History of the Company

Throughout the centuries, Craftsmen have joined together into Guilds, Fraternities, Mysteries or Companies to safeguard their crafts and the interests of their members.

The earliest mention of a Smith in Lichfield is to be found in the Great White Register of the Cathedral; an entry in 1177 refers to the shop of Tharold the Smith and another entry in 1259 refers to Walter Young the Goldsmith. References have been found elsewhere to Godfrey de Stafford, Goldsmith, 1267; John de Naseby, Bell founder on Greenhill, 1356; and Thomas de Hints, Smith, being granted lands in Wissage, Lichfield, in 1387.

Several Craft Companies were formed in Lichfield, but the city was not large enough for all the various branches of Smiths each to have a separate Company, so many different skills joined together to form this Company: Smiths, Goldsmiths, Cardmakers and Ironmongers, Pewterers and Braziers, Plumbers, Cutlers, Nailers and Spurriers.

During the reign of Edward III, 1327–1377, many guilds were recognized by the bestowal of Charter Rights. In London they became Livery Companies because of their distinctive dress.

However, by the fifteenth century many guilds were abusing their privileges and making unreasonable rules. Parliament sought to rectify this state of affairs in 1436 and again in 1503, when an Act was passed which required all guilds to have their Ordinances confirmed.

The Ordinances of our Company were confirmed in 1601 by the justices at the assizes in the town of Stafford and in the petition to have the Ordinances confirmed, the Company was referred to as ‘an Ancient Society’ with ‘acts and ordinances……some of them ancient and some of them new.’

It can, therefore, be presumed that the Worshipful Company of Smiths had been in existence long before 1601.

To become a Freeman a person was required either to have been apprentice to a Freeman for seven years or to be the eldest son of a  Freeman.  All Freemen of the Company were entitled to the freedom of the City and to become parliamentary voters.

But by the end of the nineteenth century it seems that membership of the Company had declined and by 1896 Mr. E. Gallimore and Mr. F. Marshall were the only remaining members. That is the year in which the last Annual General Meeting and the last Feast were recorded.

However, that was not to be the end of the Company. In 1943 William Gallimore, at the age of eighty three, exercised his right as the eldest son of a Freeman (George Gallimore) to apply for the Freedom of the Company. He appeared before the Mayor, Agnes Mary Thompson and the Town Clerk, Norman Arthur Ballard, took the Oath of Allegiance and was sworn a  Freeman of the Company.

And so the continuity of this ancient Company was assured and it has continued to grow to the present time.

The Badge of Office worn by the Master has a gold shield with a red chevron, part of the coat of arms of the City and the two heraldic leopards are a variant form of  the Lions of England. The Rowel, or spur, signifies the craft of the Smith and the Motto, ‘Concordia Fabri’ may be translated as ‘Craftsmen in  Fellowship’.

Today the Worshipful Company of Smiths seeks to encourage and recognize craftsmanship by admitting to membership those who are skilled in their craft as judged by their peers. It also seeks to honour those whose services to the City of Lichfield have been outstanding by making them Honorary Freemen.