Edinburgh Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers



What are websters?

Websters are weavers. Webster is the old word for weaver.

What is the Websters?

The Websters is short for the Incorporated Trade of Websters, an association of websters (i.e. weavers) that has existed continuously since 1475 and is now run within the Edinburgh Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

What is an incorporated trade?

An incorporation is a trade organisation whose members are craftspeople of a trade; the origins are in the Middle Ages.

What is the difference between a guild and an incorporated trade?

A guild is a group of craftspeople of a trade; its origins are in the Middle Ages (while the Edinburgh Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers dates from 1965). In the Middle Ages an incorporated trade had more scope than a guild: through its Deacon (chairperson) an incorporated trade controlled who could trade in a place and the acceptable quality.

How did the Websters became part of the Guild?

By 1938, the Incorporated Trade of Websters had contracted to one member. To keep the organisation going, he approached the Guild and asked if we could help. The Guild agreed to take over the Websters in 1985.

What does the Guild do for the Websters?

A member of the Guild acts as Deacon of the Websters and attends meetings of the Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh. Another member of the Guild acts as Boxmaster, who traditionally carried the Deacon's papers in a box and today is a symbolic role.

The Guild holds the Websters annual general meeting straight after the Guild's annual general meeting; in practice this means hearing and approving the Deacon's annual report about their activities. The Guild owns and permanently loaned to the National Library of Scotland a bound set of some of the Websters papers from 1654 to 1954:

Record bookAug 1654 - Nov 1764
Treasurer's cash bookNov 1838 - Oct 1918
Treasurer's cash bookDec 1918 - Oct 1934
Minute bookSep 1780 - Aug 1827
Minute bookSep 1827 - Oct 1954

Where can I read more?

The book "The Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh" by Charles K Bradbury and Henry S Fothringham, published 2018, is in the Guild Library (see Resources page). In addition, the website www.edinburghtrades.co.uk is about the Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh.


The Guild is in the rare position of being the present form of a tradition that stretches back to 1475 without a break to a time when weavers and other craftspeople like us made all textiles traded in Edinburgh.

© Stephen Balmer    Email: wm then @ then stephenbalmer.co.uk