Arras: The Charter of the Shearers, 1236
The woolen industry in Flanders more nearly approximated, from the thirteenth
century onward, the organization of the Florentine Arti. The drapers or wholesale
clothiers dominated all the gilds engaged in the manufacture of woolen cloth, furnishing
them with supplies of materials, and disposing of the finished product. Among those under
the control of the drapers were the master shearers, an example of whose gild regulations
for the city of Arras is given below.
Here is the Shearers' Charter, on which they were first founded. This is the first
ordinance of the shearers, who were founded in the name of the Fraternity of God and St.
Julien, with the agreement and consent of those who were at the time mayor and aldermen.
1. Whoever would engage in the trade of a shearer shall be in the Confraternity of
St. Julien, and shall pay all the dues, and observe the decrees made by the brethren.
2. That is to say: first, that whoever is a master shearer shall pay 14 solidi to
the Fraternity. And there may not be more than one master shearer working in a house. And
he shall be a master shearer all the year, and have arms for the need of the town.
3. And a journeyman shall pay 5 solidi to the Fraternity.
4. And whoever wishes to learn the trade shall be the son of a burgess or he shall
live in the town for a year and a day; and he shall serve three years to learn this trade.
5. And he shall give to his master 3 muids for his bed and board; and he ought to
bring the first muid to his master at the beginning of his apprenticeship, and another
muid a year from that day, and a third muid at the beginning of the third year.
6. And no one may be a master of this trade of shearer if he has not lived a year
and a day in the town, in order that it may be known whether or not he comes from a good
8. And if masters, or journeymen, or apprentices, stay in the town to do their work
they owe 40 solidi, if they have done this without the permission of the aldermen of
9. And whoever does work on Saturday afternoon, or on the Eve of the Feast of Our
Lady, or after Vespers on the Eve of the Feast of St. Julien, and completes the day by
working, shall pay, if he be a master, I2 denarii, and if he be a journeyman, 6 denarii.
And whoever works in the four days of Christmas, or in the eight days of Easter, or in the
eight days of Pentecost, owes 5 solidi.
11. And an apprentice owes to the Fraternity for his apprenticeship 5 solidi.
12. And whoever puts the cloth of another in pledge shall pay 10 solidi to the
Fraternity, and he shall not work at the trade for a year and a day.
13. And whoever does work in defiance of the mayor and aldermen shall pay 5 solidi.
14. And if a master flee outside the town with another's cloth and a journeyman
aids him to flee, if he does not tell the mayor and aldermen, the master shall pay 20
solidi to the Fraternity and the journeyman 10 solidi: and they shall not work at the
trade for a year and a day.
16. And those who are fed at the expense of the city shall be put to work first.
And he who slights them for strangers owes 5 solidi: but if the stranger be put to work he
cannot be removed as long as the master wishes to keep him.... And when a master does not
work hard he pays 5 solidi, and a journeyman 2 solidi.
18. And after the half year the mayor and aldermen shall fix such wages as he
ought to have.
19. And whatever journeyman shall carry off from his master, or from his fellow
man, or from a burgess of the town, anything for which complaint is made, shall pay 5
20. And whoever maligns the mayor and aldermen, that is while on the business of
the Fraternity, shall pay 5 solidi.
22. And no one who is not a shearer may be a master, in order that the work may be
done in the best way, and no draper may cut cloth in his house, if it be not his own work,
except he be a shearer, because drapers cannot be masters.
23. And if a draper or a merchant has work to do in his house, he may take such
workmen as he wishes into his house, so long as the work be done in his house. And he who
infringes this shall give 5 solidi to the Fraternity.
25. And each master ought to have his arms when he is summoned. And if he has not
he should pay 20 solidi.
26-30. [Other army regulations.]
31. And whatever brother has finished cloth in his house and does not inform the
mayor and aldermen, and it be found in his house, whatever he may say, shall forfeit 10
solidi to the Fraternity.
32. And if a master does not give a journeyman such wage as is his due, then he
shall pay 5 solidi.
33. And he who overlooks the forfeits of this Fraternity, if he does not wish to
pay them when the mayor and aldermen summon him either for the army or the district, then
he owes 10 solidi, and he
shall not work at the trade until he has paid. Every forfeit of 5 solidi, and the fines
which the mayor and aldermen command, shall be written down. All the fines of the
Fraternity ought to go for the purchase of arms and for the needs of the Fraternity.
34. And whatever brother of this Fraternity shall betray his confrere for others
shall not work at the trade for a year and a day.
35. And whatever brother of this Fraternity perjures himself shall not work at the
trade for forty days. And if he does so he shall pay 10 solidi if he be a master, but if
he be a journeyman let him pay 5 solidi.
36. And should a master of this Fraternity die and leave a male heir he may learn
the trade anywhere where there is no apprentice.
37. And no apprentice shall cut to the selvage for half a year, and this is to
obtain good work. And no master or journeyman may cut by himself because no one can
measure cloth well alone. And whoever infringes this rule shall pay 5 solidi to the
Fraternity for each offense.
38. Any brother whatsoever who lays hands on, or does wrong to, the mayor and
aldermen of this Fraternity, as long as they work for the city and the Fraternity, shall
not work at his trade in the city for a year and a day. And if he should do so, let him be
banished from the town for a year and a day, saving the appeal to Monseigneur the King and
39. And the brethren of this Fraternity, and the mayor and aldermen shall not
forbid any brother to give law and do right and justice to all when it is demanded of
them, or when some one claims from them. And he who infringes this shall not have the help
of the aldermen at all.
From: G. Espinas & H. Pirenne, eds., Recueil de Documents Relatifs a I'Histoire
de l'Industrie Drapiere en Flandres, (Brussels: Academie Royale de Belgique, 1906),
Tome I, pp. 219-223, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book
for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint
ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 249-252.
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