The Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present Event


Photo attrib. Matthew Schwartz, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The history of St Andrews is much more than the history of the university alone. Dr Claire Hawes, in her project ‘The Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present’ investigated the guilds of St Andrews, using the early modern guild books in Special Collections. The records survive from the 1550s onwards, and the official guild books are full of disputes, agreements and rules of the craftsmen in St Andrews. The project culminated in the Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present event on 7 May, which combined the records of the past with the craftsmanship of the present and future.


During the day, three local tradesmen showed the skills of their crafts: Stuart Minick the butcher representing the Fleshers, Mihai Cocris the blacksmith on behalf of the Hammermen and Murray Barnett the baker standing in for the Baxters. The differences between late medieval and modern customs in crafts became immediately clear: where, for instance, medieval butchers took much larger joints, modern butchers take care to carve out smaller portions of the animal. Similarly, smithing has lost is prominence in modern society, although the artistry involved in the craft survives to this day. However, some aspects of craftsmanship never change, as the Barnett bannocks were as tasty as they would have been many centuries ago.


Special Collections displayed the three books of the craftsmen as well as running a station where all the people could practice their palaeography skills. Armed with quills, many interesting variations on various scripts were produced. A large number of audience members were intrigued by the guild books: the intricate script of the scribes and the sketches contained in the papers. The books have now also been digitised, so anyone can view the disputes and disagreements of the guild members. Aside from the medieval means of craftsmanship, the talented people of MakLab showcased the most modern in manufacturing products. 3D printing, Laser cutting and block printing were all presented, allowing visitors to see the construction of a small vase and to decorate tote bags with their own choice of print.


The day also saw the judgement of the St Andrews Photographic Society annual competition. The exhibition featured pictures of craftsmen in the wider St Andrews area, ranging from weavers to metalworkers. Some photos focused on the raw materials on the crafts, whereas others depicted the craftsmen at work, immersed in the production of hand-made materials. Graeme Nicol, former Deacon Convener of the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen chose the three best pictures, and rewarded the members of the society for their hard work and their own craftsmanship. Overall, the event was both fun and educational, as over a hundred people saw the crafts of the past, present and future!

About standrewshistory
With over forty full time members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from S cotland to Byzantium and the Americas to the Middle East and South Asia.Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching and tutorials allowing for in depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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