Feltmakers' Company Apprenticeships

Early Court Minute books for the Company survive as follows: Guildhall Library Ms 1570/1 covers 1676-82; GL Ms 1570/2 1692-1708, GL Ms 1570/3 1726-49, GL Ms 1570/4 1749-81, GL Ms 1570/5 1782-90 and GL Ms 1570/6 1790-1827. Orphans' Tax book GL Ms 1573/1 covers 1694-1731 and GL Ms 1573/2 covers 1731-1859. These latter only give the bare names of masters and apprentices, but have been used to supplement the record in the great gap between 1708-26. For this period, where possible from the Society of Genealogists' Index to the Inland Revenue records of apprenticeships has in turn been used to supplement the details given.

There are many entries whereby boys were hired to serve as 'singing boys'. These are generally for fairly short periods, between one and four years, but have been entered here as ordinary apprenticeships. Some of the apprentices have signed or made their marks and 'singing boys' normally give their ages which have been included here. 'Singing boys', who were employed in 'the stiffening or doeing off hatts setting the firrs' could only be apprenticed until they were 18 as singing boys and then had to be enrolled as proper apprentices, provided the master did not have his full complement of apprentices, and if he did to another master. Failure to do so resulted in a penal fine of 10s per week. These entries are not entered in the Orphans' Tax books, so are missing from 1708 to 1726. There are gradually fewer and fewer 'singing boys' as the eighteenth century goes on.

The first book gives entries of many apprentices turned over, or made free reciting their original apprenticeship in greater or lesser detail. In many cases, however, no details or date of the apprenticeship is given. Similarly, the second book refers back to many apprenticeships in the period 1682-92 for which they are no records. Many such entries, however, do not give a date for the original apprenticeship, and without this it was decided, with serious reservations to omit details of such entries as turnovers, filing of the papers as apprentice has gone to sea, etc. For the gap from 1708 to 1726, however, the Orphans' Tax books lists do survive. It was therefore decided to note all details possible after 1726.

There are some peculiar entries, for example Philip Wright is apprenticed in 1696 aged 37 and Richard Mighell aged 36 in 1706 both for seven years. These are well above the maximum age allowable, and there is no explanation given although the fact of the age being given indicates the clerk recognised the entry as unusual. They are also in the Orphans' Tax register, though there is nothing there to indicate it is out of the ordinary.

Other apprentices were apprenticed to two masters at the same time. These do not seem to be turnovers which are quite distinct in the record. An example is Thomas Tanner apprenticed 30 May 1698.

There are 4,069 apprenticeships records, and 12,453 names indexed, on English Origins. I am grateful for the permission of the Feltmakers' Company and of the Corporation of London, Guildhall Library for their permission to publish this work.