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Title: An Old City Company: A Sketch of the History and Conditions of the Skinners' Company of London

Author: Lewis Boyd Sebastian

Release date: June 11, 2019 [eBook #59727]

Language: English



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Privately Printed Opuscula
No. LIV.

An Old City Company:
The Skinners’ Company of London,

The substance whereof was compiled
by command of His Oddship
Brother Max Pemberton, Hack,
and read before
Ye Sette of Odd Volumes on
November 25th, 1902.
Skynner to ye Sette.
Imprynted at ye Bedford Press, 20 & 21, Bedfordbury, W.C.



Let this be imprinted.

By Order of the Publication Committee,
Conrad W. Cooke (Mechanick),
Secretary, Publication Committee.

This Edition is limited to 299 Copies, and is imprynted for private circulation only.


Presented unto

Dulce est Desipere in Loco.
Horace. Odes, iv, 12.
DULCEDelightful, says the Poet,
ESTis it, and right well we know it,
DESIPEREto play the fool
IN LOCOwhen we’re out of school.
W. M. T.

Introductory Note.

THIS historical sketch of the Skinners’ Company of London, to which I was apprenticed some forty years ago, and which I have since had the exceptional honour of serving through seven Wardenships and two Masterships (1886–7 and 1894–5) is an expansion of a Paper read before Ye Sette of Odd Volumes at Limmer’s Hotel, on the 25th November, 1902.

Who that reads can feel surprise that such a Company, with such a past—and such a present—commands and receives the loyal and enthusiastic devotion of all its members.

Five-and-twenty years ago disparaging criticisms of the ancient Livery Companies of the City of London were not uncommon. It had become a habit with writers of a certain class to describe the members of the Companies as illiterate people battening on public money, employing themselves in what was often spoken of as “gorging and guzzling” at the expense of their trusts, incapable of sitting down to a meal without the incentive of £5 notes secreted under their plates; and whose business, when any was done, largely consisted in granting beneficial leases of their trust estates to one another. All ignorant and malignant fiction.

Whether anyone ever believed these stories it is difficult to say. At the present time, at all events, there can be few, if any, who can continue to do so. In point of fact, the members of the Companies are very much like other people, educated in the same ways, and actuated by the same motives, but with a strong sense of their responsibility for the maintenance by their Companies of the high position which they gained, centuries gone by. The funds of which the Companies dispose are either their trust funds—as to the dealings with which the Charity Commissioners can speak—or their corporate funds, which are governed by their own pleasure. No £5 notes are hidden under plates; no beneficial leases of a Company’s property are granted to its members. The employment of a member of the Court of the Skinners’ Company to work for the Company for remuneration, whether professionally, commercially, or otherwise, is strictly prohibited. It is no doubt true that portions of the Companies’ own incomes are spent on entertainments, in accordance with the practice which has prevailed ever since the Companies existed at all; but I do not think that here, at all events, or in any other place where good fellowship prevails, any complaint will be made of this. Moreover, as the money spent is the Companies’ own, criticism would appear to be irrelevant. The entire income of the Companies, after payment of their expenses, including the cost of the entertainments, &c., is allocated to objects of public utility, selected by the owners.

The former misconceived attacks were very wounding to the members of the Companies, whose feelings of personal honour and of affection towards their Company were sorely outraged by them. For my own part, when I compare my Company, my School, my University, my College, my Inn of Court, I doubt whether any but William of Wykeham’s Winchester can vie with the Skinners’ Company in my affections.

There are several reasons for this which appear to me to be good. One is, that a member of such a Company feels himself to be connected by a direct link with the History of England, of which these Companies are part. Their destinies have been shaped and guided by men, of whom many have done good service to their country, and who stand towards their successors of later date in the position of honoured and revered ancestors, to be followed and imitated so far as change of circumstances permits. They are gone, but their work remains to be preserved and extended.

Another reason is the opportunity which membership of a Company affords of being of some little use in one’s own day and generation. There is great scope for this in the wise and prudent management of the affairs of a great Company. The sick have to be tended, the poor to be relieved, the schools to be governed, the exhibitions and prizes to be awarded, the estates to be managed, worthy institutions to be selected for support, all the multifarious matters connected with the ownership of property and the dispensation of charity to be controlled. All these must be of interest to any generous mind.

Then there is the association with agreeable and congenial comrades. Both Oxford and Cambridge are well represented in the Court of the Skinners’ Company, and few of the greater public schools lack at least one supporter. Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Harrow, Rugby, Charterhouse, Marlborough, Clifton, Tonbridge, King’s College School, are all to be found there. Other members have been claimed by Commerce at an early age, but all are cultivated and kindhearted, and united in the desire to promote the benefit of the Company and the useful and just disposal of its resources. A pleasanter or more congenial society could not easily be found. It has been a source of much gratification to me that I was allowed to assume the title of “Skynner” to ye Sette.

The narrative which follows can be filled in by reference to the “Account of the Worshipful Company of Skinners of London,” which was published by my regretted friend and colleague, the late James Foster Wadmore, A.R.I.B.A., while this Paper was in course of preparation. He had then recently completed fifty years of service in the Court of the Company, of which he was for several years the senior member, but survived the publication only a few months.

An Old City Company.

THE corporate name of the Company is “The Master and Wardens of the Guild or Fraternity of the Body of Christ of the Skinners of London.” The association with the feast of Corpus Christi, held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, goes back to the earliest days of the Company, and the annual Corpus Christi procession and feast of the Company are referred to and expressly sanctioned by the Charter of 1392—16 Ric. II. When the name is Latinized, the word “Pelliparii” serves as the equivalent of Skinners.

The Arms of the Company date from 4 Edw. VI., and are as follows:—The Shield—Ermine, on a chief gules, three ducal coronets or, capped of the field and tasselled gold. The Crest—a lizard (Lynx) statant proper, gorged with a wreath, leaved vert, purffled or. The Supporters—Dexter, a lizard proper; Sinister, a martin sable; each gorged with a wreath, leaved vert. Motto—“To God only be all Glory.” Down to the seventeenth century “In Christo Fratres” was used.

The date of the first establishment of this Company is unknown, but it was certainly long prior to the year 1327—1 Edw. III—when the first Royal Charter was granted to “Our beloved men of the City of London called Skynners.” Later charters were granted from time to time, but it is not necessary to refer to them here. The Company also holds an unlimited license in mortmain. The earlier of the City Companies, such as the Weavers, Saddlers, and others, claim to have had their beginning in Saxon times. Whether the same is true of the Skinners, it is now impossible to say, but at all events the grant of the charter constituted a Royal recognition of what was already a voluntarily existing fraternity.

An old book in the possession of the Company, written on vellum and illuminated, which dates from the end of the fifteenth century, contains a list of names of the “Founders and Bretherne and Susterne of the fraternity of Corpus Christi founded by the Worshipful Fellowship of Skynners of the Citee of London, that is to wit.”—

King Edward the III.
Dame Philip, his Queen.
King Richard the II.
Dame Anne, his Queen.
Prince Edward, father of the said King Richard.
King Henry the IIII.
Dame Johan, his Queen.
King Henry the V.
Dame Kateryn, his Queen.
King Henry the VI.
King Edward the IIII.
Dame Elizabeth, his Queen.
Leonell, Duke of Clarence.
Henry, Duke of Lancastre.
Thomas, Duke of Clarence.
John, Duke of Bedford.
Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester.
Richard, Duke of York.
John, Duke of Excestre.
George, Duke of Clarence.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Edmund, Erle of Rutland.
Richard, Erle of Salesbury.
John, Lord Faunhope.

And others of less distinction, several of whom are described as “clerk,” nearly 600 in all.

Then follows a list of names of sisters of the fraternity, rather more than 100 in all. The membership of the Skinners’ Company is still open to females, but only through patrimony; and as a female member can only become a freewoman, and is not eligible for the Livery, only few take advantage of the opportunity.

So far as the records of the Company show, there is no evidence to support the idea that membership of the Company was ever confined to skinners or furriers. A list of 1446 contains the names of persons variously described as “doctour,” “bocher,” “dier,” “joyner,” “groser,” “skynner,” and so on. So again, in a list of members admitted to the Livery in 1738, there were only six skinners out of twenty-seven, the remainder of whom are described as engaged in other occupations.

The working or “Artesan” Skinners, however, made attempts on various occasions to obtain admission as such into the governing body of the Company, but such attempts invariably proved unsuccessful. In 1606, the “Artesan” Skinners applied for and obtained the grant of a new charter to the Company, providing for the election of a certain proportion of working skinners, and the admission to the Court of certain persons named; but the Company brought the matter before the Privy Council, and they after report made by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, ordered the improperly-obtained charter to be cancelled.

Again, in 1744, the “Artesan” Skinners proceeded in the Court of King’s Bench for a mandamus, to compel the Court to choose certain of the “Artesans” as members of the Court, but such proceedings failed. In 1747–8, a similar further attempt was made without success; and since then the Company has had no further annoyance of this description.

The constitution and government of the Company are as follows:—At the head comes the Court, consisting of the Master, four Wardens (known respectively as First or Upper Warden, Second Warden, Third Warden, and Renter Warden, of whom the Renter Warden, though possessing the privileges of a member of the Court, is not one technically until elected to membership at the end of his year of office), and Assistants, all of whom but one (the last-preceding Renter Warden) are usually Past-Masters. The above form the governing body of the Company. The total number of the Court is fixed at not exceeding thirty. At one time the Assistants were termed the XVI., and apparently did not exceed that number. The members of the Court are all members of the Livery, and next to them come the other members of the Livery, who are without seats in the governing body. Below them come the Freemen, and after them the Apprentices.

To trace the career of a member up to the Chair—if he is not the son of a freeman, born after the date of his father’s freedom, so as himself to be entitled to the freedom by patrimony, he must be apprenticed to a freeman while between the ages of 14 and 21. After seven years of apprenticeship he is entitled to the freedom, and it is usual to take up the freedom of the City of London at the same time as the freedom of the Company. Those entitled by patrimony are able to take up the freedom on attaining 21. The Livery are elected by the Court from the freemen. The practice has fluctuated. Sometimes the Court have elected practically all qualified candidates free from objection. At other times, when the numbers appeared to be growing too fast, limits have been imposed. At the present time, the rule is to restrict the number of Liverymen elected after apprenticeship to not exceeding three a year. This is in addition to patrimonial candidates.

From the Livery one is chosen annually by the Court, on Corpus Christi Day, to serve as Renter Warden for the year ensuing. The Renter Warden was in former years the Bursar of the Company. He received the rents and made the payments. He had the charge of the moveable property of the Company, and was responsible for all. In return for this, certain of the Company’s benefactors directed small annual payments to the Renter Warden. The Renter Warden still checks over the plate of the Company on taking office, but his responsible duties are now discharged by the salaried officers of the Company, under the directions of the Court and its committees. At the end of the Skinners’ year, i.e., on the following Corpus Christi Day, it is usual for the retiring Renter Warden to be elected to the Court, and through the following year he acts as junior member, without office. The following year he is elected third Warden, the next second Warden, the next first Warden, and then Master; so that in six years from his election as Renter Warden he has passed the Chair, and goes to the bottom of the Assistants, with only his own ex-Renter Warden below him.

The ancient officers of the Company are the Clerk and the two Beadles, the Clerk being the trusted and chief executive official, while the Beadles discharge duties of a humbler character. To these have been added, in more recent times, the Solicitor, the Surveyor, and the Accountant.

On Corpus Christi Day the Election Court is held at noon, the members being arranged round the horseshoe table in their usual order: that is to say, the Master in the Chair at the head of the table, with the Clerk at his right hand. Beyond him, the four Wardens in order of precedence. The Master and Wardens alone wear their gowns at this and all other meetings of the Court. On the Master’s left hand the Senior Assistant sits, and beyond him, and round the outside and inside of both branches of the table, come the remaining Assistants, more or less in order of seniority, though this is not strictly adhered to. After the Minutes of the previous meeting have been read, the first Warden is nominated for the Mastership by a member, and leaves the room. Another member is nominated in competition with him, and after the first Warden has been elected on a show of hands, he is called back into the Court-Room, and returns his thanks. The same course is adopted with the retiring second and third Wardens and the Renter Warden of the year before, who are respectively elected first, second, and third Wardens. Then follows the election of most interest—that of the new Renter Warden, who is to join the Court for the first time. Subject to the rule incapacitating more than two near relatives from membership at the same time, any member of the livery is eligible after the completion of seven years of membership, and of these some will have been nominated by various members of the Court in the previous March. The selection between these is made by ballot, the name or names having the fewest votes being removed from the list at each round, so that the final result represents the general sense of the Court as nearly as possible. After this, it is usual for the retiring Renter Warden to be elected to the Court. The various committees are then appointed, and the annual re-election of Officers follows. Shortly after 2 p.m., the Court, and such of the livery as are able to attend, preceded by the Beadles with their staves, and by the Clerk, and accompanied by the Preacher, proceed through the streets to the Church of St. Mary, Aldermary (since the demolition of St. Antholin’s), where a service is performed and the annual sermon delivered by the Preacher, who is selected by the Master, and is usually a highly-placed ecclesiastic, sometimes of episcopal—or even archiepiscopal—rank.

In the evening the traditional election banquet takes place in the Company’s Hall, in Dowgate Hill. The Master has on his right the four outgoing Wardens, in order of precedence, and next to them the third and Renter Wardens elect. On his left are the Guests of the Company, and the remaining seats are occupied by the Court and Livery, all of whom are invited. When dinner is over, and the loyal toasts have been honoured, the doors of the hall are thrown open to the strains of music, and a procession enters, headed by the musicians, who are followed by ten Christ’s Hospital boys, representing the ten scholars formerly nominated by the Company under the will of Mr. Stoddard (1611). Then come ten of the junior Liverymen, each carrying alternately one of the five Cokayne cups, referred to later on, or one of the election caps, and after them the two Beadles with their staves, and the Clerk. The procession marches round the hall from left to right, and halts when the first of the Liverymen comes opposite the Master for the second time. The Master then takes from him the first cap and, after trying it vainly on the heads of some of the chief Guests, fits it successfully on the Master-elect, to whom he then drinks from the first of the five cups. Then the music strikes up, and the procession moves round the hall again, till a circuit has been completed, when another halt is called, and the first, second, and third Wardens elect are successively capped and pledged. Then follows another circuit of the procession, and a similar recognition of the Renter-elect, after which the procession resumes its march, and leaves the hall. As each of the five Elect is capped, he returns to his seat, wearing the cap, the retiring Renter Warden making way for the third and Renter Wardens elect to pass above him. After an interval, the caps are laid aside, and the Master proceeds to propose the health of the Master-elect, and after his response the ordinary proceedings are resumed.

The Cokayne cups bear the date-mark of 1565, and passed to the Company under the will, dated 1598, of Mr. William Cokayne. Each stands 16½ in. high, and is in the form of a silver-gilt cock standing on a tortoise, the head of the cock being removable. Ever since the cups came into the possession of the Company they have been used at the election banquet, in pursuance of an engagement entered into by the Company at the time of the bequest becoming operative. Their value must be very great. The workmanship is somewhat delicate, and repairs have had to be executed from time to time. Thus, Renter Warden’s account, 1661–2:—

“Paid Jacob Boddendicke for makeing a new tayle for one of the cockes and refreshing 3 other cockes and mending their tayles and one of the cases—005–10–00.”

The actual change of office does not take place until the Swearing-in Court, held on the Thursday following Corpus Christi. At that Court the outgoing Master takes the Chair, having a second similar Chair on his left hand, and the outgoing Wardens in their usual places on his right. After the Minutes of the Election Court have been read, the new Master makes his declaration, and takes the Chair, the ex-Master moving into the vacant Chair placed for him. Then the Senior Past-Master heads a procession round the Court-Room, the other members falling into their places as the procession moves on, the Wardens coming last, and so they file past the two Chairs, offering congratulations to the new Master, and condolences to his predecessor. Then the three senior Wardens elect make their declarations simultaneously, and proceed past the Master, ex-Master, and Senior Member, and round the room, to receive the felicitations of their colleagues. Then the new Renter Warden is called into the room, and goes through the same process. As the Master and Wardens make their declarations, to which all the members present listen standing, they assume their gowns, which, as already stated, they alone wear habitually throughout the sittings of the Court, though not in Committees. Then the ex-Renter Warden makes his declaration as a Member of the Court. The two Beadles are present. Then follows the reading of a selection from the Ordinances of the Company, after which a vote of thanks to the ex-Master for his “prudent government of the Company during the past year” is proposed, carried, and responded to, and the proceedings then follow a normal course. At the banquet in the evening the new Master is in the Chair, having the ex-Master in a similar Chair at his left hand. The latter’s health is proposed in the course of the evening, after which his retirement is complete. At this banquet the Master and Wardens wear their badges for the first time, of which the Master’s badge was provided by the Company in 1874–5, and the Wardens’ badges have been presented since by various Past-Masters.

The “othe of the newe maister and wardeyns the morowe after the day of corporis X’pi,” as taken in the fifteenth century, is worthy of note. “Ye shall swere that ye shalbe true liegemen unto oure liege lorde the Kyng, and to his heyres Kyngs; ye shall be indifferent jugis betwene party and party, withoute favoure, love, or affeccion, and withoute malice or any evill will to any parsone or parsons: all maner ordenances and good rules that bene made or shall be made for the wele of this craft of Skynners ye shall truly execute and kepe; ye shall not breke any of the ordenances made by ye comyn assente and hole agreement of all the XVI of thys Companye wtoute ye hoole agrement of alle or of ye most part of ye same XVI. All these thyngs ye shall truly observe and kepe; so help you God and all seyntes, and by the boke; and kys ye hyt.”

The old custom was that the Lord Mayor of London acted as Chief Butler at the Coronation of a Sovereign, assisted by a representative of each of the twelve great Companies. John Pasmer, Pellipar, represented the Skinners’ Company in this way at the Coronation of Richard III, in 1483; and so recently as the Coronation of George IV, in 1821, the Company was similarly represented by Mr. Thomas Moore, who was Master of the Company at the time of that King’s accession to the throne.

The Company has in its possession a complete list of the Masters from 1485 downwards. A few only of the earlier Masters can be identified. Thus, John Penne is described as Master of the Company in 1409 in a deed of that year, and William Newenham as Master in 1434 in a will of that date.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it seems to have been customary for the same member to occupy the Chair on several occasions, especially when he was conspicuous among the Aldermen of the City of London. Thus, between the years 1485 and 1600 only thirty-nine members served the office, of whom the most frequent occupants of the Chair were:—

Sir William Martyn, 5 times, the first being in 1485, and the last in 1502.

Sir Thomas Mirfine, 5 times, the first being in 1509, and the last in 1516.

Geoffrey Walkeden, 5 times, the first being in 1561, and the last in 1577.

Sir John Champneys, 6 times, the first being in 1527, and the last in 1539.

Sir Andrew Judd, 6 times, the first being in 1533, and the last in 1555.

Sir Wolstan Dixie, 7 times, the first being in 1573, and the last in 1592.

Alderman Philip Gunter, 8 times, the first being in 1556, and the last in 1582.

Seven others served for four years each within the same period.

After the sixteenth century the practice of re-election became nearly obsolete, and at the present day it is never adopted except in the case of the death or retirement of the Master, or one of the five members in the succession to the Chair, in which event a Past-Master has to be elected in order to avoid dislocating the ordinary course of the Company. Only eight re-elections took place during the whole of the nineteenth century; and there are at the present time only two double Past-Masters in existence. On leaving the Chair for the second time, a double Past-Master regains his original precedence.

In the seventeenth century, three instances occurred of noblemen who had joined the Company being elected and serving as Master. These were the Earl of Berkeley in 1685, the Earl of Monmouth (afterwards of Peterborough) in 1690, and the Earl of Romney in 1696. At the Election Court at the conclusion of the Earl of Monmouth’s Mastership (June 18th, 1691), it is recorded in the Minutes that “Ye Rt Honble ye Master appeared and tooke his place;” and after the elections were over it was ordered that a dinner should be given, on which £60 should be expended, “To wch the Rt Honble the Master declared hee would make the same up 100l. But the Cort considering his Lopps extraordinary bounty from time to time shewed to ye Company, wth great importunity prayed his Lopps excuse therein, letting his Honor know a Buck was ye usuall and only prsent made by ye Mastr on ye like occasion. Upon mo’con to know who should preach ye Elec’con Sermon, it was by the Rt Honble ye Mastr declared that he would appoint his owne Chaplaine to performe ye same.” In recent years it has become usual for each Master to leave with the Company some permanent record of his year of office, in the form of a piece of plate, but this is a purely voluntary act.

It is usual for the Master to officiate at public ceremonials—such as laying of foundation-stones, opening of new buildings, and the like, instead of inviting distinguished aliens to act; and a collection of the records of some of such occasions will be found in Appendix III.

It is also usual, in the event of a child being born to the Master during his year of office, for the four Wardens to stand godfathers to the child on behalf of the Company, and for a silver cradle or its equivalent to be presented by the Company to their godchild. It is an understood thing that the child, if a boy, shall be christened “Skinner,” and, if a girl, shall be christened “Pellipar,” or some variant of that name. Such occasions have of late years been far from frequent. In fact, there has been only one within the last quarter of a century, and that happened twenty years ago.

The Hall of the Company is situate in Dowgate Hill, facing the west side of Cannon Street Station, and having the Hall of the Tallow-Chandlers’ Company adjoining it on the north, and that of the Dyers’ Company on the south. In and prior to the fourteenth century, the buildings standing on the site were known as the Copped Hall, but since the fourteenth century the Copped Hall with certain shops adjoining, or the buildings which have replaced them from time to time, have formed the Hall of the Skinners’ Company. The earliest deed relating to the premises which is in the possession of the Company is a grant of the Copped Hall by Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, to Reginald de Thunderley, in December, 1295. The old Hall was consumed in the Great Fire of 1666, after which the present Hall was erected in its place.

One of the earliest members of the Company to arrive at distinction was Thomas Legge, who was Lord Mayor in 1347 and again in 1354, and was the ancestor of the Earls of Dartmouth. His was the age of the wars with France, and he contributed £300 to the expenses of the expeditionary forces. In 1364, the Skinners’ Company supplied a sum of £40 for the same purpose.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the order of precedence of the Companies was not clearly defined, and struggles took place between them from time to time, in which one Company sought to establish its superiority over another. The Skinners, who always ranked high among the chief Companies, fell out with the Fishmongers over this matter in 1339, and fighting took place, which had to be put down by force.

But the chief of these disputes in which the Skinners were concerned took place at the beginning of the reign of Richard III, between the Skinners and the Merchant Taylors, which again caused fighting, and led to the question of precedence in processions between the two Companies being submitted to the arbitration of Lord Mayor Billesdon and the Aldermen of the City of London, by whose award, dated the 10th April, 1484—1 Ric. III—it was in effect decided that each Company should invite the Master and Wardens of the other to dine with them in their Common Hall once a year, and that the two Companies should take precedence in processions in alternate years, beginning at Easter. This order was only to be disturbed by the event of a member of either Company becoming Lord Mayor, in which case, according to old custom, the Lord Mayor’s Company was to take precedence of all others. The award will be found in Appendix I, together with a supplementary award of the 17th January, 1521—12 Hen. VIII—explaining that the original award was applicable on all occasions.

Lord Mayor Billesdon’s award, which forms the subject of the painting recently placed by the two Companies jointly in the Royal Exchange, has continued to be scrupulously observed down to the present time. The two Companies rank alternately sixth and seventh among the twelve great Companies of the City, and the Master and Wardens of each dine with the other once a year; the Skinners’ entertainment taking place in December, and that of the Merchant Taylors’ in June. The representatives of the visiting Company are received as the chief guests of the occasion, and after dinner the Master of the entertaining Company gives the time-honoured toast, which, when the entertainment is at Skinners’ Hall, is in the following terms:—“The Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Skinners drink health and prosperity to the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, also to the Worshipful Company of Skinners, Merchant Taylors and Skinners, Skinners and Merchant Taylors root and branch; may they continue and flourish for ever!” To which the Master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company responds in identical form, but transposing the names of the two Companies. When the entertainment is at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, the Master of that Company gives the toast on behalf of his Company, to which the Master of the Skinners’ Company responds.

In the year 1681, some little friction appears to have occurred with respect to the annual visit, as the Court Book for that year contains the following entry under date August 9th:—“Whereas, at a Court holden the 8th of June last, it was ordered that the Mastr and Wardens of the Merchant Taylors should be invited to dine with this Worpl Comp: on their Election Day, vizt, on the 15th of the said month, and whereas the Mastr and Wardens of the said Compa: were invited by the Wardens of this Worpl Comp: at Merchant Taylors schoole at the usuall time, and forasmuch as the Mastr and Wardens of the said Company of Merchant Taylors for severall reasons to their Court appearing did decline the said invitac’on and sent one of their Wardens to excuse their comeing; and since, vizt, on Monday, the 8th of August instant, one of their Wardens with some other p’sons in his Comp: made an invitac’on to the Mastr and Wardens of this Worpl Company to dine with their said Company, on Thursday, the 11th of this instant August. Now, this Court haveing had informac’on from the Mastr and Mr. Warden Key that such their invitac’on was not made by ordr of Court of Assistants of the said Company of Merchant Taylors, but only by one of their Wardens, with the consent and direction of the said Mastr and Wardens—This Court doth therefore desire Mastr and Wardens of this Company now p’sent to decline goeing to their said Dinner or to accept thereof in respect the said invitac’on was not made by ordr of their Court according to their usuall custome.”

In pre-Reformation times, an important feature in the conduct of the Company was the performance of obits and rendering of honour to departed members. The Renter Warden’s accounts, which have been preserved from 1491 downwards, contain numerous references to such matters. Thus, in 1535–6—

“Pay’d to Syr John Stylbone, pryst, syngynge and prayinge for the soule of Master Merfen at the Charnel-house, and at Seynt Antolyns, by yere


“Item, pay’d for the kepynge of Mr. Myrfyns obbyte by yere at the Charnel-house xxvis. viiid.

Again, in the following year—

“Payd for a dyner provided at Skynners’ Hall for the bequest of William Tornor, Skynner, decessed, for the clothyn of thys felysshipe in the tyme of thys accompt

iiiili. vs. iid.

“Item, payd for spice, bred, wyne, and ale at hys buryinge at Skynners’ Hall after Dirige for the Company at the tyme of his buryall in the tyme of thys accompt

vis. viiid.

On the other hand, we find among the receipts in 1535–6—

“R’d of Thomas Davy the yonger for a fyne for that he denyed to bere the corpus of Thomas Franke to hys beryall


“Item, r’d of Water Bucknell for a fyne for that he gave oprobryus wordes to the Master and Wardens, xxd., and for that he denyed to bere the corpus of Thomas Franke, decessid, according to the ordynances

iiis. iiiid. Summa vs.

So, in 1536–7—

“Receyved of the executors of John Edwards, Skynner, latte decessed, for his bequest to make a recreacion at Skynners’ Hall for the clothinge of the Company that were present at his buryall in the tyme of thys accompt


The fine imposed on Water Bucknell for his “oprobryus” words to the Master and Wardens show that the authorities of the Company knew how to guard themselves from insult. But they were equally careful in the case of less important members. Thus, in 1535–6—

“R’d of William Tornor for a fyne for that he Revyled and myssayd ongoddly wordes to George Forman


“Item, R’d of George Forman for slaunderus wordes and mysbehavyor to the sayd William Turnor the same day


It may be conjectured that the 2s. by which Turner’s fine exceeded Forman’s was owing to the blasphemous character of his language.

Litigation was a cheap and inexpensive amusement in those days. Thus, in 1535–6—

“Payd for the sute in the lawe bytwene thys house and Mystres Bedell in the Spirituall Corte for maynteynynge of the Torches Master Bedyll gave thys house

viis. vid.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Company contained many men of distinction. One of the more conspicuous of these was Sir Andrew Judd, who was Master of the Company in 1533, and on five subsequent occasions. He was Alderman, Sheriff, and (in 1550) Lord Mayor of London. He was also Mayor of the Staple of Calais, and in all his various offices he was distinguished by loyalty and capacity, taking, among other things, an active part in the suppression of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion. He died in 1558, having amassed a considerable fortune as a merchant, and was a benefactor of the Company to a substantial extent. He founded the Company’s almshouses for men in Great St. Helen’s. But his especial glory is that, in the year 1553, he founded and endowed, in his native town of Tonbridge, under letters-patent obtained by him from Edward VI, the famous free Grammar School, now known as Tonbridge School, which has since made good its claim to a place among the great public schools of England. This school is, by direction of the Founder, governed by the Skinners’ Company, in whom he reposed the fullest confidence, not unwisely.

Very little now remains of the original school buildings, with the exception of a part of the Head-Master’s house; the old buildings were removed and new ones erected in 1863–4, to which were added a large block of science rooms, with a library and gymnasium, in 1886–7, and a great hall with another large block of class-rooms and workshops, joining the science buildings to the 1863–4 buildings, in 1894. A new chapel was erected in 1900–2, replacing a smaller one which had been built in 1859, but which was never consecrated, and is now used as a museum. Still further additional buildings are in prospect. Large additions have also been made to the playing-fields. The school is now governed under a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 1881, and contains about four hundred boys.

The annual Visitation of the Governors takes place at the end of the summer term, when the doors of the houses in the town are decorated with young birch trees, in a way which I only remember to have seen elsewhere at the old Imperial city of Rothenburg, in Bavaria, at Whitsuntide. On the first day the buildings and property are inspected, and any necessary directions given. On the second day a Latin address, reminding one of the Ad Portas at Winchester, is delivered by the Head Boy on the arrival of the Governors at the School, to which one of the Examiners replies. A roll-call in the Great Hall follows, succeeded by a commemorative service in the parish church, at which an interesting bidding prayer is repeated (see Appendix II). In the afternoon there is a prize distribution in the Great Hall, with the addition of addresses by the Head Master and the Master of the Governors, an announcement of the result of the examination for leaving exhibitions, and a list of honours obtained, which grows from year to year. Three silver pens, respectively gilt, parcel-gilt, and plain, are also presented to distinguished scholars, in accordance with the Founder’s directions.

The inscription on Sir Andrew Judd’s monument in the church of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, is as follows:—

“To Russia and Muscova
To Spayne Gynny withoute Fable
Traveld he by land and sea
Bothe Mayre of London and Staple.
The commenwelthe he norished
So worthelie in all his daies
That ech state fullwell him loved
To his perpetuall prayes.
Three wives he had: one was Mary
Four sunes one mayde had he by her
Annys had none by him truly
By Dame Mary had one dowghter
Thus in the month of September
A thowsande fyve hunderd fyftey
And eyght died this worthie Staplar,
Worshipynge his posterytye.
S’r Andrew Judd Knt.”

Sir Andrew Judd’s daughter by his first wife was named Alice, and married one Thomas Smythe. She, by her will dated in 1592, left considerable bequests for the benefit of the inhabitants of the almshouses founded by her father, and for other purposes connected with the Company. Her second son was the well-known Sir Thomas Smythe, referred to later on.

Other conspicuous Skinners of the sixteenth century were Sir John Champneys, Lord Mayor in 1534 and six times Master of the Company; Sir Richard Dobbs, Lord Mayor in 1551 and four times Master, who took a very active part in the foundation of Christ’s Hospital; Sir Wolstan Dixie, Lord Mayor in 1585 and seven times Master, also President of Christ’s Hospital; Sir Stephen Slaney, Lord Mayor in 1595, Master four times and President of Christ’s Hospital; Sir Richard Saltonstall, Lord Mayor in 1597, Master four times, and Governor of the Merchant Venturers’ Company.

The sixteenth-century benefactors of the Company include Thomas Hunt and Lawrence Atwell, under whose wills, dated respectively in 1557 and 1588, considerable property was bequeathed to the Company for various charitable purposes; and Henry Fisher, under whose benefaction, by deed dated in 1562, an Exhibition at Brasenose College, Oxford, is maintained for a Tonbridge scholar, and remuneration is provided for the preacher of the annual Corpus Christi sermon.

Sir James Lancaster was a successful merchant, trading to the East Indies, and an esteemed naval commander. In 1600 he was appointed the first Admiral of the fleet of the East India Company, of which he was a director. Under his will, dated 1618, certain Exhibitions at the Universities, and stipends for poor preachers, are awarded by the Company.

Sir Thomas Smythe, son of Dame Alice Smythe, and grandson of Sir Andrew Judd, after serving the office of Sheriff of London, became the first Governor of the East India Company. He was also prominent in connection with the Muscovy Company and the Virginia Company, and acted as Ambassador from James I to the Czar of Russia. By his will, proved in 1625, property was left to the Company, out of which certain University Exhibitions, as well as scholarships at Tonbridge, are established; and the residue is distributed for charitable purposes among poor residents in certain parishes in Kent, under a scheme sanctioned by the Chancery Division in 1883.

Under the will of William Stoddard, dated 1611, the Company possesses the right to nominate children to Christ’s Hospital.

In the early years of the seventeenth century the Company was largely occupied with the acquisition and settlement of its Irish estates in the County of Londonderry. Proposals for the colonisation of large districts in the North of Ireland were issued by the Crown in 1608, and the response made by the public proving inadequate for the purposes in view, application was made to the City of London, which resulted in the City undertaking the plantation of the County of Londonderry. This was effected through the instrumentality of a new Corporation composed of Aldermen and members of the Common Council, to which was given the name of “The Irish Society.” Of this Society the first Governor was Alderman Sir William Cokayne, Lord Mayor in 1619, and Master of the Company in 1609 and two later years. He was also President of St. Thomas’ Hospital, and was son of the donor of the Cokayne cups. The first Deputy-Governor was also a Skinner, William Towreson, or Towerson, who was Master in 1616. The modus operandi was that the county (exclusive of the towns of Derry and Coleraine, and the ferries and fisheries) was divided into twelve portions, equalised as far as practicable, and that these were appropriated by lot among the twelve great Companies. With two exceptions, each of the twelve had associated with it some of the minor Companies, who contributed certain proportions of the necessary funds, so that each of the twelve, with its associated Companies, provided one-twelfth of the total expense. The Skinners’ estate, constituting the Manor of Pellipar, was shared by them with the Stationers, the White-Bakers, and the Girdlers, the Skinners’ share being somewhat larger than those of the other three combined. In 1876, the Skinners’ Company bought out the Stationers and Bakers, leaving the Girdlers their sole co-owners, the latter owning rather more than eleven per cent, of the undivided estate, and the remainder belonging to the Skinners’ Company. For many years the estate was let to middlemen on successive leases for three lives, but in 1872 this system came to an end, and the estate was managed directly by the Skinners’ Company. It has recently been disposed of under the Irish Land Acts.

In the seventeenth century, the Company became possessed of a considerable estate in Clerkenwell, known as “Clarke’s Close,” under the will, dated in 1630, of John Meredith. They also award another University Exhibition under the will of Edward Lewis, dated in 1673. Under the will of Lewis Newbury, dated in 1683, the Company’s almshouses for women were erected at Mile End. These, as well as the Judd almshouses for men at St. Helen’s, have recently been replaced by new and more commodious buildings at Palmer’s Green: to which all inscriptions and other objects of interest at the old almshouses have been carefully removed.

The Company was involved in the troubles arising from the arbitrary proceedings of the kings of the Stuart family, and the disturbances attending the establishment and supersession of the Commonwealth. In 1625, the Company was compelled by judgment, obtained on a writ of quo warranto, to surrender its lands to the Crown, but the judgment was set aside by the Parliament in 1641, and Charles I assented to their decision. During the great Civil War large sums of money were advanced to the City, and the Renter Warden’s accounts contain numerous entries of expenditure on arms and gunpowder. In 1645–6, the following entries appear:—

“Aug. 5. Paid the Collectors of Dowgate Ward for 2 months ending 1 Aprill, 1645, for the maintenance of S’r Thomas Fairfaxes army

0024 00 00

Aug. 13. Paid the Collectors of Dowgate Ward for the fortifications for 2 months

0021 00 00

Aug. 25. Paid the Collectors for 3 months for the maintenance of S’r Tho: Fairfaxes army

0036 00 00

Sept. 30. Paid the Collectors for the maintenance of S’r Thomas Fairfaxs army for two months

0024 00 00

Nov. 10. Paid the Collectors for 2 months assessment for the Scottish army

0009 00 00

Dec. 3. Paid the Collectors for the fortifications for 2 months and is in full for 6 months

0021 00 00

Jan. 7. Paid the Collectors for the maintenance of S’r Tho: Fairfaxs army for 3 months in full

0036 00 00

Jan. 23. Paid the Collectors in full for 12 months for the Brittish armye in Ireland

0010 10 00

Apr. 21. Paid the Collectors in full for the assessm’t of the Scottish armye

0009 00 00”

In 1648, the following entries relate to soldiers quartered at the Hall:—

“Nov. 30. Paid, spent on the Lieutenant and souldiers when they came to quarter in the Hall

0000 13 06

Dec. 22. Paid, spent by the Clarke on the souldiers

0000 02 02

Paid, spent more on the souldiers by the Clarke while workmen were secureing the house

0000 05 07

Paid for iron boltes, staples, boardes, nayles and workemanshipp to secure the house

0000 16 04

Feb. 6. Paid M’r. Warden Alport by order of the M’r. and Wardens for 2 bedds and furniture to lodge the comaunders in att the courte parlor

0031 13 08

Mar. 26. Paid, spent on the M’r. and Wardens when they went to Collonell Tichburne to gett the souldiers removed

0000 04 10

Paid Mr. Richbell for fire and candles for the souldiers

0014 18 09

Paid, spent by the Clarke in going and coming by water to the Quarter-M’r Generall with Collonell Tichburne’s lettre to get the souldiers removed

0000 04 10

Paid a souldier that went to the Lieutenant to Whitehall and for bringing downe the souldiers’ bedds out of the Hall into the yard

0000 01 06

Paid for makeing cleane the Hall after the souldiers were gone

0000 12 04”

It seems to have been considered imprudent to make the entries too explicit in all cases. Thus in 1642:—

“Allowed to the Renter Warden for reasons best known to the Auditors

015 00 00”

And in 1646–7 the same entry appears, but the amount is increased to, 20–03–01.

Many of the other entries during this period are also worthy of note. Thus:—

1644–5. “Paid for a drincking, July 18, being a daye of Thankesgiving

0002 16 01

1645–6. “Paid to Mr. Taylor’s blinde sonne for studying a sermon by order of Courte

0001 00 00

1647–8. “Paid, loste by lighte monye received in 100li.

0000 02 03

1648. “Paid, loste more by Counterfett monye

0000 05 06

1648–9. “Paid for a dynner, being thanksgiving daye about Colchester

0015 10 07

1649–50. “Paid a cheater that pretended hee was to bring the Company a doe from the state

0000 05 00

1654–55. “Paid Mr. Ogelbye for a booke called Virgill by order of Courte

005 00 00

1658. “Paid for intertayning the Lord Maior and Aldermen att their going to the funerall of the Protector

0001 16 04”

The Colonel Tichborne referred to in some of the entries of 1648 was Sir Robert Tichborne who gained an unfortunate prominence in the times of the Commonwealth. After successful trading he became a Colonel in the Parliamentary army, and was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London. He also obtained a seat in Parliament, and in 1649 presented a petition to the House of Commons in favour of the execution of Charles I. He was a member of the High Court by whom the King was condemned, and signed the warrant for his execution, in January, 1649. In 1650 he was Master of the Company, and in the same year he served as Sheriff of London, his colleague being another Skinner, Richard (afterwards Sir Richard) Chiverton, whose Mastership, in 1651, succeeded his own. In 1655 he was knighted by the Lord Protector, and in 1656 he filled the office of Lord Mayor, in which he was again succeeded, in 1657, by Chiverton. In 1657 he was nominated one of Cromwell’s peers, and became known as Lord Tichborne. A pageant was provided by the Company on his accession to the Civic Chair, at a cost of several hundreds of pounds. As has been seen, the Company availed themselves of his influence to secure the removal of the soldiers who had been quartered at the Hall in 1648, and they were not ungrateful for his protection. The following further entries in the Renter Warden’s accounts refer to him:—

“1650, Maye 30. Paid for a dinner when our M’r. and Wardens went to the Court of Aldermen about Alderman Tichborne

0000 13 00

June 15. Paid Mr. Woodall for warning a Courte of Assistance about Alderman Tichborne

0000 02 06”

In the same year there appears among the “good debts due to the house” the following:—

“Alderman Tichborne, our M’r., for his fyne to come into the Assistants

0025 00 00”

while in 1650–51 there appears among the payments:—

“Paid, allowed Alderman Tichborne out of his fyne according to an order of Courte

0025 00 00”

1656–7. “Paid, given the Lord Maior by order of Courte towardes the tryming of his house

0060 00 00”

In 1653–4, under date February 8th, appears the entry:—

“Paid for a dynner when the Lord Protector was feasted att Grocers’ Hall

0026 04 02”

After Cromwell’s death, when the Restoration was approaching, “the Lord Tichborne” was appointed one of a large committee to arrange for a banquet to the Lord General Monk and his lady, which took place on the 5th April, 1660. The following entry refers to this occasion:—

“Paid for a dynner, April Vth, for the Lord Generall Moncke, the Councell of State, and the Feild Officers

0476 12 09”

In May following the Company provided £504 towards a present from the City to the King and the Dukes of York and Gloucester: and various other sums were paid in connection with the reception of Charles II, including “the interteynement of his Matie to a Feast att Guildehall.” The change of circumstances is further attested by the following entries:—

“1660–61. Paid the vergers att Poulis, Januarye 30, being a daye of humiliation

000 05 00

Paid June 12, att the Myter Taverne, being a daye of humiliation which turned to a daye of rejoycing by meanes of faire weather

000 15 10”

In the autumn of the year 1660 Tichborne was tried as a regicide by the Special Commission, and sentenced to death, but was not executed. His property was, however, confiscated, and he passed the remainder of his life in confinement, and died a prisoner in the Tower of London in 1682.

The following entries in 1661–62 show that the Company were not prevented by the heavy taxes on their loyalty from giving effect to their interest in learning:—

“1661–2. Paid the royall present for the Kinge’s Ma’tie according to an order of Courte of the xxixth of August

200 00 00

Paid to the M’r and Fellows of Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge towardes the charge of their building according to an order of Courte of the viiith of Julye

66 13 04”

In 1665 came the Great Plague, followed, in 1666, by the Great Fire of London, in which the old Skinners’ Hall shared the fate of so many others of the City Halls. The Company’s valuables were saved, but the Hall itself was destroyed, and for some years after the meetings of the Company were held in other halls and buildings which had escaped the fire. Little time was lost in rebuilding. Outstanding loans were called in, land was sold, contributions were levied upon members, and by 1672 the new buildings were sufficiently completed for occupation by Sir George Waterman, the Skinner Lord Mayor of 1671–2, on whose accession to office one of the numerous pageants provided by the Company was represented. It was usual at that period for the Hall to be let to City functionaries for their term of office, and the Court Books record a number of such lettings. Mention may be made of such lettings to Sir Robert Hanson, Lord Mayor, 1672–3, and Sir Owen Buckingham, Sheriff, 1695–6. From Christmas, 1698, to Michaelmas, 1707, the East India Company had the use of the Hall, and four silver candlesticks presented by them are still in the possession of the Company. In its leading features the Hall remains as it then was, but various alterations and improvements have been made from time to time. The Great Dining Hall was improved in 1847–8, and again in 1890–1, and is now in course of decoration with historical paintings by Mr. Brangwyn, A.R.A. The famous Cedar Drawing-room, commemorated by Lord Macaulay, was fitted with a new ceiling in 1876; the Oak Parlour was restored in 1889, and a second entrance from Cloak Lane has very recently been constructed.

The more important pieces of plate in the possession of the Company were presented in the seventeenth century. The Cokayne cups, already referred to, belong to the sixteenth century, but with this important exception the plate earlier than the nineteenth century all dates from the seventeenth. Special mention may be made of the Peacock Cup, representing a silver peahen, with removable head, accompanied by three peachicks, the gift of Mary, widow of James Peacock, Master, 1638–9, presented in 1642; the Master’s Salt, bequeathed by Benjamin Albin, Master 1669–70, who had taken an active part in rescuing the Company’s plate at the time of the Great Fire: the Leopard Snuff-box, presented by Roger Kemp, Master 1680, which is always placed in front of the Master at banquets, school prize-givings, and other functions; and the Monteith Bowls, purchased with money bequeathed by Sir Richard Chiverton, Master 1654, Lord Mayor 1657.

At the Court of May 4th, 1681, “Major Manley signifyed that the Right Honoble the Earl of Shaftesbury would doe the Company the honour to take his ffreedome of this Socyety wch moc’on the Court agreed to and ordered the Master and Wardens (and certain others named), or as many of them as conveniently can, to attend his Lordship, and to acquaint him with their readiness to receive his Lordship into their Society.” And on November 30th of the same year, it was ordered that Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Herbert, and Francis Charlton, Esq., should have their freedoms presented to them in silver-gilt boxes, engraved with the Company’s arms.

In 1684–5 the Company erected in the Royal Exchange a statue of Edward III. A small model of this statue was kept by the Company, and on April 26th, 1738, “Mr. Deputy Nash was desired to get the modell of King Edward the III’ds statue repaired, and to get a handsome frame and glass case to be set up above the Master’s chair at the upper end of the Hall.” This model is still preserved in the Cedar Drawing-room.

The Company’s charters were seized on a writ of quo warranto in the reign of Charles II, and a fresh charter was granted by James II; but the seizure and the new charter were set aside by Act of Parliament, 2 Wm. and M., Sess. I, cap. 8, and the Company was restored to its previous position.

The sympathies of the Company at this crisis in the national history are sufficiently evidenced by an entry in the Court-Book for 1687, subscribed by thirty-seven names: “Now whose names are hereunder subscribed doe declare that noe fforeigne prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or Authority Ecclesiasticall or Spirituall within this Realme. Soe help me God.”

During the struggle which led to the deposition of James II, a very leading part was taken by Sir Thomas Pilkington, Master in 1677 and 1681. He was elected M.P. for the City of London in 1679, and again in 1680 and 1689. He was Sheriff in 1681, and was very conspicuous in his opposition to the Court party at the election of his successor in the following year. Before steps could be taken against him for his conduct on this occasion, he had already, in November, 1682, been sent to prison, where he remained until June, 1686, for words spoken in disparagement of the Duke of York. On being tried, while a prisoner, for his behaviour at the election of Sheriffs, he was again convicted and fined, but this judgment was set aside by the House of Lords in 1689. He and others, including Roger Kemp, the donor of the Leopard snuff-box, were removed from the Court of the Company at the instance of the Crown, but by Order in Council of September 25th, 1687, they were ordered to be re-admitted, and those who had been substituted for them to be displaced: which was carried out by order of the Court on the 15th October, 1687. He had been Alderman of Farringdon Without since 1680, but removed to Vintry in 1688; and on the death of Sir John Chapman, the Lord Mayor, in March, 1689, he was elected to succeed him for the remainder of the year. Such was the esteem in which he was held, that he was re-elected at the end of the year, and again for a third year. On his becoming Lord Mayor, the King and Queen were present at his banquet, together with the Prince and Princess of Denmark (afterwards Queen Anne), and most of the dignitaries of the Kingdom and foreign representatives. The Company provided a pageant on his re-election in 1689; and so enthusiastic were his colleagues in the Company that, on his second re-election to the Mayoralty, the Court, on November 25th, 1690, passed a resolution which, after setting out various claims which he had to their gratitude, proceeded as follows:—“This Cot therefore, well weighing the p’misses and calling to minde his Lopps sufferings by the excessive ffines and exorbitant veredicts formerly given against him, meerly for the faithfull discharge of his duty and trust when Sheriffe of this Citty, and opposeing the arbitrary and popish designs then carrying on for the subversion and totall overthrow of the Lawes and Established Religion of the Kingdom, and that his Lopp by his wise and prudent government of this Citty for ye yeare last past (being a yeare of extraordinary difficulty) hath done great service to their Maties, the Nation, and the Citty. This Cort did and hereby doe unanimously agree to pr’sent his Lopp with the use of the Hall for the yeare ensueing. And did alsoe agree that the Master and Wardens and the body of all the Assistants of the Worpll Company now prsent should immediately attend Sr. Thomas Pilkington, Knight, the prsent Lord Maior, and acquaint his Lopp with their Order and acknowledgement, and likewise to returne his Lopp their hearty thankes for the good service he hath done their Maties, the Nation, and this Citty in his Lopps last yeares prudent and good Governmt thereof.” Lord Mayor Pilkington’s picture, painted at this time by order of the Court, still hangs in the Court-Room.

In 1689, the honorary freedom was presented to the Earl of Monmouth (Master in the following year), Sir Rowland Gwyn, the Earl of Portland, and Lord Sydney; and on Nov. 12th, 1689, it was “Ordered that the Mar and Wardens (and others) be desired as a Comm’ee to joyne with the Right Honorable the Lord Mayor and the other Honorary Members of this Compa to attend on their Maities when the noble persons aforesaid shall appoint to prsent them with the copyes of their Freedomes, each in a Box of Gold, of which the Mar, Wardens, and Commee aforesaid were desired and ordered to provide the same.” This was followed up by the following order on Nov. 5th, 1690:—“Ordered that boxes of gold to ye value of £60 prsented to their Maties with their ffreedomes, and that the Rt Honble the Mr (the Earl of Monmouth) be acquainted with it, and that the Wardens attend his Lopp touching the same and to follow his Lopps direc’con therein.”

The time of the Court was not entirely occupied with matters of state. On June 25th, 1689, the following entry occurs:—“Mr Glover (Thomas Glover, the executor of Lewis Newbury, the founder of the almshouses at Mile End) appeared and complayned of diverse great disorders com’itted by severall of the Pen’coners or Almesffellowes in the Almshouses at Mile End of the erec’con of Mr. Lewis Newberry, perticularly of the Wid: Barrett, her unruly sons sometimes comeing in at unseasonable houres and lodgeing there, and of an impudent girle of ill Fame wch Tho. Row employs there; likewise of others selling ale on Sabbath daies after sermon, namely Goodwife Dawson and Wid: Carver. All which were respectively called in and their sevrall misbehaviours reprsented to them and rebuked for it; but upon their promise of amendmt for the future (and this being the first complt against them), the Court was pleased to pardon their sevrall offences at prsent.” This warning seems to have been only partially successful, for on Dec. 11th, 1696, the following further entry appears:—“This Cort being informed that the widow Carver and the widow Goodwin, who inhabit in the almeshouses at Mile End, did sell strong water and ale, haveing been cautioned agt the same, yett nevertheless do still persist therein. Itt was therefore ordered they should have notice given them that unless they discontinue their practice in a week’s time from the date hereof, they shall bee removed from their almeshouses and penc’ons.”

After the close of the seventeenth century, the matters recorded are of less interest, and the troubles of the Company were of a minor order. Thus, in July, 1738, “Mr. Thomas Zachary acquainted this Comee that he had casually dropt out of the Bag the little keys of this Compays small iron chest wherein the Seal of this Company was put, and also the Key of the Poors Box, whereupon this Comee sent for Mr. Cooke, the Smith, and directed him to break open the said small Chest and Poors Box, which was done in their presence, and the Seal of this Company and the other things therein contained was taken out of the small iron chest, and also twelve pounds fifteen shillings and six pence out of the Poors Box, and were put into a bag and sealed up by this Comee and lockt up in this Compas large iron chest untill such time as the Smith could mend the Locks and make new keys to the said chest and Poors box, which they ordered him forthwith to do.”

The Honorary Members elected in the eighteenth century were:—in 1766, H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland; in 1767, the Rt. Hon. C. Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer; in 1794, Earl Howe, Admiral of England.

The Honorary Members elected in the nineteenth century were:—in 1834, Viscount Strangford, a descendant of Sir Andrew Judd; in 1861, Lord Clyde; in 1877, the late Earl of Dartmouth, a descendant of Sir Thomas Legge; in 1878, T. G. Kensit, Esq., Clerk of the Company, 1828–1878; in 1886, Sir Saul Samuel, Agent-General for New South Wales (on the occasion of the Colonial Exhibition); in 1893, the present Earl of Dartmouth; in 1895, the Rt. Hon. A. W. Peel, Speaker of the House of Commons, afterwards Viscount Peel, and the Most Rev. E. W. Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury; in 1896, the Most Rev. W. Alexander, Archbishop of Armagh, an old Tonbridge scholar; in 1897, the Rt. Hon. W. C. Gully, Speaker of the House of Commons, afterwards Viscount Selby; in 1900, General the Rt. Hon. Sir Redvers Buller.

Since the commencement of the present century the following have been elected:—in 1905, the Most Revd. R. Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Earl of Cromer; in 1906, the Rt Hon. J. W. Lowther, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Viscount Milner.

The later decade of the nineteenth century, and especially the last twenty-five years, have constituted a period of great activity and progress on the part of the Company, especially in the direction of education; and it has been a matter of great satisfaction to the Company to see the number of young persons, trained up under their direction, increased from the two hundred, or fewer, boys, educated at Tonbridge School so late as the early ’eighties, to approximately 1,100, distributed over four schools, of which the second in point of date was opened so recently as 1887. Out of the 1,100, nearly 400 are girls.

These schools are, in addition to Tonbridge School, of which the numbers now exceed four hundred, the Commercial School at Tonbridge, also on Sir Andrew Judd’s Foundation, opened in 1888; the Company’s Middle School for Boys at Tunbridge Wells, opened in 1887; and the Company’s Middle School for Girls at Stamford Hill, opened in 1890. Important buildings have been erected at all these new schools. The rebuilding and enlargement from time to time of Tonbridge School have been already mentioned.

The Company has also contributed very large sums to the City and Guilds’ Institute during the last twenty-five years, for the support of its Central Technical College at South Kensington, its Technical College at Finsbury, its Art School at Kennington, and its Technological Examinations. It also took an active part in the foundation at Clerkenwell, on a site adjoining the Company’s Clarke’s Close Estate, of the Northampton Polytechnic Institute, to which it contributes annually. It has also given material assistance to the Leather Industries’ Department of the Yorkshire College, Leeds, now the Leeds University. Members of the Company take an active part in the government of these various institutions.

In 1887, the Company took steps to obtain the consolidation of their almshouses and of their minor pension charities, and in 1891 a Scheme, framed by the Charity Commissioners at the suggestion of the Company, came into operation, by which such charities were consolidated, and in place of the Judd almshouses in Great St. Helen’s, and the Newbury almshouses at Mile End, new and more convenient almshouses were erected at Palmer’s Green. In connection with this Scheme, the various charitable charges upon the Company’s properties were redeemed, and the Company’s estates are now free from any such charges.

In furtherance of the policy of Parliament to make the occupiers of land in Ireland the owners of their holdings, the Company resolved in 1886 to give their Irish tenants an opportunity of purchasing their holdings under the Land Acts; and the Pellipar Estate, in the County of Londonderry, has now passed entirely into the hands of the tenants.

The Company’s Hall premises have been greatly improved. Special mention may be made of the decoration of the dining-hall, which is now frequently placed at the disposal of other Companies, and literary and scientific institutions, on special occasions, and thus made more frequently useful, and of the renovation of the beautiful Oak Parlour, which had been allowed to fall into disuse.

In these various directions the present Court of the Company claim to have shown themselves not unworthy of the heritage handed down to them by their predecessors.

Quorum pars parva fui.


The Award of Sir Robert Billesdon, Lord Mayor, April l0th, 1484. 1 Ric. III.

Mem’dum quod decimo die Aprilis Anno r’ni Regis Ric’i tertii post conq’m primo Magistri et Gardiani miste’r Pellipa’r & Cisso’r cum q’mpluribus aliis probis hominibus utriusq’ Mist’r compromiserunt se stare Judicio Roberti Billesdon Majoris et Aldermannorum civitatis Londo’n super quâdam materi’a controversiæ inter eos penden’. Qui quidem Major et Aldermanni reddiderunt Judicium pro materi’a prædicta pacificand’ forma seq’n:

[Memorandum that on the 10th day of April, in the first year of the reign of King Richard the third after the conquest, the Masters and Wardens of the Mysteries of Skinners and Taylors, with several worthy men of each mystery, agreed to abide by the decision of Robert Billesdon, Mayor, and the Aldermen of the City of London, in a certain matter of controversy pending between them. Which Mayor and Aldermen gave their decision for the purpose of settling the aforesaid matter in the following terms.]

Be it remembred that where there hath been of late a variaunce and controversie moeved & had betwene the Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of the Skynn’s of the Citee of London on the one p’tie, and the Maist’, Wardeyns, & Feolaship of Taillors of the same Citee on that other p’tie, for the roume & place in their going afore in p’cessions within the same Citee: And for ceasyng and pacifying thereof the said Maist’rs, Wardeyns, and Feolashipps of both the said p’ties, the xth day of Aprill the first yere of the reign of Kyng Richard the iiide, of their free willes have comp’mitted and submitted theymself to stonde and obey the Rule and Jugeme’t of Robt. Billesdon, Mair, and th’ aldremen of the said Citee of London: Whereuppon the said Mair and Aldremen, the day and yeere abovesaid, takyng uppon theym the Rule, direccion, and charge of arbitreme’t of and in the premisses for norishing of peas and love betwene the Maisters, Wardeyns, and Feolashipps aforesaid, the which ben ii grete and wirshipfull membres of the said Citee, by thassent and agreeme’t of the Maist’s and Wardeyns of both the said Feolashipps have adjugged and awarded in the forme that foloweth: First, that the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Skynn’s shall yerely desire and pray the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Taillors to dyne with theym atte their Com’on Hall in the vigill of Corp’ X’ti, yf the same Maist’ and Wardeyns of Skynn’s than make an open Dyner; and that the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Taillors so praied shall yeerely dyne then and there with the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Skynn’s aforesaid withoute a reasonable excuse had: Also, it is awarded and adjugged that the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Taillors shall yeerely desire and pray the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Skynn’s to dyne with theym in the Fest of the Nativitee of Seint John Bapt’e if thei there than kepe an oppen dyner at their Com’on Hall; and that the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Skynn’s so praied shall yerely dyne than and there with the said Maist’ and Wardeyns of Taillors aforesaid, withoute a reasonable excuse, etc. Moreover, to sette aparte all manner occasions of strif and debate which hereaft’ myght fall betwene the Maist’s, Wardeyns, and Feolashipps aforesaid for the rowme and going in p’cessions as it is above rehersed, it was awarded and jugged by the said Mair and Aldremen, the day and yeere abovesaid, that the said Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of Skynn’s shall goo in all p’cessions before the said Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of Taillors from the Fest of Easter next comyng unto the Fest of Easter than next ensuyng; and that the said Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of Taillors from the same Fest of Easter then next ensuyng shall goo in all p’cessions before the said Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of Skynn’s for a yeere, fully to be complete; and so evermore the Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of Skynn’s for to have the pre-emynencie of goyng afore in p’cessions one yeere, and the said Maist’, Wardeyns, and Feolaship of Taillors to have the pre-emynencie of goyng afore in p’cessions another yeere, begynnyng the yeere alwey in the Fest of Easter: Provided alwey that as ofte as hereafter it shall hapne any Aldreman of either of the said Feolashipps to be Mair of this Citee of London, by reason whereof the Feolaship of the same Mair shall, after the old custume of the said Citee, goo afore all other Feolashipps in all places within the said Citee duryng the tyme of the Mairaltie of the Mair so chosen, that the same going afore all the same tyme be not accompted for any yeere of going afore by this awarde or juggeme’t: But that the same of the said ii Feolashipps which had by this ordenaunce the preemynence of going afore in p’cessions from the Fest of Easter next afore begynnyng of the said Mairaltie have like preemynence from thende of the said Mairaltie to the Fest of Easter than next folowyng, in p’forming of his hole yeere, and from thensforth to kepe thordre above appoynted.”

The Supplementary Award of January 17th, 1521. 12 Hen. VIII.

“Where late the Wardens of the Skynn’s exhibited to the Court a Bill of Compleynt agenst the Mayst’ and Wardens of M’chantayllors recytyng by the same an Ordynaunce made in the Mayralt’ of Mr. Byllesdon for thorderyng of the seyd ii Crafts in goyng in p’cessions, and surmytted also in their seyd Bill that the seyd Ordynaunce was to be understand of oonly in goying in p’cessions, and at noon other gen’all goyings or assembles, which Ordynaunce red, herd, and rypely understand by this Court, was clerely interpretyd and declared that the true meanyng and intent of makyng of the seyd Ordynaunce was understand of not oonly for goyng in p’cessions, but also for rydyng, goyng, or metyng in and at all other assembles: And thereupon the seyd Wardens had in comaunde’t by this Court, that they and their succ’ from hensforth shuld use and exercise the seyd Ordynaunce according to the seyd interpretacc’on and declar’ by this same Court made and determyned.”

*     *     *


Bidding Prayer used at Tonbridge School at the Annual Commemoration Service on Skinners’ Day at the end of the Summer Term.

This prayer follows the anthem, the congregation all standing.

INASMUCH as, by the Providence of Almighty God, from whom all good things do come, on this day our School is gathered together here, now as of old, to thank Him for all His blessings, it is right that we should remind ourselves once more of all that we owe to those who have gone before us.

And first you are to remember your Founder, Sir Andrew Judd, Knight.

He was born at Tonbridge on the estate of his ancestors called “Barden,” situated by the river side below Quarry Hill. He was apprenticed in London into the Company of Skinners, and became himself a Skinner and a Merchant of Muscovy. He went with the ships of the Merchants’ Company, which rounded the North Cape to the coast of Russia. He crossed the country in sledges a seven days’ journey to the River Volga, and so to Astrakan on the Caspian Sea. He also went to the West Coast of Africa, to Guinea, at the request of King Edward VI, and brought thence gold dust to be coined into guineas, and many natural curiosities. In the year 1544 he was Sheriff of London, and in the year 1550–1 he was Lord Mayor, in which office he bore himself with loyalty and with valour. On six several occasions he was Master of the Skinners’ Company—in the years 1533, 1538, 1542, 1547, 1551, and 1555. In 1554 he was called upon to make stand for Queen Mary against the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt. He was, moreover, Mayor of the Staple of Calais, and held many public offices of trust, under both Edward and Mary, so that he is rightly accounted one of “the Worthies of England.” He died in 1558, and is buried in the Church of St. Helen’s, in Bishopsgate, in London, where stands a monument to his memory in marble.

Five years or more before he died he founded, not by will, but at his own expense during his lifetime, besides his almshouses near to St. Helen’s Church, “a stately Free School” at Tonbridge. This he diligently fostered, and framed for it Statutes under which it was governed for 327 years: Statutes full of kindly wisdom. Further, he endowed it with certain houses in Gracechurch Street, and with the estate of the Sandhills in the parish of St. Pancras, and afterwards by will in 1558 with other gifts, whence the School is to this day supported and increased. For all these good deeds, and because this School hath for its Founder so manly and so worthy a gentleman, you shall thank God.

And, secondly, you are to remember the grandson of your Founder, the son of his daughter Alice, Sir Thomas Smythe, a great benefactor to the School and to the poor of Tonbridge. He was born about 1558, and dwelt near Southborough. He was for fifteen years Governor of the East India Company, and took part in establishing the Colony of Virginia. He founded four Exhibitions from this School to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He died in 1625, and was buried at Sutton-at-Hone, in Kent.

Furthermore, you are to remember Henry Fisher, the faithful servant of Sir Andrew Judd, who founded a Scholarship at Brasenose College, Oxford; Sir Thomas White, founder of St. John’s College, Oxford, who, “propter eximium amorem in Andream Judd,” gave to Tonbridge School a Fellowship, now a close Scholarship, at his College, also Robert Holmdon, the founder of the Leathersellers’ Exhibitions, Thomas Lampard, Lady Mary Boswell, Mr. Worrall, Mr. Strong, all of them Benefactors of the School, and many others whose names are not recorded.

Nor shall you forget all those who, as Governors, or as Masters, or as Boys, or in whatever station in this School, during more than 350 years have striven with faithful hearts to serve it; their noble deeds and character are ours by inheritance.

Finally, let us pray, that, when our time shall come to fall asleep, we, too, after their example may have faithfully served our generation by the will of God: To whom be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Let us Pray.

[The two following prayers were written in Latin for the use of Tonbridge School very shortly after its foundation in 1553, A.D.]

ÆTERNE Deus, a quo solo omne bonum consilium, omnis bona cogitatio procedit, gratias tibi maximas agimus, quod viris optimis, et Andreae Judd, militi, Scholam hanc pie instituendi, magnoque sumptu suo exstruendi et dotandi, et quod Thomae Smythe, militi, eam nec minore sumptu suo augendi et in perpetuum faciendi consilium inspirasti; Teque suppliciter oramus, ut eam a calamitate omni tuearis; et Ecclesiae regnoque tuo utilem semper facias; et ut nos cum omni diligentiâ eo contendamus quo pii illi nos pervenire voluerunt, ut bene pieque eruditi Ecclesiae tuae et Reipublicae tandem utiles evadamus, per Iesum Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

CLEMENTISSIME Pater coelestis, qui coelum et terras et quae in iis sunt omnia summâ sapientiâ condidisti, eâdemque providentiâ tuâ perpetuo regis et conservas,—concede, quaesumus, quemadmodum optimi illi, Andreas Judd, et Thomas Smythe, milites, spectatæ societatis Pellipariorum fide et providentiâ freti, eorum curae hanc Scholam commiserunt,—ut et ipsi, fidei suae his defunctis debitae semper memores, Scholam hanc diligenter curent et tueantur; tandemque, post huius vitae cursum honeste confectum, aetemum fidelissimae illius procurationis suae proemium in coelis consequantur, per Iesum Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

[Then follow (in Latin) the Prayer of St. Chrysostom and the Blessing.]

*     *     *



The Tonbridge School Chapel of 1859, now the Museum.

“Hunc lapidem Ἀκρογωνιαῖον ædis hujus ad majorem Dei gloriam, et in usum Scholæ Tonbridgiensis, condendæ posuit Robertus, Episcopus Riponensis, a. d. x. Cal. Jun. A.D. MDCCCLIX. Patroni, vicini, magistri, alumni pecuniam Contulert.

J. I. Welldon, D.C.L., archididascalo;
Wadmore et Baker, architectis;
E. Punnett, Fabro.
Nisi Dominus domum ædificaverit in vanum laboraverunt qui ædificant eam.”

The Tonbridge School Buildings of 1863.

“Hanc Scholam ab Andrea Judd, milite,
Fundatam et munifice dotatam, A.D. MDLIII,
Curatores ejus honorata Pellipariorum Societas
De integro exstruxerunt et ædibus cum amplioribus tum magis
Hodiernis discipulorum usibus accommodatis ornaverunt.
Lapidem auspicalem posuit viimo. idus Maias A.D. MDCCCLXIII
Georgius Legg, Armiger, hujus Societatis præfectus annuus.
G. Trist
F. Howell
S. Wix
F. Turner
J. I. Welldon
E. I. Welldon
E. H. Burnell, Architecto.
G. Punnett, Redemtore.
T. G. Kensit, Notario.
Timor Domini principium Sapientiæ
Prov. i, v. 7.”

The Tonbridge School Science Buildings of 1886–7.

“Ad Dei Gloriam
Et in Augmentationem Veteris Scholæ
Ab Andrea Judd, Equite, Conditæ
Has Ædes
Quibus Pristinæ Literarum Disciplinæ
Nova Artium et Scientiarum Studia concilientur
Honorata Pellipariorum Societas
Ponendas curaverunt.
Ludovico Boyd Sebastian, I.C.B., A.M.,
Præfecto Annuo.
G. B. Kent.
C. Dorman.
W. Masterman, I.C.P.
G. A. Trist.
T. B. Rowe, M.A.
E. H. Burnell.
E. H. Draper.
Audite disciplinam et estote sapientes et nolite abjicere eam.”

The Tonbridge School Buildings of 1894.

“Ad Dei Gloriam
Et in piam fundatoris Andreæ Judd Equitis Memoriam
Has Ædes ad ampliores alumnorum Tonbridgiensium usus
Exædificandas et ornandas curaverunt Honorata Pellipariorum Societas
Anno Domini MDCCCXCIVto
Ludovico Boyd Sebastian, I.C.B., A.M., iterum præfecto annuo.
R. C. Bunbury
A. L. Tweedie
A. B. Kent
J. Colman
Josepho Wood, S.T.P.
W. Campbell Jones
E. H. Draper
Nisi Dominus æedificaverit Domum in vanum laboraverunt
qui ædificant eam, Ps. CXXVII. i.”

The Tonbridge School Chapel, 1900–2.

“Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
et in usum veteris Scholæ Tonbridgiensis
Ab Andrea Judd milite conditæ
Hanc Ædem Domino Nostro Jesu Christo dedicatam
Ædificandam curavit Honorata Pellipariorum Societas.

Hunc lapidem posuit Præfectus Annuus Jeremias Colman, A.M., I.P. A.D. Kal. Jun. XI Anno Domini MDCCCC.

C. Herberto Dorman.
Carolo H. F. Christie.
Johanne Poland.
W. Wilding Jones.
Carolo C. Tancock, S.T.P.
E. Herberto Draper.
W. Campbell Jones.
In Christo Fratres.”

Sir Andrew Judd’s Commercial School, Tonbridge, 1895–6.

“Sir Andrew Judd’s Commercial School.
This Stone was laid by
Lewis Boyd Sebastian, Esqr., B.C.L., M.A.,
Master of the Worshipful Company of Skinners,
Governors of the School,
On Saturday, April 27th, 1895.
Robert Clement Bunbury
Alexander Leslie Tweedie
Arthur Barton Kent
Jeremiah Colman
E. Herbert Draper
W. Campbell Jones, A.R.I.B.A.
Thos. Turner, Limited.”

The Middle School for Boys, Tunbridge Wells, 1886–7.

Skinners Company’s
Middle School for Boys.
This Stone
was laid on the xxvii day of October, MDCCCLXXXVI, by
Lewis Boyd Sebastian, B.C.L., M.A., Master.
George Barton Kent
Charles Dorman
William Masterman, D.C.L.
George Arthur Trist.
To Commemorate the Foundation of the School by the
Worshipful Company of Skinners, London, Governors.
Edw. Herbert Draper, Clerk.
Edw. Henry Burnell, Architect.
William Oakley, Builder.”

The Middle School for Girls, Stamford Hill, 1889–90.

“This Foundation Stone of the
Skinners’ Company’s School for Girls
was laid by
Charles Dorman, Master,
June 6, 1889.
W. Masterman, D.C.L.
W. C. B. Stamp
G. A. Trist
H. L. T. Hansard
E. H. Draper
E. H. Burnell
Holloway Bros.”

The Almshouses at Palmer’s Green, 1894–5.

“The Skinners’ Almshouses.
This stone was laid on the nineteenth day of July,
Anno Domini, 1894,
Lewis Boyd Sebastian, B.C.L., M.A., Master.
Robert Clement Bunbury
Alex. Leslie Tweedie
Arthur Barton Kent
Jeremiah Colman
W. Campbell Jones,
E. Herbert Draper
J. Godfrey and Son”

The Northampton Polytechnic Institute, Clerkenwell, 1894–6.

This Stone
was laid by
Charles Dorman, Esq.,
Chairman of
The Governing Body,
July 9th, 1894.
Edd W. Mountford, Archt.”

[N.B.—Mr. Charles Dorman was Master of the Skinners’ Company, 1888–9, and did much to promote the creation of the Institute.]

The Clerkenwell Free Library, 1890.

“This Stone was laid by
William Masterman, Esq., D.C.L.,
Master of the Worshipful Company
of Skinners, on March 8th, 1890.
Elected 1888.
Rev. J. H. Rose, M.A.,
Wm Robson,
Rev. W. Dawson, M.A.
J. Johnson.
A. J. Dixie.
J. Kelly.
H. W. Fincham.
C. Morris.
T. Wildbore.

Elected 1890.
W. Davies.
J. D. Spires.
Jas. B. Brown
Karslake and Mortimer.
M‘Cormick and Sons.”

[N.B.—This Library was built on a site provided by the Company on their Clarke’s Close Estate at Clerkenwell.]

Leather Industries’ Buildings, University of Leeds, 1898–9.

“This Stone was laid by
Arthur Barton Kent,
Master of the Worshipful
Company of Skinners,
on the 13 of June, 1898.”

Leather Industries’ Buildings, University of Leeds, 1898–9.

“This Building, erected at
the cost of the
Worshipful Company
of Skinners, of the City
of London,
was opened by
Jeremiah Colman, Esq.,
Master of the Company,
on the 27th of November, 1899,
for advanced instruction
and research in the
science and practice of
Leather Manufacture.”