28. GRANTS TO BOROUGHS

(A) William I: Charter to London

King William gives friendly greeting to William, bishop [of Lon don], to Geoffrey,[1] portreeve [of London], and to all the burgesses (burhwaru) of London, both French and English. And I make known to you that I wish you both [French and English] to enjoy all the rights that you enjoyed in the days of King Edward. I will that every child shall be the heir of his father after his father's lifetime. And I will not permit any man to do you any wrong. God keep you!

(Anglo-Saxon) Libermann, Gesetze, I, 486.

(B) Henry I: Charter to London[2 ]

Henry, by the grace of God king of England, to the archbishop of Canterbury, and to the bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, sheriffs, and all his faithful men of all England, both French and English, greeting. Know that to my citizens of London I have granted the shrievalty of London and of Middlesex, to be held at farm for £300 on account at the exchequer, by them and their heirs of me and my heirs;[3] so that the said citizens may install a sheriff, whomsoever they please from among themselves, and a justice,[4] whomsoever they please from among themselves, to keep the pleas of my crown and to try them, and no other man is to be justice over the said men of London. And the citizens shall not be impleaded in any plea outside the walls of the city, and they are to be quit of scot and of Danegeld and of murder-fine,[5] and none of them shall wage battle.[6] And if one of the citizens is impleaded in connection with pleas of the crown, as a man of London, he shall prove his case by an oath to be determined in the city. And within the walls of the city no one is to be billeted; neither for one of my household nor for one of any other is lodging to be exacted by force. And all men of London, together with all their goods, are to be quit and free, throughout all England and throughout all the ports of the sea, from toll, passage, lastage, and all other [such] customs.[7] And churches, barons, and citizens shall well and peaceably have and hold all their sokes[8] together with all customs [of the latter]; so that the tenants who are settled in sokes shall owe customs to none except to him whose soke it is, or to his minister whom he may there appoint. And a man of London shall not be adjudged in mercy as regards his chattels except to the amount of his wergeld, namely, 100s. — that is to say, in a plea that concerns chattels (pecuniam).[9] And there shall no longer be [judgments of] miskenning in the husting, the folkmote, or in other courts within the city.[10] And the husting shall meet once a week, namely, on Monday. And I will see to it that my citizens have their lands and pledges and debts inside the city and outside it. And with regard to lands concerning which claims are made to me, I will on their behalf maintain justice according to the law of the city. And if any one takes toll or custom from a London citizen, the London citizens shall, within the city, take from the borough or the vill where the toll or custom was collected as much as the man of London gave for toll and thereby suffered in damage. And all debtors who owe debts to the citizens shall pay the same, or they shall prove in London that they do not owe [the debts]. But if they refuse to pay and do not come to prove their case [in London], then the citizens to whom the debts are owing shall take their pledges within the city, from either the borough or the vill or the county in which the man lives who owes the debt.[11] And the citizens shall have their hunting dogs for hunting, as [they were] best and most fully had by their ancestors — namely, in the Chilterns, in Middlesex, and in Surrey.

Witnesses: the bishop of Winchester, Robert Fitz-Richard, Hugh Bigot, Alfred of Totnes, William d'Aubigny, Hubert the king's chamberlain, William de Montfichet, Hagulf de Tany, John Belet, Robert Fitz-Seward. Given at Westminster.

(Latin) Ibid., I, 524 f.

(C) Henry I: Charter to Beverley[12]

Henry, king of England, to his archbishops, bishops, justiciars, sheriffs, and all his faithful men, greeting. Know that I have granted and given and by this my charter have confirmed to the men of Beverley their free burgage[13] according to the free laws and customs of the burgesses of York; also their gild merchant,[14] together with their pleas and toll and all their other free customs and liberties in all things, as Archbishop Thurstan has granted and confirmed to them by his charter, inside the vill of Beverley and outside it, as well in wood as in field or in marsh and in other things. And it is my will that they, like the men of York, shall be quit of toll throughout the whole shire of York.

Witnesses: G[eoffrey] the Chancellor; R[obert], count of Meulan. At Woodstock.

(Latin) Gross, Gild Merchant, II, 21.

(D) The Liberties of Newcastle

These are the laws and customs which the burgesses of Newcastle-upon-Tyne enjoyed in the time of Henry [I], king of England, and should [now] enjoy.[15]

Burgesses can levy distraint upon foreigners (foris habitantes) inside their market and outside it, inside their homes and outside them, and inside their borough and outside it without the licence of the reeve, except when courts are held in the borough and except [when foreigners are summoned thither] for military service or castle-guard. A burgess may not levy distraint upon a [fellow] burgess without the licence of the reeve. If a burgess has lent anything of his to a foreigner, such a debtor must pay [his debt] in the borough if he admits it; if he denies it, he must give justice in the borough. Pleas that arise in the borough must be held and settled there, except those which are crown pleas. If any burgess is accused in any case, he shall not plead outside the borough except through default of [justice in the borough] court. And he need answer only when day and time are set, unless he has already been guilty of miskenning[16] — [that is to say,] except in matters pertaining to the crown.

If a ship that wishes to depart [at once] puts in at Tynemouth, the burgesses may buy [from it] whatever they please. If a plea arises between a burgess and a merchant [coming by sea], it must be settled before the third ebb-tide. Whatever merchandise a ship brings [to the borough] by sea should be carried ashore, except salt; and herring should [also] be sold on board the ship. If any one lawfully and without [adverse] claim holds land in burgage for a year and a day, he need not make reply to a claimant unless the claimant has been outside the kingdom of England, or unless he is a child not old enough to speak [in a judicial process]. If a burgess has a son, he shall share his father's liberty if he lives with his father.[17] If a peasant comes to dwell in the borough, and remains there as a burgess for a year and a day, he may permanently remain in the borough,[18] unless he or his lord has made a preliminary statement that he is to remain for a [fixed] term. If any one accuses a burgess of anything, he may not wage battle against the burgess, but the burgess shall defend him- self by compurgation (per Iegem) — unless it is [an accusation of] treason, in which case he should defend himself by battle.[19] Nor can a burgess wage battle against a foreigner unless he has first abandoned his burgage.[20]

No merchant who is not a burgess can buy either wool or hides or other merchandise [in the country] outside the borough,[21] nor [can he buy them] inside the borough except from a burgess. If a burgess commits an offence, he shall give 6 ores[22] to the reeve. In the borough there is neither merchet nor heriot nor blodwit nor stengesdint.[23] Every burgess may have his own bake-oven and hand-mill if he wishes, saving the rights of the king's oven. If a woman commits a misdeed concerning bread or beer,[24] no one should intervene [in the matter] except the reeve. If she commits the offense twice, let her be punished by her [rightful] forfeiture; if she commits the offence a third time, let justice be done on her [by the common counsel of the burgesses].[25] No one who is not a burgess may buy cloths for dyeing or make them up or cut them.[26] A burgess may give or sell his land and freely and quietly go whither he pleases, unless a [legal] claim stands against him.

(Latin) Archaeologia Aeliana, Fourth Series, I, 170.


[1] That the Gosfregš of this charter was Geoffrey de Mandeville, constable of the Tower and sheriff of London, was indicated by Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, p. 439.

[2] For the dating of this charter after 1130, see J. P. S. Tatlock, in Speculum, XI, 461 f.

[3] The text of the preceding sentence is that given by H. G. Richardson in the English Historical Review, XLII, 80 f. This is the earliest known grant of a borough in fee-farm to the burgesses; cf. Lincoln, above, p. 53, n. 17.

[4] See above, p. 53, n. 16.

[5] Exemption from scot and Danegeld would free the burgesses from all arbitrary taxation; see above, p. 38, n. 2. And on the murdrum, see above, p. 36, n. 2.

[6] That is to say, be held for trial by combat.

[7]Passagium and lestagium were particular forms of toll: the former term applied especially to taxes on the carriage of goods overland; the latter to those on the cargoes of ships.

[8] A soke in the mediaeval borough was a sort of manorial island — a territory under seignorial jurisdiction rather than the law of the privileged community.

[9] Cf. Edgar, III, 2 (above, p. 19).

[10]Miskenning or stultiloquium was the use, either by plaintiff or by defendant, of a wrong formula in a judicial process. The heavy penalty which it carried in Anglo-Saxon law would be especially irksome to the large French-speaking population of London; cf. William's concession to his French barons, above, p. 35, n. I. The husting was the weekly court for the dispatch of ordinary business; the folkmote, we are told by later documents, met three times a year for extraordinary business, such as watch and ward, fire-prevention, and the election of municipal officials.

[11] For full discussion of this custom, see M. Bateson, Borough Customs, II, lii f.

[12] This is the royal confirmation of a grant to Beverley by Thurstan, archbishop of York (Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 131). The latter charter, in addition to the liberties mentioned here, farms the borough tolls to the burgesses for 18m. a year.

[13] That is to say, the customs and laws pertaining to a free borough, including beyond doubt burgage tenure.

[14] The archbishop's charter has hans-hus — the gildhall, in which the burgesses are authorized to enact statutes for the good of the town; see Gross, Gild Merchant, 1, 192 f.

[15] In addition to the principal (or A) text of this document, published by Charles Johnson in Archaeologia Aeliana, Fourth Series, I, 170, there are three other versions (ibid., 172 f.). The original record seems to have been made as the result of an inquest under Henry II. In place of the heading here given, the B text reads: "These are the laws and customs which King Henry [I] granted to his burgesses of Newcastle."

[16] See above, p. 62, n. 10.

[17] The A text is corrupt at this point, but the other versions make the meaning clear. B reads: "If a burgess has a son in his own home [eating] at his own table, the son shall have the same liberty as his father."

[18]... in burgo ex toto remaneat. The other versions agree in stating that he shall thenceforth remain there as a burgess. This is obviously a statement of the famous "law of a year and a day," by which the serf could attain freedom by completing a legal residence in a privileged town.

[19] See above, p. 62, n. 6.

[20] That is to say, given up his burgess status and burgage tenure.

[21] Burgesses normally had a monopoly of trade in certain articles within a specified region; in the case of Nottingham, for example, it was Nottinghamshire.

[22] 10s.; see above, p. 21, n. 3.

[23] The general meaning of this whole article is that the ordinary manorial custom has no force in the borough. At this time merchet and heriot were respectively the French formariage and mainmorte, which were eventually taken by the courts as marks of servile status. Blodwit was the old Anglo-Saxon fine for assault with bloodshed, which seems to have become essentially a seignorial perquisite. Stengesdint means beating with a stick; its exact implication here is not known.

[24] That is to say, violates the local regulations for baking or brewing.

[25] The phrase in brackets is added from the other versions.

[26] In order to sell by the piece, rather than in quantity.


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