THE TAILOR’S GUILD OF SALISBURY

In Salisbury Museum, a dimly-lit display exhibits the Tailor’s Guild charter of incorporation granted by Edward IV in 1461. The beautiful illumination of Edward’s Latinised name leaps out in all the vivid colours it was originally painted with in the 15thc. In this charter, confirmed the following year by Bishop Beauchamp, the King grants various authorities and rights to the Guild, along with the right to hold land to the value of £20.00, which would go towards supporting a priest to say mass in the nearby church of St Thomas, the most rich and important church in the area barring Salisbury Cathedral itself.

The tailors of Salisbury were a wealthy Guild and in the 15thc had a hall that stood near the spacious market place and a ‘chamber’ in St Thomas’s churchyard (churchyards were busy spots for medieval people–definitely not just places to bury the dead!) for which they paid the churchwardens rent. Their meetings were held a little further away, however, in the hall of Greyfriars’ Priory (this priory, now completely obliterated is possibly the original burial place of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.)

The Tailor’s Guild was so important that they and the Weavers alone were allowed to hold their own procession on St Osmund’s Eve. This must have been an exciting and dramatic spectacle, as it contained the massive figure known as the Salisbury Giant (still in existence in the museum) who would be paraded through the town streets, accompanied by a host of sword-bearers and mace-bearers. The Tailor’s Guild also patronised Morris Dancers, who performed their dances on Sundays–this went on until the 1700’s.

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