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Merchant and Craft Guilds
A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades
By Ebenezer Bain (1887)

Trades Hall, Aberdeen
Trades Hall, Aberdeen


WHILE holding office among the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen a few years ago, I had frequent opportunities of scanning their interesting old records and other documents, and I had not gone far in my perusal of them until I discovered that they contained a considerable amount of material fitted to throw light on the trading customs, and the social and religious life of the community from the fifteenth century downwards.

It was also an agreeable surprise to find that, notwithstanding the many vicissitudes through which so many of our local institutions have passed, the records of the Trades, including the documents belonging to the monastery of the Trinity Friars, were in an excellent state of preservation; and it occurred to me that, as a new generation has now arisen, having little in common with the old burgher life, a historical account of these ancient societies might prove acceptable, not only to the existing members of the Trades, but to many others who take an interest in the different phases of early burgh life.

In estimating the position which these craft guilds held in the community, it is necessary to bear in mind the large proportion of the population that came within their jurisdiction. The families, journeymen, apprentices, and servants, as well as the craftsmen themselves, were all subject to the authority of the deacons and masters of the different crafts, and amenable to the laws and statutes enforced under the powers conferred by Royal Charters, Seals of Cause, and Acts of Council; and taken at a moderate computation, these classes would represent about two thirds of the whole community. The history of the craft guilds, therefore, ought in no small measure to reflect the conditions of life among the great bulk of the industrial classes; and if this volume helps to a better understanding of the guild life of our own community my object in collecting the historical information in this volume will be fully accomplished.

To the many friends who have assisted me in various ways I take this opportunity of returning my best thanks, more particularly to Mr. P. J. ANDERSON, Secretary of the New Spalding Club; Mr. A. II. MUNRO, of the Aberdeen Town House; and Mr. J. P. ED.IIO\D, and to the CONVENER, MASTER OF TRADES HOSPITAL, DEACONS, and BOXMiASTERS of the various Trades who so readily afforded inc access to the books and documents under their charge. To Mr. ANDREW J. GIBB, Mr. E. W. JAPP, Mr. C. CARMICHAEL, and Mr. GEORGE WATT, I am also indebted for assistance in connection with the plates and drawings.

E. B.

ABERDEEN, October, 1887.



  • Chapter I
    Introductory—Etymology of "Guild"—Origin of Guilds—Greek and Roman Guilds—The Different Classes of Guilds—The Guilds and Municipalities—Conflicts among the Guilds

  • Chapter II
    Continental Guilds—France— Italy— Portugal— Holland— Germany— Norway—Russia

  • Chapter III
    London Guilds—Royal Commission of 1880—The Guilds and the Municipality—Grades of Membership—The Great and Minor Companies —Trust and Corporate Income

  • Chapter IV
    Craft Guilds in Scotland — Edinburgh — Glasgow — Stirling — Perth —Dundee


  • Chapter I
    Special Privileges of Craftsmen—Early Trading Charters—Trades of Old Aberdeen—The "Wise Men of the Craft"—The Deacon-Convener —List of Deacon-Conveners

  • Chapter II
    The Crafts and the Church—Before the Reformation—Pageants and Miracle Plays—Abbot and Prior of Bon-Accord—Offerand of our Ladye—Corpus Christi Day—Order of Precedence—Robin Hood and Little John—Religious Processions—The Reformation Period —Cordiners' Altar--After the Reformation

  • Chapter III
    Differences among the Burgesses—Representation at the Council—Composition and Entrant Dues—New Charter of Privileges

  • Chapter IV
    The Common Indenture—Renewal of Differences—Election of Magistrates—Convention of Royal Burghs—The "X"

  • Chapter V
    A Fourteen Years' Litigation—The Composition—The Funds of the Trades—Decision by the House of Lords—Settlement of the Dispute

  • Chapter VI
    Constitution of Aberdeen Crafts—Jurisdiction—Seals of Cause—The Freedom—Burgess' Oaths—Patrimony—Rates of Composition" Mastersticks or Essays"

  • Chapter VII
    The Craftsmen as Citizen Soldiers—Providing Arms—The Rebellions of 1715 and '45


  • Chapter I
    Introductory — Formation of Separate Societies — The Litstars —The Barbers—The Masons—Exclusion of Burgesses of Guild

  • Chapter II
    The Convener Court — The Old Registers —Convener Court Book — Statutes of Convener Court—List of Office-Bearers

  • Chapter III
    Dr. William Guild and the Trades—his Literary Work--Signing the Covenant—Notes on Trinity Monastery—Gift to the Trades—Trinity Chapel

  • Chapter IV
    The Bursars' House—Action in Court of Session—Financial Statement

  • Chapter V
    Trades Hospital—Charter of Administration—Decreet of Declarator Patron—Master of Hospital—Lists of Patrons, Masters of Hospital, Assessors, &c.

  • Chapter VI
    Relics and Reminiscences of Old Trades Hall—Inventory and Description of Antique Chairs —Collection of Portraits—New Trades Hall

  • Chapter VII
    Hammermen Trade—The Crafts Associated as Hammermen—Seals of Cause—"Tryar of Gold and Silver "—Statutes of the Trade— Essays—Mortification—Prosperity

  • Chapter VIII
    Baker Trade—Bakers' ,Marks—Price of Wheat and Bread—Seal of Cause—Statutes—Essays —Convictions

  • Chapter IX
    Wright and Cooper Trade—Masons—Coopering in Aberdeen—Seals of Cause—Essays—Funds

  • Chapter X
    Tailor Trade—Seal of Cause—Statutes—Admission of Females—Upholsterers—Hours and Wages—Strike, 1797—Trust Funds—Property

  • Chapter XI
    Shoemaker Trade—Appointment of Searchers—Seal of Cause—Prices of Boots and Shoes, 1586—The "Schoon Mercat"—Hides and Bark —Statutes—Cobblers —Corners—Property

  • Chapter XII
    Weaver Trade—Early Mention—Price of Work—Old Aberdeen Weavers—Statutes—Essays—Property

  • Chapter XIII
    Flesher Trade—Appreciatores Carnum—Early Regulations—Seal of Cause —Price of Beef and Mutton, 1576—Flesh Market—Statutes Amalgamation with the Six Trades

  • Chapter XIV
    The Burgh Reform Movement—Abolition of Exclusive Trading Privileges —Rights to Property Reserved

  • Chapter XV
    The Funds of the Seven Trades—Tables of Entry Monies—Widows' Fund--Supplementary Widows' Fund—Trades School


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