Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg
The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers

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Cordwainers Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms, The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers: " 'Asure, a cheveron gold between three goats' heads rased silver, horned and bearded of the chevron, and to the crest upon the healme, a wreath of gold and asure, a goat head rased silver, the rasures gules, the horns wreather gold and asure, mantled gules, dobled silver.' "

The cordwainers were a guild (gylde) that received their Ordinances from King Henry III in 1272, and their Royal Charter from King Henry VI in 1439.

Masters (as opposed to apprentices) gained a degree of protection and security by being members of a guild as a Royal Charter conferred legal perpetuity to guilds, thus the guild member freedoms were more permanent. Guilds had a right to hold land and property.

Every guild focused upon a "mistery" (an archaic word meaning a "metier" or "craft" or a trade). Often each guild was located on a particular street in London. Thus:
  1. Bakers: Bread Street
  2. Basket makers: Pudding Lane
  3. Drapers: Candlewick
  4. Cordwainers: Canon Street
  5. Ffanmakers: Ffan Street
Cordwain has its entymological origin from "cordwan", meaning goatskin leather from Cordova, Spain. Cordova was then under the Omeyyad Califs. Cordwainers made shoes, and the color of these leather shoes conferred status or defined identity. During the early period of English history, most people walked barefoot.
  1. Ladies: White
  2. Citizens: Black
  3. Senators: Red
  4. Emperor: Bejeweled
The Cordwainers were located at Cordwanestrate, Londinium during the 13th century, or at the Cordwainers Stret ward at a "selds" (buildings). Cordwainers got their leather at the Leadenhall Market. Master cordwainers evolved into traders or capitalists, and after a time were effectively divorced in reality from shoe making.

Guilds were a device to limit competition. Guilds effectively could search and inspect makers or traders in competing products, and seize and destroy "substandard" wares. A method had to be devised to identify who these "policing inspectors" were, that had the right to seize and destroy "substandard" wares. Guild members were assigned color coded clothes or "livery", thus could be identified. As could be anticipated, such policing and seizure and destruction of goods led to violence.
By 1812, the first cordwainer (shoe) factory was founded at the Battersea Boot Factory.

Interesting images:
  1. Click to see Cordonniers: Rouen, 14th Century
  2. Click to see Cordwainers' Shoes: Medieval
  3. Click to see Shoemaker in Covered Market
  4. Click to see Shoemaker Shop: 16th Century
  5. Click to see Boot (Turn-down top style): 1640
  6. Click to see Men's Shoes: 1710-1720
  7. Click to see Ladies Kid Boots: 1851
  8. Click to see the "Whiffler"
  9. Click to see the "Greenwood Men"

Why all this bother with livery gylds (guilds) and fraternities? There are two primary reasons to this study. Ffans (the second most importnt interest) are important in Rennaisance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic period arts. Not only in music and dance, but costume and all the other arts. However, as should be very clear, there are sociological reasons too. Ffans were expensive! Ffans could contain diamonds, and be costly due to the labour involved in creating these toys. The poverty stricken could hardly dream of such toys. The poverty stricken had difficulty affording shoes, going barefoot not as a matter of aesthetics. Had the worthy aristocrats any compassion, they should have been able to see over their fans. Had these aristocrats been earning their keep, they might have viewed the arrival of the French Revolution. Recall, all gylds ceased to exist after 1789.


  1. Hazlitt, W. Carew; "The Livery Companies of the City of London: Their Origin, Character, Development, and Social and Political Importance"
  2. Lang, Jennifer; "The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers: 1439-1979"


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