The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths is one of the ancient livery company of the City of London. With origins dating back to 1299, the company regulated many aspects of smithing within the City and its immediate environs, including who was allowed to practise the trade, their hours of work and the quality of their goods and workmanship. Other towns and cities had medieval guilds and companies with similar aims, but the economic might of the City of London - which encompassed a great deal of manufacturing as well as trade - was such that the City livery companies were always by far the most numerous and usually the most important in the country. Unlike the twelve Great City Livery Companies, such as the Mercers, Fishmongers or Clothworkers, the Blacksmiths' Company never accumulated large financial assets, but it did have its own ancient livery hall and modest property holdings. And unlike other companies, such as the Tallow Chandlers or the Loriners, whose trades have all but disappeared, the Blacksmiths do still retain a relevance in today's world. Ranked 40th in the order of precedence, it was a solid, middle-ranking livery company of some consequence.
Eventually the very growth and dynamism of London led to a relative decline in the company's economic importance. It became impossible and probably undesirable to regulate trade in the old manner - no new livery companies were established between the early eighteenth century and 1926 - and the functions and role of livery companies changed from trade regulation to that of social, cultural, networking and charitable organisations. The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths echoed these changes, yet, unlike many, it has retained strong links with the trade that created it. To this day, the company supports the blacksmithing community across the country, awarding prizes for high-quality work and sponsoring young practitioners. Professor David Hey has had unique access to the company's records as well as the extensive knowledge of present-day liverymen to distil a fascinating 700-year story of continuity and change. Illustrated with almost 60 colour photographs and maps, this book acts as an important record of the Blacksmiths' Company, as well as being an interesting case study of one of the great survivors of London's medieval past, the City livery company.