Guild members

This guide was last updated in 2011

Len Goodman is currently busy working on the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing. However, earlier this year he was able to take some time out to participate in Who Do You Think You Are? and discover more about his family tree.

Len was an East End boy as far as he knew and both parents were born in the East End. However, the further back Len went on his journey he found a more diverse background than just Londoners. London has always been a cosmopolitan city with people migrating from all corners of the world. Len was already aware of having a Polish émigré ancestor and learned more about this character during the show.

We were also able to discover another branch originating from overseas, these being Huguenot weavers. Len was able to learn more about the weaving industry that was so prevalent in London during the 18th century and also how it was controlled by the guild system.

Guilds were a vital aspect of Britain’s commercial history, controlling a great many types of industries in London and other cities from at least the 12th century. Many crafts such as weaving, shoemaking, butcher, bakers, carpenters etc were effectively controlled as monopolies by such guilds from about the 16th century.

Anyone wishing to learn a particular trade would have to join a guild, starting off as an apprentice (usually for around 7 years), qualifying as a journeyman (newly qualified but still working for the master) and eventually becoming a master (working in one’s own right in your chosen profession). It would be very difficult for an individual to work in any craft without being trained by the guilds.

There were many advantages of joining a guild too, however, as they worked as trade unions and provided pensions and almshouses for their members and their families. Indeed, Len Goodman, found his 3x great maternal grandmother, Sarah Holyome, dying in such an almshouse for weavers in 1880.

Happily for the genealogist this system provided a variety of records which can be very useful when tracing your ancestor.


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