- Associations formed to promote special objects, the members being bound together to observe certain rules and regulations for the attainment of these objects.Formed in early times more especially for religious and trade purposes. The religious guilds were often termed fraternities, and there was hardly a parish in London in the 13th and 14th centuries without one or more of such associations. The trade guilds were formed by the individual craftsmen of a particular trade to protect the interests of the trade by mutual assurance, and they developed into very powerful associations.Their ordinances were directed to the organisation and perfection of their craft, to the exclusion of foreigners from their ranks, to the training and admission of apprentices, etc., and to other useful regulations tending to the security and improvement of their particular craft or trade.These guilds were the predecessors of the present City Companies.In the earlier Letter Books the word "guild," except as forming part of the compound "Guildhall," is rarely to be met with, the word "mistery" being generally employed to denote these trade associations.Various theories have been formulated from time to time as to the origin of the guilds existing in Anglo-Saxon times. Perhaps the most reasonable is that which identifies them with the Roman "collegia privata," which were established in this country during the Roman rule, and to which the Anglo-Saxon guilds show a striking similarity, both in origin and composition, as well as in their regulations.
A Dictionary of London. Henry A Harben. 1918.