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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 7:00 am    Post subject: Becoming an armourer in 1460s England?         Reply with quote

Can anybody shed some light on the process of becoming an armourer in 1460s England? I'm especially keen to know if it would have been possible for the son of a town blacksmith to be apprenticed to an armourer in London, York, etc. if he showed talent and interest in that specialty. Was entrance to that world restricted by class? If not, was it still restricted by family profession (you became an armourer only if your father or uncles were armourers)? Could the recommendation of a knight or other minor nobleman override any such restrictions?

I (think I) know the broadest outline of armourer society in the period--that England's production was limited, that imports were common, that trade secrets were held very closely.Ffoulkes has some of this and I assume Toby Capwell's upcoming books will be the definitive source. Anything else?

For my purposes I'm not talking about the later Greenwich quality work. I'm talking about the routine maintenance, repair and limited fabrication of armour. Who cared for the Milanese harness of some country lord, replacing straps and rivets, repairing battle damage, making replacement plates, providing munition pieces for retainers and levied infantry, etc. Perhaps also experimenting with finer work as time and materials allowed.

Thoughts and sources are much appreciated!

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 2:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Apprenticeship was a common practice in 15th Century England. The child's parents would agree with a Master Craftsman the conditions for an apprenticeship which would bind the child for 5 9 years (depending on the trade). They would pay a premium to the craftsman and the contract would be recorded in an indenture. The craftsman effectively became the apprentice's guardian and was responsible not only for his training but also his well-being.

The limiting factors, then, in apprenticing a child to an armourer would be:

- Do you know of a master armourer willing to take apprentices?
- Can you afford the premium.

Aptitude in the skill does not seem to have been a factor (that's what the master is there for - to teach the 'mysteries' of the craft!).

Class is also not a factor because, even though an armourer's clients may be gentry or even nobility, an armourer is still just an Artificer, a position of relatively low social status (roughly equivalent to an husbandman).
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 5:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You could take a look at British History Online under London and look through the town accounts

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/

As Glennan said skill was something that was learned. Your families money was important but perhaps more so was who you knew. We see people of simple means making connections that get their sons to being top level traders and beyond. Look at the DE La Pole family for example. Merchants in Hull..... next Earls.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_de_la_Po...of_Suffolk

You also have G. Chaucer who's father was a merchant who worked with the king. Chaucers son was present among the men-at-arms at Agincourt.

Even though tradesmen place theoretically was limited in reality this can be complicated. The men who work their way up in the guilds run more or less all town life. These are the gents who lend money to the king and nobles and in return often have a great deal of clout with them. While not something that was overly common, in Medieval England not that uncommon. It probably gets a bit more rigid in the late 15th on as the nobles and new nobles try to close ranks in many ways.

Now if you are just an average master not so likely. They in their own community were very much the top rung but only the leaders of the guilds really reach the top level of national affairs.

England made a great deal of its own armour. How much is hard to say but we do seem to have much plate and billets coming in for armour and weapon production. I think the idea that England was producing a small amount of armour is incorrect. Likely smaller than Italy, Germany and the Low Countries but there is a massive group of men some of the knightly but especially gentry and lower that would have depended on local armours to meet their requirements.

RPM
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Sean Flynt
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myArmoury Team

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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 7:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wonderful information, guys! Many thanks! Sounds like it might have been pretty common for there to be at least small-scale production in urban areas, serving the various regional nobles and men-at-arms, perhaps especially during the War of the Roses, when there would have been a continuous need for armouring services. Excellent!
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 1:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many medieval towns and cities in England still have registers of Freemen. Sadly I could not find any online but they are literally lists of the men of town including the tradesmen.

RPM
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