References to the Plague of 1665 appear in the accounts, but they are brief and the Company does not appear to have suffered very seriously; the four Wardens, the Clerk and the Beadle all survived, although the Porter was stricken and sent to one of the Pest Houses. Applications for relief from the Poor Box were normal and there is no reference to heavy mortality among the Assistants and Livery. However, the Great Fire of 1666 was disastrous to the Company, for not only did it destroy the Hall but also all the leasehold property as well; the Company never recovered its former prosperity and continued heavily in debt for many years.
The short reign of James II was remarkable for the dismissal of Wardens, Assistants and Liverymen as a result of the “Quo Warranto” filed in the Kings’ Bench against the Corporation of London. In obedience to the orders of the Privy Council, the Lord Mayor dismissed all members from office who belonged to the Established Church and were deemed unfavourable to the King’s policy. These were troubled times and the Blacksmiths were still suffering from the results of heavy expenses incurred by the building of the new Hall, which seemed to have been on a more extravagant scale than was justified.
They were still heavily in debt during the reigns of William and Mary, and William III; when Anne came to the throne they were involved in Lawsuits and were so hard pressed that they were forced to appeal to the Lord Mayor for exemption from erecting their stands and banners to greet the Queen when she attended the thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Battle of Blenheim.
The early years of the Eighteenth Century showed a slight improvement. Already there were signs of change: the Mediaeval conditions, under which the Company had formerly operated and which the provisions of the Charters were designed to meet, were giving way to conditions approaching those with which we are familiar today. The population of the City was still fed from the country districts and the death rate in the City was still abnormally high. London was expanding and the population was increasing; there was general improvement and the craftsmen became more impatient of the old conditions and strove for a wider measure of freedom. Signs of this movement are discoverable in our records and as time went on it was found that the enforcement of restrictions upon strangers could no longer be maintained.