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SOCIAL EVENTS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Norwich regulations craft guilds processions ceremony church services saints festivals Corpus Christi assemblies meals livery warden mayor precedence

Subject: Participation of craft gilds in processions
Original source: Norfolk Records Office, Liber Albus of Norwich
Transcription in: William Hudson and John Cottingham Tingey, eds. The Records of the City of Norwich, vol.2 (Norwich: Jarrold, 1910), 284-85, 287-88, 312-13.
Original language: Middle English
Location: Norwich
Date: mid-15th century


[Extract 1]

Each and every craft with mysteries assigned it, and each craft without mysteries, is to hold a religious service for the saint to which it are dedicated in such a place as is mentioned above, in this fashion: that each and every warden of the crafts shall each year hold a day of solemnity in worship of their saint, if they have one or are likely to have one in the future, in such a place as is indicated above and on whatever day they prefer. And on that day it is permitted for them, if they wish, to meet and discuss among themselves matters that are necessary for their business and the benefit of the crafts. On condition that the crafts are not obliged henceforth to provide more than one meal; but if a craft wishes to have more than one meal, it is to cover the costs of the meal based on agreement and arrangement among the membership.

The mayor to be informed where they will hold their assemblies and religious services, or any individual such event, for their patron saint

It is also ordained that the place where the crafts are to hold their assemblies and religious services for their patron saint – if they have such now or in the future – is, within 14 days of this ordinance being communicated to the wardens, to be made known to the mayor prior to the holding of any assembly or service and to be restricted [in location] by the wardens and craftsmen as per the city ordinance; upon penalty of 40s. to be levied from wardens and craftsmen who fail to comply, to be paid to the chamber of the city for the use of the community....

That every craft that stands alone and every craft with mysteries assigned to it is to be clothed, who is to be clothed, and when

Furthermore, it is ordained, granted and enacted that the craft wardens have the power to order and require each and every citizen belonging to their craft, and of the mystery or mysteries assigned to their craft, who is wealthy enough and well-behaved, to be clothed in such a costume or livery as the craft wardens indicate, by the time of the next riding of the mayor. And thereafter to be so clothed whenever they are so instructed, upon such a penalty as is or will be recommended by the common council of the city....

[ .... ]

How persons properly clothed are obliged to participate in processions on foot or horseback and to worship of the saint to whom the craft is dedicated

It is ordained, granted and enacted that all those persons who may dress in the livery of a craft – whether of that craft standing alone, or the craft as united with mysteries – have the duty on all occasions to participate in all processions on foot or horseback to attend religious services in honour of the saint to whom the craft is dedicated, on the principal saint's day, and in other obligations such as are set out above or below.

[ .... ]

How they shall ride or walk, and in what manner

First, it is ordained and granted in relation to rules governing gild processions on foot or horseback that all craft wardens – both those of crafts standing alone and those of crafts with mysteries assigned – shall by themselves take charge of and supervise all walkings and ridings, in such order and form as is set out on the [blank] leaf of this book, under penalty.

Ordinance on which craft is to ride in front of the mayor

It is also ordained and granted, for the honour of the crafts, that from henceforth that craft of which the city mayor then in office is a member is to ride or walk immediately ahead of the mayor at times of his ridings, and at all other ridings or walkings – for the honour of that craft during the term of office of the mayor.

At what times crafts are to be prepared to accompany the mayor dressed in their liveries

It is also ordained, granted, and enacted that all crafts – both crafts united with mysteries and crafts standing alone – are to be ready in their liveries to accompany the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen to the cathedral church of the [Holy] Trinity in the city, or to any other destination, at all times designated by the mayor, and at whatever hour the mayor designates upon these 3 festival days: that is, All Hallows Day [1 November], Christmas Day [25 December], and Epiphany [6 January], and other days that the mayor designates, and in such an order and manner as is indicated above, upon penalty such as is or will be recommended by the common council of the city.

[ .... ]

[Extract 2]

The order of the procession of occupations on Corpus Christi day from the Common Hall, through Cutler Row, around the marketplace, through Holter, and so straight back to the same Hall.

First, smiths, tilers, masons, and limeburners with their 2 banners.
Carpenters, engravers, joiners, sawyers, sieve makers, bowyers, fletchers, wheelwrights, and basket makers – 1 banner.
Reeders, claymen, reed sellers, and carters – 1 banner.
Butchers, glovers, parchment makers – 1 banner.
Tanners – 1 banner.
Cordwainers, curriers, cobblers, and collar makers – 1 banner.
Woollen weavers, linen weavers, fullers, shermen, wool chapmen – 2 banners.
Coverlight weavers, dornish weavers, and girdlers – 1 banner.
Bakers, brewers, innkeepers, vintners, coopers, and cooks – 1 banner.
Fishmongers, freshwater fishermen who are keelmen – 1 banner.
Barbers, waxchandlers, and surgeons – 1 banner.
Haberdashers, cappers, hatters, bag makers, lace makers, pinners, wiredrawers, and armourers – 1 banner.
St. Luke's Gild, that is, pewterers, brasiers, bellfounders, plumbers, glasiers, and painters – 1 banner.
Tailors, hosiers, skinners, and embroiderers – 1 banner.
Goldsmiths, saddlers, dyers, and "calaundrers" – 1 banner.
Worsted weavers – 1 banner.
Grocers and raffmen – 1 banner.
Mercers, drapers, lawyers, and scriveners – 1 banner.


Corpus Christi day had become one of the most important holy days of the year. Even those towns that did not mount pageants or plays for the community had at least a parade, usually from some public place or landmark to a local church, which was itself a spectacle. Craft gilds were expected to take part in civic processions. In addition they often held their own parades and feasts on their own festivals, where a gild was associated with a saint.

The first extract given above is from a set of ordinances in which the city government attempted to regulate various aspects of the craft gilds in 1449. This included the special feast-days of the individual gilds, as well as communal occasions in which the gilds were expected to make an appearance to show community solidarity.

The route of the Corpus Christi procession given in the second extract above, of uncertain date but ca.1453, indicates that the starting point was the Blackfriars hall, heading directly south to Cutler Row (present-day London Street), which swung west around the castle ditch, and following until the marketplace was entered from its north-east corner; the procession then probably followed a clockwise route around the edge of the market until, just after passing the Guildhall, it turned north into Holdtor (earlier Smallgate, later Dove Lane) and then making its way back to the Blackfriars. However, another undated order of the procession (ca.1449) indicates that the chapel of St. Mary in the Field, a little southwest of the marketplace, was the destination on that occasion; the chapel was the base for the Gild of Corpus Christi, whose members were the local parish priests, and was also associated with the Great Gild (a.k.a. the Gild of the Annunciation of St. Mary). The latter was amalgamated with another important socio-religious gild, dedicated to St. George, in 1452, as part of a constitutional reform in the city, which may help explain the change of venue for the Corpus Christi procession. The same document of ca.1449 mentions that the procession of craft gilds followed a group of light-bearers surrounding the body of Christ, and that at the rear of the procession came the sheriffs' entourage followed by the sheriffs themselves, the mayor's entourage followed by the mayor, and finally the aldermen carrying bibles or rosaries.

A certain logic can be perceived in the groupings of the gilds. Similar but not identical groupings are seen in the partnerships for mounting the Corpus Christi pageants at Norwich. Since the positions of honour were, as the ca.1449 list indicates, at the rear of the procession, it is likely that the order of the gilds also reflects a ranking of socio-economic precedence; certainly at this period the higher city offices were filled by members of the gilds towards the end of the list.



In this context the term is used for smaller crafts that did not have enough members to warrant them being treated as fully-fledged gilds, and were apparently unregulated. For administrative purposes, they were therefore affiliated with the larger gilds; those with seven or more members were allowed to elect their own warden to supervise the craft, those with fewer had a warden chosen by the mayor. Whether the list of groups of crafts for the Corpus Christi procession precisely represents these groupings is uncertain.

"such a place"
The specification "above" was that the meeting place be within the city.

The ordinances required that a gild meet at least four times a year to deal with business and that this set of ordinances (or such of them as were relevant) should be read out to the membership at such gatherings.

Dressed in a costume, or livery, that distinguishes the members from those of other gilds (as with a uniform). The craft warden was to supervise the design and fabrication of the craft's livery, after first presenting the proposed colour combination to the city chamberlain and receiving approval, to ensure no two crafts used the same design, nor that any livery was too like that worn by mayor and aldermen.

Probably calenderers (who pressed cloths, such as linens, to make them smooth and glossy), although might be launderers.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 27, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003

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