The Guilds



Many towns began as marketplaces where local farmers took surplus food to sell.  As time went on, traders set up shops there, and craftsmen started up small industries.  People of the same trade tended to live in the same street, which is why we still have streets with names such as Baker Street and Goldsmiths' Lane.

Traders formed clubs called guilds.  The guilds made sure that their products were well made and that the traders charged fair prices.  They also looked after members who had fallen on hard times.

A young person who wanted to learn a trade became an apprentice with a master craftsman.  The child worked for the master, and the master gave the apprentice 'clothes, bedding, food and beatings'.  After seven years, the youth became a skilled employee, called a journeyman (because he was paid by the day – in French, par journée).  After many years, the journeyman submitted a special piece of his work (called his masterpiece) to the guild.  If the guild members thought it was good enough, they would accept him as a master craftsman, and he could set up his own business.


Study this webpage, then answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


In the Middle Ages, the English wool trade boomed; wool from English sheep, reared on rich English grass, was of high quality and much in demand in Europe.  England's wealth was based on the wool trade.


The following websites will help you research further:


Medieval economy:

• KS3 BBC Bitesize on Britain's medieval economy  


History Learning Site on Guilds 

• Some detail on wool  


• Mr Zoller on: medieval trade and medieval guilds






5  Guild rules and activities

Guilds undertook a number of activities on behalf of their members, but they also imposed rules, such as:

a.  They made sure that no craftsman worked at night, by candlelight.

b.  They made sure that no trader charged too little.

c.  They made sure that no trader charged too much.

d.  They made sure that goods made by their members were of good quality.

e.  They examined a man's masterpiece before they let him set up in business.

f.  They helped members who were ill, old or poor.

g.  They made rules about how an apprentice had to be trained.

h.  They made sure that no craftsman took on too many apprentices.

i.   They punished members who broke the rules.

j.   They put on miracle plays and pageants.