- ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS
- Guildry Documents and Pictures
- Archive Research
- Guildry Report
- 1551 Market Place and Woman in Guildry
- 1570 - 1696 Gildrie Book
- 1696 - 1742 Sederunt Book
- 1957-1973 Guildry Seat on Town Council
- 1958 - 2003 Sederunt Book
- 1699 - 1712 Sederunt Book
- 1730 Grievances
- 1736 - 1741 Guildry Records
- 1764 - 1768 Sederunt Book
- 1776 - 1818 Sederunt Bok
- 1815 - 1817 Commmittee on Constitution
- 1815 - 1817 Scroll Book
- 1818 - 1827 Sederunt Book
- 1819-1967 Court Book
- 1819 -1823 Scroll Book
- 1819 - 1967 Guildry Court Roll Book
- 1819 Guild Court Regulations
- 1828 - 1842 Sederunt Book
- 1829-1957 Harbour
- 1841-1847 Scroll Book
- 1841-1958 Convivial Society
- 1842 - 1865Sederunt Book
- 1847 - 1864 Scroll Book
- 1864 - 1895 Records of the Guildry
- 1864 - 1895 Sederunt Book
- 1867 Edward Baxter Mortification
- 1896 - 1957 Sederunt Book
- 1937 - 1950 Sederunt Book
- Minute Book 2003 2009
- Scroll Book 1864 - 1881
- Dundee Perth Railway
- Guildry and Trades
- 1199 Charter
- 1555-1589 Convention of Burghs
- 1597 Visit of King
- 1797 Trade Tokens
- 1846-47 Papers relating to Dundee Harbour Trustees
- 1850 Police Bill
- Merchants Letter
- Merchants Mark
- Smibert T.D.
The Guild of Merchants, generally accepted as having been formed in 1286, known as the Guildry, were the most powerful of all the public bodies in the burgh. All the councillors were Guild Brothers. The Dean of Guild sat in judgement in a Court of Law, taking evidence on oath on all matters concerning buildings and property in the burgh. Arguments regarding ownership, private wells, and boundaries abounded. The Guildry could also order a building to be demolished if it had lain derelict for a set number of years.
The Guild Court also had full responsibility for goods coming into the burgh through the harbour.
If any ship sailed in to Dundee with a cargo for sale it had to be offered first of all to the Guildry. Their Assessors would examine the cargo and negotiate with the ship's master the price for all or part of the cargo. If they were successful the cargo would then be divided up between the Guild brothers. If the cargo was not wanted, or the price could not be agreed, the Dean of Guild might give permission for the ships master to try to sell it to any freeman of the burgh provided that it was not below the price which the Guildry were offering. On occasion they would simply refuse the cargo and tell the captain to try to sell his goods elsewhere.
There is a classic case of a Merchant being brought before the court for disobeying this regulation. His defence was that he had sailed out beyond the bar of the river, gone on board the ship and negotiated with the Captain. He lost his case.
As far back as 1595 the Guildry gave the council permission to elect the Dean of Guild and, over the next ten years, the council slowly took over all the funds, papers and rights of the Guildry. Although the Guildry still existed in name it was, in reality, an arm of the council.
Why did his happen? The record does not say, but it may be because of the judicial function of the Dean of Guild Court. Whoever elected the Dean he had to be approved and accepted by the Burgh Council. It would not appear to matter to the Guildry at that time who elected the Dean and the takeover may have been by default. In any event the Dean of Guild was invariably a Magistrate and at least half the body of Assessors, or advisers to the Dean were burgh councillors. Most of the remainder of the council would in any event have been Guild brothers and they may have felt that it did not matter who elected their officials.
The Town Clerk was also Clerk to the Guildry and paid a salary by them in addition to his own.
Here is just one example of this power of the Council in the Guildry
4 October 1709
... it being moved by Baillie Oliphant yt since ye price of Meall is so great yt ye Gildry may buy a bargain of meall at Inverness & bring ye same in George Patersones ship & it being put to ye vote qy price myt be offered & how much fraught given ye Court agries to ye fraught at Six shillings & Eight pennies pr boll & ye price of ye meall not above five pounds ye boll. Appoynts Baillie Ballingall, Baillie Fairweather, Baillie Maxwell, Baillie Prestone & Baillie Henry Guthrie to comun with George Patersones owners anent the above voyage.
Appoints ane obligatione to be Drawen & subscryved by such as holds any of ye Meall betwixt & to morrow at four a'Cloak at night.
This power base obviously disturbed the Nine Incorporated Trades who wanted more of a say in affairs. In 1603 things got so bad that Robert Flesher a bailie and Robert Howie the minister of the first charge set up a separate Council and riots broke out in the burgh. An appeal was made to the Convention of Royal Burghs, but the new Council lost their case. Howie was banished to St Andrews and eventually lost his charge. The Trades however did get three seats on the Council and the right to audit the burgh accounts. They already had one of the three keys to the burgh kist and matters settled down after that. Conditions were laid down including one that forbade the Fleshers or Dyers from one of the seats. The Council believed that the smell from these gentlemen was too powerful to sit in a body with them.
April 1717 An Act of Council declared that no one could serve on the Council unless he was a Burgesss and Brother Guild.
By 1814 the Guildry realised that they could do very little to help the burgh throw off the shackles of Provost Riddoch and his excesses. They also had a group of very active and independent thinking members who demanded the restoration of their rights, particularly that of electing their own Dean and officials and running their own finances. The Nine Trades supported them, even going to the Court of Session on their behalf and after a four and a half year battle with the council, particularly the Provost who stalled at every turn, the Guildry won the right to become independent again.
However, despite winning the battle for the right to elect their own Dean of Guild by 1831 the Dean of Guild two years previously, now Provost Lindsay, who had been Riddoch's main supporter, proposed "that the Dean of Guild elected by the Town Council be elected Dean of Guild for the ensuing year", which was passed unanimously. In 1837 The Burgh Corporation Act required the council to elect the Dean of Guild showing that the council did not really relinquish control over the Guildry. Although by then Riddoch had been dead for some 14 years his influence was still in force.
In any event the Dean of Guild Court was required to countersign all alterations to property or new buildings right up to the Local Council Act of the 1961 when a Town Planning Department, for better or worse, took over the task.
In that case why, you might ask, was the Guildry so important. The Guildry controlled all trade in the burgh. No one could open a booth or shop, sell goods in the street or trade in any way unless they had a licence. Becoming a Guild Brother was very expensive. Entry cost £20 in 1800 (£1081.86 in 2010 using the retail price index and much more on the basis of average wages).
6 August 1739
Petition by James Smith weaver at backside of Liff Craveing that the Court would Allow him fourty pound scots in which sum he was fined for trading in this burrow without being free in part of the dues of freedome to the Guildrie he being willing to pay up the Remainder. Read & Refused.
To give you some idea of how important it was to be a Guild Brother and be allowed to set up shop the Minute Books give a total of over 350 people being present at meetings, particularly when electing Harbour Commissioners, a very important and sought after office. So important was this position that new rules had to be brought in to stop cheating at the election.
In order to help ordinary people to start up, the Guildry could grant a licence for one year. This varied from as little as 1/6d (£5.70 today) to £2. 2. 0 at the whim of the Assessors. This probably gives their judgement of how much business the applicant would be likely to do. To give you an idea of how large the Town was growing, apart from the Guild Brothers themselves, in 1840, there were some 410 licences given of which 101 were Spirit Dealers and 56 were female.
Today the Guildry is indeed independent, but is still very closely allied with the City Council, having the use of a meeting room there and the Lord Provost hosting various functions. However, they are presently making every effort to make the work of that body better known by the ordinary people of the town and are hoping to become more involved in making their place in the city better understood.