The Guilds and Incorporation have existed in Exeter for nearly 600 years and have occupied Tuckers Hall since 1471. Both the Incorporation and the Hall have a remarkable story with a glorious and continuous history.
The wealth of Exeter in the mid 17th and early 18th centuries was created as a direct result of the woollen cloth trade in the city, controlled by the members of the Incorporation. On the back of this prosperity, many became Merchant Venturers and later Bankers.
With mechanisation and loss of overseas trade, Exeter's affluence waned along with the Incorporation's membership, declining significantly almost to the point of extinction. However, by adapting to the changing climate the Incorporation survived and since the Second World War has prospered with membership once again increasing and playing its part in the Civic life of Exeter.
The Incorporation is recognised as one of the few surviving established provincial Guilds with strong links to associated City of London Guilds.
James Gaisford, Master : May 2016 - May 2017
James grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe and was educated at St George's College in Harare. After completing national service, he came to England to study at the University of East Anglia where he read Biological Sciences.
He is a Chartered Accountant, originally trained with Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young) in London before taking on roles as a Finance Director and owner with various companies in the agricultural, retail, publishing, renewable energy, asbestos removal, care and property businesses. James has also been a non executive director of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Foundation Trust.
James is currently Vice Chairman of the Governors of Exeter School, Chairman of a local Almshouse Charity (The Eight men of Broadclyst), a non executive director of a local business and Director of Finance & Resources at the University of Exeter Students Guild. He is married to Sarah and they have three children William, Elizabeth and Tom. His interests include choral singing, boating, supporting Exeter Chiefs, playing bridge and a variety of sports (tennis, squash, cycling, skiing and running).
The Master became a member of the Incorporation in 2002 and his chosen charity this year is Hospiscare.