About The Coopers Company...
The Coopers Company of Newcastle upon Tyne
A record of The Coopers Guild first appeared in 1426, according to the date of its incorporation though the Company may have been in existence for about one hundred years before this date. Three barrels and the tools required to make them form the armorial bearings of the company.
Barrels were a vital method of storing goods and anything that needed preserving or storing for periods of time such as fish and butter as well as the more usually imagined commodities of whisky and beer, needed a barrel.
The heyday of coopering seemed to be between late mediaeval times and 1840. According to company records, after this date, company members seemed to start finding alternative employment.
The local demand for barrels supported some hundreds of coopers and the company was one of the largest in the city. At the turn of the 20th century, a skilled cooper could still earn about £5.50 per week, which was double the average wage though with the advent of new methods of storing goods using pre-fabricated, factory-made metal containers, coopering activity started to fall.
The Coopers Guild seemed to develop high levels of social activity. This can be noticed when checking through the business activities of the Guild. Individual Guilds might be involved in participation of events in the city's calendar. Social activities must have developed and there must have been frequent close social relationships between members of the Guild. For instance, marriages within the Blenkinsop family to offspring of other Coopering Freemen have been frequent. The Marriage of John Blenkinsop to Mary Elliott of Chester-le-Street in 1800 was a marriage between children of two Cooper Stewards. The third child of this marriage, Michael Blenkinsop, married Mary Arthur of Heddon at Newburn in 1828 and further demonstrates that coopering work was not a final limit to Guild sociability. Such a relationship developed the pairings of the names Elliott and Arthur with Blenkinsop as a frequently reused name-form as became the Victorian fashion.
The Guild used to largely run itself through its calendar of Yearly Meetings usually held at locations of where beer was available in those days. There is an impressive collection of minutes of the Guilds in the Records Office at Blandford House, the abode of Tyne and Wear Archives. Although most of the early records are written in the almost undecipherable Secretary Hand,rRecords here may be comfortably read post 1700.
The Coopers Company was incorporated into the Gild of Freemen in around 1425.
Our Head Meeting was and is still set on the first Monday following Corpus Christi, a date which normally falls in late May or early June, depending on the date of Easter, and attendances of approaching 150 for a Head Meeting were common.
Social events outside of normal company business were, until recently, fairly common and recent adventures include a visits to Theakston's Brewery, Hexham Races and a particularly memorable Tyne Cruise (due mainly to the somewhat inclement weather).
Strong family names include McGill, Blenkinsop, Oxnard, Young and Arthur.
For further information about joining the Coopers Company of Freemen of Newcastle upon Tyne please contact:
David J. Hughes (Senior Steward)
3 Dunholm Close
E-mail : David J. Hughes (Senior Steward)
Please note enquiries regarding genealogical research cannot be easily answered as we only keep a limited number of company books dating back around 50 years. Earlier Company Records are held by Tyne and Wear Archives at Blandford House, Newcastle.
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