The whole period of the Middle Ages in England was in one aspect of it a struggle of barbarism against civilization, but on the question of wages it would be paying them a tribute to describe them as barbaric; wages were savage, savagely low and savagely cruel, and next only after war were the ruling class's most brutal weapon of subjugation, and that remains true after every possible allowance is made between the purchasing power of a shilling then and a shilling now. A bookkeeper in the reign of Edward I records "that one Master Mason was paid 6d per day, and five Masons were paid 4d per day."
Bro. Edward Conder, from whose Hole Craft these figures are being taken, notes that in 1336 a Mason received one shilling a day. In 1342-1400 typical wages for Freemasons working on Westminster Abbey ran 4d; 10/6 for two Masons for 21 days; two Masons at 2 shillings per week; two for two weeks 6 shillings; for "Master Yevele Chief Mason, " one of the greatest of architects, "100 shillings per annum"; etc.
In 1402 Henry IV forbade Masons to work by the week, or to receive pay on feast days, and ordained that on a day before a holiday when they stopped at 3 P.M. they were to receive only one-half day's pay--"in ye name of Godde." One Royal Act forbade Freemasons to be paid more than 5' shillings per day. In 1495 a statute fixed visages for Freemasons at 4d with meals furnished, 6d without meals during the long-day half of the year, 3d and 5d respectively during the other half; the fad a day began at 5 A.M. In Henry VIII's time a Master received 12d a day; a Warden 5d a week; setters 3 8d per week; clerk of the works, 8d per day; under- clerks, 6d per day. At page 93 of his Gleanings Frown Westminster (Oxford London; 1861) George Gilbert Scott prints a number of specimens of the Westminster Fabric Rolls, the oldest being for 1253 A.D. In that year the average wage for Masons was 1 10d per week. In 1271 an expert Master Mason received 2' 6d per week.
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