In the Middle Ages, the tradesmen of London began to form themselves into fraternities. Workers in metal, cloth, leather and other trades formed ‘guilds’ to present a united front for their craft.
Those who worked with the finest leather were called Cordwainers because their material came from Cordoba in Spain. They developed a soft, durable goatskin leather known as Cordwain – the very finest leather available – importation of which contributed to the growing prosperity of London. Over a period of time, those who processed the leather formed their own guilds. The shoemakers, however, retained the name of 'Cordwainer'.
The first written proof of the Guild of Cordwainers is a document dated 1272, making the company one of the oldest Liveries in the City. In 1439, during the reign of Henry VI, the Company obtained the Royal Charter. This officially confirmed the operations of the Company and permitted it to own property, including its own hall.
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