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to the House of Commons from Francis Batty and other goldsmiths in Newcastle, supported by another petition from the Mayor, Aldermen, Sheriff, and Common Council. The petitioners state the inconvenience they suffer in being compelled to send their plate to York to be assayed, whereby, they say, they are in danger of losing the greatest part of their trade, which chiefly consists of plate bespoke to be wrought up in a short time, and they cannot have it returned from York in less than a fortnight's time. In consequence of these petitions a bill was prepared and passed, and received the royal assent on 30th March, 1702, reestablishing the assay office at Newcastle. This act sets forth that whereas in the town of Newcastle upon Tyne there is, and time out of mind hath been, an ancient company of goldsmiths, which, with their families, are like to be ruined' by the operation of the previous act, and their trade 'utterly lost in the said town; and whereas by the statute of the second of Henry the sixth, the town of Newcastle upon Tyne is one of the places appointed to have touches for wrought silver plate,' it was enacted that the town of Newcastle be appointed for the assaying and marking of wrought plate, to execute all the powers, authorities, and directions' conferred upon other towns and cities by the previous act, .as fully and amply to all intents, constructions, and purposes as if the said town had been expressly named in the said act.' The same act provides that the goldsmiths, silversmiths, and plateworkers who have served apprenticeships to these trades and are freemen of Newcastle shall be incorporated, and known as the Company of Goldsmiths of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The act further provides for the election of two wardens annually, for the appointment of an assay master, and states the marks which were to be impressed upon all plate assayed here.
The marks required at this time were, first, the maker's mark, which consisted of the first two letters of his surname ; second, the lion's head erased ; third, “the figure of a woman commonly called Britannia ;' fourth, the arms of the city or town where the plate was assayed ; and, lastly, a variable letter or mark to denote the year in which the assay was made.
It was during the interval between the suppression and reestablishment of the Newcastle assay that Morden Tower was partly rebuilt. The more modern part of the structure is of brick. Bourne, however, describes it as a beautiful hall.' The total cost of the new portion was £98 3s. 11d., of which £20 10s. was raised by 41 of the members subscribing ‘108. a man.' Amongst the subscribers are the following goldsmiths :-Francis Batty, Wm. Ramsay, jun., Thomas Hewitson, Eli Bilton, Robert Shrive, John Ramsay, Richard Hobbs, Thomas Leightley, Thomas Armstrong, and Roger West. The balance was raised by loan, which, however, was soon repaid out of the many fines which were being constantly imposed.
Although the Act of Parliament constituted the goldsmiths of Newcastle an independent corporation, they continned in association with the plumbers, pewterers, painters, and glaziers, with the exception of an interval from 1707 to 1711, till 1716, when they finally separated themselves. It must, however, be stated that during considerable portions of this period they held meetings independently of the rest of the company, formulated their own regulations, and kept their own minute books, which are perfectly complete from the establishment of the company in 1702 to the present time. .
The cost of procuring the Act of Parliament amounted to £69 14s. 9d., of which £30 was paid by the Plumbers' Company, £2 10s. by a silversmith who gave up business about the time of the passing of the act, and £37 5s. in five subscriptions of £7 9s. each by silversmiths then in business. The £30 contributed by the old society was raised by a loan of £20 from Richard Heppell, butcher, and by two fines of £5 each, one received from Eli Bilton and the other from John Ramsey.
Although the charter of 1536 requires the appointment of four wardens of the Plumbers' Company, one of whom was to be a goldsmith, no goldsmith was appointed during a very considerable period. The first list of wardens appointed occurs in the year 1599, when four were elected, of whom 'John baynes' was one. The next list occurs in 1610, when only two were appointed ; and though the usual practice was to elect three, after this date a goldsmith was not elected during the 17th century.
From 1702 till 1707, however, a goldsmith was regularly chosen one of the wardens of the old company. From June, 1707, till the
AND THE PLUMBERS' COMPANY.
end of 1711 the goldsmiths held themselves aloof from the plumbers, but on the 6th December, 1711, they were re-admitted by a resolution of the latter body. There was one member to whom this re-admission involved a hardship. This was Francis Batty the younger, who was admitted to the freedom of the Goldsmiths Company on the 29th November, 1708, and paid £4 for his freelege. When, however, three years later, the goldsmiths rejoined the plumbers, the latter would not recognize Batty's already acquired freedom, but demanded that he should take it up afresh amongst them. This cost him £4 15s. 9d. This, however, was not all. On 1st Sept., 1714, Batty took one Michael Jenkins, son of Henry Jenkins,' as apprentice. But no brother was allowed to take an apprentice till he had been three years free of the company. Batty had been nearly six years free of the goldsmiths, and wanted but three months to complete his three years amongst the plumbers. They, however, imposed their fine of £5, which he at first promised to pay, but deferred doing so from time to time, until, on the 6th Jan., 1715-16, the company ordered .yt the Stewards wth such other of the Company as they shall think fitt to call to their assistance do wth the Clerke of the Company attending them waite upon the Record' John Cuthberts esq" for his advice therein and do att the Companys charge take such immediate course for recovering of and compelling the saffran: Batty to pay the same as shall be thought most adviseable. On the 26th March the company commuted the penalty to £4, which Batty paid. The goldsmiths felt aggrieved, and not without reason. So availing themselves of the rights conferred upon them by their Act of Parliament, they left the plumbers finally. They thought, however, that they were still entitled to meet in the Morden Tower, and on the 9th September, 1717, they entered the following minute upon their records :
“This day the prsent wardens were ordered to make a demand of the Stewards of the Plumbers & Glaziers company to make use of the Hall formerly built att the charge of the Goldsmiths in conjuncon wth the strades, & a demand was accordingly made by MShaw of Jacob Watson, & the same was pposed to the s! company, but they refused to suffer the Hall to be made use of unless this Company would joyn wth them as formerly.'
The plumbers seem to have submitted the case to the then recorder of Newcastle, and (8th November, 1717) "upon reading and puseing the Recordis opinion, Its ordered that the Goldsmiths shall not have any liberty or be pmitted to meet or assemble in the hall of this company.'
•The recorder's opinion' is amongst the loose papers of the Plumbers' Company,
From this time to the present the goldsmiths have gone on the even tenor of their way, with no more exciting event in their history than an occasional parliamentary enquiry which threatened the extinction of their assay.
In the early part of 1773 the goldsmiths of Sheffield and Birmingham petitioned parliament for the establishment of assay offices in their respective towns. This raised opposition from the Goldsmiths Company of London, who suggested that great irregularities, if not frauds, were practised at the provincial balls. The Newcastle Company appealed to their representatives, Sir W. Blackett and M. Ridley, to watch and protect their interests. The replies of both members are preserved amongst the company's archives. Sir W. Blackett says :- The gout hath prevented me from attending the house for the last six days, and I fear I may be prevented for very many more days; but upon consultation with M: Ridley we cannot apprehend that the petitions from Birmingham & Sheffield
can possibly be productive of an attack upon the assay office at Newcastle ;
but however it may happen, the Goldsmith's company of Newcastle may depend upon all the assistance in Mr. Ridley's power and mine, • not only on account of their own honour and interest, but the interest and convenience of the public in that part of the kingdom.' Mr. Ridley states that a separate committee had been appointed to enquire into the alleged malpractices of provincial offices, and suggests that “perhaps the London Gent! may attempt to take away those assay offices already established.' He adds that a messenger from the House of Commons will be sent to Newcastle to serve the assay master, who I understand is Matt. Prior,' with a notice to attend the committee on the 22nd March. The committee ordered a return from each assay office giving the number and names of the members of its company, the names and trade of the wardens
COMMITTEE APPOINTED BY PARLIAMENT.
and assessor, an account when and before whom the assayer had been sworn, the names and places of abode of all persons who sent plate to be assayed, and the weight of all gold and silver plate assayed and marked during the past seven years, and of that which had been broken and defaced.
Matthew Prior posted to London, and was examined by the committee on the 22nd March. The same day Ridley wrote Messrs. Langlands and Kirkup, giving an account of Prior’s examination. I cannot resist the temptation to print his letter. .
Burlington Street, March 229 1773. • Sirs,
“I have the pleasure of acquainting you, that this day we got through Mr Prior's examination, wherein he acquitted himself with great precision & judgement, and the Committee came to a Resolution, "That the Assay office at Newcastle upon Tyne had been conducted with Fidelity & Skill.” Mr Prior was discharged from farther attendance, & will set forward on his return to Newcastle next Wednesday. I am very happy that we have got this matter well orer, notwithstanding the most violent opposition of the Goldsmiths of London.
I am, Srs Mr. John Langlands
Your most obedt servant, &
M. RIDLEY.' Mr. John Kirkup.'
Whilst before the committee Prior was asked if he knew whether his scales were good ones, and professed his conviction that they were remarkably true. What would cast them ? asked one of the committee. "Why, sir, they would be cast by one of the hairs from the back of my hand,' was Prior's reply. The total cost of his journey was £17 28., which was defrayed by the company. The following are the items as given in the year's accounts :
So well satisfied, however, was the company with the result that they gave Prior an additional five guineas ‘for his trouble in going to London on ye Assay office business.'
Before 1785 gold had not been assayed at Newcastle, at least in the 18th century, and probably not at all. The company, however,