650 years of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers

While the Fletchers of the City of London are this year celebrating the 650th anniversary of their existence, the Company has no exact foundation date. At some point before 7 March 1371 the leading men of the two crafts of the Bowyers and Fletchers, who had previously formed one association, agreed that the two crafts should separate completely, and that henceforth no one individual should be allowed to make and sell both bows and arrows. A majority of the membership of the two crafts readily agreed with this, but on 7 March the leading men of the two crafts appeared at Guildhall before the Mayor and Aldermen to complain of four named individuals – John Patyn, Robert atte Verne, Richard Prodhomme and John Lyon – who had continued to make and sell both bows and arrows.

In the days that followed, the quartet of ‘renegades’ appeared at Guildhall, and explained that they needed longer to wind up their affairs, as they not only had remaining stock and unfinished articles belonging to both crafts but were also training apprentices in the skills pertaining to both. This seemed reasonable to the Mayor and Aldermen, who gave the four until Easter (which – much like this year – fell in the first week of April) to sort out their outstanding business and to decide which of the two crafts they wished to join. Patyn, Prodhomme and Lyon seem to have done so, but atte Verne took rather longer, and only decided to become a Bowyer in August of the same year. Nor was this the end of the affair: atte Verne eventually changed his mind once more, and by the autumn of 1386 had risen to sufficient prominence in the Fletchers’ trade to be elected one of the fledgling company’s wardens.

The prohibition on combining the drafts of Bowyers and fletchers came to be regarded as the first of the Fletchers’ Company’s ordinances, many more of which were enacted over the course of the 15th century. Unlike the many other companies, the Fletchers did not have their rights enshrined in a Royal Charter. Into the 21st century they remained a Company ‘by prescription’, that is, they relied upon the authority of the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London for the enforcement of their regulations and ordinances, sharing any fines imposed on rule-breakers with the City’s Chamber.

65Objects

We are delighted to bring you a history of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers in 65 objects. (It's actually our 650th anniversary but that would have been a very large number of objects!) Each object reflects special moments in our history, from the fourteenth century to the present. We hope too that it gives you a flavour of the diverse and fascinating activities of Company and also of The Fletchers Trust. Join with us in celebrating our significant anniversary.

Our thanks to Liveryman Josie Gowler for coordinating and preparing these 65Objects with the assistance of our learned Clerk, Kate Pink.

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The earliest livery companies were formed in the early Middle Ages as trade "guilds". They were both employers' federations and trades unions, and their functions included ensuring high standards of business conduct and product quality from all their members, helping in the education of future generations in the particular ways of the trade or craft, and supporting those members of…
The Fletchers’ ordinances approved by the mayor and aldermen of London in 1403 laid down that the company would be governed by two annually elected wardens. This remained the normal practice into the early 16th century, although there were periodic re-elections of one or both of the wardens. For a period of time in the 1520s, the company’s wardens were…
By the fifteenth century, most London companies employed professional clerks to keep their records. While at the end of the middle ages most merchants and substantial craftsmen would have been able to read or write (some degree of schooling was integral to a London apprenticeship), the clerks came from a world of professional administrators familiar with common practices of record…
Article by Veronica-Mae Soar, Clerk to the Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers & Fletchers Charismatic as the longbow may be, it cannot fulfil its function without the all important arrow. Historically it is quite likely that a form of arrow might actually have preceded the bow; even today there are parts of the world where throwing arrows are used.
The Battle of Agincourt that took place on the 25th of October 1415 was a fascinating but controversial battle. The 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt was commemorated in many different places and ways. The Fletchers have been very active and supportive of commemorations for the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt. Many City based events took place…