Trades of Edinburgh – Incorporation of Weavers
The Incorporation of Weavers, otherwise sometimes called the Websters or Wobsters, derives its origin from a seal of cause granted by the town council of Edinburgh on 31st January 1475/6. It seems clear that the weavers had no previous corporate existence and they certainly did not have a deacon up to that time.
The Incorporation’s coat of arms is known to have existed at least by 1509 and probably earlier.
The weaving of cloth was practised very early in the royal burghs of Scotland and Edinburgh was no exception. From the first there was provision made for women to participate fully in the work of the Incorporation on a footing which is not explicitly stated in any of the more senior incorporations. No woman ever became Deacon until modern times but the present freemanship is almost exclusively female.
By 1938 the Incorporation was down to a single freeman member. He contacted the Edinburgh Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers with a view to amalgamating the Incorporation with their Guild in order to preserve its existence. This happily came about and the President of the Guild is ex officio also the Deacon of the Incorporation of Websters. A boxmaster was appointed and, uniquely among all the incorporations, the boxmaster is entitled to attend the Convenery of Trades along with the Deacon.
The Weavers of Picardy Place
In 1730 some French linen weavers, led by the ever-optimistic Nicholas D’Assaville, cambric weaver of St. Quentin, arrived in Edinburgh and took up residence in a row of purpose-built houses which became known as Little Picardy, because Picardy was the region of France whence they had come. The area, which was a green-field site, is today known as Picardy Place. It lay outside the city limits at that time and the immigrants were not obliged to join the Weavers’ Incorporation. The venture eventually failed later in the 18th century and the site was developed. The oft-repeated story that the first inhabitants of Little Picardy were Huguenot refugee silk-weavers in about 1690 is entirely without foundation