What is Preston Guild?

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on February 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Have you ever heard of the Preston Guild? I hadn’t, until I started researching an article about a new gallery being installed at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, Lancashire.

The Guild Gallery will open in September 2012, at the same time as their once-in-a-generation celebration called the Guild. It takes place in the city every 20 years and dates back to 1179.

The former town’s Charter, granted by Henry II, gave burgesses – citizens with special rights – the ability to control trade within the town. The holding of the Guild was a major occasion and the cause of much celebration across the city. People descended on Preston (Priest Town) to attend the festival, trade their wares, participate in processions, balls and associated events and generally enjoy themselves.

Noawadays the Preston Guild plays an important role in the development of the city as a thriving and important place. It is the only Guild still celebrated in the UK and as such is unique.

Of course, since the advent of Free Trade, the original purpose has changed. However, the renewal of those rights, although now symbolic, is an essential element of the Guild and with burgesses hereditary and honorary arriving from around the world to reaffirm their historic status in the first week of September, it has become a major celebration of social and economic progress and a vehicle for visioning the future.

It all sounds rather jolly, doesn’t it? And they get a fabulous new museum gallery to mark the event.

There we are. You know what a guild is now.



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