Apprentice Indentures are legal documents that were signed by apprentices and their masters to agree the conditions of an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship dates back to the later Middle Ages (1300-1500). Master craftsmen, such as cobblers, blacksmiths, tailors and weavers, benefited from cheap labour by taking on an apprentice, usually a child in their early teens, offering board and lodging and training in return.
Below is the original indenture for Thomas Eyre a “poor child” aged 12 in 1736, issued by the church wardens and overseers of the poor of the parish of St Margaret in the City of Westminster. These documents were obtained by document collectors from parish chests in the nineteenth century before the establishment of record offices. It is now held in the Crisp and Clench Collection of apprentice indentures purchased by the Society in about 1919. Not only does the collection hold many original apprenticeship indentures for Westminster parishes but there are also original indentures for children from the orphan’s asylum in the parish of St Mary’s Lambeth.
This indenture is on one piece of paper but indentures were originally drafted on a single piece of paper that was cut in half so that an apprentice’s legitimacy could be proved by putting the two pieces back together