The Company of Cordwainers is one of the seven York Guilds & Companies still in existence
in the early 21st century. The Guilds, founded in the medieval period or earlier,
have retained traditions that stretch back into the mists of time and add greatly
to the rich pattern of life in the City of York.
Cordwainers were shoemakers and derived their name from the Spanish city of Cordova, which manufactured the finest leather from goat's skins. This is recognised in the Company Arms of three goat's heads, with a fourth as a crest.
In the past, the Cordwainers, in common with the other Guilds, had key roles both in the governing of the City, maintenance of trade standards, training apprentices and taking lead roles in social and religious activities, such as the Cycle of York Mystery Plays which were performed as waggon plays through the streets of the City by the guilds.
During the 18th century, the importance of the Guilds & Companies declined, and in 1808 the ancient company of Cordwainers disbanded, their records and treasures finding their way into the York Minster collections.
The Company was re-founded in 1977 and its 21st century objectives include:
- The promotion of interest in all aspects of the footwear and leather industry.
- To join with other Guilds in religious and civic gatherings and activities.
- To promote interest in all aspects of the original Company.
Today the Company has a full social programme, which reaches a climax at the Charter Weekend in May when a formal dinner on Saturday precedes the Court (similar to an Annual General Meeting) on Sunday morning at which new members are admitted, with a procession to and from the annual service at the Guild Church of All Saints Pavement. This is attended by representatives of other Guilds and usually the Lord Mayor and Sheriff and their consorts. There is a further dinner at Martinmas (November) and regular social events, including visits, talks, etc. occur throughout the year.
Many events are based in the Bedern Hall (shown below), our 14th century guild hall which the Company shares with the Gild of Freemen of the City York and the York Guild of Building.