The Arbroath Guildry was incorporated in 1725 as a result of a bargain made by the Town Council with the town’s merchants regarding the building of a new harbour to improve trade. At that time, the Guildry comprised the town’s principal merchants as well as other prominent citizens who became members so their subscriptions could help with the harbour costs.
The Guildry enjoyed extensive powers. In line with similar incorporations in other burghs, it could prevent “unfreemen” from opening shops to sell any kind of merchandise except on market days which were days of free trade. The Guildry also had jurisdiction in weights and measures and settled disagreements over property boundaries and generally supervised all house property to ensure it was kept in good repair.
The Guild Court, before which relevant cases were brought, could grant or refuse approval of plans for any house to be erected in the burgh.
Today, the Guildry acts as a charitable trust and its principal aims and objects are to promote civic pride and community spirit. Its remit also includes arranging or supporting public events, and making grants to charitable organisations or residents to advance education or ambition. On induction to the Guildry, members receive a parchment acknowledging them as a “Freeman and Brother Guild of Aberbrothock” as well a booklet giving a brief history of the Guildry and a lapel pin.
The Dean and Council normally meet in April and October to consider grants and the full Guildry meets in May and November to ratify or approve grants given.
The Guildry currently has an increasing membership approaching 70 representing all walks of life and many organisations in the community. It has forged a special link with Hospitalfield House, an internationally recognised centre for arts and culture which has long enjoyed hosting US art students on summer residential courses. The Guildry also financially supports the town’s secondary schools, Angus College and the Angus Training Group (in engineering) for their annual prizegivings.
The Guildry is privileged to have as its patron Lady Fiona Fraser of Carmyllie. Lady Fraser is involved with a number of major charities and trusts and is also a Deputy Lieutenant of the county of Angus, one of the official representatives of Queen Elizabeth II in the district.