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The Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers

The Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers was formed in 1987 by a group of craftsmen bow and arrow makers capable of making longbows of marketable quality and performance to the criteria of the British Long-Bow Society, whilst continuing with their own individual specialisms. Within its ranks the guild includes arrowsmiths, and stringers.

Although a modern Organisation, it recognises the ancient origins of its purpose, and has established and maintained valued links with the Worshipful Company of Bowyers, and the Worshipful Company of Fletchers. To publicise its existence more widely, the following is a summary of the Aims of the Craft Guild.

The Aims of the Craft Guild

One
To provide a forum for the fraternal association of British craftsmen and women concerned with the manufacture of quality traditional archery equipment

Two
To encourage, maintain, and improve the standard of bow and arrow making and other associated activity by British craftspeople.

Three
To establish and maintain fraternal links with crafts persons overseas concerned with bow and arrow making.

Four
To maintain links with the ancient London Livery Companies historically superintending the crafts overseen by the Guild.

History of Medieval Guilds

The groups, or fraternities of craftsmen from and by whom the medieval Guilds were formed represented the complex pattern of medieval life. Industries that were essential both to support life, and inter-alia the smooth running of the Country's economy, needed regulation by Authority to control production, and above all, quality. For maintenance of proper standards of workmanship was an early tenet of the first Guilds.

The term 'livery', applied to the various Companies of individuals comes from feudal times, when, with royal approval an allowance of clothing was given by various bodies, barons, monasteries" colleges, or guilds to their own retainers to identify them as 'belonging'. The Guilds were permitted to wear livery at a time when others were not and were thus known as 'livery Companies'. The Companies by which the present Craft Guild is recognised, are the Worshipful Company of Bowyers, and the Worshipful Company of Fletchers.

There is an additional association with the Blacksmith's Company through one of the Guild's two Master arrow-smiths. The Ancient Company of Longbow string makers is now defunct, although the Craft Guild does include a Stringer amongst its membership. The term 'worshipful' referred not just to the God-fearing nature of the Guilds and their membership, an aspect which might be taken more or less for granted having regard to the time that they were formed, but in its earlier sense, 'worth-ship', reflecting the respect and reverence in which the Guild was held.

The Modern Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers

The modern Craft Guild formed in 1987, to some extent follows the form of the earlier Companies. They had, and still have a Master, or 'Warden' as their figurehead, - in modern terms the Chairman, who serves for one or two years. To help and advise him in his deliberations there is a Court of Assistants. They are in effect the Governing Body who decide policy. Looking after the day-by-day running of the Guild is the Clerk.

The present Guild has a Warden and an under-Warden with five Assistants, forming a Court of seven. The Warden serves for two years, when he returns to the body of the Guild, being replaced by the under-Warden. The position of under-Warden is taken by an Assistant, and a member of the Guild is then elected to replace him and maintain the numbers of the Court. A newly entered member of the Court might expect to become Warden in twelve years.

For those who may be interested in joining us

There are a number of ways in which a person may join the Guild.

If an applicant has little or no experience of crafting bows or arrows, he or she will be expected to undergo a minimum of three years tutelage as an Apprentice working to a Master. A syllabus has been laid down both for bowyers and fletchers, which ensures that the apprentice gains a well rounded and extensive knowledge of the craft and becomes fully proficient in all aspects, including such things as workshop practises and dealing with customers, as well as reaching a high standard in the craft itself.

Applicants who have made a substantial start in bow, arrow, string or arrowhead making and whose work has been approved by a number of Masters following appraisal at a Guildmote, may be considered for mentoring by a Master as an Improver. Again, this is for a minimum of three years.

Those whose level of experience is such that they feel no need of any further training may apply as a Direct Applicant, providing they have been making and selling for at least three years and can offer ten letters of commendation from satisfied customers. They will be accepted for assessment at the Court's discretion, after having attended a previous Guildmote, bringing samples of their work for critical appraisal.

In all cases there is a final assessment of the applicant's work, where a "Masterpiece" is presented to the other Guild members. The requirements for presentation are laid down and must be adhered to, in order to ensure that each applicant presents the same items and receives a fair assessment.

Applicants for string making or arrow smithing follow very similar paths.

To apply to the Guild a registration fee is required, upon receipt of which an application pack will be sent, containing the appropriate syllabus, the requirement details for the presentation of the Masterpiece and the criteria followed by the assessors, along with an application form.

Further details may be found on our web site www.bowyersandfletchersguild.org/

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