Granting of the Guild charters
It was during the first half of the 15th century that the Crafts in Scotland first asked for public recognition. The legal privilege had long been established that no man should carry on a trade or business unless he was a burgess of the town in which he plied his vocation.
Clearly then, if the trade of the town was to be the exclusive right of the burgesses, some means of safeguarding this right had to be looked for, and in the combination of the craftsmen, this means was found.
Although it was not until the 17th century that Craftsmen of Selkirk asked to be legally constituted, there is evidence that long before that time they were organised into voluntary association. The Provost and Magistrates of Royal Burghs were delegates of the Crown, and among other duties were endowed with the power of granting to trading communities not only the protection of the law, but also authority to them to enforce their rules.
The five trades made application to the Town Council to be formed into Corporations with all the powers and privileges thereto, and on receiving sanction were by law established.
The document or charter issued by the Council to the trades was known as a "Seal of Cause." The first trade to apply for and receive its "Seal of Cause" in Selkirk was the Weavers. The date was 13th May, 1608. Then followed the Shoemakers in 1609, while the Tailors were formed in 1610. It was not until 1679 that the Fleshers received their Charter, and the last of them, the Hammermen, in 1681.
The Articles contained in the "Seal of Cause" were of the most arbitrary nature, and were in operation in Selkirk for two hundred and twenty-four years. As time went by, however, it was found that the restrictions imposed upon trade by the laws of the Corporation hindered the development of modern industry, and the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832 was the death-blow to these old world guilds. Their usefulness having passed away, and their glory departed, the Corporations became defunct.
This century, they have returned to former glory and play a prominent part in the Selkirk Common Riding Celebrations. It might be added that there is a tradition that the life if the Hammermen's Incorporation has been continuous since 1681.