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trol of industry.
work of restrictions, which bound him on every side hand and foot. It did not suffer the minutest detail to escape its rigid scrutiny and observation. It embodied in its regulations a whole social system, into which the individual was completely absorbed by the force of public opinion and the pressure of moral and social conventions. It embraced within its scope not only the strictly technical, but also the religious, the artistic and the economic activities of mediaeval society. It was first and foremost undoubtedly an industrial organization, but the altar and the pageant, the care for the poor and the education of the young, were no less part of its functions than the regulation of wages and hours and all the numerous concerns of economic life. It is by the analysis of craft ordinances that we may perhaps reconstruct in part the more important aspects of mediaeval industrial life, and attempt some comparison with the conditions of our own day.
The technical ordinances of the gild were intended to protect the consumer against defective wares and the producer against cheap labour. This is shown in the Bristol Book of Ordinances: "Diverse ordinances have been made on the working of woollen cloths to the intent that good and true cloth shall be made in the town, as well for the preservation of the good fame of the same as for the profit which they shall take on the sale of their cloth "1. Nothing is more remarkable in these regulations than the minute detail with which they set forth the duties and responsibilities of the gildsmen. They demonstrate clearly how intimately the welfare of industry and the ideals of sound craftsmanship were bound up with the fortunes of the gild system. The rules in force among the Weavers of Bristol will serve in illustration of the rest; they fixed the width of the drapery, and directed that "if the threads are deficient in the cloth or are too far apart, which the weavers called tosed, that cloth and the instrument on which it is worked ought to be burnt"; the same penalty was inflicted when the cloth was made of woollen thread called thrums, or if it were worse in the middle than at the 1 Little Red Book, ii. 40.
sides "1. The minuteness with which industrial life was regulated does not require us to suppose that a craftsman in the Middle Ages was necessarily more honest and trustworthy than his descendant. On the contrary, the explanation is rather that mediaeval methods of fraud were extremely primitive, and demanded constant and detailed scrutiny. Bakers stole dough almost under the very eyes of their customers 2; ale-wives thickened their quart measures with pitch covered over with rosemary, "so as to look like a bush in the sight of the common people "3; cappers made caps with prohibited materials; pepperers mixed old and new wares, and made the ends of a bale contain better commodities than the middle 5; shoemakers put calf-skin among ox leather 6.
It is sometimes assumed that the preambles of the gild Penalties for bad enactments really cloaked a selfish and blind attachment workmanon the part of the gild-brethren to their own narrow interests. ship. But it is difficult to rise from a study of their ordinances without a feeling that, in the best days of the gild, the professions of good faith and regard for "the common profit were not devoid of real meaning. They represented at least an ideal, by which in practice the conduct of the gildsmen, while often selfish, would tend to be influenced. Among the Pewterers of London penalties were inflicted for bad workmanship as follows: at the first default the offender was condemned to lose the defective ware, at the second he was also punished, and at the third he was expelled from the craft "for ever" he had sullied the reputation of the gild and damaged its good name in the
1 Little Red Book, ii. 1, 5 (1346). The Paviors of London, to take another illustration (1479), were forbidden to make any pavement higher than it was before: Welch, Paviors' Company, 10.
2 In 1327 a baker did skilfully and artfully cause a certain hole to be made upon a table of his pertaining to his bakehouse. And when his neighbours and others who were wont to bake bread at his oven came with their dough, he used to put the dough upon the table and over the hole to make loaves therefrom. Meanwhile, one of his household lay concealed beneath the hole and carefully opening it, piecemeal and bit by bit, he craftily extracted some of the dough, to the great loss of all his neighbours . . . and of others who had come to bake, and to the scandal and disgrace of the whole city": Riley, Memorials, 163.
3 Ibid. 319.
Riley, Memorials, 120-121.
Ibid. 90; Letter Book D, 271-272. • Records of Nottingham, i. 319.
eyes of the public, upon whose favour the craftsmen were dependent for their market1. At Chester in 1429 a shoemaker incurred the heavy penalty of ten pounds for selling shoes of his own workmanship insufficiently made, “to the prejudice of the company of shoemakers" 2. This insistence that a bad workman brought discredit upon his fellows is worth attention. It explains the anxiety of the gilds to exclude from their membership all who were likely to damage their good name. The Shearmen of London allowed no new member to be admitted, unless "he be known a good man and of good name and fame and of good conditions, and that he be perfect and able workman of the said craft". In the same way the Grocers' Company would accept no one "unless he be of good fame "4, while among the Bowers of York a dishonest member who was guilty of larceny expiated his offence with expulsion from the gild 5. Among the Tailors of Bristol, York, Exeter, Plymouth, and among the Fullers of Colchester, any artisan who by his incompetence ruined his customer's cloth was required to recompense the owner. At Bristol, “if any tailor lose [spoil] by his evil working a cloth or garment to him delivered to be cut, and the possessor complain to the master and wardens", the latter shall examine into the matter and the customer's loss be made good: "so every tailor shall be better advised to cut well and sufficiently the cloth that is delivered unto him". Similarly among the Dyers of Bristol any damage occasioned by defective dyeing was to be recompensed; and the London Skinners also allowed customers to bring complaints to " the rulers of the trade", and promised to punish the offender. Even more striking was the ordinance at Plymouth, where the gild
1 Welch, Pewterers' Company, i. 4.
2 Morris, Chester, 437. The London Coopers fined their members for defective work: Firth, Coopers' Company, 41.
3 Lond. and Midd. Archæol. Soc. iv. 40.
4 J. A. Kingdon, Records of the Grocers' Company (1886), i. 10.
5 York Memorandum Book, i. 62.
(i.) Bristol: Fox, Merchant Taylors, 35, 50 (1401). (ii.) York: Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, iii. 451. (iii.) Exeter: Smith, English Gilds, 321. (iv.) Plymouth Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. part i. App. 274. (v.) Colchester: Red Paper Book, 25. Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 83 (1407).
8 Riley, Memorials, 329 (1365).
apparently shouldered direct responsibility for ill-wrought work. If" the craft admit any man to be of the said occupation and craft, and he happen to destroy or mar any manner of garment for lack of understanding and non-cunning in that behalf, that then he or they so hurt or grieved shall warn the masters" and they "shall pay and content for the garment . . . so destroyed". These regulations of the gild enforcing sound quality and a good standard of workmanship were not suffered to remain a dead letter, and steps were taken, as we shall see, to institute a rigorous search throughout the craft at all times and places. It was on this account that night-work was generally prohibited1, some- Nighttimes with no less a penalty than that the offender should "abjure his trade for a year and a day" 2. This may appear an arbitrary interference with the rights of the individual, but artificial light militated against sound work: “No man can work so neatly by night as by day" 3. Moreover, the wardens could not carry on their search after sunset. The London Hatters in 1347 petitioned the magistrates to prohibit night-work, on the ground that it enabled workmen to evade the control of the craft authorities : whereas some workmen in the said trade have made hats that are not befitting, in deceit of the common people, from which great scandal, shame and loss have often arisen to the good folks of the said trade, they pray that no workman in the said trade shall do any work by night touching the same, but only in clear daylight, that so the aforesaid wardens may openly inspect their work" 4. The prohibition against night work was sometimes relaxed. The Weavers of Leicester could weave by night and by day, though it was stipulated that no defect must be found in their work 5.
1 London Weavers (1300): Riley, Liber Custumarum, i. 121; Letter Book F, 173 (1347). Leicester Weavers (1260): Records, i. 89.
2 In the case of the third offence: Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 3.
Riley, Memorials, 226-Spurriers (1345). A similar reason is given among the Ordinances of the Pewterers: Welch, i. 4. This, rather than the statement in L. Brentano, On the History and Development of Gilds (1870), p. cxxx, that the rule was due to regard for the well-being of the gild-brothers", is the correct explanation.
4 Riley, Memorials, 239.
5 Records of Leicester, i. 105 (1264). The stipulation shows the real purpose of the original prohibition against night-work.
Regulation of wages.
Elsewhere night-work was permitted in times of exceptional stress1. Sunday labour also was prohibited; thus the bishop of Worcester in 1441 forbade shoemakers of Gloucester to ply their trade on Sundays 2, and barbers were not allowed to exercise their craft except for strangers. In addition the artisan was bidden to do his work in full public view, not in upper rooms or cellars but in halls and shops next the road in sight of the people" 4.
Although wages and prices were often regulated by the municipality and subsequently by the state 5, the assessment of wages and the fixing of prices were also a common feature of gild activity. The Bowers' craft of York fixed artificers' wages both for piece-work and by week. The taskman' who worked by the piece received sixteenpence for "chipping" a hundred bows, while journeymen who were not competent for taskwork' received twelvepence a week and their food during one half of the year, and eightpence a week and food the other half. Other gilds at York, the Skinners, the Cordwainers, the Shearmen and the Weavers, also regulated the rates of payment which hired workers were to receive. At Bristol the Fullers 8, at Coventry the Cappers 9, fixed the wages of their workmen, and at Leicester the remuneration of weavers and women wool-wrappers was also laid down by the gild 10. These examples are sufficient to establish the contention that the wages of the mediaeval workman were determined in many cases by the authority of the craft gild. If we now turn to the ordinances of two
1 (i.) At Winchester, in the thirteenth century, burellers could work at night from St. Nicholas to Christmas: Archæol. Journal, ix. 77. (ii.) York Founders (c. 1398): York Memorandum Book, i. 93.
2 Stevenson, Gloucester Corporation Records, 394.
3 Young, Barber Surgeons of London, 49 (1413); Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 70 (1395); Leet Book of Coventry, i. 226 (1445). A Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 3.
5 For municipal regulations, see infra, p. 339. state fixing prices (cloth and hats) is Statutes, ii. 533.
An example of the
6 The statement in S. Kramer, The English Craft Gilds and the Government (1905), 73, 99-100, that wages and prices were not regulated by the crafts, does not appear tenable.
7 York Memorandum Book, i. 199 (Bowers, 1420); 65 (Skinners); 107 (Shearmen, 1405); 193-194 (Cordwainers); 244 (Weavers, 1400). Observe the wording: "Ordained by the master craftsmen of the Bowers' craft. . ." 8 Little Red Book, ii. 12, 76 (1346). • Coventry Leet Book, ii. 574. 10 Records of Leicester, i. 105 (1264); 186 (1281).