Apprenticeship In England, 1600-1914 by Joan Lane

By Joan Lane

A social historical past of the altering fortunes of apprentices and the procedure of apprenticeship over 3 centuries of English historical past.

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Shoemaking was a suitable skill for a physically small or even disabled boy. Campbell had noted it as a trade that “does not require much Strength”4 and such apprentices were more likely to become literate since they might spend their leisure time in sedentary pursuits. Other occupations expressed high esteem of their own status often as their skills declined in value and the members nostalgically recalled an earlier golden age when times were prosperous and wages high. The Leicestershire framework knitters, for example, greatly impoverished by the nineteenth century, remembered the years before the Napoleonic Wars when “each had a garden, a barrel of home-brewed ale, a working suit of clothes and one for Sundays, and plenty of leisure, seldom working more than three days a week.

Josselin’s son “put on the blue apron” when bound,121 while other apprentices were recognizable by aprons of leather (blacksmiths, farriers, shoemakers) or distinctive fabrics when away from their masters’ shops (butchers, bakers, carpenters, watchmakers). The most accurate and immediate picture of apprentices’ dress, however, was when they absconded and their masters advertised for their return. Clothes were important for the runaways’ survival and most took their spare garments as they fled (Appendix 3).

116 Being well dressed was essential for apprentices who served the public in expensive or fashionable trades. 117 Collyer stressed the need for “cleanliness in his person and neatness in his dress, which seem to demand a suitable decorum of behaviour…and the advantages of dress are what he owes to others and not to himself ”,118 When John Coggs, a boy of means, was indentured to a London stationer in 1702 for seven years his mother and relations gave him money and clothes, a hat (7s 6d), wig (£1 2s), gloves (2s 4d), shoes (3s 6d) and 4½ yards of cloth (£2 5s).

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