Guild Merchant celebrations began today with a float parade and festival. Preston’s charter gave it the right to have a Guild Merchant or trade association. The names of Guild members or burgesses were inscribed on a roll. A regular Guild Court was held at which a new roll of burgesses was compiled.
The custom of holding Preston’s Guild Court every twenty years began in 1542. The carnival which marked each Guild Merchant was famed nationwide: great feasts were held and a grand time had by all. The Beauties of England and Wales (1807) reported that the Guild Merchant on 30 August 1802 was attended by ‘an immense concourse of people of all ranks’.
Processions took place through all the town’s ‘principal streets’. On the first day everyone took their allotted place in the parade: the mayor and corporation, and ‘the wardens of the different companies at the head of their respective incorporated bodies, each in their official dresses’ represented each branch of trade and commerce. A band of music marched with each company.
On the second day the mayoress did the honours. ‘The girls of the cotton manufactory’ took their place in a procession, followed by nearly 400 ladies ‘superbly dressed, and profusely decorated with jewels’. A ‘miniature model of a complete steam-engine’ was displayed which ‘performed every operation of the cotton manufactory’. ‘Proud’ Preston’s Guild Merchant has continued to the present day, apart from wartime interruptions.
You can find out more about how to use the Guild Rolls and other records to trace your Lancashire ancestors in my forthcoming book.
Image: Preston market place in the 1840s. Engraving by C. Nicholls after a drawing by G. F. Sargent. Pictorial History of the County of Lancashire, 1844. Author’s collection.