombard Street (fn. 87) and Cornhill, which (as the books declare) they esteemed as the richest Jewel of their Estate. With this and other monies in the year 1674 they paid Principal and Interest 5,384l.
70. "In the year 1688 four houses were sold to Michael Rolles, Esq., in Bishopsgate Street, for 750l. reserving a Rent Charge of 24l. per annum, by the sale of which Estates their Annual Income was so reduced as to render it necessary to suspend the payment of some of their Benefactors' Gifts. In 1718 their debt again increased to 16,344l. 3s. 2d., which occasioned them to let Leases of their Estates at large fines and small Ground Rents, they therefore let to Nathaniel Newnham, Esq., several Estates for which they received 10,457l. 2s. 6d. for fines, and therewith discharged several debts amounting to 9,949l. 3s. 2d., and there then remained due from the Company 6,395l., and by pursuing the same method in the year 1719 paid off for Principal and Interest 2,640l. 8s. 3d., and so from year to year continued lessening their debt until the year 1727, when they sold their Estate in Ireland (granted to them by King James the First in the year 1609, as one of the 12 Companies, in consideration of their having advanced several considerable sums for the new Plantation in Ulster) to Wm. Richardson, Esq., for 20,640l., reserving a rent charge of 150l. pr ann' which enabled them to pay the remaining part of their debt, and also to lay out in the years 1728 and 1734 in Repairs of their Hall, their School in London and other Buildings, &c., as much as 4,100l. and upwards, and 600l. for the renewal of Lease with the Prebendary of the Moor, and to give 350l. for the rebuilding of the Parsonage House of St. Martin Outwich."
71. The close of the Reign of Charles II. brought upon the Company (as it did upon the Corporation of London and upon other Guilds) the forfeiture of their Charters. Public spirit must have been at a low ebb indeed when Corporate bodies like the City Guilds were found voluntarily to relinquish their privileges and yield them up to such Kings as the two later Stuarts, and afterwards, as in the case of James II., request the honour to erect a Memorial to him, and (with the consent of the Lord Mayor) to place it up in the Royal Exchange. (fn. 88)
72. With Will. III. came the establishment of public liberty, the Charters were restored, and the Company (like others) heartily responded to the calls of the new Sovereign to fight against James II. under the walls of Londonderry, by subscribing to its defence. (fn. 89) In the year 1691 they entertained General Ginkell and the officers returning after the reconquest of Ireland. (fn. 90) and in the same year the controversy between the Yeoman Tailors and the Guild was closed, by the Privy Council leaving the Yeoman Tailors to their remedy at law, which they never pursued.
73. What is here written is a bare outline to be filled in by reference to the papers quoted in the foot notes; but, that the affairs of the Company may be more completely understood, it is especially desirable that the reader should study the extracts taken from the early Account Books (fn. 91) (1399 to 1557), and from the Court Minutes (1561 to 1681), the one prepared by Mr. Martin of the Public Record Office, and the other by Mr. R. Stephens, for so many years in the Company's service.