Craftsmen Past and Present in the Town Hall!

Last Saturday saw the culmination of our project, as The Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present gathered in St Andrews Town Hall.

The Baxters, Fleshers and Hammermen books on display.

The Baxters, Fleshers and Hammermen books on display.

Trying your hand at calligraphy.

Trying your hand at calligraphy.

Our staff from Special Collections were there, with the Baxters’, Fleshers’ and Hammermen’s books and a fantastic variety of palaeography (old handwriting) and calligraphy tasks for people to try out.

MakLab were also on site, to showcase the crafts of the future. They brought a 3D printer, laser cutter, a vinyl cutter and a heat press, so that our visitors could see this exciting equipment close up, and try it out for themselves.

Learning about the laser cutter.

Learning about the laser cutter.

The 3D printer in action, making a vase.

The 3D printer in action, making a vase.







The first demo of the day was by Stuart Minick, of Minick’s Artisan Butchers, and his colleague James Lothian. This was a fascinating insight into the skills required to ‘bust down a lamb’, with Stuart talking us through his work, from sourcing meat to producing haggis.

James Lothian, of Minick's Artisan Butchers, demonstrates his craft.

James Lothian, of Minick’s Artisan Butchers, demonstrates his craft.

He underlined how important it is to buy local produce, and talked about the years of training needed to become a flesher, while James prepared half a lamb according to traditional methods, and the other half using modern techniques.

The old and new butchery techniques shown side-by-side.

The old and new butchery techniques shown side-by-side.









In the afternoon blacksmith Mihai Cocris talked us through the properties of various metals, letting us see, and hear, the differences between them. He showed us the ways that metal could be joined, and talked about how the techniques had changed over the years, demonstrating different tools along the way.

Blacksmith Mihai Cocris demonstrating the craft of the Hammerman.

Blacksmith Mihai Cocris demonstrating the craft of the Hammerman.









At two o’clock, Graeme Nicol awarded the prizes for our photography competition. Graeme is a former Deacon Convener of the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen, and was kind enough to say a few words about his organisation before he awarded the prizes.

Graeme Nicol (centre) with competition winners Frank Riddell and Emily Noakes.

Graeme Nicol (centre) with competition winners Frank Riddell and Emily Noakes.

The photographs were the result of a challenge set to St Andrews Photographic Society, to capture the craftspeople of North East Fife in action. Congratulations to Frank Riddell, Emily Noakes and Chris Reekie who all won prizes.

MakLab's Delphine Dallison explains how to use the printing blocks.

MakLab’s Delphine Dallison explains how to use the printing blocks.

After this, MakLab ran a workshop where participants could print their own design onto a tote bag. First they had to cut out their printing blocks on the laser-cutter, before using the ink to create their finished product. Messy but fun!

Some of the trades-based designs from the workshop participants.

Some of the trades-based designs from the workshop participants.

The last demo of the day came from Murray Barnett, of G H Barnett & Son bakery. Murray talked us through the process of making bannocks, as well as the different techniques and skills that bakers have to learn.

Murray Barnett showing how to make the perfect bannock.

Murray Barnett showing how to make the perfect bannock.

The bannocks in the pan. Delicious!

The bannocks in the pan. Delicious!

He told us a bit about the history of his company, how long it takes to train as a baker and how science and art combine in the baker’s craft.





Here are some of the comments that our visitors left about the day:


rsz_beautiful_bannocks rsz_liked_the_blacksmith rsz_only_buying_haggis_from_minick_now

rsz_ancient_and_modern_combo_was_fascinating rsz_old_books_the_best


Thank you to all the project partners, volunteers and visitors who made our event so enjoyable!

See the craft books for yourself!

Mat image

Special Collections has now made the digitised versions of the books available online. You can see them here.

The originals will be on display at our event this Saturday, 7 May, in St Andrews Town Hall. They will be accompanied by our experts from Special Collections, who will be able to answer any questions you might have.


This is a rare opportunity to see these books up close, so don’t miss it!

With thanks to Mathew Schwartz for the beautiful images.



Come and try out the crafts of the future!

We are thrilled to announce that MakLab will joining our event on 7 May, to let you try out the crafts of the future!

MakLab is an organisation which provides the resources to support innovation and excellence in design and making across Scotland. Their experts will be in the Town Hall all day, and will be bringing along a 3D printer, 3D scanner, laser cutter, vinyl cutter and heat press. Don’t miss the chance to see how this equipment works, and try it out for yourself!

Print your own bag or scarf using woodblocks cut with the laser cutter!

In this 45 minute workshop, you’ll get the chance to create a printmaking block by assembling wooden shapes cut out on the laser cutter. Once you’ve created your design, our MAKLab team will guide you through the process of block-printing a pattern onto a bag or a summer scarf.

The workshop runs from 14.30 -15.15. There are only 20 places available, so book now!


Craftsmen Past and Present in Special Collections

On Tuesday St Andrews University Library hosted a special viewing of the craft books for our project partners.

Murray Barnett takes a look at the the first volume of the Baxters book.

Murray Barnett, of Barnett’s bakery takes a look at the the first volume of the Baxters book.

Our three craftsmen were there, along with some members of the St Andrews Photographic Society.

Stuart and Meg Minick with the Fleshers book.

Stuart and Meg Minick, of Minick’s Artisan Butchers, with the Fleshers book.

Dr Claire Hawes gave an introduction to the history of the crafts, then everyone had a chance to have a close-up look at these fascinating documents.

Blacksmith Mihai Cocris delves into the Hammermen book

Blacksmith Mihai Cocris delves into the Hammermen book.

The evening was rounded off with a glass of wine in the curator’s office. The craftsmen of early modern St Andrews would certainly have approved!

The Archbishop’s Builders: Lost Letters from the Mary’s Chapel Project

Dr Aaron Allen (University of Edinburgh) is one of the leading experts on the history of the crafts in Scotland. He has been researching the Incorporation of Mary’s Chapel – the builders craft in Edinburgh – and has recently made a very exciting discovery in the archives. In this guest blog, he discusses an important link to St Andrews.

In amongst the recently-rediscovered ‘lost’ records of the Incorporation of Mary’s Chapel were three fascinating documents from Andrew Forman, Archbishop of St Andrews (1514-1521). Two of these are letters, which is remarkable enough – it was very rare for mere craftsmen to receive correspondence from so prominent an Archbishop. The third document is even more significant, however. It is a confirmation of the crafts’ 1475 foundation document, known as a seal of cause.[1] Seals of cause were charters, granted by the burgh council, and they enshrined the rights of the crafts in law. The Archbishop of St Andrews was using his authority over the collegiate kirk in Edinburgh to support the exclusive privileges of the capital’s building trades. But why?

1517 Letter Archbishop St Andrews

Letter from Andrew Forman, Archbishop of St Andrews to the Masons and Wrights of Edinburgh: Edinburgh City Archives, Mill Records, A6.

The fact that these documents connect the ecclesiastical burgh of St Andrews and royal burgh of Edinburgh might seem confusing at first. The building trades in Edinburgh held exclusive privileges from their seal of cause, but these privileges theoretically only covered the capital itself. So why the Archbishop of St Andrews?

The right to work in the town was really an issue of jurisdiction. The Incorporation was supposed to have control over who worked in the building trades, and they did this by by testing the ‘sufficiency’ of the work, and making those who passed the test freemen. To be a freeman meant that one’s work was of a high standard – unfreemen were considered to be less qualified – and this gave access to the privileges of the craft. This ties in with the wider framework of burgh privileges, which were supposedly restricted to those living within the town walls. This is well illustrated by the eighteenth-century place name of ‘World’s End Close’, the last close within Edinburgh’s town walls. Those who lived inside the walls were within the privileged jurisdiction of the capital where the markets were. If the economic privileges ended at the burgh boundaries, then living outside the wall was like being beyond the world’s end.

In reality the rules were far more complex, and often simply ignored. The unfreemen, ‘strangers’ and ‘outland burgesses’ caused constant problems for the burgh establishment, whether they aided the overall economy or not. Burgh jurisdictions were more flexible in practice than municipal regulation would suggest, and as the population of Edinburgh tripled between 1540 and 1640, it became much more difficult to keep track of who had access to the privileges of incorporated craftwork.

This was hardly a new problem, as demonstrated by the recently re-discovered group of papers relating to the Incorporation of Mary’s Chapel in the Edinburgh City Archives. The masons and wrights of Mary’s Chapel had first been granted a seal of cause and an altar in 1475, though other wood- and stone-working crafts soon joined them. Most of these tended to be trades which worked with the masons and wrights on building sites, highlighting the shared occupational factors which helped to unify the diverse, but privileged, freemen. But not all craftsmen or women who worked on the capital’s building sites were necessarily freemen. The same town council which had granted the seal of cause often employed unfreemen for its own building works, as did the kirk, the crown and the nobility. This left the Incorporation with a problem. How could they enforce the council’s seal of cause? How could they exclude – or at least control – the unfree labour which continuously usurped their privileges of work within the town?

One way was by appealing to their patrons, and the lucrative ‘kirk warks’ is an excellent example. Edinburgh’s collegiate church, St Giles, needed regular work done to maintain the aging fabric. As St Giles was under the diocese of St Andrews, the Archbishop technically had oversight of God’s house in the capital. So the Incorporation asked the Archbishop of St Andrews to ratify their seal of cause, to ensure that only freemen would work on Edinburgh’s kirks. The Archbishop agreed. Perhaps there was an element of politics involved, as the provostship of St Giles had been held by Forman’s political enemy, Gavin Douglas, who had unsuccessfully attempted to secure the Archbishopric of St Andrews for himself. Could this have been the reason that Forman agreed to the Incorporation’s request?

1517 Wax Seal Archbishop St Andrews

Detail of wax seal of James Forman, Archbishop of St Andrews: Edinburgh City Archives, Mill Records, A6.

The Archbishop’s letter commands the curates to warn all the masons, carpenters, coopers, glassinwrights, bowers, slaters and dykers to obey the craft’s statutes under pain of ‘excommunicatioune, aggravatioune and reaggravatioune’. As the kirk was a major employer of the building trades, they were in a position to decide whether or not to hire unfreemen. As a senior churchman, and therefore over the ‘curatis of the colegiat kirk’ of Saint Giles, who better to appeal to for recognition of privileges over building within the Scottish capital?

Edinburgh, as a royal burgh, was supposedly beholden to none but their feudal superior, the king. Ironically, in order for the Incorporation to secure its privileges granted by the burgh council, it needed to go beyond the all-important burgh boundaries, appealing to a higher power resident in the burgh of St Andrews. Clearly jurisdiction over craft privileges was a complicated business.


[1] Edinburgh City Archives, Mill Records, A6, A7 and A8, and SL12/236, A. J. Mill, ‘Rough Inventory of Records Belonging to the Wrights and Masons of Edinburgh’ (Unpublished Typescript, 1923).

Project Update!

We are delighted to announce that our photography competition will be judged by Graeme Nicol, former Deacon Convenor of the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen.

Graeme Nicol

Mr Nicol joined the Aberdeen Weaver Incorporation in 1978, after becoming Managing Director of Kilgour and Walker Ltd, a long-established textile company. He was elected Deacon of the Weavers four times, in the late 1980s and 1990s. From 2008-2010 he served as Deacon Convener of the Seven Incorporated Trades.

Like St Andrews, Aberdeen was home to the Baxters, Fleshers and Hammermen crafts, as well as Weavers, Tailors, Wrights & Coopers, and Shoemakers. The first Deacon Convener was elected in 1587, in order to allow the crafts to defend their interests collectively, and the position has been continuously occupied since then.

The Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen meet in Trinity Hall. Each craft has its own stained glass window in the Major Hall (shown in the photo, above) which depicts its crest and motto.

In common with their early modern counterparts, the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen engage in charitable work and education, to support their members and the local community more broadly.

Connect your work to the history of the crafts in St Andrews and beyond!

Are you a craftsperson working in the area? We are looking for images of makers in action, to showcase the present range of exciting craft work happening in St Andrews and beyond. Post to our facebook page, with some info about your work and your location. You can even link to your own website, so that others can find out more!

We would also welcome images of craftspeople of all types from the past. Do you have old family photographs of people making things that you’d like to share? If so, let us know!


Evil speech and discord in the Fleshers craft


This entry in the Fleshers book, from July 1630, records that freemen of the Flesher craft were to be responsible for their wives’ speech. It seems that talk by ‘certane of the wyffis’ had spread discord within the craft, although the subject of the women’s discussion is not recorded. It was decided that a member of the craft would be fined every time his wife, child or servant ‘spoke evil of a brother of craft, privately or publicly’.

It was essential to answer slander publicly, because reputation was an important way in which people could judge the trustworthiness and credibility of others. Once a man’s good name had been lost it was very difficult to regain. People in all walks of life were careful to protect their ‘renown’, but it was particularly important for craftsmen, because the reputation of the guild was closely tied to its success in the commercial sphere.

A woman’s reputation was gained or lost by her personal conduct, and the social penalties for nonconformity could be severe. If she was accused of inappropriate or immoral behaviour the things people said about her character and past actions became very important. This was true even in court, as there were far fewer sources of evidence which could be drawn upon to support a case.

Unsurprisingly, the Fleshers preferred to handle such disagreements internally. Making a craftsman responsible for the actions of his household could be an effective method of addressing the problem, because he had the most to lose from the opprobrium of his brethren and the imposition of financial penalties. He would therefore be more likely to monitor the behaviour of his wife and servants to ensure they followed the rules.


Thomas Phennesoun and remanent brethren of craft understanding that divers and syndreis discordis and dissentiones aryses betuix brethren of craft arryseing upon the great calumnies and eivill speaches of certane of the wyffis. Thairfor it is statut that if ony fremanis wyf barne or servand sall heirefter at any tyme injur calumniat or speik evell of or to ane brothir of craft privatlie or publictlie that the husband of the said wyff offendand sall be answerable for his wyffis fault and for his barnis and servandis under the pane of xl s for the craft fault and to be doublit toties quoties [as often as it shall happen].