A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4, the City of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1979.
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In this section
- CRAFT GUILDS
Cordwainers, p. 312. Weavers and Fullers, p. 316. Butchers, p. 316. Barbers, p. 317. Mercers and Woollendrapers, p. 319. Brewers, p. 320. Bakers, p. 321. Tailors, p. 322. Glovers, p. 325. Cooks, p. 326. Other Guilds, p. 326.
Few of Oxford's guilds or companies (fn. 1) have left continuous records, and it is not certain how many were functioning at any one time. At least fourteen were formed during the Middle Ages. (fn. 2) A document of 1534, (fn. 3) listing nine for which the town council intended to make ordinances, omitted some, notably the ancient 'royal' guilds of weavers and cordwainers, and included others which probably did not exist. It is likely that the ten companies separately described below were all in existence in the 1570s. In 1625 only four city companies were taxed for the relief of plague victims, and in 1636 the same four, the shoemakers, tailors, weavers and fullers, and glovers, took part in the ceremonial of a royal visit. (fn. 4) To those should be added the university companies of barbers and cooks. In 1687 the city companies taking part in a procession were the mercers, glovers, tailors, and shoemakers; the weavers' company still existed but members were few. (fn. 5) At least five companies, the shoemakers, barbers, tailors, smiths, and mercers, survived into the 19th century.
In 1130 the corvisers of Oxford were paying off a premium in the Exchequer in return for the restoration of their guild, (fn. 6) which was first established in Henry I's reign or earlier. An undated charter of Henry II, confirmed in 1260, recognized the customs and liberties of the Oxford corvisers as they had been granted by Henry I; it acknowledged the existence of a guild, to which should belong not only corvisers but also cordwainers, a group apparently not established in the town until after Henry I's charter. (fn. 7) In 1319 a confirmation charter added that none but guild members should work in the town or its suburbs as cordwainers or corvisers, nor cut Spanish, tanned, or curried leather, nor sell new work. (fn. 8) At least nine further royal confirmations of the guild were obtained before the mid 17th century; (fn. 9) sets of ordinances were approved by assize justices in 1560, 1577, 1633, and 1668. (fn. 10) An annual rent of 1 oz. of gold (15s.), payable to the Crown under the original charter, (fn. 11) was increased by 5s. in 1260 and 2s. in 1319. (fn. 12)
In 1820 representatives of the tanners and corvisers was called before the mayor and bailiffs for encroaching on mayoral jurisdiction by holding courts and pleas and amercing men without warrant. (fn. 13) In 1319 the university complained that the renewal of the guild's charter threatened the university's privileges and agreements with the town, and an inquiry was ordered. (fn. 14) Presumably the guild's cause prevailed, for in 1321 the king was upbraiding the town bailiffs for failing to enforce the charter of 1319, notably a clause prohibiting men outside the guild from working in the craft on pain of forfeiture to the Crown; again in 1322 the king demanded an explanation for the bailiffs' failure to account for such forfeitures. (fn. 15) In 1321, however, when the university complained that high admission fees were keeping out many shoemakers and raising prices, the king ordered the guild to admit without charge anyone seeking entry at that time. (fn. 16) In 1465, after further disputes over admission fees, the guild agreed with the town that those qualified by apprenticeship or patrimony should pay 40s. or less, and that reputable strangers who had lived for a year in Oxford should pay a minimum of 53s. 4d. and a breakfast to which, in future, senior town officers should be invited. (fn. 17) In 1484 there was another dispute between town and guild, and in 1500 the university intervened against the guild on behalf of an individual shoemaker. (fn. 18)
From the 16th century the guild was usually known as the cordwainers' guild or company. (fn. 19) Its meetings continued to take the form of courts until c. 1530. (fn. 20) The chief officers were a master and a steward, but the stewards, first recorded c. 1190, (fn. 21) were later known as wardens. (fn. 22) There were 2, later 4, key-keepers, 2 leather-searchers, and, until the Reformation, 2 keepers of a light of Our Lady in the church of the Carmelite Friars. (fn. 23) All were elected annually on the Monday after St. Luke's day (18 Oct.), except that the steward's office appears to have been at the nomination of the master until the mid 16th century. (fn. 24) The leather-searchers were not identical, although they overlapped, with the leather-searchers appointed by the town council. (fn. 25)
There were very few shoemakers in Oxford for much of the 16th century, (fn. 26) perhaps because of the company's exclusiveness, and as a result there was little turnover among company officers. Re-election of masters for a second year was common in the early 16th century, and between 1522 and 1558 only 19 men held any office at all; William Spenser was master 8 times, steward twice, and held each of the minor offices over a dozen times. After membership of the company increased later in the century re-election became rare until the company declined again in the later 18th century. (fn. 27) The master and warden were responsible jointly for the company's finances. (fn. 28) The master was expected to give the annual dinner on election day, but by the end of the 17th century was receiving a sizeable allowance for it; the dinner was given up between 1613 and 1629 for reasons of economy or asceticism. (fn. 29) The warden's duties included summoning members to meetings, and from 1632 he was assisted by a beadle. From the 17th century the company appointed a steward or legal advisor, usually the town clerk or recorder. (fn. 30)
During the 16th century the membership became divided into three classes, masters, wardens, and commonalty; in each there was a strict order of seniority. (fn. 31) In 1593 it was decided that the commonalty should not attend meetings, other than the election and common dinners, unless specifically warned, and that the class of masters and wardens could make orders for the whole company. In 1633, because of 'heartburning' and labouring for office among the younger members, it was decided to exclude the commonalty from elections altogether. (fn. 32) As in the city council it became possible for members to purchase the place of master or warden rather than serve the office, but in 1619 it was stipulated that such purchases would not be allowed until six years' service in the next lower class. (fn. 33) A rule of 1633 forbidding compounding was not observed for long. As honorary membership became common the time-limit was ignored and influential local figures were frequently offered masters' and wardens' places. (fn. 34)
The commonalty continued to be entered through apprenticeship, patrimony, or purchase. Admission fees were rarely as low as the minimum set in 1465, (fn. 35) and the guild continued to be exclusive long after fees for admission to the freedom of the city were reduced. In 1560 the guild's admission fees were set at £3 6s. 8d. for apprentices of Oxford masters, £5 for sons of freemen, and £10 for strangers. (fn. 36) In 1575 the city corporation was successful in persuading the company, after imprisoning 5 of its members, to admit a stranger for a smaller fee. (fn. 37) Two years later the company reduced the fees for strangers and freemen's sons, but retained the fee of £3 6s. 8d. for apprentices. Most entrants thereafter paid £3 10s., with a dinner (often compounded for £2); they frequently gave a gift, usually a silver spoon. (fn. 38) Sometimes men gave spoons instead of 'playing their prize' at the master's house, which was evidently some formal demonstration of the entrant's skill, perhaps his masterpiece. (fn. 39) In 1634 admission fees were reduced to 3s. 4d. with £1 for a breakfast, and were unchanged in the early 18th century. (fn. 40) Under new ordinances of 1633 only freemen's sons and apprentices were to be admitted, and very few strangers joined the company until the later 17th century; in 1644, however, a journeyman long established in the town was admitted for £5, a silver bowl, and dinner for the whole company. (fn. 41)
Cobblers or 'old workers' (i.e. workers in old leather) were not admitted as full members, but were licensed to work by the company, paying a fee of 10s. as well as quarterages. (fn. 42) In 1633 entry to the cobblers' craft was restricted to apprentices of Oxford cobblers. (fn. 43) There were relatively few cobblers, and numbers dwindled in the late 17th century, increasing again in the 18th century. (fn. 44) Widows of company members were allowed to continue their husband's trades; in 1553 and 1602, for example, widows paid £1 and 10s. respectively to join the company. (fn. 45) From 1613 until the company's stock was dispersed in 1634 a cash sum was paid to cordwainers' widows on the death of their husbands, varying from £2 to £5 according to the husband's rank in the company. (fn. 46)
Membership of the company was only 29 in 1614 but increased after the reduction of admission fees in 1634. There were 63 members by 1640 and despite a setback during the Civil War there were 89 by 1660. The commonalty was smaller than the class of masters in the early 17th century, but later grew rapidly and comprised two-thirds of the 92 members when the company was at its largest in 1692. The commonalty declined in the 18th century, while the master class remained fairly static, and in 1755 there were 14 masters, 9 wardens, and only 4 commoners. There was some revival in the later 18th century, but then membership declined sharply and the company survived only by admitting honorary members. (fn. 47)
The company's income came chiefly from admission fees, augmented by fines and from the late 16th century by quarterages, usually 4d. from each member but raised temporarily in 1597 and permanently in the 18th century. (fn. 48) In addition each member was expected to bring to the election meeting his contribution to the fee farm of 22s. After 1554 the farm was paid to the city bailiffs who accounted for it in the Exchequer. (fn. 49) In the early 17th century the company claimed that it had given, at some unknown date, its property in Jew's Mounts to the bailiffs of Oxford on condition that they paid the annual farm; the bailiffs certainly received an annual rent from property there, but there is no other corroboration of the cordwainers' claim. (fn. 50) The company owned a small stock of plate, which before the Reformation included a chalice, and always included a number of the silver spoons given by entrants. (fn. 51) The maintenance of the guild light of Our Lady seems to have been paid for separately by voluntary contributions to the keepers. (fn. 52)
In the Middle Ages the cordwainers' shops were grouped chiefly in Northgate Street, (fn. 53) and the craft's association with that area was maintained when, in 1592, with the help of loans and gifts, the company bought the lease of the house next to Bocardo, building a new house there in 1595–6. The house, known as Bocardo House and Shoemakers' Hall, was usually sub-let to the keeper of the prison until the lease was sold in 1633. (fn. 54) The company may have continued to use the building, for the lessees until 1692 were company members, (fn. 55) but by the later 17th century it used the town hall or an inn. (fn. 56) In 1631 the company was prosperous enough to invest in land at Kennington (Berks.), but three years later the land, the hall, and the plate were sold, and c. £260 was divided among the members. (fn. 57) The company held little capital thereafter, but was able to afford small annual payments to prisoners in Bocardo, which dated from at least the early 16th century, and to make occasional provision for its poorer brethren. (fn. 58) In 1690–1 a corporate seal of unknown design was replaced by an oval, silver matrix depicting the cordwainers' arms (argent, a chevron sable between three goats heads erased). (fn. 59)
The Crown's support of the company's monopoly of the craft in Oxford and its suburbs was frequently reiterated, and the city corporation also added its weight. (fn. 60) In the mid 18th century non-members were still prevented from working as shoemakers, (fn. 61) but later the company spent significantly little on legal actions. (fn. 62) A sign of decreasing confidence was the practice, established in the late 17th century, of members entering agreements to save their officers harmless before any prosecution was undertaken. In 1744 the cordwainers lost a case in the city sessions because of their inconsistent use of the company's title. (fn. 63) In earlier centuries there were frequent examples of the company's effectiveness, (fn. 64) although it was challenged occasionally, as in 1594 when the master was brought into the university court after confiscating a pair of shoes which an Abingdon man had sold in Magdalen College. (fn. 65) Masters were not allowed to keep more than one shop without a licence, for which, in 1577, they were to give £1 to two poorer members of the craft. Selling on Sunday was forbidden in 1576 and all Sunday working in 1609. In 1554 the practice of lending shoes was stopped, and in 1556 members were forbidden to exhibit yellow-lined shoes in their windows, perhaps because they were imported: in 1649 it was ordered that the only 'foreign wares' to be sold were red and yellow children's shoes. In 1684 a man was fined for selling laced shoes bought in London. (fn. 66)
Wage-rates payable to journeymen were reviewed at regular intervals, and men were fined heavily for paying too much, or asking too little for a journeyman's board (1s. 2d. a week in 1554). Although married journeymen might live out they were to work only on the master's premises and were to be paid no more than in-servants. Restrictions were set on the number of hours worked, particularly at weekends and 'by candlelight', and there were rules against the enticement of other men's journeymen and restrictions on journeymen's freedom to change master. In 1561 it was ordered that none should be given work at the request of another journeyman without appearing in person, in 1590 that no journeyman should be employed unless properly apprenticed, in 1597 that none should employ the servant of a privileged person. In 1561 the company even regulated the diet to be given to journeymen on Fridays and other fast-days. (fn. 67)
The cordwainers, like the tailors, allowed a journeymen's guild, (fn. 68) which may account for the occasional sign of organized opposition to the company. After disputes between the journeymen and the company in 1512 the journeymen's common chest was deposited with one of the town bailiffs for safekeeping, and their accounts were placed under the supervision of the bailiff and the town clerk. (fn. 69) An undated journeymen's agreement of c. 1630, a year in which new wage-rates were laid down, listed considerably higher wages and concluded with a threat to stop working if they were not paid. (fn. 70) In 1653 the company agreed on a procedure whereby journeymen could appeal against maltreatment by masters. In 1776 and 1800 there was organized pressure from journeymen for higher wages, and the company considered proceeding against them; in 1806 the company was associated with a national movement among guilds to bring in a Bill abolishing journeymen's societies and 'unlawful combinations'. (fn. 71)
In 1577 the company ordered masters to employ two journeymen for each of their apprentices, ostensibly to keep up standards but probably to prevent the use of apprentices for cheap labour. In 1597 members of the commonalty were limited to one apprentice, while wardens were allowed two, and masters three; later the masters were also reduced to two, and the allowances were confirmed in 1668, when concern was expressed over members taking on too many apprentices 'for their private profit and lucre's sake', simply to acquire their premiums. (fn. 72) The company assessed the suitability of apprentices before enrolling them, made regulations to prevent their being turned over to other masters without the consent of the city fathers, and forbade them to live or work outside the master's premises. (fn. 73)
Abuses of most of the regulations, and of the statutory seven-year apprenticeship term, were not uncommon, but the company apparently controlled the craft fairly closely until well into the 18th century. In the 19th century declining membership reflected the weakening of that control; the last vestiges of its authority were removed by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, but the company continued to hold meetings until 1849. (fn. 74)
Alderman Walter Payne, six times master of the company, left a rent-charge of 6s. 8d. a year to the cordwainers in 1620, which was still being paid in 1838. (fn. 75) In 1627 Timothy Carter, town clerk, elected steward of the company, gave £5 to be lent to two cordwainers interest-free for two years; the last recorded loan was made in 1726. (fn. 76) In 1807 the company agreed to establish a loan fund, and £300 was collected; in 1819 the company gave the money to the city corporation as trustee, to be lent to cordwainers in sums not exceeding £50 for six years. The fund, with other assets of the company, was divided among members in 1845. (fn. 77)
WEAVERS AND FULLERS.
The weavers' guild acquired a charter from Henry I before 1130, paying an annual rent of one gold mark (£6). (fn. 78) The charter, apparently confirmed by Henry II, Richard, and John, (fn. 79) granted to the guild a monopoly of weaving within 5 leagues of the town. The craft's decline during the 13th century (fn. 80) persuaded the king in 1275 to pardon all arrears (£24) and reduce the rent to 42s. a year. (fn. 81) An appeal for a further reduction in 1290 was rejected, but in 1323 the burgesses claimed that there were no more weavers left and asked to be rid of the guild. (fn. 82) Evidently they ceased to pay the rent, for in 1352, when the guild's charter was confirmed, the weavers were discharged from arrears of £63 10s. because of their poverty, attributed to the late plague and 'other adversities'. (fn. 83) After something of a recovery in the later 14th century the guild was again confirmed in 1392, but membership was reduced to only two by 1439. (fn. 84)
In the 13th century the guild was closely controlled by the burgesses. Weavers could work at their craft only by agreement with the 'good men' of the town, and their widows were forbidden to continue weaving if they married outside the craft; the same rules applied to fullers. Weavers and fullers occupied an inferior position, for they could not bring actions against freemen, nor give evidence. (fn. 85) In 1253 it was claimed that the mayor and jurats had forbidden the 'lesser commune' to weave cloth less than 800 threads wide, whereas on the looms owned by jurats and on 'the king's loom' cloth of any width could be woven. (fn. 86) Some weavers were directly employed by merchants, for four men accused in 1272 of weaving without the guild's licence claimed to have been given their tools by three prominent Oxford burgesses. Another accused was from Islip, and claimed that the village was more than 5 leagues from Oxford; (fn. 87) in 1230 the abbot of Westminster's right to keep weavers at Islip had been challenged, but he was allowed to keep one weaver there by a royal licence. (fn. 88) In 1273–4 another inquiry into unlicensed working within the five-league area was ordered, (fn. 89) but by then the guild's decline probably owed more to competition from outside that area.
In 1439, when a combined guild of weavers and fullers was established, the decline of weaving was attributed to weavers working outside the area on materials purchased in Oxford, and it was stipulated that in future only guild members should buy materials there. The crafts were to elect annually on 14 September two wardens, one a fuller, one a weaver, to govern the guild jointly. (fn. 90) A fragmentary record of a court of weavers and fullers in 1457 shows that two searchers were also appointed, that the guild included men from outlying villages such as Wolvercote, and that there were at least 30 members. (fn. 91)
Although the guild was confirmed in 1506, weaving was very much in decline; in 1506 and 1529 the guild was referred to as the craft of fullers, and thereafter neither weaving nor fulling were of much importance in the town. (fn. 92) New guild ordinances approved by the assize justices in 1572 added to those of 1439 a provision that four beadles or wardens should be elected, and laid down the minimum equipment that each member should possess. The area of the guild's monopoly was defined as 5 miles rather than leagues. Fullers were forbidden to employ carders. It was ordered that juries of 14 at quarterly courts should investigate breaches of craft regulations. (fn. 93)
The company was mentioned in 1634 and 1652; in 1659 it petitioned the council on behalf of the owner of Oseney mill, who was willing to provide a fullingmill (the lack of which was said to be 'prejudicial' to the company) if the council allowed him to build a new weir. (fn. 94) The weavers did not march separately among the companies that met the king in 1687, because there were too few members. (fn. 95) The company was last referred to in 1725 when it asked the city council to intervene against a Wolvercote weaver who was taking on apprentices improperly. (fn. 96)
A medieval seal matrix of the weavers' guild survives: it is in the form of a shield, apparently depicting an ox, a fleur de lys, a shuttle, and cards, with the legend, black letter: Tilieris Of Oxsonford. (fn. 97)
There was some kind of association of Oxford butchers in 1294, and in 1435 19 butchers made a joint agreement over Sunday trading. (fn. 98) In 1455 the butchers attended mass in All Saints church on the octave of St. Martin's day. (fn. 99) In 1536 they received an incorporation from the town with the approval of the assize justices. (fn. 100) A master and wardens, elected on the Monday after St. Luke's day (18 Oct.), were to have the search of all flesh sold gross or retail in the town and suburbs, and were to confiscate bad meat and report it to the magistrates. Butchers bringing meat to the town were to bring also the hide, skin, and tallow; the supply of the last caused recurrent dispute. (fn. 101) Butchers were not to sell meat to any manciple, cook, or other person who was indebted to another butcher, unless it was a cash transaction.
In 1573–4 the city apparently approved another incorporation of butchers, and the ordinances included some about market standings. (fn. 102) In the 17th century, however, a company was not mentioned even when butchers acted jointly; the city council controlled Butcher Row and other aspects of the meat trade directly, and the company probably lost its purpose. (fn. 103)
In 1703 the city approved an incorporation of butchers and poulterers. It was said that there had been such a guild beyond memory, and that it was the custom to elect officers on the Monday after St. James's day (25 July), the master being chosen from four assistants. All qualified apprentices of Oxford masters might enter the company for a fee of 10s.; quarterages were set at 1s., and masters and wardens were to pay 10s. and 2s. 6d. respectively on taking office. All apprentices were subject to the company's approval, and members were limited to two, the second to be bound only after the first had served five years. The mayor was to act as visitor to the company. (fn. 104) In 1742 the company petitioned the council about the large number of foreigners 'hawking all kinds of meat' in the city. (fn. 105) In 1757 the council was considering new by-laws to regulate the trade, but the company was not mentioned. (fn. 106)
Until the 16th century the barbers' craft was fully controlled by the university. The earliest ordinances, dating from the company's incorporation in 1348 but surviving only in a later version, (fn. 107) were approved by the university, as were further ordinances of 1484 and a short-lived union with the cappers in 1499. (fn. 108) In the early 16th century barbers were admitted to the guild in the chancellor's court, which also enforced the guild's monopoly and regulated other aspects of its life. (fn. 109) After 1530, however, the court ceased to deal with barbers' affairs, (fn. 110) and in 1551 and 1580 the city council appears to have been consulted over company ordinances. (fn. 111) Even before 1530 several leading barbers had been both matriculated and free of the town; thereafter barbers with no university connexion began to outnumber privileged barbers. (fn. 112) The town was making efforts at that time to recover control of guilds generally, and it may be that the freemen barbers were able to bring the company into closer association with the town. (fn. 113) The ordinances of 1551 and 1580 have not been found, nor any further reference to the company until the later 17th century: if it survived it was not prominent.
When it was re-established in 1675 it was said to have collapsed during 'the late troubles'. (fn. 114) The company ordinances of 1675 were issued by the university, and although the city council spoke slightingly of 'the pretended company of barbers' it never seriously challenged the university's control of the craft; even in 1650, when the city had been in a position to dictate to the university, it had accepted barbers as one of the groups of tradesmen entitled to be privileged. (fn. 115) The orders of 1675 not only required all company members to be matriculated, but made it clear that all barbers working within the university precincts (which included St. Clement's) should be members of the company and of the university. Although there were very few freemen barbers after 1675, the city occasionally defended such men against interference from the company. (fn. 116) Most non-matriculated barbers prosecuted in the chancellor's court were probably neither privileged nor free. (fn. 117) There were some freemen in the company by the late 18th century but they were not expected to hold office. (fn. 118) In 1796 leading members of the company petitioned the vice-chancellor for permission to take up the freedom, as some barbers had, in order to combat more effectively mercers and grocers who were selling perfumes and other items formerly the preserve of barbers: in the event the city tried to use its influence in the barbers' favour anyway, but probably with little effect. (fn. 119)
When the guild was established in 1348 it was to include barbers, barber-surgeons, and the makers of 'singing-bread' or wafers. None were to practise those crafts or grind razors without first joining the guild. Each year, on the Tuesday after St. Faith's day (6 Oct.), the members should elect a master and one warden, another warden being nominated by the new master. Each year on the Sunday after the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8 Sept.) the whole company should attend mass at the Lady Chapel in St. Frideswide's church, where the craft was to maintain a light; afterwards they were to dine together, and there, after the formal resignation of the master, members' wives might join the festitivies. Quarterages were levied to maintain the light, each freeman paying 2d., and journeymen 1d. An apprentice wishing to set up shop was first to dine the master and wardens and pay 1 lb. of wax: the officers and three other members should then present him to the chancellor 'on their shoulders', and after taking the oath and paying 1s. 4d. he would be admitted. Foreigners wishing to set up shop were to dine the whole company, pay 1 lb. of wax, 26s. 8d. to 'Our Lady's box', 8s. to the chancellor and proctors, and 3s. 4d. to the regent masters for wine. It was forbidden to shave men on Sundays, except on market Sundays in harvest or if a customer needed to preach a sermon; special fees were charged for shaving men in their houses; and it was forbidden to divulge customers' secrets, such as an 'abomination of stinking breath'. None were to entice customers from, or serve anyone who was indebted to, other members. None were to teach unapprenticed persons, on pain of a fine of 6s. 8d., the pupil to swear not to work in the craft within 20 miles of the town. Most fines were to be divided between the chancellor and the proctors. (fn. 120)
Leading university barbers were associating together to enforce some sort of order on the craft even before the company's refoundation in 1675. In 1674 the vice-chancellor drew up draft regulations for the craft, and in that year two freemen barbers were prosecuted in the university court for working while not matriculated, and a third was discommoned for accepting the junior bailiffship of the town. (fn. 121) In 1675 the election day was changed to the Wednesday after 24 June, (fn. 122) the mastership and wardenship were limited to senior members of 12 and 10 years' standing respectively, but in the 18th century it became necessary to reduce the qualifications for both. (fn. 123) Masters serving for the first time were expected to give a dinner, and new wardens were to share with the company the costs of a supper. In 1676 the university nominated a body of 18 assistants or senior members, who were expected to attend meetings regularly and to form a pool from which officers might be elected. (fn. 124)
The company was intended to include the makers, sellers, and trimmers of periwigs, borders, and artificial hair; by that date barber-surgeons, formerly included in the company, (fn. 125) were rare. Widows of members were allowed to practise the craft, but were excluded from meetings and feasts. (fn. 126) Barbers could qualify for the company through apprenticeship, patrimony, or purchase. New members swore to observe and defend the customs, statutes, and privileges of the university, and paid fees amounting to 10s., with the option of paying a further 10s. or giving an entertainment. Those admitted as barber to a college or hall paid the additional fee of 15s. in 1675, and both fees were increased substantially later. (fn. 127) Members paid quarterage of 1s. in 1675, of which 6d. was to be used by the master to pay a preacher; by 1718 quarterage was 2s. 6d. (with an additional 6d. for music on election and account days) and thereafter increased steadily. (fn. 128) The company had little capital and only a meagre stock of plate, but in 1680 was lending £20 among 4 members, and on many occasions gave charity to poor barbers. (fn. 129) In 1675 the membership was 49, and by 1719 over 80, but numbers fell steadily to c. 30 by 1800, and fewer than 10 by 1840. (fn. 130)
The medieval rule against Sunday working was retained in 1675 and repeated in 1759. (fn. 131) No member was allowed to keep more than one shop, or to teach the craft to anyone other than apprentices, a rule relaxed in 1758 when an exception was made for female pupils. (fn. 132) No member of less than 7 years' standing was allowed to take on an apprentice, and none could take a second apprentice until the first had served 5 of the minimum 7 years. All apprentices were to be enrolled by the university and by the company. (fn. 133) The various time-limits were progessively relaxed from the late 18th century onwards. (fn. 134)
From 1692 journeymen were expected to give bonds that they would make periwigs only for members of the company and would not leave their masters without permission; from 1722 none were to be admitted as partners; from 1742 journeymen under the age of 21 years were forbidden. (fn. 135) The control of journeymen's activities continued to cause problems; in 1778, when an attempted prosecution of a journeyman, who had worked on his own account before matriculation, was dismissed from the chancellor's court, the decision was reversed after an appeal to the court of delegates. (fn. 136) In 1781 the vice-chancellor and others complained of journeymen soliciting Sunday work and submitting their own bills; the company countered with a demand for higher fees (4 gns. a year for gentlemen commoners, 3 gns. for others) so that they could afford to pay their journeymen properly. (fn. 137) The company made new regulations in 1788 to prevent journeymen selling powder, perfumery, and other articles. (fn. 138)
Regular searches were made by the company officers, (fn. 139) and breaches of the company's orders were punished by stiff fines; the university backed up the fines with threats of imprisonment or discommoning. (fn. 140) Relatively few prosecutions for 'disorderly working' appear to have been made, and until the late 18th century the company seems to have been in full control of the craft: (fn. 141) a barber refusing to enter the company was fined as much as £15 in the chancellor's court, and discommoned until he paid it. (fn. 142) The practice of persuading men to enter bonds against various forms of disorderly working was probably effective also, although the company felt obliged to strengthen the system in 1769. (fn. 143)
The chief meetings of the company's year were the election and the annual dinner; a resolution of 1758 that more frequent meetings should be held (fn. 144) suggests that by then there was little communal life in the company. By 1800, and probably much earlier, new members had ceased to give an entertainment, and the money which they paid was simply merged with the company's stock. (fn. 145) The annual dinner, preceded by a church service, (fn. 146) was held at the end of the master's term of office. (fn. 147) The university proctors were usually invited, (fn. 148) and in return the university entertained a select body from the company. (fn. 149) Each year the barbers presented the vice-chancellor and proctors with gloves. (fn. 150) The company purchased new flags in 1718 and 1755, which were presumably used in processions. (fn. 151)
In the 19th century the company was largely a dining club, (fn. 152) although as late as 1809 a barber was discommoned for failing to matriculate. (fn. 153) As a university institution the company was not affected by the Municipal Corporations Act. In 1846 revised and much less restrictive orders were drawn up, principally to encourage established barbers to join, and to allow others to qualify for membership more easily. (fn. 154) In 1859 the vice-chancellor dissolved the company at the request of the master and wardens. (fn. 155)
MERCERS AND WOOLLENDRAPERS.
A mercers' guild was referred to in 1348 (fn. 156) but not thereafter until in 1569 the city council agreed that the mercers and haberdashers should form one corporation and the drapers and tailors another. (fn. 157) The tailors, however, were separately incorporated in 1571 (fn. 158) and when the mercers were incorporated in 1572–3 the woollendrapers became their chief partners in an omnibus guild which also included linendrapers, haberdashers of all kinds, milliners, ironmongers, grocers, and salters; (fn. 159) there were few grocers in Oxford at that time, (fn. 160) but later they became prominent in the company and by the 1770s the company was usually called the incorporation of mercers, grocers, and woollendrapers. (fn. 161)
From the first the guild was under the control of the council; the latter's seal was appended to the ordinances of 1572 with the provisos that the mayor should decide all disputes and that the town clerk should be the company steward at a reasonable fee. (fn. 162) A master and two wardens were to be elected annually on the second Monday after Holy Trinity, the master to be alternately a mercer and a draper, the wardens each year to include one of each trade. Master and wardens were to swear their oaths in the city's Monday court attended by the whole company. The officers were to make quarterly searches for traders not free of the city or company and present offenders in the city courts. They were empowered to imprison and fine traders disobeying them during their search, to fine company members for non-attendance, and to distrain members for debts due to the company. Anyone wishing to follow one of the distributive trades in the city must first be admitted to the company; tailors could be fined for trading in woollen cloths by retail, mercers and drapers were forbidden to sell each other's wares, fullers were forbidden to sell woollen drapery; the difficult case of those following the joint trade of tailor and draper was solved by allowing those freemen who had been doing so for 5 years to continue for life and forbidding all others. Otherwise it was confirmed that freemen could sell all wares, wholesale or retail, that they had made within the city, with the exception of woollendrapers. (fn. 163) At its foundation the guild comprised, in addition to the master and wardens, 36 in the commonalty, and 7 assistants, probably, as in the city council, intended to form a pool from which future masters might be chosen. (fn. 164)
Reasons given by the master and wardens for setting up the guild included the desire to prevent young men of no substance occupying the distributive trades, to prevent the employing of unsuitable apprentices, and (as in London) to prevent tailors selling textiles. (fn. 165) Evidently the guild survived only a few years; no officers were recorded between 1576 and 1648, (fn. 166) and in 1625 the company was not mentioned when other Oxford craft guilds were taxed for the relief of plague victims. (fn. 167) The distributive trades were so powerfully represented on the city council that perhaps the company's aims were sufficiently fulfilled through that body. It is significant that the company was revived in 1648 when the upheaval of civil war had weakened the council's control and permitted the development of serious trading irregularities: the following year, for example, the company seized goods valued at £14 from a tailor discovered retailing textiles. (fn. 168)
New ordinances approved by the council and by the magistrates in 1662 added to the constitution a body of 21 assistants, from whom future masters would be chosen, the wardens being elected out of the commonalty. Thenceforth no master or warden could be re-elected to the office within 5 years. Refusal to serve would be met by fines. The company was granted the right to sue for its debts in the name of the city council. (fn. 169) From 1663 lists of company members included, in addition to the 21 assistants, a separate group of assistants who were from 1688 named assistants extraordinary: they were honorary appointees and included local dignitaries such as city recorders and M.P.s. (fn. 170) The wardens were aided by a salaried beadle. (fn. 171) In the early 19th century the company also employed a treasurer, often a non-member. (fn. 172)
Membership rose steadily from 43 in 1648 to a peak of 101 in 1691, and remained high until c. 1710 when a decline began; in the period 1720–90 there were between 50 and 70 members each year. An increase to c. 85 members in the 1790s was quickly reversed, but in the first decades of the 19th century membership was still over 60. Widows were allowed to continue in their husband's crafts, and in 1725 there were as many as 19 in the company, but none ever held office. New entrants to the distributive trades would usually join the commonalty, and the numbers in that group are perhaps the clearest indication of the company's health: numbers fell from 31 in 1670 to only one in the 1730s, but rose again at the end of the 18th century to over 20. (fn. 173)
The company seems to have been both persistent and successful in seeking out unqualified traders, even into the 19th century. (fn. 174) After a legal opinion given in 1771 that it would be difficult to prosecute such men if they were free of the city but not of the company, the mercers agreed to spend £200 in 1775 towards obtaining an Act of Parliament, if necessary, empowering the company to act in the city's name against unfree traders. (fn. 175) In the 18th and early 19th centuries the company was trying to prevent hawkers and pedlars trading without licence; in 1770 it offered rewards to anyone informing against those selling tea against the law, and rewards were given to men seizing quantities of tea in the 1770s. (fn. 176) By the 1820s, however, no prosecutions or threats were made to non-members exercising distributive trades, and from that time onwards resignations were a regular feature of company meetings. (fn. 177)
The guild's income came from admission fees, quarterages, and fines. Admission fees for those who had not served an apprenticeship to a member varied greatly, but in 1747 were set as high as 10 gns., and in 1754 at 15 gns. (fn. 178) By the end of the 18th century few apprentices were coming through and large entry fees were common. The quarterages, 16d. a year in 1572, increased considerably, and by the late 17th century were graded according to rank. (fn. 179) The company's funds thus grew from a balance of c. £4 in 1652 to over £400 in the 1770s. (fn. 180)
The company from time to time put out its capital in the form of loans to members: in 1835, for example, £250 was loaned in sums of £50 at 4 per cent. (fn. 181) Some of the income was spent on entertainment, the most important social meeting of the year being the election dinner held in the city council chamber, for which the master was allowed part of the expenses but paid the remainder. (fn. 182) Until 1804 the master also seems to have provided a breakfast on the oath-taking day. (fn. 183) In 1811 it was decided to abandon all festivities and to devote funds in future to old and distressed members, and to public charities. (fn. 184) Small charitable gifts to members had been made often in the past, and also to the Radcliffe Infirmary, the Medical Dispensary, and to schools. (fn. 185) In 1767 the company gave 20 gns. towards the widening of Botley causeway, and in 1789 it granted the whole of its annual income of £15 to the state for the duration of the war. (fn. 186) There was a loan charity, Edward Prince's, exclusively for members of the company, but it was administered by the city and is described elsewhere. (fn. 187)
In the 19th century attendance at meetings dwindled and re-election of the chief officers became common; the company was dissolved in 1855. (fn. 188)
By the 15th century the brewers, like the bakers, had developed a corporate structure as a result of the university's administration of their affairs through the assize of ale. (fn. 189) In 1434, for instance, when the chancellor assembled the brewers in St. Mary's church to deliver the assize, he ordered the establishment of a rota system, and brewers continued to observe rotas set by the university thereafter. The rota set down each brewer's name and the dates on which he might, and indeed must, brew; (fn. 190) it was aimed to prevent the alternate excess and dearth of ale which might result from brewers working only when malt was abundant. Two searchers of the craft were mentioned, and perhaps then, as later, there was an arbitrary limitation on the number of brewers in the town. (fn. 191)
By 1462 there were two wardens of the craft who were to regulate the rota under the supervision of the university commissary. (fn. 192) In 1500–1, after much tension between richer and poorer brewers in the guild, the university tried a longer rota favouring the poorer brewers, but the result was a shortage of ale. (fn. 193) In 1513, when the 'court' of brewers established regulations for men who temporarily left the trade, the act was enrolled in the chancellor's register, and the commissary's seal affixed to it at the brewers' request. (fn. 194) Finally, in 1521, the university, with the town's agreement, approved orders for the brewers which seem to have been regarded as the first incorporation of the guild, although there are references to earlier 'incorporations' in c. 1458, 1504, and 1511. (fn. 195)
Apparently the brewers' trade had suffered because of high grain prices and other problems, and their numbers had fallen to only sixteen. The orders of 1521, approved by congregation in 1524, limited the number of brewers to 20, and stipulated that widows might continue in the trade without admission fee, unless they remarried, when the first husband's children or apprentices might take over. The admission fee for strangers was £2, which was to be divided between university and guild. The penalty for brewing when not free of the guild was as much as £10. A master and two wardens, to be chosen annually, were empowered, with the chancellor's support, to summon meetings, make orders, and proceed in actions of debt, so long as the university was not prejudiced and new ordinances were registered with the university within a month. A new scale of prices was set down, related as usual to malt prices, but it was stipulated that if malt rose above 10s. a quarter the brewers might expect no further adjustment of their prices. They were to provide good ale at all seasons, even when grain was scarce, and anyone guilty of manipulating the supply of ale was to be heavily fined. If the brewers jointly rejected the ordinances they were to be fined £40 each, of which £10 was to go to the mayor. Finally the university made its support conditional on the brewers giving a discount if butlers and manciples provided their own barrels when purchasing ale. (fn. 196)
The university's control of the brewers' guild, as of the bakers', was challenged by the town in the 1530s, but although the town probably intended to grant a new incorporation to the brewers in 1534 nothing appears to have resulted. (fn. 197) Brewers continued to be admitted by, and to work to rotas set by, the university, and to seek redress against fellow brewers in the chancellor's court. A guild, however, was not mentioned in university records of the mid 16th century. (fn. 198) In the 1550s the town may have been responsible for a temporary renewal of the guild; two brewers admitted to the freedom in 1557 were said to have been presented by the master and wardens of the brewers' company, and in 1556 the council proposed to establish an order 'for such as leave brewing', (fn. 199) a problem expressly regulated by the university earlier in the century.
In 1571 the brewers received from the city an incorporation, and it was approved by the assize justices. Neither rota nor limitation on the numbers of brewers was mentioned. The election day for master and wardens was the Sunday after the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8 Sept.). Brewing was limited to those free of the city and the guild. Officers were empowered to search for over-priced or inferior ale or beer, and to imprison and fine offenders. Members were to pay quarterages of 8s., which were doubled if a man brewed both ale and beer. There were rules against enticement of customers, and others regulating members' behaviour and the activities of tipplers and hucksters. Wardens of the yeomanry were to be elected, and it was ordered that journeymen requiring work should assemble daily outside St. Peter-le-Bailey church at 6 a.m. and stay for one hour to await hiring. The city reserved the right to settle disputes, but the justices later reserved that right to themselves. The town clerk was to be clerk of the company. Finally it was ordered that brewers should grind their corn at the city's Castle mills if they could be served within 24 hours. A long series of oaths was set down, including one for the clerk of the brewhouse book, which suggests there was some form of co-operative trading organization. (fn. 200)
The university waged an angry and successful campaign against the 'pretended corporation' established by the city, on the grounds that it threatened the university's right, by charter and prescription, to control the craft. (fn. 201) Finally the Privy Council in 1575 ordered the brewers to take in their ordinances for cancellation by the chancellor or commissary. (fn. 202) In 1581 the vice-chancellor decided to 'bring order' to brewing and again set down some form of rota, but Thomas Smith, who had been master of the guild in 1571, refused to accept it and was imprisoned. (fn. 203) In 1584 the city was again considering an incorporation of brewers, and in 1585 the university appears to have drafted an incorporation. (fn. 204) The ordinances changed the election day to Midsummer Day, and restored the university's power to license brewers before their admission to the guild, and to take the oaths of officers. It was forbidden for beer-brewers to brew ale or for brewers to share premises. The prevalence of bankruptcy among the brewers' customers was implied by an order forbidding members to sell to dubious debtors once they had been notified by the company's officers. A body of 'ten couple' of draymen was appointed to deliver the ale, women being banned entirely, and the men to 'go decently with canvas over their clothes, as it is the use in London'. (fn. 205)
The ordinances were meant to be temporary, and may never have been put into operation, for the city challenged the university's right to make incorporations and in 1585 and 1588 threatened citizens who accepted university ordinances with fines for perjury. (fn. 206) In 1594 the university appointed committees to consider a brewer's incorporation, and in 1605, apparently at the brewers' request, was considering the validity of an earlier university incorporation of brewers, presumably that of 1585. (fn. 207) The guild probably did not survive, although the university continued to admit brewers and to set rotas and assizes. When the brewing interest in the town was threatened by a proposed Crown monopoly in 1636 it was the university, not the city, which opposed the scheme, pointing to its ancient rights over the victualling trades by prescription and charter. (fn. 208) In 1644 the Oxford brewers petitioned the university to protect them from foreigners bringing in beer for sale in Oxford, and in 1646, when they petitioned Lord Fairfax to prevent the importation of beer from Abingdon, they cited the charter granted to the university in 1571. (fn. 209) In 1650 the city council proposed that freemen brewers could work in future without university licence, (fn. 210) but neither then nor later was there any reference to a guild.
A guild was established by the mid 15th century under the control of the university, which administered the assize of bread. (fn. 211) In 1451 the interests of the guild (artificium) were safeguarded when the university permitted a baker to build an oven at the King's Head. (fn. 212) In 1455 the bakers, having no seal of their own, asked to have the university seal affixed on their behalf to an agreement made with Oseney abbey over the use of mills. (fn. 213) From the late 15th century men were licensed to bake and admitted to the guild before the chancellor or commissary of the university. They swore obedience to the master and to guild ordinances, and paid an admission fee of £1 6s. 8d. (fn. 214) In 1507 or 1508 the white- and brownbakers split into separate guilds; the brownbakers were restricted to making horse-bread, and their use of 'pure corn' was the subject of dispute with the whitebakers thereafter. (fn. 215) The brownbakers appear to have appointed a master and only one warden while the whitebakers had two. (fn. 216)
Both guilds were involved in struggles between city and university over the assize of bread and of ale in the 1530s. (fn. 217) The town's intention to incorporate the bakers in 1534 (fn. 218) was evidently not fulfilled: guild accounts of 1543 and 1568 included payments for wine given to the university commissary on festive occasions, the university continued to license both types of baker, and in 1550 the masters of both guilds brought a dispute between them into the chancellor's court. (fn. 219)
The few surviving 16th-century orders of the whitebakers included a prohibition (c. 1542) on innholders, tipplers, or hucksters baking white or wheaten bread, and an order of the same date that guild officers should choose two 'wardens of the yeomanry' as their deputies. No reference survives, however, to a separate journeymen's guild. In 1560 and 1575 whitebakers were forbidden to give more than 13 loaves to the dozen, and in 1560 and 1569 were forbidden to deliver bread, except to colleges and halls or when it could not be collected. (fn. 220)
The city council was again considering incorporating whitebakers in 1571, brownbakers in 1582, and bakers unspecified in 1584; but in 1576 the universum collegium pistorum was seeking incorporation from the university. (fn. 221) It appears that neither city nor university felt able to proceed in such ventures and they devoted their energies instead to disputes about the licensing of victuallers. (fn. 222) The guild organizations probably did not survive, although the bakers appear to have dined together in the guild hall in 1600–1. (fn. 223) In 1619 the university again agreed to incorporate the bakers but without result. (fn. 224) In 1645 the city council gave the bakers permission to petition for a royal incorporation, (fn. 225) but the times were hardly propitious. Although bakers acted jointly thereafter in an attempt to protect their trade, there was no mention of a guild. (fn. 226)
In 1454 Thomas Wythig gave property to feoffees for the tailors' guild, the earliest clear reference to their association. (fn. 227) As early as 1306, however, street celebrations of tailors on the eve and day of the nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June), (fn. 228) later the feast day and founder's day of the craft, suggest that some form of craft association existed, and probably it continued thereafter, for tailors were numerous in the later Middle Ages. Wythig's gift of four tenements and a brewhouse was conditional on the provision of a chantry priest for the fraternity of St. John the Baptist in St. Martin's church. (fn. 229)
In the mid 15th century the officers of the guild were bringing actions for debt in the mayor's court, (fn. 230) but the university in the mid 14th century had made regulations governing both the price and cut of academic robes, (fn. 231) and in 1467 a regent master was appointed proctor of the tailors' craft in the chancellor's court. (fn. 232) In 1491 the university agreed to restrain all tailors who were not guild members, to fine them, and to share the proceeds with the guild; the tailors in return promised to observe the statutes controlling academic robes, to choose as their chaplain a regent master approved by the university, and to pay 3s. 4d. a year to the proctors. (fn. 233) In 1502 the university commissary was openly interfering in guild affairs, which were in some disorder, and in the early 16th century some tailors, like members of the victualling trades, were admitted to the guild by the chancellor; there was another composition c. 1514 between the guild and the university, which regulated admission fees and confirmed the guild's monopoly. (fn. 234)
An apparent attempt by the town to win back some control of the guild in the period 1516–18 failed. (fn. 235) In 1529 the university laid down further regulations for tailors and in return promised to 'defend' tailors against all privileged persons, which probably meant that scholars' servants, of whom tailors formed the largest group, would henceforth be obliged to join the guild and come under its control. (fn. 236) That agreement was one of the issues between town and university in the controversy over Wolsey's charter, (fn. 237) the town claiming that it was illegal, the university denying that it had made a corporation. (fn. 238) In or shortly after 1531 the university listed tailors among the corporations illegally maintained by the town, and it is significant that the last year in which the tailors' guild used the university court was 1530, a year in which Michael Hethe, mayor, was accused of 'bearing' the tailors against the university. (fn. 239) Thereafter the university seems to have made little attempt to recover control of the guild, although it provided chantry chaplains until the Dissolution. Guild records of the 1550s and later make no mention of university officers. (fn. 240)
The town's control of the tailors' company was confirmed in 1571 when it granted a new corporation; earlier the council had decided to unite the tailors with the woollendrapers, but the plan had been abandoned. (fn. 241) The ordinances of 1571 are the earliest to survive, although others had been confirmed in the 1530s, (fn. 242) and many presumably enshrine ancient practice. The master and two wardens were to be elected annually on the Monday after St. John's day by all who had held the office of master or warden, and were to swear their oaths before the mayor. (fn. 243) The company's officers were to make quarterly searches for poor workmanship and unlawful trading, and were empowered to distrain for fines or quarterages. All tailors in the city and suburbs were to be free both of the city and company and work only on freemen's premises, never in any university or privileged building. Members should employ no more than two or three apprentices at a time, and should first present them for approval to the company's officers. As with other companies incorporated by the city at that time it was agreed that the town clerk should serve as steward, and that internal disputes should be settled by the mayor. (fn. 244) The assize justices who authorized the ordinances, however, reserved the final decision to themselves, and in 1594 intervened after a disputed election. (fn. 245) In 1596, however, the tailors referred an internal dispute to a committee of the city council, and in 1614 the council imprisoned the company's wardens partly because they had preferred, in a dispute with their master, to petition the justices before appealing to the mayor. By 1672 the mayor was referred to as the company's visitor. (fn. 246)
In 1604 the university made an agreement with the tailors, having apparently rediscovered, by chance, a copy of the agreement of 1491; (fn. 247) the university acknowledged the company's rules limiting the craft to freemen and to freemen's premises, and the company agreed that new members, except those qualified by apprenticeship, should pay 12s. to the university, and that the proctors should receive 6s. 8d. a year for delivering over unlawful traders to the company. (fn. 248) Those sums were duly paid until the 1830s, (fn. 249) but the agreement was not otherwise always observed: in 1608, for example, the city council was considering suing the university for the 'injury now offered to the company of tailors and other trades', (fn. 250) and in 1622 the company had to resort to the Privy Council before the vice-chancellor handed over 'a mere stranger' who, while acting as servant to a fellow of Exeter College, was discovered in 1620 to be an active tailor. During that dispute Wolsey's charter to the university was again invoked, and the vice-chancellor offered to refound the company with suitable ordinances. (fn. 251) In 1627 the company acquired new orders from the justices, but when it was on the brink of acquiring a royal charter in 1629 the university used its influence to have it withdrawn. (fn. 252) In 1639 the tailors forbade members of the company to make unauthorized academic gowns, and asked that in return the university should fine students who were such gowns made by strangers. (fn. 253) Resentment of the company by the university continued, and there were complaints that it was 'no true corporation' and yet issued restrictive by-laws and charged excessive fees for membership in order to reduce competition. (fn. 254)
Membership of the company was divided into four classes, the masters, wardens, commonalty, and widows. In 1575 seven out of the ten masters were probably drapers, since they were also members of the mercers' company, (fn. 255) and drapers and mercers continued to be prominent within the company in the early 17th century, perhaps because the mercers' company was defunct. Membership rose from 47 in 1571 to a peak of 187 in 1641, the steepest sustained rise occurring after 1615, although the 1580s and the first decade of the 17th century were also periods of notable growth. During the Civil War membership of the commonalty was reduced from 126 to 53; between the Restoration and 1700 the commonalty numbered between 60 and 80, rose slightly in the first quarter of the 18th century, and then fell sharply to fewer than 10 by 1758. The numbers of masters and wardens remained fairly constantly between 60 and 70 after the Restoration, and did not begin to fall until the mid 18th century. (fn. 256) Many masters, however, were purely honorary appointees after the mid 17th century, including men like Thomas Rowney, M.P., and members of the influential local families of Cope, Dashwood, and Bertie. (fn. 257)
The great increase in the number of tailors in the town in the late 16th century and early 17th gave prominence to the company's role as a restrictive body. In 1582 the city council agreed to admit no foreign tailors to the freedom without the company's consent and for less than £5 4s. 6d.; a similar agreement was repeated regularly, and was still being observed in 1759. (fn. 258) In the 1640s the university complained bitterly of the guild's exclusive policies. (fn. 259) During the Civil War a special problem arose when it was found that soldiers of the garrison were working as tailors, but in 1649 the governor ordered them to join the company. (fn. 260) In 1579 and 1662 it was ordered that journeymen should work only on members' prem ises at a fixed wage. (fn. 261) In 1584 and 1614 it was forbidden to entice work from another master. (fn. 262) In 1622 it was ordered that widows should employ one journeyman only, who should be strictly answerable to the master of the company. (fn. 263) The tailors kept an enrolment book for apprentices from 1604; (fn. 264) in 1624 the number of apprentices was limited to two for those of the rank of master, and presumably to one for the others. After the Restoration several orders were intended to prevent members from taking on apprentices simply to collect their premiums. (fn. 265) The company made great efforts to prevent the sale of ready-made clothes. In 1647 it gave full support to the mayor, John Nixon, when he 'suppressed' a foreign merchant selling such items at a fair. (fn. 266) In 1668 and again in the 1670s the company resorted to Quarter Sessions in an attempt to prevent milliners from selling ready-made clothes, and in 1687 tried to persuade the glovers' company to forbid its members to sell leather breeches or 'anything resembling a suit of clothes'. (fn. 267) In 1702 the company was considering co-operation with other towns in an attempt to suppress mantuamakers, but ten years later their problem was unsolved. (fn. 268) Some prosecutions were successful, as in 1710 when a man was fined by the magistrates for keeping a 'saleshop', (fn. 269) but shortage of funds probably prevented the company from following up many of the cases discussed in their meetings. After 1660 the company's minutes reveal desperation, increasing numbers of fines on members for non-attendance and disorderly working, and numerous cases of difficulty in suppressing unfree tailors: in 1666 an unfree tailor sued the company's officers for trespass after they had made a search, and in 1684 it was agreed that the master should 'use all his endeavour' to suppress a non-freeman making academic gowns in St. Clement's. (fn. 270) The city's backing was increasingly half-hearted, and in 1726 the council agreed to read the by-laws to a foreign tailor, but decided that any prosecution should be left to the company. In 1765 the master failed to obtain a new city by-law obliging tailors both free and foreign to join the company. (fn. 271)
The social function of the company long out-lived its economic role. On the election day (the Monday after St. John's day) the former master gave a dinner in the guild hall or in his own home, and the whole company attended a sermon. (fn. 272) In 1630, however, it was remarked that the tailors were 'wont to have their merry meeting' on St. Andrew's day (30 Nov.), (fn. 273) perhaps an additional festivity. Before the Reformation St. John's day itself was the tailors' day, a mass or dirge for the founder being said in the company's chantry chapel; a priest was paid £2 a year for serving the fellowship then and at the other quarterly drinkings, and among the expenses on Midsummer day were payments for lights, wax flowers, singers, and 'tapers burning on the hearse'. (fn. 274) In the early 18th century the earl of Abingdon, an honorary member, made an annual contribution, presumably for political reasons, of a buck and £2 to put it in pastry. (fn. 275) In 1755 the tailors' feast was an elaborate and 'very numerous' occasion. (fn. 276) In the 16th century, and possibly earlier, the company annually entertained the mayor when he returned from swearing his oath in London; in 1625, probably because of plague, it was agreed that the 'drinking' and the 'glory' (perhaps a public procession) should be replaced by a gift, which in 1658 was wine worth 15s. (fn. 277) In the early 1630s the city council agreed that the company's feasting of the mayor might be suspended while the company was paying off a levy to the Burcot commissioners, but the tradition was still observed in the mid 18th century. (fn. 278) The company was equipped with flags and streamers, and took part in processions on the occasion of royal visits, and at elections; in 1801, for example, the company asked the duke of Marlborough to buy new flags, since the present ones were a disgrace to his 'interest'. (fn. 279)
The company's income came from admission fees, quarterages, fines, and a small amount of property. Normal admission fees were 3s. 4d. and the cost of a dinner; those not qualified by an Oxford apprenticeship paid more, usually £5, though in 1669 one entrant was charged £30. (fn. 280) By 1635 the company had grown so large that the cost of entry dinners was commuted for £3. The practice of apprentices giving a gift of 10s. to the company on entry was established by the mid 17th century, and in the 18th century it was usually £1. (fn. 281) The tailors' property in St. Aldates and Grandpont apparently yielded £2 c. 1470 and little more by the mid 16th century; in 1502 its neglected condition aroused the university's concern. In 1547 it was confiscated as chantry property. (fn. 282) Properties in St. Giles's parish, acquired in the late 17th century, were yielding £5 in 1711–12, and were sold in 1729. (fn. 283) income from all sources, only c. £5 in the 1570s, rose slowly to c. £32 in 1712. (fn. 284) Occasionally there was sufficient stock to lend out to members in small sums, or to provide charitable gifts to distressed members. (fn. 285) In the early 17th century, under protest, the company paid £40 towards opening the Thames from Burcot, and during the Civil War contributed £5 towards a sum granted by the council to the king. (fn. 286) In 1578–9 the company was renting from the city the former chapel at Smith Gate, perhaps as a meeting-place, but that had ceased by 1583 when the 'decayed' building was being rebuilt by another tenant. (fn. 287) Earlier the company had met in the guild hall, and it was there that, later, they held their public feasts. (fn. 288)
There were at least two charities connected with the company: an endowment by Alderman John Harris in 1672, administered by the city council, is described elsewhere; (fn. 289) a sum of £50 for charitable purposes promised by William Seller in 1722 may not have been received. (fn. 290) The company possessed no seal in the early 17th century, (fn. 291) but badges worn by the beneficiaries of Harris's charity were stamped with the company's arms.
The company was moribund by the early 19th century, and in 1838 it was dissolved and its few assets divided among surviving members. (fn. 292)
A company of journeymen tailors existed by the early 16th century. (fn. 293) It was closely controlled by the senior company: two 'wardens of the yeomanry' were elected on the Monday following the tailors' election day and were sworn before the master and wardens; the journeymen's accounts were audited by the senior company's officers and their dinner was subsidized by and attended by company members. (fn. 294) Journeymen swore to work with only freemen and women of the company and to obey the master and wardens. (fn. 295) The senior company passed numerous ordinances governing the employment of journeymen and many journeymen were fined for working unlawfully, particularly for their own profit. By an agreement of 1623 between a tailor and his journeyman, written into the tailors' company book and probably representing the standard practice of the day, the journeyman was to be allowed 6d. for making a 5s. suit or gown, and similarly 10 per cent. of all earnings for 'fetching, carrying, and cutting out of his work besides journey work'. (fn. 296)
The journeymen's company was still in existence in 1699 when the case of a reluctant warden was referred to King's Bench, but it may have ceased to function effectively soon afterwards. (fn. 297) In 1752 the tailors' company complained of unlawful combinations and confederacy among the journeymen, who were refusing to work longer than from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. when they had formerly worked until 8 p.m. Whether or not the company's order that the former hours should be worked for a maximum wage of 9s. a week in winter and 10s. in summer was effective is not known, but in 1776 the company decided to prosecute the journeymen who were again holding meetings and combining to work for certain wages. (fn. 298) In 1792 the journeymen were again refusing to work until their wages were increased. (fn. 299)
In 1571 73 journeymen and servants were sworn, and in 1585 153, c. 40 new entrants being listed the following year. (fn. 300) In 1612 only 79 paid quarterages, but there were over 250 paying members by the late 1620s. After the Civil War the number of annual entrants was more than halved, and although membership fluctuated greatly it was rarely more than 120 and usually well below 100. (fn. 301)
The glovers' guild was in existence in 1461, when it was paying for lights in Trinity chapel in All Saints' church; the glovers' mass on Trinity Monday continued until the 1520s. (fn. 302) Twyne claimed to have found a late-13th-century reference to the guild, but did not give details. (fn. 303) In the early 16th century the glovers invoked their ordinances, which had been approved by the town council, against John Barry, a prominent Eynsham glover accused of 'occupying' the craft in Oxford while free of neither town nor guild. (fn. 304) In 1531 the university included the glovers in a list of guilds which, it claimed, were upheld by the town illegally. (fn. 305)
The glovers were incorporated by the city with the approval of the assize justices in 1562. (fn. 306) The immediate cause of that action was said to be the recent importations into the town of 'naughty foreign wares', gloves of inferior quality apparently sold as Oxford gloves, to the 'infamy and disworship' of the city. In future only gloves sown and cut in the city and suburbs were to be sold there, and only freemen of city and company were to make gloves there or trade in the raw materials. Imported gloves discovered during quarterly searches were to be confiscated. (fn. 307) Glovers were forbidden to work in colleges or halls, or anywhere else except a company member's house or shop. None were to keep more than three or four apprentices, who should first be presented to the company's officers. A provision for the election of a master and two wardens, by former office-holders on the Monday after Trinity Sunday presumably endorsed long established practice. Oaths were approved for both officers and commonalty, the officers to swear before the mayor. There were fines for non-attendance at meetings and for verbal abuse, and imprisonment and fines for disobeying officers, who in turn could be fined for negligence or partiality. Quarterages were set at 4d. for each member. Disputes arising out of the ordinances, or changes to them, were to be dealt with by the assize justices. (fn. 308)
In 1594 the city council agreed that for 10 years no foreign glover would be admitted free for less than £5 4s. 6d. and only then with the company's approval; similar agreements were made in 1617, 1630, and 1647. The council allowed the company to apply to the justices for new ordinances in 1604 and 1669. (fn. 309) The company was permitted in 1714 to invoke the city by-laws against foreign glovers, and was last mentioned in 1728. (fn. 310) A sermon in All Saints church, endowed by Henry Southam (d. 1659) and known as the glovers' sermon, was still preached in 1844. (fn. 311)
In 1463 the cooks' guild was supporting a light in the church of St. Mary the Virgin and holding an annual feast in May. Then, as later, membership seems to have been confined to cooks working in colleges and halls. (fn. 312) In 1481 the chancellor approved ordinances for the guild which confirmed the university's close control: most fines, for example, were to be divided between the chancellor and guild, members were forbidden to implead each other outside the chancellor's court, no town cooks were to be admitted, and any ordinances prejudicial to the university were to be void. Four proctors were to be elected on the feast of the Invention of the Cross (3 May); one guild chest was to be kept by the wardens of the light, another by the wardens of 'the pewter vessels'. Pewter was to be given by new members on admission, and only the guild's vessels were to be used at dinners unless there was a shortage. The fine for nonattendance at meetings was 1 lb. of wax. The great festivities of the year were a 'general riding' of cooks, presumably held on the election day, and a religious ceremony associated with the light at the feast of the Purification. Each member was to contribute 4½d. at the East Gate of Oxford on the day of the riding, and 1d. to the light at the other festival; on both days there were feasts, to which wives were invited. It was ordained that 2d. a week during life should be paid to any member rendered helpless by sickness, and that the guild should be represented at members' funerals by at least four torches. In 1487 the commissary ordered, at the guild's request, that no strange cook should be allowed to work in the precincts of the university for more than a few days unless he promised the guild to obey its customs and liberties, paid 1 lb. of wax and certain pewter, and if still working as a cook in the 'mean season' participated in the general riding. (fn. 313)
Low Sunday was the election day for a master and 2 wardens of the company according to ordinances drawn up by the commissary in 1555. Female cooks in colleges or halls were forbidden at that date, although three years earlier there was one at Magdalen Hall. In 1580 admission fees were set at 40s. minimum for a stranger, 5s. and some pewter for sons and apprentices of members. The master and wardens were to have search of all cooked wares, such as pies and custards, sold within the precincts of the university, and offenders were to be punished by the vice-chancellor. There was to be a cooks' sermon on Good Friday in the church of St. Peter-in-the-East. (fn. 314)
In 1616 further ordinances were sealed by the vicechancellor and signed by some 68 cooks. Allowances ranging from £10 to £3 were to be paid to members' widows, according to the members' status in the guild. Anyone becoming head cook of a college or hall was to pay £5 to the guild even if already a member, and there were smaller fines for second cooks; the status of third cook was to be abolished. It was agreed that sons or apprentices of cooks should pay a yearly fee of £3 and a silver spoon, and give a breakfast to the senior members of the guild. (fn. 315) In 1620 the guild seems to have comprised 45 members, divided into 11 past and present masters, 15 wardens, and 19 juniors. The master class appears to have been confined to head cooks, but some head cooks were also juniors. (fn. 316) The cooks' riding was recorded in 1626 when it was held on Whit Sunday (28 May). (fn. 317) In 1691 the company bought land at Eynsham for c. £400 but sold it again for the same price in 1719. (fn. 318) No further record of the company has been found.
In 1328 the mayor and bailiffs of Oxford received a royal mandate to observe ordinances granted to the London goldsmiths in the previous year; the wardens of the London company nominated an Oxford goldsmith, Edward of Worcester, to collect the company's 'fixed touch of gold' and an official stamp. (fn. 319) An Oxford goldsmiths' company was mentioned in 1348, and in 1524, but not apparently earlier, there was a goldsmiths' mass in All Saints' church at Whitsuntide. (fn. 320)
A skinners' guild was said to exist in 1392, and from 1475 there was an annual skinners' mass on Corpus Christi day in All Saints church. (fn. 321) There were few skinners in Oxford by the early 16th century, (fn. 322) but in 1528 the university made an agreement with them. The town regarded the agreement as a corporation, and challenged the university's right to make it; the university claimed merely to have made an arrangement, at the request of the inhabitants, that scholars should buy only from freemen, the skinners in turn paying admission fees to the university. (fn. 323)
A smiths' guild existed in the mid 15th century. (fn. 324) In 1667 smiths and watchmakers jointly petitioned the city council over a matter of trade regulation, and in 1678 and 1690 the smiths and farriers made similar joint petitions. (fn. 325) In neither case was a company mentioned, but in the early 18th century there was a company of locksmiths, gunsmiths, and farriers, which appointed a master and two wardens on 24 June each year. (fn. 326) A blacksmiths' company was in existence in 1801 when its flag was used in an election campaign. (fn. 327)
In 1499 four cappers or hurers (fn. 328) were accepted into the barbers' guild and special ordinances were made for them. They were to be full members for all purposes, including elections, and subject to all the guild's rules. Properly qualified apprentices would be admitted on the same terms as barbers' apprentices, but other wishing to set up shop were to give a dinner, 1 lb. of wax, and a total of £1 19s. 4d. to the guild, and to officers of both university and town. Cappers and hurers were to be freemen of the town, unlike the barbers. It was forbidden to entice other men's servants, rebuke other members, or sell refurbished caps as new ones. Knitters were to take no work from foreigners if they could get sufficient from Oxford hurers, and their work and wages were closely regulated. Journeymen who could not be employed were to be paid to leave the area within 20 miles of the town. (fn. 329) The amalgamation of barbers and cappers may not have been successful, for one of the cappers of 1499 appeared three years later as master of the cappers' guild. (fn. 330)
A man was referred to as warden of the carpenters in 1525, and in 1537 it was claimed that William Frere, mayor, had recently incorporated the carpenters, masons, and slaters. (fn. 331) In 1556 the council agreed to renew the corporation of joiners, carpenters, slaters, and paviours, and in 1579 there was a freemasons' company. (fn. 332) In 1604 the freemasons, carpenters, joiners, and slaters were given royal permission to form a corporation under a master and wardens which should have a monopoly of the building trade within the city. (fn. 333) The university discommoned the master and other members of the company in 1605 and 1606. The struggle was still continuing in 1609 when the city was hostile to the employment, for the building of Merton College quadrangle, of many 'foreign' masons; more men were discommoned; in 1610 38 members publicly relinquished the company before the mayor and vicechancellor in the guild hall, but six stood firm. (fn. 334) The masons' charter was recalled by the Privy Council in 1612, and had been handed in by late 1613, when it was ordered that masons and slaters should work as freely in the city as hitherto. (fn. 335)
In 1640 the freemasons working on University College chapel were imprisoned by the vice-chancellor for refusing to allow some roughmasons to work with them on the grounds that they were not apprenticed to freemasonry. It appears that a guild had been re-formed in that year which was not confined to masons, for one of the ringleaders was a joiner. The university claimed that the incident at the college represented an attempt by about 40 members of the guild to combine against seven men who refused to join. (fn. 336) No further reference to a masons' company has been found until c. 1736 when its master was chosen by the whole fraternity out of a group of four assistants on St. James's day (25 July). (fn. 337) By the early 18th century there was a separate company of joiners. (fn. 338)
In 1527 there was a dispute involving a hosiers' guild. (fn. 339) In 1530 the university complained that a recent incorporation of fishmongers by the town had led to unreasonable price increases. (fn. 340) A musicians' company was referred to in 1636. (fn. 341)