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Working Life

Dumfries Seven Trades

Dumfries Seven Trades

The Seven Incorporated Trades of Dumfries began life in the Middle Ages.  At this time there were at least eleven trades or craftsmen's guilds which operated in the town.  These included smiths, wrights and masons, websters or weavers, tailors, shoemakers or cordwainers, skinners and glovers, fleshers, lorimers or armourers, pewterers or tinsmiths, bonnetmakers and listers or dyers.  To become a craftsman you had to serve an apprenticeship for five years in return for food and clothing. At the end of this time the apprentice had to sit a test of competency. On successful completion of this he could join the guild and be recognised as a freeman of the burgh. For this right he had to be able to defend the burgh. Each guild had its own flag or standard.

By the late 1500s the trades of Dumfries became the Seven Incorporations.  These were the hammermen (metal workers), squaremen (masons and wrights or carpenters), weavers, tailors, shoemakers, skinners and glovers (leatherworkers) and fleshers (butchers).  These craftsmen or merchants were the wealthiest citizens of the town and were members of the town council.  This continued until they lost their seats after the Burgh Reform Act of 1833.

A new Trades Hall was built in Queensberry Square in 1804 which opened in 1806.  The privileges of the Seven Trades were banned by Act of Parliament in 1846 as being a restriction on trade.  The Seven Incorporations became little more than gentlemens clubs and they faded from town life by the beginning of the 20th century.