home      book contents     ( p a 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 e b a1 a2 a3 )

2  The Company

In London as elsewhere the handicraftsmen and traders had long been organized into gilds and companies. These labour associations looked after their members' interests, and laid out regulations for their behaviour and duties. The constitutions of the companies were guaranteed by charters granted by the monarch, and were supplemented by books of orders issued from time to time by the gilds themselves.

     The gilds were run by a master and wardens. These were changed every year, and were originally chosen by the general membership of the gild. This democratic practice was often enshrined in the founding charter of the company. But, by the sixteenth century, power was becoming concentrated in the court of assistants, the body of past masters and wardens, who together with the present wardens controlled the company and passed legislation. The master and wardens themselves became chosen by this body, though the original democratic provisions remained nominally in force.[1] These changes corresponded to the economic rise of merchant elites.

     The semi-skilled and unskilled transport workers, unlike the craftsmen, had no liveries or privileged elites, and organization was imposed on them from above, by Parliament or the City of London. Unlike the gilds, they were not even theoretically democratic. Their rulers were generally selected by the London Mayor and Aldermen. The watermen, street porters, Billingsgate porters and 'carmen' or carters were all organized into some such form of society during the course of the sixteenth century.[2] It was felt necessary to impose some order on the burgeoning trades of these tough and unruly labourers.

     The watermen themselves had originally been under the direct jurisdiction of the City of London and the other boroughs along the Thames, but by the sixteenth century such control was considered to be inadequate. Parliament intervened as early as 1515 with an Act to regulate fares (see Chapter 1, section 'Fares'). In 1555 it passed an Act imposing a government on all the watermen between Windsor and Gravesend. The Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London were annually to elect eight of the 'most wise and best sort' of watermen, being householders, to be rulers. The function of the rulers was to supervise the watermen and report any misdemeanours. (As with the gilds, the rulers became in fact a largely self-selecting elite.) The Act also made various regulations for ordering the watermen. This Act may be regarded as the founding charter of the Company of Watermen.

     The following decades saw the further development of the Company. It acquired a hall in about 1565 and a coat of arms, the essential 'badge' of a gild, in 1585.[3] The Company was further shaped by supplementary legislation in the following decades (see below for details).

     The gilds contained an elite known as the 'livery', from whose ranks the ruling groups were drawn. The liverymen had certain municipal privileges, such as the right to elect aldermen. The elite of the Watermen's Company never officially became a livery, but within the Company it was the equivalent of one.

     The rank and file of the Company were known as the 'generality', a term which had its equivalent in other City companies ('commonalty' in the Weavers' Company, for example). The present chapter deals first with the generality as subject to the regulation of the Company, and then with the ruling group.

Masters and Apprentices

A man was required to spend a period of time bound to a qualified watermen as his apprentice before he could qualify as a fully-fledged waterman himself. The Act of 1555 specified an apprenticeship of one year. Legislation of 1584 extended it to five years, and the 1603 Act to seven.[4] The extended appenticeship was presumably more to do with the installation of social discipline than the acquisition of skill in rowing. Apprentices were free to row in a two-man wherry under the charge of another after one year, and were allowed to take charge of the boat itself after another two.[5]

     The minimum age for an apprentice was eighteen, except for watermen's sons who could start two years earlier, at sixteen.[6] Thus a (first-generation) waterman could not 'graduate' until he was twenty-four at least.[7] (It was in fact a general rule of the City of London that an apprentice could not be made free of his company until he was twenty-four.[8]) A new apprentice would enter into a contract or indenture with his prospective master. This document bound him to his master for the stipulated period and laid down certain rules regarding his behaviour, appearance etc. A youth could be apprenticed to his own parents (one Joshua Church, for example, was apprenticed to his mother 'in her widowhood'[9]) or to another waterman. He would be expected to live in his master's house, and assist him in his trade. Apprentices were not allowed to marry[10] ('bachelor' was another term for apprentice). They were restricted in other ways; they were not permitted to gamble with dice or cards, for example.[11] An apprentice who was absent for a month without permission was made to serve an extra year.[12]

     Apprentices could expect to spend two years at sea, at least in times when there was a demand for extra men in the royal or merchant marines. As we have seen, the apprentices were always the first to be enlisted in any watermen's press (Chapter 1).

     When a man's apprenticeship ended and he was made free of the Company, he was required to pay a sum or 'fine' of 3s 4d. to the Company. Graduates sometimes also made voluntary gifts, which could be contributed to the poor of the Company. There were, however, complaints that they were being forced to make them.

     The natural corollary of the apprentice was the master. In the gilds, the term master was used in several senses. It was applied to a member who was qualified and competent in his trade (one who might be expected to produce an exemplar of his craftsmanship — a 'masterpiece' — in order to qualify) and also to one who owned the tools of his trade. If it had been applied in the latter sense to watermen, it might have been expected to denote a waterman who owned his own boat; but it never does seem to have been used in this sense. A master craftsman was also a man who employed one or more people in the same trade, apprentices or journeymen. This is the way in which the term was used in reference to the watermen. (It is not, of course, to be confused with the use of the term as an unofficial title for a Company ruler.)

     It was traditional for an apprentice to live in his master's household as an additional member of the master's family. The regulations of the Watermen's Company sometimes specified that a waterman had to be a householder before he could take an apprentice.[13]

     Masters were originally allowed to keep two apprentices at a time, but early in the seventeenth century this was restricted to one. This reflected the decline in employment opportunities at that date, and the consequent need to restrict the numbers of watermen. In the eighteenth century watermen were once again allowed to keep more than one apprentice.[14]

     Apprentices made useful servants. Disabled watermen, or those too old to row any more, were allowed an extra apprentice so that the whole work of rowing a wherry could be done for them.[15] Widows too relied on apprentices.[16] Rulers, assistants and the royal bargemasters were also allowed extra apprentices; assistants could keep one more, and the bargemasters two more, than the norm.[17]

     Master watermen could transfer their apprentices to one another with the approval of the rulers of the Company. An apprentice could get himself transferred to another master provided he had sufficient grievance against his existing master.[18]

Servants; the Question of Journeymen

Those watermen who worked for, i.e. were employees of, masters were called 'servants'. They should not be confused with domestic servants. Apprentices were thus servants.

     Men who had served their apprenticeships but continued to work for a master were known, in other companies, as 'journeymen'. There appears to have been no official journeyman class in the Watermen's Company. There were, of course, the group of men who had passed their seven-year apprenticeships but had not yet served long enough to take their own apprentices. How were they to run two-man wherries? There is little information about this. Perhaps some of them worked as scullers (see Chapter 1), while others continued to be servants to masters. But whenever the ages of those referred to as 'servants' can be ascertained, it always turns out that they fall in the apprentice age-range of 18 - 24 years.[19] The term 'journeymen' itself was never used. Certainly a class of journeymen exists in the present day, when the vast majority of the Company are journeymen.[20] But this does not prove that they existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

     Thus this class of quasi-journeymen, if it existed at all, was limited in size. Its members, of course, were freemen of the Company. Were there others who, for one reason or another, drew out their apprenticeships for many years before qualifying as freemen?[21] Probably there were not many.

Government and Regulation

(a) Legislation
The legislation which shaped the Company was of two origins. Parliament issued Acts. 'Explanatory' or additional orders or 'bye-laws' were issued by the Company itself, usually in conjunction with the Court of Aldermen and by the authority of the Privy Council and Lords of the Admiralty. In our period, the essential Acts of Parliament were in 1555 (2nd and 3rd years of the reign of Philip and Mary), 1603 (1st James I) and 1700 (11th & 12th William III). Sets of Privy Council and Aldermanic regulations were issued in 1584, 1626, 1663 and 1683, with important additions in 1586 and 1634.

     The Act of Parliament of 1555 was instrumental in the establishment of the Company. It was in effect the Company's founding charter, although the term 'company' does not appear in it (it was not until some years later that the watermen began referring to themselves as a company).

     Complaining of the lack of skill, irresponsibility and even criminal activity of masterless watermen, some of them 'boys of small age', the Act laid down the procedure for appointing rulers of the watermen and specified a package of measures to introduce order. Watermen were to be apprenticed to a master for one year before being 'admitted to row', and to be 'exercised in rowing' for two years before they could take charge of a wherry. The rulers were to assemble the watermen periodically to register them, and to survey the boats to ensure they met the required standards of size and quality. Watermen breaking the rules were to be reported (by the rulers or their own masters) to the justices of the Thames-side shires or the London Mayor (who was a J.P. ex officio) for specified punishment — usually a fine or imprisonment. Watermen evading naval impressment were to be imprisoned two weeks and banned from the Thames for a year and a day. The London Mayor and Aldermen were to set fares as necessary.[22]

     The 1603 Act contained further regulations but added nothing to the structure of government. Its most significant provision was the extension of the term of apprenticeship to seven years. The Act of 1700 unified the watermen and Thames lightermen (heavy goods carriers) into one company, and enshrined in Parliamentary legislation much of the democratic achievement of the revolution of 1641-42.

     The purpose of the 'bye-laws' was twofold. They gave practical form to Parliamentary legislation; regulations for this purpose appear to have been drawn up by the rulers shortly after the 1555 Act, although we do not know the details.[23] Subsequent sets of orders added to the provisions of the Acts of Parliament, and were issued by the authority of the Privy Council and Lords of the Admiralty in conjunction with the Court of Aldermen and the Company itself. The orders of 1584, for example, extended the one-year apprenticeship to five years.[24]

     The bye-laws were very similar. Additions and alterations to the laws were often the result of popular pressure. The ordinances of 1584 seem to have been a response to watermen's complaints about ruler corruption made in 1579. Some specific remedies were enacted in 1579 (regarding quarterage, freeing of apprentices and so forth), and in 1584 a comprehensive set of orders was issued by the Court of Aldermen.[25] We cannot tell how much this differed from the ordinances of the 1550s, but it introduced two oaths, one for the rulers and another for the generality. The oaths were included in the later ordinances too. Two important orders regarding the Company government were added in 1586 (see below, 'The Ruling Group'). Probably a further set of laws was issued in the early seventeenth century to take account of the Act of 1603.[26] The 1626 ordinances contained a few additions, probably the upshot of the 1621-23 revolt (see Chapter 3). The new bye-laws of 1663 contained a few modifications which were the result of the watermen's revolutionary aspirations of 1641-42.[27] Another set of rules was issued in 1683.[28]

     The oaths of the rulers and the generality were similar. Both contained pledges against smuggling, and of obedience to the Company laws. But while the rulers' oath contained a pledge to supervise the rest of the watermen conscientiously, that of the generality had one of obedience to the rulers in all 'matters lawful'.[29]

     The Company rules were preserved in good-quality books of parchment at Waterman's Hall.[30] These became known as the Books of Orders. A table of the rules was displayed in the outer chamber of the hall, in order that 'watermen might read and hear how they are governed'.[31] By the 1603 Act, the 'constitutions and orders' were to be read out to the assembled watermen twice yearly, on 1 March and 1 September.[32] This was probably done in some open place, as the hall would have been too small to accommodate the assembled body of the watermen (see below).

(b) rulers and governing
The role of the rulers seems to have been envisaged at first as a supervisory one ('surveyors' was an early alternative term[33]). But, as time passed, the rulers gained more direct authority — or took more upon themselves — administering fines and imprisonment themselves. In the term 'overseers and rulers', 'rulers' came to predominate over 'overseers'.[34] Other, unofficial terms for the rulers were 'masters' and 'wardens' (by comparison with the gilds) and, sometimes, 'governors'.

     The rulers held court, i.e. met to conduct business, at the Company's hall. At least six courts were scheduled each year.[35] The most important, in effect the 'annual general meeting', was held shortly before the Aldermanic election of rulers in March. There the year's proceedings and financial accounts would be reviewed and, presumably, candidates for new rulers proposed (see below). It may be assumed that (as with the gilds) further courts were called ad hoc as the need arose.

     The general body of the watermen was also required to assemble periodically. There would probably have been four such regular meetings in a year. Two would have been for the twice-yearly reading of orders. On these and two further occasions the watermen also paid their quarterly contributions or 'quarterage' to the Company[36] (see below, 'Finances').

The Halls

By the sixteenth century many of the gilds had acquired a hall where the business of government was carried out and where, in most cases, the membership was required to assemble several times a year. In the case of the leading gilds (e.g. the Grocers), this was often a converted medieval mansion.[37] The lesser companies had to be content with renting a tenement, and a few had no hall at all (as with the Tacklehouse and Ticket Porters' fraternity[38]).

     There should perhaps be an apology for the detailed nature of the discussion which follows, but I feel it is justified by the long-standing misapprehension as to the location of Waterman's Hall. Humpherus believed that the first hall was Coldharbour Mansion, a fine building on the London riverfront just upstream of London Bridge.[39] He based his belief on an engraving by the nineteenth-century artist George Shepherd entitled 'Waterman's Hall, Cold Harbour ... As it Appeared Anno 1650 - 1780',[40] which was allegedly derived from a seventeenth-century original by Wenceslaus Hollar. The purported original cannot now be traced.[41] Hollar's 'Long View of London' of 1647 merely refers to the building as 'Cole Harbour'. An inspection of the Long View shows that Coldharbour was the finest house on the London riverfront (a considerably larger building than, for example, the hall of the Fishmongers' Company, one of the leading gilds) and Humpherus's belief that it was the hall must have included a deal of wishful thinking. It is just possible however that the watermen did obtain an interest in the mansion, as we shall see below. And, after the Great Fire, the second hall was built on the site of Coldharbour.

     The first hall was in fact a little way upstream, at the Three Cranes Wharf. The wharf, named for its sets of hoisting gear at the water's edge (originally three), was directly south of Guildhall and was the starting-point for Mayoral water processions. The hall was leased from the Merchant Taylors' Company. It was located at the south-east 'angle' (corner) of Broad Lane, and fronted on the wharf.

     The hall was the seat of Company government, but it would have been too small to accommodate the assembled body of the watermen. They thus met in some open place such as St. George's Fields in Southwark.[42]

     The watermen first obtained the lease in about 1565, when it appears that they already had property, e.g. a storehouse, in the locality. Thereafter the lease was renewed at 21-year intervals. The payments required by the Merchant Taylors were a fixed sum of £66 for each lease, plus an annual rent of £8. In 1629 the lease was taken for a 31-year period by Robert Dimbleton, a leading member of the Tallow Chandlers' Company,[43] but the premises continued to be the Watermen's Hall.[44] Possibly the Company had fallen into such poverty by this time that it could not afford the 21-year lease required by the Merchant Taylors, and had done a deal with Dimbleton to sub-let the tenement from him on a shorter lease. It is recorded that the watermen renewed their lease in 1646 or 1647, and that afterwards the Company ran into financial difficulties and the lease was mortgaged. However they must have made a recovery, for by 1652 Dimbleton had assigned them his lease from the Merchant Taylors. The following year the watermen surrendered this lease and took out a new one, for 61 years.[45]

     In 1666 the hall was destroyed in the Great Fire. Charles II, who was directing operations against the Fire, was said to have been inspired to new efforts when (standing on the roof of the Three Cranes Tavern) he saw the hall on fire. After this catastrophic fire, which destroyed so much of London, a new hall was built on the site of Coldharbour Mansion.

     But, for some time before this, the Company appears to have discontinued the use of the old building as the hall. After acquiring the new lease in 1653 they began to assign it to the woodmonger William Fellowes. This continued into the 1670s. Fellowes was a member of a property-holding 'consortium' at the Three Cranes (a Richard Hackett was also involved).[46] Now, the names of Fellowes and Hackett appear as inhabitants or property holders in Coldharbour.[47] It seems possible, then, that the watermen had made an 'exchange deal' in which they obtained an interest in Coldharbour, preceding the erection of the second hall on the site. Anticipating the watermen's political story, we may even speculate that this occurred as early as 1641, when the revolutionaries may have set up a rival administrative centre to the official one at the Three Cranes. Was this the origin of the hall at Coldharbour?

     In the 1690s the rulers acquired lands across the river in Paris Garden, with the intention of building a new hall there. Amongst the reasons they gave for dissatisfaction with the existing hall were the cramped conditions obtaining there and the 'filthy smells' in the vicinity. But the real reason for the intended move may have been a desire to escape the jurisdiction of the City. The Aldermen objected to such a move and, although the rulers retained the Southwark premises until the 1720s, they remained at their old hall.[48]

     The hall was rebuilt on the same site in 1721. In 1780 the Company moved to its present hall in St. Mary-at-Hill.

Finances; Poor Relief

The Company drew its income from a variety of sources. Firstly there were the fines levied on Company members. These fell into two categories: payments for standard transactions (such as the freeing of apprentices), and punishments for breaking rules. Typical sizes of fine were 3s 4d. and 5s. An exceptional fine of #5 was to be imposed on rulers who set apprentices free before they had served their time.[49] Fines were often to be disposed of 'one half to our sovereign lord the King' and the other half to the Company poor, or some similar formula.

     The Company possessed a number of properties at the Three Cranes Wharf, including its hall. Some of these were leased out to tenants, which provided a rental income.[50]

     The greatest regular income was the 'quarterage' or quarterly payments required of every freeman not in receipt of poor relief. The income was in fact for the poor fund. Quarterage was due at Christmas, Lady Day, Midsummer and Michaelmas (1663 regulations).[51] The amount was originally set at 2d. the quarter (1579 ruling), but by 1626 it had been raised to 3d.[52] A dispute between the rulers and the generality in the 1630s seems to have resulted in the reduction of the level to 2d. again by the end of the decade.[53] But inflation was making its own demands, and in the 1663 regulations quarterage was fixed at the much higher level of 6d.[54] The Company experienced great difficulty in collecting quarterage in the early years. In the 1580s many watermen were years behindhand; the problem was still evident in the 1620s. Imprisonment as well as fines were put forward as deterrents.[55]

     Company members could also make voluntary contributions to the poor fund. As we have seen, it was traditional for apprentices to do this at their making free.

     Routine expenditure included the hall rent. Extraordinary payouts would include the costs of lawsuits — not infrequent in those disputatious times. The rulers met the expense of the new Book of Orders of 1626 (probably legal costs) by levying an additional payment on freed apprentices.

     Perhaps the most significant expenditure was poor relief. As early as 1584 provision had been made for the relief of watermen falling into extreme poverty, reaching old age or becoming incapacitated by illness or injury. Such persons were to be paid 8d. a week.[56] This regulation was reiterated in 1626.[57] Watermen's widows too could draw on Company alms, and in 1663 explicit provision was made for their financial relief.[58]

     The Company's funds were apparently kept at the hall in two boxes. The balance of the current receipts and outgoings was kept in the 'Hall Box', while long-term savings were stored in the 'Great Stock Box' or Iron Chest.[59]

     The Court of Aldermen required the rulers to annually present their accounts for audit at the end of their year. Before the revolution, the auditors were not themselves watermen, but were appointed by the Aldermen from among the members of the leading City companies.[60]

The Ruling Group

Although the rulers were chosen anew each year, they were not merely selected at random. By the later sixteenth century a pattern had emerged whereby some of the rulers of one year would be re-elected to serve the following year. The number of 'repeaters' varied, but it was usually between two and four. Thus a continuity of government was established in which at least some of the rulers would serve in two-year blocks. Those last-named in the list of rulers for one year would be the first-named in that for the following year, implying a move to seniority. From this time onward, there seems never to have been a total break in the rulership — until the revolution of 1642.[61]

     While some rulers served only once, twice or a few times, others, presumably those most talented, financially-able, and willing, were chosen on many occasions. Thomas Iremonger, for example, served as many as nine times in the period 1580-96, and John Kellock eight times, 1602-20. Robert Clarke served eight times during 1625-41, and was the most frequently elected ruler of that period.

     Continuity of government was established in other ways, too. The rulers perpetuated their authority by the creation of the office of assistant, a post for which only past masters were eligible.[62] There were twenty-four of these assistants. Presumably, as was the case with other companies, they had no official powers of their own, but were to advise and assist the current rulers.[63] An order of the Court of Aldermen of 1586 laid down that nothing of importance was to be done without the presence of at least twelve, i.e. half, of the assistants.[64]

     Other functionaries in the government were the Company officers. Again, only past masters were eligible. The most important officer was the clerk. He was responsible for keeping the Company's records, and he would be a key witness in legal cases involving the Company. Clerks were often of long standing.[65] John Taylor, who refers to himself as clerk in February 1642,[66] probably held the office for many years before then. He represented the Company in many suits and petitions, though on the first occasion (the players affair of 1613-14) it was probably in an unofficial capacity (he first became a ruler only in 1623[67]). Thomas Lowe was clerk after the revolution. He was a ruler in 1644, and is first recorded as clerk in 1656. He apparently held this office continuously until his death in 1685.[68] Amongst other officers were the hall beadles (criers or messengers).[69]

     The Company seems to have established an internal structure for the rulership, such as is known to have existed in later times, but the loss of the Company's records mean that we know little about it. There was evidently a 'chief ruler' chosen each year; there are various references in the State Papers to the 'master and wardens' or 'warden and masters' of the Company. Robert Clarke appears to have been the chief ruler in 1634.[70] There were probably other specializations of rulership, as there were in later centuries.

     The group of rulers, past and present, constituted a political and social elite in the Company. In an apparent self-description, they consisted of '40 ancient men, 14 of them being his Majesty's servants, 2 of them being Esquires, and the most of them subsidy-men [i.e. well-to-do payers of a property tax]'.[71] From the earliest days of the Company, probably, the rulers had been a mixture of well-to-do and not so well-to-do watermen. But an Aldermanic order of 1586[72] specified that from thenceforth they were to be appointed exclusively from the 'ancienter', more talented and financially-able sort. This was to ensure that they would not only have 'sufficient discretion to govern', but would be able to bear the costs of office without burdening the Company, and also would provide a social leadership which the 'meaner sort' would respect. In view of the disputes in the Company which had preceded this ruling, another unspoken objective was to ensure rulers who were less susceptible to bribery and corruption. This order seems to have led to a predominance, if not a monopoly, of age and wealth, and to the exclusion of new blood. The generality's protests in 1622 that the age situation was such that four rulers regularly died in office each year was undoubtedly a farcical exaggeration. But in that year, as a result of these protests (see Chapter 3), the Aldermen conceded a form of power-sharing with the 'younger and inferior sort' of watermen (not being of the assistants), four of whom were now to be rulers each year alongside four members of the 'ancienter' type.[73] But in practice the richest watermen continued to dominate (although not monopolize) the rulership.[74] The rulers were generally of a mature age. This was true even after the order of 1622. Rulers were typically in their fifties and, although they could be older or younger, it was rare for one to be under forty.[75] Men of such an age had the advantage of both experience and a socially-independent position as householders, while not yet having begun a physical and possibly mental decline in old age.

     The oligarchy was, like those of other companies, a co-opting elite. Although the 1555 Act gave the choice of rulers to the Mayor and Court of Aldermen, the rulers made recommendations to the Court as to their successors, choices which the Aldermen by-and-large accepted.[76] In the early years of the Company, the Aldermen specifically ordered the rulers to give them such advice.[77] But the watermen's oligarchy disliked rulers who were appointed without its approval. It imposed a fine of £5 on such men.[78] (And in 1677 the rulers complained that such rulers had 'misemployed' the Company's funds.[79]) Such appointments could on occasion give rise to trouble. In March 1629 the Aldermen elected John Vaws and Robert Gibbs two of the rulers for that year.[80] The other rulers, obviously disapproving, refused the two men permission to sit at their courts until they had paid their £5 fines. The Court of Aldermen, considering that this tended 'to the impeachment of this Court's authority', overruled them. Gibbs, later an opponent of the oligarchy,[81] was particularly disliked. The Aldermanic repertory recorded that

forasmuch as Robert Clarke one of the Overseers did here in open Court ill demean himself in word and gesture and said to this Court in a peremptory and contemptuous manner that the said Gibbs should not sit in their Hall, this Court therefore doth commit him the said Clarke to the gaol of Newgate, there to remain until further order be taken for his enlargement.[82]



1. Unwin, pp.217-18; Manning, pp.165-66. Back to text

2. Unwin (1925), pp.353-6, refers to the foundation of the companies of watermen, Billingsgate porters and carmen. The street porters were made into a society in the early seventeenth century. Stern, Porters, pp.43-4, 47.

Back to text

3. Humpherus, I, pp.137-8. For the hall, see below. Back to text

4. Rep. 21, fo.35b; Humpherus, I, pp.103, 159. Back to text

5. Humpherus, I, *?pp.108-9? Back to text

6. 1603 Act. Humpherus, I, pp.159-60. Back to text

7. This contrasted with the more general situation in trades where, although apprenticeships were of seven years' duration, yet a boy could begin one in his early teens if not before. The 1555 Act in fact banned the employing of boys, on grounds of the hazard such immature labour posed.

Back to text

8. Unwin, p.8.
Back to text

9. Taylor, Manifestation, p.3. Back to text

10. Humpherus, I, p.214. Transgression against this rule was punished with the utmost severity. Apprentices marrying or 'contracting marriage' were to be 'banished the river forever'. Rep. 21, fo.35b.

Back to text


11. Taylor, Commons Petition, pp.9-10; Humpherus, I, p.343, quoting an apprentice's indenture of 1681 - the earliest surviving one.

Back to text

12. Humpherus, I, p.215. Back to text

13. There was also a rule that the master should have been married for several years before taking an apprentice. While the Act of Parliament of 1603 merely stipulated that he should have served five years' apprenticeship so to do, the Company regulations of 1584 and 1626 required him to be a householder of several years' standing. The regulations of 1634 and 1663, on the other hand, laid down that a watermen had to be free of the Company for five years before taking an apprentice. Rep. 21, fo.36; rep. 32, fo.97; rep. 48, fo.231; Humpherus, I, pp.73, 214, 284.

Back to text

14. Rep. 21, fo.36, ruling of 10 March 1583/4; ...* Cf. rep. 46, fo.172b (orders of April 1632); Humpherus, II, pp.*, 69, 107, 116. In the early eighteenth century there was a struggle between the watermen and the rulers over the number of apprentices a waterman could keep.

Back to text

15. Rep. 48, f. 235b. Back to text

16. [Refs*]. Back to text

17. Rep. 21, fo.36a; Rep. 48, fo.235b; Taylor, Manifestation, etc.

Back to text

18. Cf. the complaint of the generality in 1641 that apprentices were making unwarranted complaints in order to do this. Lords MSS, 3May 1641, petition of the eight rulers of the watermen, annex, pp.6-7.

Back to text

19. E.g. Abraham Carver, servant to Thomas Rowe, 'a young man of 24 years or thereabouts'. Lords MSS, 3 May 1641, petition of Henry Russell.

Back to text

20. Philip Howard, London's River (1975), p.234. Back to text


21. E.g. T. Gyllet, who was 28 years upon the Company's register before being made free. Taylor, Commons Petition, p.5.

Back to text

22. Humpherus, I, pp.100-7. Back to text

23. Rep. 13, part 2, fo.551b. Back to text

24. See above, 'Masters and Apprentices'. Back to text

25. Rep. 21, fos.35a-39a, regulations of 1584; for 1579, see Chapter 3, note 1.

26. Cf. rep. ...* Back to text

27. The regulations of 1663 are given in PC2/56, fos.154b-160b. Back to text

28. Rep. 88, fos.96b-103b. Back to text

29. Rep. 21, fos.38b-39a, original 1584 citation. The generality's oath as it appears in the 1626 ordinances is quoted in extenso in Humpherus (I, p.215); it is identical to the 1584 version.

Back to text

30. Cf. rep. 40, fo.362. Back to text


31. Rep. 46, fos.174a, [*and between fos.406b and 411b]; Taylor, Manifestation, p.4. In 1641, when the government was in the melting pot, one of the radical leaders, Joshua Church, removed these orders. Ibid.

Back to text

32. Humpherus, I, p.160. Back to text

33. Rep. 13, part 2, fo.485; rep. 14, fos.138b, 307b; rep. 15, fos.205b, 209, 314b; rep. 16, fos.170b, 334b; rep. 18, fo.353b. 1557-75.

Back to text

34. As has been remarked by Broodbank (*, p.*.) Back to text

35. Rep. 21, fo.38a, 1584 regulations. The Aldermen authorized payments for six court dinners, the largest being for the general dinner.

Back to text

36. Cf. 1663 regulations. Back to text

37. Unwin (1908), pp.176- 7. Back to text

38. William Maitland, The History and Survey of London (1739), p.610. Back

39. Humpherus, I, p.254. Back to text

40. Clearly, the latter date is a mistake, as the building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. It has been blanked out on many copies of Shepherd's picture. Cf, e.g., British Museum, Dept. of Prints and Drawings, views no.6 (no. 293) and views no.37 (no. 130).

Back to text


41. No such work is listed in the standard catalogues of Hollar's works:- Franz Sprinzels, Hollars Handzeichnungen [Hollar's Drawings] (Vienna, 1938) and Richard Pennington, [*Hollar's etchings] (Cambridge University Press, 1982).

Back to text

42. Cf. HMC, Ninth Report, part 2, p.61b. Back to text

43. Dimbleton was a warden of the company in 1637-38. GL, MS6513/1, Tallow Chandlers' court book, p.135.

Back to text

44. E.g. it is referred to as such in the surveys of 1637 and 1638. SP16/359, fo.109a; Dale, p.135.

Back to text

45. GL, muniments room, mf 325, Merchant Taylors' court minutes, I, pp.172-3; mf 326, court minutes, III, fos.131b, 132, 182; mf 327, court minutes, V, pp.282, 300; mf 311, ancient MS books, part 2, XIV, 'abstracts of leases 1550 - 1660', p.122; see also mf 298, accounts, V [*etc]

Back to text

46. Philip E. Jones, ed., The Fire Court ... (2 vols., 1966-70), I, pp.231-3. Back

47. GL, MS 823/1, Allhallows-the-less churchwardens' accounts 1630-51. Back

48. Humpherus, I, pp.415, 416-19, 423; Humpherus, II, pp.**. Back to text

49. Rep. 21, fo.35b. Back to text

50. In 1637 part of the hall was being leased to a Francis Keeling, while one Marshall also rented a house from the Company. SP16/359, fo.109a.

Back to text


51. Humpherus, I, p.286. Back to text

52. CLRO, Remembrancia, I, no. 96, fo.44a; Humpherus, I, p.217. Back to text

53. Cf. Taylor, Commons Petition, p.9. Back to text

54. Humpherus, I, p.286. Back to text

55. Rep. 21, fo.368; Humpherus, I, p.217. Back to text

56. Rep. 21, fo.37b. Back to text

57. Humpherus, I, pp.214, 217-18. The 1663 regulations increased it to ...**...
Back to text

58. Taylor, Manifestation, p.3; Humpherus, I, p.286. Back to text

59. Humpherus, I, pp.251-2. Back to text

60. Rep. 21, fos.144, 273b, 402; rep. 22, fos.32b, 153; rep. 25, fo.64. Fishmongers, clothworkers and ironmongers were among those appointed.

Back to text


61. The last occasion on which there was a complete break was 1586. Rep. 21, fos.144b, 272b. There was an apparent total break in 1632, but this was because a number of errors had been made in recording the rulers' names the previous year. By chance there survives another list of the names for 1631, and from this it can be seen that in fact two rulers repeated in 1632. Rep. 45, fo.177; rep. 46, fo.126b; SP16/196, fo.61. See Appendix 1. Assistants were first mentioned in 1566. Rep. 16, fo.28.

Back to text

62. Cf. Humpherus, I, p.204. Back to text

63. SP16/196, fo.61; cf. rep. 21, fo.36a.Back to text

64. Rep. 21, fo.272b. The order was reiterated in 1634. Rep. 48, fo.234b.

Back to text

65. Although the democrats of 1641 considered that officers should not remain in their posts for more than two years, even they made an exception for the clerk's job. Lords MSS, 3 May 1641, petition of the eight rulers of the watermen, annex, fo.5.

Back to text

66. Taylor, Manifestation, p.7. Back to text

67. Rep. 37, fo.108b. Back to text

68. Rep. 57, part 1, fo.77b; rep. 79, fo.130; Humpherus, I, pp.274, 348.

Back to text

69. Thomas Gallop was a beadle in 1641, and John Hunnington and John Palmer the beadles in 1659. PRO, E179/252/3, facing 23; CSPD 1658-59, pp.336-7.

Back to text

70. A heralds' visitation of that year refers to 'Robt. Clarke, The Warden, Andrew Lucas, Hercules Summers, Tho Consett, Isaac Gapper, James How, Edward Cottrell' as the rulers (Humpherus, I, p.224). This might appear to list eight rulers including an unnamed 'Warden', but comparison with the list of rulers given in the Aldermanic records (rep. 48, fo.122b: see Appendix 1) shows the unnamed person to be Thomas Warren, an obscure ruler who served on only two other occasions (1619 and 1620: rep. 34, fos.70, 363). Clarke, on the other hand, was the foremost ruler of his time. It may be assumed, therefore, that the entry was intended to read 'Robt. Clarke the Warden' (and that Warren was erroneously left out).

Back to text


71. Taylor, Commons Petition, p.10. The description is of 1642, the year in which they were overthrown. The esquires were the masters of the King's barges (see Chapter 1, section 'The Royal Watermen'). For the subsidy tax, see the introduction to Appendix 3.

Back to text

72. Rep. 21, fo.272b. Back to text

73. Rep. 36, fo.139b. Back to text

74. See Appendix 3 for details of the socio-economic position of the rulers.

Back to text

75. See Appendix 3. Back to text

76. Taylor, Commons Petition, pp.4 - 5. Back to text

77. Rep. 14, fo.11b (1558); rep. 15, fo.205b (1563). Back to text

78. Rep. 43, fo.136a. Back to text

79. HMC, Ninth Report, part 2, p.87a. Back to text

80. Rep. 43, fos.*, 120a. Back to text


81. Taylor, Commons Petition, p.5. Back to text

82. Rep. 43, fo.136a & b. Back to text

home      book contents     ( p a 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 e b a1 a2 a3 )