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The Doric Columns

The Incorpororated Trades Artefacts

Among other relics transferred from the old to the new hall were three swords belonging to the Hammermen, Tailors, and Weavers, and several remnants of banners said to have been used at the pageants in the pre-Reformation days. The punch bowls belonging to the Convener Court,
the Hammermen, the Wrights and Coopers, and the Tailors, have also been preserved. The largest bowl was presented to the Hammermen by Convener Aleck, who, although a shoemaker himself, presented the bowl to the Hammermen because he considered "they were the best brewers and drinkers of punch among the whole of the craftsmen." This bowl is about 2 feet in diameter, and stands fully 12 inches high.

The 2 large Bibles that were wont to be used in the Hospital are also in the Master of Hospital's press. One of them is a 1578 Bible, but has been allowed to fall into a very tattered condition; the other, dated 1672, is in a better state of preservation.

It can well be believed that the Craftsmen quitted their old hall, so full of interesting historical associations, with feelings of deep regret. It was a veritable breaking away from the past; and coming as it did about the time that the special privileges of the Craftsmen were abolished, their regret was rendered all the more sincere. When a proposal was made to erect a new hall, a veteran craftsman was heard to declare that before he would quit the old building he would rather subscribe "to have every stone of it clasped together with silver "than give a penny to build a new place of meeting.  Another member, Deacon Alexander Robb, a local poet with no mean talent for versification, sang a dedication at one of the last convivial gatherings held in the old hall.

But whare's the use o' waefu' skirlin', 
Lat us a' be happy yet,
Altho' rail trains will soon be dirlin'
O'er the spot whare now we sit.

Deacon Robb was not indulging in imaginative flights when he alluded to Lords and Earls and Lord Chancellors having honoured the Auld Tarnty Hla' with their presence. The Earls Marischal and Huntly, and in later times Lord Brougham and Mr. Joseph Hume, are mentioned in the Trades' records as having partaken of the hospitality of the craftsmen.

The different kinds of essays or mastersticks which were prescribed for entrant craftsmen to test their ability to work were given. After an essay has been prescribed, two essay masters and an oversman are appointed to visit the entrant and see him working at his essay, and if they have any suspicion that he is being assisted, they have power to lock him into a workshop while he is at work. An entrant is now frequently permitted to make some special article as his essay, which could be preserved as a memento of his entry into his craft. There are at least three of these in the Trades Hall at present, one a unique piece of weaver work by James Wilson, weaver; another, the Arms of the Hammermen Trade, chased in brass by Mr. Robert Rettie; and a 3rd, a beautifully finished and hooped quarter cask made by Mr. George Gorrod, and which is looked after by the Boxmaster of the Wright and Cooper Trade.


The Tarnty Gate


Gateway C1810 and later re-sited as the Shiprow Tarnty Ha' Entrance

The gateway dates from 1632. The left of the three panels contained the Guild family coat of arms and the initials D.W.G - Dr William Guild who gifted the building to the Trades. The central inscription reads: 'To ye glorie of God and comfort of the Poore, this Hows was given to the crafts by Mr William Guild, Doctor of Divinitie, Minister of Abdn:1633'. The inscription on the right hand panel reads: 'He that pitieth the poore lendeth to the Lord and that which he hath given will he repay' Prov. 19.17.

The Trinity Monastery and all its belongings were bought by Dr William Guild, one of the town's ministers, and presented by him in 1633 to the Seven Incorporated Trades.  Dr. Guild gifted the Trinity Monastery as a Meeting-House and Hospital to the Trades, he nominated 6 of the deacons of the crafts to act along with a Patron and Convener in the management of the Hospital, these 6 being the deacons who were selected among the crafts to vote at the election of Magistrates. In 1657 the Flesher Trade was admitted to the benefits of the Hospital in terms of an agreement sanctioned by Dr. Guild ; and their deacon being at the same time admitted a member of the Convener Court, the number of trades represented in that body was increased to its present number of seven. In addition to the Deacons, the Master of Hospital, the Boxmasters, late Deacons, and First Master of each Trade are also members of the Convener Court.  Although recognised from the outset as a superior court by the craftsmen, the Convener Court has seldom exercised any jurisdiction over the affairs of the individual Trades. When disputes or difficulties arose, it has acted more as a consultative than as an administrative board. On several occasions when the Trades considered that the Convener Court had overstepped its functions, an appeal was made to the Magistrates or Court of Session, and the decision was invariably in favour of the individual Trades having full control of their own affairs. The last case of this kind occurred in 1711-12, when the Court of Session ruled that a judgment given by the Convener Court regarding one of the office-bearers of the Baker Incorporation was ultra vires, and had to be expunged from the minutes of the Convener Court.  In 1881 a code of rules and regulations was drawn up for the " guidance of the members in the discharge of the duties of the Court," but no departure of any consequence was made from the established " use and want."

This ornate Monastery Gateway became the doorway of Trinity Hall, Shiprow, the first home of the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen was located at Trinity Corner the bottom junction of Putachieside and the old Shiprow (in the area of Market Street/Guild Street.) 

The gateway was removed in the 1850's when the new hall was erected in Union Street in 1846, and was rebuilt into a side wall. However, later reconstruction work in the 1890's led to the demolition of the gateway although fragments were preserved in the hall. - Knocket Doon








Trinity Hall Union Street Interior - Dining Room 1885

Weavers (pre 1222)
Bakers (1398)
Tailors (1511)
Hammermen (1519)
Shoemakers (1484 and 1520)
Wrights and Coopers (1527)
Fleshers (1534)

The collection of portraits removed from the old hall to the new building has been considerably augmented of late years, and now forms a highly interesting collection both as works of art and as memorials of worthy citizens well known in their day and generation. When we mention that there are examples by Jarnesone, Dyce, R.A.; Alexander, Archibald Robertson, Joseph Nisbet, G. Reid, R.S.A.; William Niddrie, James Cassie, A.R.S.A.; J. Giles, R.S.A.; J. Stirling, J. Mitchell, and G. W. Wilson, it will be seen that the collection is fairly representative of the works of local artists.

The Chairs

Many interesting relics were transferred from the old hall to the new buildings in Union Street. The collection of antique oak chairs, presented from time to time for the use of the Deacons of the different Trades, has been long looked upon as the most complete of its kind in Scotland. Some of them date from the time that the craftsmen held their meetings in the Deacons' houses, while it is tolerably certain that one of the largest chairs belonged to the Old Monastery. This chair is mentioned in an "inventory of the plenishings belonging to the Trinity Hall, taken in presence of Patrick Whyt, Deacon Convener, 1696," as "King William's Cheer," and although some of the framework has evidently been renewed, the panels (showing carved heads of Monks and Warriors) evidently belong to the early Monkish period. The Convener's chair, which stands about 6 feet high, has finely-carved Gothic. panels; and some of the other chairs of smaller size exhibit no small amount of originality of design and finish. The inventory taken in 1696 gives the following list of chairs, &c., all of which are in the new hall, and in an excellent state of preservation :- 

King William's Cheer and Picture

Weavers—Ane public cheer for their Deacon, 1684.

Bakers - Ane cheer, gifted by John Middleton, Baxter (Baker), Deacon Conveener, 1634; ane cheer, gifted by Christian Mitchell, daughter to William Chapman, sometime Deacon of the Baxters, 1668, and another on January, 1704.

On one of the chairs belonging to the Bakers is a portion of the Bakers Arms, and also the Middleton Arms, with the inscription, "My soul prais thou the Lord. I. M. John Midleton, Deacon, 1634."

Taiiors - Ane cheer, gifted by Thomson Cordyn, taylyer, Deacon Convener, 1627; ane cheer or round table, gifted by Alexander Cockie, taylyer ; ane cheer gifted by John Forbes, taylyer, 1694.

Hammermen - Ane Cheer, gifted by Lawrence Afersar for the use of said Traid; ane cheer, gifted by Matthew Guild, armourer; ane cheer, gifted by George Anderson, goldsmith, Deacon Conviner in 1609 ; ane cheer, gifted by William Anderson, goldsmith, Deacon Conviner, 1654; ane cheer, gifted by Alexander Paterson, arulourer, Deacon Conviner, with his pictur, 1685; ane cheer, gifted by Patrick Whyt, Hookmaker, Deacon Conviner, with his pictur, 1690; ane cheer, gifted by James Anderson, glazier, 1692.

Shoemakers - Ane cheer, gifted by Thomas Robertson, shoemaker, Deacon Convener, 1633; ane cheer, gifted by Alexander Idle, shoemaker, Deacon Convener, 1679; ane cheer, gifted by William Dickson, late Deacon, 1686.

Thomas Robertsone, who presented a chair to the Shoemakers in 1633 bearing the inscription "Thomas Robertsone, Deacon-Conviner, Grace me God, 1633," was killed on the 13th September, 1644, at the Battle of Justice Mills or Craibstane during the covenanting troubles. Three other cordiners were killed in the same affray

Wrights and Coopers - Ane cheer, gifted by Jerome Blak, couper, 1574; ane cheer, gifted by William Ord, Wright, Deacon Convener, 1635.

A chair presented by Jerome Blak in 1574 is ornamented with a carving of the Black Arms (a saltire, between a crescent in base, a mullet, in chief; for crest a hand holding a cooper's adze, in dexter proper). 

Fleshers - Ane cheer, gifted by Andrew Watson, Deacon; ane cheer, gifted by John Craighead, Deacon.

The Andrew Watson, Flesher Deacon's Chair.
The chairs presented about the middle of the 17th century are all of superior design and better construction, the chair presented by Andrew Watson, Flesher, in 1661 being about the most elaborate. The arms of his trade are carved and coloured on the upper part of the back, and on the centre are the arms of the Watson family (an oak tree eradicated in base, surmounted by a Less, charged with crescent, between two mullets). Watson was Deacon when the Flesher Trade was joined to the other 6 under Dr. Guild's deed of mortification for the administration of the Trades Hospital.



Weavers Deacon's Chair
The weavers provided a chair for their Deacon in 1684. It bears the arms of the trade, with their motto, Spero in Deo et ipse facit.  









Shoemaker Deacon's Chair

The chair presented by Alexander Idle, Shoemaker, in 1679 has the crown and cutting knife of his craft carved in the back, with his name, "A. Idle, Deacon-Conviner, 30th November, 1679." Idle had a somewhat chequered career. The books of his trade show that at one time he must have carried on a fairly extensive business, but in the end of his days he entered the Hospital as a Beadman.

A chair  bearing the Guthrie Arms (I and 4 three garbs; 2 and 3, a lion rampant) and the initials "H. G.," with the word " Chirurgie " underneath, is evidently a relic of the Leechers or Barbers Society, now extinct.


Of the 7 chairs belonging to the Hammermen Trade the oldest is that supposed to have been gifted by Laurens Mercer, a contemporary of Matthew Guild. The chair bears no date, but simply the initials "L. M.," with the arms of the Mercer family (on a Tess, three bezants; a mullet in base and three crosses, potent in chief) and underneath the motto - Crux Christi'mea corona. Laurens Mercer was several times Deacon of his craft from 1572 to 1596, and although others of the same name joined the trade some time after, the chair, from its appearance and construction, bears evidence of having been presented by the Mercer who figured so prominently in Matthew Guild's time, and who also shared the same punishment as Guild for "cumy ng throch the Gallowgett on a Sunday with ane menstrall playand befor thaim."

Ane cheer marked W. P. coft (cost) to the Hospital; ane cheer, gifted by John Archibald.
It is uncertain who the "W. P." refers to on the chair, which, according to the inventory was bought by the Master of Hospital prior to 1696. It bears the Paterson arms (a fess; in base, three pelicans vulnin; three mullets in chief).


Patrick Whyt, Hookmaker, presented a portrait of himself, as well as a chair. He was several times Deacon of the Hammermen Trade, with which the hookmakers were associated, and was also elected Deacon-Convener in 1690.  At that time hookmaking seems to have been somewhat extensively carried on, as numbers of apprentices appear on records as having been indentured to the calling, which, by the way, included reedmaking and all working in wire generally. Wire windows are frequently mentioned as essays prescribed for this class of tradesmen during the 16th century. Whyt's chair, besides bearing his name and designation in full, has a shield charged with the Hammermen arms, and also 2 fishing hooks in saltire, and 1 in pale with the initials "P. W." in monogram.




Tailors Deacon's Chair Fig IX
An odd looking chair was presented by Alexander Cockie in 1617, who embellished it with his arms - "a cock; on a chief the sun in its splendour, and a crescent between two mullets," and his initials "A. C." The back folds down upon the arms, and forms a most convenient card table

An antique oak chair, which bears the inscription- -"H. G., Chirurgie " with the Guthrie Arms, is said to be preserved in the Trades Hall, and is said to have been the chair used by the Deacon of the Barber's SocietyUp to about 1840 there were over 30 members, but gradually the membership fell off, and  years ago the remnant members and beneficiaries entered into a private arrangement for dividing the stock of the society among themselves. There was only one surviving member in 1887. 

There are also 2 massive oak tables On 10th November, 1699, "the Convener Court ordained Charles Sangster, Master of Traids Hospital, to employ and pay William Coutts, Deacon Convener, for repairing the great table in the Trinities. Lykwise the said William Coutts accepted of the said employment and promised to project the work betwixt the Pasch next, under the faiilzie of ten dollars, and thereupon has subscribed these presents."

Again, on 18th January, 1703, "the Convener Court ordains the Master of Hospital to cause mak up the red marble table, and to mak use of the great wainscot table in their church for that effect."] in the hall, at one of which it is said the Lion King was wont to preside. Both tables have stone tops about 6 inches in thickness. On the ends of one of the tables are shields, one being the Guild family Badge, and the other the initials "D. W. G." We give side and end elevations of the principal table.

The 1st monarch of whose residence in Aberdeen there is authentic evidence is King William the Lion, grandson of David I. He appears to have resided frequently, either in the City or County, between the years 1179 and I2I4  The oldest extant charter of the City was granted by him, and is believed to be of the former date. It is still in good preservation. William appears to have had a house in Aberdeen, which, about 1211, he bestowed on the order of Trinity, Red, or Maturine Friars, whose chief business it was to collect funds for the redemption of Christians held in slavery by the Infidels in Palestine. Of this Palace nothing now remains; the site was occupied by the Old Trades Hall. But there was still to be seen in the 2nd Hall a ponderous table, at which tradition says the Leonine Monarch used to preside. It is a very curious piece of furniture, consisting of a massive slab of artificial stone, smoothly polished, and set in a beautiful oak frame of much later date; the style of the ornaments showing that it belongs to the early part of the 17th century. The framework bears the arms of Dr. Guild, who purchased and fitted up the ruins of the monastery as a hospital for decayed Burgesses of Trade.

Blackfriars Seal

From the deeds and papers in the possession of the Trades pertaining to the Monastery it appears that on 29th September, 1381, William de Daulton, predicant or Black Friar, gave a donation of 13 shillings 4 pennies Scots to the Trinity Convent to be paid annually from his house and land in the Shiprow for the weal of his soul, the souls of his father and mother, and all the faithful departed. This charter of donation has appended to it the seal  of the Dominican Friars. The following note descriptive of this seal (which is in a good state of preservation) is given by Laing in his well-known work on seals:-

A full-length figure of St. John the Baptist, holding in his left hand a circular disc, on which is the Agnes Dei, to which the right hand is pointing. In the background are two trees and foliage. The inscription appears to be, " Sigillum commune fratrum ordinis predic de Abyrden."  Appended to a charter by William de Daulton, brother of the Order, granting to the Minister and Trinity Friars of Aberdeen an annual rent of 13s 4d. out of his lands at the Shiprow, Aberdeen, 30th September, 1381.




Charles Whyt, painter, anent renewing King William the Lyon, his pictur, as cheap as possible, always not exceeding fifty shillings sterling." Fortunately the "renewing" did not go the length of any interference with the face. We have it on the authority of an artist who took a drawing of the work in 1821 for Lieutenant-General Hutton [David Anderson of Finzeauch, the artist's uncle, was married to Jean, sister to Dr. Guild.] that the face had been left untouched. The king is represented wearing a curiously-formed helmet, and holding a book in one hand and a rod in the other. There is a chain round his waist—indicative, it is said, of penance for the part which history says he had in the murder of Thomas-a-Becket.

The portrait of Dr. William Guild, which gets the place of honour in the new hall, bears no artist's name, but has been generally ascribed to Jamesone. Guild was a contemporary of Jamesone's, is said to have been at school and college with him, and was, moreover, a close relation; so that nothing is more probable than that Jamesone had painted a portrait of one who as Principal of King's College, a chaplain to Charles I., a leading ecclesiastic, and as a generous benefactor to the town, must have held a prominent position among his fellow-citizens. That the picture was touched up by a later hand there is no doubt. In 1741, the Convener Court granted warrant to the Master of Hospital to pay to William Mossman, a guinea "for his pains and trouble in repairing Dr. William Guild's picture ;" and in the Master of Hospital's accounts for

"An engraving from a drawing appears in  the "Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland," along with the following letter from Lieutenant-General Hutton to the secretary of the Society :-

"London, 34 Southampton Row,
"Russell Square, 22nd Oct., 1821.

"Dear Sir, - I request the favour of you to present from me to the Society the picture of King William the Lyon, which I took the liberty of sending to your care lately, and I shall be much honoured if it should be deemed worthy of a place in the Society's museum. It is a copy made by an artist a few years ago from the original painting, which is supposed to have belonged to the Monastery of the Trinity Friars of Aberdeen, of which the King was the founder, and is now preserved in Trinity Hall there. It appears from the records of the Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen that in the year 1715, it having become much defaced in consequence of its great age, an agreement was made with Charles White, a painter, to repair it for a sum not exceeding fifty shillings sterling, which was accordingly done, with the exception of the face, which, the artist who copied the picture informed me, has been fortunately left untouched. It is painted in fresco, and its dimensions are about 4 feet in height by about 2 feet nine inches in breadth.—I remain, yours &c., "H. Hutton.
"John Dillon, Esq., Secretary."

the following year there appears "By cash to William Mossman, painter, for mending Dr. Guild's picture, £12 12s. Scots." This sum is equivalent to twenty-one shillings sterling. [At the same time the Convener Court expended about £500 Scots in decorating the hall, the Master of Hospital having been authorised "to employ Robert Norrie, of Edinburgh, painter, to mint and colour the Trinitie Hall in the Lest and genteclest manner."] On the 18th May, 1731, the Convener Court granted warrant "to their Master of Hospital, at the sight of the deacons, to satisfie and pay William Mossman, painter, for drawing Dr. William Guild, their foundator, his picture, for which this is warrand." This seems to have been an order for a drawing taken from the original, which there are good reasons for believing is the picture now in the hall, and for mending which Mossman was paid a guinea ten years after. It is hardly probable that his own drawing could have required "mending" so soon after it was executed. It is much more likely that, in 1731, Jamesone's original had been showing signs of decay, that Mossman had been ordered to make a copy of it ; and that then ten years after he had been employed to " mend " the original itself. The picture, as it stands, notwithstanding its renovation, is an excellent one. An admirable engraving was taken from it some years ago by R. M. Hodgson, who also ascribes the original to Jamesone.

With regard to the portrait of Matthew Guild, father of Dr. Guild, there is less doubt of its being a genuine Jamesone. It bears the inscription, - which Jamesone put upon nearly all his portraits - the date of the birth and age of the subject; and we have also the familiar broad hat which appears in not a few of Jamesone's male figures.

There also hang in the new hall several examples by Cosmo John Alexander, a grandson of Jamesone's, all very fair specimens of portraiture. The portrait of Alexander Webster, Advocate, by Dyce, is justly regarded as one of the finest bits of portraiture in the collection, and has on more than one occasion been exhibited in collections of old Scottish masters in the south. Alexander Webster had no direct connection with the Trades, but he took a warm interest in the Trades School, which was instituted in 1808, about the time his father held the office of Deacon-Convener.

Guild Street - site of Fidlers Well - a private memorial to Dr Guild

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Last modified: 01/09/2013