72. BOROUGH RECORDS
(A) Extracts from the London Liber Albus
... It has been the custom that ... the commoners, on being summoned for
such an election [of a mayor], and after the occasion for the summons has been
explained to them by the recorder on behalf of the mayor and aldermen, cross to
the other end of the hall... and there nominate two aldermen, each
of whom has served as sheriff and has proved his fitness for the office of
mayor. Having done so, they return and by their common spokesman present to the
mayor and aldermen the names of the two men ... , asking them to admit
whichever of the two they please to the office of mayor for the ensuing year.
The mayor and the aldermen, mounting to the upper part of the chamber, then
choose one of the two by majority vote, with the common clerk noting the result
under the supervision of the recorder; and then, once more descending, they
announce through their recorder to the people in the gildhall who has been
elected mayor for the next year....
Now this has been the process used in holding a wardmote at London. The
alderman, after receiving a warrant, orders his beadle to summon all men
possessing houses, as well as all paid servants, within his ward to come before
him on a certain day at a certain hour and in a certain place ... within the
same ward for the meeting of the wardmote. The names of which persons, after
they have been summoned, the beadle shall have inscribed in a certain roll:
that is to say, [the names of] the freemen dwelling in that ward of the city by
themselves, and [the names of] the paid servants, not freemen, by
themselves. And when they have assembled at the assigned hour, with the
alderman and the more substantial men of the ward seated in the proper places,
the alderman's clerk shall order the beadle on behalf of the alderman to
proclaim peace.... And by the alderman and the good men of the
ward, and also by the jurors at the said wardmote, should be elected the
constables, scavagers, aleconners, beadle, and other officers, who
shall take suitable oaths of office at the general court....
In electing an alderman it has been the custom for the mayor to go to
the ward that has been vacated and, if he pleases, have all free
inhabitants of the aforesaid ward summoned through the beadle to the place
where the wardmote of that ward is customarily held; and there, at once if it
is possible and desirable, or else on a day to be set, the alderman should be
elected by the major and better part of those men; yet so that fifteen days
shall not be exceeded in making an election, for then the mayor, with the
advice of the aldermen, his associates, ought and has been accustomed to
install an honest, rich, and discreet man as alderman of that ward....
This is the method of holding the common council. On the day before it
is to meet, the mayor and the aldermen, through the servants of the chamber,
should cause a certain number of the wiser and wealthier men to be summoned
from each ward of the city to meet at the gildhall on the next day —
sixteen, twelve, eight, or four, according as the ward is large or small. And
no one, unless he has been summoned, is to come or is to presume to attend such
council under pain of imprisonment....
For the purpose of electing sheriffs, the mayor, recorder, aldermen, and
commons are to be assembled on the day of St. Matthew the Apostle in such
manner as is ordained for the election of the mayor. And first of all, the
mayor shall of his own free will choose a worthy freeman of the city to be one
of the sheriffs for the ensuing year, on whose behalf he is willing to be
responsible for half the farm of the city, should he who is chosen by the mayor
be in default. But if the mayor chooses the man by the counsel and consent of
the aldermen, they must share his responsibility. And those elected to the
common council ... shall choose for the commons another sheriff, on whose
behalf all the commons should be responsible for the other half of the farm
owed to the king, if he should be in default....
(Latin and French) Munimenta Gildhallac
Londoniensis, I, 20-47.
(B) Henry VI: Charter to Nottingham
... Furthermore, of our richer grace, on our own initiative, and from
our certain knowledge, we have granted and by our present letters have
confirmed for us and for our heirs and successors in perpetuity to the existing
burgesses of the same town of Nottingham, which has now and has long had a
certain corporate form, and to the heirs and successors of the same
burgesses, being burgesses of that town, that the said town, [consisting] of a
mayor and burgesses, shall henceforth and forever be incorporate, and that the
same mayor and burgesses and their successors, being mayors and burgesses of
that town thus incorporated, are to be a community perpetually incorporate in
fact and in name, known as the Mayor and Burgesses of the Town of Nottingham,
and having perpetual succession; and that the mayor and burgesses of that town
and their aforesaid successors shall, under that same name, be competent and
able to prosecute and defend all manner of pleas, suits, complaints, and
demands ... in any courts whatsoever of us, or of our heirs or successors, or
of any other persons whatsoever....
Furthermore ... we have granted ... that the same town of Nottingham and
the precincts thereof ... , which now exist and are contained within the county
of Nottingham, shall be forever separated ... from that county ...; that the
same town of Nottingham and its precincts ... shall forever be known as the
county of the town of Nottingham; that the said burgesses of the same town and
their successors ... shall forever have two sheriffs ... , to be elected from
among themselves in place of the two bailiffs ...; that hereafter each burgess
... to be elected mayor of that town ... shall be escheator for us and our
heirs and successors ...; and that the same existing burgesses of
that town and their successors forever shall there have a court [for the
settlement] at their pleasure of all and singular contracts, agreements,
transgressions made against the peace as well as otherwise, and all other
things, causes, and matters whatsoever in any way arising or happening within
the same town or its precincts ... , to be held from time to time in the
gildhall of the same town before the mayor ... and sheriffs of that town for
the time being....
Furthermore ... we have granted ... that the same burgesses and their
heirs and successors may from time to time elect from among themselves seven
aldermen, of whom a certain one is to be elected as mayor of that town ...;
that the aldermen thus elected shall remain in such offices ... during their
lifetimes ...; and that the aldermen of the same town for the time being shall
be justices for us and our heirs and successors to keep the peace within the
same town and its liberty and precincts ... , having full power and authority
for investigating, hearing, and determining all felonies, murders, trespasses,
and misprisions, as well as all sorts of other causes, complaints, contempts,
and misdeeds, and everything else pertaining to other justices of the peace
within our kingdom of England....
(Latin) Stevenson, Records of the Borough of
Nottingham, II, 186 f.
(C) Municipal Ordinances at Leicester (1466-67)
Hit was ordeyned and agreed at a comen hall holden at
Leycestre the xxv day of Octobre, the 6te yere of the règne
of the kyng oure sovereyne lord Edward the IIIte, in the time of
mairaltie of Roger Wygston than beyng maire of the seyd towne of Leycestre, by
a generall assent and agrement as wele of the same maire, his
brethern, and all the comens of the same toune then being at the
forsaid comen hall, that from that tyme forth no man presume to entre into the
gilde hall, otherwise cald the maires hall, at eny comen hall ther holden or to
be holden but oonly thoes and siche as ben fraunchest, that is to say, men
entred into the marchaundes gild; on payne of inprisonment as long as the maire
lykes forthwith doon upon every suche persone doing the contrary at eny comen
The ordenance made by Richarde Gillot, maire of the town of Leycestre,
and his brethern, and by the advise and assent of all the cornons of the same
town, at a comon halle holden at Leycestre the Thursday next afore the feste of
Symonde day and Jude, in the yere of the reigne of our soverayen lorde Kyng
Edwarde the Fourth after the Conquest off Ynglond the vii.
The maire commaundeth, on the kynges behalfe, that all maner of men kepe
the pees of our soverayn lorde the kyng, and that no man disturbull hit
withynne the fraunches of this town as be armour or wepon beryng, as halbergon,
salett, bylle, swyrd, longe staff, or dager, or any other maner of
wepon, where thurgh the kynges pees should be disturbelyd or
lettyd, yn payne of forfeture of his wepon and his body to preson,
sauf in supportacion of the maire, but yf hit be a knyght or a squyer a swyrde
borne after hym; and that every man of the contray that bryng any wepon to the
town leve hit at his in and bere hit not withynne this town, neyther swyrde,
bille, ne long staffe, but in the supportacion of the mayre aforesaid, in payne
of forfeture of his wepon and his body to preson as long as the mayre lykes;
and that no man walke after ix of the belle be streken in the nyght withoute
lyght, or withoute cause resonable, in payne of inpresonment.
Also, alle bakers that bake shall bake symnell, wastell, coket
lovys iiii for a peny of good paste, good bulture,
and well baken ...; and of all other kyndes of breed sesonable and of good
weyght and pryse after the form aforsaid....
Also, that alle brewers that brewe shall brewe good ale and se that it
be neyther rawe, roppy, ne red, but holsum for mannys body, selling a galon of
the best for id., ob., a galon of the secunde for
id., and a galon of the thirde for ob.; and that they selle non
by measure unlawfull nor unseled, in payne of inprisonment....
Also, that every bocher of the cuntray that bryng flesshe to the market
bryng the skynnes and talowe of the same flesshe with hem, in payne of
forfetyng theroff; and that no bocher bryng no flesshe to selle withinne this
town that is corupte with eny maner of sekenes, in payne of forfeture of the
same flesshe and there bodyes to preson as long as the mayre lykes....
Also, that no man ley owte no muke at his dore — stokkys ne stoyns,
tymbre ne clay, ne non other maner of thing to the anuysauns of the kynges
peple, but yf hit be a bygger in the stretes of the town —
neyther withinne the iiii yates ne withinne the iiii stretes of the subberbis,
but yf hit be remeved withinne iii dayes, in payne of imprisonment as long as
the maire likes, etc.
Also, that no man nor woman suffre no corrypcion to lye before his dore,
ne keste non owte of his dore by nyght ne by day — that is to say hors,
swyn, dogge, ne catte, nor non other corypcion — withinne the iiii yates,
ne withinne the iiii stretes of the subbarbys, but voyde hit forthe into the
fylde from the course of the peple, yn payne of inprisonment while the mair
Also, that no man ne woman, ne non other persone, swepe ne throwe owte
swepynges whan hit rayneys upon his neghbour for disturbelyng of his neybur, in
payne of inprisonment as long as the mayre lykes of the persone or persones
that is founden so gylty.
Also, that no man of the town nor of the cuntray play withinne the
fraunchys of this town for sylver at no unlaufull gamons ... , that is for to
sey, at dyce, haserdyng, tenes, bowlys, pykking with arowes, coytyng with
horsshon, penypryk, foteball, ne cheker in the myre, in payne of
inprisonment. And the owner of the hows, gardens, or placez where the plays
been used, as often as hit is so founden and used, shall paye to the
chamberlens iiiid., and every player vid. to the same
chamberlens, to the use of the cornons....
Also, that no woman use to wasshe no clothes ne none other corripcion at
the comon wellys of the town ne in the hye strete, in payne of
Also, that alle maner scholdys that are dwellyng withinne this town, man
or woman, that are founde defectyf by sworne men before the maire presented,
that than hit shall be lefull to the same mayre for to ponyssh them on a
cukstool afore there dore as long as hym lyketh and thanne so to
be caried forth to the iiii yates of the town....
Also, all maner men, women, and children that bryngeth any hors or mares
to the market laden with corne or other vitaill, that they, after the tyme they
be unladen, to lede them owte of the markett place to the innés, in
payne of every best iid., to by levied by the chamberlens to the use of
Also, that no man latt no swyne ne neet goo abrode,
neythere before the herde goo afylde ne after he come horn, but
kepe them inne tyll the herde come, in payne of losying of every best
iid., and that to be levied by the chamberlens to the use of the
Also, that no dukkes be letyn abrode in any stret withinne the iiii
yates of the town, on payne of forfeture of every duk ob., that to be
levied by the chamberlens to the use of the town as ofte as eny dukkes been
founden or takyn goyng abrood withinne the said stretes of the town.
Also, that no man in the town dwellyng, fraunchysed ne unfraunchesed,
drawe to no conventicles, ryotes, ne assembles withinne the town, ne rydyng
withoute, agayen the kinges pees; ne take no lyveres, gownyng ne hodyng, of no
man of non astate ne degré for maintenaunce of no man ne of no maner
matire; but that they gyf assistence to the maire in sustentacion of the kynges
pees, good rule, and honoure of this town....
Also, whatsomever persone or persones that dysobeyeth the maire and his
officers and wil nott come to hym when he is sent for, that than hit shall be
lefull to the same maire, with all the powre that he can make, to fecche hym,
and yf he close his dore, to breeke hit oppen & than to enprison hym whiles
the maire lyketh....
Bateson, Records of the Borough of Leicester, II,
(D) Returns of Borough Elections (1437)
This indenture, made between Richard Sherwood and William Burton,
sheriffs of the city of York, on the one part, and ... , citizens
of the aforesaid city, on the other part, testifies that the aforesaid
sheriffs, in the presence of the aforesaid county at the last
county [court] of the aforesaid city held there immediately after the receipt
of a certain writ of the lord king, which is sewed to this indenture —
namely, at the county [court] of the aforesaid city held there on Monday,
Christmas eve, in the fifteenth year of the reign of King Henry VI after the
Conquest of England — made proclamation of a certain parliament of the
lord king to be held at Westminster on January 21 next to come, and in the same
court they caused to be elected two of the more discreet and substantial
citizens of the aforesaid city — namely, William Bowes, jr., and Richard
Louth — having full and sufficient authority, for themselves and the
community of the city aforesaid, to attend the aforesaid parliament and to do
and agree to whatever then and there may happen, God willing, to be ordained.
In testimony whereof the aforesaid parties have individually placed their seals
on portions of this indenture.
Given at York on the day and in the year aforesaid.
This indenture, made between Richard Winsley, bailiff of the liberty of
the abbot of Reading at Leominster, on the one part, and John Walter, bailiff
of the borough of Leominster, and ... , burgesses of the aforesaid
borough, on the other part, testifies that the aforesaid burgesses, with the
assent of the whole community of the same borough, on Friday next before the
feast of Epiphany in the fifteenth year of the reign of King Henry VI after the
Conquest, in the gildhall of the same borough elected William Rabys and John
Crewe, burgesses of the aforesaid borough, to attend the parliament of the lord
king which is to be held at Westminster on January 21 next to come, having full
and sufficient authority, for themselves and the community of the same borough,
to consider, advise, and agree to whatever may happen, God willing, to be
ordained by the common council of the king of England concerning matters there
to be considered and moved. In testimony whereof the aforesaid burgesses have
in turn placed their seals on this portion of the indenture. Given on the day
and in the year aforesaid.
This indenture, made in the full county [court] of Devon — held in
the castle of the lord king in the city of Exeter on Tuesday, December 28, in
the fifteenth year of the reign of King Henry VI — between Thomas
Beaumont, knight, sheriff of the aforesaid county, on the one part, and William
Wonard, John Copleston ... , [on the other part,] by virtue of a
certain writ of the lord king, directed to the said sheriff and [now] sewed to
this indenture ... , testifies that the aforesaid William Wonard,
John Copleston, and others have elected John Speke and Roger Champernoun,
knights, to attend the aforesaid parliament on the clay and at the place
aforesaid on behalf of the community of the aforesaid county; also Thomas Cook
and Walter Pope, citizens of the city of Exeter; John Searle and Richard
Strode, burgesses of the borough of Plympton; Thomas Aysheldon and John Walsh,
burgesses of the borough of Tavistock; John Worthy and John Wick, burgesses of
the borough of Totnes; John Bearl and Hugh Champernoun, burgesses of the
borough of Barnstaple — [all elected] according to the provisions of the
said writ. In testimony whereof the aforesaid William Wonard, John
Copleston, and all the others named below, who were present at that election,
have attached their seals to the present letters. To the other portion of this
same indenture, remaining with the aforesaid sheriff, the aforesaid sheriff has
attached his seal.
Given on the day and in the place and year aforesaid.
(Latin) McKisack, Representation of English
Boroughs, pp. 158 f.
 I.e., White Book, composed by John Carpenter, city clerk,
in 1419. This customal contains some fanciful explanation of earlier
constitutional history, but in the main was based on authentic records and
Carpenter's expert knowledge.
 The chamber in the gildhall that was used for sessions of
the husting. Cf. nos. 28B, 39D-F.
 That is to say, men who did not enjoy the freedom of the
city. They had no right of voting at elections; see immediately below.
 A jury empanelled by the constables then carries out an
inquest to present various offenses for subsequent trial before the city
 The scavagers collected "showage," dues paid for displaying
goods in the market. The aleconners were inspectors of brewing.
 The aldermen enjoyed life tenure of their offices.
 These provisions follow a detailed confirmation of Henry
V's charter and various subsequent grants. Henry VI's own charter covers some
ten pages of print; only the merest skeleton is given here.
 The larger boroughs had long been de facto
corporations; the charters of the fifteenth century only confirmed the
status in the formal language of that age: see the forthcoming book on the
subject by M. Weinbaum.
 London and Middlesex had been combined under one government
since before the Norman Conquest (see above, nos. 25B, 28B). Bristol had been
made a county in 1373, York in 1398, Norwich in 1404, Lincoln in 1409, and
Southampton in 1448. For a much more complete statement of what was involved in
such a grant, the student is referred to Edward III's charter to Bristol,
clearly translated by N. D. Harding in Bristol Charters, pp. 119 f. See
also McKisack, Parliamentary Representation of English Boroughs, pp. 32,
 The judicial revenue accruing through acts of the justices
of the peace was to go to the town; other revenue collected by the escheator
and sheriffs as county officers was reserved by the king.
 I.e., the general court.
 The twenty-four jurats who had long formed what amounted
to a closed corporation for governing the town; see M. Bateson's
 A halbergon, or halberd, was a combined lance and
battle-axe; a sallet was an iron head-piece.
 Simnel, wastel, and cocket were three varieties of
first-class bread, but exactly what each term designated is not known; cf.
above, p. 66, n. 3.
 I.e., well-bolted flour.
Obulus, the Latin word for a halfpenny.
 Without the official seals that designated true
 Picking with arrows was apparently throwing darts at a
target; quoiting with horseshoes is obvious; in penny-prick the players threw
at a penny; checker in the mire remains unidentified.
 A chair in which the culprit was bound before being ducked
or otherwise punished.
 Cf. no. 69C.
 Fifteen names.
 Of the city of York; see above, p. 291, n. 9.
 Eleven names.
 Seventeen others.
 The text here states the substance of the writ of
 That is to say, by the men of their respective boroughs
and so reported to the sheriff.