Rebuilding and adaptation
in Crafting identities
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This chapter establishes the multifunctional nature of craft guild halls, buildings in which company members and officers lived, governed, worked, and socialised. It argues that the halls were not inert sites which simply ‘contained’ mercantile and artisanal activities, but active environments – fashioned through built fabrics, material cultures, and human agents – which generated meaning. The craft hall was at the centre of guild activities and had a substantial impact on everyday encounters and exchanges, but this multifunctional space was also fundamental to the collective historic imagination, or memory, of London’s craftsmen. Through their designs, materiality, layout, and furnishings, craft halls held great symbolic significance for their artisanal members and the broader urban community. This chapter also identifies, for the first time, distinctive patterns of company hall rebuilding, adaptation, and ‘beautification’ from c. 1550 to c. 1640 – changes which can be observed in the shifting language of guild inventories and organisation of building plans. Throughout the City, late medieval guild structures were either demolished and replaced, or significantly modified and enlarged, a process which affected hall chambers, parlours, courtrooms, treasuries, kitchens, galleries, and adjoining workshops, gardens, and almshouses. Artisans were investing significant funds, time, energy, materials, and ingenuity into the institutional built environment. The chapter shows how these improvements were shaped, both conceptually and materially, by a considerable range of established and aspirational guildsmen. Contributions to the material and structural organisation of company buildings impacted upon the status of master craftsmen within the guild hierarchy.

Crafting identities

Artisan culture in London, c. 1550–1640

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