Home What is pewter? The Worshipful Company of Pewterers

The Worshipful Company of Pewterers

Pewterers Hall

The Pewterer is a e-zine published by the Worshipful Company of Pewterers.

History of the WCoP

The earliest documented reference to the Worshipful Company of Pewterers is in 1348 when, according to the records of the City Corporation, the “goodfolk, makers of vessels of pewter” came before the Mayor and Aldermen asking for approval of the Articles which they had drawn up for the regulation of the trade..

The Company is one of the older Livery Companies in the City, and is numbered 16 in the order of civic precedence among, at the last count (2012), 108 companies.  The Company’s own records begin from 1451.

Edward IV granted the first Charter to the Company in 20th January 1474 (1473 in the calendar of the day). In addition to licensing the Freemen of the Mistery of Pewterers to found a Fraternity, it allowed the Guild to regulate the standard of workmanship, the training of craftsmen and the wages and prices to be set. This Charter granted the Guild the right of search throughout England to ensure that the quality of pewter was maintained.

In succeeding reigns the Company received further Charters and it is under the provisions of the one that Queen Anne granted in 1702 that the Company acts today.

The earliest record of Arms in use by the Company is dated 1451. These first arms include a representation of the Assumption, recalling the Company’s origin as a Fraternity in honour of the Virgin Mary.  However, the Pewterers, along with other Livery Companies, found it politic to eliminate religious symbolism during the Reformation: in 1533 new Arms were therefore granted, followed, forty years later, by the crest, supporters and mantling.

The Company was concerned with trade matters, costs, prices, raw materials, quality of pewterware and training of apprentices, as well as relief to the poor within the trade, funeral expenses, general charity and civic duties. The Company continues to support the trade, charities and the City as well as meeting together in Pewterers’ Hall.

The first Hall, completed in 1496 in Lime Street, was destroyed in the Great Fire. The second Hall, rebuilt on the same site (still, even now, owned by the Company) by 1669, was demolished in 1932. The present Hall, was opened on a new site, in Oat Lane, in 1961.

For two centuries from 1474, pewter was unrivalled as a material for plates, dishes, drinking vessels and similar ware. The prosperity of the trade probably reached its zenith in the late 17th century. Thereafter, partly because society’s drinking habits changed following the introduction of tea to this country and partly because the industrial revolution introduced new techniques and the use of alternative materials, the trade steadily declined.

By the late 18th century the number of those in the Company who actually followed the trade was small. In the 21st century, happily, that number is growing, partly as a result of the Company’s encouragement of the trade through, for instance, its support of the Association of British Pewter Craftsmen, and its annual competition, Pewter Live.

Drawn, with permission, from the History of the Company on the Company’s website.