An insight into the workings of the Trade Guilds of Glasgow.
The Trades House of Glasgow was created at the time of reform of Glasgow’s local government in 1605. At that time the electorate was essentially divided into two groups: the Merchants and the Craftsmen. The Craft Incorporations were led by the Deacon Convener who was given a council seat which is retained to this day, but no longer has speaking or voting rights.
Trades House was established to help protect and support the Crafts people of the City. Over the centuries it housed the Trades Free School for boys and girls, worked closely with educational establishments within the City to support initiatives when appropriate and used Funds built up following donations from generous benefactors to assist those in need.
As a member of the Wrights and a Burgess and Freeman of Glasdgow, our Convenor shares with you the latest newsletter from the Guilds.
In order to recognise the Craftsmen who were helping to build Glasgow Cathedral at the beginning of the 11th Century, King Malcolm III of Scotland granted the Craftsmen a Royal Charter in 1057. The effect of this was that the governing structure of the Crafts was from then on officially recognised by the state.
This condition continued for many years until a Seal of Cause was granted by the Provost and Magistrates of the City of Glasgow in 1600, the effect of which was to allow the Wrights (who were and still are skilled carpenters) to become a distinct incorporation by themselves. The Wrights had by this time, in fact, become completely independent from their brother Craftsmen (now the Incorporations of Masons and Coopers, being the descendants of those who worked in stone and wood), and the granting of the Seal of Cause helped secure a strong and independent position for the Wrights, as well as granting them a monopoly on all carpentry work in the City of Glasgow. Having not long secured their own independent status, when the Letter of Guildry was granted to the Trades of Glasgow in 1605 the Wrights decided not to join the other Crafts. Had they done so they would be a senior Craft in today’s Trades House of Glasgow, but they held back and so are eighth in line of seniority.
In 1846 all the exclusive rights and privileges of trading that had been granted to the Craft were swept away by the Recissory Act, but the Craft members decided not to wind-up the Craft and distribute the funds to the members. Instead the members decided to channel the energy and enterprise of the Craft into the work of benevolence. Over the years since 1846 the Craft has still continued to attract men who are associated in some way with the trade of which its members once had a monopoly, but the old spirit of exclusion has long since gone. Today the Craft’s benevolence continues and considerable funds are still distributed each year to the Craft’s grantees.
In 1979, the Craft instituted an awards scheme for young carpenters. Promising youngsters still compete annually for this award in which credit is given not only for practical skill and academic distinction but also for completing the work on time in order to emphasise the importance of delivery on time in the modern industry. Three other awards for education are made each year to schoolchildren who have displayed quality workmanship with wood, with yet more grants being considered by the Master Court on an individual basis.
The Craft contines to appoint officers known as Lyners, to the Dean of Guild Court Trust. Originally Lyners were experts in building who assisted the Dean of Guild Court. Today, together with Lyners appointed by the Incorporation of Masons, the Lyners from the Incorporation of Wrights help to administer the charitable funds for the Dean of Guild Court Trust, whose funds are mainly for the benefit of the architectural heritage of Glasgow.
The Wrights are the largest of the Crafts numerically and are represented in the Trades House by the Deacon, Late Deacon, Late Collector and one additional Master.