1) By the mid-fifteenth century the word workman had acquired the meaning of ‘skilled craftsman’, and ‘workmanlike’ meant ‘characteristic of a skilful workman’.

There is early evidence in bridge-building records: 1422 quilke forsaide brigge ... salle be made sufficient and warkmanly in mason crafte, Catterick. In 1486, Lady's Bridge in Sheffield was judged after the sight of Workmen of the same Crafte and in 1579, Elland Bridge had to be finished in a workmanlike manner in every respect. In 1701, Ambrose Pudsay’s report on Skirden Bridge began with the following sentence: And having taken Some Workmen along with me, the better to informe me what work is necessary … Certifie this Court that there must be erected … one new Land Stall, etc’. The same standards operated in other crafts, in metal work for example: 1475 dight no swerdes but warkemanlyke, York. An Act of 1624 wanted cutlers who were responsible for unworkmanly wares to be penalised and entries in the searchers records mention sizzors unworkmanly wrought in 1704 and Searching for unworkmanlike wares in 1715. The terms are found in springwood leases from the eighteenth century: 1766 workmen shall and will in a … workmanlike manner according to the best and most approved method for encouraging the future Springing and growth … cut down and fall the said woods, Quarmby. This more specialised meaning of the word is implicit in a Lepton by-law: 1623 that no man take anye Coles … without workmens consent. In a South Crosland lease of 1666, the lessees were to leave the pit in good repair and its condition was to be att the discresion of two workemen. These men were effectively the ‘viewers’ named by the landlord. An agreement in Tong in 1744 required the Coale Mines to be left in a Workmanlike manner.

spellings workmanlike workmanly
dates 1422 1475 1486 1579 1623 1624 1666 1701 1704 1744 1766

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