Preston Gulid, LancashireThe phrase 'Every Preston Guild' is used in Lancashire and beyond to indicate a lengthy interval, the time between these celebrations and civic events in Preston being 20 years - though Hitler not only bombed our chippie he also managed to scupper the Guild intended for 1942, which was put back to 1952.
Part cartel part trading standards association, the Guild can trace its history to Henry II 's granting of a merchant and market charter to the then town (and now city) of Preston. The Guild in medieval times was a very serious affair, allowing its members to prevent other markets being held locally (and the same power was invoked to stop a suburb of Preston holding a market not so very long ago), ensuring only locals could sell at the town's market other than with Guild permission (rarely granted and doubtless bought dearly when it was), or during the town's fair, and in effect creating little local monopolies.
Those trading powers all went some time ago, but the memory of what they meant to the settlement remains - Preston was a significant trading town, and a prosperous one, thanks to the Guild Merchant.
The Guild had a court, as it does to this day, creating burgesses with special trading rights. These days there are still more than 2,000 burgesses in the city, granted the right now only if the son or daughter of a burgess before them, though the Guild Mayor (a very coveted post, the mayor at the time of the Guild celebrations) has it in his or her gift to create a few during the event.
The first 20 year Guild was held in 1542. The next will be in 2012, proclaimed on three successive Saturdays from August 18 that year, the Civic Procession taking place on Sunday September 2, and the Guild Court opening on Monday September 3. The formal events end with the closing of the court for a further 20 years on the last Saturday of the shindig, and the Church Procession on the final day of all, in 2012 Sunday September 9.
During Preston's Guild it is usual to have some major concerts, street parties, dances, firework displays, balls and competitions, and Prestonians who have moved away from their home try to return for a time at each Guild.
When the Church Procession and Service of Thanksgiving end the Guild, the town sets about preparing for, and awaiting, the next - Lancashire's own Brigadoon?
More British Folk Customs?