News, humour and information for Brits worldwide!

British Expat Newsletter: November 2012

Hello, and welcome to those of you who have recently signed up.

In this issue

This month

Our latest eBook hit the virtual shelves mid-month. Again, it’s got an eBusiness theme – Kay and our pal Theodore Koukouvitis teamed up to write Snake Oil! How “Make Money Online” scams work …and how to avoid them. You wouldn’t believe (well, perhaps you might) just how many charlatans are parading their recipes for wealth on the Web, ready to ensnare the unwary newcomer who fancies a bit of extra cash but doesn’t know how to go about making it. It’s a multi-million dollar industry in itself, and it’s decidedly dodgy! Find out more – and arm yourself against the scammers – on our ErgoGuides website.

Those of you who are already overseas will know that choosing the best time to exchange large sums of money is a tricky business. Those of you who are still preparing for the move will soon find out when you come to set up home in your destination country. Fortunately, Ozforex have a great service to help track the movements of several major currencies. Check out their daily currency market commentary today!

Australia’s a popular choice among British would-be emigrants. But things have moved on since the days of the “£10 Pom” – and the Aussie government is a good deal pickier about who it allows to resettle in the Lucky Country. Dominic Higgins has written a handy quick guide to the hurdles you’ll need to jump over if you’re thinking of heading down under.

Staying in the Antipodes, our latest Pic of the Week is something pretty special – two faces, carved into a tree trunk by a Maori artist.

And we decided to base our latest Quick Quiz on the theme of this month’s newsletter – more below!

Editorial: Pewterers, plaisterers and pattenmakers

Think of guilds, and you probably think of mediæval trades – a world of apprentices, journeymen and masters, where initiation to the craft’s secrets was a lengthy process and those entrusted with them jealously guarded their skills and the right to ply them.

The guilds combined several functions, although the exact mix varied from guild to guild and over time. They were cartels, preventing anyone but their own members from engaging in the trade they controlled. They also provided at least the welfare functions of a trade union, ensuring that their members were supported in times of hardship. And, because they were allowed to operate by royal charter, they had to provide a useful function in return for their privileges – so they were both the enforcers of standards and the training bodies to ensure that their members met those standards.

Then they were all swept away by the rise of modern capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Or (as BBC presenter James Burke would have said) were they?

It might surprise you to know that several of Britain’s mediæval guilds are still thriving today, although most of them have a role that bears very little resemblance to their original functions. Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers, Sheffield’s Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire and The Incorporation of Hammermen of Edinburgh are just a few of the more famous examples.

But the most famous and elaborate system of guilds that still exists in the UK is, of course, the City of London’s Livery Companies. The names in the list of Livery Companies offer a fascinating insight into the evolution of the city’s economy through the ages.

The order of precedence doesn’t give an accurate picture, though, because it’s based on wealth and influence at the time the order was first drawn up in 1515. At the top of the list sit the “Great Twelve”:

  • Mercers (general merchants)
  • Grocers (originally “Grossers” – and, before that, Pepperers)
  • Drapers (wool and cloth)
  • Fishmongers
  • Goldsmiths
  • Skinners
  • Merchant Taylors (tailors)
  • Haberdashers
  • Salters (salt and chemical traders)
  • Ironmongers
  • Vintners
  • Clothworkers (amalgamation of Fullers and Shearmen)

The oldest company, the Worshipful Company of Weavers, only comes in at No.42 on the list. So you can see that by the end of the Middle Ages the weaving of cloth was less lucrative and deemed less important than the processing and refinement of the already woven cloth.

Not only that, but in 1515 there were 48 companies. The number continued to increase over the next 200 years, reaching 77 by the time the Worshipful Company of Fanmakers was incorporated in 1709. For the most part, precedence for the new companies has been determined by seniority, with the latest addition going at the bottom of the list.

But the creation of new companies and the granting of livery to them fell off markedly in the eighteenth century, with no new grants of livery between 1848 (Carmen – carters, in other words) and 1932 (Master Mariners). Master Mariners, uniquely, are an Honourable Company rather than a Worshipful one – King George V granted them the title in 1928.

Not all the 48 companies from the original list have made it through to the 21st century. The Woodmongers were defunct by the middle of the eighteenth century (which gave the Carmen their opportunity to bid for liveried status – previously the Woodmongers had claimed oversight of the carting trade). The Barbers merged with the Guild of Surgeons in 1540 to become the Company of Barber-Surgeons, but the Surgeons broke away in 1745 and eventually became the Royal College of Surgeons in 1800.

As you’d imagine, as other trades have declined in importance so their companies have changed in function. The Bowyers and Fletchers were obviously important at a time when archery was a crucial military skill, but even by 1515 they were relatively low in the pecking-order (they’re 38th and 39th in precedence). Both are now primarily charitable organisations, although the Bowyers have managed to retain a link with their historic trade by promoting the sport of archery.

The Gunmakers, on the other hand, come much lower down the list of precedence (they’re 73rd) but are still responsible for regulating the proofing of gun barrels. Meanwhile the Horners (54th) have expanded their range of materials to take in plastics, and the Fanmakers now deal with air conditioning!

In recent decades the number of new liveried companies has started to grow again – and the new companies reflect the business activities of the modern City of London. It looks rather odd to see the Worshipful Companies of Scriveners, Tallow Chandlers and Woolmen in the same list as the Worshipful Companies of World Traders (101st), Management Consultants (105th) and the latest in the list, Security Professionals!

Do you have anything comparable to the guild system in your part of the world? Why not tell us all about it on our discussion forum?

Do you miss the news from “back home”? Or does it warm the cockles of your heart to read about the old place and realise you’ve escaped from it? Either way, British Newspapers Online is the site for you – it’s the most comprehensive directory of the British press, with links to all the UK national newspapers and over 1,400 local and regional papers’ websites, so why not pop over and find your old local rag?
British Newspapers Online

Write for British Expat

Would you like to write for British Expat? Sorry, we don’t pay for articles but if you have a website we’ll link to it in the author’s blurb below any of your articles we publish. We use all sorts of content as long as it’s useful and/or interesting to our readership.

Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes – five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping – from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

Here’s a fun puzzle for you. Can you take a knight all over a chessboard, landing on every square exactly once? We both had a go – Kay managed to do it in 67 on her first attempt, Dave did slightly less well with 70. But it can be done in the minimum 63 moves – have a go!
BrainBashers: Knight’s Tour

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat – the definitive home for British expats

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