Moving from architectural concerns to guild cultures of object exchange and the physical interiors of early modern livery halls, this chapter reconsiders the material gift within London’s guilds, using material cultures, inventories, wills, and books of benefactors. Existing research into the culture of civic gift-giving has focused exclusively upon substantial bequests of money and property by mercantile elites to the ‘great twelve’ livery companies. By contrast, the chapter demonstrates that a rich culture of material gift-giving, hitherto overlooked, also thrived within London’s craft guilds. The chapter uncovers the fundamental importance of material cultures to the articulation and establishment of individual artisanal reputations and collective craft culture; it identifies typologies of donors and gifts, and the anticipated ‘returns’ by the recipient company. A material approach reveals that master artisans and retailers sought to establish civic status, authority, and memory through the presentation of a wide range of artefacts, including paintings, armour, silver plate, textiles, workshop tools, and sculpture, for display and ritual use in the livery hall. Hand-wrought objects from particular master artisans or workshops were understood to be especially valued gifts because they embodied artisanal expertise through their designs, materiality, and technical aspects. Finally, the chapter considers the changing spatial and temporal contexts of gift presentations by citizens, which by the latter half of the sixteenth century were synchronised with the most important ritual events in the civic calendar, and into the built fabric of the City’s livery halls.
This chapter explores external walls and political relationships. Improvements to guild halls were located within a broader political and cultural movement to refashion the urban fabric of the City and its environs. It considers three central case-studies: first, the enhancement of guild and City gatehouses; second, dialogues over the exterior designs of Goldsmiths’ Hall; and third, the long-running debate over the contested location of London’s goldsmiths’ shops and work sites. Linking these case studies is a deep-rooted concern on the part of both civic and royal authorities to regulate space and enhance the material fabric of London. Thematically central too is the question of what exactly constitutes ‘public’ space? At the Goldsmiths’ Hall site in the 1630s there was an inherent tension between the complex interior spatial organisation of company buildings (the prerogative of the guildsmen) and their façades (adapted in accordance with the royal concern for ‘uniformity’). To resolve tensions over the extent to which company architectures were ‘public’ buildings, guild office-holders made a distinction between ‘inward’ works, over which they exerted close control, and ‘outward’ walls, where responsibility was largely delegated to those with architectural expertise and close royal connections. Congruently, the well-documented campaign to return all ‘remote’ goldsmiths (located in western suburbs) to Cheapside (their customary City location) shows that contested interpretations of ‘private’ or ‘public’ space, in workshops and city streets as within company halls, came to define an artisan’s or trader’s place within the body of the guild or, indeed, his exclusion from it.