The Company of Cordwainers is one of the seven ancient York Guilds in existence in the 21st century. The Guilds, founded in the medieval period or earlier, have retained traditions that stretch back into the mists of time and greatly add to the rich pattern of life in the City of York.
Cordwainers were workers in ‘cordwan’ a type of fine shoe leather that originated from the Spanish city of Cordoba, the primary source of such leathers in medieval times. This fine leather was made from goatskins, which is represented on the Company’s Coat of Arms which includes three goat heads plus a fourth as a crest.
In the past, the Cordwainers, in common with the other Guilds, had key roles both in the governing of the City, maintenance of trade standards, training apprentices and taking lead roles in social and religious activities such as the medieval Passion Plays performed on waggons around the city on Corpus Christi Day and now known worldwide as the York Mystery Plays.
The earliest reference to the Cordwainer trade in York comes from the Freemen’s Rolls for 1272-3 in which ‘Thomas de Fulford, Cordwainer’ is the first entry.