Order of Precedence of the Bowyers' Company 1528
The Bowyers' Company is 38 in the order of precedence but when exactly was it that this position was established? The order in which the companies walked or rode in City processions fluctuated over the years but, by the early 16th Century, the order of the Great Twelve had been settled, and the ordering of the remaining companies began to resemble that of today. A directive of the Court of Alderman dated 31st January 1516 lists 48 companies, being the total with livery at that time, that is with the right of the senior members to wear a distinctive gown and hood. An image of that document with a transcription is set out below. Comparing this with the modern list, the following differences can be identified:
- the Shearmen are listed as one of the Great Twelve in the position now occupied by the Clothworkers;
- the Barbers have moved up from 28 to their modern position of 17;
- the Pastelers (pastry cooks) are now known as the Cooks;
- the Bowyers are 39;
- the Fullers, Wyresellers, Sporyours (spur makers) and Felmongers do not appear in any modern list.
The only one of these changes which would affect the positioning of the Bowyers is the disappearance of the Fullers listed in 1516 at 18. The reason that the Fullers are not included on any modern list is that they amalgamated with the Shearmen to form the Clothworkers. The new company was granted its charter by Henry VIII on 18th January 1528 and, on that date, the position of the Bowyers was settled at 38 and has remained unchanged to this day.
The Order of Precedence is still relevant, and not just for processions. If a number of masters are invited as guests to a livery dinner, it is the senior master, by the Order of Precedence, who is asked to speak and, at the United Guild Service held each Spring at St Paul's Cathedral, the companies are seated by precedence with the Bowyers (38) sharing Row 19 with the Tylers and Bricklayers (37).
London Metropolitan Archive
Court of Aldermen, Repertory 3
31st January 1515/16
Here after ensuyeth thorder & direction taken at this Court by the Mayr & aldremen aboveseyd of & for all the Craftes & Misteres ensuying ffor their Goyinge aswell in all processions as all other goynges Standynges & Rydynges for the busynessys & causes of the Citie The seyd order & direccion to be from hensforth fermely obserued & kept eny other Rule order or direccion heretofore made to the Contrary notwithstandyng Provided alweys that the ffelysship whereof the Mayre ys (then for) the yere accordyng to the olde custumme. (When as ever yt shall happen eny aldreman of eny of the ffelyshippes) shall have the preeminence in goyng afore all other ffelyshippes in all places duryng the tyme of Mayralte &
Tayllours according to
thordiance thereof made in
the tyme of Mayralte of
Mr Byllesden L folio 196
stet + Blaksmythes stet
Transcription: Records of Early English Drama: Civic London to 1558 Ed Anne Lancashire Pub D S Brewer Published 2015 pp947-948
1. The note alongside the Merchant Taylors refers to the dispute of 1484 with the Skinners during the mayoralty of Robert Billesden which was settled by each company taking precedence over the other in alternate years. This is the origin of the phrase "at sixes and sevens".
2. The entry of the Blacksmiths was deleted in error and re-instated with the marks of "stet".