Carpenters in Medieval London c. 1240 – c. 1540

Carpenters in Medieval London c. 1240 – c. 1540

By Doreen Sylvia Leach

PhD dissertation, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2017

British Library MS Oriental 5024 f. 184v

Abstract: Carpenters in medieval London have not previously been the focus of sustained research, either as a group, or as individuals. This thesis contributes fresh understanding to our perspective on London in the later Middle Ages by providing new information about this lesser known craft.

The period chosen for review is a wide one starting from when carpenters first began to appear in official records and concluding on the eve of the Reformation and the English Renaissance, both of which were to have a profound impact on the style of, and the demand for, structures made from wood, and on the work available to carpenters.

The thesis starts with a consideration of the current state of knowledge about medieval carpenters. The central role carpentry played in the lives of all medieval people will be emphasised. The second chapter includes an evaluation of the ambivalent evidence for carpenters as an organised craft before the fifteenth century. It will show that the city authorities were happy to make use of the specialist knowledge of some carpenters to assist in enforcing civic regulations relating to the urban environment but that, on the whole, these craftsmen (along with other building workers) were seen as needing to be kept under firm control to maintain order in society.

The next two chapters take forward discussion of the organisation of the craft into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and consider the activities of the newly formed company. The range of work undertaken by carpenters and the way in which they obtained their primary source material, timber, will be the focus of the fifth chapter. The following chapter will consider the religious life of these craftsmen and the final chapter will place carpenters and their families in their social and economic context within medieval London.

Click here to read this dissertation from Royal Holloway


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