Next in order come the woodworkers attached to the Church, who appear to have been lay-brothers as a general rule, and to have been free from the power of the King's master craftsmen. The monasteries maintained large numbers of masons, carpenters, joiners, carvers and illuminators, probably paying very little in money, but lavishly in produce and accommodation. From the high standard, both in skill and artistic inspiration (monastic fifteenth-century work is, obviously, a labour as much of love, as of duty) which the ecclesiastical workers possessed, transcending even those of the King's men, it is certain that their conditions of life must have been easy and enviable.
The third class of artisans were those engaged in work for the laity, from the yeoman farmer to the belted knight and baron, under the guidance, and subject to the dominion of the Trade Guild or the Lord of the Manor. No artisan could leave his village or locality without sanction from the Lord or the Guild, and a strange workman without employment was a rogue and a vagabond, a "masterless man" who could be arrested and summarily hanged without trial. In this regard the laws regulating labour were harsh and stringent. In other particulars, the workman had an easy life, one of plenty and of reasonable leisure. His hours were long, and holidays were few. Thus in 1408, at Windsor, four carpenters received 6d. per day, and six received 5d. for 365 days in the year. Even at the present day, on the Continent, it is customary (or was until the last fifteen years) to work on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning. The Windsor records do not indicate, in any way, that the workmen were paid for days on which no work was done. True; the King was usually impatient, and his work had to be executed in the shortest possible time, but there is no suggestion of extra payment for overtime, although such payments do occur in the records where a great number of hours are worked in the one day.
1The proviso, in these royal mandates, is always inserted, that the King's carpenter has power to collect workmen, " other than those in the fee of the Church."
A marked distinction appears to be made between the hours of labour in summer as compared with winter. Five o'clock in the morning to eight in the evening, in summer, was the general rule, but liberal allowance had to be made for "non-schenes" (the midday meal, hence the modern word luncheon), for "drinkynges"1 and for "sleepynges,"-occupying in all from three to three and a half hours.
Fig. 11. Using The Adze. - Note the natural bent growths of timber, or " knees.";
Fig. 12. Joiners' Planes Of The Eighteenth Century
I. A long or "trying" -plane or "jointer." 3. Rabbet plane for large rebates. 5. Smoothing plane.
2. Large round plane for working hollow mouldings.
4. Compass plane for shaped surface.
6. Compass plane.
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam.
The standard wage of the country artisan, in the fifteenth century, appears to have been 6d. per day. In London this was increased from 25 to 30 per cent, but living there was proportionately dearer. His hours of actual labour cannot have exceeded eight in the day, although in the next century this number was extended to ten and even more. Comparisons of wages, reckoned in money, however, are misleading, as the actual value of the currency alters. Before 1543 (when Henry VIII first began to debase the currency) silver contained 18 dwts. of alloy to 12 ozs., and the pound was coined into 45 shillings. In 1546 it was debased to the extent of 8 ozs. in 12 ! It would be out of place here, to trace the far-reaching effect of this iniquitous procedure on the part of the King to swell his private revenue, but one of the results was to destroy the East Anglian woollen and textile trades with the Low Countries. Payment, at that date, being made by weight instead of by tale, the exchanging of this debased coin for commodities constituted a fraud of the worst kind on the Netherland merchant, a fraud to which the English trader was an unwitting accessory, with the result that when the cheat was discovered, the English currency was not depreciated in exchange value; it was refused absolutely, and the English trade with the Continent was ruined.
1 This custom has survived in Hertfordshire, where the morning draught is known as a "beever." 2 This time was allowed in summer only.
Fig. 13. The Planes Shown In Fig. 12 Seen From Above.
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam.
There is an apparent rise in the wages of artisans from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, reckoned in terms of currency, but, actually, the conditions changed steadily for the worse. As Thorold Rogers remarks in Chapter XII of "Six Centuries of Work and Wages," " the fifteenth century and the first quarter of the sixteenth were the golden age of the English labourer, if we are to interpret the wages which he earned by the cost of the necessaries of life. At no time were wages, relatively speaking, so high, and at no time was food so cheap. Attempts were constantly made to reduce these wages by Act of Parliament, the legislature frequently insisting that the Statute of Labourers should be kept. But these efforts were futile; the rate keeps steadily high, and finally becomes customary, and was recognised by Parliament."
Fig. 14. Plane Irons, Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries. - Rijks Museum, Amsterdam