Royal Embroiderers

William Ibgrave took More’s place with Mortymer at some time after More’s death but the partnership was short-lived because as mentioned in the previous post Mortymer died in 1528.  A full description of the benefits Ibgrave was able to secure as a member of Henry’s court at the time of the Dissolution is provided in Levey’s “The Art of the Broderers”.  However, here are few additional facts… William Ibgrave became a freeman of the City of London on Oct. 22, 3 Henry VIII, so, 1512.  He first appears in the wardrobe accounts in October 1514 collecting a rather large sum of money (£300) on behalf of Mortymer, so it is likely (although not for sure), that Ibgrave had served his apprenticeship with him and had become a journeyman in Mortymer’s household.

William Ibgrave and Robert Ibgrave, his brother, were both named with other broderers on the conveyance for the property in Gutter Lane in 1534.  Robert, although not named on any patents probably worked closely with his brother.  They were both included as broderers, on the list of all the “freemen householders” on the list of all Mysteries, crafts and occupations, compiled in 1537.

Thomas Ibgrave was named as his father’s partner in a patent granted in 1551 by Edward VI.

It is not known if William was ever a warden of the Broderers’ Company, but Robert served with Thomas Packard around 1552.  During his time as warden, William’s younger sons, Ellis and John became members of the Broderers’ through patrimony.

William died in 1555 and was buried in Abbot’s Langley, Hertfordshire.   His son Thomas passed away shortly after and was buried in St Benet’s, Paul’s Wharf.  Thomas’ widow Anne, passed away in 1559 and was buried alongside her husband naming his Uncle Robert as her executor.

Ellis Ibgrave’s death warranted a mention in Henry Machin’s Chronicle on July 5, 1563.

Royal Embroiderers

William Mortymer became More’s partner after Morton’s death in 1518.  An indication of the work he did for the Royal Wardrobe is documented in Santina Levey’s The Art of the Broderers but his will (written in 1528) reveals a little more of his life.  He was a member of the (previously mentioned) parish of St. Benet’s Church at Paul’s Wharf.  The wardrobe at the time was located at the top of St Andrew’s Hill situated between Carter Lane and Knightrider Street.  St Benet’s was only a block away and was the parish church for many embroiderers.  That he was a member of the Broderers’ Company is confirmed by his contribution to the customary dinner to mark his burial.  He left varying sums of money to many named friends and acquaintances.  No other broderers were specifically identified as such but several of the individuals named in his will have been subsequently identified indicating that his work and personal lives were closely linked.  Some of the other broderers were Guillam Brellont, William Johnson and William Rosse.  Rauf Worseley a fellow member of the king’s household is named an executor.

Royal Embroiderers

On the other hand, Morton’s partner William More appears often in connection with payments from the Great Wardrobe for embroidery work completed (The Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII, M. Hayward 2012, 28, 43, 64, 123, 131).  He was instrumental in the creation of the vestments commissioned by Henry VII and worn by Henry VIII and his entourage at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520.  (New Documents for the Vestments of Henry VII at Stoneyhurst College, L. Monnas, 1989).  More’s absence from the Mercers’ apprenticeship or membership rolls, would argue that he was first and foremost an embroiderer and therefore very likely a member of the fellowship of Broderers.   In fact, a William More, brotherer, appears in the Mercers’ Court Books in 1518 when the Wardens of the Mercers’ granted him a lease of premises in Knightrider Street for a term of twenty years.

That the Mercers’ and Broderers were intricately linked through the production and sale of ecclesiastical embroidery is apparent.  Exactly how the relationship worked is difficult to determine given the lack of documentation for the Broderers.  Nonetheless, a review of the evidence available with respect to the king’s embroiderers Morton and More suggests that they worked as a team, Morton’s role being more of a procurer of embroidered goods, an administrator, assembling the team and materials and More’s role as mainly a producer and supervising the work.

Before continuing with the remainder of the royal embroiderers, the following books provide further information on the royal wardrobe, the embroiderers and, importantly, the range of work they produced.

Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d, Chapter VIII, The Queen’s Artificiers, Janet Arnold

The Inventory of King Henry VIII Textiles and Dress, specifically Chapter 5, The Art of the Broderers, Santina Levey

Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII,Chapter XIX, The Royal Artificiers, Maria Hayward

Future posts add snippits of information about specific embroiderers, supplementing the information in these books.

Royal Embroiderers

As indicated in the previous post, William Morton was a Mercer, and William More was a Broderer.  There was a very intricate and complicated relationship between the Mercers and the Broderers during the late 15th century.

William Morton began his apprenticeship with Mercer William Myles in 1446 and was later transferred to Mercer Thomas Muschamp (  Thomas Muschamp’s wife Maude was an embroiderer and vestment-maker with a shop in Milkstreet, perhaps indicating that as an apprentice in the Muschamp household Morton may have also had access to training as an embroiderer (TNA, PRO C1/429/24).  Morton was admitted to the Freedom of the City as a Mercer in 1460.   As a Mercer, he was a major supplier of goods to Edward IV.   Apart from some references early in the reign of Henry VII, little evidence has been discovered to link him directly with any embroidery done in the Great Wardrobe.

A vestment-maker was an artisan member of the Mercers’ Company who made ecclesiastical furnishings which required skills in tailoring and embroidery.  The Mercers’ 1497 Ordinance 94 governing apprentices included a section for mercers apprenticing those who are engaged in retail activities and a special section for members who take on apprentices who make vestments, altar cloths, embroider or affix gemstones to textiles (a setter).  These apprentices were to start at age twelve, normally sixteen, serve a longer apprenticeship (fourteen years as opposed to ten) and pay a lesser fee for enrollment.  Further, if the master began to retail their merchandise, a fine would be imposed and the full fee would be due.  It is likely that William Morton’s fourteen year apprenticeship had included training in the buying and selling of luxury textiles as well as in the artisan crafts of tailoring and embroidery.  (The Mercers’ discontinued accepting artisan apprentices in the early 16th century.)  See The The Mercery of London 1130–1578, by Anne Sutton, 2005.


For further clarification concerning the relationship between the Mercers and Broderers and an explanation of the above illustration, see “Powdered with Armes Ymages and Angels”: An Early Tudor Contract for Embroidered Vestments  ttps://


Royal Embroiderers

The post of Royal Embroiderer was documented as early as 1367 in the reign of Richard II.  The Patent Rolls for that year record that the newly appointed John Bullock of London, king’s tapicer, was to earn the same daily wage as that of William Glendale, the king’s embroiderer.  The duties of the Royal Embroiderer are not stipulated in the Patent Rolls but a review provides the names of several other men who held that post.  John de Scrowesbrough, William Sauston and the previously mentioned Robert Asshecombe to name a few in the remainder of the 14th century.

Peter Swan was appointed in 1399 and an idea of the type of work he completed for the king can be gleaned from the wardrobe accounts as published in “A History of England under Richard IV” by James Hamilton Wylie 1898:

…To Peter Swan for embroidering 4900 garters of tartryn satin and taffeta for livery of brotherhood of St. George (anno 2) on garments, hoods, chaplets. One year’s expenses = 445l 10s 9½d…

and …embroidering red and black velvet sheaths for sword worked with divers stones and pearls. Also 4 buttons and tassel for crimson and purple velvet state caps. Scarlet and violet cloth robes. 2 black velvet hoods with silk and gold of Cypre…

The next few posts will identify the embroiderers who held the post during the Tudor years beginning with William Morton (who was actually a member of the Mercers’ Company) and William More (a Broderer).

1582 Ordinances

Twenty years later, a further twelve ordinances were proposed and approved.  There must have been an ongoing battle to maintain quality of work.  The first of these ordinances stipulate that one of the two wardens elected for the following year must “occupy or hath used and occupied the said very art or mistery of Imbroderie and is of sufficient judgement to discern good work from evil and fine stuff from course when it is wrought”.

The second ordinance stipulates that after serving their full apprenticeship “shall (if the wardens and six of the assistants shall think meet) serve one whole year as a covenant servant with some master of the said Company”.   It was also declared that after completing their apprenticeship, each was to “give unto the said company a silver spoon of the value of ten shillings” instead of providing the customary (and more costly) breakfast for the wardens and assistants.

The final addition was to set out the rules for appointing the renter warden indicating that the Company now owned sufficient property that it had become necessary to have a responsible member to collect and account for the income from the rents.


detail of CLC/L/BG/A/008/MS31364


There are no documents describing how the inspection of the embroidered work was carried out or any evidence of fines levied, and it is not clear whether the seal was that of the Company or the personal seal of the individual employed who performed that function.  Because of the importance of the cloth trade to the English economy, thousands of 16th century cloth seals have been found and catalogued but none have been associated with the embroidery trade.  There would have been few in comparison to those of the woollen cloth industry.

Personal seals belonging to members of the Broderers’ Company can be found on extant documents such as the deed for the purchase of the property on Gutter Lane on which Thomas Foster’s seal is firmly attached.  The most intriguing seal is that of Thomas Packard on his last will and testament.   Packard was warden of the Broderers’ Company in 1544 and 1552.  The image is poor but Packard’s initials and the dove as depicted on the Broderers’ Crown in the photo above are clearly evident.

Packard Seal 3


Ordinances 1562

The first Elizabethan Ordinances were dated 4 December 1562.   The document has been has been preserved and is available for examination at the Guildhall Library.  Unfortunately, it is extensively damaged with large areas missing making it impossible to transcribe.  An abridged version of the articles is provided in “A Chat” but omits the details necessary to more fully understand how the trade was managed on many levels.

A full transcription is available in MS14789.  There are 35 in total, and together detail the governance of the company: the election of officers, the responsibilities of the auditors, the quarterly reading of the ordinances, wages of journeymen and training of apprentices amongst them.   To the 21st century reader, the language is obscure, repetitive and tedious but well worth the effort needed to decipher.  When combined with a working knowledge of embroidery and a small understanding of the history of the period, some very interesting facts rise to the surface.  For example, article 12 addresses the issue of bespoke work as opposed to embroidered work to be sold to the public.

Item to the intent that no embroidered work be sold or offered to be sold being deceptively made or wrought of insufficient and unlawful stuff it is further ordered that all manner of person or persons inhabiting within the city of London and liberties thereof or elsewhere within any other liberties within the same city or in the precinct afore specified and expressed by the queens letters patent which shall sell or offer to be sold any kind of embroidered work to any person or persons being not bespoken to be made before such time as he or they shall sell or offer to be sold anything being embroidered or any brodered work being of the value of 6s8p or upwards shall bring all such kind of wares as shall be so embroidered and sold or offered to be sold before the keepers or the wardens and assistants for the time being unto the common hall of the said misterie there to be seen and searched by the keepers or wardens and the assistants of the said misterie and if they find the same to be made of good and lawful stuff and well and workmanly wrought that then the said keeper or wardens shall seal the same with a seal therefore ordained in their common hall and every person to pay the keeper or wardens to the use of the said fellowship for the sealing and entering into their books of records for every piece of work of the value of 6s8p one penny and so further upward rate and rate like and if it happen any of the said work of brodery so brought before the keeper or wardens and assistants to be sealed or elsewhere to be found not made of lawful stuff and workmanship that then the same shall be used according to the discretion of the said keepers or wardens and assistants or four or six of them and also it is ordained that no person or persons having any brodered works not bespoken as is aforesaid shall offer them nor sell any of the same theirself nor any other person or persons for them to any of the queens majesties subjects until such time as the said work be viewed searched and sealed as is aforesaid upon pain of imprisonment and to lose and pay for every piece of work in his or their houses or shops or elsewhere found sold or offered to be sold unsealed contrary to the tenor and effect hereof 40s besides the loss of the said work

Essentially, work made on spec or “ready to wear” had to be inspected before being sold to the public, the 16th century version of quality control.  When read in conjunction with the “proviso” of a previous article, it is understood that works made on commission or works made for personal use were exempt:  Provided always that this branch and article nor anything therein contained shall in anywise extend to give any liberty for to search for reformation or punishment to be made or had touching any embroidered works to be made for the proper use and wearing of the makers theirof or of any other person or persons that shall cause such embroidery to be made for their use wearing or any of their children or servants without their assent and good will.

The Royal Charter

The first known Royal Charter was granted by Elizabeth I to the Worshipful Company of Broderers on 25 October 1561.  Christopher Holford included a transcription of it in his book “A Chat about the Broderers’ Company” on pg 247.  This charter is not included in the Broderers’ Guildhall Archive and  I have not yet explored the documents included in MS14671 Papers relating to the surrender of the old charter and the obtaining of a new one at the time of Charles II:  it may be that the actual document had to be turned over to the Crown.  However, according to Holford, the wording of the original charter is repeated “without any alteration or addition” on the Charter of James I dated 20 April 1609. (A Chat p. 10)

…they and their successors shall be named called and known by the name of The Keepers or Wardens and Company of the said Arte or Mistery of the Broderers of the Citty of London… 

…We Also Doe by these Presents for Us our heires and Successors of our aforesaid Grace Grant that the said Keepers or Wardens and Company and their Successors for ever Be persons fitt and Capable in Law to Purchase and possesse in ffee and forever Lands Tenements Rents and other possions whatsoever of any person or persons whatsoever And in plain That they may purchase Lands and Tenements and Rents As well in Demand as in Revercion in our Citty of London which are held of Us in Capite So as they exceed not the Clear Yearly Value of Thirty Pounds p annum…

Grant of Arms

The broche and the quill were tools used to hold and dispense the metal thread used by embroiderers.  Similar tools are illustrated and explained in Charles Saint Aubin’s “The art of the embroiderer” published in 1770.  (For more information about Saint Aubin go to

broche embroidered


I am not aware of an extant broche available for study in a museum but an embroidered version of the “broches in saultere” appears on a banner believed to be from the 16th century in the possession of the Broderers’ Company.

tobit tools


An image in needlework from the Tudor era can be found on the Tobit table carpet at the National Trust’s Hardwick Hall.  There is a black and white image in Santina Levey’s Elizabethan Treasures: The Hardwick Hall Textiles, 1999, as Plate 46 on page 54.  She includes a description of the arrangement of the embroiderers tools balanced with the implements used by a painter and how it may refer to Mary Queen of Scot’s opinion as to which art had “the most commendable quality”.