Chester Guilds, Freemen of the City and the Pentice Court.
Traditional Guilds and Freemen
Chester has had trade guilds since 1190. Individual craft companies, or guilds, later developed to protect the quality of their goods and the interests and welfare of the merchants and craftsmen of Chester. There are now twenty three Chester Guilds but few members now practice their company trade. Apprentices served at least seven years to learn their trade. They could then become Freemen of the City and seek admission to the appropriate craft guild.
Modern Freemen and Guilds and the Pentice Court
Today almost all Freemen and Guild members are admitted by birth – by being the children of a previous Freeman – but need to apply when they are over 18 and be enrolled at the annual Pentice Court ceremony in Chester Town Hall. The Lord Mayor of Chester presides over the Court and the ceremony has several stages:
- Applicants are called up individually to swear on a centuries-old Prayer Book to “be Faithful, Profitable and True to the Queen of Great Britain and to the Commonalty of the City of Chester, and truly the Franchises of Chester maintain, and be not Assenting nor Abetting to any Confederacy nor Conspiracy against the City nor my Neighbours”.
- The names of the new Freemen will be entered into the Pentice Court Register, and they will receive a certificate.
- The new Freemen and Councillors then walk in procession (weather permitting), with the Guilds, through the City to a reception, either at the Guild’s traditional home at the Guildhall or back to the Town Hall.
Today the Freemen and Guilds of Chester keep close links with the Freemen of England and Wales and with the Guilds of the other historic cities of York and Coventry.
For an application form and eligibility details, download the Application Form