Within the lovely City of London The Worshipful Company of Pewterers are one of the oldest livery companies around. A livery company? To cut a long story short, a livery company is a company that dates back to medieval times and what was part of a guild. Their guild responsibilities would include those such as regulating the trade and regulating and setting wages for employees and even looking after the labouring conditions. A livery company such as The Worshipful Company of Pewterers are predominantly a charitable and or social company and almost all start with The Worshipful Company of followed then by their profession, craft or trade.
The guild came about in around 1348 when a few makers of Pewter went forth before the mayor with an article that they had written detailing the regulations of the trade, asking that the article be approved. It is said that said folk formed the guild some small time before then. The company’s own records begin in 1451.
Unfortunately the guild nor the article was recognised until 20th of January 1474 when Edward IV granted the first Charter of the company.
The charter was a brilliant thing for workers of pewter as it allowed the guild to check throughout England to ensure that the quality of the pewter and the pewter goods was maintained and up to standard across to board. The charter also allowed the guild to be self governing and to govern and regulate the trade not just in their region but throughout the kingdom.
Because the government deemed large groups of people congregating as “suspicious” they decided that they would have some kind of religious affiliation so that they could continue to gather and discuss the likes of trade issues, costs of the raw materials and training new folk without interference. As well as these duties the guild had to perform civic duties and attend charitable events.
The head quarters for the Pewterers guild was originally built on Lime Street in 1496 in London was ravaged and destroyed by the fire of London. Built on exactly the same site, the 2nd Pewterers hall was demolished and the ground rented out. Although the new hall was opened in 1961 in Oat lane London, the original site is still owned by the The Worshipful Company of Pewterers. It used to be that a master pewterer that wanted to set up his own shop and start his own trade avenue had to submit a touch plate to the hall for retention. A touch plate was a large sheet of pewter that had the makers marked stamped onto it. This is no longer required and a new touch plate system was introduced back in 2000.
The trade of pewter good was strong and at an all time high however, in the 17th Century the trade started to decline as other materials were introduced into use. The goblets, plates, serving dishes, candlestick and the like were all replaced wit other materials. Thankfully hip flasks are still being made out of the wonderful metal! As the trade went into decline so did the number of members to the pewterers guild. The number of members has declined onto to a small few by the 18th Century.
Coat of Arms
The original coat of arms that were used by the Company was first recorded in 1451 and was to the Virgin Mary and the Lilipot to show the religious affiliation of the company. It was only in 1533 when the Pewterers decided to shake off the religious symbolism and create a new coat of arms. They of course still wanted to have the affiliation with god but wanted to create something unique to The Pewterers. The coat of arms in use today that you see above is the coat of arms that was granted in 1533.
The Worshipful Company of Pewterers is still going strong and is ranked one of the most esteemed and oldest livery companies and is no 16 in the order out of a current 108 companies.
Apart from enjoying a wonderfully diverse and enjoyable social life, The Worshipful Company of Pewterers main activities are geared to support the pewter trade and its charities. Most of the work that it does is in relation to 3 chosen charities and the armed forces.
– The 500th Anniversary Trust – this is a charity that has been set up to fund a fellow working on brain disorders and the disorders of the nervous system. Most interestingly, looking at the direct correlation of their relationship with heavy metals.
– The Pewter Industry Charity – developed to provide support to the trade of pewter.
– The Seahorse Trust – this is a charity that disburses the charitable grants donated by the company. A huge amount of these grants are educational.
The Armed Forces – The Worshipful Company of Pewterers has very close affiliations with parts of the Armed Forces and by having such affiliations shows their continued appreciation for the service given to the country.