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The Weavers’ guild was formally established in Dublin in 1446 and operated in the city for almost 400 years. The records of guild are preserved in the library of the Royal Society of Antiquaries and date from the late seventeenth century. The function of the guild was to control the production and manufacture of woven cloth and to ensure that it was produced to a specific standard. The guild also regulated those who operated as weavers in the city. The wool trade was one of Ireland’s key industries and the weavers’ guild was a powerful corporation.Weavers occupied positions of influence among the political and social elite, but they also comprised a vast number of the city’s poor. The records provide an insight into almost 200 years of the guild’s history. They also illuminate the industrial, political and social history of the city of Dublin. As part of the Explore Your Archives week the RSAI invites you to explore aspects of the weaving industry through the records of the guild.

This oak chest dating from 1706 held the records of the weaver’s guild until their removal to more secure storage in the RSAI library. The chest is now located in the entrance hall of the RSAI building at 63 Merrion Square. The surviving records include lists of members, minutes of meetings, records of elections, accounts and records of the resolutions and proposals of the guild. 

RSAI/BV/WVRS/08.The above entry shows a list of persons fined by the guild in 1679. The fines were mainly imposed for the use of faulty weights to measure cloth, or for not presenting goods to be examined, but one entry also fines a member for ‘abusing the master’ of the guild.

RSAI Lantern Slide Collection: Box 08. A lantern slide showing the Weaver’s Hall in The Coombe. The hall was built in 1745 under the patronage of David Digges La Touche, of the well-known Dublin banking family. La Touche was master of the weavers’ guild in 1745. In the recess at the front is a statue of George II. The interior of the Hall was a testament to the civic loyalties of the guild and included portraits of Charles I, William III, George II, Jonathan Swift and David Digges La Touche. You can explore further images from the RSAI’s collection here.  

RSAI/BV/WVRS/10. A bond showing the admission of Margaret Nale into the guild in 1747. The professional weaving trade was largely a male occupation by the seventeenth century, but earlier medieval sources generally associate weaving with women. Nale may have joined the guild in place of a deceased male relative, most likely her spouse. Part of the guilds responsibility was to ensure that widows and dependent relatives of deceased guild members were looked after and the accounts of the guild often testify to this kind of support.

RSAI/BV/WVRS/16. The weaving trade was susceptible to periods of intense economic hardship and the industry was especially sensitive to English trade policies.The record above testifies to the efforts of the guild to promote local manufacture. It records a 1796 resolution by the guild to present an elaborate gold freedom box, in the shape of a weaver’s shuttle, to Lady Camden, the wife of the Lord Lieutenant, in recognition of her patronage of Irish cloth.

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The Discovery Programme,in conjunction with the RSAI, has developed a self-guided audio walking tour which explores the history of the weaving trade in Dublin. The tour can be accessed here


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