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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Industry and Technology


By W Hamish Fraser

As a way to settling differences between craftsmen and merchants the Provost and three of the town's clergy acted as arbiters and produced in 1605 a Letter of Guildry. This laid down the rights and privileges of what was called the Merchants' House and the Trades' House and recognised the existing craft organisations. The Merchants' House was led by the Dean of Guild and the Trades' House by the Deacon Convener and they agreed that "in all musters, weapons-shawing and other lawful assemblies, there shall be no question, strife or debate twixt merchants and craftsmen for prerogative, or priority".

Fourteen of the main crafts in the city were organised in guilds or incorporations. These were the Hammermen (goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, tinsmiths and saddlers), the Tailors, the Cordiners (shoemakers), the Maltmen (brewers), the Weavers, the Baxters (bakers), the Skinners and Furriers, the Wrights (boatbuilders, sawyers, glaziers and painters), the Coopers (barrel-makers), the Fleshers, the Masons, the Gardeners, the Barbers (including surgeons) and the Bonnet-Makers and Dyers. In all there were 363 burgesses of the trade rank in 1605. The purpose of the incorporations was to control who could work at the craft in the city and those who would be recognised as freemen or burgesses of the city. They also oversaw the quality and price of goods produced and provided support for sick members and for the families of deceased members.

Substantial entry payments had to be made by "straingers" in order to become a member of one of these incorporations, although marriage by an apprentice to the daughter of a master craftsman provided a cheaper route. From time to time the deacon or visitor would go round the craft workshops and inspect the quality of goods being produced. The office bearers of the incorporation would also combine to fix the price that would be paid for raw materials and at which goods would be sold. These were tactics which came to be increasingly resented by those outside the craft circle.

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