Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/77

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49
COUNTRY LIFE AND CHARACTER

Baptist—a name that may indicate its origin in three separate organisations. This guild, and others like it, should not be confused with the livery companies of later date. The Stratford guild was at once religious and social; only later, as a secondary matter, did the idea of trade regulation become a part of its government. Its membership was open upon the payment of an annual fee to persons of both sexes. Besides the importance derived from membership, and the enjoyment of annual feasts and merrymakings, the members were sure of substantial help if they fell into financial trouble, provided always that they were honestly helpless. They were also sure of a good and stately funeral, with a numerous following of the corpse. Orphans and widows were provided for, as well as confirmed spinsters.

In the reign of Edward I., John of Stratford built for the guild its chapel, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and almshouses adjoining, which, together with the hall, were probably situated in Church Street, where the Guildhall subsequently stood. In 1332 Edward III. gave the guild a charter; and the following description of its customs is taken from the report on the ordinances, set forth by a commission of Richard II.

"These are the ordinances of the brethren and