‘Incorporation’ is the term used since the Royal Charter of 1620 to describe the organisation of Exeter woollen cloth trades that had before been organised as guilds.

Read more ...‘Incorporation’ is the term used since the Royal Charter of 1620 to describe the organisation of Exeter woollen cloth trades that had before been organised as guilds. This still leaves the question – what is a guild?

In the past, guilds were associations – groups of people – who came together because they shared a skilled trade. Guilds didn’t just exist in the woollen cloth industry; many other trades, including tailors, stonemasons, woodcarvers and goldsmiths, also formed themselves into guilds in towns across Europe.

Read more ...The fortunes of the Guild closely followed those of Exeter’s woollen cloth industry. When the trade boomed in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Guild came of age, establishing itself as one of the most important organisations in the life of the city.

Progress to this position of power wasn’t always smooth – one episode nearly saw the Guild evicted from Tuckers Hall altogether! – but by 1600 the organisation was growing in confidence. At that point its membership numbered around 100.

Read more ...It was a measure of the Guild’s growing importance that in 1564 it was granted a coat of arms depicting the trappings of the woollen cloth trades, including a weaver’s shuttle, burling irons, a teasel frame and a pair of shears. It was a measure of the Guild’s growing importance that in 1564 it was granted a coat of arms depicting the trappings of the woollen cloth trades, including a weaver’s shuttle, burling irons, a teasel frame and a pair of shears.

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From the late 1700s, Exeter’s woollen cloth production went into terminal decline. A combination of changing fashions, competition and war meant that by the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 the trade was dwindling. Membership of the Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen was also falling. By 1840 it numbered just 75 freemen, and by 1857 this had slipped to below 40.

Read more ...From the 1960s until today Exeter’s Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen has enjoyed a revival. Its decision to widen its membership has had a good deal to do with this, injecting much-needed resources and energy into the organisation. New members, drawn mainly from the local business community, have brought with them a determination to establish the Incorporation and Tuckers Hall as important parts in the life and history of Exeter.

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