London Joyners v Sawyers, Turners v Joyners

van Vliet's turner, 1635
van Vliet’s turner, 1635
van Vliet's carpenters, 1635
van Vliet’s carpenters, 1635

These two excerpts are from: Henry Laverock Phillips, Annals of the Worshipful Company of Joiners of the City of London, (London: privately printed, 1915)

1633 Petition of the Compy of Joyners &c to the C of Aldermen against Freemen Sawyers

Report to the C of Aldermen…we caused to come before us as well divers of the Cy of Joyners as other freemen Boxmakers as also the Sawyers  we conferred also with the Wardens of the Carpenters Cy touching the matters complained. We find that some few men who were first freemen sawyers of the City were brought up as Weavers bakers clothworkers & the like & afterwards learned the skill of sawing from forreine Sawyers did about twenty years past begin to take apprentices whereby the number of freemen Sawyers are now increased to about twentie persons and that those freemen with their apprentices that work with them are as the free sawyers themselves do affirm number about fifty & eight persons and we find that all the free sawyers are not able to perform the eighth part of the labor and business of sawing within this City &c for the works of his Majesty & others. That within these twentie years the prices of sawing is so exceedingly increased by means that the foremen Sawyers have appropriated the performance of the work & that only forreyners have served under them as that there is now taken sometimes three pence and sometimes four pence for sawing a Curfe of Wainscott which was then done for three half pence and no more. And because when less rates were taken a pair of sawyers were able to get 21/ or 22/ a week.  We think that some course be taken that sawyers may take more moderate rates. We think the full aim of the freesawyers is only to get into their own hands the whole labor of all the Sawing works within this City & be enabled to keep up the high prices for their labor & only to use the labor of Forreners to the prejudice of this City. We find that the freemen do put the forrener on work as servants for them  We find most part of the freemen sawyers are not so skilful neither will they work on any heavy work as in heavy timber but only in boards &c  It was instanced that one Anthony Messenger a Carpenter was arrested for putting a forreyn sawyer on work   Was compelled to go to freemen sawyers to have the work done. This freemen sawyer & his three apprentices after they had taken the work in hand were glad for want of skill to leave the said work & Messenger was enforced to go to a forreyner to perform the same to his loss.  And the Joyners Carpenters Boxmakers complained to us that when they have been compelled to put some free sawyers on work they have so ill performed it for want of skill that the owners of the work have sustained much damage and yet never recompenced We find the Cy of Carpenters have orders for the correction of Sawyers but the free Sawyers themselves have no authority for government of Sawyers. And we find that the Sawyers have been heretofore laborers to the Carpenters & Joyners   We find that the Carpenters have been much hindered by the freemen sawyers by the excessive number of apprentices as also by the number of Carpenters yards which these freemen sawyers keep, some as many as four Carpenters Yards thus engrossing the timber & wainscot and the Carpenters are compelled to get their supply from these Sawyers. The Committees opinion is that the Freemen Sawyers should be limited to the number of Apprentices and to keeping so many Carpenters yards and that the foreiyn Sawyers be not sued for working in this City as they have been. (pp. 25, 26)

1633 We have called before us as well the Master & Warden of the Compy of Turners as also the M & W of the Compy of Joyners. It appeareth that the Compy of Turners be grieved that the Compy of Joyners assume unto themselves the art of turning to the wrong of the Turners. It appeareth to us that the arts of turning & joyning are two several & distinct trades and we conceive it very inconvenient that either of these trades should encroach upon the other and we find that the Turners have constantly for the most part turned bed posts & feet of joyned stools for the Joyners and of late some Joyners who never used to turn their own bedposts and stool feet have set on work in their houses some poor decayed Turners & of them have learned the feate & art of turning which they could not do before. And it appeareth unto us by custom that the turning of Bedposts Feet of tables joyned stools do properly belong to the trade of a Turner and not to the art of a Joyner and whatsoever is done with the foot as have treddle or wheele for turning of any wood we are of the opinion and do find that it properly belongs to the Turner’s and we find that the Turners ought not to use the gage or gages, grouffe plaine or plough plaine and mortising chisells or any of them for that the same do belong to the Joyners trade. (pp. 27, 28)

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5 thoughts on “London Joyners v Sawyers, Turners v Joyners

  1. Very interesting excerpts, Peter. In the line, “whatsoever is done with the foot as have treddle or wheele for turning of any wood,” do you think the “wheele” is referring to great wheel lathes? And the nerve of those poor decayed Turners teaching the joiners to turn!

    • The wheel most certainly is the great wheel lathe. I have seen turned chairs with the marks on the top of the stiles from a crossed drive center…a big X driven into the end grain. Now that could work with a treadle lathe too, but the great wheel is in Moxon…and references like this. I tried the one at Colonial Williamsburg once, didn’t know what to do with my feet…

  2. I always found the above picture ironic as the lathe worker is using a spring pole and the spinning wheel is not a walking wheel implying that it is a continuous motion treadle wheel. The same type picture shows the same thing in the German book of trades about 100 years prior.

  3. Unfortunately, I now have a mental image of a “poor, decayed Turner”. Probably was really some poor old guy without good options at the end of his life rather than someone with a skew and mummy wrappings.

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