They Built London

426530217_81f438b5a7_bThe Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers has announced the publication of a detailed history of the company and the commencement of its 600th anniversary celebrations

The book, researched and written by Dr Penelope Hunting FSA, charts the progress of the use of fireproof building materials and the “misteries” that became the quality control methods of the craft Guild that became a City of London Livery Company.

While a short history was published in 1938, very little was added in the intervening years until the members of the Company came together to support the cost of the research and publication of the history of the Company.

The book was launched at Cutlers’ Hall in the City of London on February 11, 2016, and marked with a talk by Professor James Campbell MA DipArch PhD (Cantab) RIBA IHBC FSA.

Professor Campbell is currently a conservation consultant as Director of Cambridge Historic Buildings Group. His own book, Brick: a World History (2003) was featured as a Guardian ‘book of the week’ and is available in eight languages.

The publication of the Company history also marked the start of the Tylers’ and Bricklayers’ celebrations of its 600th year as a properly constituted company. While there are recorded activities of the Guild in City archives prior to 1416, it is to this year that Dr Penny Hunting’s research traces the Company’s first Master.

Below is a passage from the short history that was published in 1938.

“In medieval times tilers and bricklayers were often regarded as nothing more than rogues and villains who took advantage of every natural disaster, such as fire and plague, to put up the prices of their goods and labour. Some would say they were simply trying to improve working conditions. Craft guilds and Fellowships were established for many reasons. One, surely, was the element of quality control. With long apprenticeships in the craft and subsequent status as a freeman of the Fellowship required – and a commensurate fee – it took a long time to become a master craftsman. However, this did mean a guarantee of the quality of his goods and services. Standards had to be maintained. Trade was to be protected and kept out of the hands of those unschooled in the craft and from outside a tightly proscribed geographical area. Price controls existed even in the 14th century and were strictly adhered to. A decree from Edward III fixed prices and wages on pain of imprisonment and seizure of goods and chattels for all persons who offended. As soon as he came to the throne in 1461, Edward IV declared tilers of the City should be regarded as common labourers, and should not be incorporated, nor deemed to constitute an art or society.

In terms of quality, the inevitable happened. Without inspection by the Fellowship, a lack of control had encouraged fraudulent tile and brick makers. Tiles were of such poor quality that instead of lasting forty or fifty years, as they used to do, they weren’t even good for three or four! The rogues made busy! Six years later, following a petition to the Mayor, the franchise was restored to the Fellowship of the Craft of Tilers. An Act of Parliament in 1477 regulated the manufacture of tiles and bricks and fixed standards and statutory dimensions for different types.”

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