28th May 1830. Pin Money.

‘See a pin and pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck’: Old rhyme.

The medieval Pin-Makers (Pinners) Guild, later Wire-Workers, associated with the Girdlers, were incorporated in 1636. They seem to have fizzled out in the 18thc, as Trade Guilds lost their role, at a time when other London Livery Companies became Charitable Institutions.(1)

Pins feature in an unusual case Today in 1830, when Frederick Buck was indicted for stealing from the Rose and Crown Pub, in the City of London. He was found guilty and transported for seven years. He said he was looking for pins.

Apart from the feeble excuse and the severity of the punishment, it is the assumption, that a pin was of such importance, when in fact he had stolen, one crown, four half-crowns, six shillings and four sixpences, the monies of one Cort Christoffer, the licensee.(2)

The medieval poor used thorns to secure garments, as pins were so expensive; later ‘pin-money’ was allocated by the husband to the wife, to acquire the luxury.

Pin-making south Gloucestershire.

Pin-making in south Gloucestershire.

Pin manufacturing was introduced in Gloucester by John Tilsby in 1626. In the early 19thc there were said to be nine brass pin manufacturers employing 1500, with main exports to Spain and America.(3)

Bristol also was now a pin-making centre, many employers being Quakers, as Robert Charleton at 2 Mile Hill, whose factory opened in 1831.

Ten years later he was employing 110 women and girls and 50 men and boys, but also as with many industries, used many out-workers, for heading and sticking.

Later pin-making became part of the ‘sweated system’, along with textiles, boot and shoe making, nails and chain-making.(4)


In London penny-packets of pins were sold in huge quantities, many silver, or black (for mourning), with children employed to go up and down the streets, and to shops; otherwise there was no bread.

Now a pin is well…a pin!

(1) The Company of pin makers had few rich members, unlike other Livery Companies, apart from Durnford’s of London Bridge.

(2) Ref: oldbaileyonline.org.uk. Old Bailey Proceedings, six Sessions beginning 8th July 1830.

(3) Pins of brass were not known pre 1543, having been made of ivory boxwood or bone.

A 1543 statute of Henry VIII 34/35 cap vi said: [in modern language]: ‘No person shall put to sale any pins, but only such as shall have double head and head soldered fast to the shank of the pins, well-smoothed; the shank well shaven the point well and round filed cauted and sharpened.’

However this was later repealed 37 Henry VIII Cap 13, as more ingenious and expeditious methods of pin making had been discovered. By 27 Elizabeth cap II pin importing was allowed: ‘An Acte for the true making of pynnes.’ The price was not to exceed 6/8d a 1000.

(4) In 1906 the Daily News ‘Sweating Exhibition’ was opened by Princess Henry of Battenberg who lived until 1944. The Exhibition ran from May 2nd  to the 29th. NB my Post on ‘Sweating’.

Ref: Case for a living Wage, Jerold L Waltman 2004.P 194 refers to George Cadbury, the chocolate magnate, who had sponsored the 1906 ‘Sweating Exhibition’ at Queen’s Hall, London.

Ref: William Bundy, Camden Town, Letters Patent September 1809, for the Heading of  Pins.

Ref: google books/Marcellus Laroon & Sean Shesgreen.1990.Criers&Hawkers of London.

Ref: history.ac.uk/gh/pins

Ref: britishhistory online. Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic HVIII v18 Pt 2.

Ref: nia.gov.au article 15th June 1906.

Rhymes.org.uk. re saying about pins.

Ref: thepinmakers. tewkesburyhistory.com/traders/pinmakers.

Ref: flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/early pin making in south Gloucestershire. Pic Ref.

Ref: Pic.Ref. re poster,From New Illustrated Directory. 1858.


The first pin making statute was that of 3 Edward IV cap 4 AD 1463 which prohibited pin imports ready wrought. I Richard III cap 12 Ad 1483 prohibited ‘merchant strangers’.

Many sayings have been inspired by the pin: ‘for two pins’, ‘pin-money’ and often quoted in the Bible, and Shakespeare as in Comedy of Errors Act IV Sc III: Dromio: ‘A rush, a hair, a drop of blood a pin/A nut a cherry stone.’


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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