The conclusion summarises the key arguments and intellectual contributions of this book. In doing so it opens with a gifted object – the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Gibbon Salt – a micro-architectural salt that must have been a constant reminder both of the magnificence of the wider built environment of Goldsmiths’ Hall, and the collective virtuosity of London’s goldsmiths. This final material article brings together some of the key themes with which this book has been centrally concerned: improvements to built space; meaningful furnishings and material gifts; artisanal skill as a valued attribute and a symbolic artefact; and the interrelationship between individual and collective identities. The chapter also briefly looks forward, and extends our chronological range to 1666, the year of the Great Fire. This was an event which devastated the livery halls of London’s mercantile and artisanal communities, reducing to rubble the architectures through which company cultures had been organised for generations. The rapidity with which these buildings were re-established, in the late 1660s and early 1670s, often at considerable personal cost to the membership of artisanal companies, reaffirms the centrality of these built environments to collective craft identities.
This book explores artisanal identity and culture in early modern London. It demonstrates that the social, intellectual, and political status of London’s crafts and craftsmen was embedded in particular material and spatial contexts. Through examination of a wide range of manuscript, visual, and material culture sources, the book investigates for the first time how London’s artisans physically shaped the built environment of the city, and how the experience of negotiating urban spaces impacted directly upon their own distinctive individual and collective identities. The book identifies and examines a significant cultural development hitherto overlooked by social and architectural historians: a movement to enlarge, beautify, and rebuild livery company halls in the City of London from the mid-sixteenth century to the start of the English civil wars. By exploring these re-building projects in depth, the book throws new light on artisanal cultural production and self-presentation in England’s most diverse and challenging urban environment. Craft company halls became multifunctional sites for knowledge production, social and economic organisation, political exchange, and collective memorialisation. The forms, uses, and perceptions of company halls worked to define relationships and hierarchies within the guild, and shaped its external civic and political relations. Applying an innovative and interdisciplinary methodology to the examination of artisanal cultures, the book engages with the fields of social and cultural history and the histories of art, design, and architecture. It will appeal to scholars of early modern social, cultural, and urban history, and those interested in design and architectural history.