Preston Guild

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PRESTON GUILD. English, Country Dance Tune (6/8 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody appears in Charles and Samuel Thompson’s Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 2 (London, 1765). Preston [1], Lancashire, north west England was in the early-18th century “a pretty town with an abundance of gentry in it, commonly called Proud Preston” (History of the County of Lancashire, 1912). It was a weaving center that expanded greatly during the Industrial Revolution. The Preston Guild is a civic celebration held every twenty years, unbroken since 1542 with the exception of a cancellation in 1942. Wikipedia [2] gives:

The right to hold a Guild Merchant was conferred by King Henry II upon the Burgesses of Preston in a charter of 1179; the associated Preston Guild is a civic celebration held every 20 years and 2012 was the latest Guild year. It is the only Guild still celebrated in the UK and is thus unique.

Before 1328 a celebration had been held on an irregular basis, but at the guild of that year it was decreed that subsequent guilds should be held every 20 years. After this, there were breaks in the pattern for various reasons, but an unbroken series were held from 1542 to 1922. A full 400 year sequence was frustrated by the cancellation of the 1942 Guild due to World War II, but the cycle resumed in 1952. The expression '(Once) every Preston Guild', meaning 'very infrequently', has passed into fairly common use, especially in Lancashire.

Guild week is always started by the opening of the Guild Court, which since the 16th century has traditionally been on the first Monday after the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (the decollation of St John the Baptist) celebrated on 29 August. As well as concerts and other exhibitions, the main events are a series of processions through the city. Numerous street parties are held in the locality.

Knowles prints this (un-attributed) quote:

When Ralph Thoresby the antiquary visited Preston at the time of the guild of 1702, he wrote in his diary that he ‘got little rest, the music and Lancashire bagpipes having continued the whole night’, and the last we hear of bagpiping in that area is in 1732, when again at Preston, there was a ‘very merry wedding’ with ‘seven bagpipers’.


Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Knowles (A Northern Lass), 1995; p. 5. Thompson (Compleat Collection of 200 Favourite Country Dances, vol. 2), 1765; No. 132.

Recorded sources:




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