Merchant Guild and Incorporations

William the Lion speaks of the “gild merchant”. In early times the merchant guild administered the town. They saw that the King’s taxes were paid and organised the markets and fairs. The guild was formed of merchants (businessmen) and in early times craftsmen who were burgesses of the town. Workers in gold, silver, brass, iron, bakers, tailors, fleshers etc entered as guild brethren – but as William the Lion decreed in his Charter not “weavers and waulkers”. Later the merchant guild became Perth Guildry.

The Merchant Guild comprised merchants, malt-men, surgeons and dyers. The Dean of Guild Court comprised the Dean of Guild, the Provost, three Merchant Bailies, four Guild Brethren and two Tradesmen. Up till recently planning permission for building etc was granted by the Dean of Guild Court. Until regionalisation (1975) the Dean of Guild had by right a seat on Perth Town Council. The Guild owned much property e.g. Guildtown, Guild Hall in the High Street. Eventually the Incorporation of Crafts and Trades developed and formed.

In the 15th century a royal act was passed stating that every craft should have a Deacon or Masterman “to judge, teach and test”. Work was examined and prices fixed. Craftsmen of Perth were protected from “outside competition” and “price cutting”.

There were eight Incorporations: The Incorporated Trades. Each had a deacon (master) and boxmaster (treasurer).

Hammermen – Comprised blacksmiths, silversmiths, furriers, gunsmiths, coach-makers, watchmakers, brass and iron founders, harness and saddle-makers, jewelers and goldsmiths, cutters, tinsmiths and plumbers. Guild Motto: ‘By Hammer and Hand all Arts do Stand’. The Hammermen Hall was in High Street. By the 15th century all metalworkers within the Burgh of Perth were expected to be members of the Hammermen Incorporation. The guild obtained its incorporation in 1518. (A carved and painted stone plaque from Dan Reid’s Hammermen Tavern bearing the symbols of the Hammermen Incorporation of Perth was removed from the exterior wall of a 1909 tenement at 141 High Street during the conversion of the building in February 1994. The panel is rectangular, length 875mm, height 1,035mm, depth 240mm, framed by mouldings painted grey. The central panel shows in relief a golden anvil. A fleshcoloured hand with a grey sleeve reaches from the right-hand side of the panel and holds an upright golden hammer. The hammer is surmounted by the crown symbol of the Hammermen painted gold and red. On a purple background are incised the following inscriptions painted grey: ‘VERSAMUS TENACI’ along the top, and ‘FORCIPE MASSAM’ to the left of the hammer and hand. (We shape the metal with a firm grip on the tongs.) In the voids in each quarter of the plaque are incised the four figures of the date 1742. Donated to Perth Museum & Art Gallery. Acc No 1994.186.) In 2008 a stainless steel plaque was mounted near to where the Hammermen Hall once stood; this being the last act of the Hammermen Guild of Perth before being wound up. Note: The Hammermen Tavern operated from about 1907 until 1950.

Bakers (Baxters) – Comprised one science. They built the Granary (Tourist Information Office and flats now) in 1770. Their Hall was in Baxters’ Vennel where they had a property.

Shoemakers (Cordiners) – One science. They held a shoe market in South Street on Fridays. An old name for South Street is Shoegait.

Fleshers (Butchers) – They held their market in South Street before moving to the Fleshmarket (the area in front of St. John’s Kirk). Fleshers’ Vennel leads from South Street to St. John’s Square. They owned property in this part of the town. Their guild sign is on a building in South Street (south side) facing Fleshers’ Vennel.

Glovers – Comprised two sciences – Glovers and Skinners. They were very wealthy. They owned land at Upper Tullylumb, also land at St. Leonard’s Farm (Craigie), Leonard Bank, Leonard Street, Pomarium. At one period their meeting hall was in the Fair Maid’s House. In 1786 they built a new hall in George Street. In early 1840s they sold some of their land to the railway companies for the building of Perth Station.

Wrights – Comprise seven sciences – Wrights, barbers, coopers, slaters, plasterers, glaziers, masons. Their hall was in their property in the Watergate built in 1725. Their guild sign can be seen above the doorway.

Weavers – One science. There was a settlement of Flemish weavers in Perth in the 11th/12th Centuries. The old street of Thimblerow gets its name from the weaver settlement. They owned property in South Street – Weaverland. Weaverland Close was opposite Horner’s Lane and let through to their meeting place the Weavers’ Hall.

Tailors – Comprised two sciences – Tailors and stay-makers. In earlier times tailors would go out to the country families and make and mend in the country homes.

Perth had four main Fairs granted by Charter.

Palm Sunday Fair in April

Midsummer Fair in June

St John the Baptist Fair in August

St Andrew’s Day Fair in November

In the 17th century, Little Dunning Fair was added. Markets were also held in the College Yards at St. John’s Kirk, in South Street, High Street and later in George Street. The Fishmarket was at the foot of the High Street.