The use of apprenticeship to teach boys and (to a lesser extent) girls a trade or craft was established in England by the late 13th century. The agreement between the apprentice and his master was usually recorded in a type of deed termed an indenture. The term derived from the deed's physical form: it was written in duplicate on a single sheet of parchment, then divided by a jagged (indented) cut so that the two parts could later be matched to verify their authenticity. The Statute of Artificers, 1563, was intended to standardise the practice of apprenticeship throughout the country.
In Gloucester, as elsewhere, a completed apprenticeship was one route to achieving the freedom of the borough. Freedom conferred many privileges: the right to pursue a trade or craft, the right to vote, eligibility for civic office and access to benefits from certain charities. The city therefore needed to keep a record of those who were apprenticed. A note of each new apprenticeship indenture, and often of the assignment of an apprentice to a new master, was entered in a register by the Clerk. The registers survive from 1595. For each apprentice they record the date of the indenture, the names of the apprentice and of his parents (usually the father) with occupation and place of residence, the names of the master and his wife, the term of years for which the apprentice was bound, the trade to be learnt and the payment in cash and sometimes in kind to be made by the master on completion.
This volume provides a calendar of more than 4,000 indentures registered between 1595 and 1700. It also includes entries for indentured servants sailing to Virginia and Barbados in 1659-60. In addition the editor has drawn on other city records to supply extra information, notably about money paid as premiums to masters by charities. The volume complements the Calendar of the Registers of the Freemen of the City of Gloucester, 1641-1838 (Gloucestershire Record Series volume 4), especially in Appendix IV, which lists freemen whose admission is recorded in the minutes of common council from 1595 to 1641.
The calendar is a valuable source for urban social and economic historians, a particularly rich quarry for family historians and a key document for the history of Gloucester. The full indexes ensure ease of access to all aspects of the information presented.