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Articles of the Bowyers and the Fletchers 1371

The circumstances which brought about the secession of the Fletchers from the Bowyers are recorded in the Letter Book of the Mayor and Aldermen. They began with a petition from the Bowyers to record that no bowyer was to work by night, "for bows cannot be made as well or as profitably by night as by day". One cannot know whether this was a complaint of poor quality control against the Fletchers but the response was an immediate counter-petition from the Fletchers together insisting that "no man of one trade shall meddle with the other in point". The outcome was that everyone in the two trades had to decide whether to follow the trade of bowyer or of fletcher. There were four bowyers, John Patyn, Robert atte Verne, Richard Prodhomme and John Lyon who asked for extra time as they had apprentices and unfinished work-in-progress in both trades. They were given until Easter after which date they were to follow one trade only. One of these four, Robert atte Verne, was still following both trades 6 months later in August 1371. He was summoned before the Mayor and Recorder where he asked to be admitted as a bowyer and renounced the trade of fletcher.

Any resentment which the Bowyers may have felt at the time towards the Fletchers has developed over the last six hundred years into a friendly rivalry. The two companies meet every year for the annual Shooting Match held in June in the moat of the Tower London followed by dinner in the mess of The Royal Fusiliers and by the Ceremony of the Keys.

The document of 1371 was transcribed and translated from the original Latin and Norman French by Henry Riley in 1868. (see references).

Edward III AD 1371 Letter-Book G folio cclxvi

(Latin) On Friday, the Feast of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas [7 March], in the 45th year [of the reign of Edward III] etc., came here the reputable men of the trade of Bowyers of London, and delivered to the Mayor and Aldermen a certain petition , in these words:

(Norman French) "To The Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen of London, pray the Bowyers of the same City, that, whereas they have agreed, as well serving-men as masters, that none of them shall work at their said trade by night, by reason that bows cannot in any manner be made as well or as profitably, for the King and his people, by night as by day, it may please your honourable Lordship to enrol this point in the Chamber of the Guildhall;- that no bowyer of London shall work by night from henceforth, on pain of paying to the said Chamber for each offence half a mark".

(Latin) And in like manner, reputable men of the trade aforesaid, and other reputable men of the trade of Fletcher of London, delivered to the Mayor, Recorder, and Alderman aforesaid, a certain other petition, in these words:

(Norman French) "To the honourable Lords, and wise, the Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen, of the City of London, shew the good folks, with one assent and accord, of the trades of Bowyers and Fletchers of London; that, whereas it is finally ordained and agreed between the said persons of the one trade and the other, for the profit and advantage of all the commonalty, that no man of the one trade shall meddle with the other trade in any point; to keep the which covenants firm and established, and to perform the same, all the persons of the trades aforesaid have agreed; four men only expected, whose names are, John Patyn, Robert atte Verne, Richard Prodhomme, and John Lyon, who unto the said ordinances will not assent:- all the good folks of the trades aforesaid do entreat you, that it will please your rightful Lordships to summon before you the four men already named, and to give judgment upon them according to the aforesaid Ordinance, to the advantage and common profit, as before mentioned. And that if any man of the one trade shall from henceforth meddle in any point with the other trade, he shall pay to the Chamber of the Guildhall, for the first default 40 shillings, for the second, four pounds, and so, double for each default, as the good folks aforesaid between them have agreed."

(Latin) Afterwards, the aforesaid John Patyn, Robert atte Verne, Richard Prodhomme, and John Lyon, came before the same Mayor and Aldermen, and agreed to observe the Ordinance aforesaid, and to do according to the same, as above ordained etc. And counsel having been held between the Mayor and Aldermen upon the matters aforesaid, it was agreed and granted by them that the Articles in the said two petitions contained should in future be observed, under the penalties aforesaid, for the common profit of all the people.

Afterwards, at a Husting of Common Pleas of Land, holden on the Monday next before the Feast of St. Gregory the Pope [12 March], in the 45th year etc., the aforesaid John Patyn, Robert atte Verne Richard Prodhomme, and John Lyon, came before the said Major and Aldermen, and said that they then had divers things of each of those trades which they were working upon, and not completed, and that some of them had apprentices in both trades, and many bows and arrows finished, and for sale; and they asked for some respite, and for leave to complete the things aforesaid, belonging to either trade, that were not completed; and that they might expose the same for sale, together with the other bows and arrows which they then had finished, from the then present time, that is to say, to the close of Easter then next ensuing. So that they might be able to decide in the meantime, which of the said two trades they should elect to adopt and follow from thenceforth, in form in the said petitions contained. And the same was granted to them etc. They were also warned, that after the said Feast of Easter they must follow only one of the two trades aforesaid, whichever they might please, under the penalty in the said petitions contained.

Afterwards, on the Monday next after the Feast of St Laurence [10 August], in the 45th year above-mentioned, the reputable men of the trade of Bowyers came here, and complained that that the aforesaid Robert atte Verne had followed both trades since the said Feast of Easter, against the Ordinance aforesaid etc. Which Robert came here on the Tuesday after, and could not deny it; and he put himself upon the favour of the Mayor as to the same. And before the Mayor and Recorder, and the men of each of the trades aforesaid, he then elected, and asked to be admitted into, the trade of the Bowyers, in future to follow the same only, wholly renouncing the trade of the Fletchers. And the same was granted unto him; and he was also commanded in future not to follow the trade of the Fletchers, on the pain above-mentioned.


Riley's Memorials - Memorials of London and London Life in the XIIIth, XIVth and XVth Centuries being a services of extracts, local, social and political, from the early archives of the City of London AD 1276 - 1419 selected, translated and edited by Henry Thomas Riley MA of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; and of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-Law. Published by order of the Corporation of London under the superintendence of the Library Committee by Longman, Green & Co 1868 (pp 348 - 350).

Simon Leach
March 2012

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