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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Guilds Outside London

Town and City Guilds

Gazetteers can be consulted to find out whether a place was a city or borough at a certain date. There were no livery companies outside London, only guilds. Many cities such as Shrewsbury had many active guilds representing several occupations. Sheffield had an extremely powerful Cutlers Company, reflecting the importance of this trade there and a history, which includes the apprenticeships 1624-1791, is available (Leader).

The records of the master, pilots and seamen of the Trinity House of Newcastle 1580-1900 are on 6 films starring at FHL film 1545896. Smaller towns may have had only one craft or merchant guild to which all freemen belonged and which was authorized to regulate trade in their town. Thus, the guild of most 14th century market towns would have included at least one pewterer (Hull).

In 1996 there were 18 cities and towns in England with surviving guilds, ten in Scotland which are not dealt with here, but none in Wales. A brief history of each of these is given by Lane (The Outwith London Guilds of Great Britain. Glaziers Hall, London. FHL book FHL book 942 U2o.) , from which the chart below is derived; those listed as just freemen would be composed of all freemen in that area.



Extant English Guilds in 1996

ENGLAND Freeman of England [comprised of freemen of 58 towns], Secretary
Howard B. Pate,
611 Old Chester Road, RockFerry,
Birkenhead L42 4NN
ALNWICK Black and White Smiths; Butchers; Carpenters and Joiners; Coopers;
Cordwainers and Shoemakers; Fullers and Walkers; Skinners and Glovers;
Tailors; Tanners; Weavers.
J. Mattison (Chamberlain),
32 Swansfield, Park Road,
Alnwick, Northumberland.
Guild of Freeman of Berwick on Tweed,
J. Reay, Secretary, 9 Church Street,
Berwick on Tweed, Northumberland
BRISTOL Society of Merchant Venturers
The Treasurer, Merchants Hall,
The Promenade, Bristol BS8 3NH
CHARLISLE Butchers; Cordwainers; Merchants; Skinners and Glovers.
The Clerk, Harp Hill, Armathwaite,
Carlisle, Cumbria CA4 9PW
CHESTER Bakers; Barber-Surgeons; Breweres; Bricklayers; Butchers; Cappers,
Pinners, Wiredrawers and Linendrapers; Cordwainers and Shoemakers;
Fletchers, Bowyers, Coopers and Stringers; Goldsmiths; Innkeepers; Joiners,
Carvers and Turners; Masons; Mercers, Ironmongers, Grocers and
Apothecaries; Merchant Drapers; Merchant Tailors; Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers and Stationers; Saddles and Curriers, Skinners and Feltmakers;
Smiths, Cutlers and Plumbers; Tanners; Weavers; Wrights, Slaters, Tilers,
Daubers and Thatchers; Wet and Dry Glovers.
The Clerk, Freemen and Guilds of Chester, The Guildhall, Chester, Cheshire
CIRENCESTER Weavers, Senior Warden Bryan Berkley,
Pinehurst, 52a Somerfield Road,
Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 1TX
COVENTRY Broadweavers and Clothiers, The Clerk,
Seymour Smith and Co, Solicitors,
Queens House, Queens Road, Coventry CV1 3JN

Cappers and Feltmakers; Drapers, The Clerk,
Old Bablake, Hill Street, Coventry CV1 4AN

Fullers, Clerk and Sumner, 23 Bayley Lane, Coventry CV1 5RJ'

Mercers, The Clerk, J.H. Cattell, Wattern and Co.,
Queens House, Queens Road, Coventry CV1 3DR

Worsted Weavers, The Clerk, Browetts,
23 Bayley Lane, Coventry CV1 5RJ
DURHAM Barbers; Butchers; Cordwainers; Curriers; Drapers; Joiners; Masons and
Plumbers; Tailors;
T. Heron, Chairman of Wardens,
33 long Acres, Gilesgate, Durham DH1 1JF
EXETER Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen, The Clerk,
18 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, CV1 5RJ
Masters, Pilots and Seamen of the Trinity House,
The Secretary, Trinity House,
Trinity House Lane, Hull HU1 2JG
Bakers and Brewers, The Hon, Treasurer,
4 Parklands, Hamsterley Hill, Tyne and Wear NE39 1HH

Barber-Surgeons together with Wax and Tallow Chandlers, Steward, J.T.
Maule esq., Green End Cottage, 1 North Side, Kirkheaton, Nr. Belsay,
Northumberland NE19 2DG

Bricklayers, H.T. Ward, 3 Beanley Crescent, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear
NW30 2RZ

Butchers, R. Dodds Ltd., West Jesmond Avenue, Jesmond, Newcastle
upon Tyne NE2 3ET

Colliers, Paviors and Carriagemen, Stward,
H.D. Wilson Jnr., 18 Ripley Drive, Barns Park,
Cramlington, Northumberland NE23 7XA

Coopers, G.P. McGill,
36 St. Mary Magdalene Hospital,
Claremont Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4NE

Cordwainers, Senior Steward, G.W. Clark, 22 Delaval Road, Whitley Bay,

Curriers, E.B.Turnbull, 30 Holystone Crescent, High Heaton, Newcastle
upon Tyne NE7 7UE

Goldsmiths, W.G. Fizzle, 174 Westgarth, Westerhope, Newcastle upon
Tyne NE5 4PJ

Hostmen [lodging house keepers], The Clerk,
S.T. Alderson, Cross House, Westgate Road,
Newcastle upon Tyne NE99 1SB

House Carpenters, Steward,
H.E. Tate Esq., 288 Stamfordham Road,

Joiners, Senior Steward, G.D. Robson,
4 Burnside Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 2DU

Mariners, Master Mariners, Trinity House,
Broad Chase, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3DQ

Masons, Warden, D. Powell esq.,
26 Whyndyke, High Heworth, Gateshead 10

Merchant Adventurers, The Clerk, Merchant Adventurers Company,
Milburn House, Newcastle Upon Tyne

MIllers, Steward, W.H. Cooper, Causey House,
Elmfield Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 4AY

Plumbers, Glaziers, Pewterers and Painters, The Secretary, Mr. S.T.
Alderson, 11 Woodmans Way, Whickham, Tyne and Wear NE16 5TR

Ropemakers, Steward, H.D.Wilson,
Barns Park, Cramlington, Northumberland NE23 7XA

Scriveners, Clerk, Charles Wilkie-Smith, Davies-Bell
and Read, 27 Ridley Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8LE

Shipwrights, Senior Steward, Ian F. Miller,
20 Farringdon Road, Tynemouth HE30 3EP

Skinners and Glovers, J. Angus, 2 Hillhead Road,
Newcastle upon Tyne NE5 5AP

Smiths, Senior Steward, J.I. Jobling,
40 St. Mary Magdalene Est, Claremont Road,
Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4NN

Tanners, Chairman, F.R. Sutherland, 105 Edgehill,
Darras Hall, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne NE20 9JR

Taylors, Chairman, R.L. Foggin, 25 The Paddock,
Walbottle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE15 8JG

Upholsterers, Tinplate Workers and Stationers,
Senior Steward, R.A. Coatsworth, 28 Mary Magdalene Hospital,
Claremont Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4NN

Weavers, Senior Steward, L.F. Skirving esq.,
150 Ennerdale Road, Wlakerdene,
Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 4LJ
OXFORD Freemen of the City, R.A.J. Earl, Hon. Archivist,
171 Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 7ST
PRESTON The Guild Merchant, [no address available]
Fellmongers, The Clerk, Burgage House,
1 Millgate, Richmond, North Yorkshire N10 4JL

Mercers, Grocers and Haberdashers, Steward, Burgage House, 1 Millgate,
Richmond, North Yorkshire N10 4JL
SHEFFIELD Culters of Hallamshire, The Clerk, Cutler's Hall,
Sheffield S1 1HG
SHREWSBURY Drapers, The Clerk, 12 Princess Street,
Shrewsbury, Shropshire SX1 1LP
WORCHESTER Clothiers, Treasurer, 5 Deansway, Worcester,
Hereford and Worcester WR1 2JG
YORK Building [Trades], The Clerk, c/o Dept of Architecture,
9 St. Leonard's Place, York YO1 2ET

Butchers, The Clerk, 1 St. Saviourgate, York YO1 2NQ

Cordwainers, The Clerk, Lendal House,
11 Lendal, York YO1 2AQ

Freemen, The Clerk, 29 Albermarle Street, York YO2 1EW

Merchant Adventurers, The Clerk,
Merchant Adventurers Hall, Fossgate, York YO1 2XD

Merchant Taylors, The Clerk,
Merchant Taylors Hall, Aldwark, York YO1 2BX

Town and City Freemen

Names of city freemen, also called burgesses or citizens, were registered annually on a series of rolls, which will be at a local archive, and some have been printed and will certainly be in the local library. They include (from early times to at least 1800 except where noted): Canterbury (to 1835), Chester, Coventry (from 1781), Exeter (1266-1967), Gloucester (1641-1838), Great Yarmouth, Grimsby (from 1780), Guildford, King’s Lynn, Lancaster, Leicester, Newcastle upon Tyne (1409-1710), Norwich (1548-1752), Oxford and York (1272-1986), and are often on film.

The best registers list:

  • Date of admission to the freedom of the city.
  • Name of the freeman.
  • Name and occupation of his father.
  • Name of the master if freedom gained by servitude.

It has been estimated that about half of adult males were freemen, but some evaded getting on the lists by not paying their dues, and many lists no longer exist. Family descent can often be traced for a number of generations since the rolls often indicated the relationship of the applicant to a previously admitted freeman. The early freemen of Wells are discussed by Doddrell (Freemen of the Town (City) of Wells. Greenwood Tree (Somerset and Dorset Family History Society) Vol 24 #4, page 132), and a 200-year run of freemen of Gloucester by Prosser (Was Your Grandfather a Freeman of the City? Family Tree Magazine Vol 15 #9, page 16).

Before 1835 only freemen were legally allowed to trade and vote in borough and parliamentary elections. Where there is no printed list of freemen it pays to check the printed Poll Books which show those who voted in parliamentary elections in specific years. Gibson and Rogers (1990) Directory of Poll Books 1696-1872 lists what is available and many are filmed and a number are now available on fiche or CD. The lists may include only name and parish, but often also the occupation, address and qualification to vote. Lawton presents a case study on the use of burgess rolls and poll books. The later Electoral Rolls are less useful for establishing the identity of freemen as they are based on property qualifications.

Clark (Freemen of England and Wales. Family Tree Magazine Vol 9 #3, page 41-42, 1993) states that freemen are still being admitted in 58 towns in England and Wales and there are perhaps 80,000 living freemen. Trusts to preserve freemen rights have been established in places where a borough has ceased to exist as part of local government reform, for example the Llantrisant Town Trust of South Wales. This trend will increase with the replacement of county, borough and district councils by unitary authorities in the 1990s (Clark). There is an association of current guilds and individual freemen called the Freemen of England and Wales (see Clark).

The technological and organizational changes in the later half of the 19th century moved industry towards a state where there was less demand for highly skilled artisans but a greater demand for a new type of adaptable semi-skilled worker. This was a threat to the power of the old trade guilds, which depended on their ability to limit the availability of necessary skills. A new type of industrial group meeting the needs of semi-skilled and unskilled labourers, the trade union, took root in the 19th century and evolved into a solid working class movement in the Edwardian era (Childs). At the other end of the scale some of the old trade guilds evolved into associations of highly skilled and relatively wealthy professionals. Each separate association and trade union has its unique history but some general comments can be made.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

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