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Worshipful Company of Clothworkers

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The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1528, formed by the amalgamation of its two predecessor Companies, the Fullers (incorporated 1480) and the Shearmen (incorporated 1508). It succeeded to the position of the Shearmens' Company and thus ranks twelfth in the order of precedence of Livery Companies of the City of London.

The original craft of the Clothworkers was the finishing of woven woollen cloth: fulling it to mat the fibres and remove the grease, drying it on tenter frames (from which derives the expression ‘to be on tenterhooks’), raising the nap with teasels (Dipsacus) and shearing it to a uniform finish. The Ordinances of The Clothworkers’ Company, first issued in 1532 and signed by Sir Thomas More, sought to regulate clothworking, to maintain standards and to protect approved practices.

From the later Middle Ages, cloth production gradually moved away from London, a situation exacerbated by the Great Fire of London and the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. The charitable role of the Clothworkers' Company nevertheless continued, supported by generous gifts of money and property by members and benefactors.

Nowadays, the Company’s main role is in the charitable sphere, through the Clothworkers' Foundation, an independent charity. Through its grants, the Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life, particularly for people and communities that face disadvantage.

Both the Company and the Foundation operate from Clothworkers' Hall, in Dunster Court, between Mincing Lane and Mark Lane in the City of London. The site was conveyed to a group of Shearmen in 1456 and the present building, completed in 1958, is the sixth on the site. Its immediate predecessor, designed by Samuel Angell and opened in 1860, was destroyed in 1941.

Tracing your Ancestors

If your ancestor was a Citizen and Clothworker of London he or she should appear in the Company’s membership records.

The Company's Archive holds Registers of Freemen from 1545 to the present day and Registers of Apprentices survive for the period 1606-1908. These records represent the Company’s best source of genealogical information about its past members.

These records are available to search online via the Records of London's Livery Companies Online - ROLLCO, a freely accessible resource.

Further reading: Searching for members or those apprenticed to members of City of London livery companies

Please add apprentices, freemen, wardens, and masters of the Clothworkers' Company to this project.

Back to The Livery Companies of the City of London

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