6 June 2019
Livery Society visit to the Guildhall’s archives 1569 and All That…..
On June 5 at Guildhall, London, the fascinating heritage of the Bakers Company was revealed by Howard Doble of London Metropolitan Archives, who took Livery Society members and guests right back to 1155 when the City's bakers first appeared in a pipe roll.
Howard's slide show, coupled with his animated commentary and selection of books brought up from Guildhall's archives, brought the history of the company truly alive.
From the Liber of Assis Panis in 1284 through to the Fraternity of Bakers in 1570, ordinances increased regarding bread content, weight, and duties of bakers and apprentices. The price of wheat and corn were set by magistrates and the Bakers Co was given a public role reporting to the Lord Mayor and city authorities.
Bread, after all, was the staple of life and thus immensely important. Conversely, if you were a baker selling underweight bread you would be dragged through the city on a cart and treated harshly !!
The company's saint, St Clement, (35-99AD) is shared with mariners and blacksmith. Clement's successful preaching resulted in him being sent to work among quarrymen as a punishment where he ended up converting many, and most likely administering bread and wine as sacraments. For his success, he was allegedly sentenced to drowning with a blacksmith's iron anchor round his neck, so the anchor symbol appears on the bakers’ arms in tribute. However, the first Bakers' Hall was opposite the church of St Clement, so it may also be a case of adoption by proximity!
In 1569 Queen Elizabeth I sealed our charter in wax, (they were never signed in those days). This meant the Company was incorporated and could buy property as a body. One later manifestation of this right was purchase of the Bakers' Alms houses in 1829.
Records showing election of officials to the Company date back to 1751. At this time gin became very popular and election officials complained about the effect it was having on the poor, though most likely it was because the poor had less money to spend on really important things - like bread!
All this and much more was revealed in the fascinating books, charter and records on show.
It was truly inspirational, and in the Master’s own words ‘we had only scratched the surface’.
The evening concluded with good fraternity, food and wine (no gin) in nearby Davey's wine bar.