The manuscript of the register of the gild of St Katherine, Stamford (Gonville and Caius MSS 266/670), has been known for some time and consulted by a small number of scholars, but it has not been more generally available. This edition is intended to make it more widely accessible for study. The gild met in the room over the porch of the parish church of St Paul in Stamford, a church which for more than a century housed an anchoress on the north side. The book contains the statutes of the gild on its refoundation in November 1480 by William Browne of Stamford, merchant of the Calais Staple, its Alderman, an inventory of its possessions, lists of members, their payments of entry fees and attendance at the annual feast, and the accounts of the officers, from 1480 to 1534 (with a gap between 1527 and 1531). It thus bridges those vital years of the late medieval and early modern periods just prior to the Reformation. Under William Browne (1480-89), it remained a relatively small local gild, but under his successors as Alderman, it grew in size and range, enrolling prominent persons like Lady Margaret Beaufort mother of Henry VII, Cecily lady Welles daughter of Edward IV, the abbots of Crowland and Spalding, David Cecil grandfather of lord Burghley, and Henry VIII's favourite "old lady of Oxford"; both of the town anchoresses, supported by Lady Margaret Beaufort, were members. In its heyday, it had some 120 members. The full text of this unusual Act Book is included in this edition, and an introduction to some of the main features of the volume is provided.
It has been edited by Professor Alan Rogers, in association with the Stamford Survey Group; he was formerly on the staff of the University of Nottingham where he remains an Honorary Research Fellow of the Institute of Medieval Studies, and is currently based at the University of East Anglia. He has studied the history of Stamford for many years and published a number of papers relating to medieval Stamford. A biography of William Browne is expected to be published soon.
The Stamford Survey Group is a small group of local citizens who seek to promote the study of the history of the town by making records relating to the town available for study, either in print or on the worldwide web. The first borough Hall Book and an account book of Browne's Hospital 1494-1518 are in preparation.