Who built all those medieval walls, gates and cathedrals?
A gander at the guild based history of government.
"MYSTERY surrounds the ancient medieval guilds of York, seven exclusive clubs of successful and wealthy business people. The guilds, which gather in some of York’s finest architectural gems, are led by Masters, who wear crimson robes, gold chains and elaborate headwear, and have a “beadle” to assist them, who carries a staff to lead them in procession. But the “mystery” in their case is not secret handshakes, but the late 14th century meaning of the word, which referred to “trade, craft or art”, hence York’s famous Mystery Plays, now Waggon Plays, which are performed by the guilds every year."
"Despite their proud traditions, the guilds have changed much over the years, and today they play a role in helping young people advance in their careers, providing enterprise education, support for apprenticeships and bursaries for further education. Graham Millar, Master of the Company of Merchant Taylors, speaking at an event organised by young professionals organisation Make-York in association with York Professionals, said: “If you look back at the history of the guilds they were mostly interested in promoting their own trade and nowadays would almost certainly be illegal.” The guilds gradually disappeared, although those, particularly with assets such as the medieval halls, have been resurrected. The guilds are now charities, raising money from their members to fund the support of young protegés, as well as the upkeep of their assets, such as the magnificent Merchant Taylors’ Hall and Merchant Adventurers’ Hall in York.By 1415, there were 96 craft guilds in York, which has now been whittled down to only seven – The Company of the Merchant Taylors, The Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York, The York Guild of Building, The Company of Cordwainers, The Company of Butchers of the City of York, The Guild of Scriveners of York and the Gild of Freemen of the City of York."
"The Freemen are the city’s oldest guild, dating back to the mid-1100s when they negotiated a Royal Charter making them the only people allowed to trade in the city. Only a Freeman could join any of the craft guilds or vote."
"The Stonemasons Guild
"Traditionally, skilled English craftsmen were governed by trade guilds. The classic progression through a trade was to be an apprentice for seven years during which time you received food and lodging and a tiny wage from your "master" until after seven years of training you became a "journeyman", a term we still use today in, perhaps, a less than complimentary way. Then after several more years you might hope to become a "master" of your craft once you had been vetted and examined by the master craftsmen within the guild. It was generally believed that this pertained to the stonemasons. In 1933, however, two Professors from the University of Sheffield - Douglas Knoop and GP Jones - produced a work called "The Mediaeval Mason". "
"Of course it is decades out of print and it seems to me that the majority of their work has been forgotten. Amongst their many startling conclusions, Knoop and Jones, found that it was unlikely that a stonemasonry guild existed in England outside London until the sixteenth century."
"Guilds were town-based institutions that governed the trades within their towns. Masons were freemen as opposed to serfs. Studying the freemen rolls that still exist, they noticed the startling absence of masons. That, they felt was hardly surprising: the fact was that homes in mediaeval England were not made of stone. The only stone structure in a mediaeval town was likely to be the church. Masons could not make a living in a town. They had to follow the work and that legislated against belonging to a town-based guild. .The few extant records of payments to masons show great inconsistency in rates. Guilds, amongst their many other activities, standardised rates of pay."
"London was, as is so often the case even today, the exception to the rule. In 1356 the famous Master Mason, Henry Yevelle, helped to draw up the rules of London's stonemasons guild. Of the cities, towns and villages of England, only London had need for a fixed masonic workforce."
"Each church on this website owes its birth and development to the skills of stonemasons. Their work is ubiquitous. No single trade has left such an indelible mark on our landscape. Yet so little is known of the masons - who they were, what motivated them, how they lived their lives, how they acquired their skills. There are, as a matter of fact, quite a few books commercially available. I own most of them. They all suffer from the same inescapable shortcoming: they focus almost exclusively on the masons employed in the building of the cathedrals and great abbeys. They studiously avoid the subject of the humble parish mason for the simple reason that they know nothing about them! Whereas cathedrals and abbeys were managed by literate administrators who left record,, the parish churches mostly were not. "
York : A Medieval City
"York, England walking tour part1"