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WILLIAM WICKHAM GREENHILL, Esq. Lewisham.
THOMAS HODGKINSON, Esq. Lieut. R.N., Wimpole Street.
I HAVE endeavoured in the following pages to comply with a desire expressed by the Court of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, by compiling, from their own Records and other authentic sources of information, some account of that ancient fraternity.
A very general investigation of the Company's archives between the years 1838 and 1844 had made me familiar with the subject ; but the more onerous task of preparing from these documents a work for the press, with such notes and illustrations as the several matters brought under review might require, seemed to me to demand a degree of literary acquirements to which I could make no pretensions : and this circumstance should perhaps have suggested the more prudent course of declining the responsibility of such an undertaking.
It is only within the last fifty years that this portion of archæology has been at all explored. Malcolm transcribed from the Ironmongers' books many interesting particulars, which appeared in the second volume of his Londinium Redivivum, published in 1803 ; but the first regular history of a Company was that of the Grocers, by John Benjamin Heath, Esq. F.S.A., which was privately printed in 1829. This was followed by Mr. Herbert's History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies, a work containing a
large amount of information, and which might have been rendered more accurate and complete could he have had constant and unrestricted access to the original documents which it was necessary to consult. In 1844 the Fishmongers' Pageant of the year 1616 was re-edited at the expense of that Company, with fac-simile copies of the original designs, accompanied by an historical introduction and various illustrative documents by John Gough Nichols, Esq. F.S.A. In 1818 Mr. Firth of the Town Clerk's Office printed a short history of the Coopers' Company, entitled, “Historical Memoranda, Charters, Documents, and Extracts from the Records of the Corporation and the Books of the Company," a very able performanée : and in the latter part of the same year Mr. Edward Basil Jupp produced his History of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, a work containing much curious information, as well as an account of the ancient paintings which had been recently discovered in the repairs of the Carpenters' Hall.
The History of the Ironmongers' Company now added to this series, will scarcely, I am afraid, rank with its predecessors either in arrangement or execution. I am therefore anxious to bespeak for it that indulgence which is in charity generally accorded to a first literary attempt.
In the introductory portion I have thought it sufficient to notice only very briefly the origin and antiquity of the Guilds of this country, their history being accessible to all in the pages of several of our best writers on the AngloSaxon period.
My object throughout the work has been to draw as largely as possible from the records of the Company, being of opinion that these civic histories derive their chief interest in their contemporaneous illustrations of former ages, and in the amount of historical transcripts which they present for perusal.
I have in most instances retained the orthography of the period, rather than lessen the force and originality of the various extracts by rendering them in the more flowing and easy diction of our own times.
Whoso shall tell a tale after a man
My grateful acknowledgments are due to several friends from whom I have received assistance in the preparation of this volume.
To John Gough NICHOLS, Esq. F.S.A. I am particularly indebted for allowing me at all times the advantage of his varied acquirements and great experience, and for the contribution of several notes.
To the Rev. Dr. BANDINEL, the learned keeper of the Bodleian Library, for his politeness in obtaining for me a literal transcript of Taubman's pageant for the mayoralty of Sir Robert Gefferys in 1685.
To ALBERT WAY, Esq. F.S.A. I am much indebted for several obliging communications; and to GEORGE RUSSELL FRENCH, Esq. for some very able and critical remarks on the architecture of the Elizabethan period.
I am desirous also to express my acknowledgments to JAMES F. FIRTH, Esq. of the Town Clerk's Office, and to RICHARD THOMSON, Esq. of the London Institution, for many civilities, and for the readiness with which at all times they have allowed me to consult the books and documents in their custody.