the Carpenters, Masons, Plasterers and Joiners as well as our own. The Brickaxe is a bricklayer’s tool which continued in use until the 19th century. The ‘Brush’ is not quite so clear in its significance, but it is a heraldic device which has been used to represent literally a brush or sometimes a bundle of laths or faggots: here it must surely represent a bundle of laths to represent the roof tilers craft.
There remains the one device in the Company’s Arms which is unlikely to have been used without a definite significance, but the significance of which in this case is not obvious. Because it may point to the Company originated as a religious fraternity or having had an association with such a fraternity, that question has been postponed until now so that both problems could be dealt with together.
As long ago as 1960 John Bromley, the Deputy Librarian at the Guildhall Library, in his book “The Armorial Bearings of the Guilds of London” suggested that the fleur-de-lys in the Company’s arms might point to the Company’s early existence as a fraternity with vows to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nothing further having come to light in the thirty five years or so that have passed since then it seems time to try and examine Bromley’s suggestion further, and for lack of any other available evidence, to do so by considering the problem posed by the Company’s Armorial Bearings in relation to those of the other Livery Companies.
The science of heraldry having been invented in the 13th century, as a means of enabling knights to identify each other on the battlefield, by selecting and arranging devices called “Charges” on shields and as crests on helmets, its extension to unincorporated and incorporated might seem unlikely, but it happened nevertheless. Some guilds that later became Liver Companies adopted unauthorised armorial bearings and continued to use them without a formal grant from the College of Arms, and the senior Livery Company of all, the Mercers, did not until 1929 obtain a grant for the arms they had used for several hundred years. However, the first known grant to a Livery Company was to the Drapers in 1438, and there were 25 more before 1500 and another eleven before 1569, making that to the Tylers and Bricklayers in that year probably the thirty seventh, the correspondence to the Company’s number ihn the order of precedence being no more than a coincidence.
The respective dates of grants of arms of the other Building Craft Companies are as follows:
the Carpenters (11th) 1461. the Masons (15th) 1472, the Painters (22nd) 1486, the Plaisterers
(1545, the Tylers and Bricklayers (37th) 1569, the Joiners 1570, the Plumbers 1588, and the
Glaziers 1929 although their Arms had been in use since the middle of the 16th century.
These dates are significant to the extent to which they fall before or after 1534, the date of
Henry VIII’s Act of Supremecy which marks the final break with Rome. Thereafter all
religious fraternities were likely to feel the burden of Royal disapproval and investigation
so that symbols of religious significance in Armorial bearings thereafter became less
obvious , and in some cases Companies obtained fresh grants of arms omitting religious
symbols appearing in earlier ones. The date 1534 is also significant in relation to the
wording of Charters of incorporation, in that before that date reference is often made to the
body being incorporated as being or having been a Religious Fraternity and thereafter this
appears seldom if ever to be the case.