BR03: Brotherhoods, Fraternities and Guilds

The dangers faced by seamen throughout history have led to a kindred spirit of compassion and charity rarely matched in other walks of life. From earliest times, they formed into groups and associations to look after the interests of their brothers of the sea and of their families. No matter how small or large, "Brotherhoods", "Fraternities" or "Guilds" arose and developed into recognisable associations. These old Guilds were religious in character and designed for mutual benefit of their members. Help was given to the poor, the aged or the sick, and to their dependents, sometimes as money, but more often in the provision of homes known as almshouses or colleges.

Some Guilds were more successful than others and, as history passed, the larger ones became well established all over mainland Britain. At Deptford was created the medieval Guild of Mariners, from which stemmed the Trinity House of Deptford Strond. Deptford was where the oldest trade of the Port of London occurred and for centuries it was a very busy port, but, once the Thames had been dredged, shipping was able to pass higher up the river and Deptford fell into disuse. There are no known records of the Guild, but two theories relate to its creation. The first identifies it with the mainly religious order that was known to exist at the time of King Alfred. The second suggests that it was the Fraternity founded by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1207-1228 in the reign of King John. This Fraternity was composed of:

"...godley disposed men who for the actual suppression of evil disposed persons bringing ships to destruction by the showing forth of false beacons do bind themselves together in the love of the Lord Christ in the name of the Masters and Fellows of Trinity Guild, to succour from the dangers of the sea all who are beset upon the coasts of England to feed them when ahungered and athirst, to bind up their wounds and to build and light proper beacons for the guidance of mariners."