The Carpenters Company Timeline

1271-01-01 00:00:00

Carpenters' Company origins

The history of the Carpenters’ Company goes back over 700 years, with the first written reference a mention of a Master Carpenter in the City of London’s records of 1271. It was originally a medieval trade guild, founded to look after the welfare and interests of carpenters living and working in London, one of a number of ancient guilds created at this time.

1333-01-01 00:00:00

‘Boke of Ordinances’

The regulations or ordinances of the Company are first recorded in the ‘Boke of Ordinances’. Most of the rules related to the provision of help to members in need. They included a payment of 12 pennies a year by each member to help those who became ill or were injured at work, such as by the falling down of a house. Members of the fraternity were also required to employ other members who had no work in preference to other carpenters. Members were expected to attend mass twice a year and attend the funerals of brothers and sisters of the Company. If they failed to do so, they could be fined a pound of wax. The 'Boke' records that members met at the churches of St Thomas of Acon (Cheapside) and St John the Baptist of Holywell (Shoreditch).

1429-01-01 00:00:00

First Carpenters’ Hall built in 1429

A lease of five cottages and a piece of waste ground was granted to three Citizens and Carpenters of London in 1429, and the first Carpenters’ Hall built within a year. The site was originally part of the estate of the Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate, also known as St Mary Spital. The Carpenters’ Company has been located on London Wall ever since. The site also included two gardens, a large garden containing vines and, in Tudor times, a rose arbour. A smaller courtyard garden held box trees and shrubs. The Beadle’s wife would do much of the gardening, hiring help as needed. The Carpenters’ Company was one of the earliest livery companies to have a hall of any size and it was often used for meetings held by other fraternities such as the Innholders, Pattenmakers, and Fletchers.

1445-01-01 00:00:00

New Ordinances

The Company’s produced new regulations or ordinances and for the first time it was stated that the Company should be governed by a Master and three Wardens elected annually. Their powers to search carpenters’ workshops and ensure that the timber used met the City of London’s standards were set out. During the medieval period, most domestic buildings were built of timber and plaster. The Carpenters’ Company, along with the Masons' Company, was mainly responsible for the building trade in the City of London. A Court of Assistants was also appointed under the new ordinances to help the Master regulate the carpentry trade in the City. Members of the Court had to be ‘six or eight of such men as have already held office or are of the same weight in their craft’.

1466-01-01 00:00:00

Carpenters' Company Coat of Arms

The Company received its coat of arms in 1466. As the original grant records, it is "A felde silver a Cheveron sable grayled iii Compas of the same" (a silver shield, black chevron with indented edges and three compasses the same). The compasses represent the carpenter’s tools, and the chevron may represent a roof support ('chevron' being the French term for 'rafter') and also the edge of a saw. The Company motto “Honour God” added later probably dates back to at least the fifteenth century.

1477-01-01 00:00:00

First Royal Charter

The Company was incorporated by Royal charter by King Edward IV. The charter defined the Company as ‘a body Corporate and Politic by the name of the Master Wardens and Commonalty of the Mystery of Freemen of the Carpentry of the City of London’ (mystery in this context meaning a guild or company). The Company could now receive bequests and gifts of property, plead in any courts, and have a Common Seal.

1562-01-01 00:00:00

Wall paintings

Wall paintings for the Company’s banqueting hall were created, depicting four scenes from the Bible relating to carpentry. They were later covered and rediscovered in 1842. Three of the scenes survive and are installed in the Company’s present Hall, one illustrating Joseph working on a plank whilst Jesus collects the remnants.

1579-01-01 00:00:00

New parlour for the Hall

The Company continually modified its Hall and surrounding buildings as they could afford, and in 1579 built a new parlour for the livery. The Hall had been wainscoted in 1572, a gallery was added in 1588 and the Hall itself enlarged in 1595.

1607-01-01 00:00:00

New Royal Charters

In 1607, a Royal charter of James I extended the jurisdiction of the Company from the City to two miles beyond the City Walls, and a new charter of 1640 from Charles I extended the Company's powers to four miles.

1619-01-01 00:00:00

Richard Wyatt

Richard Wyatt, a London timber merchant and Master of the Carpenters’ Company in 1604, 1605 and 1616, left money in his will of 1619 to build almshouses in Godalming, Surrey. They were originally intended for ten poor men from the parishes of Godalming, Puttenham, Hambledon, Compton and Dunsfold. These fine Jacobean almshouses at Meadrow, Godalming in Surrey were completed in 1622 and adapted into eight flats in the 1950s.

1664-01-01 00:00:00

New wing for the Hall

Built on the west side of the garden, the wing contained a meeting room large enough for the entire livery to meet. An additional storey was added to the wing in 1717 at the request of the Hall’s tenant.

1666-01-01 00:00:00

The Hall survives the Great Fire

The first Carpenters' Hall survived the Fire of 1666, thanks to a firebreak created by its gardens and those of nearby Drapers' Hall. The Company’s considerable influence over the building trade reduced after the Great Fire of 1666, when many timber buildings were rebuilt in brick and stone In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed most of the City’s timber buildings. Initially, the rebuilding work brought prosperity to many working in the building crafts, including carpenters. However, the 1667 Act for Rebuilding the City of London required brick and stone to be used for the new buildings. The new buildings required less repair and maintenance than those of the old City, and by the 1670s unemployment began to appear among carpenters in the City. Alongside the reduced demand for carpenters, the income and prestige of the Carpenters’ Company began to decline.

1725-01-01 00:00:00

Renting out the Hall

The earliest surviving plan of the Hall dates from 1725 and shows the building surrounded by tenements and gardens. Much of the Hall estate was let to tenants by this time, and the Banqueting Hall itself was rented out from the mid seventeenth to the nineteenth century. For a time in the later eighteenth century it was used as a carpet warehouse by the firm of Luck & Kent.

1767-01-01 00:00:00

Stratford Estate

During the eighteenth century, the Carpenters’ Company looked to land and property investments for income. A 63-acre farm in the parish of West Ham, near Stratford, was a notable purchase in 1767.

1801-01-01 00:00:00

Sir William Staines becomes the Company’s first Lord Mayor

Sir William was a stonemason who became a successful builder and Master of the Carpenters' Company in 1791 and 1799. He was elected a City Sheriff in 1796 before becoming Lord Mayor of the City of London His portrait painted in 1804 by Sir William Beechey shows him holding a letter to be announced to the City declaring peace with France.

1830-01-01 00:00:00

Sale of Railway Lands

The Company’s careful management of its property and investments continued into the nineteenth century and its growing prosperity was boosted considerably as property values and rents in London increased. The Company also benefited from the country’s general economic growth and the highly profitable sale of land in Stratford and the City to the Great Eastern Railway and other railway companies between 1830 and 1870

1842-01-01 00:00:00

Twickenham Almshouses

The Company’s almshouses at Twickenham were opened for ‘decayed Liverymen or Freemen of the Company of the age of 55 years or upwards, or the widows of Liverymen or Freemen, of the age of 50 years or upwards’. The Company had been seeking to build almshouses for its poorer members for many years and in 1830 established a fund for the purpose. Eight acres of land were purchased at Hampton Road in Twickenham in 1841, and in June 1842 ten houses designed by the Master William F Pocock and built by Liveryman Robert Hicks for £2250 were completed for ten suitable almsmen elected by the Court. Cloth for the poor men’s clothing was chosen and a Twickenham doctor engaged at a fee of 10 guineas a year. The almshouses and remaining land were taken over by Twickenham Borough Council in 1947.

1880-01-01 00:00:00

Second Carpenters’ Hall opens

In 1849 a fire had severely weakened the Hall, and this, along with the Drapers' Company’s plan to create a new private road (later called Throgmorton Avenue), encouraged the Carpenters’ Company to redevelop the site. Throgmorton Avenue is still privately owned by the Drapers’ and Carpenters’ Companies. Work began in 1876 on the demolition of the old Hall, and the second Hall was opened in 1880. Designed by William Wilmer Pocock (Master of the Company in 1883), the Hall was in an Italianate style and included a banqueting hall 76 feet long, one of the largest in the City of London. The total cost of building the Hall was about £50,000. Various fixtures and fittings were salvaged from the first Hall, including Tudor panels, Jacobean oak chimney pieces and the original glass, and re-used in the new Hall. For the first time since 1666, the Company could host all its functions at the Hall. It was also used for lectures, exhibitions, and for entertaining wounded soldiers and sailors during the First World War.

1880-01-01 00:00:00

Foundation of the City & Guilds

The Company was a founder member of the City and Guilds of London Institute in 1880 along with a number of other City livery companies, reflecting the Company's growing interest in technical education.

1886-01-01 00:00:00

Stratford Estate’s Evening Institute & School

In 1886, the Company opened an evening institute on its Stratford estate, offering classes in carpentry, joinery, plumbing, geometry, mechanical drawing and cookery. By 1891, the institute had become a day school for boys until its closure in 1905 when the local council opened its own school.

1890-01-01 00:00:00

The Institute of Carpenters was founded

Eleven craftsmen who had achieved high grades in the Carpenters' Company's examinations. A body for woodwork instructors and other craftsmen, its role was to oversee training for carpenters and joiners at a time when many feared traditional skills were being lost. The Carpenters' Company was a long time supporter of the Institute

1893-01-01 00:00:00

Founding of the Building Crafts College

The Carpenters’ Company established its own Trades' Training School in 1893, now the Building Crafts College, in the West End of London. It relocated to a purpose-built building in Stratford, East London, in 2001 and continues to represent the Company's commitment to training in the woodworking crafts. During the Second World War, over 3,000 servicemen were trained as carpenters, blacksmiths and sheet-metal workers at the College. However, by 1947, the school had reverted to training apprentices for the construction industry and was known as the Building Crafts Training School.

1897-01-01 00:00:00

Rustington Convalescent Home opens

Built on the Sussex coast, the Home was designed as a place where working men could convalesce after an illness or accident and become fully active again. Sir Henry Harben (1823-1911), Master of the Carpenter’s Company in 1893 and President of the Prudential Assurance Company purchased a nine acre site near Littlehampton for the purpose and built the Home for over £50,000. He was closely involved in designing the Home with the architect Frederick Wheeler. The Carpenters' Company took over the management of the Home in 1911 on the death of Sir Henry.

1941-01-01 00:00:00

Destruction of Carpenters’ Hall

The second Carpenters’ Hall was completely burnt-out during an air raid on the morning of 11 May 1941, when a gas main in London Wall ignited. Most of the Company’s furniture, pictures, archives and silver survived, including the sixteenth century wall paintings, but its extensive library and paperwork were lost. Fitments salvaged from the first Hall were also lost, including the stained glass windows and the Jacobean chimney pieces.

1960-01-01 00:00:00

Third Carpenters’ Hall opens

The Company’s third Hall was opened by Sir Edmund Stockdale, Lord Mayor of London and Junior Warden of the Company. The re-building of the Hall had begun in 1956 within the external walls of the old Hall, which had survived the fire of 1941 and were deemed to be of architectural interest, Designed by Austen Hall and built by Dove Brothers, the new Hall included more spacious accommodation and office space for letting. At least 18 different kinds of wood were used throughout the building, which was intended to act as a showcase for the craft of carpentry. A bridge was built over Throgmorton Avenue to house part of the large banqueting hall, and additional windows were added on the second floor, modifying the external appearance of the Hall. The new banqueting hall was designed by the architect Clifford Wearden in a modern, contemporary style.

The Carpenters Company Timeline

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