The titles born by the City Guilds in the Middle Ages are often misleading to us because they did not always convey the same association of ideas as belong to such titles at the present day. Crafts differing widely in character were often grouped under the authority of a single Guild; the classification of trades was always a source of contention.
In the Thirteenth Century the Blacksmiths’ Company was also the Tooth-Drawers, and in 1571 the Spurriers were incorporated; the Company being described on the Charter as of “The Art and Mystery de lez Blacksmiths-Spurriers, London”. Clockmakers and Gunsmiths were also Blacksmiths. There was incessant strife with Armourers, Farriers and others, as to branches of the ironworkers’ trade which it was difficult to classify. Ill-will between the Blacksmiths and the Clockmakers was maintained for at least 150 years, although the two Companies are now the best of friends. It was necessary before an apprentice could be admitted to “Freedom” that he should produce a “Proof-Piece” for the inspection of the Wardens and as a mark of his efficiency. Among the articles mentioned in the Records are Guns, Pistols, Daggers, Spurs, Smoothing-Irons and Vices. These were all produced by the Apprentices; makers of all kinds of tools, also Nails, Needles and Salt-Pans were Blacksmiths. The Anchorsmiths of the Royal Dockyard of Deptford were members of the Company.
The records of the reign of King Henry VIII are rather disconnected and on the whole are not so well inscribed as most of the others. Under the autocratic rule of this King, the Company made no progress and was undoubtedly affected by the incidents belonging to the reign which were not favourable to trade prosperity. The Dissolution of the Monasteries completely altered the appearance of the City of London and the disturbance of the religious life of the people is reflected in our records. In view of the great changes that occurred, some account of Blacksmith’s Hall and its surroundings prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries should prove of interest.