|New powers for the Wheelwrights
The new bye-laws empowered the Court of Assistants to visit the house, shop or warehouse of any wheelwright and to search the premises to ensure that wheels were made of good materials and properly constructed. These "Searches" as they were called did not always go smoothly. An old report reads as follows:
Some fairly rich 17th Century language was no doubt used but Mr. Girdler had met his match. The report continues:
A typical wheelwright's shop of the 17th Century would have comprised a Master Wheelwright, who would be a member of the Company, several journeymen and half a dozen apprentices.
From the outset women were admitted to the Freedom of the Company. Some were widows of wheelwrights who carried on the trade of their late husbands, others were admitted as apprentices and some by patrimony. One of the earliest entries in the minute books is that of 27th May 1670 which states:
However, the wheelwrights trade in the 17th and early 18th Centuries was one which, whilst requiring great skill, needed, like the blacksmiths trade, a powerful physique and brawny arms. Probably it never provided a lavish lifestyle and the problem of raising funds to meet Company commitments has been a recurring theme for successive Masters.