Monday, 18 March 2019

#Mayflower400 Boston Guildhall

On Saturday, I left Lincoln and drove down to Boston. My destination was Boston Guildhall.

Boston is a medieval market town, dating from the early 12th century. The merchant's Guild of St Mary was founded in 1260. This was a religious guild offering masses for the souls of its members to have their time in purgatory reduced. 

Initial membership was a gold coin and annual subscription. However, the more the members donated, the more time their souls would receive a “get out of purgatory” prayer. 

Being incorporated allowed it to hold both land and property. As such, many members bequeathed property, their wealth and all assets for the extended time out of purgatory after they left this earthly world.

St. Mary's Guild quickly became the wealthiest and most influential of Boston's Guilds. The Guild members included many of the town’s merchants and traders. The largest export at the time was wool with some three million fleeces per year leaving through the port. Trade with the Baltic states was swift and prosperous.

When the Crown gave approval for guilds to possess assets, Boston's fantastically rich merchants almost immediately built the Guildhall, making it one of the first in the country. It is a massive building and would have stood as a rather imposing silhouette for anyone coming up from the harbour.

In 1360, the crown granted a charter permitting weekly markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays and that tradition continues in Boston even today.  

In 1545, Henry VIII made the continuation of Guilds impossible, event those the size and strength of Boston Guildhall. Charities were disbanded and all goods and assets seized. The town of Boston was incorporated in 1545 and all of the Guild’s assets, including the Guildhall, were transferred to the Corporation. 

An inventory of the Guild’s holdings was drawn up. This is a 9 foot long double-sided scroll and it is on display in the Guildhall today. 

The key players in the running of the Guild were now members of the Corporation of Boston and continued to be influential in the business of the town.

In the autumn of 1607 a group of men, women and children had walked some 60 miles from Scrooby to meet a sea captain who had offered them transport to Holland where they could live with religious freedoms. Unknown to the group, the Captain had alerted the authorities that this meeting was to take place and once they were on board his boat, the captain called the authorities to come and seize the group. All of the belongings were confiscated. The pilgrims were then taken to the magistrates at the Guildhall. For the most part, the magistrates were sympathetic. The women and children were given leave. As were most of the men. The seven ‘ringleaders’ were held in the Guildhall for a month. 

William Bradford records in his diary that the members were well treated during their time in prison. The seven men were eventually discharged and allowed to return home. They made their way back to Immingham.

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