Arts & Mysteries: Carpenters’ Work

Early modern records show guild regulations in London.

a&mby Peter Follansbee
pages 58-61

Early 17th-century London tradesmen were protective about their work, carefully keeping an eye on any interlopers to their craft. A dispute arose in the early 1630s between London’s carpenters and joiners, and in my last column (June 2016, issue #225), I outlined the works the city aldermen assigned to the joiners in an attempt to settle this dispute. What of the carpenters? They did not take the aldermen’s decision lying down, that’s for certain.

The aldermen’s decision essentially skips right over carpenters’ principal work, assuming perhaps that it’s a given they frame the buildings. Instead they went on to focus on furniture and smaller works. To begin, carpenters get:

“All Drapers Tables, all Tables for Tavernes Victuallers Chandlers Compting house Tables and all other Tables made of Deale Elme Oake Beeche or other woode nayled together without Glue except all sorts of Tables either nayled framed or glued being moveable.”

“Being moveable” is the key here – the joiners make moveables, what we would call furniture today. The carpenters make the tables and counters that are built-ins, so in effect “non-moveable.” And yet, small moveable stools for various uses (“Sesterne Stooles washing Stooles bucking Stooles”) went to the carpenters, as long as “they not bee turned feete.” The forms (long benches) fall under similar guidelines regarding the joinery and turned elements.

Blog: Read Peter Follansbee’s blog.
Article:The Best Oak Money Can’t Buy.”

From the August 2016 issue, #226
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