AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Goldsmiths' Company

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1990
Held at: Goldsmiths' Company
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Goldsmiths' Company
Date(s): 1332-2001
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: approximately 300 shelf meters
Name of creator(s): The Goldsmiths' Company | London | 1327-


Administrative/Biographical history:

There is evidence of a guild of Goldsmiths in London as early as 1179. In 1300 King Edward I passed a statute defining metallic standards and regulating assaying of silver vessels. However it was not until 1327 that the Goldsmiths' Company received its first Royal Charter in 1327, which granted it the right to elect Wardens to enforce good authority and the standards within the trade, and emphasised its standing over provincial goldsmiths. In 1339, nineteen goldsmiths purchased land at the north end of Foster Lane for the use of the Goldsmiths' Company. In 1341 the Goldsmiths sought to extend its privileges in order to help those injured at work as well as the poor and for this purpose obtained a licence to purchase and hold tenements and rents.

In 1364, a new statute of King Edward III ruled that every goldsmith must have his own mark, which was to be known by the Company, and that objects must not be marked until they had been assayed and found good.

King Richard II granted the Goldsmiths a new charter in 1392-1393, and from this time the Company was to be a perpetual community, to elect annually four Wardens to 'oversee, rule and duly govern the said craft and community'. Under this charter the company was also able to purchase estates and rent tenements, to accept charitable donations and to retain a chaplain. The Company's rights were further increased by Letters Patent from Edward IV in 1462, which confirmed its previous charters, as well as granting the Wardens to be a body corporate, to make bye-laws and ordinances to regulate the Company, the retain its right of search and powers of punishing offenders in London and elsewhere.

At this time, the whole Company met three times a year to hear the ordinances read aloud and ratify the decisions of the Wardens. The Company also appointed two Renters each year to collect the rents and monitor the condition of the properties, four Auditors, and Clerk and a Beadle. The Company year began on 19 May, St Dunstan's day, with a solemn procession to church followed by a feast.

In 1478, King Edward IV issued a statute making the Goldsmiths' Company specifically responsible for wares found below standard, with due penalties. It set the gold standard at 18 carats in order to differentiate between the old wares, condemned in the statute and future wares. The King's mark - the leopard's head, was to be shown crowned on the new wares. The Wardens undertook a major reorganisation to establish a system of control, which involved the appointment of a Common Assayer, a full time post with a salary of 20 per annum, and a quarterly levy to be paid by Company members. The Assayer was also given his own mark (now known as the date letter), which was changed annually on St Dunstan's day.

The Goldsmiths first property, purchased in 1339, was located much where today's present Hall stands in Foster Lane, and was a merchant's house. Various sections of this structure appear to have been rebuilt over time. A new Hall was erected from 1634-1636, on an enlarged site, in the Palladian style of red brick ornamented with Portland Stone. This building was gutted in the Great Fire of London, 1666, though the plate and records were saved, and rebuilding was not completed until 1669. In 1681, the Assay Office and apartments of the Assayer and Clerk in the south west wing of the building were burned down, and along with it the records of makers marks, and had to be rebuilt. By the early nineteenth century, this building was in a dilapidated state and in 1829 was demolished. Philip Hardwick was commissioned to produce plans, and the new building opened in 1835.


Scope and content/abstract:

Archives of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (WCG) comprising volumes containing Wardens' Accounts and Court Minutes, 1334-1579, 1592-present; Standing Committee minute books, 1712-1943; Assay Office: Court Minutes, 1776-1890; Assay Office: Mark books containing workmen's marks and places of abode, 1697-2001 (incomplete); Trial of the Pyx minutes, 1604-1870;
ordinances and statutes, 1478, 1513-1514;

records relating to membership including Apprenticeship books, 1578-present; Alphabet of Freemen, 1651-c.1950; Freedom Books, 1694-present;

financial records including Accounts including Debt book, 1636-1648; Wardens' accounts, 1687-1712; Cash books, 1689-1729; Barge House accounts 1656-1660; Disbursements for Entertainment, 1781-1784;

records relating to the Company's properties including Extracts of leases granted by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, c.1650, c.1675; notice of persons as hold any lands tenements of the WCG, 1610, 1682; Committee of Contracts for Leases, 1651-1675; book of leases 1662-1670; General Survey of Messuages or tenements in and about London, 1651; Devise by the Company of various properties in the City of London, 1657-1658; Leases of city properties, 1667-1669; assignments of leases, 1653-1669; extracts of leases, c.1653-1728; Alienation books, 1671-1734; Account of tenants and properties, terms and rents, 1638-1697; Copies of leases and other deeds, 1670-1742; rent book, 1694-1712; account of renters, 1687-1707; Rental of ... Lady Day, 1728, 1729; plans of property belonging to the company, c.1829; plans of City properties belonging to the Goldsmiths Company (1852);

volume bearing the coat of arms of Sir Hugh Myddleton (c.1560-1631) goldsmith, banker and clothmaker, containing copy of the Company Charter, Index to survey of Goldsmiths' rents, rent roll of Goldsmiths, account of money owing upon the bonds under the Company's Common seal, account of Charities payable yearly by the Company, Account of expiration of leases granted by the Company, c1660-1720;

records relating to the Company's activities in Ulster including Account of the Companies' lands in Ulster, 1609-1619; records of meetings of The Irish Society, 1664-1666; Grant of King James I to the Irish Society, 1613; Grant and Confirmation to the Mayor, Commonalty etc of London Derry and their Successors; Letters patent granted to the Twelve Great Companies of London in respect of the London Derry Plantation, 1656; Society of the Governor and Assistants, London of the New Plantation in Ulster, minutes of the Court of the Society, 1675-1681;

records of Wills, Deeds of Gift and Charities including Translations of wills and abstracts of deeds contained in the Great Register of the Company, 1349-1543; account of Benefactors' Gifts, 17th century; Charities 1681-1699; Charities, 1725-1729 and extracts from some wills; wills and deeds of gift; Will book and Plans of Properties, 17th century; Registers of deeds, 1471-[1700];

drawings by Philip Hardwick for new hall, 1830-1835 (12 vols);

and papers of the Company comprising:

papers relating to Company - Membership (Ref: A) including Freemen, 1694-[1940]; Livery, 1740-[1940]; Assistants, 1830-[1940]

papers relating to the Company's property - realty (Ref B) including Planning in the City of London and legislation, 1940-1955; the Acton Estates, 1357-1986; Estates in the City of London, 1437-present; The Irish Estates, 1609-1965; Blackheath, Hanwell, Mottingham, Richmond, Bexley Heath, 1899-1977; other properties, 1667-1995; The Barge and Barge House, 1717-1846

papers relating to the Company's Personal Property (Ref C), including, non-domestic contents of the Hall (non-domestic) including library, misc, works of art, 1604-1814;

domestic contents of the Hall, 1928-1966; disposal of contents of the hall, 1922-1954;

papers relating to Courts and Committees (Ref D) including Court of Wardens, 1620-1942; Court of Assistants, 1777-1954; Committees (functioning after 1955) 1918-1963; Committees no longer functioning, 1926-1951;

papers relating to the internal activities of the Hall (Ref E) including building and maintenance, 1634-1952; alterations and repairs, 1942-1969; Administration c.1625-1975; History of the Company and the Hall, 1894-1914; Company's publications, 1935-1967; Heraldry, 1841-1934; Livery lists, 1936-1939;

papers relating to the Assay Office (Ref F) including staff including the deputy warden, 1629-1953; building and contents, 1813-1955; statistics, 1815-1955; evacuation of Blandford Lodge, Reigate, 1939-1945; and miscellaneous papers, 1887-1955;

papers relating to the Company's Statutory Duties including the Trial of the Pyx, 1603-1948; Specimen verdict forms, 1948-1955; Hallmarking general, 1661-1969; relations with other assay offices, 1825-1946;

papers relating to the Company's external relations (Ref H) including the the Royal Family, 1687-1936; City of London Corporation, 1484-1929; City Companies, 1833-1955, City Guilds Defence Association, 1876-1897; Inter-company meetings, 1918-1940; other activities of the City Companies, 1917-1939; Rights, and miscellaneous papers, 1708-1937;

papers relating to the Trade (Ref J) including, 1939-1949 including London Silversmiths wartime employment Committee, and the Silversmiths' war Time Relief Committee, Commission of Enquiry - Jewellery and Silverware Working party, 1946; Conferences, 1943-1949; Amalgamation of Trade Bodies, 1940-1947; Amalgamation of Trade Charities, 1938-1952; assistance to the trade by the Company, 1930-1955; miscellaneous papers, 1931-1957; reconstruction and reorganisation, pre 1939, 1871-1937; Historical material, 1634-1828 such as the Duncombe Papers, 1680-1725, and non-company papers, 1627-1680;

papers relating to trade, technical, commercial and art associations including government sponsored bodies, 1918-1969; other associations, 1931-1970; trade associations, 1912-1985; craft workshops, 1940-1956; foreign and international bodies, 1935-1939; pension funds, 1938-1955;

papers relating to technical training and education (Ref L) including general information, 1850-1889; Education - Schools and Colleges, Royal College of Art, 1926-1952; LCC Central School of Arts and Crafts (Central School of Art and Design), 1928-1955; Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts, 1926-1969; Birmingham College of Art, 1927-1983; Refresher Courses, 1932-1971; Grants of Silver to Schools, 1936-1948; visits organized to museums, exhibitions and factories, 1913-1958; craftsmen deceased, UK and foreign, died 1930s-1970s;

papers relating to design and research by the Company (Ref M), including research proposals antecedent to Design and Research Centre, 1943-1945; Design and Research Centre for the Gold, Silver and Jewellery Industries, 1945-1955; Production of Modern Silver; and non-competitive enquiries from the public - individuals and bodies, 1930-1956;

papers relating to propaganda and information about the Craft (Ref N), including Lectures, 1928-1953; films and film strips, 1935-1960; Company's technical publications, 1936-1957; articles, 1926-1955; broadcasts, 1941-1954; publicity, 1934-1955;

papers relating to exhibitions and trade fairs (Ref O), including exhibitions held at the hall, 1927-1955; exhibitions held elsewhere, including London 1887-1961, provinces, 1927-1959; abroad, 1867-1958;

papers relating to services to the public (Ref P) including loan of Hall to individuals, 1718-1965, to outside bodies, 1647-1952, other livery companies, 1933-1955; visits to the hall, 1944-1955; loan of plate, 1929-1955; loan of furniture and fittings etc, 1948-1955; request to the Company by the public for permission -for photographs of drawings of Hall and contents, use of Company's arms, illustrations, hallmarks, etc, 1936-1955;

papers relating to information given to the public (Ref Q), including particular files for individuals, including E Alfred Jones, Dr N H Penzer and J M Phillips, (undated).;

papers relating to the administration of Charity (Ref R), including files concerning specific Charitable subjects generally, including old people, pensions, youth, 1712-1927; Company's various Charitable Trusts including general papers, 1664-1921; Ash's Charity, 1679-1892; Barrett's Charity, 1833-1835; Blundell's Charity, 1871-1878; Bowes' Charity, 1671-1934; Bromyard School, 1717-1969; Cheney's Charity, 1891-1894; Clarke's Charity, 1888-1936; Cureton's Charity, 1838-1916; Fountain's Charity, 1841-1843; Fowles' Charity, 1856; Fox's Charity, 1771-1923; Gardner's Foundation, 1908; Goldsmiths' Company's Blind Pensions, 1875-1942; Guinness Trust, 1892-1938; Hay's Charity, 1835-1886; Hetherington's Charity, 1728-1893; Heyson's Charity, 1921; Jenner's Charity, 1893-1894; Middleton's Charity, 1706-1876; Morrell's Charity, 1526-1904; Mundie's Charity, 1561-1918; Paine's Charity, 1896-1898; Perryn's Charity, 1889-1938; Read's Charity, 1895-1925; Read's Charity (Cromer School), 1720-1955; Snell's Charity, 1726-1727; Stockport School (Shaa's Charity), 1745-1980; Strelley's Charity, 1603-1944; Walton's Charity, 1832-1893; Watkin's Charity, 1789; Wollaston's Charity, 1668-1892; Wood's Charity, 1868; Consolidated Charities, 1881-1927;

papers relating to Charities - Grants to Bodies (Ref S) including Education, Schools, 1944-1980; University of London, 1938-1963; City University: Sir John Cass College, 1930-1939; University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of London, including New Cross Institute - subsequently Goldsmiths' College, 1888-1964; Occupational Therapy, 1946-1979; other grants to bodies and societies, 1904-1955;

and papers relating to grants, pensions etc made from the Company's charitable and corporate funds to individuals (Ref T) including Educational Grants and Scholarships - particular schemes including Oxford and Cambridge exhibitions, lists of candidates, examiners reports etc, 1823-1949; Newnham and Girton Colleges - Exhibitions for women, 1872-1927; Westfield College, 1912-1946; miscellaneous educational grants to non-members of the company, 1913-1955;

Personal papers donated to the Company comprising: workbooks and drawings of Omar Ramsden (1873-1939), c.1920-1939; and drawings and papers of Edward Spencer (1873-1938) and the Artificers' Guild (art metalworkers) c.1910-1938;

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Latin, French (Anglo-Norman)

System of arrangement:

The Company archive is divided according to format into volumes and papers, and arranged as outlined above.

Conditions governing access:

By appointment only. Contact the Librarian, Goldsmiths' Hall, Foster Lane, London EC2V 6BN.
Records prior to 1950 are generally available, access to more recent material is at the discretion of the Company Librarian. Some material is subject to the regulations of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies available at the discretion of the Librarian.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of bound volumes of the Company archive that have been microfilmed; Catalogue of Company papers arranged in sections denominated A-T (3 vols); Apprenticeship and Freedom Index, 1578-present; Index to goldsmiths, 16th-17th century, compiled from the archive by Gerald Taylor.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Collected and held in situ by the Company in the course of its business. Some records lost to fire that destroyed the Assay Office, 1681

Immediate source of acquisition:

Some manuscripts given to the Company at different times.

Allied Materials

Related material:

John Lane (1788-1852) Solicitor Clerk of the Goldsmiths Company, business and personal correspondence and papers, c1812-47 (Ref L44/5); Thomas Lane (1754-1824) Solicitor Clerk of the Goldsmiths Company, business papers, personal and household accounts, 1788-1821; Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths: Hamsell and Birchden estate, Hamsell, Sussex, deeds and estate papers, 1728-1939 (Ref: Bulletin 30), held at the Guildhall Library;
Honourable the Irish Society, London, foundation papers, minutes, accounts, letter books, declaration books, estate papers, legal papers, newspaper cuttings. 1639-1969 (Ref: IS); and Honourable the Irish Society, London, court minutes (1939-79) and miscellaneous papers, 1662-1987 (Ref: ACCN/1998/065) held at the Corporation of London Records Office' ;
Archives of Goldsmiths Institute, and Goldsmiths College, University of London, [1896-2001], held at Goldsmiths College.

Publication note:

Wardens' Account and Court minute books of the Goldsmiths' Mistery of London, 1334-1446, Edited by Lisa Jefferson, the Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2003; Unravelling the mystery, Peter Jenkins, 2 volumes, Third Millennium Publishing in conjunction with the Goldsmiths' Company, London, 2000; Hallmark, a history of the London Assay Office, J S Forbes, Goldsmiths' Company, Unicorn Press, London, 1999; London Goldsmiths, 1697-1837, their marks and lives from the original registers at Goldsmiths' Hall and other sources, A G Grimwade, London, 1976; The early history of the Goldsmiths' Company 1327-1509, and The Book of Ordinances 1478-1483, T F Reddaway and L E M Walker, London, 1975; A list of the Wardens, Members of the Court of Assistants and Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, W T Prideaux, London, 1936; The charities under the managements of the Goldsmiths' Company, being an account of their foundation and history, W S Prideaux, London, 1899; Memorials of the Goldsmiths' Company being gleanings from their records between the years 1335 and 1815, W S Prideaux, 2 volumes, London, 1896-1897;

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; 'The records of the Goldsmiths' Company', Susan M Hare, Archives, the journal of the British Records Association, Vol 16 No 72 Oct 1984; Goldsmiths' Hall in the City of London, Susan M Hare, London, 1996; 'The history of the Goldsmiths' Company from their records', Susan M Hare, Proceedings of the Society of Silver Collectors, Vol 2, No 11-13, Spring 1982.
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2003

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"