Sunday, September 20, 2015

Question from Peter - Occupation of a Faber

Dear Friends,

Can anyone tell me what a "Faber" was in 1379. My modern latin dictionary gives "a smith" or "forger" The term is found in the 1379 Poll Tax for West Riding of Yorkshire.

The gentleman concerned, Richard Peck, married an heraldic heiress which seems a little incongruous if he was a smith or forger.

Many thanks



Foose said...

Peck needn't be the cheerful village blacksmith on the village green, horny of hand and vulgar of speech, sweatily hammering at his forge. I did some rummaging through histories of surnames, the 1379 Yorkshire rolls for the Poll Tax, and English colonization of Wales in the 14th century, and there were some interesting nuggets about smiths.

The key point was that smiths were skilled metal workers - not just blacksmiths, but also whitesmiths, obviously goldmsmiths, etc. Described as "indispensable," they appear to frequently work themselves up to the level of town burgesses and moneylenders. Peck could have been a proto-venture capitalist type, which might explain how he could marry an heiress. Smiths are consistently a group described as having wealth to invest.

Unknown said...

Many thanks Foose for this. Was there a particular source you could give me that you used?

Many thanks.

Foose said...

There was no Ur-source that completely covered the topic of smiths and social mobility. But I found interesting paragraphs in a number of sources on Google Books (there were even more potentially valuable ones, but those were restricted to "snippet view").

Try searching "smith" and/or "faber" in these books, of varying vintages:

Urban Assimilation in Post Conquest Wales, Matthew Frank Stevens
The Surname Detective, Colin D. Rogers
The Smith Family: Being a Popular Account of Most Branches of the Name, Compton Reade
The Yorkshire Coiners: 1767-1783, by Henry Ling Roth (briefly discussing the Richard “Peke” of 1379)
After the Black Death, George Huppert (just one paragraph, really, in this one)
English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products, ed. John Blair, Nigel Ramsay - includes an intriguing section on female blacksmiths