The 11th-century guild of thegns was a society
of county gentlemen centred in Cambridge, though
worshipping on occasion at Ely; its purposes were
not purely religious, for besides serving as a burial
club, it provided for protection against wrongs and
helped in securing damages. Nothing is known of it
except its rules. (fn. 38) Nor is anything known of the
fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre of the 12th century,
save that it sought to build a church. (fn. 39) By the 13th
century, however, many parish guilds were in
existence in Cambridge, and before their destruction
in 1546–7 as many as 31 are known to have existed.
Their objects were devotional and social; they provided small but adequate pensions for any of their
members who were in need, masses and burial rites
for their dead brothers and sisters, and lights and
other accessories for worship in their parish church.
It was the diversion of guild 'candle-rents' to the
endowment of Corpus Christi College that led to its
unpopularity in the town and the special attacks
upon it in 1381. The constitution of the guilds provided for government by a master, a warden or
wardens, an alderman or aldermen, with a small
group of the brethren as his council. The following
list, which is probably not exhaustive, gives the
names of the Cambridge guilds, as far as is known,
in chronological order:
THE GUILD OF ST. MARY, in the church of
St. Mary in the Market Place, first mentioned 1282–5;
its minutes are extant for 1298–1319, and also its
Bede Roll for 1349. (fn. 40) Besides many leading townsmen it had as members the Justice John of Cambridge, its alderman in 1311, Archbishop Walter
Reynolds and Richard of Bury, Bishop of Durham.
Women were admitted as members. It probably
took an active part in the rebuilding of the church
after the fire of 1290. It is once referred to as 'the
Guild of Merchants of the blessed Virgin of Cambridge', and it augmented its funds by small-scale
trading, (fn. 41) but it cannot be regarded as a Guild
Merchant of the chartered type. By 1337 it had five
chaplains. (fn. 42) In 1352 by royal grant it was allowed to
coalesce with the Guild of Corpus Christi to found
a college, (fn. 43) and Henry of Lancaster, the cousin of
Edward III, was chosen alderman of the joint guild.
OF THE GUILD OF ST. EDWARD AND
ST. THOMAS THE MARTYR, in St. Edward's
Church, nothing is known except the application in
1291 of 'the men of Cambridge' to have confirmation of a guild established in honour of St. Edward
the King and St. Thomas of Canterbury, with
licence to establish two chaplains. (fn. 44)
THE GUILD OF CORPUS CHRISTI, in St.
Bene't's Church, was in a thriving condition in 1349
when it is first mentioned. Its minutes for 1350–61
are preserved, (fn. 45) but give no details of the union with
St. Mary's Guild, or of the foundation of the college.
They allude to the performance of a play, The
Children of Israel, in 1353. (fn. 46) There is no evidence of
its existence later than 1371 and it is not named in
the Chancery certificates of 1389. Miss Bateson
suggested that its extinction might be associated
with the rising of 1381. (fn. 47)
THE GUILD OR FRATERNITY OF ST.
MARY, in St. Botolph's Church, recorded its
ordinances in 1378. (fn. 48) The wives of brethren could
be members, but not apparently other women. An
allowance of 7d. a week to solitary poor members, or
4d. each if two lived together, was provided for. The
annual subscription was 1s. 4d.
THE GUILD OF THE HOLY TRINITY, in
Holy Trinity Church, received an indulgence on
26 June 1378, and another in 1384 when its rules
were confirmed. (fn. 49) It was a wealthy guild, exacting
an entrance fee of 13s. 4d. and an annual subscription of 2s. Its officers included, besides the usual
aldermen, two 'skyvins' as treasurers, a 'dean' as
clerk, and, so long as funds permitted, a chaplain. Its
members were not all Cambridge residents, and
women were not admitted. There was a special provision against seditious and profane talk at meetings.
THE GUILD OF THE ANNUNCIATION, in
Great St. Mary's Church, recorded its ordinances in
1379. (fn. 50) Women were admitted, but chaplains, bakers,
and married women whose husbands were not
already members were excluded. The guild owned
four great torches, each of 40 lb. weight of wax,
which were used for wakes and requiems, and every
member contributed 13d. a year for the lights set
before the image of the Virgin in the Lady Chapel at
her five feasts.
THE GUILD OF ST. KATHERINE, in St.
Bene't's Church, whose ordinances are dated 1380, (fn. 51)
was founded by ten Cambridge skinners. Membership was not confined to skinners, and women were
admitted. There was a common badge or livery, an
entrance fee of 3s. 4d., and an annual subscription
of 1s. 4d.
THE GUILD OF THE ASSUMPTION, in the
church of the Holy Trinity, drew up its ordinances
in 1384. (fn. 52) The yearly subscription was 10d., the
lowest recorded. One of the two rectors, or chief
officers, ought to be a parishioner. Brethren who
haunted the streets by night or went in for playing
chess, dicing, or other misconduct might be expelled if they refused to reform.
THE GUILD OF ST. KATHERINE, in Great
St. Andrew's Church, recorded its ordinances in
1385. (fn. 53) It was still in existence in 1500. (fn. 54) Women,
both married and unmarried, were admitted, and
poor members were allowed 7d. a week.
THE GUILD OF THE PURIFICATION, in
Great St. Mary's Church, exhibited their ordinances
in 1386, completing a work begun by others, as they
said. (fn. 55) The annual subscription of 2s. was to maintain a chaplain to celebrate at the altar 'over the great
solar'. A procession, if possible in the guild livery,
was to be held within the octave of Candlemas.
There was special provision for a chest to keep the
guild's valuables. Persons living outside the liberty
of the Borough were members, but not women. The
usual 7d. pension was promised, unless there were
too many poor brethren for the guild to afford it.
THE GUILD OF THE HOLY TRINITY, in
Great St. Mary's Church, made its return in 1389. (fn. 56)
It included women, and the annual subscription for
man and wife together was 1s. 2d. It aimed at maintaining a chaplain. It had the usual provisions for
pensions and funeral rites. It is mentioned in a will
of 1493. (fn. 57)
THE GUILD OF ST. CLEMENT, in St.
Clement's Church, recorded its ordinances, in English, in 1431. (fn. 58) Women were admitted as members.
The pension for the poor was fixed at 4d. a week, and
there was a provision that the brethren should not
go to law with each other without first seeking the
mediation of the Alderman of the Guild. The guild
was still in existence in 1483. (fn. 59)
THE GUILD OF ST. PETER AND ST.
PAUL, in the church of St. Peter by the Castle,
had ordinances almost identical with those of
St. Clement. (fn. 60) They are dated 1448.
THE GUILD OF ALL SAINTS, in the church
of All Saints in the Jewry, copied the same rules in
1473. (fn. 61) It was still in existence in 1503. (fn. 62)
No ordinances exist for the following guilds: (fn. 63)
ST. ANDREW, in Great St. Mary, recorded in
1459; ST. URSULA, in Holy Trinity, (fn. 64) recorded in
1492 and 1504; ST. PETER MILLEYNE, ST.
THOMAS and ST. URSULA, all in Great
St. Mary, and all recorded in 1503 and 1526; ST.
AUGUSTINE, in St. Bene't, recorded in 1504 and
still in existence in 1526; ST. KATHERINE and
ST. GEORGE, both in Holy Trinity, and both
recorded in 1504; ST. KATHERINE, existing in
1473, ST. MARY and ST. NICHOLAS, all in St.
Andrew the Less; JESUS in St. Clement; ST.
GILES in St. Giles; ST. KATHERINE and STS.
CHRISTOPHER AND JAMES, both in Great St.
Mary; ST. MARY in Little St. Mary, ST. ETHELREDA in the Holy Sepulchre, and ST. CLEMENT
in Holy Trinity, all recorded without date.