The London Regulations for the Trade of Masons of 1356*

By comparison with other guilds, the official regulations of the guilds of masons all through England were surprisingly slow to come, even though there was some evidence of an existing internal agreement in certain cases among the members of the trade. In 1356 the first indication of the necessity for the deposition of guild regulations arose in London in response to existing disputes among masons. Then a code of government was drawn up in general terms, to be spelled out in detail at a later date. (1) The text of the Regulations of 1356 reads as follows:

At a congregation of the Mayor and Aldermen, holden on the Monday next before the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary [2 February], in the 30th year of the reign of King Edward the Third . . . there being present, Simon Fraunceys, the Mayor, John Lovekyn, and other Aldermen, the Sheriffs, and . . . Commoners, certain Articles were ordained touching the trade of Masons, in these words:

Whereas Simon Fraunceys, Mayor of the City of London, has been given to understand that divers dissensions and disputes have been moved in the said city between the mason hewers, on the one hand, and the mason layers and setters on the other; because that their trade has not been regulated in due manner, by the government of folks of their trade, in such form as other trades are; therefore the said Mayor, for maintaining the peace of our Lord the King, and for allaying such manner of dissentions and disputes, and for nurturing love among all manner of folks, in honour of the said city, and for the profit of the common people, by assent and counsel of the Aldermen and Sheriffs, caused all the good folks of the said trade to be summoned before him, to have from them good and due information how their trade might be best ordered and ruled, for the profit of the common people.

Whereupon, the good folks of the said trade chose from among themselves twelve of the most skilful men of their trade, to inform the Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, as to the acts and articles touching their said trade, that is to say:-Walter de Sallynge, Richard de Sallynge, Thomas de Bredone, John de Tyryngtone, Thomas de Gloucestre, and Henry de Yeevelee, on behalf of the mason hewers; Richard Joyce, Simon de Bartone, John de Estone, John Wylot, Thomas Hardegray, and Richard de Cornewaylle, on behalf of the mason layers and setters . . . the which folks were sworn before the aforesaid Mayor, Aldermen, and Sheriffs; in manner as follows.

In the first place,-that every man of the trade may work at any work touching the trade, if he be perfectly skilled and knowing in the same.

Also,-that good folks of the said trade shall be chosen and sworn every time that need shall be, to oversee that no one of the trade takes work to complete, if he does not well and perfectly know how to perform such work; on pain of losing, to the use of the Commonalty, the first time that he shall by the persons so sworn be convicted thereof, one mark; and the second time, two marks; and the third time, he shall forswear the trade, for ever.

Also,-that no one shall take work in gross, if he be not of ability in a proper manner to complete such work; and he who wishes to undertake such work in gross, shall come to the good man of whom he has taken such work to do and complete, and shall bring with him six or four ancient men of his trade, sworn thereunto, if they are prepared to testify unto the good man of whom he has taken such work to do, that he is skilful and of ability to perform such work, and that if he shall fail to complete such work in due manner, or not be of ability to do the same, they themselves, who so testify that he is skilful and of ability to finish the work, are bound to complete the same work well and properly at their own charges, in such manner as he undertook; in case the employer who owns the work shall have fully paid the workman. And if the employer shall then owe him anything, let him pay it to the persons who have so undertaken for him to complete such work.

Also,-that no one shall set an apprentice or journeyman to work, except in presence of his master, before he has been perfectly instructed in his calling: and he who shall do the contrary, and by the persons so sworn be convicted thereof, let him pay ....

Also,-that no one of the said trade shall take an apprentice for a less term than seven years, according to the usage of the City ....

Also,-that the said Masters, so chosen shall oversee that all those who work by the day shall take for their hire according as they are skilled, and may deserve for their work and not outrageously.

Also,-if any one of the said trade will not be ruled or directed in due manner by the persons of his trade sworn thereunto, such sworn persons are to make known his name unto the Mayor ....

Also,-that no one of the said trade shall take the apprentice or journeyman of another, to the prejudice or damage of his master, until his term shall have fully expired ....

(1) Knoop and Jones, The Mediaeval Mason, pp. 224 ff., also given in Riley, Memorials of London, pp. 280-82; the original text was written in French. Knoop and Jones, pp. 135-43, provide an excellent summary of the possible reasons for the delay in the establishment of the guild regulations of the masons. They feel that craft guilds were municipal institutions, whereas most of the early stone building was done outside the boroughs and primarily by the Crown and the Church. The point of dispute in this particular case, between the hewers and the layers and setters concerning the type of work each of them might do, was settled in point one.

* Teresa G. Frisch, Gothic Art 1140 - c. 1450: Sources and Documents, University of Toronto Press in association with the Medieval Academy of America, 1987.