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Goldsmiths

Individual goldsmiths are known in Chester from the late 13th century when Nicholas the goldsmith, son of Matthew the goldsmith, is mentioned in connection with property on the corner of Foregate Street and St John Street. In 1406-07 three goldsmiths were presented at the crownmote court for not paying customs or tolls to the Earl, and for taking excessive wages for their work and goods. The Goldsmiths Company was in existence by 1475-76.

Although the Goldsmiths were associated with the Masons in producing ‘The Destroying of the Children by Herod’ in the Chester cycle of Mystery Plays, they never formally amalgamated. This association is recorded c.1529-37 when they reached agreement with the vintners and dyers to use the latter’s carriage for their play and lasted until the early 17th century, when they were still collaborating for the midsummer show.

From c.1664, the Goldsmith’s Company became the Company of Goldsmiths and Watchmakers, although the Act of Parliament which re-established the Company in 1700 led to an arrangement by which each craft agreed not to intermeddle with the other. This Company never received a charter, claiming “power by prescription” to make Bylaws for the good of the trade or misterie…’

In 1687, the Company decided to establish an assay office and decreed that every member should register his mark there. Until that date, it was governed by one alderman and one steward; afterwards by a master and two wardens. In 1835, there were 6 or 7 members of the Company who meet at the assay office. Gold and silver were assayed there until the office was closed in 1962. Although precious metals are no longer assayed in Chester, gold and silver produced by Chester craftsmen now bear a special Chester mark.

Probably the most famous members of this company were members of the Lowe and Richardson families. Richard Richardson II, Mayor of Chester in 1757-58, helped to exploit leadmining at Minera, Denbighshire, which benefited all the City companies, under the terms of the will of Owen Jones.