”I Robert Burton, tyler of London, beynge syke of boddy, bequeve my sole into the handes of Almyghtie Gode, to Our Lady Saynt Marie ande to all the company of heven, and my body to be buried in the churcherd of Saynt Butulph, in the Aley where the procession enthrethe. I bequeve unto Elsabethe Hilley, my coson, my howse that is standynge in Bysshops-burton, in the weste ende of the towne, and also the rent that is behynnd for 4 yeres. I bequeve to the wardens of my company for theire paynes commynge to my burying 10s. I bequeve to the Fraternite of the Trinityt 20d. I bequeve to my prentesys, theare yeres beynge expired, all my toolis that pertaynethe unto my occupation to be eqall devyded by the discrescion of my wyff and my overseer. All the reasedue of my goodes, I beynge honestly buried, I bequeve to Alis, my wiff, and makinge her full executrix. Ande I make my overseer of this my will Williams … and for his paynstakyn I doo gyve unto hum my second best gowene.”
The process of consolidation during this period was only gradual, no doubt because, although the use of tiles within the area of the City and its suburbs was more or less the rule by this time, the use of bricks while increasing was still comparatively rare. The variety of brick buildings is illustrated by Sutton House in Hackney, built of brick in 1535 and which with later alterations still survives in the care of the National Trust and is the oldest house in London’s East End. When this house was sold in 1550 it was described as “now called the Bryke Place”. The author of a recent article on the house, Anthony Woodward, remarks that this shows just how conspicuous was a house built of bricks among the mud and wattle buildings of Hackney in the mid 16th century.
However slow the process of consolidations may have been, in three successive years – 1568, 1569 and 1570 – the Company took three steps which showed a determination to play a greater role among the building craft Livery Companies. First, in 1568 it obtained its first Charter, which like all charters of this date was one of incorporation. The time was clearly ripe for this outburst of activity, for while the celebration of centenaries may not have been a Tudor habit, the fact that it was just one hundred years after the final restoration of the Company’s franchises in 1468 is surely no coincidence.
There were subsequent charters, but these were of no importance, that of 1605 because it was merely an inspeximus Charter to confirm that of 1568, following the accession of James I, that of 1685 because it was subsequently annulled, and that of 1938 because it did no more than increase the limit to the value of land which could be held without licence in Mortemain which now serves no purpose since the law of Mortemaine has now been abolished. That of 1568 is therefore of unique importance because it remains the Company’s only acting charter and therefore together with the Ordinances of 1570 the Foundation on which the Company’s constitution is based. The following précis of the Charter is taken from the translation from the original Latin made by Dr A.H. Thomas, Deputy Keeper of the City Records in 1938, and apart from the omission of nearly half of the words as tautologous, and the division of the remainder into numbered paragraphs, no alterations have been made: