Medieval guilds were a vital part of medieval town life, working hard to guarantee the standards of crafts across England.
Skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen working within the same trade were able to group themselves together as a guild, which would provide a guarantee of quality and a fair price on any item made by its members.
The importance of crafts and trades during this period made guilds a particularly valuable addition to a craftsman’s resume, and as such being a guild member was seen as incredibly high ranking and a mark of talent.
Within the guilds, a number of particularly reputable members would be selected to ensure members were meeting the standards expected of them, and those found to be below these standards would either face a fine or have to redo the work at their own cost. Should someone continue to fall below standard, they would eventually be evicted from the guild, which would mean they were no longer allowed to trade in the associated town.
However, for those who did work to the guild’s standards, the group would offer great help and support. In particular, guilds would look after members should they fall ill and would also help their families if they passed away.
Apprentices could be hired by guild members from the age of 12 and would be taught in exchange for a fee from the boy’s parents. Training was expensive could take up to 14 years, during which they would be expected to live with their master. During training, apprentices were also unable to marry and banned from visiting inns.
Once an apprenticeship was complete, the boy would become a journeyman and could begin earning money for their craft. Once enough money was saved, they were then allowed to start their own business as part of the guild.
To ensure the high standards of guilds benefited local people, only guild members were allowed to sell within a town. However, on market days it was possible for anyone to sell their goods, regardless of their skill or membership.
See also: Medieval Towns
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