The Company is probably unique among the older Livery Companies in that it currently supports a multiplicity of crafts – no fewer than three, and some with sub-groups. Bricklaying, roof tiling & slating (and the purists might well say that is two separate crafts) and ceramic wall & floor tiling are the major areas of interest. The latter category also includes mosaic tiling.
Historically bricklaying was pre-eminent among these crafts being the one that produced the larger volume of work. Roof tiling was something of a luxury in the early days with thatch perhaps being more used within the Square Mile on houses. It has been suggested that the reference to tiling relates to Mathematical Tiles rather that roof tiles but this is not likely to be the case as these elements were introduced only in the 18th century.
Mathematical tiles have been part of Britain's architectural heritage since the early 1700's. They were probably first introduced to update and make weathertight old timber framed buildings and there are many buildings with tile facades still in existence, particularly in the counties of Sussex and Kent, where one can see a variety of tiles including red, multi-red, black glazed and white. Mathematical tiles are not always easy to recognise and are often mistaken for conventional brickwork.
Our interest extends to:
• The encouragement of high quality workmanship in each of these crafts in the built environment.
• The training of future generations of craftsmen
• The informing of members of the Company and others about the mysteries of the crafts.
The encouragement of fine workmanship is manifested in our Triennial Awards (last made in 2008) the recent winners of which are illustrated elsewhere on the website. These prestigious awards which see certificates presented to the building owner, architect and specialist (and frequently general) contractors and a silver medal presented to the Foreman Craftsman responsible for the execution of the work
Our interest in training revolves around the construction skills competition held annually at SKILLBUILD. This event covers a wide range of construction crafts with the finalists being drawn from regional competitions around the country. Each competitor is given a proscribed time in which to complete a specific piece of work with the results being assessed by noted experts in the fields concerned. Whatever prizes are won at the competition, the winners in our three crafts are invited with their College tutors to the Company’s March Court Lunch in London to receive their cash prizes, certificates and Silver medals from the Master or a distinguished guest.
Through our collaboration with the Royal School of Military Engineering we also make awards (cash prizes, certificates and medals) to best Class 1 and Class 2 Bricklayers at the school. They too attend the awards Lunch in March.
The means by which the Craft Committee seeks to inform members of the Company about the crafts include an annual craft event. This might take the form of a lecture by an expert in the field, a visit to a recently completed or historic building or to such venues as the Welsh Slate Quarry in North Wales (2009) or the Jackfield Tile Museum which forms part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire (2010).
The Company takes up such opportunities as are available to demonstrate the crafts to the wider public. In the past two years we have participated in Cheapside Day (2008) and the 800th Anniversary Fair on London Bridge (2009). On both these days we arranged demonstrations of bricklaying encouraging spectators of all ages to ‘have a go’. In 2009 we also arranged a display of the manufacture (by hand) of roof tiling components – finials, ridge cappings etc.
It is hoped that this section of the Company’s website will expand over time to show a wide range of activities. It is also hoped that many of those Liverymen who have specialist craft skills will give of their knowledge to make the site a ‘must visit’ destination for those seeking information of the Company crafts.