Article Index

The remedy prescribed is set out in the following terms:

“That all and every Person or Persons which hereafter shall use the Occupation of making any such tile as before is said, shall make it good, seasonable, able and sufficient, and well whiter and annealed; And that the earth whereof any such Tile shall be made, shall be digged and cast up before the first day of November next before that they shall be made, and that the same Earth by stirred and turned before the first day of February then next following the same digging and casting up , and not wrought before the first day of March next following; And that the same earth before it be put to making of Tile, be truly wrought and tried from stones; and also that the Veins called Malm or Marle, and Chalke, lying commonly in the ground near the Land to make Tile of, after the digging of the said Earth whereof any such Tile shall be made, shall be well, lawfully and truly severed and cast from the said Earth whereof any such Tile shall be made.”

There then follow provisions for prescribing the dimensions of various types of roof tile, for imposing and collecting penalties for selling defective tiles through the courts, and for the recovery of legal costs, for Justices of the Peace to have jurisdiction over such matters with power to impose fines, for appointing persons ”having the best experience and knowledge in the occupation of making of tile”, as “searchers” to present offenders to the Justices , and finally for the Justices to enquire into the defaults of the Searchers. All in all it seems a very comprehensive set of regulations.

A number of points are worth considering with regard to the Statute. First, although no doubt there must have been facilities for those conscious of the fact that they were deemed to know the law, to have handwritten copies of Statutes taken from the handwritten Parliamentary roll, one stands in some awe of the difficulties involved in enforcement. However, one aspect of the coming changes referred to above was about to take effect, because in this very year 1477 Caxton set up, within a few hundred yards of the building in which Lords and Commoners assembled, the first printing press in England, and within a few years the first unofficial printed collections of Statutes would appear - there would only be unofficial ones for another 300 years. Secondly it is not clear to what extent the Statute was effectively enforced , although it remained technically in force until repealed in 1856. Thirdly the Company had no specific role to play under the Statute although its members could of course be appointed as searchers in London. Fourthly the Company would continue to have a parallel jurisdiction under its own ordinances within the City of London and its suburbs. Lastly the Statute did not apply to bricks, although the Company’s own ordinances would give it power in relation to their manufacture, and when a statute was finally enacted to apply the 1477 Statute to bricks that would not be until 1724, and it would not only confer statutory powers on the Company so far as London was concerned but would also serve speedily to bring the final failure of the Company’s attempts to control its own craft.