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Apprentices & Freemen


An apprentice was usually bound (contracted) for seven years from the age of somewhere between 10yrs & 17yrs.  Some were apprenticed officially to their parent or relative.  In many major towns, e.g. Newcastle on Tyne, trade was controlled by Guilds.  Only members were allowed to trade & entry requirements were either by apprenticeship or Patrimony.  The latter meant that sons of members of the Guild could apply to join at age 21yrs, for this either a birth or baptism certificate had to be produced, or a sworn statement was given that the applicant was “20 years & upward”. In the case of a mother making a deposition, when the father was deceased, she also had to swear that the applicant was born in wedlock. The son entered the Guild of his father, though he may have had a different trade.  Presumably because proof of baptism was important, there are some cases of it taking place just before an apprenticeship started.

Apprentices were not allowed to marry, which resulted at times in illegitimate children, the parents often marrying later.  Frequently the apprentice married his “Master`s” daughter.  Orphaned or illegitimate children were sometimes apprenticed, the fee being paid by the parish.  After apprenticeship the boy became a Liveryman.  A Journeyman has completed his apprenticeship, but is not a master.  An apprentice, at the end of his training, had his name called at three successive Guild meetings.  If approved, he could then become a Freeman.  A Freeman was entitled to vote.

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© Ruth Jopling 2004     email jopling@one-name.org


site updated 6/11/2015