With the political vicissitudes of the 17th century and the Settlements of 1688 behind them, the members of the Company might well have hoped that the 18th century which lay ahead would bring calmer waters in the political avenue and greater prosperity for the Company. So far as the former was concerned they would prove to be justified in their hopes, but so far as the latter was concerned they would be sadly disappointed, for the new century would bring only financial decline accompanied in the first half of the century by the total loss of the Company’s control of the craft, and in the second half of the century by the loss of their Hall. This gloomy picture is relieved only in the middle of the century by the election of the Company’s only three Aldermen, two of whom became Lord Mayor and the third of whom became Sheriff. We will consider separately in chronological order the courses of these three elements in the Company’s history during this period.
I. THE LOSS OF CONTROL OVER THE CRAFT:
Most of the Livery Companies were to lose control of their craft during the 18th century, the underlying cause being the ever increasing size of the cities of London and Westminster and their suburbs and therefore the size of the area over which the control had to be exercised, together with the increasing resistance to control by craftsmen in the suburbs who were strangers to the customs of the City of London. In the case of the Building Craft Companies another underlying cause was the influx of “foreign” labour allowed in the City following the Great Fire, after which it inevitably became difficult to return to the status quo. In the case of the Tylers and Bricklayers’ Company there were two further underlying causes for their loss of control, namely the 15 mile radius for their powers of search, which, as we have already noticed, was considerably larger than that of most Companies including all the other Building Craft Companies, and secondly the Company’s comparatively modest financial resources which appear always to have been strained by its attempts to control the craft especially in the area of tile and brick and lime searches. Those who have any knowledge of the failure of the Company’ attempts to control the quality of bricks at this time usually associate it with something called “Spanish” and a somewhat alien architect called Batly Langley. Certainly their work and their name must have come to haunt Tylers and Bricklayers of the period, and their place in the Company’s history must be considered in some detail. Christopher Wren apparently commented that “the earth around London, rightly managed, will yield as good brick as were the Roman bricks … (which) will endure in our air beyond any stone our island affords”. In due course no doubt brick would in any event have become the most common building material in London, but as we have seen the process was greatly accelerated by the Great Fire and the principal type of brick after the fire was the London Stock. The term “stock” originally referred to bricks made with the
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