1) The principle workman.

The OED offers four related meanings for this word, with examples from c.1425. It was frequent though as a by-name and Reaney has north-country references from the fourteenth century, with the suggestion that it meant ‘swineherd’. However, in the accounts of Bolton Priory the evidence points to the foreman there as the principal workman responsible for oxen, which suggests a meaning more akin to ‘foreman’ in its modern sense: 1295-6 Stipendia bovariorum … in stipendio unius forman pro eodem termino iijs

1318-9 De terra Ade le Forman in Halton ijs. In 1530, John Forman was the master mason responsible for York Minster and he had fourteen other masons working under him. Occupational names of this kind could still be fluid at that time so he may actually have been the ‘foreman’. In a Wakefield will of 1550-1 two bequests were made, the first to Henry Butfold, a shopkeeper, and the second to his servant beyng foreman in his shoppe, possibly a ‘front’ man, capable of acting on his master’s behalf, or more literally in charge of the shop front.

dates 1295-1296 1550-1551

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