Record

CodeNA4689
Dates1214-
Person NameAberdeen Guildry; 1214-
ActivityBy convention, King Alexander II (1214 - 1249) founded the Guildry of Aberdeen in 1214, this being the date which appears on the guildry badge. The date is not definite, however, but the merchant guild of Aberdeen was established at the beginning of the thirteenth century in emulation of the King’s burgh of Perth and, indeed, of every other burgh with pretensions to overseas trade in cloth throughout mainland Britain. This is also the last mention of the ‘merchant guild’ of Aberdeen - the records of burgh administration beginning in the fourteenth century refer simply to the guild or guildry of Aberdeen. In 1277, King Alexander III (1249-1286) granted a charter extending his protection to burgesses, their lands, servants and belongings: the burgh of Aberdeen was acquiring prestige and wealth. The first civic head of Aberdeen whose name and date are certain is Matthew Greathead, who witnessed a charter as alderman in the year 1280 - 1281.

The alderman was the head of the guild, later known as Provost, while the Dean of Guild, who is head of the guild today, was from 1427 to 1833 an official of the Council rather than of the guild. He was a powerful man, who saw to it, by force if necessary, that the town’s rights were not infringed. His duties from time to time included the burning of witches, the putting down of riots and the execution of pirates, at the request of the Council. However, Aberdeen never had a Dean of Guild Court, overseeing town property, as other Scottish cities had. King Charles I’s charter to the town specifically mentioned the responsibility of the Dean of Guild for maintaining the standard weights and measures, though the Council appointed a paid Inspector of Weights and Measures in the nineteenth century. The Dean was chosen mostly by the Council until the Reform Act of 1833, which made him an elected representative of the burgesses of guild. He remained an important member of the council, retaining his right to vote even on some non-guild matters, until 1965, though he lost many of his powers.
The statutory link between the guildry and the town council was finally abolished in the local government reforms of 1975. The guildry itself lost its exclusive rights to trade in the city in 1846, after it had in effect been eroded away for several years with the loss of the Dean’s powers to enforce it and improved transport links to the city. With the Council insisting on the rights to control its funds and falling numbers of burgesses, the Guildry became less and less powerful until the beginning of the 1980s when a new team of experienced and influential assessors was appointed under the leadership of William Wyllie, the new Dean of Guild. Women were admitted for the first time in 1983, membership increased, and after much debate some control over funds was reacquired in 1996, so that they could be used for the benefit of the community. It now consists of various leading citizens, not simply merchants, interested in the welfare of Aberdeen.
Corporate NameAberdeen Guildry
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