Why 1272?

Judith Millidge's Photo

In 2022 we Cordwainers are celebrating an incredible 750 years of existence, of pursuing and overseeing our trade of shoemaking.

Few institutions survive for this length of time and we are proud of our heritage.

Our recognition derives from the original Ordinances granted by Henry III in 1272 via the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Walter Hervé.

Why did the Cordwainers choose to pursue regulation at this time?  It probably helped that one of the sheriffs, Richard de Paris, was a Cordwainer who might have been able to influence the Lord Mayor.

One important result of these ordinances was that shoemakers in London came under the oversight of our guild. Ordinances (which we observe to this day in a revised form) effectively allowed members of the guild to trade in the City of London and up to two miles beyond the city boundaries.

Ordinances contained detailed rules drawn up by the elders of the city and contained clear guidance as to how Cordwainers carried out their business. They also contained limits to stop one guild interfering with the trade and prosperity of another guild. In our case, the ordinances distinguished between the trades of Cordwainers and Cobblers and specified the types of leather which were permittable. Cordwainers were initially restricted to working with the finest quality goatskin leather from Cordoba in Spain.

Over time, regulations and manufacture methods have changed, but 750 years on, Cordwainers remain dedicated to promoting excellence in footwear design and shoemaking.

Past Master Nigel Easton, Hon. Archivist