‘Smith’ is a generic term covering a worker in any type of metal. ‘Blacksmith’ (meaning a general worker of iron) was not in use and first appears in print in 1376 (Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London, Letter Book D).

Aelfric, an 11th century cleric, mentions five types of smith: smiths (fabri or smithas), iron-smiths (ferrarii or isenesmithas), plus gold-, silver-, and bronze-smiths.

In London, England, it is possible to trace the growth of specialization by the increasing numbers of smiths guilds. They first appear on record in 1298, charged with illegally attempting to form a fraternity of sixteen men calling themselves ‘masters of the trades of smiths’ and included three cutlers and one bell-founder. At roughly the same time a group of spurriers was arrested on similar conspiracy charges. They included two rowel-makers, one spurrier and one harness-maker.

By 1300 in London there were six specialized branches of iron-smithing operating three organisations. By 1376 there were six iron-working guilds in existence, and these were the smiths (feveres), armourers, spurriers, lorimers, ironmongers and cutlers. By the year 1422 this had increased to fourteen: ironmongers, cutlers, armourers, clockmakers, lorimers, spurriers, wire-drawers, pinners, nail-makers, lockyers, furbours, smiths, ferrours and blacksmiths. Some of these occupational names also became the surname (as in John the nailmaker - John Nail’er - modern Naylor) and are still in use to this day. (Calendar of Early Mayor’s Court-Rolls).

The Ray Smith Notebook of Metalworking Orgins - Copyright © 2002 Ray Smith
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