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MANCHESTER GILDS AND THE RECORDS OF THE LICHFIELD CORVISORS.
BY HENRY THOMAS CROFTON.
FEW months ago there came into my possession
an interesting collection of records, extending over a period of three centuries (1561-1870), of the now extinct Gild or Society of Corvisors or Shoemakers of Lichfield. A perusal of them suggested the enquiry whether Manchester, which now occupies such a proud position in the commercial world, was formerly the seat of similar gilds, which are so nearly allied to the modern trade unions. The search had very meagre results; indeed, it would appear that the ground had been previously explored, or, at any rate, that the absence of traces of such societies had occasioned the conjecture that the rapid rise of Manchester, along with the similar progress of both Leeds and Birmingham, was largely due to freedom from the fetters of such societies.
It is probably information to very few, if any, of the members of this Society that the word gild is generally
attributed to the Anglo-Saxon gildan, to pay; because members of gilds, whether united for civil or religious purposes, were required to pay something towards the support of the brotherhood. Even in the time of the Roman occupation there were in the towns in Britain colleges or gilds which survived into Anglo-Saxon times.* The members supported their poorer brethren, and imposed contributions for current and extraordinary expenses. The funerals of brethren were attended by the survivors, and their tombs were decked with flowers twice a year, and a feast was held upon foundation day. At Exeter there was a religious gild, which met at Michaelmas and St. Mary, following the winter solstice, and All Saints, at each of which meetings a priest sang a mass for the living members and another for those who had died. Most of these societies had rules to regulate quarrelsome members. One at Cambridge imposed upon any member who treated another in an abusive manner, or called him names, a fine of a sextarium of honey. The Exeter society fined any member who treated another in an abusive manner thirty pence.
Shortly before or in Norman times the various trade or craft gilds in a town were linked together into merchant gilds. Before admission to a trade or craft gild a seven years' apprenticeship was required. The rules were usually kept in a box, and were enforced by the warden and brethren by fines, confiscation, or expulsion. The contributions provided for trade objects, and founded chantries.
In 1388 (12 Richard II.) the masters and wardens of all gilds and brotherhoods were ordered by two statutes to make a return to Chancery of their foundation, statutes,
* See Walford's Gilds (London, 1888), pp. 51-88.
and property, with copies of their charters or letters patent, and five hundred of these returns were found by Mr. Toulmin Smith in the Record Office.
In 1436 (15 Henry VI., cap. 6) a statute was passed by which each gild had to register its letters patent before the county justices or chief officer of the city or borough, and their ordinances were to be subject to the approval of the justices or chief officer, and were to be registered with the clerk of the peace.
In 1503 (19 Henry VII., cap. 7) another Act was passed prohibiting corporations from making ordinances without the approval of the "Chauncellor Tresorer of Englonde and Cheffe Justices of ether Benche or thre of them or before bothe the Justices of Assizes in their cyrcuyte," and no orders were to be made to restrain suits in the king's courts, which indicates that a custom had grown up requiring members to refer their disputes to the governing body of the craft gild to which they belonged.
In 1530 (22 Henry VIII., cap. 4) an Act was passed against the varying and exorbitant fees charged for entry of apprentices in their common halls by the wardens, and the fees were limited to 2s. 6d. on apprenticeship and 3s. 4d. on entry as a freeman.
In 1536 this was confirmed by 28 Henry VIII., cap. 5. In 1545 (37 Henry VIII., cap. 4) religious gilds were dissolved, and the Act was confirmed in 1547 by I Edward VI., cap. 14.
Merchant gilds and craft gilds as well as religious gilds were numerous in Lancashire and Cheshire, whatever lack there may have been of them in Manchester.
The Preston gild-merchant, which still survives, dates back to 1179. The trade gilds of Preston include the Gild of Tanners, Skinners, Curriers and Glovers, and the Cordwainers' Gild.
In 1229 Liverpool received from Henry III. a Charter for a mercatorial gild, which, in 1581, exacted from Rauffe Sorocolde, of Manchester, four marks, to be allowed to make his best market for his Iron and Trayne Oil which came to Liverpool in the good ship the barque Straunge. Sorocolde was a vintner in Manchester, and the ship was named after Lord Strange, for in 1577, "ye Lord Strange and Raffe Sorocolde owed John Haughton of Manchester, Draper, £4. 12s."-Earwaker's Manchester Court Leet Records, i. 201.
This Liverpool gild-merchant included a tailor's gild and a company of websters.
In 1230 the Earl of Chester granted to Salford a charter by which "no one within the Wapentake of Salford might exercise his calling as a shoemaker, currier, fuller, or any such, except in the Borough saving the liberties of the Barony.”—Palatine Note-book, ii. 161.
In 1245 Wigan received a charter for a merchant-gild, and its various companies included a tanner's gild.
The gild-merchant of Kirkham, in the Fylde, dates back to 1295.
In 1337 the Gild of the Holy Trinity and St. Leonard was founded at Lancaster.
There were gild-merchants in Cheshire of the following dates: Chester, 1190-1201; Macclesfield, 1261; Congleton, 1272; Altrincham, 1290; and the gild-merchant of Nantwich is said to have been established soon after the Conquest.
The oldest gild in Manchester, of which any record has survived, was apparently a religious gild called the Gild of the Blessed Mary. The date of its foundation is unknown, but it is conjectured to have given its name to land in Rusholme, which in the time of Henry III. (1216-1272) was called called "Gylde housys and Gilde
hustide [stead]." In 1317 this place-name occurs as Yhildhouse digth and Yhildhous Moor. In 1324 mention is made of the Gelde Broke. The name has been modernised into Heald House, Heald Place, Heald Grove, &c., and probably part of the property is that which now belongs to the Dean and Canons of Manchester, opposite the gates of Victoria Park. In 1635 the Collegiate Church charters mention the Yeildhouse in Rusholme.-Booker's Birch Chapel, Chet. Soc., xlvij. 3-5. In 1473 "this Gild of the Blessed Mary held divers burgages at Manchester paying iijs.”—Mamecestre, Chet. Soc., lviij. 506.
The gild subsequently extended its title, or perhaps became amalgamated with another gild called St. George's Gild, and in 1501 was styled "The Gild or Brotherhode of our B. Ladie and St. George of Manchester." The brotherhood was not limited to one sex, however, for in 1501 Robert Chetham, of Manchester, gentleman, when founding a chantry in the Collegiate Church, directed that the "Chantry Priest should be one of the priests of this gild, and should pray for the souls of the Chantry founder and Isabell his wife, and for the souls of their Faders and Moders, and for the welfare of the Bredren and Susters of the said guild, that be on lyfe, and for the souls of such others as were dead, and for all Christian souls" (Lancashire Chantries, Chet. Soc., lix. 41 n.). From the reference to deceased members .of the gild, it is evident that the gild was not recently formed. Daily mass was to be said at six of the clock in the morning.
The title of the gild was afterwards shortened to Saint George Gild. This appears by the will of the abovenamed Isabell Chetham, dated July 12th, 1523, in which it is stated that "Rycd Tetlawe her late father and rychard Masse had gyffen beqwests towards the p'chasing of lands