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London crafts, the Blacksmiths and the Shearmen, we may : form some notion of the way in which the remuneration of the hired servant was fixed. The Blacksmiths (1434) ordered that if a stranger came to London to serve in their craft, he was to give service for two weeks, evidently to furnish indications of his capabilities, and then must enter into a covenant for a period of three years, during which he received a yearly salary of forty shillings 1. The Shearmen's arrangements (1452) were more elastic. Whenever a master employed " any foreign man ", that is, a stranger who was not a member of the gild, the wardens and the assistants were to "see the foreigner work and conscientiously set his salary betwixt his master and him, and there to be bound four years in covenant" 2. Thus among the Shearmen wages were proportioned to the capacity of the wage-earner, while both among the Shearmen and the Blacksmiths we remark the long periods of engagement to which the hired worker was required to bind himself. It is reasonable to suppose that the Regulation gilds also regulated the prices of their commodities. Evi- of prices. dence of this is necessarily scanty, because the gilds would not openly claim the right to do so in their ordinances for fear of awakening the jealousy of the authorities. But the evidence of Leicester shows that the crafts made among themselves an assize or standard of prices 3. Again at Norwich the wardens took oath to present any member who "takes excessively for his craft "4, and the standard of a 'fair price which was not 'excessive' would naturally be determined by the gild. These examples alone would not be conclusive, but in the ordinances of the London Shearmen (1452) we have unmistakable evidence that the craft gilds regulated prices by fixing what the master craftsman should take for his work: "for shearing of scarlet and all other engrained cloth every yard twopence . . . and for all manner cloths folded and tacked in Genoese manner twopence . . . and for folds and tacks of twelve streits in Venetian manner eightpence" 5. We naturally hear most about the fixing of
2 Ibid. iv. 41.
1 Lond. and Midd. Archeol. Soc. iv. 33. 3 Records of Leicester, i. 90 (1260). 4 Records of Norwich, ii. 317. 5 Lond. and Midd. Archæol. Soc. iv. 42. Mediaeval wages' are not always easy to distinguish from mediaeval 'prices'. A master craftsman
prices by the craft gilds when the privilege was abused; for example, it was made the ground of complaint in an act of 1504 that unreasonable ordinances were made as to the "prices of wares "1. As an illustration of the "unreasonable ordinances" against which this statute was directed, may be cited an ordinance of the London Founders which occasioned great friction among their members. "Forasmuch as divers persons used to make sale of divers wares appertaining to the said mistery or craft far better cheap than the charge thereof cost and stood them in for the making and stuff of the same, to the impoverishment of the same sellers and to the hurt and prejudice of all the whole fellowship. Wherefore it was commoned [discussed] among them in what wise and price they might sell their wares so that they might have a convenient living thereby, and it was thought amongst them that a chaffing, called a middle dish, could not well be sold under the price of fourteenpence, and a candlestick, called a small lamp, under the price of eightpence and a candlestick, called a great lamp, under twelvepence, if they should live thereby" 2. Again at Norwich the Chandlers, in order to eliminate competition, agreed that none of them would sell a pound of candles cheaper than the rest; apparently their prices were extortionate, for they were amerced for their offence 3. At another time the London Lime-burners conspired not to sell their wares below certain rates; and their ringleader was condemned on a charge of extortion, deprived of the freedom of the city and sent to prison 4. These instances serve to show that the gilds were not allowed to use their power in a manner detrimental to the community. The pressure brought to bear by a gild upon its recalcitrant members is illustrated in two curious incidents which took place at Coventry. The Dyers' gild undertook to work only at certain rates; and when a number of dyers refused to be bound by these rates, the gild hired Welshmen
working on the consumer's material, is charging a 'price', but he also
2 Select Cases in the Star Chamber, i. 267 (1507).
and Irishmen to waylay and kill them. This drastic treatment of 'blacklegs' represents the mediaeval form of picketing 1. On another occasion the Barbers agreed among themselves to raise their prices," making the cost of that art so much dearer to the damage of the whole people"; and when one of their number repudiated the agreement, his fellows threatened him with violence and summoned him before a spiritual court for breach of oath 2.
The religious side of the gild system figured more promin- (ii) ently in the case of some gilds than in that of others. Many functions. craft gilds seem to have originated as religious fraternities whose members were drawn together by ties of common devotion, and the religious duty of the gild is often placed foremost among its functions. "In the first place they have ordained ", enacted the White Tawyers of London, "that they will find a wax-candle to burn before Our Lady in the Church of All Hallows "3. The absence of direct references to religious obligations in gild ordinances does not necessarily prove that the gild served purely secular purposes; for where the ordinances were submitted to the civic authorities for their approval, they would be concerned mainly with industrial matters only. There are numerous indications that as a rule every gild was wont to maintain lights upon the altars of its patron saint. Closely connected with the maintenance of altar-lights were provisions for plays and pageants, which the crafts exhibited annually as part of their contribution (leitourgia) to the social life of the community. In the history of the mediaeval stage the gilds occupy an important place, and at York a gild was expressly founded to keep up a religious play 5. During the later Middle Ages the drama was undergoing a transformation, and while still remaining primarily a vehicle for religious edification was rapidly emancipating itself from ecclesiastical control. "Out of the hands of the clergy
1 Vict. County Hist. Warwickshire, ii. 252.
2 Patent Rolls, 1391-1396, p. 720; Coventry Leet Book, iv. p. xxxiv. For another example, see infra, p. 314.
3 Riley, Memorials, 232 (1346).
E.g. Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 121 (Weavers); 145 (Cordwainers); 165 (Hoopers): early fifteenth century.
5 Smith, English Gilds, 137.
in their naves and choirs, it had passed to those of the laity in their market-places and guild-halls"1. The Mystery Play attained its highest point of development with the institution of the great Cycles in which biblical incidents were portrayed in a succession of pageants. The four great Cycles still extant are the Coventry, Chester, Townley and York 2. The Coventry Cycle and the Chester Mysteries 4 became especially famous and attracted visitors in large numbers, while the text of the York Cycle 5 is preserved as it was actually played by the craft. At Norwich the crafts were divided into twelve groups, each of which was required to produce an annual pageant: the Mercers, Drapers and Haberdashers presented the Creation of the World, the Grocers and others Paradise, the Smiths the conflict of David and Goliath, while further sections of the Cycle were distributed among the remaining trades 6. The procession of Corpus Christi was the most popular Cycle of all, and at Hereford the Glovers exhibited Adam and Eve, the Carpenters "Noye Ship", the Tailors "The Three Kings of Colen", and the Bakers "Knyghtes in Harnes "". More appropriate still were the parts assigned to the gilds of York, where the Armourers represented Adam and Eve driven from Paradise, the Shipwrights the Building of Noah's Ark, and the Fishers and Mariners the Flood 8. There was no theatre, and the pageants were exhibited in different parts of the city on movable stages which were drawn by horses from one quarter to another; the object in repeating the play being to enable as many as possible to be spectators. The authorities devoted the most careful attention to the minutest details of the pageant, insisting at York that the
1 E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage (1903), ii. 69, 147. reference to the Xeroupyla is Mr. Chambers's.
2 A. W. Pollard, English Miracle Plays (1890), p. xxix.
3 Harris, Life in an Old English Town, 341.
4 Morris, Chester, 303 seq.
5 L. Toulmin Smith, York Mystery Plays (1885), p. xliii.
Records of Norwich, ii. 230, No. cccc.
Hist. MSS. Comm. 13th Rep. App. iv. 288.
R. Davies, Municipal Records of the City of York (1843), 232 seq.; Drake, Eboracum, App. xxx.; L. Toulmin Smith, York Mystery Plays, 29, 40, 45. For the Corpus Christi pageant at Ipswich, see J. Wodderspoon, Memorials of Ipswich (1850), 155 seq.
crafts should provide "good players well arrayed and openly speaking "1, and at Coventry that all "who play in the Corpus Christi pageant shall play well and sufficiently so that no impediment may arise in any play "2. A striking feature of these pageants was the love of music, which was a marked characteristic of the English people in the Middle Ages, and in the accounts of the Bakers at Bristol the payments to minstrels constitute an important item3. This intimate association of the craft gilds with the popular drama that was springing up in England serves to illustrate the communal aspect of the gild system, and reveals how closely interwoven were the social aspects of the gild with its economic and industrial activities. Bound together by their common calling in the pursuit of common aims, the mediaeval craftsmen developed an ideal of co-operation and joint effort which gained in intensity what it may seem to have lacked in range of vision.
Among the agencies by which distress in the Middle (iii.) Ages was relieved, the craft gilds occupied an important societies. place, and as friendly societies they contributed to the support of their poorer members. The Carpenters of London (1333) instituted a provision that "if any brother or sister fall into poverty by God's hand or in sickness . . . so that he may not keep himself, then shall he have of the brotherhood each week fourteenpence during this poverty, after he hath lain sick a fortnight". They added: "and that he shall be so timely visited and holpen that he shall not for default of help be brought to nought, nor be undone of his estate ere he be holpen ". During his poverty the unfortunate brother was also to receive the livery clothing at the common cost, in order that he might not be put to shame in the presence of the gild assembly. The Merchant Taylors of Bristol allowed twelvepence every week from their common goods "5, and the Grocers' Company furnished
1 Davies, op. cit. 237.
2 Coventry Leet Book, i. 195.
3 Trans. Bristol and Glouc. Archæol. Soc. iii. 95.
• The Boke' of the Ordinances of the Brotherhood of Carpenters of London, ed. C. Welch (1912), 13. But in 1487 poor members were to have weekly
a reward of the common box of the craft after the discretion of the master
and wardens": Jupp and Pocock, Carpenters' Company, 348.
5 Fox, Merchant Taylors of Bristol, 27.