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Weights and measures

From its earliest days, the Company devoted much of its energies to seeking out and condemning examples of bad workmanship by founders that were likely to damage the reputation of the craft.

Under the Ordinances of 1365, the Master and Wardens were given powers of "search" for this purpose, reinforced by one of the Lord Mayor's Sergeants, and this jurisdiction extended not only to members of the guild, but to all who made or sold its products.

As trade expanded to meet new consumer demands, the quality and accuracy of the weights and measures supplied by founders assumed special importance, and this in due course provided the Company with a new and valuable source of income. It secured the right of"assizing" or "sizing" all small brass weights in the City and within a compass of three miles round it.

Under these powers, first recorded in a Corporation of London Order issued in 1587 and confirmed by the Royal Charter in 1614, the users of such weights were required to bring them to Founders' Hall where, on payment of a fee, they were "sized" or verified and stamped with the Company's mark. Those found wanting were defaced and their owners incurred fines.

The Company's right of "search" was maintained until well into Queen Victoria's reign, when public inspectors and local authorities eventually took over responsibility for weights and measures.

The "sizing" of weights at Founders' Hall continued, though on a rapidly declining scale, until it finally died out on the eve of the 1914-18 War. Successive Weights and Measures Acts gave legislative sanction to these changes, but they expressly acknowledged the rights inherent in the Founders' Company. The Court still elects two of its members annually as "Sizer" and "Searcher", though the functions are now purely nominal. 


A note on Wool Weights:

From the 16th century, the Founders' Company was one of the few bodies charged with the sizing and sealing of weights. The distinctive laver pot stamp mark of the Company proved verification by the Company's officers. Weights came in different forms and designs dependent upon the commodity in question, and here is an excellent example of a pair of wool weights bearing the company's mark. The weights were used by wool buying merchants who travelled from town to town with their weights slung by a leather strap over their horse's neck. Illustrated below is a typical Wool-Weight at the lower point Founders' stamp can clearly be seen, the Laver Pot.

With thanks to Mr Nicholas Somers, Past Master Turner, for the current loan of this fine George I Wool Weight.