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Clothworkers Company

The Clothworkers Company, one of the livery companies of London.

The grandeur of England is to be attributed to its golden fleece, the wealth of the loom making England a second Peru and the back of the sheep and not the entrails of the earth being its chief mine of riches. The silkworm is no spinster of ours and are wheel and webb are wholly the clothworkers.

Elkanah Settle 1648 – 1724 English poet and playwright

Elkanah Settle wrote about the importance of the wool and textile industry back in the C17th when wool was still the most important commodity to be traded in the markets. Those who worked the wool into cloth were skilled and valuable workers whose trade was thousands of years old.

How and when was the Clothworkers Company formed?

The company was formed by the union of two guilds, the Fullers and the Sheermen. The craft of the Fullers and the fraternity of Sheermen arose out of the ancient Guild of Tellarii or woollen weavers, along with the burrellers and testers who inspected and measured the cloth. Everyone associated with fabrication, finishing or selling of cloth although these latter guilds were later absorbed into the Drapers and Merchant Taylors Company.

In the early part of the C15th a gentleman called John Badby demised a tenement, mansion house, shops and cellars in Minchin Lane (now Clothworkers Hall) to a man called John Hungerford and others all citizens and Sheermen of London for the use of themselves and their heirs for ever.

Under King Edward IV

This king granted to his beloved lieges to found a fraternity or guild of the Fullers. The followers of this art lived in Whitechapel in a parish called ‘Villa Beata Maria de Matfellon’. Matfellon being ‘Fullers Teasel’ a plant which was used extensively by the fullers inhabiting that quarter. It grew in a field close to where their tenter grounds once were.
ย The tenter grounds were areas used for drying newly manufactured cloth after fulling. The wet cloth was hooked onto frames called tentersย and stretched taut so that the cloth would dry flat and square. Fullers Hall was in Billiter Street London, just east of Leadenhall Market.

The Master, Wardens and Commonalty of the Mystery of Clothworkers in the City of London.

King Henry VII granted a charter of incorporation to the Sheermen and then King Henry VIII issued a charter that united the Guilds of Fullers and Sheermen so that they would become one ‘art’ or ‘mystery’ and shall be known as Clothworkers. The charter confirmed to them all the rights and privileges enjoyed by the two former guilds and gave them the right to wear a livery and to have an annual feast.

Masters of the Clothworkers Company.

Many Masters of the Company have been distinguished people including Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty who presented the Company with a beautiful Loving Cup. The original Clothworkers Hall in Mincing Lane was destroyed by the Great Fire of London but the church opposite was untouched.

But strange it is to see Clothworkers Hall on fire these three days and nights in one body of flame, it having the cellars full of oil.

Samuel Pepys writing in his diary 1666

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