In England, needle manufacture was very much a cottage industry. By the 1650's it became clear that if the needlemaking industry was to proposer there would need to be some sort of regulation to ensure the quality of needles produced and limiting of foreign imports. In the 1650's the leading manufacturers led by John Hobcraft petitioned the Commonwealth government for a Charter complete with Bylaws and this was granted on 10th November 1656; it is one of only two charters of this type granted by Oliver Cromwell. When the King was restored in 1660, the Needlemakers petitioned for a new charter and this was granted on 9th February 1664.

Originally the Company was very much involved with the needle making industry, however, over time the manufacturing of needles has predominantly moved overseas and so the focus is more towards users of needles including needlework and medicine.

Note that when the mystery of needlemaking is referred to it is interchangeable with words like craft, art, skill or trade as well as a trade guild. It has nothing to do with trade secrets or alchemy.

The Royal Charter

Royal Charter of King Charles II: 9th February 1664 (left) and Royal Charter: Ordinances (Bylaws) 20th June, 1664

A full history can be found in the book The Needlemakers' Company and the Royal Charter by Liveryman Dr Rodney Edrich