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[Newspaper cutting , source unknown, c.1900]

Quite unexpectedly the Joiners' Company has regained possession of its valuable corporate seal. It appears that the seal had been missing for over three-quarters of a century (1819), and that for a long while its former possession was entirely lost sight of. The seal dates back to the year 1571, and was evidently made immediately after the grant of the charter. That event took place on April 14th, 1571, the ratification occurring on the following July 20th. It is interesting to learn something of the history of the seal itself.

Seal of the Joiners' Company
Ancient Seal of the Joiners' Company.

The first mention of the seal is in the charter, where the following passage occurs: "And that the same Master, Wardens, and commonalty may have succession perpetual and comon seale (comune sigillium) for to serve for the business of the said Master, Wardens, and commonalty." It is next mentioned in the grant of arms to the Company, where, after the usual preamble, it is said: "And whereas yt has pleased the Quenes most excellent majestie in the XIII yere of her reigne to incorporate the Company of Joyners by the name of Maister, wardens, and comonaltie, by vertue of whiche corporation they are allowed one comon seale to use afficiate their necessary affaires whereupon they have required me, the said Clarencieux, to devise ordeyne and assyne unto and for them such armes and creaste as theye maye lawfully beare whereupon consideringe their requeste to be resonable and also at the instant requeste of Lewis Stockett esquier surveyor generall of all her ma'tres wourkes at this present Maister Thomas Lovell gentilman and John Mason wardens of the saide arte or mistery I have devised &c., &s." On a feoffment deed dated January 21st, 1577, an excellent impress of the seal appears for the first time. It is shown, too, on another deed of August 22nd, 1611, and on another of December 11th, 1619. In the renter warden's accounts, 1624, this entry occurs: "Paid unto Mr. Rochdale, which was borrowed of him by bond under the seale of the company, £10 (part of £40)"; and in an inventory which was taken of the Company's goods, &c., in 1642, mention is made of "the seale of the house." Further allusion is made to it in a minute of the company of August 5th, 1684, viz: "Ordered that the seale of this Company be put into the chest under the three keyes and three lockes, and not to be taken out but by consent of the full Court." At this Court, by the way, was "sealed a lease to Mr. Edward Bayley of the house he dwells in Thames street, on the west side of Fryers-lane, for twenty-one years."

The circumstances under which this valuable seal has been restored to the company are distinctly interesting. In looking over a cabinet containing a collection of seals secured by his father, Alderman Sir Joseph Dimsdale came across the missing property. Quite by accident he heard shortly afterwards that the Joiners' Company, in the course of an examination of the ancient muniments, had discovered the loss sustained. The last mention made of the seal was, it seems, in an inventory of the Company's property in 1819. The investigating committee (Mr. Henry Laverock Phillips and Mr. Henry Phillips) found the impress of the seal amongst the deeds, and it was noticed that the legend around it differed from the one appearing on the seal in use at the present time. A search was made without success for the matrix, the question naturally then arising as to what had become of the Company's property. On Sir Joseph ascertaining the facts he at once handsomely presented the seal to the Company, enclosing it in a fine case, and accompanying it with a replica in lead of the obverse, so that both the seal itself and the reverse—the latter a very chaste piece of workmanship designed on the hinge principle, and with the Tudor rose engraved upon it—might be presented to view at the same time. The Company has since presented Sir Joseph with an emblazoned and framed vote of thanks, bearing at the foot the impress of the seal, this being the first use to be made of the restored property.

Without attempting in any way to give a history of the Company—which, by the way, is most unique in its constitution, from the fact that the Livery, and not the Court, exercise full control over the administration—it may be of interest to refer briefly to its association with the trade. At one time the Company exercised an active control over the trade, and its Master and Wardens were given full power to search for workmanship that failed to pass the customary standard, and to condemn and seize the same. Probably to this fact the guild owes as its motto on the seal the phrase, "God grant us to use justice with mercy," the Master and Wardens being thus enjoined to fulfil their duties with kindness, tempered with strictness. It is said that this ancient custom of search ceased about the year 1747. Since then, consequently, the trade has enjoyed absolute freedom, and the members of the guild no longer have a voice as regards the workmanship of the craft. At the same time, the Company maintains its association with the trade by co-operating with the Carpenters' Company in the classes and examinations held at the Great Titchfield-street Schools, and the Carpenters' Hall, London-wall. Further, an exhibition is held periodically at Carpenters' Hall, valuable prizes being given. In this connection it is of interest to know that in the course of the recent examination of the company's muniments it was ascertained that the charter of incorporation makes use of the words, "Junctorum et Celutorum," the literal translation of which is "Joiners and Carvers," showing that at one time the Company was closely identified with the art of carving. The members, in fact, exercised a very close supervision over those who practised that calling. Whether or not the famous Grinling Gibbons was a joiner cannot be said, but it is a fact that included amongst the members in past ages were not a few of the most celebrated wood carvers. Indeed, the greater part of the beautiful carving at Hampton Court Palace is the work of one Richard Rydge, who, in his day and generation, took an active interest in the good government of the guild. Another well-known member was Richard Saunders, who carved the present Guildhall giants. In view of the discovery the Company has decided to offer a medal and prizes for carving at the forthcoming exhibition in June, 1901.

We are indebted to the Court of Assistants for the special favour of viewing the seal, and for the use of the accompanying photograph, which was taken by Mr. Henry Laverock Phillips, a member of the Court.