Women in the City of London with particular reference to the Wax Chandlers’ Company

During the last fifty years women have been gradually admitted to the Livery in the London Livery Companies.  Women were admitted to the Livery of the Wax Chandlers’ Company in 1981 – the first being Rosamond Miskin and Katherine Mary Simpson (nee Everett).  Ros is still a member of the Company and is currently Almoner.  But were they the first?  To what extent were women involved in wax chandlery?

The spelling of surnames in this article are written as spelt in the source material but surnames were commonly spelt in a variety of ways so little store should be taken by spellings.  What a surname sounds like is perhaps most important.

Crucially, Liverymen, unlike Freemen, are entitled to vote in elections for the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and Alderman.  In London this right has existed for hundreds of years although not all records, commonly called Poll Books, have survived.

Women were not explicitly barred from voting until the Reform Act of 1832 and the Municipal Corporation Act of 1856. Another fifty years were to pass until the Representation of the People Act in 1918 which gave limited women’s suffrage.

Admittedly the numbers are tiny but in a London Poll Book of 1538, four women were listed.  Two were from the Saddlers Company – ‘good wife Pound’ and ‘good wife Cooper’.  Alice Best, widow, was a Baker and Alice Sawlkin, widow, a Wax Chandler.  Whether or not they actually voted is not known but they were on the Livery List so it is a not unreasonable assumption that they were Liverymen.  No further information has been found on Alice.

Subsequent London Poll Books only list Liverymen who appear to be male.  It is worth noting that there are at least two examples of forenames that might appear female – Shirley and Grace, but actually belong to men.

I have found articles by Judith Bennett (i) and Caroline Barron (ii) on the role of women in medieval times most interesting.  Life in medieval London was not a bed of roses for either sex but Caroline Barron argues persuasively that some women had a degree of financial and legal independence that was not again seen for centuries.  The White Book of the City of London or Liber Albus was a compilation of laws / customs in the City under the auspices of John Carpenter Clerk and Richard Whitington Mayor dated 1413.  To quote ‘and when a women under the protection of a husband follows any craft within the said City by herself alone, with which the husband does not interfere, such a women shall be charged as a single women (Femme sole) concerning everything the trade of her said craft’.  One should remember that ordinarily a wife had no legal entity apart from her husband until the Married Womens’ Property Act 1882, some 450 years later.  Single women and widows could always hold property and money in their own right but might have had a precarious existence for other reasons.  The Magna Carta offered a degree of protection insofar that a clause stated that ‘after the death of a husband the marriage portion (Dowry) should be paid to the widow without delay’.

The Company’s website includes an alphabetical list of Admissions to the Company 1730-1950 including four women.  The Company’s archives, most of which have been deposited in the Guildhall Library, lists many more Freemen and Liverymen, both before and after the dates above.  The London Apprentice Abstracts list many women who took apprentices. Several but not all of these were widows who presumably inherited their husband’s business and trade.

In his history of the Wax Chandlers’ Company John Dummelow lists (in Appendix 6) the Wax Chandlers Accounts for 1530-1532 with some unexpected entries.

Receipts of Quarterages for one year.

The list contains 54 names starting with the Master Thomas Lane; the first 44 names each paying the same – seven shillings.  Including amongst these are three women – Mistress Shepherd, Mistress Shorte and Mistress Gybson.  There were other people at the end of the list who paid a slightly less amount.

The implication must be that the three women were members of the Livery, full members of the Company paying the same quarterage as men with the same rights and responsibilities.

In the same year Mistress Nashe paid dining fees of three shillings, seven pence (there were two men called Nash on the Livery at the time), and Mistress Gybson who paid the same dining fees.

In the absence of forenames, it is impossible to relate these women to any other records available.

The List of Admissions to the Company (1715-1950), four women were admitted to the Freedom; they were:

Catherine Knap of Kings Arms Yard, no profession or trade listed, was admitted to the Freedom in 1743 by Redemption.
NB:  In a City of London Poll Book of 1727 George Knapp of Basinghall Street, Liveryman of the Wax Chandlers’ Company is listed. John Knapp senior and John Knapp junior appear in the 1710 Poll Book – Wax Chandlers.
The Apprentice Records list George Knapp, son of John, citizen and Wax Chandler, apprenticed to John Knapp junior, 1706.
The List of Admissions to the Company also lists John Knapp as a Freeman by Patrimony in 1748.

Dorothy Mosley of the Golden Lion, Gracechurch Street, no profession or trade listed, was admitted to the Freedom in 1748 by Redemption.
NB:  Elizabeth Moseley, Wax Chandler, widow of Nicholas, took apprentices in 1719 & 1728 and a family called Moseley was listed in Boyd’s Inhabitants of London in 1719 – Nicholas, Elizabeth, Oswald and Mary. The London Apprentice Abstracts lists Nicholas Mosley, son of Oswald of Manchester, gentleman, was apprenticed to Thomas Beasley citizen and Wax Chandler 1691.  Nicholas Moseley took two apprentices in 1708 and 1712.

Ann Lokes of Newgate Street, Wax Chandler, daughter of John Lokes was admitted to the Freedom by Patrimony in 1796.  A confirming entry in the City Freedom papers – Ann Lokes spinster daughter of John Lokes admitted to the Freedom by patrimony ; Ann born 1762, her father admitted in 1754.
Westminster burials record in 1832, Ann Lokes aged 70.  What is probably the Will of Ann Lokes makes interesting reading.  Dated and proved in 1832, Ann Lokes of Brecknock Terrace Camden Town, directs that two surgeons open up her body after death to ‘put my demise beyond doubt’.  She also directs that she is to be buried in the same vault as Bry Turner, son of Charles Turner of Warren Street, Fitzroy Square, Mx.  Unfortunately, neither Bry Turner or his vault have been located.
NB:  John Lokes, son of Robert, apprenticed to George Baugham, Wax Chandler, in 1745.
John Lokes, Wax Chandler, took two apprentices in 1764 and1773.  John is not in the List of Admissions but is on the 1768 London Poll Book at Newgate Street as a Wax Chandler.

Elizabeth Applegarth of Bishopsgate Without, haberdasher and milliner was admitted to the Freedom in 1799.
NB:  William Applegarth, son of William of Wallingford, Berks, baker, apprenticed to Richard Casburd, Wax Chandler, 1688.

The London Apprentice Abstracts 1442-1850* is wonderful source material.  It lists nearly half a million apprentices during that period.  Typically the entry lists the apprentice and their father or mother should their father be deceased, place of abode of parent, date of apprenticeship, Master and Livery Company concerned.  The Abstracts, available online at the Findmypast website are indexed by both Master and Apprentice.  The Guildhall Library has an index by Livery Company of the Abstracts compiled by Cliff Webb.

Some twenty women ‘Masters’ who took apprentices in the trade of wax chandlery are listed, together with five women who were apprenticed to Master Wax Chandlers.

The latter were –

Margaret Couchman, daughter of William Couchman of Igtham, Kent, cabinet maker and builder, apprenticed to Thomas Brown, Wax Chandler, 1766.

Mary Craft, daughter of George Craft of Yattenden, Berks, (deceased), apprenticed to John Barton Wax Chandler, 1691/2.

Ann Dodson, daughter of Jonathan Dodson of Rotherhithe (deceased), to Thomas Brown, Wax Chandler, 1769.

Rebecca Ralph, daughter of Cuthbert Ralph of Penrith, Cumberland, to Richard Cooke Wax Chandler, 1758.

Rebecca Trehearne, daughter of William Trehearne of Frome Somerset, timber merchant, apprenticed to Thomas Hughes, Wax Chandler, 1710.

 There are twenty women ‘Master’ Wax Chandlers who took apprentices in this record.  The name of the Master is listed first.

ELIZABETH ANYON 1704.  Apprentice Nicholas Roney, son of Nicholas. St Giles Cripplegate.
No further information found.

ELIZABETH BICK 1744.  Apprentice John Bick, son of Edmund Bick citizen and Wax Chandler (deceased) to Elizabeth Bick widow.
1740.  Apprentice Edmund Bick, son of Edmund Bick, Wax Chandler, (deceased) to Elizabeth Bick, widow.
In a trade card dated 1758 Eliza Bick and Company at the Golden Beehive opposite the Mansion House announce that they make and sell white and gold wax candles, etc.
NB:  Edmund Bick was Master of the Wax Chandlers Company in 1724. Presumably Edmund died sometime before 1740 but there are several men called Edmund Bick in various London records.

GRACE BURROUGHS 1680.  Apprentice William Napper, son of Edmund Napper of Oxford to Grace Burroughs, widow of William Burroughs.
William Burroughs, Wax Chandler, took three apprentices in 1676, 1668 and 1671. William was one of 25 signatures in the London Citizens list of 1651.

MARY DIXON 1626.  Apprentice Richard Rippon, son of John Rippon, Nottinghamshire, to Mary, widow of William Dixon . 1627.  Apprentice John Smith, son of Edidyan Smith of Barking Essex, husbandman to Mary, widow.
NB:  Four apprentices were recorded to William Dixon, Wax Chandler, between 1615 and 1824.
No marriage record between a William Dixon and Mary has been found.
There is a James Dixon, Wax Chandler of Fleet Street in the City Poll Book of 1768 and a record of a James Dixon apprenticed to his Wax Chandler father James in 1755.

ANN DOUNCKLEY 1645.  Apprentice William Halliwell, son of Edward Halliwell of Clerkenwell Mx. Yeoman, to Ann, widow.
NB:  Peter Dunkley, son of Thomas of Shadwell (deceased), apprenticed to William Meane, Wax Chandler, in 1628. Peter went on to have two apparently non-related apprentices in 1639 and 1642.  In 1640 John Dunkley, son of Thomas, of Shadwell, deceased, was apprenticed to Peter Dunkley.

ANN GRYMS 1629.  Apprentice Thomas Croft, son of Thomas of Reigate Surrey, yeoman to Ann, widow.
No information about possible family connections have been found.

MARGARET HARDWIN 1679.  Apprentice William Bartholomew, son of William of Firfield, Berkshire, wheelwright, to Margaret widow of Jonathan Hardwin.
NB:  John Hardwin, son of Samuel of Wollston, Warwick, apprenticed to Jonathan Hardwin in1672; Jonathan took two further apparently unrelated Apprentices in 1669 and1670.
There is a GRACE HARDWIN, Wax Chandler, who took an apprentice in 1669 but could be a male ‘Grace”.

REBECCA HAWLY took three apprentices –

1669.  Apprentice Richard Halliday, son of Thomas of Teddington, Middlesex (deceased) to Rebecca. 28th April.
1670.  Apprentice John Penecode son of Michael of Arundel, Sussex, husbandman to Rebecca 7th May.
1673.  Apprentice Henry Cobbee, son of Daniel of Arundel, Sussex, 7th May.

REBECCA HITCH 1695.  Apprentice Daniel Daniels son of Thomas of Bermondsey, to Rebecca, widow of William Hitch 4 November 1695.
*a Thomas Hitch was Master in 1678 and 1688 and another Thomas in 1710. Thomas Hitch was on the Livery Poll in 1710.
Thomas Hitch was apprenticed to his father Thomas, Wax Chandler, in 1675.  There followed a long line of apprentices to either Thomas between 1669 and1710.
Notably one Henry Figes, son of Henry of Oxford who was apprenticed to Thomas Hitch Junior, citizen and Wax Chandler in 1692.  Henry Figes went on to be listed in City Poll Books.
William Hitch had one apprentice in 1692.

JANE HUDSON 1619.  Apprentice Henry Wharfe son of Alan of Austwick, Yorkshire, yeoman, to Jane, widow of George Hudson.12th April 1619.
No further family information found.

MARY JACKSON, widow of Peter, took three apprentices –
1701:  Apprentice Lemuel Jones, son of Samuel of Elton, Herefordshire, gentleman deceased to Mary Jackson 18th.
1703:  Apprentice Thomas Fish son of Henry of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk to Mary Jackson 20th July.
1710:  Apprentice William Budd, son of William of Oxford, gardener, to Mary widow of Peter Jackson. 9th November 1710.
*during his lifetime Peter Jackson had numerous apprentices.

ELIZABETH LEWENDEN 1711.  Apprentice George Lewenden son of John, citizen and Wax Chandler(deceased) to Elizabeth 7th Feb. 1711.
No further family information found.

ANN LUTMAN 1637.  Apprentice William Gamon son of Giles of English Bicknor, Gloucs, yeoman to Ann widow of Thomas Lutman 12th December 1637.
NB:  Thomas Lutman, Wax Chandler, took an apprentice in 1622 – Robert Lutman, son of William, citizen and Brown baker.
Boyds’ Inhabitants of London lists a Lutman family in 1622- Edward, Edward, Cicely. Edward, Robert, Elizabeth, William and Anne.

ELIZABETH LYON 1681.  Apprentice Edmund Smyth, son of James of Coughton, Warwick, gent. (deceased), to Elizabeth, widow of George Lyon. 10th May 1681.
No further family information found.

ELIZABETH MACFARLAN 1771.  Apprentice Alexander Forbes son of George, of Broad Street Golden Square, merchant, to Elizabeth, widow of Duncan Macfarlan.
No further family information found.

ANN MOORE 1699.  Apprentice John Morgan, son of William of Eastcheap, tailor, to Ann, widow of Robert Moore 24th August 1699.
NB:  Robert Moore, son of Robert, Wax Chandler, apprenticed to his father 1688/9.

There are a number of men with the surname Moore who were apprenticed to Wax Chandlers between 1626 ad 1741 with no apparent connection with the above.  No Wax Chandler Moores in the London Poll Books.

ELIZABETH MOSELY 1719.  Apprentice John Ward, son of John of Leicester, bookseller to Elizabeth, widow of Nicholas Mosely 24th June 1719.
And Apprentice James Hamilton, son of Charles merchant (deceased) to Elizabeth Mosely 12th September 1728.

ANN PALMER 1694.  Apprentice Joseph Hutchinson, son of Thomas of St Olave, Southwark, felt-maker, to Ann, widow of Richard Palmer.
NB:  Richard Palmer, Wax Chandler, took apprentices in 1687 and 1690.
Edmond Palmer, son of Benjamin, gentleman of St Margaret’s Westminster, was apprenticed John Whitwood, Wax Chandler in 1675.  City Poll Books of 1710 and 1727 list Edmund Palmer as a Wax Chandler, the latter recording that he lived in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Edmund Palmer, Wax Chandler is recorded as taking Apprentices in 1683,1688 and 1692.
Henry Palmer, son of Richard of Sunningwell, Berks, was apprenticed to Thomas Lutman, Wax Chandler, in 1635.
Robert Palmer, son of Robert of Aldenham, Herts was apprenticed to John Standred in 1645.
John Palmer, son of Richard, apprenticed to John Gerrard, Wax Chandler, in 1677.
Charles Palmer, son of Richard of Wiltshire, baker, was apprenticed to Francis Bullock, Wax Chandler in 1689.

REBECCA WARD 1668.  Apprentice John Robinson, son of Robert citizen and fishmonger, to Rebecca Ward, Wax Chandler, 29th September 1668.
NB:  Boyds’ Inhabitants of London cites Richard and Rebecca Ward.
Between 1631 and 1787 various men with the surname Ward were apprenticed to Wax Chandlers, notably John Ward who was apprenticed to Elizabeth Molesey, but none in the City Poll Books.
A Josiah Ward was a signatory in the London Citizens List of 1651.

*from Findmypast website.

None of the above Apprentice Masters – or their deceased husbands – appear in the list of Admissions to the Wax Chandlers Company, to be found on the Company web-site – with the exception of the Bick family.  However further research is required in the Company archives and in the City Poll Books.

A word about the London Poll Books. Few exist – the Poll Book for 1538 lists just two Wax Chandlers – Thomas Day and George Blaynchard although it is apparent that there were many more Liverymen at the time.  Further City Polls of 1710, 1722 and 1727 are in the Guildhall Library.

In the Guildhall Library is a bound book of the Signatures of Citizens of London 1651; these are grouped by Livery Company, most unusually the Wax Chandlers are listed first.  There are 24 signatures, only one being unable to sign his name.

The London Apprentice Abstracts give interesting information on the role of women Wax Chandlers.  Information about other Wax Chandlers and their apprentices that may be related to the women concerned have been added.  Of course they may or may not be related, records are either incomplete or non-existing.

It is not unreasonable to assume that the women described as ‘Apprentice Masters’ and as Wax Chandlers, would have some relationship with the Company.  In 1663 the Company ordinances state that an ‘apprentice when free of their former Master or Mistress’.  What that relationship was is not known.  More research is necessary and even then it may not be possible to come up with a definitive answer, but I defend my premise that the ladies admitted to the Livery in 1981 were not the first.

  • Medieval women, Modern women; across the great divide an essay by Judith M Bennett. Included in Culture and History 1350-1600.
  • Caroline Barron. The ‘golden age’ of women’ in Medieval Women in southern England, Reading.

Heather D Hawker
Citizen and Wax Chandler