|Subject:||Refurbishment of a building as an almshouse|
|Original source:||Archives of the Worshipful Company of Brewers, First Brewers Book, ff.83, 90-93|
|Transcription in:||R.W. Chambers and Marjorie Daunt, eds., A Book of London English 1384-1425, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931, 147, 152-59.|
|Original language:||Middle English|
After the Easter term, on 6 May 1423, it was decided to convert the same tenement into an almshouse, for the support of poor brothers of the craft and fraternity of the brewers of London, by common agreement; that is to say of Robert Smyth, William Crane, Hugh Neel, John Philip, masters of the craft and fraternity at that time, John Reyner, William atte Wode, John Mason, John Broke, William Smalsho, Thomas Haccher, Robert Carpenter, John Piken, and William Ferrour senior. The aforementioned Robert Smyth contributed £10 from his own resources to divide the house into various rooms, to cover masonry, carpentry, and daubing of various walls, along with paving the kitchen, constructing the stone wall for the reredos, and erecting a privy in the almshouse. And so all the costs for work incurred at that time were paid by Robert, with the exception of 2s.6½d, which is to be covered by the community of the craft beyond the aforementioned £10. The itemized expenditures, and what they were spent on, you can find set out clearly in the 7th leaf following, in the order that they were paid at this time.
The following are the items of expenditure paid to make the building held by tenancy outside the gate an almshouse for poor brothers and sisters of the crafts and fraternity of brewers of London, for which Robert Smyth paid £10, as was indicated previously.
Although not one of the major London gilds in terms of wealth and socio-political status, the brewers had one of the larger gilds and some members were sufficiently well-to-do to have aspirations. Our earliest reference to the brewers in a context which suggests they were organized comes in 1292, although they may well have had a gild for long before that. All crafts of any size had hopes of protecting their members' interests through a gild that obtained official recognition, even to the point of a royal charter of incorporation. This perhaps became increasingly important in London in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries as party politics was based partly on gild affiliations.
During the fourteenth century, the brewers are known to have had a fraternity that met in the church of All Hallows on the Wall. Since women were heavily engaged in at least small-scale brewing, the gild accepted women members; the admission fee for a man was 12d., 8d. for a woman, and 20d. for a husband and wife. The gild did not obtain a royal charter until 1437, but it had already come under pressure to have its own home base and, probably in the reign of Henry IV (certainly by 1418), had established itself in a property that stood on the same site as the present Worshipful Company of Brewers headquarters in Aldermanbury Square, not far north of the city Guildhall, although at that time the address was Addle Street (of which only the western stretch now survives). This tenement, which stood on the north side of the street, had been purchased by brewer John Hore from a mercer in 1403, and over the next decade a series of transactions suggest trusteeships, probably on behalf of the Brewers.
Few gilds had halls, and those that did often acquired them through the gift or bequest of some particularly wealthy member. Perhaps this was the case with the brewers; certainly their property seems extensive. The almshouse was converted from a building by the gate into the property. The original hall and its outbuildings were burned down in the Great Fire of 1666.
Interspersed with the sections of expenditures on the almshouse were sections of expenditures on other works to the adjacent brewers' hall property. A passageway was built, or rather adapted from what is described as a "cloister", connecting the hall proper and the "great kitchen" and the floor of the passageway repaved; this seems to imply that the kitchen was in a building separate from the main structure. The interior of all buildings, except the hall itself, was tiled, disintegrating mortar in the the brickwork was repaired, and various other repairs or restoration work carried out. A large lockable cupboard was constructed in the kitchen, and a chicken coop in the yard outside the hall.
A further contract between the brewers' gild and carpenter John Pekker (interestingly, a Cambridge craftsman), for other work on the hall proper notably for strengthening the roof supports and other structural timbers, and for making several new windows to let more light in from the south side of the hall was copied into the brewers book a little further on. In that case he was paid £10, half in advance and half when the job was done, and had to provide some of the building materials himself. Each party put up a bond of £20 to guarantee its adherence to the contract. Despite this, problems arose when Pekker's brother, a vintner of the same name, refused to countersign the contract in support of the carpenter.
"to hold water"
|Created: August 27, 2004||© Stephen Alsford, 2004|