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Carpenters' Company

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2812
Held at: Carpenters' Company
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Full title: Carpenters' Company
Date(s): 1357-2003
Level of description: collection
View subfonds/series records
Extent: approximately 90 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Carpenters' Company | Worshipful Company of Carpenters


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Carpenters' Company is one of the ancient guilds of the City of London. A Master Carpenter is mentioned in the City records in 1271, suggesting that the Company has been in existence since at least this time. The first recorded date of the Company's existence is its 'Boke of Ordinances' of 1333 (held at the National Archives), which show the principal objects of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood to be charitable and religious. Members were required to pay 12 pence a year to help those who became ill or were injured at work, and were to employ fellow members who had no work, in preference to other carpenters. They were also to attend masses twice a year and the funerals of brothers and sisters.

During the medieval period the Company had considerable powers to control building in the City. The Company ordinances of 1455 contained regulations giving power to the Master and Wardens to search carpenters' workshops to ensure that all timbers were to the standards set down by the City. They also confirmed that the Company was to be governed by a Master and three Wardens elected annually. They were to be helped in regulating the carpentry trade by a Court of Assistants of 'six or eight of such men as have already held office or are of the same weight in their craft'.

By 1429 the Company built its first hall, on land rented for twenty shillings a year from the Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate. Five cottages were demolished and a 'Great Hall', together with three houses in the east side and one house on the west, was built. Thomas Smart later purchased the land and left it to the Company in his will dated 1519. A Hall has stood on this site ever since.

The Company received its Grant of Arms in 1466, and its first charter in 1477 from King Edward IV. By this charter, and confirmed by subsequent charters, the Carpenters' Company is 'a body Corporate and Politic by the name of the Master Wardens and Commonalty of the Mistery of Freemen of the Carpentry of the City of London', with power to receive bequests and gifts of property, to plead in any courts, and to have a Common Seal. In 1607, a further charter of James I extended the jurisdiction of the Company from the City to two miles beyond the City Walls, and a new charter of 1640 extended the Companies' powers to four miles.

. The Company's income fluctuated enormously during this period. Legal disputes over property and demarcation disputes with other companies were a drain on Company resources, along with contributions to loans and subsidies demanded by the monarchy, including 300 towards a scheme for the plantation of Ulster in 1610. The Company was on occasion forced to pawn or sell its plate to settle debts. However, the rise in property values during the seventeenth century increased the Company's income sufficiently to afford almost continuous repairs and work on the Hall, including the building of a new wing in 1664. Additional properties were purchased when possible and the Company was bequeathed various properties in the wills of its more affluent members.

The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed most of the timber buildings in the City, although Carpenters' Hall survived the fire, thanks to its gardens and those of the neighbouring Drapers' Hall acting as a firebreak. The Company gave hospitality to other Livery Companies who had not been so fortunate, including the Drapers' Company and to four successive Lord Mayors. The 1667 Act for Rebuilding the City of London required that brick and stone were to be used to rebuild the City. As a result, the work, income and prestige of carpenters declined and the control exercised by the Company over the building trade in the City of London was reduced.

During the eighteenth century the Company continued to look to property leasing and investments to maintain income. A notable purchase was a farm of 63 acres in the parish of West Ham, near Stratford. The Hall continued to be rented out, and in 1717 the Company decided to enlarge the Hall by building an extra storey at the top of a new wing erected in 1664. In 1736 Carpenters Buildings were erected near the Hall, and were leased out to tenants for the sum 110 per year, more than the rent for the Hall. Careful management of both property and investments continued into the nineteenth century, and the Company's prosperity grew considerably as property values and rents in the City increased. It was a time of general economic growth, and the sale of land to the Great Eastern Railway and other railway companies from the 1830s to the 1870s brought considerable capital for the Company.

The Company's increased wealth funded the redevelopment of the Hall site in the 1870s. William Wilmer Pocock, Master of the Company, prepared the plans, which comprised the construction of Throgmorton Avenue and a new Carpenters' Hall. Work began in 1876 on the demolition of the old Hall and Carpenters' Buildings, both of which were in a poor state of repair. The second Hall was opened in 1880.

The increased income of the Company also allowed the undertaking of more charitable and educational work. An evening institute was opened in 1886 on the Company's estate at Stratford, offering classes in carpentry, joinery, plumbing, geometry, mechanical drawing and cooking. In 1891 the institute became a day school for boys, and was closed in 1905 when the local Borough Council opened its own school. The Company also founded its own craft training school in 1893, the Building Crafts College in Great Titchfield Street in the West End of London. The College provided instruction in a range of building related disciplines, and relocated to purpose-built accommodation in Stratford, East London in 2001. In 1890 the Company helped create a body for woodwork instructors and other craftsmen, the Incorporated British Institute of Certified (now the Institute of Carpenters).

An air raid on 10th May 1941 set a gas main on fire in London Wall and burnt out Carpenters' Hall, although many of the Company's treasures survived. Committee meetings and Court functions were held at Drapers' Hall until the opening of the present Hall in 1960. A permit was granted in 1956 to rebuild the Hall, which was designed by Austen Hall and built by Dove Brothers within the surviving Victorian Walls. The widening of London Wall was overcome by putting the pavement in an arcade and building the banqueting hall on a bridge across Throgmorton Avenue. The new Hall was opened in 1960 by Sir Edmund Stockdale, Lord Mayor of London and Junior Warden of the Company.

For further information see A History of the Carpenters' Company Jasper Ridley (Carpenters' Company & Unicorn Press Ltd, 1995); A History of the Carpenters' Company B W E Alford and T C Barker (Allen & Unwin, 1968); An historical account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters of the City of London. Compiled chiefly from Records in their possession Edward Basil Jupp and W W Pocock Second edition (Pickering & Chatto, 1887).


Scope and content/abstract:

Archives of the Carpenters' Company, 1357- 2003 (note that a number of records are held at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, see Related material and sub-fonds descriptions for details), comprising:

A: Foundational records, namely Royal charters of 1607, 1640, 1674, 1686, 1944; exemplification of ordinances, 1607; grant of arms, 1466.

B: Records relating to the governing of the Company, comprising Court minute books, 1882-2003; rough Court minute books, 1899-1944; Report and Order books, 1859-1926; rough Report and Order books, 1856-1877; Court agenda books, 1903-1961 [some gaps]; Court papers, 1774-1775; Standing Orders, 1939, 1951, 1967, 1980, 1993; Master and Wardens Committee minutes, 1928-1981; General Purposes Committee minutes, 1926-2003.

C: Membership records, comprising biographical card index of names of members appearing in the Company records, [1533-1966], compiled 20th cent; Livery lists, 1962-1975; lists of the Master, Wardens, Court of Assistants, livery and freemen (from 1993) with addresses, dates of admission to freedom and livery, and dates of election to Court, 1789-1842, 1873-1924, 1934-1981, 1984-2003; register of livery admissions, 1877-1924; releases of livery, 1793-1915; registers of freedom admissions, 1941-1949; registers of Master & Wardens' oaths, 1869-2003; registers of Freemens' Declarations, 1869-2003; Quarterage books, 1757-1955; Liverymen's files, 1939-2003; Freemen's files, 1940-2003; photographs of Masters of the Company, 1872-2003; photographs of Company Beadle, 1926; scrapbooks compiled by Masters, 1950-1951 (R.C. Barnes), 1978-1979 (D. Eggleton).

D: Financial records, comprising minutes of the Finance Committee, 1902-1929; minutes of Investments Committee, 1965-1997; Mr Pocock's accounts, 1863-1877; Wardens' statements, 1881-1934; audit papers, 1895-1901; ledgers, 1841-1969; nominal ledgers, 1976-1993; sundries ledger, 1968-1975; journals, 1860-1935; cash analysis books, 1940-1962; cash books, 1845-1954, 1970-1976; petty cash books, 1860-1936; provisions books, 1873-1902; bankers' books, 1863-1936; bonds, 1878-1884; salary and wages books, 1940-1971.

E: Records relating to craft and trade activities of the Company, namely minutes of the Education Committee, 1906-1993; Exhibition Committee, 1904-1914; Forestry Committee, 1902-1913; King's College Joint Committee, 1890-1894; Examinations register, 1946-1955; records relating to promotion and competitions, namely Carpenters Award, 1971-1999; Timber Industry Award, 2001; Wood Awards, 2003; Carpenters Craft Competition, 1955-1992.

F: Administrative records, including Clerk's Notes, 1978-2003; out-letter books, 1862-1888; reports to the Livery, 1901-1940; records relating to Company entertainment and events, namely Wine Committees Minutes, 1902-1929; menus, programmes, and orders of service, 1876-2003; general personnel files, 1940-2003; recruitment of staff and staff files, 1939-2003.

G: Records relating to gifts, charities and estates, 1357-2003, comprising administrative records relating to donations or bequests for charitable purposes; records relating to estates, charities and almshouses consequently administered by the Company including Godalming Almshouses, Twickenham Almshouses, Irish Estate, Building Crafts College, property in Fulham, Harrow, Lime Street, London, Throgmorton Avenue, London, Rustington Convalescent Home, and in Stratford (East London); records relating to the Hall and its contents.

H: Records of Associated Organisations, comprising records of the Old Carpentarians, 1909-1975, including minutes, 1909-1972.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Latin

System of arrangement:

As outlined in the scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Access to the archives is at the discretion of the Company. The records are available for consultation by prior appointment only. Contact the Archivist, Carpenters Hall, Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2JJ.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies of material can be supplied, subject to copyright restrictions and suitability of the item for copying.

Finding aids:

Catalogue and biographical card index of names of members available. Searches can be undertaken on request.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The records were created by the Carpenters' Company. They were kept by the Company until 1948, when the older company records were deposited at the Guildhall Library: see the Related material section for further details. More recently created records, as well as some older ones, are retained at Carpenters' Hall.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Ordinances of the Brotherhood of Carpenters (1333) (in the form of a return to a writ of Richard II, 1388) held at the National Archives.
Older Company records are held by the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Aldermanbury, London, EC2P 2EJ (see sub-fonds descriptions for more details) and comprise:
Constitution and regulation records 1466-1690; Court (and committee) minutes 1533-1882 (gaps); Membership and apprenticeship records 1533-1892; Financial records 1438-1880 (gaps); Trade and craft records 1588-1701; Other administrative records 1600-86 (including Bible extracts c. 1250); Muniments of title 1452-1871; Other estate and charity records 1357-1850.

Publication note:

Records of the Carpenters' Company vols I-VII (Oxford University Press, 1913-1968)

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: City Livery Companies and related organisations (Guildhall Library, 1989); A History of the Carpenters' Company Jasper Ridley (Carpenters' Company & Unicorn Press Ltd, 1995); A History of the Carpenters' Company B W E Alford and T C Barker (Allen & Unwin, 1968); An historical account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters of the City of London. Compiled chiefly from Records in their possession Edward Basil Jupp and W W Pocock Second edition (Pickering & Chatto, 1887).
Compiled by Julie Tancell and 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:
December 2003

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