Salisbury: Merchant and craft guilds to 1612

Pages 132-136

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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The composition of 1306 between the bishop and citizens for the administration of the city under the bishop's authority (fn. 1) provided for the immediate establishment of a guild merchant comprising all those merchants, craftsmen, and other persons numbering about 300 named in a schedule attached to the agreement. In fact this must have been a re-constitution of a guild merchant, which may have been formed as early as 1227, the date of the first royal charter. (fn. 2) In 1248–9 a guild merchant had been in existence for some time, for the established custom of the city was recited when Robert of Alderbury, though villein born, retained his freedom by proving that he had dwelt in Salisbury 'in scot and lot and in the guild merchant as a free burgess'. (fn. 3) After 1306 members were admitted to the guild merchant either by the bishop or by the mayor on payment of a fee, which was divided equally between the bishop and the commonalty. (fn. 4)

Apart from its social and religious aspects nothing is known of the activities of the guild merchant and the control, if any, it exercised over the craft guilds and the trading community. The records of its affairs were presumably kept among the archives of the bishop's court, no longer extant. A request for an effective guild merchant court was made in the course of the negotiations with Bishop Beauchamp in 1472, (fn. 5) but this was not granted. It appears that industrial or commercial matters of outstanding importance, such as those connected with the cloth industry, were recorded in the city's ledger books as being the direct concern of the assembly, and regulations for the sale of all kinds of food likewise appear to have been the responsibility of the mayor and assembly rather than of a guild merchant.

The earliest reference found to a craft guild in Salisbury is to the fraternity of the craft of skinners in 1380. (fn. 6) Although no other mention of the craft guilds in the 14th century has been found, early 15thcentury references show the craft guilds to be firmly established in the city by then, so that they must have been in existence during the previous century. By the mid-15th century, and probably earlier, it was the practice to use the organization of the crafts for the fulfilment of certain national or municipal obligations, such as the supply of armed men under the commissions of array, or to make good the fortifications and clean the Town Ditch. This fact has helped to preserve evidence of the relative importance of the crafts, and of their groupings. Thus in 1440 there is a complete list of the guilds made when wardens from 38 crafts and trades attended a meeting to raise money for the completion of the great ditch around the city. (fn. 7) The list is headed by two names representing the mercers, grocers, and drapers jointly, followed by the names of two representatives each for the weavers, brewers, fullers, tailors, shoemakers, and bakers, in that order. Innkeepers, butchers, tanners, dyers, and skinners were also separately represented; other occupations were represented in groups, as for example the goldsmiths with the blacksmiths and braziers, and the carpenters with a number of crafts, which by the 17th century formed the joiners' company, namely, the bowmakers, coopers, masons, tilers, painters, and fletchers. (fn. 8)

In 1415 the guilds contributed towards the supply of money, 'hobblers', and archers for the Agincourt campaign. (fn. 9) Their support was similarly called for in 1474 and 1475 and three separate contingents totalling 48 men were equipped, 10 by the mercers, 6 by the brewers, 4 by the tailors, and one or two by 15 other occupations. The city ledger book also includes a list of names under 11 of these occupations distinguishing officers from ordinary members. The total number of names under each craft gives some idea of their importance: weavers 66; tailors 44; fullers and shearers 30; smiths 24; dubbers 21; tanners 18; butchers 14; barber surgeons 13; cornmongers 11; innkeepers 8; and pewterers 3. (fn. 10) It is interesting to note, however, that 54 years earlier the master weavers alone, including their 4 stewards, numbered 85 people. (fn. 11) The lists of 1474 and 1475 show that all the crafts had their own stewards as well as wardens, with the exception of the tanners, who had only wardens, and the innkeepers, who had no officers. The butchers had also 2 searchers. (fn. 12)

A less onerous, but equally binding, obligation imposed upon the craft guilds was attendance at the city watch on Midsummer's eve, and the eves of the feasts of St. Osmund and St. Peter. (fn. 13) In 1447, for example, 6 tanners, 5 barber surgeons, and a shoemaker were fined for non-appearance. (fn. 14)

Although no very clearly defined segregation of crafts to special quarters of the city has been detected, an early 15th-century taxation list shows that at that date the largest number of weavers and tuckers lived in St. Martin's Ward, dyers in the Market Ward, and skinners, tailors, saddlers, and curriers in New Street Ward. (fn. 15)

The only guild charters so far discovered for the 15th and 16th centuries are those of the weavers and tailors. The first extant charter of incorporation of the weavers, dated 1562, was subsequently found to be defective, and was revised in 1590. By this, in addition to incorporation and powers of controlling their own craft, the weavers were authorized to hold property up to the annual value of £40, not £20 as in the charter of 1562. (fn. 16) While most weavers seem to have lived in the south-east part of the city, their hall stood in Endless Street, (fn. 17) not far from the wool market, and fairly near St. Edmund's Church, in which their fraternity of St. Mary worshipped and kept its common chest. (fn. 18) The guild owned property in Endless Street, formerly belonging to Richard Gage, merchant, who died c. 1444, (fn. 19) and some of its land lying to the west of the modern Greencroft may have been given by Richard Wreffyn, a resident there in 1497. (fn. 20) Sixteen other messuages and fourteen gardens were purchased shortly after the new charter was obtained in 1590. (fn. 21) Provision was made for the maintenance of property belonging to the weavers' guild fraternity of St. Mary in the will, dated 1491, of John Briggs, clothier, who was buried in St. Edmund's Church. (fn. 22) The household of John Briggs may be considered typical of the wealthier citizens at that time. He left to three men servants 2 broad looms and a kersey loom, and to four apprentices and five women servants 20s. apiece. (fn. 23)

The fullers, usually called tuckers, were already firmly established as a separate craft by the early 15th century, having, like the weavers, masters and journeymen with two stewards for each group. (fn. 24) Less numerous than the weavers, they nevertheless played an adequate part in Salisbury's cloth industry. Attention has been drawn elsewhere to the numbers of weavers, fullers, and dyers, whose names occur so frequently in the city records, and to the contribution made by them to the economic life of medieval Wiltshire. (fn. 25)

The earliest known references to the guild of tailors occur in the wills of two of its members, Thomas Child (d. 1413) (fn. 26) and William More (d. 1420). (fn. 27) In 1447 the tailors' fraternity of St. John the Baptist was attached to St. Thomas's Church, but that year, owing to the ruinous state of the church, it was moved to St. Edmund's. (fn. 28) Two years later, at the instigation of over 30 members of the guild, led by Stephen Hendy and John Ashford, the fraternity returned to St. Thomas's, although a link with St. Edmund's was maintained. (fn. 29) A number of tailors even attempted to establish a chaplain in St. Edmund's, and complained that Stephen Hendy and John Stavely, parishioners of St. Thomas's, both of whom had been wardens of the guild, refused to surrender the necessary letters patent, vestments, and ornaments. (fn. 30) John Ashford later associated the guild with St. Edmund's by devising property to endow an obit there. (fn. 31)

A set of ledgers and act books, extending from 1444 to 1836, give much information about the organization and activities of the tailors. (fn. 32) The rules, ordinances, and constitution of the 'Tayllours and the bretherhethe of Seynt John Baptist' are set out at the beginning of the first ledger. (fn. 33) Near the beginning of the second is Bishop Beauchamp's confirmation, dated 1462, of the guild's charter of incorporation from Edward IV, dated 1461. (fn. 34) This charter granted the usual powers and authority together with the right to hold land to the annual value of £20 to support a chantry priest celebrating daily in St. Thomas's. The charter was confirmed by charters of Mary and Elizabeth I in 1554 and 1558 respectively. (fn. 35)

An undated bede roll in the second ledger book names 41 benefactors of the tailors' guild beginning with John Pinnock. (fn. 36) Pinnock was presumably a tailor, and is possibly to be identified with the John Pinnock, who died abroad some time after 1386, having arranged for William More, tailor, to dispose of his estate. (fn. 37) The greatest of all the tailors' benefactors was William Swayne, not himself a tailor, whose connexion with the church of St. Thomas has been described elsewhere. (fn. 38) It seems likely that he supported the craft in its continued allegiance to this church, for during his mayoralty in 1479, when he made provision for the guild's chantry priest, the tailors recorded their indebtedness to him over the past 30 years, and gave him the title of 'founder of the guild'. (fn. 39)

The tailors, like the fullers and weavers, were organized under the two groups of masters and journeymen, each having its own warden and two stewards. The development of their activities made it necessary in 1451 to appoint a master for the whole craft, and John Ashford was the first holder of this office. (fn. 40) Two chamberlains were established after the grant of the charter of 1461, (fn. 41) and a list of oaths drawn up in 1481 shows that there was also a beadle, whose duty it was to present all offences. (fn. 42) In 1560 seven viewers were made responsible for examining the craftsmanship of all new members. (fn. 43) In the 16th century some of the Salisbury tailors were selling woollen cloth. (fn. 44) Hosiers also became members of the tailors' guild, and from time to time in the later 16th century rules were made confining them to their own type of work, namely, women's hose, men's stockings, and boot hose. Likewise, apprentices to tailors were to make only men's and women's garments. (fn. 45)

In the 15th century the master tailors had a hall near the Market Place, which may have been the chamber in St. Thomas's churchyard, for which they paid the churchwardens a rent of 6s. 8d. (fn. 46) From 1451 to 1533 the meetings of the whole guild usually took place in the hall of the Grey Friars. (fn. 47) In 1534 the guild assembled in a 'convenyent mansion house and place', thenceforth to be called the Tailors' Hall, which they had built upon their own ground at the corner of Milford and Pennyfarthing Streets in the area known until the 17th century as Swayne's Chequer, and later as the Ship Chequer. (fn. 48) The numbers belonging to the guild at different dates give some indication of the extent of their business. In 1451, apart from men having shops said to be 'not of the clothing', there were 40 registered master tailors. (fn. 49) By 1481 these had increased to 54 including their wardens, chamberlains, and stewards. (fn. 50) The numbers continued to increase during the earlier 16th century, fell after the suppression of the chantries, but recovered again under Elizabeth I, 67 members being present at a meeting in 1566. (fn. 51) Although according to their first bede roll begun in 1495 (retrospectively) and continued until 1581, only four tenements came to the fraternity by direct devise, (fn. 52) part of the ready money from 37 other benefactors was invested in property. A rental made in 1587 of their lands within the city shows that the tailors then owned sixteen houses, chiefly in Gigant Street, and Love Lane, Milford Street near the Black Bridge, Tanner Street, and Endless Street. (fn. 53) Other property in Endless Street, High Street, and New Street was bought in 1595. (fn. 54)

The regular compilation of the records of the tailors' fraternity and their preservation may show the guild's consciousness of its importance among the Salisbury crafts. It was the only guild, apart from that of the weavers, to be wealthy and important enough to present its own pageant in the processions of the watch on St. Osmund's eve. (fn. 55) The chief feature of this pageant was the giant with attendant sword and mace bearers, the figure and trappings of which are still preserved in the Salisbury Museum. All sections of the craft also took part in the celebration of masses on 6 May, 24 June, and 29 August, and at the annual feast on Midsummer's Day. The craft also had morris dancers, a custom which continued until the early 17th century at least, for in 1611 the wardens of the craft were committed to prison for patronizing the morris dancers on a Sunday. Although not many tailors were among the very foremost citizens, their masters contributed to the conduct of city affairs, usually as aldermen or members of the twenty-four and fortyeight, (fn. 56) occasionally as mayors. (fn. 57) A tailor of substance, who in 1476 was exonerated from holding the office of mayor on payment of 10 marks, was William Marchy, (fn. 58) a member of the forty-eight from 1456, (fn. 59) and warden of the master tailors in 1475–6 and possibly earlier as well. (fn. 60) His will, proved in 1480, expressed his wish to be buried in St. Thomas's Church, behind the High Altar before the image of St. John the Baptist, and disposed of his dwelling in Winchester Street, a tenement with garden and racks in Gigant Street next to St. Edmund's Church, and a cottage with garden in Rollestone Street. Other bequests included silver vessels, furred gowns, and money amounting to some £35. (fn. 61) In the 16th century a number of prominent tailors styled themselves drapers. (fn. 62)

No medieval regulations have survived for any other Salisbury guilds, and, so far as is known, no others besides the weavers and tailors possessed charters of incorporation or held lands for the support of chantries in the city churches. The existence, however, of other guilds as organized groups is disclosed by the 15th-century lists referred to above. (fn. 63) A little more information about some of them is to be had from chance references. In 1566 the skinners, who are first mentioned in 1380 when a London merchant left the fraternity a pouch, (fn. 64) petitioned the tailors not to allow their members to encroach upon the work of the skinners by furring any garment for man or woman. (fn. 65) The hides of the Salisbury tanners were noted as far north as Beverley, for the saddlers' craft of that town required its members to use 'Salisbery lethyr, calf lethyr, swyn lether and brynt lethyr'. (fn. 66) The names of a few goldsmiths appear in the city records, such as John Perhaunt, a member of the assembly, and Geoffrey Mauncell, who lived in Castle Street, (fn. 67) but nothing is known of the organization of their craft. Salisbury was, however, included among the seven towns outside London allowed by Parliament in 1423 to have their own touches for the goldsmiths' marks. (fn. 68) The Salisbury goldsmiths in the late 15th and 16th centuries if not earlier, were subject to supervision by the wardens of the London Company of Goldsmiths so far as the metallic fineness of their finished work was concerned, and faced some competition from London craftsmen visiting their fairs. In the 16th century Exeter was also a competitor of note. (fn. 69)

The barber-surgeons appear to have worshipped in the church of St. Thomas, and John Winchester, a member of the craft, lived in a house opposite the Poultry Cross, which he devised to the wardens of the fraternity for religious purposes. (fn. 70) A light of the fraternity kept in the cathedral is mentioned in the will dated 1430 of William Harnell, barber, who was buried with several other members of his family in St. Edmund's churchyard. (fn. 71) The cooks were associated with the barber-surgeons in the lists of 1440. (fn. 72) They, and also the bakers, gave offerings to St. Edmund's Church at their guild festivals. (fn. 73) A craft for which almost no information is available is that of the hatters, yet among the signatories to the agreement with Bishop Simon of Ghent signed in 1306, (fn. 74) whose occupation was given, no fewer than six men were of this craft, 4 from New Street Ward, and 1 each from the Market and St. Martin's Wards. (fn. 75) Richard le Hattere owned a house in 1331 at the corner of Brown Street and New Street, (fn. 76) and represented the city in Parliament in 1306–7. Other hatters working in the city during the earlier 14th century were John of London and John the Mariner. (fn. 77) The latter had a tenement in Minster Street in 1356, and this gave the name to a cellar called 'Hatterestaverne' mentioned with other property in a grant of 1396. (fn. 78) In the procession of the watch on St. Osmund's eve the hatters and cappers came ninth together with the barbers and chandlers. (fn. 79)


  • 1. See p. 101.
  • 2. See p. 94.
  • 3. W.N. & Q. iv. 117–18, quoted in C. Haskins, Ancient Trade Guilds and Companies of Salisbury, 20.
  • 4. Hatcher, Salisbury, 77.
  • 5. Hatcher, Salisbury, 765 and see above, p. 102.
  • 6. R. R. Sharpe, Cal. Wills proved in Ct. of Husting, ii. 223.
  • 7. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 125. The full list is printed in Haskins, Guilds, 60–2.
  • 8. Haskins, op. cit. 339–62, and see below, p. 136.
  • 9. Haskins, op. cit. 58.
  • 10. Ibid. 62–4; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. 120–1.
  • 11. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 73.
  • 12. Ibid. Ledger B. ff. 120d.–121.
  • 13. Haskins, Guilds, 67–73.
  • 14. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 144; Ledger B. f. 139d.
  • 15. Ibid. Roll of Contributors' Names with sums contributed, see Wilts. Borough Rec. (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 81, item 163. Internal evidence suggests that it is an early, not late, 15th-century list.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. 1560–63, 492; Haskins, Guilds, 91–4.
  • 17. For later history of their hall see p. 137.
  • 18. Haskins, op. cit. 91; V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 126. The fraternity and its priests are mentioned in the wills of John Frost, weaver, 1409, and Wm. Walter, citizen and merchant, 1417: Sar. Corp. MSS. Domesday Bk. 1396– 1413, f. 83, ibid. 1413–33, f. 63, and see pp. 152–3.
  • 19. Sar. Corp. MSS. Domesday Bk. 1459–79, f. 12.
  • 20. Ibid. Deeds. J.22. i, 1533; Swayne, Scrapbk. 23, 37.
  • 21. Cal. Chanc. Proc. (Rec. Com.), iii. 315.
  • 22. P.C.C. 1 Doggett, and see p. 153.
  • 23. P.C.C. 1 Doggett.
  • 24. Haskins, Guilds, 83–4.
  • 25. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 124–8.
  • 26. P.C.C. 28 Marche.
  • 27. Haskins, Guilds, 110.
  • 28. Ibid. 99, 104, 112, 119; Cal. Pat. 1446–52, 122, and see below, p. 149.
  • 29. Haskins, op. cit. 112, 102–3; D. & C. Sar. Reg. Burgh, f. 45.
  • 30. C 1/108/14.
  • 31. See p. 153.
  • 32. Among Sar. Corp. MSS. There is a gap from 1451 to 1461. Lists of apprentices with their masters begin in 1461: Haskins, Guilds, 168.
  • 33. Haskins, op. cit. 109.
  • 34. Ibid. 105–8, 117–18; Cal. Pat. 1461–67, 55.
  • 35. Hatcher, Salisbury, 192 n.
  • 36. Haskins, Guilds, 128–30.
  • 37. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds G.5. iv, 1424.
  • 38. See p. 149.
  • 39. Haskins, Guilds, 120–1.
  • 40. Ibid. 114.
  • 41. Ibid. 117–18.
  • 42. Ibid. 126.
  • 43. Ibid. 167.
  • 44. Sar. Corp. MSS. Tailors' Guild Assembly Bk. 1517–75, f. 15.
  • 45. Haskins, Guilds, 170; Sar. Corp. MSS. Tailors' Guild Assembly Bk. 1575–98.
  • 46. Haskins, op. cit. 102, 111. See also Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 206d.
  • 47. Haskins, op. cit. 160.
  • 48. Ibid. 160–61, and see below, p. 137.
  • 49. Haskins, Guilds, 113–14. Certain tailors, not freemen of the city, had a shop in the Close: E 134/31 Eliz./Hil. 10.
  • 50. Haskins, op. cit. 126–7.
  • 51. Ibid. 160, 164, 170.
  • 52. Ibid. 128–30.
  • 53. Ibid. 175.
  • 54. Hatcher, Salisbury, 192 n.
  • 55. Haskins, Guilds, 68; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. 139d., 210. The guild chamberlain temp. Eliz. I had custody of a hobbyhorse and the garments of Maid Marian: Sar. Corp. MSS. Tailors' Guild Assembly Bk. 1517–75, ff. 96d., 102d.
  • 56. e.g. Wm. Eston, an alderman, 1493: Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 182; Ric. Hayne, one of the 24, c. 1452–6: ibid. Ledger A. ff. 158–9, Ledger B. ff. 3, 18; Vincent Mulpy, son-in-law of Wm. Cormaile, one of the 48: ibid. Ledger B. ff. 164, 182d., 170d.
  • 57. e.g. Wm. Cormaile, 1448: Hatcher, Salisbury, 696; Robt. Griffiths, 1545: Haskins, Guilds, 165–6; Sar. Corp. MSS. Tailors' Guild Assembly Bk. 1517–75, f. 34; Thos. Bee, 1590, and Thos. Elliot, 1596: Tailors' Guild Assembly Bk. 1575–98, ff. 45d.–127, 104–119d.
  • 58. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger P. f. 128. In 1464 he was excused the office of reeve because he had advanced 40s. for the wages of armed men: ibid. f. 70.
  • 59. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 15d.
  • 60. Ibid. Tailors' Guild Assembly Bk. 1575–98, f. 9d.; Haskins, Guilds, 118.
  • 61. P.C.C. 1 Logge.
  • 62. Robt. Griffiths, P.C.C. 16 Babington (1568), and see above, n. 34; Thos. Wolfe, P.C.C. 30 Darcy (1581); Haskins, Guilds, 130, 167.
  • 63. See p. 133.
  • 64. Sharpe, Cal. Wills in Ct. of Husting, ii. 223.
  • 65. Haskins, Guilds, 171.
  • 66. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. liv. 100.
  • 67. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 18; Domesday Bk. 1413–33, f. 104.
  • 68. Rot. Parl. (Rec. Com.), iv. 257a; C. J. Jackson, Eng. Goldsmiths and their Marks, 469.
  • 69. Min. Bks. of the Goldsmiths' Company of London, especially Min. Bk. A, p. 161; I, p. 145, and the long series of references to Exeter (references supplied by T. F. Reddaway with permission of the Goldsmiths' Co.).
  • 70. See p. 149.
  • 71. Sar. Corp. MSS. Domesday Bk. 1413–33, f. 246.
  • 72. Haskins, Guilds, 61.
  • 73. Ibid. 243.
  • 74. See p. 101.
  • 75. Hatcher, Salisbury, 742–3.
  • 76. D. & C. Sar. Deeds 1/1/8. Perhaps the one previously held by Andrew le Hattere: Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds A.7. xii, 1320.
  • 77. Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies. i. 204, 205–8. 4 shops in New St. were held by Roger Fouke, hatter in 1345: Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds B. 20, iv, 1345. For other hatters in Salisbury in the 15th cent., see Sar. Corp. MSS. Domesday Bk. 1396–1413, f. 107d.; 1413–33, ff. 35, 40; Roll of Contributors' Names (Wilts. Borough Rec. W.A.S. Rec. Brch. 81, item 163).
  • 78. Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 217–18.
  • 79. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 210.