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May 2011: The Really Old Apprentice

John Spynster's apprenticeship indenture, 1421

This document featured on Radio 4's The Real Apprentice on 2 May, so it seems only right that it should become this month's highlight.

It shows how things used to be done in the centuries long before primetime TV.

John Spynster of Newbury, son of Alice, was apprenticed to William Hackere, a butcher from Maidenhead.  William was a member of the Windsor Merchant Gild, and agreed to take John on for twelve years.  The older man was paid one hundred shillings to take on his apprentice, who had to agree to work diligently, obey his master, and not to get married or engaged for the duration of his apprenticeship.  In return, William would give John board and lodgings, and a trade.

John began his apprenticeship on 25 March 1421.  The period of twelve years suggests that the boy might only have been nine at the time.  If he lived, in due course he would become a butcher in his own right, and gain access to the markets run by the Gild.


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