Monday, 17 January 2011

The Worshipful Company of Horners

The Worshipful Company of Horners is both an ancient craft guild and a modern City of London Institution promoting the interests of the polymer industry. Horn has been used since prehistoric times as a cheap, readily available, easily worked material from which essential tools as well as decorative items were made.  The first historic reference to the Company was recorded in 1284, although the craft of the horner dates from centuries earlier. In 1476 the Bottlemakers, whose trade was being eroded by glass bottles, joined the Horners. The Company operates under a Charter received from Charles 1 in 1638, although it is known that there were earlier charters. As the craft of working with horn declined, in 1943 the Company adopted the emerging plastics industry, many of whose production techniques were familiar to the practising horner. The Company has charitable funds which are used to support activities in youth education and industrial design, as well as support for the City of London.

The Company has an extensive collection of items made from horn and the early synthetic plastics which replaced horn. They range from simple agricultural tools such as drenches for use with cattle to sophisticated pressed and pierced horn combs from the 17th century. In addition to these items there is a collection of horn-working tools that demonstrate how the comb makers gradually mechanised their trade. In 2010 the collection of artefacts was relocated to MoDiP, initially for a period of seven years. The collection of over 400 items provides a comprehensive insight into the use of one of nature’s plastics. This hitherto little seen collection has been photographed and documented and is available for reference and can be viewed via the MoDiP on-line catalogue.

For more information about The Worshipful Company of Horners please visit www.horner.org.uk

Pam Langdown (Collections Manager)

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