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MORTH&KSTERN UNIVERSITY lIBRX^-^-^y-^ ^^*'
Translations and Reprints
Original Sources of European History
ENGLISH TOWNS AND GILDS.
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NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
Translations and Reprints ^^'-''
from the ^,^^ i
ORIGINAL SOURCES OF EUROPEAN HISTORY.
Voi,. II. Engiish Towns and Guds. No. i.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. Early Bodies of Customs of Cities and Boroughs.
Chester, ....... 2
Newcastle-on-Tyne, ..... 5
II. Charters of Cities and Boroughs.
Lincoln, ...... 7
Wallingford, ...... 8
Southampton, ...... 9
Chester, . . . . . . . 9
Beverly, ...... 10
III. Ordinances and other Records of Gilds Merchant.
Southampton, . . . • . . 12
Lynn Regis, ..... • 17
rv. Ordinances and other Records of Craft Gilds.
Weavers' Gilds of Oxford, Lincoln, and London, . 21
Spurriers' Gild of London, ... 21
White-tawyers' Gild of London, ... 23
Tailors' Gild of Exeter 26
Order of Pageants in the Mistery Plays of York, . 29
V. Ordinances of Social and Religious Gilds.
Anglo-Saxon Gild of Exeter, . • • • 33
St. Katherine's Gild of Norwich, . . • 34
VI. Select Bibliography, . . . • •
TRANSLATIONS AND REPRINTS.
I. TOWN CUSTOMS.
An English city or borough,^ in the early Middle Ages, is to be looked upon,
in the greater number of cases, simply as a manor or group of adjacent manors,
where facilities for trade or handicraft have led to a larger and more concentrated
population than could have subsisted merely on the agriculture of the rural commun-
ity. In each of these towns local customs grew up, just as the "custom of the
manor " existed in each village in the open country ; but more highly developed,
as a consequence of the closer population, mercantile occupation, and more active
life of the townspeople.
Since these local customs existed only as rules traditionally observed and re-
membered, they were but seldom made a matter of written record. The few still
existing have been preserved by peculiar cicumstances. In some forty-one cases
the pecuniary relations to the king involved in the customs of the towns attracted
the attention of the commissioners who made the reports for Domesday Book.
Those of Chester are given in the greatest detail. The customs of Newcastle were
formulated in the time of Henry II, but refer to a period at least as early as the
close of the eleventh century. The "Usages of Winchester," ''Ordinances of
Worcester " and " Office of the Mayor of Bristol " are collections of city customs
similar to those printed and translated here, and are printed in Smith's English
Gilds, Early English Text Society, 1870. The last of the three is also in Ricart's
Kalendar, Camden Society, 1872.
CUSTOMS OF CHESTER.
Latin : Domesday Book, I, 262, b. ; and Stubbs' Select Charters, 83-95.
The city of Chester, in the time of King Edward, paid tax as being
of fifty hides ;^ three and a half hides of which were outside of the city.
That is, one and a half hides were beyond the bridge, and two hides in
Newton and RedclifF, and in the bishop's borough ; these paid tax with
In the time of King Edward, there were in the city 431 houses pay-
ing tax. And besides these the bishop had 56 tax-paying houses. Then
the city paid ten and a half marks ^ of silver ; two parts belonged to the
king and the third to the earl. And the following laws existed there :
When peace had been granted by the hand of the king, or by his
letter or through his bailiff, if any one broke it, the king had 100
shillings for it. But if the same peace of the king, at his order had
been granted by the earl, if it was broken, of the 100 shillings which
were given therefor, the earl had the third penny. If, however, the
^ There seems to be no consistent distinction between cities and boroughs in
Domesday and earlier use : later it was customary to call the seat of a bishop a city
and all other considerable towns boroughs. ^ A hide was a unit of taxation or of
measurement, equalling in the latter case approximately 120 acres. It is here evi-
dently the former. ^ The mark of silver was equal to 13s. 4d. ; of gold, £(i.
CUSTOMS OF CHESTICR. ^
same peace was infringed when granted by the reeve of the king or the
officer of the earl, it was compounded for by forty shillings, and tlie
third penny belonged to the earl.
If any free man of tlie king broke the peace which had been
granted and killed a man in his house, all his land and money came to
the king, and he himself became an outlaw. The earl had the same
concerning his man making this forfeiture. No one, however, except
the king, was able to grant peace again to an outlaw.
He who shed blood between Monday morning and the ninth hour
of Saturday compounded for it with ten shillings. From the ninth
hour of Saturday to Monday morning bloodshed was compounded for
W'ith twenty shillings. Similarly any one paid twenty shillings who did
this in the twelve days after Christmas, on the day of the Purification
of the Blessed Mary, on the first day of Easter, the first day of Pente-
cost, Ascension Day, on the Assumption or Nativity of the Blessed
Mary and on the day of All Saints.
He w^ho killed a man on these holy days compounded for it with
£4 ; but on other days with forty shillings. Similarly he who com-
mitted burglary or assault, on those feast days or on Sunday £4. On
other days forty shillings.
Any one setting prisoners free^ in the city gave ten shillings.
But if the reeve of the king or of the earl committed this offence he
compounded for it with twenty shillings.
He who committed theft or robbery or exercised violence upon a
woman in a house compounded for each of these with forty shillings.
If a widow had illegitimate intercourse with any one she com-
pounded for it with twenty shillings ; a girl, however, with ten shillings
for a similar cause.
He w^ho in the city seized upon the land of another and was not
able to prove it to be his, was fined forty shillings. Similarly also he
who made a claim upon it, if he was not able to prove it to be his.
He who wished to make relief of his own land or that of his
relative gave ten shillings.
If he was not able or did not wish to do this the reeve took his
land into the hand of the king.
He who did not pay the tax at the period at which he owed it
compounded for it with with ten shillings.
^The word hangewithatn thus translated, has also been considered to mean
the offence of hanging a person without warrant of law. Ducange.
A TRANSLATIONS AND REPRINTS.
If fire burned the city, he from whose house it started compounded
for it with three oras ^ of pennies, and gave to his next neighbor two
shillings. Of all these forfeitures two parts belonged to the king and
the third to the earl.
If without the license of the king ships came to the port of the city
or departed from the port, from each man who was on the ships the
king and the earl had forty shillings. If against the peace of the king
and after his prohibition the ship approached, as well it as the men,
with all things which were upon it, did the king and the earl have.
If, however, with the peace and license of the king it had come,
those who were in it sold what they had in peace ; but when it went away,
four pence from each lading did the king and the earl have. If to those
having martens' skins the reeve of the king gave orders that to no one
should they sell until they had first brought them and shown them to him,
he who did not observe this compounded for it by paying forty shillings.
A man or a woman making false measure in the city, and being
arrested, compounded for it with four shillings. Similarly a person
making bad ale, was either placed in the ducking stool or gave four
shillings to the reeve. This forfeiture the officer of the king and of the
earl received in the city, in whosesoever land it had been, either of the
bishop or of another man. Similarly also, if any one held the toll back
beyond three nights, he compounded for it with forty shillings.
In the time of King Edward there were in this city seven
moneyers, ^ who gave seven pounds to the king and the earl, besides the
farm, ' when the money was turned over.
There were at that time twelve judges of the city, and these were
from the men of the king, and of the bishop, and of the earl ; if any
one of these remained away from the hundred court on the day in
which it sat, without a clear excuse, he compounded for it with ten
shillings, between the king and the earl.
For repairing the city wall and the bridge the reeve summoned
one man to come from each hide of the county. If the man of any one
did not come his lord compounded for it to the king and the earl with
forty shillings. This forfeiture was in addition to the ferm.
* An ora is a number of pennies, varying in different times and places, here pos-
sibly sixteen or twenty.
'^ The moneyers were men who had the contract for coining money, paying a
fee for the privilege of reserving to themselves the seigniorage.
^A ferm was a fixed amount paid as a lump sum in place of a number of
smaller or more irregular payments.
CUSTOMS OF CHESTER c
This city paid at that time of ferm £45 and three bundles of mar-
ten's skins. The third i)art belonged to the earl, and two to the king.
When Earl Hugh received it, it was worth only £30, for it was
much wasted. There were 205 fewer houses than there had been in the
time of King Edward. Now there are just as many there as he found.
Murdret held this city from the earl for £70 and one mark of gold.
He had at ferm for £50 and one mark of gold all the pleas of the earl
in the county and in the hundreds, with the exception of Inglefeld.
The land on which the temple of St. Peter stands, which Robert of
Rodelend claimed for demesne land, as the county has proved, never
pertained to the manor, outside the city, but pertains to the borough ;
and it has always been in the custom of the king and the earl, like that
of other burgesses.
777^ CUSTOMS OF NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE.
Latin : Acts of Parliament of Scotland, I, 33-34 ; and Stubbs' Select
These are the laws and customs which the burgesses of Newcastle-
upon-Tyne had in the time of Henry, king of England, and ought to have :
Burgesses may make seizure for debt from those dwelling outside,
within their market place and without, and within their house and
without, and within their borough and without, without the license of the
reeve, unless courts are held in the borough, and unless they are in the
army or on guard at a castle.
From a burgess a burgess is not allowed to make seizure for debt
without the license of the reeve.
If a burgess has agreed upon anything in the borough with those
dwelling outside, the debtor, if he acknowledges it, must pay the debt
himself, or he must grant right in the borough.
Suits which arise in the borough are to be held and finished there,
except those which belong to the king's crown.
If any burgess is summoned on any prosecution, he shall not j)lead
outside of the borough except for want of a court. Nor nuis^t he re-
spond without day and term, unless he shall have first fallen into an
absurd defense ; except with regard to things which pertain to the
If a ship has put in at Tynemouth and wishes to depart, it is al-
lowed to the burgesses to buy whatever they wish.
6 TRANSLATIONS AND REPRINTS.
If a suit arises between a burgess aud a merchant, it shall be
settled before the third tide.
Whatever merchandise a vessel has brought by sea ought to be
carried to land, except salt and brine, which ought to be sold on the
If anyone has held land in burgage for a year and a day justly
and without prosecution, he need not make defense against a claimant,
unless the claimant has been outside the realm of England, or in the
case where he is a boy having no power to speak.
If a burgess has a son in his house, at his table, the son shall have
the same liberty as his father.
If a villain comes to stay in a borough, and there for a year and a
day stays as a burgess in the borough, let him remain altogether, unless
it has been said beforehand by himself or by his lord that he is to re-
main for a certain time.
If any burgess makes an accusation concerning any matter, he
cannot wage battle against a burgess, but let the burgess defend him-
self by law, unless it is concerning treason, when he ought to defend
himself by battle. Nor can a burgess wage battle against a villain, un-
less he has first departed from his burgage.
No merchant, unless he is a burgess, may buy any wool, hides, or
other merchandise, outside of the town, nor inside of the borough except
If forfeiture happens to a burgess, he shall give six oras to the
In the borough there is no merchet, nor heriot, nor blood fine, nor
Each burgess may have his oven and hand-mill if he wishes, sav-
ing the king's right to the oven.
If a woman is in transgression concerning bread or concerning ale,
no one ought to intermeddle except the reeve. If she shall have trans-
gressed a second time, let her be whipped for her transgression. If for
a third time she shall have transgressed, let justice be done upon her.
No one except a burgess may buy clothes for dyeing, nor make,
nor shear them.
A burgess may give his land, or sell it, and go whither he wishes,
freely and quietly, unless he is engaged in a suit.
CHARTER OF CITY OF LINCOLN.
II. TOWN CHARTERS.
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries many of the cities and boroughs
obtained their first charters. These were documents issued and sealed by the king, or
by the lord on whose demesne the town had grown up, giving legal recognition to a
part or the whole of the body of local customs. In no case was the whole body of
customs recited in the charter ; and in most cases probably no new rights were granted
to the towns by the charters ; but it was of the greatest value to them to have their
more important customary rights defined, legalized and put in a form which could be
appealed to in case of subsequentdispute. Moreover, the first grant obtained by any
town served as a precedent in obtaining, at favorable opportunities thereafter, new
charters extending its powers and privileges. The charter of Southampton, printed
below, for instance, was the first of thirty-one such grants to that town between the
twelfth century and the seventeenth ; varying in character from mere renewals to
considerable additions to the city immunities. Types of three classes of municipal
charters are given below ; those granted by the king, those granted by a secular lord
to a town on his demesne, and those granted by a prelate. A vast number of char-
ters granted to towns are printed in Rymer's Foedera ; Madox' Firtna Burgiy
Gross' Gild Merchant, and in local histories.
CHARTER OF HENRY II. TO THE CITY OF LINCOLN.
Latin : Rymer's Fcedera, i. 40 ; and Stubbs' Select Charters, 158-9.
Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, duke of Normandy
and Aquitaine, count of Anjou, to the bishop of Lincoln, justiciars,
sheriffs, barons, officers and all his faithful, French and English, of
Lincoln, greeting. Know that I have conceded to my citizens of Lin-
coln all their liberties and customs and laws, which they had in the
time of Edward and William and Henry, kings of England ; and their
gild merchant of the men of the city and of other merchants of the county,
just as they had it in the time of our aforesaid predecessors, kings of Eng-
land, best and most freely. And all men who dwell within the four
divisions of the city and attend the market are to be at the gilds and
customs and assizes of the city as they have been best in the time of Ed-
ward, William and Henry, kings of England. I grant to them more-
over, that if anyone shall buy any land within the city, of the burgage of
Lincoln, and shall have held it for a year and a day without any claim,
and he who has bought it is able to show that the claimant has been
in the land of England within the year and has not claimed it, for the
future as before he shall hold it well and in peace, and without any
prosecution. I confirm also to them, that if anyone shall have remained
in the city of Lincoln for a year and a day without claim on the part of
any claimant, and has given the customs, and is able to show by the
laws and customs of the city that the claimant has been in existence in
8 TRANSLATIONS AND REPRINTS.
the land of England and has not made a claim against him, for the
future as in the past he shall remain in peace, in my city of Lincoln, as
my citizen. Witnesses, E., bishop of Lisieux ; Thomas, chancellor;
H., constable ; Henry of Essex, constable. At Nottingham.
CHARTER OF HENRY II. TO WALLINGFORD.
Latin : Rymer's Fcedera, i, 47^ : and Gross' Gild Merchant, II, 244-5.
Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, Duke of Nor-
mandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, I
command you that my burgesses of Wallingford shall have my secure
peace through my whole land of England and Normandy, wherever
they may be. And know that I have given and conceded to them for-
ever all their liberties and laws and customs well and honorably, just as
they had them best and most honorably in the time of King Edward,
and in the time of my great grandfather King William, and of his son,
the second King William, and in the time of King Henry, my grand-
father ; that is to say, that they should have freely the gild merchant
with all its customs and laws, so that neither my bailiff nor any justice
of mine should meddle with their gild ; but only their own alderman and
officer. And if my officers or any justice shall have brought suit against
them in any plea or for any occasion or shall have wished to lead them
into a suit, I forbid it, and require that they should not make defense
in any manner, except in their own proper portmote. And if the reeve
himself shall implead them on any occasion without an accuser, they
shall not respond, and if on account of any transgression, or by a right
judgment any one of them shall have made forfeiture by a right con-
sideration of the burgesses, to the reeve shall he pay it. I forbid, more-
over, and require that there shall be no market in Crowmarsh, nor any
merchant, unless he is in the gild of the merchants ; and if anyone goes
out from the borough of Wallingford and lives from the merchandise of
the same Wallingford, I command that he should make the right gild
of the merchants with the same burgesses, wherever he may be, within
the borough or without. Know moreover, that I have given and con-
ceded forever to all the men of Wallingford full quittance from my
yearly rent, which they were accustomed to pay from the borough of
Wallingford ; that is to say, from that which pertains to me in the
borough. All these laws and customs and liberties and quittances I
give to them and concede forever, and all others which they are able ta
show that their ancestors had, freely, quietly, and honorably, j ust as my
CHARTER OF WALLINGFORD. g
Citizens of Winchester ever had them at the best ; and this on account
of the great service and labor which they sustained for me in the ac-
quisition of my hereditary right in England. I concede to them, more-
over, that wherever they shall go in their journeys as merchants,
through my whole land of England and Normandy, Aquitaine and
Anjou, "by water and by strand, by wood and by land," they shall l)e free
from toll and passage fees, and from all customs and exactions ; nor are
they to be troubled in this respect by any one, under a penalty of £10.
I forbid, moreover, and require under the same penalty, that the reeve
of Wallingford shall not make any fine of scotale or New Year's gift
from any one, and that he shall not establish any custom in Walling-
ford which shall injure the burgesses of the town. Of this grant and
concession, the witnesses are Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury and
others. Given at Oxford, the first day before the Ides of January.
CHARTER OF HENRY //. TO SOUTHAMPTON.
Latin: Davies' History of Southampton, 152; Gross' Gild Merchant, II, 213.
Henry, king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and
count of Anjou, to his reeves and ministers of Hampton, greeting: I
ordain that my men of Hampton shall have and hold their gild and
all their liberties and customs, by land and by sea, in as good, peaceable,
just, free, quiet, and honorable a manner as they had the same, best,
most freely and quietly in the time of King Henry, my grandfather ;
and let no one upon this do them any injury or insult. Witness, Richard
de Humet, constablei; Jocelyn de Baliol, at Winchester.
CHARTER OF RALPH, EARL OF CHESTER, TO THAT
CITY, BETWEEN A. D., iigo AND 121 1.
Latin: Report of Historical Mss. Comm. 1881, 356-7 ; and Gross' Gild
Merchant, II, 140.
Ralph, earl of Chester, to his constable and steward, and to all
his barons and bailiffs, and to all his men, French and English, as well
to come as at present, greeting. Let it be known to all of you that I
have given and conceded, and by this my present charter confirmed to
all my citizens of Chester their gild merchant with all liberties and
free customs which they have had in the aforesaid gild, best, most freely
and most peacefully in the times of my predecessors. And I forl)id
under forfeiture to me of £10 that any one shall disturb them in it.
With these witnesses, etc.
lO TRANSLATIONS AND REPRINTS.
CHARTER OF JOHN, EARL OF \CHESTER, BETWEEN
1217 AND 1277.
Latin : Report of Historical Mss, Comm. 1881, 356-7, and Gross' Gild
Merchant II, 140.
Know that I have conceded and by this my present charter con.
firmed to all my citizens of Chester that no merchant should buy or
sell any kind of merchandise which has come to the city of Chester by
sea or by land, except these my citizens of Chester themselves and their
heirs, or in accordance with their will ; except in the established fairs,
that is on St. John the Baptist's day and at the feast of St. Michael.
Likewise, I have conceded and by this my present
charter confirmed to my said citizens of Chester, to have and to hold
their gild merchant, as freely, quietly and honorably as they held it in
the time of my uncle, lord Ralph, earl of Chester and Lincoln.
CHARTER OF THURSTAN, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, TO
BEVERLY, BETWEEN iioo AND 1135.
Latin : Rymer's Feeder a, i, 10, and Stubbs' Select Charters, 105-6.
Thurstan, by the grace of God, archbishop of York, to all the faith-
ful in Christ, as well present as to come, greeting and God's benediction
and his own. Let it be known to you that I have given and conceded,
and by the advice of the chapter of York and of Beverly and by the
advice of my barons have confirmed by my charter to the men of Bev-
erly all their liberties with the same laws which those of York have in
their city. Moreover let it not be hid from you that lord Henry our