Historical Notes

The Incorporation of Cordiners in Glasgow is one of the Craft Guilds formed for mutual aid in the Middle Ages and still maintaining its Charitable purposes.


Deacons to care for the poor had been nominated from the earliest time by the Church and when, in 1174, the Archbishop of Glasgow obtained from William the Lion a Charter making the settlement round the Cathedral a Bishop's Burgh, control of the trading privileges available went to the Deacon of each craft which accepted responsibility for its own poor.

The Cordiners were the Tanners, Curriers and Shoemakers who derived their title from the Old French "Courdouanier" meaning "of Cordova", then the source of the best leather - no doubt under the influence of the French and Flemish Craftsmen who came to Scotland to replace those "slane in wars".

The Minute Book of 1550 shows that the Craft was by then appointing its own Deacon, controlling entry to the trade by apprenticeship and essaye, allotting the booths in the Market, supervising the quality and origin of the wares sold therein, and applying the fines, entry money and subscriptions for the benefits of the poor, all "according to the ancient custom".

This position was established formally in 1558 by Seal of Cause from the Town Council, which was confirmed by the Archbishop. When the latter fled after the Reformation the Incorporation secured a further Charter from the new Town Council in 1569, and in 1919 was honoured by reincorporation by Royal Charter.

In 1603, the Incorporation participated in forming the Trades House on which it is represented by the Deacon, Collector, Late Deacon, Late Collector and Two additional Masters.

The exclusive privileges protecting the Craftsmen of one Burgh from those of another were abolished and the political power of the Crafts was diminished by the Reform Acts of the early Nineteenth Century. The Industrial Revolution destroyed training by apprenticeship and essaye. The Incorporation having thus lost its main source of revenue opened its membership to all who could qualify as a Freemen of the City and continued and extended its original purpose of taking personal interest in and providing assistance to those in need.