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Title: The Customs of Old England
Author: Snell, F. J. (Frederick John), 1862-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Customs of Old England" ***

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  Uniform with this Volume

  1 The Mighty Atom                           Marie Corelli
  2 Jane                                      Marie Corelli
  3 Boy                                       Marie Corelli
  231 Cameos                                  Marie Corelli
  4 Spanish Gold                              G. A. Birmingham
  9 The Unofficial Honeymoon                  Dolf Wyllarde
  18 Round the Red Lamp                       Sir A. Conan Doyle
  20 Light Freights                           W. W. Jacobs
  22 The Long Road                            John Oxenham
  71 The Gates of Wrath                       Arnold Bennett
  81 The Card                                 Arnold Bennett
  87 Lalage's Lovers                          G. A. Birmingham
  92 White Fang                               Jack London
  108 The Adventures of Dr. Whitty            G. A. Birmingham
  113 Lavender and Old Lace                   Myrtle Reed
  125 The Regent                              Arnold Bennett
  135 A Spinner in the Sun                    Myrtle Reed
  137 The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu            Sax Rohmer
  143 Sandy Married                           Dorothea Conyers
  212 Under Western Eyes                      Joseph Conrad
  215 Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo                 E. Phillips Oppenheim
  224 Broken Shackles                         John Oxenham
  227 Byeways                                 Robert Hichens
  229 My Friend the Chauffeur                 C. N. & A. M. Williamson
  259 Anthony Cuthbert                        Richard Bagot
  261 Tarzan of the Apes                      Edgar Rice Burroughs
  268 His Island Princess                     W. Clark Russell
  275 Secret History                          C. N. and A. M. Williamson
  276 Mary All-alone                          John Oxenham
  277 Darneley Place                          Richard Bagot
  278 The Desert Trail                        Dane Coolidge
  279 The War Wedding                         C. N. and A. M. Williamson
  281 Because of these Things                 Marjorie Bowen
  282 Mrs. Peter Howard                       Mary E. Mann
  288 A Great Man                             Arnold Bennett
  289 The Rest Cure                           W. B. Maxwell
  290 The Devil Doctor                        Sax Rohmer
  291 Master of the Vineyard                  Myrtle Reed
  293 The Si-Fan Mysteries                    Sax Rohmer
  294 The Guiding Thread                      Beatrice Harraden
  295 The Hillman                             E. Phillips Oppenheim
  296 William, by the Grace of God            Marjorie Bowen
  297 Below Stairs                            Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick
  301 Love and Louisa                         E. Maria Albanesi
  302 The Joss                                Richard Marsh
  303 The Carissima                           Lucas Malet
  304 The Return of Tarzan                    Edgar Rice Burroughs
  313 The Wall Street Girl                    Frederick Orin Bartlett
  315 The Flying Inn                          G. K. Chesterton
  316 Whom God Hath Joined                    Arnold Bennett
  318 An Affair of State                      J. C. Snaith
  320 The Dweller on the Threshold            Robert Hichens
  325 A Set Of Six                            Joseph Conrad
  329 '1914'                                  John Oxenham
  330 The Fortune Of Christina McNab          S. Macnaughtan
  334 Bellamy                                 Elinor Mordaunt
  343 The Shadow of Victory                   Myrtle Reed
  344 This Woman to this Man                  C. N. and A. M. Williamson
  345 Something Fresh                         P. G. Wodehouse
  36 De Profundis                               Oscar Wilde
  37 Lord Arthur Savile's Crime                 Oscar Wilde
  38 Selected Poems                             Oscar Wilde
  39 An Ideal Husband                           Oscar Wilde
  40 Intentions                                 Oscar Wilde
  41 Lady Windermere's Fan                      Oscar Wilde
  77 Selected Prose                             Oscar Wilde
  85 The Importance of Being Earnest            Oscar Wilde
  146 A Woman of No Importance                  Oscar Wilde
  43 Harvest Home                               E. V. Lucas
  44 A Little of Everything                     E. V. Lucas
  78 The Best of Lamb                           E. V. Lucas
  141 Variety Lane                              E. V. Lucas
  292 Mixed Vintages                            E. V. Lucas
  45 Vailima Letters                            Robert Louis Stevenson
  80 Selected Letters                           Robert Louis Stevenson
  46 Hills and the Sea                          Hilaire Belloc
  96 A Picked Company                           Hilaire Belloc
  193 On Nothing                                Hilaire Belloc
  226 On Everything                             Hilaire Belloc
  254 On Something                              Hilaire Belloc
  47 The Blue Bird                              Maurice Maeterlinck
  214 Select Essays                             Maurice Maeterlinck
  50 Charles Dickens                            G. K. Chesterton
  94 All Things Considered                      G. K. Chesterton
  54 The Life of John Ruskin                    W. G. Collingwood
  57 Sevastopol and other Stories               Leo Tolstoy
  91 Social Evils and their Remedy              Leo Tolstoy
  223 Two Generations                           Leo Tolstoy
  253 My Childhood and Boyhood                  Leo Tolstoy
  286 My Youth                                  Leo Tolstoy
  58 The Lore of the Honey-Bee                  Tickner Edwardes
  63 Oscar Wilde                                Arthur Ransome
  64 The Vicar of Morwenstow                    S. Baring-Gould
  76 Home Life in France                        M. Betham-Edwards
  83 Reason and Belief                          Sir Oliver Lodge
  93 The Substance of Faith                     Sir Oliver Lodge
  116 The Survival of Man                       Sir Oliver Lodge
  284 Modern Problems                           Sir Oliver Lodge
  95 The Mirror of the Sea                      Joseph Conrad
  126 Science from an Easy Chair                Sir Ray Lankester
  149 A Shepherd's Life                         W. H. Hudson
  200 Jane Austen and her Times                 G. E. Mitton
  218 R. L. S.                                  Francis Watt
  234 Records and Reminiscences                 Sir Francis Burnand
  285 The Old Time Parson                       P. H. Ditchfield
  287 The Customs of Old England                F. J. Snell

  A short Selection only.





_First Issued in this Cheap Form in 1919_

_This Book was First Published (Crown 8vo) February 16th, 1911_

|Transcribers Note: In this book superscript is represented by|
|the carat "^"                                                |


The aim of the present volume is to deal with Old English Customs, not
so much in their picturesque aspect--though that element is not wholly
wanting--as in their fundamental relations to the organized life of the
Middle Ages. Partly for that reason and partly because the work is
comparatively small, it embraces only such usages as are of national
(and, in some cases, international) significance. The writer is much too
modest to put it forth as a scientific exposition of the basic
principles of mediæval civilization. He is well aware that a book
designed on this unassuming scale must be more or less eclectic. He is
conscious of manifold gaps--_valde deflenda_. And yet, despite
omissions, it is hoped that the reader may rise from its perusal with
somewhat clearer conceptions of the world as it appeared to the average
educated Englishman of the Middle Ages. This suggests the remark that
the reader specially in view is the average educated Englishman of the
twentieth century, who has not perhaps forgotten his Latin, for Latin
has a way of sticking, while Greek, unless cherished, drops away from a

The materials of which the work is composed have been culled from a
great variety of sources, and the writer almost despairs of making
adequate acknowledgments. For years past admirable articles cognate to
the study of mediæval relationships have been published from time to
time in learned periodicals like "Archæologia," the "Archæological
Journal," the "Antiquary," etc., where, being sandwiched between others
of another character, they have been lost to all but antiquarian experts
of omnivorous appetite. Assuredly, the average educated Englishman will
not go in quest of them, but it may be thought he will esteem the
opportunity, here offered, of gaining enlightenment, if not in the full
and perfect sense which might have been possible, had life been less
brief and art not quite so long. The same observation applies to books,
with this difference that, whereas in articles information is usually
compacted, in some books at least it has to be picked out from amidst a
mass of irrelevant particulars without any help from indices. If the
writer has at all succeeded in performing his office--which is to do for
the reader what, under other circumstances, he might have done for
himself--many weary hours will not have been spent in vain, and the
weariest are probably those devoted to the construction of an index,
with which this book, whatever its merits or defects, does not go

Mere general statements, however, will not suffice; there is the
personal side to be thought of. The great "Chronicles and Memorials"
series has been served by many competent editors, but by none more
competent than Messrs. Riley, Horwood, and Anstey, to whose
introductions and texts the writer is deeply indebted. Reeves' "History
of English Law" is not yet out of date; and Mr. E. F. Henderson's
"Select Documents of the Middle Ages" and the late Mr. Serjeant
Pulling's "Order of the Coif," though widely differing in scope, are
both extremely useful publications. Mr. Pollard's introduction to the
Clarendon Press selection of miracle plays contains the pith of that
interesting subject, and Miss Toulmin Smith's "York Plays" and Miss
Katherine Bates's "English Religious Drama" will be found valuable
guides. Perhaps the most realistic description of a miracle play is that
presented in a few pages of Morley's "English Writers," where the scene
lives before one. For supplementary details in this and other contexts,
the writer owes something to the industry of the late Dr. Brushfield,
who brought to bear on local documents the illumination of sound and
wide learning. A like tribute must be paid to the Rev. Dr. Cox, but
having regard to his long and growing list of important works, the
statement is a trifle ludicrous.

One of the best essays on mortuary rolls is that of the late Canon Raine
in an early Surtees Society volume, but the writer is specially indebted
to a contribution of the Rev. J. Hirst to the "Archæological Journal."
The late Mr. André's article on vowesses, and Mr. Evelyn-White's
exhaustive account of the Boy-Bishop must be mentioned, and--lest I
forget--Dr. Cunningham's "History of English Commerce." The late Mr. F.
T. Elworthy's paper on Hugh Rhodes directed attention to the Children of
the Chapel, and Dom. H. F. Feasey led the way to the Lady Fast. Here and
often the writer has supplemented his authorities out of his own
knowledge and research. It may be added that, in numerous instances,
indebtedness to able students (e.g., Sir George L. Gomme) has been
expressed in the text, and need not be repeated. Finally, it would be
ungrateful, as well as ungallant, not to acknowledge some debt to the
writings of the Hon. Mrs. Brownlow, Miss Ethel Lega-Weekes, and Miss
Giberne Sieveking. Ladies are now invading every domain of intellect,
but the details as to University costume happened to be furnished by the
severe and really intricate studies of Professor E. G. Clark.

                                                         F. J. S.

     _January 22, 1911._



  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

  I.  LEAGUES OF PRAYER                                               11
  II.  VOWESSES                                                       18
  III.  THE LADY FAST                                                 27
  IV.  CHILDREN OF THE CHAPEL                                         32
  V.  THE BOY-BISHOP                                                  39
  VI.  MIRACLE PLAYS                                                  51


  VII.  ALMS AND LOANS                                                61
  VIII.  OF THE PRIVILEGE                                             71
  IX.  THE "STUDIUM GENERALE"                                         91


  X. THE ORDER OF THE COIF                                           115
  XI. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD                                            127
  XII. OUTLAWRY                                                      150


  XIII.  BURGHAL INDEPENDENCE                                        167
  XIV.  THE BANNER OF ST. PAUL                                       187
  XV.  GOD'S PENNY                                                   195
  XVI.  THE MERCHANT AND HIS MARK                                    200


  XVII.  RUS IN URBE                                                 204
  XVIII.  COUNTRY PROPER                                             216


  XIX.  RETINUES                                                     238

  INDEX                                                              249





A work purporting to deal with old English customs on the broad
representative lines of the present volume naturally sets out with a
choice of those pertaining to the most ancient and venerable institution
of the land--the Church; and, almost as naturally it culls its first
flower from a life with which our ancestors were in intimate touch, and
which was known to them, in a special and excellent sense, as religious.

The custom to which has been assigned the post of honour is of
remarkable and various interest. It takes us back to a remote past, when
the English, actuated by new-born fervour, sent the torch of faith to
their German kinsmen, still plunged in the gloom of traditional
paganism; and it was fated to end when the example of those same German
kinsmen stimulated our countrymen to throw off a yoke which had long
been irksome, and was then in sharp conflict with their patriotic
ideals. It is foreign to the aim of these antiquarian studies to sound
any note of controversy, but it will be rather surprising if the beauty
and pathos of the custom, which is to engage our attention, does not
appeal to many who would not have desired its revival in our age and
country.[1] Typical of the thoughts and habits of our ancestors, it is
no less typical of their place and share of the general system of
Western Christendom, and in the heritage of human sentiment, since
reverence for the dead is common to all but the most degraded races of
mankind. That mutual commemoration of departed, and also of living,
worth was not exclusive to this country is brought home to us by the
fact that the most learned and comprehensive work on the subject, in its
Christian and mediæval aspects, is Ebner's "Die Klosterlichen
Gebets-Verbrüderungen" (Regensburg and New York, 1890). This
circumstance, however, by no means diminishes--it rather heightens-the
interest of a custom for centuries embedded in the consciousness and
culture of the English people.

First, it may be well to devote a paragraph to the phrases applied to
the institution. The title of the chapter is "Leagues of Prayer," but it
would have been simple to substitute for it any one of half a dozen
others--less definite, it is true--sanctioned by the precedents of
ecclesiastical writers. One term is "friendship"; and St. Boniface, in
his letters referring to the topic, employs indifferently the cognate
expressions "familiarity," "charity" (or "love"). Sometimes he speaks of
the "bond of brotherhood" and "fellowship." Venerable Bede favours the
word "communion." Alcuin, in his epistles, alternates between the more
precise description "pacts of charity" and the vaguer expressions
"brotherhood" and "familiarity." The last he employs very commonly. The
fame of Cluny as a spiritual centre led to the term "brotherhood" being
preferred, and from the eleventh century onwards it became general.

The privilege of fraternal alliance with other religious communities was
greatly valued, and admission was craved in language at once humble,
eloquent, and touchingly sincere. Venerable Bede implores the monks of
Lindisfarne to receive him as their "little household slave"--he desires
that "my name also" may be inscribed in the register of the holy flock.
Many a time does Alcuin avow his longing to "merit" being one of some
congregation in communion of love; and, in writing to the Abbeys of
Girwy and Wearmouth, he fails not to remind them of the "brotherhood"
they have granted him.

The term "brother," in some contexts, bore the distinctive meaning of
one to whom had been vouchsafed the prayers and spiritual boons of a
convent other than that of which he was a member, if, as was not always
or necessarily the case, he was incorporated in a religious order. The
definition furnished by Ducange, who quotes from the diptych of the
Abbey of Bath, proves how wide a field the term covers, even when
restricted to confederated prayer:

"Fratres interdum inde vocantur qui in ejusmodi Fraternitatem sive
participationem orationum aliorumque bonorum spiritualium sive
monachorum sive aliarum Ecclesiarum et jam Cathedralium admissi errant,
sive laici sive ecclesiastici."

Thus the secular clergy and the laity were recognized as fully eligible
for all the benefits of this high privilege, but it is identified for
the most part with the functions of the regular clergy, whose leisured
and tranquil existence was more consonant with the punctual observance
of the custom, and by whom it was handed down to successive generations
as a laudable and edifying practice importing much comfort for the
living, and, it might be hoped, true succour for the pious dead.

In so far as the custom was founded on any particular text of Scripture,
it may be considered to rest on the exhortation of St. James, which is
cited by St. Boniface: "Pray for one another that ye may be saved, for
the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." St.
Boniface is remembered as the Apostle of Germany, and when, early in the
eighth century, he embarked on his perilous mission, he and his company
made a compact with the King of the East Angles, whereby the monarch
engaged that prayers should be offered on their behalf in all the
monasteries in his dominion. On the death of members of the brotherhood,
the tidings were to be conveyed to their fellows in England, as
opportunity occurred. Not only did Boniface enter into leagues of prayer
with Archbishops of Canterbury and the chapters and monks of Winchester,
Worcester, York, etc., but he formed similar ties with the Church of
Rome and the Abbey of Monte Cassino, binding himself to transmit the
names of his defunct brethren for their remembrance and suffrage, and
promising prayers and masses for _their_ brethren on receiving notice of
their decease. Lullus, who followed St. Boniface as Archbishop of
Mayence, and other Anglo-Saxon missionaries extended the scope of the
confederacy, linking themselves with English and Continental
monasteries--for instance, Salzburg. Wunibald, a nephew of St. Boniface,
imitating his uncle's example, allied himself with Monte Cassino. We may
add that in Alcuin's time York was in league with Ferrières; and in 849
the relations between the Abbey and Cathedral of the former city and
their friends on the Continent were solemnly confirmed.

Having given some account of the infancy or adolescence of the custom,
we may now turn to what may be termed, without disrespect, the machinery
of the institution. The death of a dignitary, or of a clerk
distinguished for virtue and learning, or of a simple monk has occurred.
Forthwith his name is engrossed on a strip of parchment, which is
wrapped round a stick or a wooden roll, at each end of the latter being
a wooden or metal cap designed to prevent the parchment from slipping
off. After the tenth century, at certain periods--say once a year--the
names of dead brethren were carried to the scriptorium, where they were
entered with the utmost precision, and with reverent art, on a mortuary

The next step was to summon a messenger, and fasten the roll to his
neck, after which the brethren, in a group at the gateway, bade him
God-speed. These officials were numerous enough to form a distinct
class, and some hundreds of them might have been found wending their way
simultaneously on the same devout errand through the Christian Kingdoms
of the West, in which they were variously known as _geruli_, _cursores_,
_diplomates_, and _bajuli_. We may picture them speeding from one church
or one abbey to another, bearing their mournful missive, and when
England had been traversed, crossing the narrow seas to resume their
melancholy task on the Continent. At whatever place he halted, the
messenger might count on a sympathetic reception; and in every monastery
the roll, having been detached from his neck, was read to the assembled
brethren, who proceeded to render the solemn chant and requiem for the
dead in compliance with their engagements. On the following day the
messenger took his leave, lavishly supplied with provisions for the next

Monasteries often embraced the opportunity afforded by these visits to
insert the name of some brother lately deceased, in order to avoid
waiting for the dispatch of their own annual encyclical, and so to
notify, sooner than would otherwise have been possible, the death of
members for whom they desired the prayers of the association.

Mortuary rolls, many examples of which have been found in national
collections--some of them as much as fifty or sixty feet in
length--contain strict injunctions specifying that the house and day of
arrival be inscribed on the roll in each monastery, together with the
name of the superior, the purpose being to preclude any failure on the
part of the messenger worn out with the fatigue, or daunted by the
hardships and perils, of the journey. The circuit having been completed,
the parchment returned to the monastery from which it had issued,
whereupon a scrutiny was made to ascertain, by means of the dates,
whether the errand had been duly performed. "After many months'
absence," says Dr. Rock, "the messenger would reach his own cloister,
carrying back with him the illuminated death-bill, now filled to its
fullest length with dates and elegies, for his abbot to see that the
behest of the chapter had been duly done, and the library of the house
enriched with another document."

One of the Durham rolls is thirteen yards in length and nine inches in
breadth. Consisting of nineteen sheets of parchment, it was executed on
the death of John Burnby, a Prior of Durham, in 1464. His successor,
Richard Bell, who was afterwards Bishop of Durham, and the convent,
caused this roll, commemorating the virtues of the late Prior and
William of Ebchester, another predecessor, to be circulated through the
religious houses of the entire kingdom; and inscribed on it are the
titles, orders, and dedications of no fewer than six hundred and
twenty-three. Each had undertaken to pray for the souls of the two
priors in return for the prayers of the monks at Durham. The roll opens
with a superb illumination, three feet long, depicting the death and
burial of one of the priors; and at the foot occurs the formula: _Anima
Magistri Willielmi Ebchestre et anima Johannis Burnby et animæ omnium
defunctorum per Dei misericordiam in pace requiescant._

The monastery first visited makes the following entry: _Titulus
Monasterii Beatæ Mariæ de Gyseburn in Clyveland, ordinis S. Augustini
Ebor. Dioc. Anima Magistri Willielmi Ebchestre et anima Johannis Burnby
et animæ omnium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei in pace requiescant.
Vestris nostra damus, pro nostris vestra rogamus._ The other houses
employ identical terms, with the exception of the monastery of St. Paul,
Newenham, Lincolnshire, which substitutes for the concluding verse a
hexameter of similar import. It is of some interest to remark that,
apart from armorial or fanciful initials, the standing of a house may be
gauged by the handwriting, the titles of the larger monasteries being
given in bold letters, while those of the smaller form an almost
illegible scrawl. The greater houses would have been in a position to
support a competent scribe--not so the lesser; and this is believed to
have been the reason of the difference.

Almost, if not quite, as important as the roll just noticed is that of
Archbishop Islip of Westminster recently reproduced in _Vetusta

After the tenth century it appears to have been the custom in some
monasteries, on the death of a member, to record the fact; and at
certain periods--probably once a year--the names of all the dead
brethren were inscribed on an elaborate mortuary roll in the
scriptorium, before being dispatched to the religious houses throughout
the land.

The books of the confraternities are divisible into two
classes--necrologies and _libri vitae_. The former are in the shape of a
calendar, in which the names are arranged according to the days on which
the deaths took place; the latter include the names of the living as
well as the dead, and were laid on the altar to aid the memory of the
priest during mass. Twice a day--at the chapter after prime and at
mass--the monks assembled to listen to the recitation of the names,
singly or collectively, from the sacramentary, diptych, or book of life.
The most famous English _liber vitae_--that of Durham--embraces entries
dating from the time of Edwin, King of Northumbria (616-633), and was
compiled, apparently, between the devastation of Lindisfarne in 793 and
the withdrawal of the monks from the island in 875. In the first
handwriting there are 3,100 names, a goodly proportion of them belonging
to the seventh century. As has been already implied, various degrees are
represented in the rolls of the living and the dead--notably, of course,
benefactors, but recorded in them are bishops and abbots, princes and
nobles, monks and laymen, and often enough this is their only footprint
on the sands of time. The name of a pilgrim in the confraternity book of
any abbey signifies that he was there on the day mentioned.




Not wholly aloof from the subject treated in the previous chapter is the
custom that prevailed in the Middle Ages for widows to assume vows of
chastity. The present topic might possibly have been reserved for the
pages devoted to domestic customs, but the recognition accorded by the
Church to a state which was neither conventual nor lay, but partook of
both conditions in equal measure, decides its position in the economy of
the work. We must deal with it here.

Before discussing the custom in its historical and social relations, it
will be well to advert to the soil of thought out of which it sprang,
and from which it drew strength and sustenance. Already we have spoken
of the heritage of human sentiment. Now there is ample evidence that the
indifference to the marriage of widows which marks our time did not
obtain always and everywhere. On the contrary, among widely separated
races such arrangements evoked deep repugnance, as subversive of the
perfect union of man and wife, and clearly also of the civil inferiority
of females. The notion that a woman is the property of her husband,
joined to a belief in the immortality of the soul, appears to lie at the
root of the dislike to second marriages--which, according to this view,
imply a degree of freedom approximating to immorality. The culmination
of duty and fidelity in life and death is seen in the immolation of
Hindu widows. The Manu prescribes no such fiery ordeal, but it states
the principles leading to this display of futile heroism: "Let her
consecrate her body by living entirely on flowers, roots, and fruits.
Let her not, when her lord is deceased, ever pronounce the name of
another man. A widow who slights her deceased lord by marrying again
brings disgrace on herself here below, and shall be excluded from the
seat of her lord."

A similar feeling permeated the early Church. "The argument used against
the unions," says Professor Donaldson, "was that God made husband and
wife one flesh, and one flesh they remained even after the death of one
of them. If they were one flesh, how could a second woman be added to
them?" He alludes, of course, to the re-marriage of the husband, but the
argument, whatever it may be worth, applies equally to both parties. An
ancient example of renunciation is afforded by Judith, of whom it is
recorded: "She was a widow now three years and six months, and she made
herself a private chamber in the upper part of the house, in which she
abode shut up with her maids and she wore hair-cloth upon her loins, and
fasted all the days of her life, except the Sabbaths and new moons, and
the feasts of the house of Israel; and on festival days she came forth
in great glory, and she abode in her husband's house a hundred and five

An order of widows is said to have been founded or confirmed by St.
Paul, who fixed the age of admission at sixty. This assertion, one
suspects, grew out of a passage in the First Epistle to Timothy, in
which the apostle employs language that would, at least, be consonant
with such a proceeding: "Honour widows that are widows indeed.... Now
she that is a widow indeed and desolate trusteth in God and continueth
in supplications and prayers night and day." Simple but very striking is
the epitaph inscribed on the wall of the Vatican:


The order of deaconesses appears to have been mainly composed of pious
widows, and only those were eligible who had had but one husband. This
order came to an end in the eleventh or twelfth century, but the
vowesses, as a class, continued to subsist in England until the
convulsions of the sixteenth century, and in the Roman Church survive as
a class with some modifications in the order of Oblates, who, says Alban
Butler in his life of St. Francis, "make no solemn vows, only a promise
of obedience to the mother-president, enjoy pensions, inherit estates,
and go abroad with leave." Their abbey in Rome is filled with ladies of
the first rank.

The chief distinction between deaconesses and widows was the obligation
imposed on the former to accomplish certain outward works, whereas
widows vowed to remain till death in a single life, in which, like nuns,
they were regarded as mystically espoused to Christ. Unlike nuns,
however, vowesses usually supported the burdens entailed by their
previous marriage--superintending the affairs of the household and
interesting themselves in the welfare of their descendants. St.
Elizabeth of Hungary, though she bound herself to follow the injunctions
of her confessor and received from him a coarse habit of undyed wool,
did not become a nun, but, on his advice, retained her secular estate
and ministered to the needs of the poor. But instances occur in which
vowesses retired from the world and its cares. Elfleda, niece of King
Athelstan, having resolved to pass the remainder of her days in
widowhood, fixed her abode in Glastonbury Abbey; and as late as July 23,
1527, leave was granted to the Prioress of Dartford to receive "any
well-born matron widow, of good repute, to dwell perpetually in the
monastery without a habit according to the custom of the monastery." Now
and then a widow would completely embrace the religious life, as is
shown by an inscription on the brass of John Goodrington, of Appleton,
Berkshire, dated 1519, which states that his widow "toke relygyon at y^e
monastery of Sion."

The position of vowesses in the eyes of the Church may be illustrated in
various ways. For example, the homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Ælfric
testify to a triple division of the people of God. "There are," says he,
"three states which bear witness of Christ; that is, maidenhood, and
widowhood, and lawful matrimony." And with the quaintness of mediæval
symbolists, he affirms that the house of Cana in Galilee had three
floors--the lowest occupied by believing married laymen, the next by
reputable widows, and the uppermost by virgins. Emphasis is given to the
order of comparative merit thus defined by the application to it of one
of our Lord's parables, for the first are to receive the thirty-fold,
the second the sixty-fold, and the third and highest division the
hundred-fold reward. Similarly, a hymn in the Sarum Missal for the
festival of Holy Women asserts:

  Fruit thirty-fold she yielded,
     While yet a wedded wife;
  But sixty-fold she rendered,
     When in a widowed life.

And a Good Friday prayer in the same missal is introduced with the
words: "Let us also pray for all bishops, priests, deacons, sub-deacons,
acolytes, exorcists, readers, door-keepers, confessors, virgins, widows,
and all the holy people of God."

In the pontifical of Bishop Lacy of Exeter may be found the office of
the Benediction of a Widow. The ceremony was performed during mass, and
prefixed to the office is a rubric directing that it shall take place on
a solemn day or at least upon a Sunday. Between the epistle and gospel
the bishop, seated in his chair, turned towards the people, asked the
kneeling widow if she desired to be the spouse of Christ. Thereupon she
made her profession in the vulgar tongue, and the bishop, rising, gave
her his blessing. Then followed four prayers, in one of which the bishop
blessed the habit, after which he kneeled, began the hymn "Veni Creator
Spiritus," and at the close bestowed upon the vowess the mantle, the
veil, and the ring. More prayers were said, wherein the bishop besought
God to be the widow's solace in trouble, counsel in perplexity, defence
under injury, patience in tribulation, abundance in poverty, food in
fasting, and medicine in sickness; and the rite ended with a renewed
commendation of the widow to the merciful care of God.

It is worthy of note that in these supplications mention is made of the
sixty-fold reward which the widow is to receive for her victory over her
old enemy the Devil; and also, that the postulant is believed to have
made her vow with her hands joined within those of the bishop, as if
swearing allegiance.

Several witnesses were necessary on the occasion. When, for instance,
the widow of Simon de Shardlowe made her profession before the Bishop of
Norwich, as she did in 1369, the deed in which the vow was registered,
and upon which she made the sign of the cross in token of consent, was
witnessed by the Archdeacon of Norwich, Sir Simon de Babingle, and
William de Swinefleet. In the same way the Earl of Warwick, the Lords
Willoughby, Scales, and others, were present at the profession of
Isabella, Countess of Suffolk. This noble lady made her vow in French,
as did also Isabella Golafré, when she appeared for the purpose on
Sunday, October 18, 1379, before William of Wykeham, Bishop of
Winchester. Notwithstanding the direction in Bishop Lacy's pontifical,
the vow was sometimes spoken in Latin, an instance of which is the case
of "Domina Alicia Seynt Johan de Baggenet," whose profession took place
on April 9, 1398, in the chapel of the Lord of Amberley, Sussex.

That the vow was restricted to the obligation of perpetual chastity, and
in no way curtailed the freedom and privileges which the vowess shared
with other ladies, is demonstrated by the contents of various wills,
like that of Katherine of Riplingham, dated February 8, 1473. Therein
she styles herself an "advowess"; but, having forfeited none of her
civil rights, she devises estates, executes awards, and composes family
differences. This is quite in the spirit of St. Paul's words: "If any
widows have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at
home, and to requite their parents, for that is good and acceptable to

Allusion has been made to the ring as the symbol of the spiritual
espousal. As such it was the object of peculiar reverence, and its
destination was frequently specified in the vowess's will. Thus in
"Testamenta Vetusta" we find the abstract of the will of Alice, widow of
Sir Thomas West, dated 1395, in which the lady bequeaths "the ring with
which I was spoused to God" to her son Sir Thomas. In like manner
Katherine Riplingham leaves a gold ring set with a diamond--the ring
with which she was sacred--to her daughter Alice Saint John. To some
vowesses the custody even of a son or daughter appeared unworthy of so
precious a relic; and thus we learn that Lady Joan Danvers, by her will
dated 1453, gave her spousal ring to the image of the Crucifix near the
north door of St. Paul's, while Lady Margaret Davy presented hers to the
image of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In certain instances the formality of episcopal benediction was
dispensed with, a simple promise sufficing. As a case in point, John
Brackenbury, by his will dated 1487, bequeathed to his mother certain
real estate subject to the condition that she did not marry again--a
condition to which she assented before the parson and parish of
Thymmylbe. "If," says the testator, "she keep not that promise, I will
that she be content with that which was my father's will, which she had
every penny." But, in compacts or wills in which the married parties
themselves were interested, the vow seems to have been usually exacted.
Wives sometimes engaged with their husbands to make the vow; and the
will of William Herbert, Knight, Earl of Pembroke, dated July 27, 1469,
contains an affecting reminder of duty--"And, wife, that you may
remember your promise to take the order of widowhood, so that you may
be the better maistres of your owen, to perform my will, and to help my
children, as I love and trust you," etc.

Husbands left chattels to their wives provided that they took the vow of
chastity. The will of Sir Gilbert Denys, Knight, of Syston, dated 1422,
sets out: "If Margaret, my wife, will after my death vow a vow of
chastity, I give her all my moveable goods, she paying my debts and
providing for my children; and if she will not vow the vow of chastity,
I desire my goods may be divided and distributed in three equal parts."
On like terms wives were appointed executrices. William Edlington, Esq.,
of Castle Carlton, in his will dated June 11, 1466, declares: "I make
Christian, my wife, my sole executor on this condition, that she take
the mantle soon after my decease; and in case she will not take the
mantle and the ring, I will that William my son [and other persons
named] be my executors, and she to have a third part of all my goods

Such is the frailty of human nature that even when widows accepted the
obligation of faith and chastity in the most solemn manner, the vow was
occasionally broken. This will hardly excite surprise when we consider
the youth, or comparative youth, of some of the postulants. Mary, the
widow of Lewis, King of Hungary, was only twenty-three at the time of
her profession. Our English annals yield striking instances of promises
followed by repentance. Thus Eleanor, third daughter of King John, "on
the death of her first husband, the Earl of Pembroke, 1231, in the first
transports of her grief, made in public a solemn vow in the presence of
Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, that she would never again become a
wife, but remain a true spouse of Christ, and received a ring in
confirmation, which she, however, broke, much to the indignation of a
strong party of the laity and clergy of England, on her marriage with
Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester." Another delinquent was Lady
Elizabeth Juliers, Countess of Kent. When her first husband died, in
1354, she took a vow of chastity before William de Edyndon, Archbishop
of Canterbury. Six years later she was wedded privately and without
licence to Sir Eustace Dabridgecourt, Knight. As the result, the
Archbishop of Canterbury instituted proceedings against her, and she was
condemned to severe penance for the remainder of her life. In the light
of these examples it is unnecessary to observe that the infraction of a
vow so strict and stringent brought the utmost discredit on any widow
who might be guilty of it.

The question has been raised why widows did not, instead of making their
especial vow, enter the third orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis,
both of them intended for pious persons remaining in the world. The
answer has already, in some degree, been given in what was said
regarding the extinct order of deaconesses. Followers of St. Dominic and
St. Francis were bound to recite daily a shortened form of the Breviary,
supposing that they were able to read, or, if they were not able, a
certain number of Aves and Paternosters. They were further expected to
observe sundry fasts over and above those commanded by the Church, and
thus they became qualified for all the benefits accruing to the first
two orders, Dominican and Franciscan. With the vowesses it was
different. The one condition imposed upon them was that of chastity, as
tending to a state of sanctification. They took upon themselves no other
obligation whatever, and consequently acquired no title to the blessings
and privileges flowing from the strict observance of rules to which they
did not subscribe. Even after the Reformation the custom did not
absolutely cease. At any rate, Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset, who
died in 1676, is stated, after the death of her last husband, to have
dressed in black serge and to have been very abstemious in the matter of

Here and there may be found funeral monuments containing representations
of vowesses. Leland remarks, with reference to a member of the Marmion
family at West Tanfield, Yorkshire: "There lyeth there alone a lady with
the apparill of a vowess"; and in Norfolk there are still in existence
two brasses of widows and vowesses. The earlier and smaller, of about
the year 1500, adjoins the threshold of the west door of Witton church,
near Blofield, and bears the figure of a lady in a gown, mantle, barbe
or gorget, and veil, together with the inscription:


The other example is in the little church of Frenze, near Diss, which
contains, among a number of other interesting brasses, that of a lady
clothed, like the former, in gown, mantle, barbe, and veil. This figure,
however, shows cuffs; the gown is encircled with an ornamental girdle,
and depending from the mantle on long cords ending in tassels.
Underneath runs the legend:


Below are three shields, of which the dexter bears the husband's arms,
the sinister those of Dame Braham's family, and the middle the coats
impaled. In neither of these examples is the ring--the most important
symbol--displayed on the vowess's finger. This omission may be
explained, perhaps, by the fact that it was not buried with her, being,
as we have seen, sometimes bequeathed as an heirloom and sometimes left
as a gift to the Church.

Notwithstanding the desire of so many husbands that their widows should
live "sole, without marriage," it is well known that second and even
third marriages were not uncommon in the Middle Ages, and, provided that
they did not involve an infraction of some solemn engagement, do not
appear to have incurred social censure any more than at present.




It was pointed out as one of the distinctions between vowesses and
members of the third orders of the Dominican and Franciscan brotherhoods
that the latter were pledged to the observance of fasts from which the
former were exempt. Tyndale complains of the "open idolatry" of
abstinences undertaken in honour of St. Patrick, St. Brandan, and other
holy men of old; and he lays special stress on "Our Lady Fast," which,
he explains, was kept "either seven years the same day that her day
falleth in March, and then begin, or one year with bread and water."
Whatever fasts a vowess might neglect as non-obligatory, it seems
probable that she would not willingly forgo any opportunity of showing
reverence to the Blessed Virgin, who, in the belief of St. Augustine,
had taken vows of chastity before the salutation of the Angel.

It is not a little curious that the Lady Fast, in the forms mentioned by
Tyndale, was so far from being enjoined by the Church as to be actually
opposed to the decree of the Roman Council of 1078, which indicated
Saturday as the day of the week appropriated to the honour of the
Blessed Virgin. This usage was as well understood in the British Isles
as elsewhere. Thus, in "Piers Plowman":

  Lechery said "Alas!" and on Our Lady he cried
  To make mercy for his misdeeds between God and his soul,
  With that he should the Saturday seven year thereafter
  Drink but with the duck, and dine but once.

Bower, the continuator of Fordun's "Scotichronicon," makes it a reproach
to lax prelates that they suffer the common people to vary after their
own pleasure the days kept as fast days in honour of Mary. In doing so
he recalls that on Saturday, the first Easter Eve, she abode unshakenly
in the faith, when the apostles doubted. Good reason, therefore, why
Saturday should be dedicated to her as a fast. "But now," he continues,
"you will see both men and women on a Saturday morning make good
dinners, who, on a Tuesday or a Thursday, would not touch a crust of
bread, lest they should break the Lady Fast kept after their own fancy."

Tyndale seems to have erred in intimating that the Lady Fast, if of an
annual character, was regulated of necessity by the feast of the
Annunciation, or, in the happier, more affectionate phrase of our
forefathers, "the Gretynge of Our Ladye." The Blessed Virgin had no
fewer than six festivals--those of the Conception, Nativity,
Annunciation, Visitation, Purification, and Assumption--any one of which
might be made the starting-point of the fast either by the choice of the
votary or by the cast of the die. A third method is instanced in the
"Popish Kingdom" of Barnabe Googe (1570), actually an English metrical
version of a truculent German satire by one Thomas Kirchmeyer, who was
scholar enough to Latinize, or Græcize, his homely patronymic into the
more imposing correlative "Naogeorgus." The passage is as follows:

  Besides they keep Our Lady's fast at sundry solemn times,
  Instructed by a turning wheel, or as the lot assigns.
  For every sexton has a wheel that hangeth for the view,
  Mark'd round about with certain days, unto the Virgin due,
  Which holy through the year are kept, from whence hangs down a thread
  Of length sufficient to be touched and to be handled.
  Now when that any servant of Our Lady cometh here
  And seeks to have some certain day by lot for to appear,
  The sexton turns the wheel about, and bids the stander-by
  To hold the thread whereby he doth the time and season try,
  Wherein he ought to keep his fast and every other thing
  That decent is and longing to Our Lady's worshipping.

Although, as has been said, the "Popish Kingdom" had a German original,
it is an extraordinary fact that no Continental example of the Lady Fast
wheel is known to exist. Two English wheels have been preserved--both of
them in East Anglian churches: viz., those of Long Stratton, Norfolk,
and Yaxley, Suffolk. Of the two the former is the more perfect. That at
Yaxley consists of a pair of wheels, cut out of sheet iron, which
measure a little over two feet in diameter, and are similar and
concentric, but separate. The Long Stratton wheels, on the other hand,
have a pin passing through the centre which holds them together, and
around which they revolve, each of them independently. To the same pin
is attached the forked end of a long pendent handle, which was held by
the sexton. Each wheel is pierced with three holes through which strings
were passed, the total number coinciding with that of the six feasts
sacred to Mary, or possibly to the six days of the week excluding
Sunday, which did not rank as a fast day.

The instrument was worked in the following manner. Should a devout
person desire to keep a Lady Fast, he or she repaired to the church to
determine by the aid of the wheel which of the days or anniversaries
should be observed. Thereupon the sexton took the wheel, which he either
hung up or held at arm's length by means of a ring at the termination of
the handle. He then set the wheel in motion, and the votary, standing
by, caught at the strings as they spun round. Whichever string was
caught decided the question on what day the fast was to be begun,
whether on the feast of the Annunciation or that of the Assumption, or
any other of the six feasts, or days of the week, of which the several
strings were emblematical. The feast of the Assumption was known as Lady
Day in Harvest, being observed on the fifteenth of August.

The compromise, which we style the Reformation, at first inclined to the
retention of the Saturday fast; and, indeed, the legislature interfered
to enforce its more regular observance. In 1548 a remarkable measure
was enacted with this object, not so much, it is to be feared, out of
any genuine concern for religion as for the benefit of the fishing
community, whose interests had been injuriously affected by recent
ecclesiastical changes.

"Albeit," it recites, "the King's subjects now having a more perfect and
clear light of the Gospel and true word of God, through the infinite
cleansing and mercy of Almighty God, by the hand of the King's Majesty
and his most noble father of famous memory, promulgate, shewed, declared
and opened, and thereby perceiving that one day or one kind of meat of
itself is not more holy, more pure, or more clean than another, for that
all days and all meats be of their nature of one equal purity,
cleanness, and holiness, and that all men should by them live to the
glory of God, and at all times and for all meats give thanks unto Him,
of which meats none can defile Christian men or make them unclean at any
time, to whom all meats be lawful and pure, so that they be not used in
disobedience or vice; yet forasmuch as divers of the King's subjects
turning their knowledge therein to satisfy their sensuality, when they
should thereby increase in virtue, have in late time more than in times
past, broken and contemned such abstinence which hath been used in the
Realm upon the Fridays _and Saturdays_, the Embering days, and other
days commonly called Vigils, and in the time commonly called Lent and
other accustomed times: the King's Majesty, considering that due and
godly abstinence is a means to virtue, and to subdue men's bodies to
their soul and spirit, and considering also especially that Fishers, and
men using the trade of living by fishing in the sea, may thereby the
rather be set on work, and that by eating of fish much flesh shall be
saved and increased, and also for divers other considerations and
commodities of this realm, doth ordain 'that all statutes and
constitutions regarding fasting be repealed, but that all persons
neglecting to observe the ordinary fast days--Fridays, _Saturdays_,
Ember days, and Lent--be subject to a fine of ten shillings and ten
days' imprisonment for the first offence.'"

This measure, so inconsistent with the spirit of the age and so
contradictory in its terms, was re-enacted at various dates during the
reigns of Elizabeth and James I. It is perhaps the last "word" as
regards the Lady Fast, but the legislature by no means suspended its
vigilance in enforcing abstinence at the proper season. Discussion of
post-Reformation fasting, however, or fasting in general, forms no part
of our present undertaking.




The fact may not have escaped notice that Domina Alicia Seynt Johan de
Baggenet "took the vow of widowhood in the chapel of the Lord of
Amberley." Possession of a private chapel was, as it still is, a mark of
social distinction. "It was once the constitution of the English," runs
a law of King Athelstan, "that the people and their legal condition went
according to their merits; and then were the councillors of the nation
honoured each one according to his quality, the earl and the ceorl, the
thane and the underthane. If a ceorl throve so as to have five hides
booked to him, a church, bell-tower, a seat in the borough, and an
office in the King's court, from that time forward he was esteemed equal
in honour to a thane." Again, the laws of King Edgar relating to tithe
ordain "that God's church be entitled to every right, and that every
tithe be rendered to the old minster to which the district belongs, and
be then so paid, both from the thane's inland and from geneat land, as
the plough traverses it. But if there be any thane who on his boc-land
has a church at which there is a burial-place, let him give the third
part of his own tithe to his church. If anyone hath a church at which
there is not a burial-place, then of the same nine parts let him then
give to his priest what he will."

Domestic chapels were extremely common all through the Middle Ages. In
the parish of Tiverton, Devon, there were at least seventeen, some of
them within less than a mile of each other. Allusions to these oratories
are found in the registers of the Bishops of Exeter, by whom they were
severally licensed for the convenience of the owner, his family, and his
tenants. As a rule, they were in rooms of the house or castle, not
separate buildings. Andrew Boorde, in his directions for the
construction of a sixteenth-century mansion, remarks: "Let the privy
chamber be annexed to the great chamber of estate, with other chambers
necessary for the building, _so that many of the chambers may have a
prospect into the chapel_."

Great nobles of the post-Conquest period were not content with the
services of a priest only. They maintained an establishment of singing
men and boys analogous to the vicars-choral and choristers of the
present time, who were described as "the gentlemen and children of the
chapel." From the household books of the Earl of Northumberland
(A.D. 1510-11) we learn that he had "daily abidynge in his
household--Gentillmen of the Chapel, ix; viz., the maistre of the
Childre, j; Tenors, ij; Counter-tenors, iiij; the Pistoler, j; and oone
for the Orgayns; Childer of the Chapell, vj."

Particulars are recorded of the daily allowances of bread, beer, and
fish during Lent. On Scambling Days it was usual not to provide regular
meals, each having to scramble or shift for himself, but things were
otherwise ordered in the mansion of the Percy, where the service of meat
and drink "upon Scambling Days in Lent yerely" was properly seen to. Not
only are we furnished with the "Ordre of all suche Braikfasts that shall
be lowable daily in my Lordes hous thorowte the yere as well on Flesche
days as Fysch days in Lent, and out of Lent," but accounts are supplied
of the liveries of wine, white wine, and wax, and also of wood and coal,
of which the Master and the Children of the Chapel were entitled to one
peck _per diem_. The cost of the washing of surplices, etc., was not to
exceed a stated sum. "Then shal be paid for the Holl weshing of all
manner of Lynnon belonging to the Lordes Chappell for a Holl yere but
xvij_s._ iiij_d._ And to be weshed for every Penny iij Surplesses or iij
Albes. And the said Surplesses to be weshed in the yere xvj tymes
against these Feasts following," &c.

The salaries of the choir were paid at definite intervals, and formed a
charge on his lordship's property in Yorkshire. The scale of
remuneration was as follows:

"Gentillmen of the Chappell x (as to saye, Two at x marks a pece, iij at
iiij_l._ a pece, Two at v marks a pece, Oon at iiij marks, Oon at xx_s._,
and Oon at xx_s._; viz., ij Bassis, ij Tenors and vj Counter-tenors).
Childeryn of the Chappell vj, after xxv_s._ a pece. And so the whole somme
for full contentacion of the said Chappell wagies for oone hole yere
ys--xxxv_l._ xv_s._"

The gentlemen slept two in a bed, as seems to have been the custom for
priests also; the children, three in a bed. ("There shall be for vj
Prests iij Beddes after ij to a Bedde; for x Gentillmen of the Chapell v
Beddes, after ij to a Bedde; for vj Children ij Beddes after iij to a

Not only noblemen, but the Princes of the Church had their private
chapels, for which the services of children were retained. George
Cavendish, in his "Life of Wolsey," gives a glowing account of the
Cardinal's palatial appointments, in the course of which he observes:
"Now I will declare unto you the officers of his chapel and singing men
of the same. First he had there a dean, a great divine, and a man of
excellent learning; and a sub-dean, a repeater of the choir, a gospeller
and epistler of the singing-priests, and a master of the children
[therefore, of course, children]; in the vestry a yeoman and two grooms,
besides other retainers that came thither at principal feasts.... And as
for the furniture of the chapel it passeth my weak capacity to declare
the number of the costly ornaments and rich jewels that were occupied
in the same, for I have seen in procession about the hall forty-four
rich copes of one settle worn, besides the candlesticks and other
necessary ornaments to the furniture of the same." Such were the
sumptuous surroundings in which "children of the chapel" were wont
sometimes to perform their office.

An element of distinction enjoyed by peer and prelate was not likely to
be absent from the first estate of the realm; and, in point of fact, the
phrase "children of the chapel," so far as it is known, is more commonly
associated with the King's court than any of the castles or episcopal
palaces of the land. Certain of the King's "Gentlemen of the Chapel"
seem to have received payment in money, including extraordinary fees,
and provided for themselves, whilst others had board and lodging. The
following table, though less complete than the Northumberland accounts,
throws light on the rate of requital:

                                             _£  s. d._

  Master of the children, for his wages
  and board wages                            30  0  0

  Gospeller, for wages,                      13  6  8

  Epistoler,  "    "                         13  6  8

  Verger,     "    "                         20  0  0

  Yeomen of the Vestry                      {10  0  0
                                            {10  0  0

  Children of the Chapel, ten                56 13  4

Another ordinance states that "The Gentlemen of the Chapell, Gospeller,
Episteller, and Sergeant of the Vestry shall have from the last day of
March forward for their board wages, everie of them, 10_d._ per diem;
and the Yeomen and Groomes of the Vestry, everie of them, 2_s._ by the
weeke." When not on board wages, they had "Bouche of Court," like the
physicians. "Bouche of Court" signified the daily livery or allowance of
food, drink, and fuel, and this, in the case of the Master of the
Children, exceeded that of the surgeons to the value of about £1 1_s._
per annum. Thus it will be seen that the style "Gentlemen," as applied
to the grown-up members of the choir, was not merely complimentary, but
indicative of their actual status.

Meals were served at regular hours. "It is ordeyned that the household,
when the hall is kept, shall observe certyne times for dinner and souper
as followeth: that is to say, the first dynner in eating dayes to begin
at tenn of the clock, or somewhat before; and the first souper at foure
of the clock on worke dayes."

The duties of the choir also are plainly laid down: "Forasmuch as it is
goodly and honourable that there should be alwayes some divine service
in the court ... when his grace keepeth court and specially in riding
journeys: it is ordeyned that the master of the children and six men ...
shall give their continual attendance in the King's court, and dayly in
the absence of the residue of the chappell, to have a masse of our Lady
before noone, and on Sundayes and holy dayes masse of the day besides
our Lady masse, and an anthem in the afternoone."

It was part of the business of the Master of the Children to instruct
his young charges in "grammar, songes, organes, and other vertuous
things"; and, on the whole, the lot of the choristers might have been
deemed enviable. It is evident, however, that it was not always regarded
in that light, for a custom existed of impressing children. This
practice was authorized by a precept of Henry VI. in 1454, and one of
its victims was Thomas Tusser, afterwards author of "Five Hundred Points
of Good Husbandry," who thus alludes to the matter:

  There for my voice I must (no choice)
  Away of force, like posting horse;
  For sundry men had placards then
            Such child to take.

Moreover, it has been shrewdly suspected that the whipping-boy, who
vicariously atoned for the sins of a prince of the blood--in other
words, was thrashed, when he did wrong--was picked from the Children of
the Chapel. Certainly Charles I. had such a whipping-boy named Murray;
and judging from this instance the expedient was not commended by its

Members of the choir were expected to be persons of exemplary life and
conversation, to ensure which state of things there was a weekly
visitation by the Dean. Every Friday he sought out and avoided from
office "all rascals and hangers upon thys courte." The tone of
discipline, to conclude from the poems of Hugh Rhodes, was undoubtedly
high; and, whatever difficulties he may have encountered in training the
boys to his own high standards, his "Book of Nurture" must always
possess considerable value as a reflex of the moral and social ideals of
a Master of the Children in the sixteenth century.

Rhodes's successor in the days of Elizabeth was Richard Edwards, a man
of literary taste and the compiler of a "Paradise of Dainty Devices."
The Master had now a salary of forty pounds a year; the Gentlemen
nineteen pence a day, in addition to board and clothing; and the
Children received largesse at high feasts and on occasions when their
services were used for purposes apart from their ordinary duties. In
this way the Chapel Royal is closely connected with the rise of the
English drama. Edwards wrote light pieces for the children to act before
Her Majesty, and, encouraged by success, fell to composing set comedies,
which were also performed by the boys, under his instructions, in the
presence of the Court.

We have limited our retrospect mainly to the Tudor period. As an
extension of the subject would call for more space than we have at our
disposal, those who desire more information concerning the "Children of
the Chapel" will do well to consult a recent work entitled "The King's
Musick" (edited by H. C. de Lafontaine: Novello & Co.), which carries on
the record into the age of the Stuarts. Entries cited in this excellent
compilation relate to eminent English composers. In December, 1673, for
example, there was a "warrant to pay Henry Purcell, late one of the
children of his Majesty's Chappell Royall, whose voyce is changed and
gone from the Chappell, the sum of £30 by the year, to commence
Michaelmas, 1673." This was in consequence of the sensible custom of
retaining as supernumeraries boys who had given evidence of musical
ability. Such is certainly true of Purcell, who, at the early age of
eleven, had shown promise of his future career by an ode called "The
Address of the Children of the Chapel Royal to the King and their
Master, Captain Cooke, on His Majestie's Birthday, A.D. 1670, composed
by Master Purcell, one of the Children of the said Chapel."




Mention has been made of Hugh Rhodes and his "Book of Nurture." It is
pretty evident that this master of music was attached to the older form
of faith, since he published in Queen Mary's reign a poem bearing the
extravagant title: "The Song of the Chyld-Bysshop, as it was songe
before the Queen's Maiestie in her priuie chamber at her mannour of
Saint James in the feeldes on Saynt Nicholas' Day and Innocents' Day
this yeare now present by the chylde bisshop of Poules church with his
company. Londini in ædibus Johannis Cawood typographi reginæ, 1555."
This effusion Warton derides as a "fulsome panegyric" on the Queen's
devotion; and the censure is not wholly unjust, since the author,
without much regard for accuracy, likens that least lovable of our
sovereigns to Judith, Esther, and the Blessed Virgin. Meanwhile, who or
what was the "Chyld-Bysshop," or, as he is usually styled, the

In the first place it may be noted that the Latin equivalent of the
phrase was not, as might be expected, _Episcopus puerilis_, but
_Episcopus puerorum_, suggesting that the boy, if boy he was, was
elevated above his compeers and possessed perhaps some jurisdiction over
them. There is no question of the access of dignity, but the amount of
authority enjoyed by him would have depended on the humour of his
fellows, and boys are not always docile subjects even of rulers of
their own election. This, however, is a minor consideration, since the
Boy-Bishop, when we first make his acquaintance, has already emerged
from the obscurity of school and playground, and made good his claim to
the homage of superiors in age and station. Hence the term "Boy-Bishop"
appears to define more accurately than its Latin analogue the rank and
privileges of the immature prelate.

It seems to lie in the nature of things that the Boy-Bishop was
originally an institution of the boys themselves, the chief figure in a
game in which they aped, as children so commonly do, the procedure of
their elders, and that, in course of time, those elders, for reasons
deemed good and sufficient, extended their patronage to the innocent
parade, and made it a constituent of their own festal round.

In tracing the migration of the custom from the precincts to the
interior of the church we must not forget the tradition of the Roman
Saturnalia, with the season and spirit of which it accorded, and to
which the Christian festival, with its greater purity and decorum, may
have been prescribed as an antidote. The pagan holiday was held on
December 17th, and as the Sigillaria formed a continuation of it, the
joyous celebration endured a whole week. The Boy-Bishop's term of office
was yet longer, extending from St. Nicholas' Day (December 6th) to Holy
Innocents' Day (December 28th).

The distinctive feature of the Saturnalia was the inversion of ordinary
relationships; the world was turned upside down, and the licence that
prevailed, by dint of long usage and inviolable sentiment, imparted to
the merry-making a rough and even immoral character. Slaves assumed the
position of masters, and masters of slaves; and the general nature of
the observance is aptly described by the patron deity in Lucian's play
on the subject: "During my reign of a week no one may attend to his
business, but only to drinking, singing, playing, making imaginary
kings, playing servants at table with their masters."

The advent of Christianity was impotent to arrest the annual scenes of
disorder; and, in some form or another--sometimes tolerated, sometimes
the object of the Church's anathema--the tradition held its own down
through the Dark Ages, and we meet with the substance of the Saturnalia,
during the centuries immediately preceding the Reformation, in the
burlesque festivals with which the rule of the Boy-Bishop has been often
identified. We shall see presently how far this judgment is correct. An
example will, no doubt, readily recur to the reader from a source to
which we owe so many impressions of the Middle Ages, some true, others
false or at least exaggerated--we mean the historical romances of Sir
Walter Scott. That writer has introduced into "The Abbot" an Abbot of
Unreason, and he explains in a note that "The Roman Catholic Church
connived at the frolics of the rude vulgar, who, in almost all Catholic
countries, enjoyed, or at least assumed, the privilege of making some
Lord of the Revels, who, under the name of the Abbot of Unreason, the
Boy-Bishop, or the President of Fools, occupied the churches, profaned
the holy places by a mock imitation of the sacred rites, and sang
indecent parodies of the hymns of the church." The last touch, at any
rate, may be safely challenged as untrue, and the whole picture has the
appearance of being largely overdrawn. This is certainly the case as
regards England, though there is evidence that on the Continent the
Boy-Bishop celebration was, at certain times and in certain places, not
free from objectionable features. In 1274 the Council of Salzburg was
moved to prohibit the "noxii ludi quos vulgaris eloquentia Episcopus
puerorum appellat" on the ground that they had produced great
enormities. Probably this sentence referred to the accessories, such as
immoral plays, but it is quite possible that the Boy-Bishop ceremonies
themselves had degenerated into a farce. As the _Rex Stultorum_
festival was prohibited at Beverly Minster in 1371, we must conclude
that similar extravagance and profanity had crept into Yuletide
observances in this country. The festival of the Boy-Bishop, however,
was conducted with a decency hardly to be expected in view of its
apparent associations. It would seem, indeed, to have been an impressive
and edifying function, and that reasonable exception can be taken to it
only on the score of childishness, and the absence of any warrant from
Scripture, apart from the rather doubtful sanction of St. Paul's words,
"The elder shall serve the younger."

There are weighty considerations on the other side. The mediæval Church
derived stores of strength from its sympathetic attitude towards women
and children and the illiterate; and there was a sensible loss of
vitality and interest when the ministry of the Church was curtailed to
suit the common sense of a handful of statesmen, scholars, and
philosophers. At the time the festival was abolished, opinion was
divided even among the leaders of reform. Thus Archbishop Strype openly
favoured the custom, holding that it "gave a spirit to the children,"
and was an encouragement to them to study in the hope of attaining some
day the real mitre. Broadly speaking, then, the Boy-Bishop festival is
evidence of the tender condescension of Holy Mother Church to little
children, and it does not stand alone. At Eyton, Rutlandshire, and
elsewhere, children were allowed to play in church on Holy Innocents'
Day, possibly in the same way as at the "Burial of the Alleluia" in a
church at Paris, where a chorister whipped a top, on which the word
"Alleluia" was inscribed, from one end of the choir to the other. As Mr.
Evelyn White points out, this "quickening of golden praise," by its
union of religious service and child's play, exactly reproduces the
conditions of the Boy-Bishop festival. Certain it is that the festival
was extraordinarily popular. There was hardly a church or school
throughout the country in which it was not observed, and if we turn to
the Northumberland Book cited in the foregoing chapter we shall find
that provision was made for its celebration in the chapels of the
nobility as well. The inventory is as follows:

     "_Imprimis_, myter well garnished with perle and precious stones
     with nowches of silver and gilt before and behind.

     "_Item_, iiij rynges of silver and gilt with four redde precious
     stones in them.

     "_Item_, j pontifical with silver and gilt, with a blew stone in

     "_Item_, j owche broken silver and gilt, with iiij precious stones
     and a perle in the myddes.

     "_Item_, A Crosse with a staf of coper and gilt with the ymage of
     St. Nicholas in the myddes.

     "_Item_, j vesture redde with lyons of silver with brydds of gold
     in the orferores of the same.

     "_Item_, j albe to the same, with stars in the paro.[2]

     "_Item_, j white cope stayned with cristells and orferes redde sylk
     with does of gold and white napkins about their necks.

     "_Item_, j stayned cloth of the ymage of St. Nicholas.

     "_Item_, iiij copes blue sylk with red orferes trayled with whitt
     braunches and flowers.

     "_Item_, j tabard of skarlett and a hodde thereto lyned with whitt

     "_Item_, A hode of Scarlett lyned with blue sylk."

There is an entry in the book showing upon what terms the custom was
observed in the house of a great noble. When chapel was kept for St.
Nicholas--St. Nicholas was, of course, the patron saint of boys--6_s._
8_d._ was assigned to the Master of the Children for one of the latter.
When, on the contrary, St. Nicholas "com out of the towne where my lord
lyeth and my lord kepe no chapel," the amount is reduced to 3_s._ 4_d._

Abbeys, cathedrals, and parish churches were equally forward in their
recognition of the custom, and strove to celebrate it on a scale of the
utmost splendour and magnificence. A list of ornaments for St. Nicholas
contained in a Westminster inventory of the year 1388 comprises a mitre,
gloves, surplice, and rochet for the Boy-Bishop, together with two albs,
a cope embroidered with griffins and other beasts and playing fountains,
a velvet cope with the new arms of England, a second mitre and a ring.
In 1540 mention occurs of the "vj^th mytre for St. Nicholas bisshope,"
and "a great blewe cloth with kyngs on horsse back for the St. Nicholas
cheyre." At St. Paul's Cathedral twenty-eight copes were employed not
only for the Boy-Bishop and his company, but for the Feast of Fools. The
earliest inventory of the church--that of 1245--speaks of a mitre, the
gift of John de Belemains, Prebendary of Chiswick, and a rich pastoral
staff for the use of the Boy-Bishop. At York Minster were kept a "cope
of tissue" for the Boy-Bishop, and ten for his attendants, while an
inventory made in 1536 at Lincoln refers to "a coope of rede velvett
with rolles and clowdes ordeyned for the barne bisshop with this
scripture THE HYE WAY IS BEST." Typical of many other places,
the custom was observed at Winchester, Durham, Salisbury, and Exeter
Cathedrals; at the Temple Church, London (1307); St. Benet-Fynck; St.
Mary Woolnoth; St. Catherine, near the Tower of London; St. Peter Cheap;
St. Mary-at-Hill, Billingsgate; Rotherham; Sandwich, St. Mary; Norwich,
St. Andrew's and St. Peter Mancroft; Elsing College, Winchester; Eton
and Winchester Colleges; Magdalen College, Oxford, and King's College,
Cambridge; Witchingham, Norfolk (1547); Great St. Mary, Cambridge
(1503); Hadleigh, Suffolk; North Elmham, Norfolk (1547). When the goods
of Great St. Mary, Cambridge, were sold, in May 1560, among the rest
were the following: "_It._ ye rede cote and qwood yt St. Nicholas dyd
wer the color red. _It._ the vestement and cope yt Seynt Nicholas dyd
wer. Also albs for the children."

Recapitulating, the vestments and ornaments of the Boy-Bishop and his
attendants, as gleaned from these and similar sources, were: (i) Mitre;
(ii) Crosier or Pastoral Staff; (iii) Ring; (iv) Gloves; (v) Sandals;
(vi) Cope; (vii) Pontifical; (viii) Banner; (ix) Tabard; (x) Hood; (xi)
Cloth for St. Nicholas' Chair; (xii) Alb; (xiii) Chasuble; (xiv) Rochet;
(xv) Surplice; (xvi) Tunicle; (xvii) Worsted Robe.

Usually the Boy-Bishop was chosen from the choristers of the cathedral,
collegiate or other church by the choristers themselves; but at York,
after 1366, and possibly elsewhere, the position fell, as of right, to
the senior chorister. The date of the election was the Eve of St.
Nicholas, when the boys assembled for an entertainment, and gloves were
presented to the Boy-Bishop. On St. Nicholas' Day the boys accompanied
the youthful prelate to the church; and we learn from the Sarum Use that
the order in which the procession entered the choir was as follows:
First the Dean and Canons, then the Chaplain, and lastly the Boy-Bishop
and his Prebendaries, who thus took the place of honour. The Bishop
being seated, the other children ranged themselves on opposite sides of
the choir, where they occupied the uppermost ascent, whilst the Canons
bore the incense and the Petit Canons the tapers. The first vespers of
their patron saint having been sung by the boys, they marched the same
evening through the precincts, or parish, the Bishop bestowing his
fatherly blessings and such other favours as were becoming his dignity.

The statutes of St. Paul's Cathedral show that, as early as 1262, the
rules underwent some modification. It was thought that the celebration
tended to lower the reputation of the church; so it was ordained that
the Boy-Bishop should select his own ministers, who were to carry the
censer and the tapers, and they were to be no longer the Canons, but
"Clerks of the Third Form," i.e., his fellow-choristers. But the
practice remained for the Boy-Bishop to be entertained on the Eve of St.
John the Evangelist either at the Deanery or at the house of the
Canon-in-residence. Should the Dean be the host, fifteen of the
Boy-Bishop's companions were included in the invitation. The Dean, too,
found a horse for the Boy-Bishop, and each of the Canons a horse for one
of his attendants, to enable them to go in procession--a show formally
abolished by proclamation on July 25, 1542, but, nevertheless, retained
for some years owing to the attachment of the citizens to the ancient

The question has been raised--Did the Boy-Bishop say mass? The
proclamation of Henry VIII. distinctly affirms that he did, but there is
reason to suspect the truth of the statement. In the York Missal,
published by the Surtees Society, there is a rubric directing the
Boy-Bishop to occupy the episcopal throne during mass--a proof that he
cannot have been the celebrant. But the Boy-Bishop, if he did not
officiate at the altar, unquestionably preached the sermon. The statutes
of Dean Colet for the government of his school enjoin that "all the
children shall every Childermas Day come to Paule's Churche, and heare
the chylde bishop sermon, and after be at hygh masse and each of them
offer 1_d._ to the chylde bysshop." Specimens of the sermons preached on
Holy Innocents' Day have come down to us from the reigns of Henry VIII.
and Mary, and are of extreme interest. They, indeed, go far to justify
the custom as a mode of inculcating virtue and, particularly, reverence
in the minds of the auditors. The earlier discourse appears to have been
prepared by one of the Almoners of St. Paul's, and the "bidding prayer"
contains a quaint allusion to "the ryghte reverende fader and
worshypfull lorde my broder Bysshop of London, your dyocesan, also my
worshypfull broder, the Deane of this Cathedral Churche." The later
discourse was pronounced by "John Stubs, Querester, on Childermas-Day at
Gloceter, 1558," and, most appropriately, based on the text, "Except you
be convertyd and made lyke unto lytill children," etc. Referring to the
"queresters" and children of the song school, the preacher remarks, with
a touch of delightful humour, "Yt is not so long sens I was one of them
myself"; and, in explaining the significance of Childermas, adverts to
the Protestant martyrs, who, alas! are without "the commendacion of
innocency." It may be added that, according to the testimony of the
Exeter _Ordinale_, the Boy-Bishop, on St. Nicholas' Day, censed the
altar of the Holy Innocents, recited prayers, read the Little Chapter at
Lauds "in a modest voice," and gave the Benediction.

We have seen that Dean Colet required his scholars to contribute, each
one, a penny to the Boy-Bishop. At Norwich annual payments were made by
all the officials of the cathedral church to the Boy-Bishop and his
clerks on St. Nicholas' Day, and the expenses of the feast were defrayed
by the Almoner out of the revenues of the chapter. An account of
Nicholas of Newark, Boy-Bishop of York in 1396, shows that, besides
gifts in the church, donations were received from the Canons, the
monasteries, noblemen, and other benefactors. On the Octave he repaired,
accompanied by his train, to the house of Sir Thomas Utrecht, from whom
he obtained "iij_s._ iiij_d._"; on the second Sunday he went still
farther afield, including in his perambulation the Priories of Kirkham,
Malton, Bridlington, Walton, Baynton, and Meaux. _En route_, he waited
on the Countess of Northumberland at Leconfield, and was graciously
rewarded with a gold ring and twenty shillings.

These "visitations" seem to have been characterized by feasting and
merriment and some undesirable mummery. Puttenham, in his "Arte of
Poesie" (1589), observes: "On St. Nicholas' night, commonly, the
scholars of the country make them a Bishop, who, like a foolish boy,
goeth about blessing and preaching with such childish terms as make the
people laugh at his foolish counterfeit." In some quarters regulations
were in force to preclude such levity. At Exeter, for example, one of
the Canons was appointed to look after the Boy-Bishop, who was to have
for his supper a penny roll, a small cup of mild cider, two or three
pennyworths of meat, and a pennyworth of cheese or butter. He might ask
not more than six of his friends to dine with him at the Canon's room,
and their dinner was to cost not more than fourpence a head. He was not
to run about the streets in his episcopal gloves, and he was obliged to
attend choir and school the next day like the other choristers.

It may be remarked that the Boy-Bishop proceedings had their counterpart
in the girls' observance of St. Catherine's Day; and the phrase "going
a-Kathering" expressed the same sort of alms-seeking as attended the
ceremonies in honour of St. Nicholas.

In its palmy days the festival of the Boy-Bishop was favoured not only
by the people, but by the monarch. Edward I. and Henry VI. gave their
patronage to the custom, and the latter is said to have followed the
example of his progenitors in so doing.

However, in 1542, Henry VIII. "by the advys of his Highness' counsel,"
saw fit to order its abolition, which he did in the following terms:

"Whereas heretofore dyuers and many superstitions and chyldysh
obseruances haue been used, and yet to this day are obserued and kept,
in many and sundry partes of this realm, as vpon St. Nicholas, Saint
Catherine, Saint Clement, the holie Innocents, and such-like holie
daies, children be strangelie decked and apparayled to counterfeit
Priests, Bishopes, and Women, and so be ledde with Songes and dances
from house to house, blessing the people and gathering of money; and
boyes do singe masse and preache in the pulpitt, with other such
onfittinge and inconuenient vsages which tend rather to derysyon than
enie true glorie of God, or honour of his Sayntes: the Kynges maiestie,
therefore, myndynge nothinge so muche as to aduance the true glory of
God without vain superstition, wylleth and commandeth that from
henceforth all such superstitious obseruations be left and clerely
extinguished throu'out all his realme and dominions for as moche as the
same doth resemble rather the vnlawfull superstition of gentilitie than
the pure and sincere religion of Christ."

The allegation that boys dressed up as women is confirmed by a Compotus
roll of St. Swithin's Priory at Winchester (1441), from which it appears
that the boys of the monastery, along with the choristers of St.
Elizabeth's Collegiate Chapel, near the city, played before the Abbess
and Nuns of St. Mary's Abbey--attired "like girls."

The custom was restored by an edict of Bishop Bonner on November 13,
1554, much to the satisfaction of the populace; and the spectacle of the
Boy-Bishop riding _in pontificalibus_--this was in 1556--all about the
Metropolis gave currency to the saying--"St. Nicholas yet goeth about
the city." Foxe tells us that at Ipswich the Master of the Grammar
School led the Boy-Bishop through the streets for "apples and
belly-cheer; and whoso would not receive him he made heretics, and such
also as would not give his faggot for Queen Mary's child." (By this
expression, which was common during this reign, was intended the
Boy-Bishop; the Queen had, of course, no child of her own.) Amidst the
sundry and manifold changes that marked the accession of Elizabeth the
Boy-Bishop again went down; and the memory of the festival lingered only
in certain usages like that at Durham, where the boys paraded the town
on May-day, arrayed in ancient copes borrowed from the Cathedral.

On one or two points connected with the subject there prevails some
degree of misapprehension, and thus it will be well--very briefly--to
touch upon them. It is not now believed that the effigy in Salisbury
Cathedral--"the child so great in clothes"--which led to the
publication, in 1646, of Gregorie's famous treatise, is that of a
Boy-Bishop, who died during his term of office and was buried with
episcopal honours. There are similar small effigies of knights and
courtiers. Nor, again, does it seem correct to state that the
Boy-Bishop might present to any prebend that became vacant between St.
Nicholas' and Holy Innocents' day. This usage, if it existed at all, was
apparently confined to the Church of Cambray.

On the other hand, the Eton Ad Montem ceremony has the look of genuine
descent from the older festival, with which it has numerous features in
common. The Boy-Bishop custom, it will be remembered, was observed at
the College.

Finally, reference may be made to the coinage of tokens, some of them
grotesque, which bore the inscription MONETA EPI INNOCENTIUM,
or the like, together with representations of the slaughter of the
innocents, the bishop in the act of giving his blessing, and similar
scenes. Opinions differ as to the purpose for which these tokens, which
date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were struck, but it is
extremely probable that they were designed to commemorate the Boy-Bishop
solemnity. Barnabe Googe's _Popish Kingdom_ tells of

  "St. Nicholas money made to give to maidens secretlie,"

and in the imperfect state of human society this may have been, at
times, their incongruous destiny.




There is a palpable resemblance between the subject just quitted and
that most characteristic product of the Middle Ages--the miracle play.
It may be observed at the outset that instruction in those days, when
reading was the privilege of the few, was apt to take the form of an
appeal to the imagination rather than the reasoning faculty, and of all
the aids of imagination none has ever been so effective as the drama.
The Boy-Bishop celebration was not only the occasion of plays which
sometimes necessitated the strong hand of authority for their
suppression--it was distinctly dramatic in itself. Miracle plays
represent a further stage of development, in which a rude and popular
art shook itself free from the trammels of ritual, outgrew the austere
restrictions of sacred surroundings, and yet kept fast hold on the
religious tradition on which it had been nourished, and which remained
to the last its supreme attraction.

The liturgical origin of the miracle play may almost be taken for
granted, and the single question that is likely to arise is whether the
custom evolved itself from observances connected with Easter, or
Christmas, or both festivals in equal or varying measure. Circumstances
rather point to Paschal rites as the matrix of the custom. The Waking of
the Sepulchre anticipates some of the features of the miracle play,
while the dialogue may have been suggested by the antiphonal elements
in the church services, and specifically by the colloquy interpolated
between the Third Lesson and the Te Deum at Matins, and repeated as part
of the sequence "Victimæ paschalis laudes," in which two of the choir
took the parts of St. Peter and St. John, and three others in albs those
of the Three Maries. In the York Missal, in which this colloquy appears
at length, its use is prescribed for the Tuesday of Easter Week.

Springing apparently from these germs, the religious drama gradually
enlarged its bounds until it not only broke away from the few Latin
verses of its first lisping, but came to embrace a whole range of
Biblical history in vernacular rhyme. The process is so natural that we
need scarcely look for contributory factors, and the influence of such
experiments as the Terentian plays of the Saxon nun Hroswitha in the
tenth century may be safely dismissed as negligible, or, at most,
advanced as proof of a broad tendency, evidence of which may be traced
in the "infernal pageants" to which Godwin alludes in his "Life of
Chaucer," and which, as regards Italy, are for ever memorable in
connexion with the Bridge of Carrara--a story familiar to all students
of Dante. These "infernal pageants" were concerned with the destiny of
souls after death, and their scope being different from that of the
miracle plays, they are adduced simply as marking affection for
theatrical display in conjunction with religious sentiment.

As far as can be ascertained, the earliest miracle play ever exhibited
in England--and here it may be observed that such performances probably
owed their existence or at least considerable encouragement to the
system of religious brotherhood detailed in our opening chapter--was
enacted in the year 1110 at Dunstable. Matthew Paris informs us that one
Geoffrey, afterwards Abbot of St. Albans, produced at the town aforesaid
the Play of St. Catherine, and that he borrowed from St. Albans copes in
which to attire the actors. This mention of copes reminds us of the
Boy-Bishop, and is one of the symptoms indicating community of origin.
To this may be added that miracle plays were at first performed in
churches, and, as we shall hereafter see, in some localities were never
removed from their original sphere. The clergy also took an active share
in the performances, as long as they were confined to churches; but on
their emergence into the streets, Pope Gregory forbade the participation
of the priests in what had ceased to be an act of public worship. This
was about A.D. 1210. From that time miracle plays were regarded
by the straiter sort with disfavour, and Robert Manning in his "Handlyng
Sinne" (a translation of a Norman-French "Manuel de Péché") goes so far
as to denounce them, if performed in "ways or greens," as "a sight of
sin," though allowing that the resurrection may be played for the
confirmation of men's faith in that greatest of mysteries. Such
prejudice was by no means universal; in 1328--more than a hundred years
later--we find the Bishop of Chester counselling his spiritual children
to resort "in peaceable manner, with good devotion, to hear and see" the
miracle plays.

We saw that the earliest religious drama known to have been performed in
this country was one on St. Catherine. William Fitzstephen, in his "Life
of St. Thomas à Becket," written in 1182, brings into contrast with the
pagan shows of old Rome the "holier plays" of London, which he terms
"representations of the miracles wrought by the holy confessors or of
the sufferings whereby the constancy of the martyrs became gloriously
manifest." Thus we perceive how the term "miracle" attached itself to
this species of theatrical exhibitions. Probably, towards the
commencement of the twelfth century, French playwrights fastened on the
miracles of the saints as their special themes, and, by force of habit,
the English public in ensuing generations retained the description,
though subjects had come to be chosen other than the marvels of the
martyrology. Dr. Ward would limit the term "miracle play" to those
dramas based on the legends of the saints, and would describe those
drawn from the Old and New Testaments as "mysteries" in conformity with
Continental usage. The distinction is logical, but its acceptance would
practically involve the sacrifice of the former term, since the
Dunstable play of St. Catherine, the plays founded on the lives of St.
Fabyan, St. Sebastian, and St. Botolph, which were performed in London,
and those on St. George, acted at Windsor and Bassingbourn--no others
are recorded--have all perished.

According to the "Banes," or Proclamation, of the Chester Plays, at the
end of the sixteenth century, the cycle of plays acted in that city
dates from the mayoralty of John Arneway (1268-76), and the author was
Randall Higgenet, a monk of Chester Abbey. These statements are, for
various reasons, open to impeachment. For one thing, Arneway's term is
incorrectly assigned to the years 1327-8--a far more probable date for
the plays, though there is no sort of certainty on the subject, and, in
the nature of things, a cycle of plays is more likely to have grown up
than to have been the work of a single hand. The later date is more
probable, because the re-institution of the Corpus Christi festival by
the Council of Vienne in 1311 has an important bearing on the annexation
of the miracle play by the trade-gilds, and it was only on their
assumption of responsibility that performances on the scale of a cycle
of plays could have been contemplated, or possible.

There are four great English cycles--those of Chester, York, Wakefield,
and Coventry. By a cycle is meant a series of plays forming together
what may be termed an encyclopædia of history; it was attempted to crowd
into one short day "mater from the beginning of the world." This
ambitious programme bespoke the interested co-operation of many persons,
and the gilds, embracing it with enthusiasm, transformed the Corpus
Christi festival into an annual celebration marked by gorgeous pageants.
The word "pageant," which appears to be etymologically related to the
Greek [Greek: pêgma], is technical in respect of miracle plays, and, in
this connexion, is thus defined, by Archdeacon Rogers:

"A high scafolde with two rowmes, a higher and a lower, upon four
wheeles. In the lower they apparelled them selves, and in the higher
rowme they played, beinge all open on the tope, that all behoulders
might heare and see them."

The pageants were constructed of wood and iron, and so thoroughly that
it was seldom that they needed to be renewed. In the floor of the stage
were trap-doors covered with rushes. The whole was supported on four or
six wheels so as to facilitate movement from point to point; and as the
miracle plays were essentially peripatetic--within, at least, the bounds
of a particular town, and sometimes beyond--this was a very necessary

Each pageant had its company. The word "company" here is not exactly
synonymous with "gild," for several gilds might combine for the object
of maintaining a pageant and training and entertaining actors, and the
composition of the company varied according to the wealth or poverty,
zeal or indifference, of different gilds. Thus it came to pass that the
number of pageants, in the same city, was subject to change, companies
being sometimes subdivided, and at other times amalgamated; and in the
latter event the actors undertook the performance of more scenes than
would otherwise have fallen to their share. Commonly speaking, there was
probably no lack, whether of funds or players, at any rate as regards
the principal centres. The cycles were the pride of the city, and it
would have been a point of honour with the members of the several
companies not to allow themselves to be outclassed by their competitors.

To enumerate the gilds taking part in the miracle plays is tantamount to
making an inventory of industrial crafts at the close of the Middle
Ages. The "Order of the Pageants of the Play of Corpus Christi at York,"
compiled by Roger Burton, the town clerk, and comprising a list of the
companies with their respective parts, yields the following analysis:
Tanners, plasterers, card-makers, fullers, coopers, armourers, gaunters
(glovers), shipwrights, pessoners (fishmongers), mariners,
parchment-makers, book-binders, hosiers, spicers, pewterers, founders,
tylers, chandlers, orfevers (goldsmiths), marshals (shoeing-smiths),
girdlers, nailers, sawyers, spurriers, lorimers (bridle-makers),
barbers, vintners, fevers (smiths), curriers, ironmongers,
pattern-makers, pouchmakers, bottlers, cap-makers, skinners, cutlers,
bladesmiths, sheathers, sealers, buckle-makers, horners, bakers
cordwainers, bowyers, fletchers (arrow-featherers); tapisers, couchers,
littesters (dyers), cooks, water-leaders, tilemakers, millers, twiners,
turners, tunners, plumbers, pinners, latteners, painters, butchers,
poulterers, sellers (saddlers), verrours (glaziers), fuystours (makers
of saddle-trees), carpenters, wine-drawers, brokers, wool-packers,
scriveners, luminers (illuminators), questors (pardoners), dubbers,
tallianders (tailors), potters, drapers, weavers, hostlers, and mercers.

The subjects of the plays were the story of the Creation, the Fall, the
Deluge, the Sacrifice of Isaac, the incidents preceding the Birth of
Christ, the Nativity, and in pretty regular sequence the chief events of
our Lord's life to the Ascension; and, finally, the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin. As a rule it is hard to discern any connexion between
the nature of a scene and the craft or crafts representing it, but the
assignment of the pageant in which God warns Noah to make an ark to the
shipwrights, and of its successor, in which the patriarch appears in the
Ark, to the "pessoners" and mariners has an obvious propriety, and must
have conduced to the--not historical, but conventional--realism which
was the aim of the miracle artists.

The whole town was made to serve as a huge theatre, and the many
pageants proceeded in due order from station to station. "The place,"
says Archdeacon Rogers--he is speaking of Chester--"the place where they
played was in every streete. They begane first at the abay gates and
when the first pagiant was played, it was wheeled to the highe crosse
before the mayor, and so to every streete; and so every streete had a
pagiant playinge before them at one time, till all the pagiantes for the
daye appoynted weare played; and when one pagiant was neere ended word
was broughte from streete to streete, that soe they might come in place
thereof excedinge orderlye, and all the streetes have their pagiantes
afore them all at one time playeing togeather, to se which playe was
greate resorte, and also scafoldes and stages made in the streetes in
those places where they determined to playe their pagiantes."

Should the supply of pageants be limited, different scenes were acted in
different parts of the same stage; and actors who were awaiting or had
ended their parts stood on the stage unconcealed by a curtain. In more
elaborate performances a scene like the "Trial of Jesus" involved the
employment of two scaffolds, displaying the judgment-halls of Pilate and
Herod respectively; and between them passed messengers on horseback. The
plays contain occasional stage directions--e.g., "Here Herod shall rage
on the pagond." We find also rude attempts at scene-shifting, of which
an illustration occurs in the Coventry Play of "The Last Supper:"

"Here Cryst enteryth into the hous with his disciplis, and ete the
Paschal lomb; and in the mene tyme the cownsel hous beforn seyd xal
sodeynly onclose, shewynge the buschopys, prestys, and jewgys sytting in
here astat, lyche as it were a convocacyon."

And again:

"Here the Buschopys partyn in the place, and eche of hem here leve be
contenawns resortyng eche man to his place with here meny to take Cryst;
and than xal the place that Cryst is in sodeynly unclose round abowt,
shewynge Cryst syttyng at the table, and hise dyscypulis eche in ere
degré. Cryst thus seyng."

The outlay on these plays was necessarily large, and the accounts of
gilds and corporations prove that not only were considerable sums
expended on the dresses of the actors, but the latter received fees for
their services. The fund needed to meet these charges was raised by an
annual rate levied on each craftsman--called "pageant money"--and
varying from one penny to fourpence. The cost of housing and repairing
the pageant, as well as the refreshment of the performers at rehearsals,
would also come out of this fund. As the actors were paid, they were
expected to be efficient, and the duty of testing their qualifications
was delegated either to a pageant-master or to a committee of
experienced actors. A York ordinance dated April 3, 1476, shows that
four of "the most cunning, discreet, and able players" were summoned
before the mayor during Lent for the purpose of making a thorough
examination of plays, players, and pageants, and "insufficient persons,"
in whatever requirement--skill, voice, or personal appearance--their
defect lay, were mercilessly "avoided." No single player was allowed to
undertake more than two parts on pain of a fine of forty shillings.

From the York proclamation of 1415 we learn that the players were
expected to be in their places between 3 and 4 a.m., while the prologue
of the Coventry plays contains the lines:

  At Sunday next yf that we may
  At six of the belle, we gynne our play
  In N---- towne.

This is interesting, as proving that pageants were sometimes acted in a
number of places, somewhat in the style of strolling players. It is
known for a fact that the Grey Friars of Coventry had a cycle of Corpus
Christi plays; and it has been conjectured that they were forced by the
competition of the Trade Gilds to exhibit them outside the town.
Whatever may have been the case with the players, it is certain that
such plays were not confined to the centres of which we have spoken. We
read of a lost Beverly cycle, and of another at Newcastle, of which one
play--"The Building of the Ark"--has fortunately been preserved. Like
performances took place at Witney and Preston, at Lancaster, Kendall,
and Dublin. The relative perfection of Chester and Coventry, and
probably of York, were bound to influence those and other towns, which
looked to them as the capitals of the dramatic art. Evidence of the
popularity of miracle plays in places near and remote is forthcoming in
the shape of literary remains or parochial records. Cornwall is famous
for its religious drama, to which are due the best monuments of its dead
tongue; but other counties were not backward in zealous attachment to
the Miracle Play. A few excerpts from Church-wardens' and other accounts
may be given by way of showing the extent of the custom:


1528-9. "ix^s ix^d for painting cloth for the players and making their
     tunics, and for 'chequery' for making tunics for the aforesaid
     players, and for making staves for them, and crests upon their
     heads for the festival of Corpus Christi."

1533-4. "ij^d rewardyd and alowyd to the pleers of Cryssmas game, that
     pleyd in the said churche."

1537-8. "j^d for a pair of silk garments (_seroticarum_) for King Herod
     on Corpus Christi day."

1542-3. "ij^s i^d ij devils' heads (_capit. diabol._) and necessary
     things in the clothes for the players."

1547-8. "ij^s to the players on Corpus Christi day." (During the reign
     of Edward VI. the plays were discontinued, to be revived in that of
     his successor.)

1555-6. "ij^d payd for a payr of glouys for hym that played God Almighty
     at Corpus X^pi daye." "vj^d payd for wyne for hym that played Saynt

1558-9. "ij^d for a payr of glouys to him that played Christ on Corpus
     X^pi daye."


1546-7. "Item p^d for makynge of a sworde & payntynge of the same for
     Harroode viij^d."

In the Corporation MSS. of Rye, Sussex, are the following entries:

1474. "Payed to the players of Romeney, the which pleyed in the churche

1476. "Payed to the pleyers of Winchilse, the whiche pleyed in the
     churche yerde, vppone the day of the Purification of our Laday

The performance of the York miracle plays went on until 1579. The
Newcastle celebration outlasted them by about ten years. The Chester
plays were acted till the end of the sixteenth century, and those of
Beverley till 1604. What killed the Miracle Play? This is a deeply
interesting speculation, but one with regard to which it is difficult to
form a conclusion owing to the co-existence of rival influences, the
relative strength of which cannot well be estimated. We have seen that
Puritan opinion suspended the miracle play at Ashburton during the reign
of Edward VI., and it would be natural to look for the same result from
the accession of Elizabeth, whereas, at Beverley it was maintained all
through the period of her rule. It is quite possible, however, that all
this time efforts were being made by extreme Reformers to bring about
its abolition, and that ultimately they were successful. Meanwhile the
growth of the secular drama, which was hardly more to the liking of the
Puritans, must have proved a powerful counter-attraction, and possibly
it is to this rather than religious opposition that the extinction of
the Miracle Play was actually due. At any rate, we need feel no surprise
that with two such antagonistic forces at work the ancient and pious
custom vanished from the land.




We wound up our first part with a draft on parochial records; and we
enter on our second part with a further taxation of the same fruitful
and unimpeachable source. Those familiar with the life of our ancient
universities only in its more modern and luxurious aspects may prepare
for revelations of the most startling character, for Oxford and
Cambridge were nurtured not only in poverty, but in authorized
mendicancy and--a learned phrase may be excused--regulated
hypothecation. That clerks in those early days were not ashamed to beg
is susceptible of various sorts of proof, one of which consists in the
help so frequently afforded them by generous churchwardens. Let us
glance at some sixteenth-century books of accounts:


  1568.    "In gyft to too scolers of Oxenford     iiij^s iiij^d"
  1575.    "To a skoler of Oxeford                          vj^d"

  1578.    "To a skoler of Oxford                   iij^s iiij^d"


  1573.    "Geven to a skoler of Oxford                   xij^d"


  1581.    "P^d to tow skolowers of Oxford        vij^d"

  1588.    "P^d to a Scholar that came fro
            Oxford named Edward Carrow           viij^d"

  1589.    "P^d to Richard Crokhey a scholar       vj^d"

(According to the "Alumni Oxon." Edward Carrow was elected Student of
Christ Church, 1575, from Westminster School; and Richard Crocker,
B.A., from Exeter College, 1594.)


  1583.     "P^d to two schollers the xj of June   iij^s iiij^d"
            "Geven to a scholler to bringe hym
             to Oxenford                            vj^s viiij^d"


  1583.     "Paid as a gift to a scholar at
             Oxford                                         1^s"

  1603.     "Given to a poore scholler by the
             consent of Mr. Moore, vicar                  0 0 6"

It is worthy of note that the amounts bestowed on this deserving class
were in excess of the sums meted out to ordinary "travellers." It is
also a fact that, while mention is often made of Oxford scholars, the
reverse is the case with Cambridge men. On referring to Willis and
Clark's "History of the University of Cambridge" we find that although
notices occur of scholars in menial employment there is no indication
that begging licences were granted them. Still, the following entries
prove that occasionally incipient Cambridge men received public


  1573.     "Gave to William Lee, a pore
             Scholler of Sheffield, towards the
             settynge him to the universitye
             of Cambridge and buyinge him
             bookes and other furnyture            vij^s iiij^d"


  1663.     "Collected in y^e parish church of
             Cawthorne, for Thomas Carr, a
             poor scholler, who was going to
             Cambridge, and borne in y^e parish
             of Ecckesfield, the sum of                 6s. 6d."

From the beginning of the reign of James I. there are few entries
relating to scholars "of Oxford." Those of other places, however, are
named to the time of Charles II., and some of them must have belonged to
Oxford, their native place being recorded in lieu of the university.


  1623.    "To a poore scholler of Bakewell     0 1 0"


  1667.    "Given towards the maintenance
           of one Laskey, a poor Scholler for
           Oxforde                             £4"

(This was one Nicholas Laskey, who was a son of Henry Laskey, of
Heavitree, and was entered in the books of Wadham College as "filius
pauperis." He matriculated May 23, 1667, at the age of seventeen; and
was rector of Eggesford in 1674, and of Worthington in 1687.)

These examples are all comparatively late, but we may be certain that
the practice to which they bear testimony had existed at a much earlier
period, when contributions had been sought, not only from custodians of
church funds, but from private persons, to whose charitable instincts or
devout inclinations necessitous clerks successfully appealed. Chaucer
says of his clerk of Oxenford:

  Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre:
  But al that he myghte of his frendes hente,
  On bokes and on lerning he it spente,
  And bisily gan for the soules preye
  Of hem that gaf him wher-with to scolaye.

This diligent and conscientious student "loked holwe," and his
"courtefy" was threadbare.

In MS. Lansdowne 762 is a poem wherein a husbandman is represented as
complaining of the many charges of which he is the subject--taxes to the
court, payments to the church, and exactions in the name of charity.
Included in the last of these categories is alms to scholars:

  Than cometh clerkys of Oxford and make their mone;
  To her schole-hire they must have money.

It is hardly likely, perhaps, that such "scholar-gypsies" always
procured licences, but such were issued, and, when obtained, were
doubtless efficacious in promoting the object which the applicant had in
view. The following is a specimen in English dress, the original being
in Latin, and dated July 15, 1467:

"To the whole of the sons of Holy Mother Church, to whom the present
letter may come, Thomas Chaundler, Professor of Sacred Theology, and
Chancellor of the University of Oxford, greeting in the Saviour of all.

"Know the whole of you that we, with full affection, recommend to your
worships by reason of his deserts N., a scholar of this University, a
peaceable, and honest, and praiseworthy student, strongly beseeching you
that when he shall chance to traverse your places, lands, castles,
towns, fortresses, lordships, jurisdictions, and passages, ye freely
suffer him to cross them without let, trouble, arrest, or injury, with
his goods and chattels, or to make halt in his expeditions; and if at
any time it shall befall that wrong be done him in person, chattels, or
goods, ye deign to remedy the same as may behove in remembrance of the
aforesaid University. Further, deign to assist him, when need press,
with your charitable favours, receive him whom we recommend, and succour
him with the protection of charity, devoutly considering that him who
pitieth shall God also pity in meet and acceptable time.

"Given at Oxford, under the Seal of the Office of the Chancellery of the
aforesaid University on the fifth day of the month of July in the
fourteenth hundred and sixtieth year of our Lord."

From the wording of this letter-testimonial it would be a reasonable
inference that it was granted to enable the recipient to travel to his
home or some other place, but in certain cases the object may have been
to replenish an exhausted purse and aid the distressed scholar to
complete his academic course.

"Many," remarks Mr. A. Clark, "were in a condition of extreme poverty,
which it is now difficult to recognize or even to imagine.... [They]
were exempted from University and College dues, and lived from what they
received from colleges or individual graduates in payment of the
different menial services which they rendered." He gives a list of
fifteen Oxford scholars to whom licences were accorded between 1551 and
1572, their duration varying from seven weeks to eight months. In the
sixteenth century such passports had become necessary, or, at least, the
absence of them, where scholars resorted to begging for a livelihood,
was attended with serious risk. By the 4th section of the Act of 22
Henry VIII. c. 12: "Scolers of the Universities of Oxford & Cambrydge
that goo about beggyng, not being aucthorysed under the Seale of the
sayde Universities," were to be punished as idle rogues, and that
punishment was far from light. This section was included in the Act of
Elizabeth of 1571-2, but omitted from that of 1596-7.

Scholars were often reduced not only to beg, but to borrow; and as this
method of raising money might not always have been easy, even where
security was offered, a system of pledging was devised by the
authorities for the benefit of impecunious members of the University,
both high and low. In all essentials this department is hardly
distinguishable from a pawnbroking establishment conducted under
respectable auspices, but we should go sadly astray if we suffered our
views of the institution to be tinged by the associations of a dingy
shop in some back street in which hopeless penury plays its last shift.
We should rather turn our eyes to the beatific vision of the Mons
Pietatis as pictured by Botticelli--a hillock of florins, with the
kneeling forms of worthy suppliants and the cloud-borne founder crowned
by angelic hands. The poor scholar did not part definitely with his
cherished possession; he might hope to recover it in sunnier days, and
meanwhile he was enabled to tide himself over an awkward emergency. At
the same time the brokers took care to make the transaction a source of
profit to the University.

The earliest benefaction for the support of scholars at Oxford consisted
in the annual payment of forty shillings by the townsmen in atonement
for the execution of certain clerks. In the year 1219 this charge was
undertaken by the Abbey of Eynsham, by which the fine was punctually
disbursed to the period of its dissolution. A similar but smaller
contribution was made by the Abbey of Oseney, but nothing is known as to
its origin. Irregularities in the application of these funds induced the
Chancellor, Robert Grosseteste, in 1240, to frame an ordinance which
resulted in the creation of the "Frideswyde Chest." This treasury was
the parent of many others--at the close of the fifteenth century there
were as many as twenty-four--and it long remained the typical, as it was
the earliest, form of scholastic benefaction, existing side by side with
the foundation of colleges, to which it gave an important impetus. The
management of these chests was, in all cases, practically identical. The
preamble of the ordinance, by which the administration of the funds was
regulated, first stated the name of the donor, and then proceeded to
announce the desire of the University to requite his liberality by
annual masses and celebrations. The beneficiaries also were enjoined to
repeat so many "Pater Nosters" and "Aves" for the repose of his soul.

Next followed particulars of the sums that might be borrowed and those
to whom they might be advanced, always on condition that a pledge of
equal or greater value was first deposited by the borrower. The term
within which the pledge might be redeemed was specified, as also the
time at which an unredeemed pledge was to be sold after due notice had
been given by public proclamation. It was usual to appoint as guardians
a North and a South countryman, so as to obviate any complaints as to
the allocation of the funds, and provision was made for the registration
of loans and the audit of the accounts. The last chest to be
founded--this was in the latter half of the sixteenth century--placed at
the disposal of the University a sum raising the total amount to not
less than two thousand marks; and the capital, not merely the interest,
was available for the relief of embarrassed scholars. The pledges were
valued by the sworn stationer of the University, and that they were
expected to exceed in value the amount of the loan is shown by the terms
of ordinances, in some of which the guardians are required to submit to
the auditors an account of the capital and increase. In spite of
precaution, however, cases of peculation were not unknown, for, on more
than one occasion, guardians were accused of embezzlement, and there are
statutes complaining of the "marvellous disappearance" of funds, the
property of the University, and safeguarding their future

The chests were divided into two categories--the "Summer" and the
"Winter." This distinction seems to have been due to the date of the
election of the guardians. In this matter, however, there was
considerable variation, and in later ages the stipulations of the
ordinances, in which the bequests were embodied, ceased to be observed.
Another circumstance which deserves notice is that in the reforms
instituted in the time of Archbishop Laud nearly all traces of this
benevolent system were obliterated, and the names of founders--John
Pontysera, Bishop of Winchester, Gilbert Routhbury, Philip Turville,
John Langton, W. de Seltone, Dame Joan Danvers, etc.--consigned to the
shades of academic oblivion. During the period when the funds were
employed in conformity with the testator's design, the authorities, in
their wisdom, ignored limitations of age, birth, and neighbourhood, and
thus any member of the University, sophist or questionist, bachelor or
master, was entitled to a share of the benefit. This wide charity cannot
have met with unanimous approval. Large as the fund was, it would hardly
have sufficed for the needs of every ill-clothed and ill-fed scholar;
and, in the distribution of the money, it would be only in accord with
common experience of human nature if an enterprising official, whose
eagerness had outstripped his resources, should be preferred to some
pinched, obscure stripling, and receive a wholly disproportionate share
of the eleemosynary grant.

As an illustration of what sometimes occurred, we may take the case of
Master Henry Sever, Warden of Merton Hall. He had carried out certain
repairs of the buildings, and, in order to discharge the bill, had
borrowed from Seltone chest the maximum amount permitted by the
ordinance--sixty shillings. To obtain this advance he had pledged an
illuminated missal of considerably greater value, and now he had come
prepared to redeem it. He finds that the missal had been lent to some
client for the purpose of inspection, a silver cup, estimated by the
stationer to be worth even more, being deposited in its stead. This is
not precisely what Master Sever had wanted. However, he takes the cup,
assured that he will presently be able to negotiate an exchange with the
person in possession of his missal.

This serves as a reminder that, if money was scarce, books--the
mainspring of intellectual activity--were yet scarcer; and it is of the
utmost interest to inquire how this famine of the arts was mitigated.
Oral lectures were the rule, but books could not be entirely dispensed
with; and even Wardens might not always be in a position to procure all
the works of which they stood in need. The obvious remedy was a library
or libraries; and such collections--they arrived in good time, chiefly
through the bequests of virtuosi--constituted an invaluable resource to
that vast horde of scholars whose scanty means would not allow them to
purchase books. As the result of Mr. Blakiston's research, the famous
library with which Richard Aungerville is said to have endowed Durham
College, and, according to Adam de Murimuth, filled five carts, turns
out to be a myth or rather a pious intention. The good Bishop died deep
in debt, and the books, if preserved as a collection, went, it is now
certain, elsewhere. Thirty-five years later, however, another bishop,
Thomas Cobham, of Worcester, who died in 1327, bequeathed to the
University a mass of books, and the statute referring to them provides
that they shall be chained in convenient order in the "soler" over the
old Congregation House, where all the property of the University was
stored. The books were to be in the custody of a chaplain, who was to
pray for the soul of the donor.

Another statute relates to a "chest of four keys," from which it appears
that books were kept in coffers and lent upon indenture or security,
exactly as was done in the case of money. It was also a by no means
infrequent occurrence for persons to give or bequeath books on condition
that they were chained in the chancel of the church for the use of
scholars and periodically inspected by the chancellor and proctors. By
far the greatest benefactor of the University in the matter of books was
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who made many valuable presents during his
lifetime, and on his death, in 1447, a final large instalment was added
to the store. Of these only one remains in the Bodleian Library, but in
contemporary letters there are many notes expressing gratitude for, and
appreciation of, this splendid munificence, which advanced the cause of
learning more perhaps than any other donation recorded in the annals of
the University.

The well-being of the librarian was, very properly, a subject of
concern. By an ordinance of 1412 his stipend was raised, and he became
recognized as one of the chief officers of the University. Lest "hope
deferred" should produce slackness in the performance of his duties, the
proctors were bound to pay his salary regularly, and, as a further
encouragement, every beneficed graduate, on his inception, was required
to make him a present of clothes. A similar custom prevailed with regard
to the bedels, and it is sententiously remarked that it would be absurd
for one adorned with superior dignity to be endued with inferior

The ordinance of 1412 brought about other changes. At the outset the
library was accessible to all scholars at stated times; permission was
now confined to graduates or religious, and, in the case of the latter,
to those who were of eight years' standing _in philosophia_. Thus a monk
named Hardwyke, who did not possess this qualification, had to sue for a
"grace," and even then the privilege was limited to one term. The
reasons for these restrictions probably were that the undergraduate
constituency in those days was composed, in a great degree, of careless
and dirty boys, who would be apt to soil the manuscripts, while the
monks had their own libraries, to which they could resort without
encroaching on the slender resources of masters and bachelors. All
graduates on admission were required to take a solemn oath that they
would handle the books _modo honesto et pacifico, nulli librorum per
turpitudinem aut rasuras abolitionesque foliorum, præjudicium

The librarian was granted a month's vacation, and the library was closed
on Sundays and holy days, unless it should chance that a distinguished
stranger desired to visit it, when leave was given him from sunrise to
sunset, subject to the condition that he was not followed by a loud
rabble. At all other times, the hours during which the library was open
were from nine to eleven o'clock a.m., and from one to four o'clock p.m.
Suspended on the wall was a large board inscribed with the names both of
the books and the donors "lest oblivion, the stepmother of memory,
should pluck from our breasts the remembrance of our benefactors." To
the same intent thrice every quarter a solemn mass of the Holy Ghost,
and once every quarter a requiem mass, were said at the altar of St.
Katherine in the Church of the Blessed Virgin. Every night the books and
the windows of the library were closed, and, with certain rare
exceptions, books were not permitted to be removed.




While money and books were the twin bases on which the fabric of the
University reposed, it is plain that a great institution of the sort
would involve the employment of numerous agencies not strictly concerned
with the work of instruction, but engaged upon the not less necessary
functions of maintaining order and ministering to the needs of the body.
All persons so occupied were accounted as "of the privilege of the
University," and were subject to the jurisdiction of the Chancellor.
From an indenture between the University of Oxford and the Town, dated
1459, we find that the Privilege embraced:

"The Chaunceller, alle doctours, maistres, other graduats, alle
studients, alle scholers, and alle clerkes, dwellyng within the precint
of the Universite, of what condicion, ordre or degree soever they be,
every dailly continuell servant to eny of theym bifore rehersed
belonging, the styward of the Universite wyth their menyall men, also
alle Bedells with their dailly servants and their householdes, all
catours, manciples, spencers, cokes, lavenders, povere children of
scolers or clerkes, within the precinct of the said Universite, also
alle other servants taking clothing or hyre by the yere, half yere, or
quarter of the yere takyng atte leste for the yere vi. shillings and
viij. pence, for the half iii. shillings and iv. pence, and the quarter
xx. pence of any doctour, maister, graduat, scoler or clerc without
fraud or malengyne; also, alle common caryers, bryngers of scolers to
the Universite, or their money, letters, or eny especiall message to eny
scoler or clerk, or fetcher of eny scoler or clerk fro the Universite
for the tyme of such fetchyng or bryngyng or abidyng in the Universite
to that entent."

Parchment-makers, illuminators, scribes, barbers, and tailors were also,
by convention, members of the Privilege.

Before going farther, it will be well to inquire what is intended by the
"precinct of the University." There appears to have been some amount of
uncertainty as to the radius included. In 1444 Henry VI. granted
authority to the Chancellor to banish any contumacious person from the
precinct of the University, which was taken to mean a circuit of twelve
miles. On the other hand, on March 17, 1458, David Ap-Thomas swore on
the Holy Gospels that he would keep the peace towards the members of the
University, would inform the authorities of any plot against them which
might come to his knowledge, would not assist in rescuing Richard Lude
from prison, and would leave Oxford on the following day, nor presume to
come within _ten_ miles of the University for twelve weeks.


Of all the persons named as of the Privilege the bedels, as the
executive officers, most distinctly represent its character and extent.
The office of bedel was, of course, not confined to the Universities. In
London, for example, the wards had their bedels, who were sworn, _inter
alia_, to suffer no persons of ill repute to dwell in the ward of which
they were bedels, and to return good men upon inquests. They were also
to have a good horn and loud sounding. At Oxford the bedels were bound
to make summonses for scholars at their request, and to arrest
wrong-doers. The latter duty was naturally attended with some peril; and
in 1457, one Richard of the Castle, flying from the hands of Came,
Bedel, with drawn dagger, because he refused to go to prison, was
banished from the University. Fines also were levied by the bedels, and
they played a conspicuous part in the ceremonies of Congregation and
similar assemblies. As the position was liable to abuse, they were bound
by certain restrictions. Thus, they were forbidden to ask or receive
[extraordinary?] fees from inceptors[3] and to carry anything away with
them from the feasts at inceptions. They were required to attend
funerals, but might not ask for a share of the offerings, nor for any
present from the executors of the dead. And they had to give up their
maces at the first congregation after Michaelmas, but were eligible for

The bedels were of two grades--higher and lower; and the superior bedels
were bound by immemorial usage to provide the inferior bedels with board
and lodging and ten shillings a year for shoes. In 1337 the latter, on
resigning their office in congregation, according to custom, complained
that the superior bedels had neglected to furnish them with board.
Thereupon the University decreed that the inferior bedels should be
granted the option of standing at meals with the superior or receiving a
weekly allowance of sevenpence as compensation. This allowance was to be
suspended during the absence from Oxford of any inferior bedel, whether
occasioned by his own affairs or those of the University. The annual
payment of ten shillings for shoes was confirmed. Failure to observe
these regulations subjected superior bedels to the loss of their office
when the time came for the maces to be resumed.

The question will naturally arise--From what source, or sources, did the
superior bedels obtain the means not only to provide for their
necessities, but also to feed, house, and, to some extent, clothe their
hungry and dissatisfied dependents? Light is thrown upon this subject
in a way which shows that the superior bedels themselves may not have
been without a grievance. At any rate, about seventy years later--in
1411--an ordinance draws attention to omissions on the part of the
students, evidently inconvenient at the time, in the following words:

"The charity of students has in these latter days grown cold, so that
they no longer make collections for the Doctors and Masters of their
several faculties, nor _make due presents to the Bedels_; therefore it
is decreed that henceforth all scholars, on receiving notices from a
Doctor, Master, or Bedel of their respective faculties shall pay regular
contributions according to the ancient statutes on pain of losing the
current year of their academical course, and of forfeiting their
privilege; and all principals of halls, at the notice of the Doctors,
Masters, or Bedels, shall within a month from the commencement of such
collection, take care that the members of their societies contribute,
and send in the names of those who fail to do so to the Chancellor under
a penalty of twenty shillings: and every Doctor or Master shall pay the
Bedel honestly within a month from the commencement of the collection."

From a notice of the year 1432 it transpires that the bedels received
one-twelfth of all fines inflicted for misdemeanours; and, in 1434,
prior to the admission of inceptors, the Chancellor announced that each
inceptor would be required to pay the ordinary fee of thirty shillings
and a pair of buckskin gloves for each bedel, or, in lieu of gloves,
five shillings to be divided among the bedels. Two licentiates protested
against such payment, stating that it was contrary to the statutes,
whereupon an inquiry was held, by which it was established that these
fees had been paid to the bedels from time immemorial and were therefore

The appointment of the bedels rested with the Regent Masters, and was
one of their most jealously guarded prerogatives. Mention has been made
of John Came, who for many years held the office of bedel. When he was
elected, in 1433, by four Regent Masters and the two Proctors in
congregation, an attempt was made by the Chancellor and the Doctors of
the four faculties to substitute a nominee of their own, one Benedict
Stokes, on the ground that they were the senior members of the
University, and represented a majority of their faculties. Realizing
that the supremacy of the Faculty of Arts was menaced, the Proctors
resisted this claim and demanded the admission of Came, with the result
that the Chancellor reluctantly gave way. An appeal was entered by
Richard Cauntone, a doctor of laws, and the candidate, Benedict Stokes,
but three days later was renounced by both of them as frivolous, and
their cautions were forfeited. Even then the matter did not end. Two
days afterwards, information came to the Proctors that one of the
doctors had given his scholars to understand that the election would
have been invalid but for a vote recorded by a doctor. Thereupon the
Proctors, in order to settle the question once for all, summoned a
congregation, by which it was determined that the phrase "major part"
imported a numerical majority.

The election of bedels was conducted in the same way as that of the
Chancellor. Every such election was preceded by three proclamations made
within eight "legible" days after the office had become vacant.

The relations between the University and the Town will be dealt with
presently. Here it may be noticed that the bedels exercised some control
over the proceedings of the townsmen which concerned the interests of
students. As an illustration, when the goods and chattels of Harry Keys,
a scholar, which had been left in the house of Thomas Manciple, were
"presyd" betwixt Thomas Smyth and Davy Dyker, the valuers were sworn
before John Wykam, Bedel.

If the bedels, as public officials, were necessarily and conspicuously
of the Privilege, the remark is not less true of those humbler
functionaries, the personal attendants of the scholars. As we have seen,
the payment of the bedels depended in part on collections, and the gains
of the scholars' servants were derived from the same source. Every
master was compelled by statute to exact contributions from his scholars
at the end of term at what was called "collection." At the present time
the expression is applied to terminal examinations, and this use of it
originated from the circumstance that fees were paid by the scholars
varying in accordance with the subject of study. For grammar the
statutable amount was eightpence, for natural philosophy fourpence, and
for logic threepence per term, and it was usual to reckon four terms to
the year. To each scholar were allotted two servants--a superior and an
inferior; the former receiving threepence, and the latter one penny per
term. There was no evading these charges; even the poorest student had
to pay "scot and lot" towards the support of both classes of menials,
some of whom were doubtless better off than himself. The division of
these servants into orders, resembling those of the bedels, has
descended to modern days, most Oxford colleges having their upper and
under "scouts." This, it has been well observed, "is a curious instance
of the vitality of insignificant customs, which exist while the greater
give place to new."

At the commencement of the chapter, a list was furnished of various
occupations--more or less connected with the work of the University--the
professors of which were regarded as of the Privilege. The term
"privilege," in this and similar contexts, denotes administrative
autonomy and special jurisdiction; and members of these trades were
amenable to the Chancellor, while the Chancellor had to answer for their
good behaviour to the King and Parliament. In the Middle Ages the
Chancellor was not, as he is to-day, a permanent and ornamental
figure-head, the duties properly pertaining to the office being
discharged by the Vice-Chancellor. He was the active and dominant
centre of University life, and, as such, took cognizance of numerous
details which would now be deemed too petty, and even ridiculous, for a
personage of his dignity and importance. So great, however, was the
pressure of judicial and other business that it was necessary that he
should be relieved of part of the burden, and thus we often find
commissaries sitting in his room and stead.


The powers of the Chancellor were very considerable. They did not extend
to questions of life or death, but he could fine, he could imprison, he
could banish, and, being an ecclesiastic, he could excommunicate; and
these methods of reproof and coercion were constantly employed by him as
ex-officio justice of the peace and censor of public morals. The
privilege of the University was of a dual nature. It protected the
scholars in any court of first instance but a University court; on the
other hand, the University obtained full control over its scholars, who
were forbidden to enter a secular court. Litigants were allowed to
appeal, and very frequently did appeal, from the Chancellor's decision
to Congregation, and, if they were still not satisfied and the matter
was sufficiently grave, to the Pope--that is, in spiritual causes. In
temporal causes an appeal lay to the higher tribunals of the realm and
the King. The Chancellor, also, might appeal to the King, invoking the
secular arm in cases where the voice of the Church proved ineffectual in
dealing with rebellious subjects, and the letter addressed to the
sovereign for this purpose was called, in technical language, a

Sometimes the King, moved perhaps by a petition from his lieges in one
or other of the University towns, admonished the Chancellor to be more
alert in the performance of his duty. In June, 1444, the head of the
University of Oxford was in receipt of the following missive from Henry

"Trusty and welbeloved, we grete you wel, and late you wyte that we have
understanden by credible report of the greet riotts and misgovernance
that have at diverse tymys ensued and contynelly ensue by two circuits
used in oure Universite of Oxon in the vigile of St. John Baptist and
the Holy Apposteles Peter and Paule to the gret hurt and disturbance of
the sad and wol vituled personnes of the same Universite, wherefore We,
wolling such vices and misgovernaunce to be suppressyd and refused in
the said Universite and desiring the ease and tranquillite of the said
peuple in the same, wol and charge you straitly that ye see and ordeyne
by youre discretione that al such vices and misgovernaunce be left and
all such as may be founde defective in that behalve be sharply punished
in example of all other; and more over We charge you oure Chancellor, to
whom the governance and keeping of our paix within oure said Universite
by virtu of our privilege roial is committed that in eschewing of all
inconvenience, ye see and ordeyne that oure paix be surely kepe within
oure Universite above said, as wel in the saide vigiles as at all other
tymes; and for asmuch as We be enformed that the sermons in latin which
ever before this tyme, save now of late, be now gretly discontynued, to
the gret hurt and disworship of the same, We therefore, desiring right
affecturusely the increse of vertu and cunning in oure said Universite,
wol and commande you straitly that ye with ripe and suffisant maturite,
advise a sure remede in that party, by the which such sermons may
thereafter be continued and inviolably observed, wherein ye shal do unto
Us right singulier pleisir.--Geven under oure signet at Farneham the 20
day of Juyn."

The reader will no doubt be interested to learn the occasion of this
reprimand. The concluding portion invests it with a somewhat general
character, and may be interpreted as pointing to a lamentable decline
from a previous high standard of piety and learning, which only
incessant preaching was calculated to rectify. Neglecting this
postscript, it is pretty evident that the scandal arising from the
observance of vigils was produced by the inconsiderate carousals of
craftsmen included in the Privilege, and was therefore obnoxious to the
magisterial notice of the Chancellor. It will be sufficient to refer to
the riots on the Eve of St. John Baptist.

As was the custom in mediæval towns, different trades had different
stations assigned to them, and the tailors, who must have driven a
flourishing business in caps and gowns, had their shops in the
north-west ward of St. Michael's Parish. In ancient days these
satellites indulged at certain seasons--more particularly on the Eve of
St. John Baptist--in unseemly demonstrations. They waxed very jovial,
and, after eating, drinking, and carousing, "took a circuit" through the
streets of the city, accompanied by sundry musicians, and "using certain
sonnets" in praise of their profession and patron. As long as they kept
within these limits there seems to have been no complaint, but the thing
increased more and more. People were disturbed and alarmed, the watch
beaten, and from blows the outrageous tailors passed to murder. And so
it came about that their revelling, with the "circuit" of another
profession on the Eve of St. Peter and St. Paul, was prohibited first by
Edward III. and then by Henry VI. in the letter above cited.

Another trade closely associated with the University was that of the
barbers. In the twenty-second year of Edward III. (1348) the whole
company and fellowship of the barbers within the precincts of Oxford
appeared before the Chancellor and announced their intention of "joining
and binding themselves together in amity and love." They brought with
them certain ordinances and statutes drawn up in writing for the weal of
the craft of barbers, and requested the Chancellor to peruse and correct
them, and, afterwards, if he approved, attach to them the seal of the
University. The regulations having been seriously considered by the
Chancellor, the two proctors and certain doctors, it was resolved to
comply with the petition on the day following and constitute the barbers
a society or corporation.

The first article stipulated that the said craft should, under certain
penalties, keep and maintain a light before the image of our Lady in our
Lady's Chapel, within the precincts of St. Frideswyde's Church; the
second, that no person of the said craft should work on a Sunday, save
on market Sundays and in harvest-time, or shave any but such as were to
preach or do a religious act on Sunday all through the year; while a
third provided that all such as were of the craft were to receive at
least sixpence a quarter from each customer who desired to be shaved
weekly in his chamber or house. One shave per week does not coincide
with our modern notions of what is attractive and presentable in the
outer man, but the same rule prevailed at Cambridge. The statutes of St.
John's College in the latter university affirmed: "A barber is very
necessary to the college, who shall shave and cut once a week the head
and beard of the Master, Fellows, and Scholars, as they shall severally
have need."

In the statutes of New College, Oxford, there is an injunction against
the mock ceremony of shaving on the night preceding magistration. It is
called a _ludus_ (or play), and is believed to have been affined to the
ecclesiastical mummeries so popular in the Middle Ages, in one of which
the characters were a bishop, an abbot, a preceptor, and a fool shaved
the precentor on a public stage erected at the west end of the church.
There was also a species of masquerade celebrated by the religious in
France, which consisted in the display of the most formidable beards;
and it is recorded by Gregory of Tours that the Abbess of Poitou was
accused of allowing one of these shows, called a _Barbitoria_, to be
held in her monastery.

The only men of religion permitted to wear long beards were the
Templars; and, speaking generally,[4] the presence or absence of hair
was one of the marks of cleavage between the clergy (_tonsi_) and the
laity (_criniti_). Even those privileged to wear long hair--we refer, of
course, to the male portion of the community--were required to be shorn
so far that part of their ears might appear, and that their eyes might
not be covered. At first it may seem strange that the question of
trimming the hair should come under the cognizance of the Church--the
person himself or his barber might have been deemed at liberty to
consult his own taste. The canon, however, which regulated the usage was
based on the apostolic challenge: "Doth not nature itself teach you
that, if a man hath long hair, it is a shame unto him?"

This ordinance applied a fortiori to priests, who had to be content with
very little hair. At a visitation of Oriel College by Longland, Bishop
of London, in 1531, he ordered one of the Fellows, who was a priest, to
abstain, under pain of expulsion, from wearing a beard and pinked shoes,
like a laic. It would seem that this spiritual person had been
accustomed to ridicule the Governor and Fellows of the college, since he
was commanded to abjure that bad habit also.

The correct explanation of the custom condemned by the New College
statutes is doubtless that already furnished. Hearne, however, had an
idea that it was a reflexion on the Lollards. Wiclif is always
represented with a beard, and, as most of his followers were lay-folk,
it was possibly a symbol of the sect, which may have recollected the
text: "Neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard."

The interest of the University in expert tonsure is now well understood,
but the craving for the subjugation of falsifying hair must have been
quite secondary to that for the sustenance of the bodily powers, and
accordingly the cooks stood very near to the purveyors of intellectual
aliment. Nor did the Chancellor concern himself merely with the
ratification of their ordinances; as the natural sequence, he, or his
deputy, saw to it that they were properly respected, and formed a court
of appeal for the settlement of internecine differences. Thus, on August
19, 1463, two persons, proctors of the craft of cooks of the University
of Oxford, petitioned the Commissary against one of the members who had
declined to contribute to the finding of candles, vulgarly called
"Coke-Lyght," in the church of St. Mary-the-Virgin, and to a certain
accustomed feast on the day of the Cooks' Riding in the month of May. A
day was appointed for investigating the matter, when the defendant did
not appear, but several witnesses were produced to confirm the
plaintiffs' assertions. Robert, the cook of Hampton Hall, deposed that
all the cooks of Colleges and Halls had been used to contribute to the
annual feast; that he had been a cook for six years, and that the cooks
had always nominated two of their number to gather contributions. His
testimony was corroborated by Stephen, the cook of Vine Hall, as also by
Walter, another cook, and John, the cook of "Brasenos." It is worthy of
note that in the record of these proceedings the names are entered as
"Stephanus Coke," "Walterus Coke," and "Johannes Coke," thus throwing
light on the formation of one of our commonest surnames.

Not only were questions of public policy and "constitutional usage"
determined by the Chancellor's court, but delinquents of all
descriptions were brought up for judgment. Here we shall do well to
remember that this was an ecclesiastical court, and therefore offences
against good morals as well as the law of the land were dealt with. A
person unjustly defamed as guilty of incontinence could clear himself by
a voluntary process of compurgation--that is, by the sworn testimony of
reputable friends. If, unhappily, he was guilty, he might rehabilitate
himself by formally abjuring his indiscretions. Both scholars and others
of the Privilege frequently appeared before the Chancellor in the
character of penitents. In 1443 a certain Christina, laundress of St.
Martin's parish, swore that she would no longer exercise her trade for
any scholar or scholars of the University, because under colour of it
many evils had been perpetrated, wherefore she was imprisoned and freely
abjured the aforesaid evils in the presence of Master Thomas Gascoigne,
S.T.P., the Chancellor. In 1444 Dominus Hugo Sadler, priest, swore on
the Holy Gospels that he would not disturb the peace of the University,
and would abstain from pandering and fornication, on pain of paying five
marks on conviction. In this case four acted as sureties, singly and
jointly. In 1452 Robert Smyth, _alias_ Harpmaker, suspected of adultery
with Joan Fitz-John, tapestry-maker, dwelling in the corner house on the
east side of Cat-strete, abjured the society of the same Joan, and swore
that he would not come into any place where she was, whether in the
public street, market, church, or chapel, on pain of paying forty
shillings to the University. On August 22, 1450, Thomas Blake,
_peliparius_, William Whyte, barber, John Karyn, _chirothecarius_,
"husbundemen" (householders), presented themselves before the
Chancellor, and, touching the Holy Gospels, abjured the game of tennis
within Oxford and its precinct.

At this point it will be convenient to refer to a custom not by any
means confined to the Universities, about which there appears to be some
degree of misconception. "Love-days," as they are called, have been
strangely confused with _law_-days, whereas the very essence of the
institution was the avoidance of litigation with all its expense and
ill-feeling. The practice of submitting disputes to friendly arbitration
was seemingly founded on the text: "Dare any of you having a matter
against another go to law before the unbelievers and not before the
saints?" In these circumstances it is not surprising that the clergy
bore a great part in such proceedings; and thus we find Chaucer
avouching of his Frere:

  In love-dayes ther coude he mochel helpe,
  For ther he was nat lyk a cloisterer,
  With a thredbare cope, as is a poore scoler,
  But he was lyk a maister or a pope.

The University, being a microcosm of the entire kingdom, an _imperium in
imperio_, by virtue of the "privilege roiall," cases occur in which
deplorable misunderstandings were referred to the decision of one or
more graduates of position--either in the first instance, or, it might
be, ultimately, to the Chancellor or Commissary--by persons subject to
academic tutelage. When the affair had been adjudicated, forms of
reconciliation were prescribed, the parties being required to shake
hands, go on their knees to one another, give each other the "kiss of
peace," and provide a feast at their mutual expense, the menu of which
was sometimes determined by the arbiter.

This interesting and admirable feature of old English life receives such
copious illustration from the annals of Oxford that it seems worth while
to specify examples. Thus, on November 8, 1445, a dispute between John
Godsond, stationer, and John Coneley, "lymner," having been referred to
two Masters of Arts and they having failed to compose it within the time
stipulated, the Chancellor intervened and decided that John Coneley
should work for John Godsond for one year only; that his wages should be
four marks, ten shillings; that he should himself fetch his work and
return it to his employer's abode; that he should be thrifty in the use
of his colours; and that his employer should have free ingress to the
place where he sat at work. On July 7, 1446, four arbitrators, having in
hand a quarrel between Broadgates and Pauline Halls, imposed the
following conditions: That the Principals should implore reconciliation
from each other for themselves and their parties; that they should give,
either to other, the kiss of peace, and swear upon the Holy Gospels to
have brotherly love toward each other for the future, and bind
themselves to its observance under a bond to pay one hundred shillings
for the violation thereof. The bond was to be in the keeping of the
Chancellor, and he was to deliver it, should hostilities be renewed,
into the hands of the aggrieved party. David Philip, alleged to have
struck John Coneley, was commanded to kneel to him, and ask and receive
his pardon. It is worthy of remark that the invariable phrase applied to
past quarrels is "ab origine mundi," which left no loophole for the
revival of ancestral feuds, however remote in point of time.

On July 21, 1452, Master Robert Mason, having delivered judgment in the
case of Thomas Condale, a servant of New College, and John Morys,
tailor, required both parties, as a pledge of goodwill, to invite their
neighbours to an entertainment, and provide at their joint charges two
gallons of good ale.

On January 10, 1465, Thomas Chaundler, S.T.P., Commissary-General of the
University of Oxford, having been chosen as arbitrator between the
worshipful Sir Thomas Lancester, Canon-regular and prior of the same
order of students, and Simon Marshall, on the one part, and John Merton,
pedagogue, and his wife, on the other, decreed that none of them should
abuse, threaten, or make faces at each other, and that they should
forgive all past offences. None of them was to institute further
proceedings, judicial or extra-judicial, and within fifteen days of the
date thereof they were to furnish an entertainment at their joint
charges--one party to furnish a goose with a measure of wine, and the
other bread and beer.

Finally, on February 6, 1465, Dr. John Caldbeke, arbiter between certain
members of "White Hall" and "Deep Hall," ordered the parties to pardon
each other and commence no ulterior proceedings. He imposed perpetual
silence on them, and as to a certain desk, the _causa teterrima belli_,
reserved the decision to the Chancellor. The disputants, accompanied by
four members of each hall, were to meet at a time and place to be named,
wine was to be provided for their mutual entertainment, and, before
parting, they were to shake hands.

The question has been deferred too long--Against whom did the University
maintain its privilege? In part, no doubt, against the King's officers,
but, mainly, against the Mayor and Burgesses of Oxford, between whom and
the scholars there was a simmering hostility bursting into periodical
mêlées answering to, but infinitely more sanguinary than, the "town and
gown rows" of more recent days. The general result of these
disturbances, assumed to be acts of aggression on the part of the
citizens, but more probably provoked by the insolence of the
undergraduate portion of the University, of which there is abundant
evidence, was to fortify the authority of the Chancellor and extend his
powers. We have seen that the townsmen, at an early period, were mulcted
in an annual tribute, of which they were afterwards relieved, for
hanging certain clerks. This might have served as a sufficient warning
of the inviolability of the erudite persons in their midst, but it
failed of effect. Altogether there were three capital riots in the later
Middle Ages, which we shall proceed to notice, together with the

Of these three great conflicts between townsmen and scholars the first
occurred in 1214. This was ended by a compromise brought about by the
Bishop of Tusculum, the Papal Legate, the King granting jurisdiction to
the University in all cases where one of the parties was a scholar or a
scholar's servant. The second tumult, which took place in 1290, induced
the King to confer upon the University the custody of the peace, the
custody of the assize of victuals, and the supervision of weights and
measures jointly with the Mayor, who had hitherto borne full sway in
matters of police. The third battle was in 1357. This was the famous
riot of St. Scholastica's day--_satis periculosa_--which resulted in
the excommunication of the Mayor, while he and the commonalty of the
town of Oxford were laid under an interdict by John, Bishop of Lincoln.
The Mayor, who was a vintner and drawn into the quarrel through it
having arisen in his tavern, is stated in one account to have been
originally in the service of the University--protected by the
Privilege--and this, of course, was regarded as an aggravation of his
offence. The end of it was that the rights before mentioned were
confirmed with certain extensions--namely, the supervision of the
pavement, and the custody of the peace as well between laics as
scholars, while the Mayor was excluded from the custody of the peace
between scholars.

As a species of penance the Mayor and his fellows were enjoined by the
Bishop of Lincoln to attend an anniversary mass at St. Mary's on St.
Scholastica's Day; and the scholars were forbidden, on pain of a long
term of imprisonment, to inflict on any layman of the town, whilst on
his way to the church, during the celebration of the mass, or in the
course of his return, any injury or violence, lest he should be deterred
from the observance of the duty. This caution was proclaimed through the
schools year by year on the "legible day" immediately preceding the
festival. Good relations were hard to restore, and as long after as 1432
the authorities were reduced to publishing the following edict in the
hope of abating the scandal:

"Whereas there are no more suitable means of allaying the lamentable
dissensions between the University and the Town, which are a sign of the
wrath of the Almighty, than the devout supplications of priests walking
in procession, therefore this ordinance is made for the regulation of
such processions. First shall walk the Chancellor, after him the Doctors
by two and two, in the rank of their several faculties, then Masters of
Arts, then Bachelors in Theology, then Non-Regents, then beneficed
Bachelors, then all other Bachelors, then secular priests non-graduates,
then scholars, all by two and two, and all silently praying for the
King and other benefactors living and dead, and for the peace and
prosperity of the University. Priests non-graduates shall be bound to
attend on pain of a fine of sixpence, but no licentiates of any faculty
soever may in any wise be present at the act."

It would not be fair to conclude this account without giving the
townsmen's version of the way in which the Privilege was exercised. This
can be conveniently presented in the terms of two petitions, one of
which certainly, and the other probably, dates from the second year of
Edward III. (1328). If there be any truth in the allegations, it must be
owned that the Chancellor abused his judicial position to a degree quite
intolerable to the victims.


"To the King and Council; the Burgesses of Oxford complain, whereas the
Chancellor and University of Oxford have cognizance of contracts,
covenants, and trespass between clerk and clerk, or clerk and lay, they
encroach on the franchise of the town, and draw to them these contracts,
etc., between laymen, especially in certain gifts and actions brought
before the Chancellor, wherein a clerk has some concern, who, by covine,
are made to incur large sums which were not due, and thus the defendants
are condemned and afterwards excommunicated in all the churches of the
town, unless they agree thereto; and if they are not absolved of the
sentence before the Chancellor, they are despoiled even to their
breeches, and must give all their goods to the clerk. In the same way a
plea of trespass in which there has been a cession to a clerk is made to
terminate in a plea of debt, and thus charges of rent upon free
tenements are proved, against law and in great burden to the tenements
of the town. Thus the Chancellor encroaches on the franchises of the
town, to the damage of the King's profits on writs and issues on pleas
of debts, &c., pleadable before the Justices, or before the Mayor and
bailiffs of the town. And with such proceedings taken before the
Chancellor concerning merchants and other strangers passing through, as
well as residents, the merchants will not repair thither on account of
such evil doings, and the town is thereby greatly impoverished."


"To the King and Council: Walter de Harewell, burgess and inheritor in
Oxford, showing that whereas the Chancellor of the University has
cognizance of offences and contracts between clerk and clerk, and clerk
and lay, in the town, but nowhere else, one William de Wyneye, clerk,
impleaded him before the Chancellor for offences done out of his
jurisdiction in a foreign county; the said Walter justified himself
before the Chancellor, but the said Chancellor, notwithstanding,
condemned him to prison and kept him in prison in Oxford till he
contented the said William with a large sum of money, and made an
obligation of £20 to be at the will of the said University, and still he
had to find mainprise before he could be set free. And because when he
was taken and led to prison by the bedels of the University, he entered
his house and shut his coffers and chests and the door of his room for
the safety of his goods and chattels, the said Chancellor banished him
out of the town, and had it proclaimed everywhere, as though he were an
outlaw, and sequestered all his goods and chattels, threatening if he
entered the town to imprison him again for six days. No one ever had
such franchise or power thus to outlaw, destroy, and banish the King's
burgesses in the said town. Prays a remedy for charity."[5]

Owing perhaps to their peculiar position as the King's chattels, neither
the chartered rights of the citizens nor the Privilege of the University
could be directly asserted against the Jews, of whom a considerable body
appears to have been settled at Oxford, but the unbelievers were not
allowed to do as they pleased. A critical instance occurred at
Ascensiontide, 1268, in connexion with a solemn procession to St.
Frideswyde's, when certain horrible Jews, _demoniaco spiritu arrepti_,
seized a cross from the bearer, broke it, and trampled it under foot.
Complaint was made to the King, who happened to be at Woodstock, and he
issued an order for the making of two crosses at the expense of the
Jews, one of which was to be of silver gilt and portable, and the other
of marble and stationary. These were to be preserved for the perpetual
remembrance of the outrage; and the silver cross was presented to the
Chancellor, masters, and scholars, to be borne before them in their
solemn procession. An ordinance states that "since the relics of the
Blessed Frideswyde repose in the borough of Oxford, and more especially
ought to be deservedly honoured as well by the University as by others,
particularly by all who dwell in the aforesaid town, that the said
University may obtain, through the intervenient merits and prayers of
the same, more abundant tranquillity and peace for the future, a solemn
procession be made in the middle, to wit, Lent term, to the church of
the same virgin, for the peace and tranquillity of the University, and
that solemn mass be held there in respect of the above-said virgin."




We have expounded with some particularity the conditions of University
life; we have now to deal with University life in its more intimate
relations. And first we must say something of the title, the Latinity of
which is not above suspicion, though its convenience and expressiveness
are beyond question. The term _studium generale_ was applied, in
mediæval times, to an academy in which instruction was imparted on all
subjects, and which was thus differentiated from grammar schools and
schools of divinity, in the former of which the curriculum was
restricted to Latin, and in the latter to theology. The phrase connoted
also a place of common resort, as distinct from mere local foundations,
the advantages of which were confined to the immediate neighbourhood.
According to Mr. Froude, no fewer than thirty thousand students
"gathered out of Europe to Paris to listen to Abelard"; and the
traditions of Oxford and Cambridge were equally hospitable.


Before discussing the system of degrees, it is desirable to speak of the
"men"--the candidates for graduation; and, in this connexion, stress
must be laid on the cosmopolitan character of our older universities,
which welcomed with open arms students of various races and of all ranks
of society. The Oxford statutes contain a provision for the
proclamations being made in Latin, that language being, as it is stated,
intelligible to the different nations represented by the scholars. In
addition to the native youth, Welshmen, Irishmen, and Scots were
accustomed to repair to the banks of the Isis and the Cam, and the two
former of these classes--at any rate at their first coming--might have
been totally ignorant of English.

The reader will hardly fail to have been struck with the occurrence of
Welsh names in the foregoing pages; and the records of judicial
proceedings mention the case of a Cambrian scholar, who stole a horse
from the stable of an Oxford inn and decamped with it, in the company of
several compatriots, to the Welsh mountains, in consequence of which the
unhappy innkeeper had to defend a suit brought against him by the
horse's owner! Notices of the Irish and the Scots are no less
characteristic of their imputed traits. Of the presence of the former
there is interesting testimony in petitions to the Crown on the part of
scandalized townsmen, in one of which they set forth that "there have
been murders, felonies, robberies, and riots, &c., lately committed in
the counties of Oxford, Berks, Wilts, and Bucks, by persons coming to
the town under the jurisdiction of the University, some of whom are the
King's lieges born in Ireland and the others his enemies called 'Wylde
Irisshmen'; and that these misdeeds continue daily to the scandal of the
University and the ruin of the country round about; the malefactors
threaten the King's officers and the bailiffs of the town, so that these
last, for fear of death, dare not do their duty and collect the
fee-farm, &c. Pray therefore that all Irish be turned out of the realm
between Christmas and Candlemas next, except graduates in the schools,
beneficed clergy in England, those who have English father or mother, or
English husband or wife, and many other exceptions, persons of good
repute. And that graduates and beneficed men find surety for their good

The Scots were cordially hated. Tryvytlam's poem "De Laude Oxoniæ" has
the following stanzas, which, in the opinion of some, may be still
apposite to the circumstances of University and national life:

    Iam loco tercio procedit acrius
  Armata bestia duobus cornibus.
  Hanc Owtrede reputo, qui totis viribus
  Verbis et opere insultat fratribus.
    Hic Scottus genere perturbat Anglicos,
  Auferre nititur viros intraneos.
  Sic, sic, Oxonia, sic contra filios
  Armas et promoves hostes et exteros.

By "Owtrede" is intended Uthred de Bolton, a celebrated English
Benedictine, whose cognomen was probably derived from the manor of
Bolton in Northumberland. It was a risky thing to hail from the border,
as another instance is recorded in which a North-countryman found it
necessary to purge himself of the imputation of being a Scot--one of the
King's enemies.

The amazing part of the matter is that national distinctions and
prejudices did not, as far as the British Isles were concerned, end
here. In point of fact, when the word "nations" occurs in this
connexion, the allusion is generally not so much to genuine differences
of descent, government, customs, and language, as to an artificial
separation of the inhabitants of England into North and South
countrymen. The authorities deplored this division into Boreals and
Australs--"diverse nations, which, in truth, be not diverse"--but they
could not ignore it, and thus it became the established rule that of the
two proctors--officials supremely responsible for the peace--one should
be of the North and the other of the South. As we have seen, a similar
practice obtained with regard to the University chests. Just as, at the
present time, Welshmen and Scotsmen gravitate towards particular
colleges, so in the early days "nations" seem to have favoured certain
halls, and as few of the latter were provided with chapels, they appear
also to have fixed upon certain churches for the purpose of devotion of
partisan display. Accordingly, about the year 1250, the following edict
was fulminated with a view to checking the exuberance of the "national"
spirit in sacred buildings:

"By the authority of the Lord the Chancellor and the Masters Regent,
with the unanimous consent of the Non-Regent, it is decreed and resolved
that no festival of any nation soever be celebrated henceforth in any
church soever with the accustomed solemnity and calling together of
Masters and Scholars or other acquaintances, save in so far as any may
desire to celebrate the festival of any saint of his own diocese with
devotion in his own parish, where he lives, but not calling the Masters
and Scholars of a second parish or his own, as also is not done at the
festivals of St. Katherine, St. Nicholas, and the like. This also,
decreed by the authority of the same Chancellor, we enjoin to be
observed, on pain of the greater excommunication, that none lead dances
with masks or any noise in churches or streets, or go anywhere wreathed
or crowned with a crown composed of the leaves of trees, or flowers, or
what not: on pain of excommunication, which we inflict from now, and of
long imprisonment do we forbid it."

In 1252 a great disturbance arose between the Northern and Irish
scholars, and it was resolved that twelve persons should be chosen on
either side to draw up conditions of peace. These were that thirty or
forty of each party should bind themselves not to disturb the peace of
the University themselves nor comfort others in doing so, and they were
to give secret information to the Chancellor if they should hear of any
other person transgressing. If anyone was injured, he was to appear
before the Chancellor; and if the Chancellor was suspected of
partiality, there were to be associated with him two assessors from
either side.

In 1313 a statute was issued that no one was to stir up any nation on
account of some personal injury by conspiracies, leagues, or meetings in
public or private with the name or title of nation; and that when the
Chancellor or his Commissary inquired concerning a breach of the peace,
none was to appear with other than the witnesses needful to him; nor was
any Master or other to thrust himself in, coming with a party or sitting
beside the Chancellor or his Commissary, save such as the Chancellor
should hold it right to summon forth, if at any time it seemed to him
fit. Seeing that the names of delinquents could be better learned
through the Principals of Houses, who moved continually among their
associates, it was determined that every Principal, resident or acting,
as well of Halls as of Chambers, should, at the beginning of every year,
within fifteen days or sooner, as should seem fit to the Chancellor and
Proctors, come and make corporal oath, that if they knew of any of their
society holding such assemblies, or consenting with those who held them,
or commonly and often naming different nations with evil zeal, or
disturbing the peace of the University, or practising the art of
bucklery, or keeping a whore in his house, or bearing arms or in any way
promoting discord between Northerns and Southerns, he should within
three days inform the Chancellor or one of the Proctors, and all such
disturbers of the peace were to be punished with imprisonment. This oath
the servants were bound to take at the same time; and the Chancellor and
Proctors, as touching their part, acknowledged themselves to be equally
bound by virtue of the statute.

In order that such distinction of nations might henceforth be detestable
and hateful to all, it was resolved that the following clause should be
added to the oath of every incepting Master with respect to the
observance of peace.

"_Item_, Master, especially shall you swear that you will not hinder, as
between Australs and Boreals, peace, concord, and affection; and if
there shall have arisen any dissension between them, as between diverse
nations, which in truth be not diverse, you will not foment or kindle it
to the utmost, nor must you be present at assemblies, nor tacitly or
expressly consent to them, but rather hinder them in such ways as you
shall be able."

By the same statute the University was bound to intimate to the diocesan
the names of all persons, whether Masters or others, who should disturb
the peace of the University, and particularly as between the Northern
and Southern students.

In 1428 fresh legislation was found to be necessary, and took the
following form:

"Whereas there is no better way of punishing the disturbers of the peace
than by a pecuniary fine, which in these days is more dreaded than
anything else, therefore the following graduated scale of fines is put
forth by the University. For threats and personal violence, twelve
pence; for carrying of weapons, two shillings; for pushing with the
shoulder or striking with the fist, four shillings; for striking with a
stone or club, six shillings and eightpence; for striking with a knife,
dagger, sword, axe, or other weapon of war, ten shillings; for carrying
of bows and arrows, twenty shillings; for gathering of armed men and
conspiring to hinder the execution of justice, thirty shillings; for
resisting the execution of justice, or going about by night, forty
shillings. And no Master or scholar shall take part with any other
because he is of the same country, nor against him because he is of a
different country; and if he be convicted of doing so, he shall incur an
additional penalty graduated according to his pecuniary circumstances."

That the scholars indulged freely in the pleasant custom of hunting may,
after this, be almost taken for granted. In a petition of the year 1421
complaint was made against them that they hunted with dogs and harriers
in divers warrens, coningries, parks, and forests in the counties of
Oxford, Berks, and Bucks, night and day, taking deer, hares, and
rabbits, and menacing the wardens and keepers. Sometimes they contrived
to combine their love of hunting with their love of street-fighting, as
on the memorable occasion in Queen Elizabeth's reign, when the Magdalen
men went deer-stealing in Shotover Forest, and one of them was sent to
prison by Lord Norris, the Lord Lieutenant of the county. In revenge,
the next time my Lord came to Oxford they set upon him at the Bear Inn,
and, in the skirmish, several of the scholars were hurt, and "Binks,"
his lordship's keeper, sustained a severe wound. The Vice-Chancellor,
intervening at this juncture, ordered the scholars to be confined to the
college, while Lord Norris was requested to quit the University.
Thereupon the former "went up to the top of their tower, and waiting
till he should pass by towards Ricot, sent down a shower of stones they
had picked up upon him and his retinue, wounding some and endangering
others of their lives. It is said that upon the foresight of this storm
divers had got boards, others tables on their heads to keep them from
it, and that if the Lord had not been in his coach or chariot, he would
certainly have been killed." In the sequel, the culprits were banished,
and the Lord Lieutenant placated, albeit "with much ado by the sages of
the University."

How on earth serious study could be pursued amidst these perpetual
broils, to the engendering of which so many prejudices contributed,
would be an insoluble mystery but for the probability, suggested by
experience of University life in our own day, that the disturbances were
confined, in the main, to the wilder spirits, though it may well be that
occasionally peaceable persons were sucked into the vortex by the
accident of their being abroad at the time, and on the scene of the
affray, where their pacific character would receive scant consideration
from the angry combatants. Esprit de corps also was a powerful incentive
to action, and one from which even Masters were not exempt. To this must
be added that the course of study itself seemed expressly devised to
foster the belligerent temper. The air was laden with the breath of
strife, as the Cambridge term "wrangler," which has survived to our day,
plainly testifies.


Let us follow the "poor boy," a technical expression at Oxford, through
the stages of his academic career in that University. At the outset two
courses were open to his parents or guardians: either he might be sent
to a religious foundation like Durham College, where he would be under
no obligation to take vows, but an oath would be required of him to
honour the monks and assist the electing Church, to whatever station of
life it might please God to call him. Or, as was infinitely more usual,
he might be settled in a secular school of grammar in charge of a
recognized master.

Before the rise of colleges, the vast majority of scholars resided in
halls, some of which were kept by laymen. In 1421 the King, incensed at
the constant breaches of the peace, commanded that all scholars and
their servants should be under the governance of some sufficient
principal approved by the Chancellor and Proctors, and should not be
suffered to abide in laymen's houses. In 1432 a statute set forth that,
whereas the principals of halls, fearing to lose their profits, did not
punish the members of their societies, still less did they dismiss them,
when it was their duty to do so; nay, even provoked disturbances--the
consequence, it was believed, of illiterate persons and non-graduates
keeping halls--it was ordained that henceforth all principals and their
deputies must be graduates. In the preamble of another statute of the
same date it was complained that grave crimes were committed by
so-called scholars, who, _nefando nomine_ "chamberdekenys," lived in no
hall, but slept away their days, and passed their nights in riot and
debauchery, crime and violence. This irregularity it was found difficult
to suppress, for on May 13, 1447, two persons feigning to be scholars
and guilty of violence, having been summoned according to law throughout
the schools and not appearing, were banished. The form of banishment was
as follows: "_A_, _B_, _C_, _D_, frequently convicted of a monstrous
disturbance of the peace, and, according to the manners and forms
accustomed to be observed in this University, duly cited, publicly
cried, lawfully awaited, and in no wise appearing, but contumaciously
refusing to obey the law, alike on account of their contumacies and
offences we do ban from this University, and from neighbouring places,
admonishing firstly, secondly, and thirdly, peremptorily, that none do
receive, cherish, or protect the aforesaid _A_, _B_, _C_, _D_, on pain
of imprisonment and the greater excommunication to be fulminated not
unjustly against all who contravene."

Matriculation involved nothing more than an oath to keep the peace,
which oath had to be taken also by the servant of the scholar, supposing
him to have one. If the scholar chose a non-graduate teacher, he was
compelled to enter his name in the books of some master of arts, and
neglect to fulfil this requirement subjected the delinquent to the loss
of the protection and privileges of the University _tam morte quam in
vita_. At the commencement of every term as well as at the end, and at
other times, when need was, the grammar masters held a _convenite_ for
the purpose of arranging the course of study. Each of them had to obtain
a licence, and, as a test of his qualifications, he submitted to an
examination in versification, dictation, and so forth, lest, as the
statute quaintly expresses it, the language of Isaiah should be
verified--_Multiplicasti gentem, non auxisti lætitiam_.

The masters were charged with the training of their scholars in religion
and morals--an onerous duty in too many cases imperfectly performed.
This is shown not only by the lawlessness prevalent in the University,
but by the low views and low practices that characterized methods of
instruction in secular subjects. The term "lecture," as commonly
understood in the Middle Ages, implied or included a catechetical system
of teaching, in which the master asked and the scholar answered a series
of questions. This laborious but effective mode of ascertaining and
accelerating progress in knowledge was left irksome by both parties, and
"ordinary" lectures--or, as we should term them, lessons--were
threatened with supersession by a seductive invention known as "cursory"
lectures. These appear to have been neither more nor less than lectures
in the modern sense. The master delivered his discourse, and the scholar
was left to gather from it what degree of enlightenment he could or
would. The statute referring to the subject taxes teachers with
favouring scholars in this way, for the "hope of gain," which points to
corrupt dealing between them. In both its moral and intellectual aspects
the practice met with scant countenance from the authorities, and, save
in special cases, any master indulging in it was liable to be punished
with deprivation and imprisonment for so long a period as the
Chancellor, in his discretion, deemed fit. One learns from an undated
statute, which, however, is probably of the thirteenth century, that
grammar scholars were expected to construe in both English and French,
the object being that the latter language might not be utterly
forgotten. When we recall that our ancient pleadings were in
Norman-French, and that a sensible proportion of the students embraced
that most conservative of professions, the law, the wisdom of this
course is at once evident.

The grammar schools may be regarded as the nursery of the University,
but not a few of the scholars, educated in monastic and other local
schools, arrived with a knowledge of Latin sufficient to dispense them
from preliminary instruction in that language, for that is what is meant
by "grammar." It is not perhaps quite clear whether a schoolmaster's
house ranked as a hall, but, as soon as a scholar was equipped with an
adequate stock of Latin to enter upon his Artist's career, he would
naturally move to one of the halls tenanted by his equals in learning,
thus making room for another and younger person more strictly _in statu
pupillari_. The age at which students began their academic course in
earnest averaged from twelve to fifteen--needless to say, much earlier
than at present. They were required to devote four years to qualifying
for the degree of bachelor; and during the former part of this period
they went by the curious name of "general sophist." This, the initial,
stage of University existence was terminated by an examination, then and
still called Responsions, which might not be taken in less than a year,
after which the student became known as a "questionist." The occasion of
responding was a high day with scholars, and celebrated with such
extravagant feasts that we find the Chancellor intervening to limit the
expense attending them to sixteen pence. The meaning of the term
"Responsions" is explained by the formula of the testamur: _Quæstionibus
magistrorum scholarum in Parviso respondit_. The parvise, or porch, may
have been symbolical of the initial stage--the early provisions of our
universities are full of symbolism. By way of preparation for his
examination the sophist was required to be diligent in attending
disputations in the parvise, and when he presented himself for his own
ordeal he had to make oath that these exercises had been duly performed.

The third stage was reached when the "questionist," as he was now, stood
for his bachelor's degree. This was known as Determination, because the
candidate had to determine questions in which his recent acquisitions in
logic should have enabled him to appear to advantage. According to the
rule, this function took place either on Ash Wednesday or on some day
between Ash Wednesday and the following Tuesday. However important
Responsions may have been in the eyes of the youthful student, they
paled before the elaborate ceremonies of Determination. In all the
two-and-thirty schools of School-street sat the Masters Regent in full
academical attire, their desks before them, it having been enacted that
the exercises should be carried out in the schools, not in private
dwellings or in churches. The statutes forbade unfairness in proposing
questions or in the manner of examining, but the candidate was, to some
extent, forearmed in this matter, since he might, apparently, select
his own judge. As a good audience was considered a primary necessity by
the masters, in order that their talents might obtain the widest
possible recognition, well-wishers seem to have gone so far as to drag
into the schools reluctant passers-by--a nuisance of such frequent
occurrence that it was forbidden by statute. An attempt was made also to
prevent fees or robes being given to the masters, but the statute
doubtless proved inoperative, and was afterwards repealed. Another
custom, which the authorities vainly prohibited, and was plainly
incongruous at the season of Lent, was the holding of feasts by
bachelors on admission.

Before a scholar was permitted to determine, six masters at least had to
testify on oath in congregation regarding his fitness in knowledge,
morals, age, stature, and personal appearance. They were bound to
secrecy as to the nature of their testimony, the sufficiency of which
was decided by four Regent Masters of Arts, two of the North and two of
the South, eight days before Ash Wednesday. On the following Sunday,
Monday, or Tuesday masters and scholars appeared before the four members
of the Committee; and if the testimony had been satisfactory the
scholars made oath that they had completed the necessary studies, and
were "admitted" to determine. Determination itself was largely a show,
and had nothing to do with the attainment of the degree, of which it was
rather the outward and visible sign. If the student failed to acquit
himself with distinction, the only penalty to which he exposed himself
was the censure or ridicule of friends and foes. Discomfiture was
extremely probable, as the affair was intellectual game, in which either
the master laid himself out to pose the scholar, or a brace of scholars
argued (or, as the phrase then ran, "disputed") by turns, under the
supervision and correction of the master.

In conformity with modern usage, we have spoken of the status of
Bachelor as a degree, but originally it is doubtful if the description
would have been deemed accurate. Like the Master, the Bachelor might be
a teacher, but his lectures were, for the most part, of an
"extraordinary" or "supernumerary" character, and not allowed to compete
with the "ordinary" lectures of the Master or Doctor. The number of
bachelors so privileged--instances even occur of such half-finished
clerks officiating as Principals of Halls--was probably very small, and
much would have depended on age. As a rule, bachelors went on with their
studies as before, attending the lectures of others, until three more
years had elapsed, when they became eligible for Inception. At first it
seems as if the terms "Determination" and "Inception" had somehow got
transposed. In reality the latter word contemplates a state or condition
which was only possible or usual when the scholar, having accomplished
the full course of study, finally and definitely assumed the rights and
duties of Master.

The fundamental distinction underlying all academic order was that of
teacher and pupil. The licentiate, it is true, may be regarded as a
hybrid, and the Doctor as an overgrown master--a master and something
more; but the existence of these classes only obscures what was,
nevertheless, the vital and essential principle on which University
discipline was organized.

We have heard of licentiates once before--as excluded from University
processions. This clearly implies no small amount of prejudice against
them, but ere an attempt can be made to account for it, we must
understand what, exactly, a licentiate was. A licentiate, then, was a
bachelor who had attended lectures for some time, had given lectures,
and had been privately examined by members of his faculty. Having been
presented by one of them, he had obtained from the Chancellor licence to
perform certain exercises before the _conventus_, or meeting of the
faculty, by which the degree was finally bestowed. The Chancellor's
licence authorized the candidate to incept, to read (lecture), to
dispute, and to do all that belonged to the rank of master as soon as
he had taken the necessary steps for the purpose. The licentiate
lectured in the schools, precisely like the master, for whom indeed he
acted. The fee for the licence was one commons, which may represent a
shilling--in any case, it was trivial. The cost of Inception, on the
other hand, was very great on account of the feasts, etc., which
accompanied it; and as the licentiate already enjoyed some of the
privileges of the master, there was an evident temptation to put off the
evil day. Security was therefore demanded from the licentiate that he
would incept within a year; and, if he omitted to do so, he was fined.
Nevertheless, students often remained in this category--neither fish nor
fowl--beyond the allotted term, in fact, for years; and they probably
furnished a considerable quota of the vagabond scholars, whose exactions
have been recorded, and who certainly did not consist wholly and solely
of "poor boys." One of the Cambridge statutes deals expressly with this
baneful _materia vagandi_. These two reasons together fully explain the
disfavour with which licentiates were regarded, and which ultimately led
to the abolition of the status. At Cambridge it had ceased before Bedel
Stokys' time (1574), for, when he wrote, the licence was given by the
Proctors at the vespers, or exercises, on the day preceding Inception.

We come now to Inception, or the degree of Master of Arts. The candidate
was first presented to the Chancellor and Proctors by his master, who
was called upon to make oath that he believed his pupil to be qualified
for admission by his morals and learning. This testimony, however, was
not enough. No fewer than fourteen masters had to depose, nine that they
knew, and five that they believed the candidate to be fit. He was then
presented to the Chancellor and Proctors in congregation, and, with hand
laid upon the Bible, swore, in a kneeling posture, that he would keep
the statutes, would actually incept--we shall see what this means
presently--within a year, that he would not spend more at his inception
than the sum allowed, that he would neither lecture nor hear lectures at
Stamford[6]--_nefandum et detestabile nomen_--and that he would handle
the books of the library with becoming care. Having assented to these
and other conditions, he received the Chancellor's licence.

It is to be noted that the Chancellor merely _admitted_; he did not
_create_. This was, and at Cambridge still is, the work of the
faculty--the Proctors, as representative of the Arts, or the several
"fathers" in the three superior faculties, for whom the Regius
Professors are now substituted, in the junior University. At Oxford,
since the promulgation of the Laudian statutes, the duty has been
discharged by the Vice-Chancellor. In the faculty of Grammar--the
Cinderella of the faculties, which apparently did not of necessity
involve any previous academical training--the Master was presented with
a palmer and a rod. In Arts a cap was placed on his head, and in the
higher faculties the Master or Doctor was installed in a chair and
received the hat, together with the book, the ring, and the kiss of
peace--the three last, perhaps, in theology alone.

Inception properly signified the commencement of an active career as a
teacher; and thus the new master would have taken precautions to secure
a school as well as the articles of attire appertaining to his degree,
including "pynsons," a kind of boot or shoe. He was also obliged to
visit all the schools, invite the masters to be present on the day of
inception, and provide them, one and all, with a suit of clothes. This
was such a serious incubus that statutes were passed limiting such
perquisites to kinsmen or members of the same hall; and it probably
explains the custom of incepting for others--the rich acting for the
poor. From every inceptor the bedels were entitled to a gratuity of
twenty shillings and a pair of buckskin gloves, or an equivalent sum of
money; and inceptors whose income amounted to forty pounds a year were
compelled to feast all the Regent Masters or forfeit twenty marks to the
University. The main distinction between Regent and Non-Regent Masters
seems to have been that the former were perforce teachers, in which
condition they were obliged to remain during the remainder of the year
in which they incepted and for a twelvemonth afterwards. In the case of
the Non-Regents, who had exceeded this period of probation, lecturing
appears to have been optional. The Regent Master was required to devote
forty days of his novitiate to disputation.

Inception feasts were apt to degenerate into occasions of riot, and in
1432 the following statute was passed with a view to regulating them:

"Whereas at the feasts held at graduations there occur such disorderly
scenes and violence that more annoyance and disgrace than pleasure is
caused to the host himself and all his guests, the University, for the
prevention of such disorders for the future, hereby orders that no one
shall stop the ingress and egress of any master or his servants to or
from the hall or tent or other place where the feast is being held; and
that no one, except the servants of the University, or of the host,
shall enter the said hall, until after the masters, who have been
invited, have entered with their servants; and after they have sat down,
no one shall sit down, except by the appointment of the Chancellor and
in proper order according to rank; and no one shall beat the doors,
tables, or roof, or throw stones or other missiles so as to disturb the
guests, on pain of imprisonment, excommunication, and a fine of twelve

As these convivialities were so unpleasant, and even dangerous, it may
seem that it would have been the obvious course to prohibit them
altogether, as in the case of determining bachelors; but the University
clung to its feasts, and in 1478 fresh rules were made, this time with
the special aim of bleeding or mulcting the intrusive friars and the
wealthy monks:

"Every mendicant friar shall, on the day of his inception, feast the
Regent Masters according to ancient custom, or forfeit ten marks to the
University; and every such incepting friar must be a regent for
twenty-four months from his inception. And every religious possessing
private property, and not being an abbot or prior or other governor of a
conventual house, the rents of whose society amount to two hundred
pounds yearly, must on the day of inception feast the Regents or pay
twenty pounds to the University in lieu of a feast. And every secular,
who can spend forty pounds a year at the University, must, in default of
such feast, forfeit twenty marks; and, if he can afford to spend one
hundred pounds, must forfeit twenty pounds."

Brief reference must here be made to the relations between the mendicant
orders and the University in general, if only because the memory of the
former was so perpetuated, long after the disappearance of the
fraternities, in the famous term "Austins." Those relations were, for a
considerable time, the reverse of friendly. The friars complained that
degrees in theology were refused them; the University accused the
friars, among other enormities, of "stealing children." To prevent such
abduction, in 1358 the following statute was passed:

"The nobles and people generally are afraid to send their sons to
Oxford, lest they should be induced by the mendicant friars to join
their order; it is therefore hereby enacted that if any mendicant friar
shall induce or cause to be induced any member of the University under
eighteen years of age to join the said friars, or shall in any way
assist in the abduction, no graduate belonging to the cloister or
society of which such friar is a member shall be permitted to give or
attend lectures in Oxford or elsewhere for a year ensuing."

This enactment was repealed eight years later; but in 1414, when
forty-six articles were drawn up by the University of Oxford, addressed
to the Council of Constance, it was urgently represented that the friars
should be restrained from granting absolution on easy terms, from
_stealing children_, and from begging for alms in the house of God.
Their adversaries also warmly denounced the nefarious conduct of
"wax-doctors," or ignorant friars, in seeking to obtain graces for
degrees by means of letters from influential persons; and in 1358 their
indignation bore fruit in a very stringent statute bearing upon the

It is difficult not to think that a large part of this antagonism was
caused by envy of the friars. For one thing, they were excellent
grammarians, and eventually almost all elementary instruction passed
into their hands with the full approval of the authorities, who ordered
that payment should be made to them, as the actual teachers, and no
longer to the idle grammar masters. This, however, is only a tithe of
the service rendered by the friars to the University, which owed an
immense obligation to them. The Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and
Austins, all settled at Oxford, and rendered invaluable service to the
cause of learning. The most erudite were perhaps the Franciscans, who
arrived in 1224 and established themselves in St. Ebbe's parish in
houses and lands assigned to them by Richard le Mercer, Richard le
Miller, and others; and their possessions were enlarged and confirmed by
Henry III., their chief benefactor.

Such was the fame of the Franciscan friary that in 1353 Bishop
Grosseteste, of Lincoln, left all his books to the brotherhood, whilst
Bishop Hugo de Balsham, founder of Peterhouse, Cambridge, in his
statutes, dating about 1280, directed that some of the scholars should
annually repair to Oxford for improvement in the sciences under
Franciscan and other readers. It was in this seminary that Roger Bacon,
so renowned for his devotion to science and mathematics in the barbarous
ages, received his education. The priory, with the fine chapel and large
enclosures belonging to it, was granted in the thirty-sixth year of
Henry VIII. (1534) to two persons named Richard Andrews and John Howe,
who sold it the same year to one Richard Gunter.

We are, however, chiefly concerned with the Austins, whose priory had a
similar history. In 1351 Pope Innocent IV. empowered the Friars Eremites
of St. Austin to travel into all lands, found houses, and celebrate
divine service. Here in England they were first domiciled in London, but
certain of the brethren were deputed to journey to Oxford, where they
hired a small house near the Public Schools. Their attainments in
divinity and philosophy having attracted the attention of a rich
Buckinghamshire knight, Sir John Handlove, or Handlow, of Burstall, he
bought a piece of ground for them, and this was afterwards enlarged by a
gift from Henry III. Upon this they erected a splendid college and
chapel, in which, before the Divinity School was built, the University
Acts were deposited, and exercises in Arts performed. It was
particularly enjoined that every Bachelor of Arts should dispute once a
year, and answer once a year, in this house--a rule enforced until the
dissolution. The disputations were then removed to St. Mary's, and
afterwards to the Schools, but they still retained the name they had so
long borne--"disputations in Austins."

Candidates for degrees in the higher faculties--Law, Medicine, and
Theology--had to undergo the same experiences as were prescribed for the
faculty of Arts; that is to say, they had to respond, to dispute, to
determine, and to incept. Regents from other universities were permitted
to lecture at Oxford after determining in the schools of their
respective faculties, and those "resuming," as the phrase was, in Arts
were required to determine at least thrice in the schools of the Masters
Regent, once in grammar and twice in logic. This liberal spirit was
tempered by common sense, since only those were admitted whose _almæ
maters_ received Oxford graduates on equivalent terms. At Paris and
elsewhere the sons of Oxford were, it was complained, maliciously shut
out from academic privileges, and accordingly those proceeding from such
places had the same measure meted out to them at Oxford.

In a chapter like the present it seems fitting to furnish an account of
a typical round in a mediæval university. Ample material exists for this
reconstruction as regards Oxford, but that University--the senior of the
two, and the model of the other, as Paris was of it--has already
absorbed a large share of our attention[7]. We will therefore turn our
eyes to Cambridge, and to a period somewhat later than the times on
which we have mainly dwelt--i.e., that which followed the institution of

At both Universities the colleges were closely associated with the
Church, but if any may be pointed out as pre-eminently designed for the
study of theology, it was surely St. John's College, Cambridge.

Three of the scholars were appointed by the Deans _ministri sacelli_
(servants of the sanctuary), of whom one had to act as sub-sacrist at
morning mass and ring the bell at certain hours, whilst the two others
were clock-keepers and bell-ringers.

The first act of the day was the ringing of the great bell at four
o'clock in the morning--a duty which devolved on the third of the
_ministri sacelli_. "Let the third ring the great bell of the College
every day, except on Good Friday and Easter Eve, as was wont to be done
before the College was founded. Let it ring at the fourth hour, that
those throughout the whole University, who wish to rise at that hour and
apply themselves to their studies, may more easily rouse themselves at
the sound of the bell."

The earliest Chapel service--morning mass--was over before six, after
which three lecturers were engaged for two hours in teaching and
examining the scholars and bachelors and hearing their recitations.

Disputations in philosophy were held on Mondays, and on Wednesdays and
Fridays similar exercises took place in theology, each disputation
lasting two hours, and two questions from Duns Scotus being discussed.

Each priest was obliged to celebrate mass four times a week, a fine of
fourpence being imposed if he failed to celebrate three times; and each
fellow and scholar had to say daily the psalm _De Profundis_, the
suffrages, and a prayer for the souls of the foundress and other
departed benefactors. These constituted quite a long list, and included
Henry VI., Henry VII., Henry VIII., Cardinal Wolsey, and James Stanley,
Bishop of Ely, who gave the old hospital to the college. Another
benefactor was Bishop Fisher, who established two fellowships and two
scholarships; and priests on this foundation were required to say four
masses weekly for his soul and the soul of Lady Margaret, his "second
mother." Those who were not priests had to say daily the psalm _De
Profundis_, the suffrages, and the prayer _Fidelium Deus omnium

"Also on all Sundays and other festivals the Masters, Fellows, and
Scholars shall say Matins, Sprinkling of Holy Water, Procession, Mass,
and Vespers and Compline, according to the ancient use of the Church of
Sarum, at convenient times, as the Master shall appoint."

A fourth part--that is, seven--of the fellows were told off to preach to
the people in English, and at least eight sermons were delivered in the
course of the year, one in the college chapel. Should this last be
omitted, the defaulter lost his fellowship. On the other hand, preaching
was encouraged by the concession of various privileges, such as the
salary of a mark, exemption from college office and disputations, a
week's commons for every sermon, leave of absence from college, and the
right of holding benefices. Each preacher, besides the delivery of
sermons, had to expound the Bible lessons read in hall daily, except on
particular festivals. By the way, the reading aloud of the Bible in hall
during meals was inflicted by the Master on disorderly scholars as a
punishment and an alternative to feeding alone in hall on bread and

Six monitors were chosen from among the scholars by the Deans, and of
these two put bad marks against those who absented themselves from
chapel or lecture, whilst four reported misbehaviour in hall or the use
of any language other than Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, or Arabic.
Breach of the latter rule subjected the offender to the fine of a
halfpenny, if a fellow, and a farthing if a scholar. Every week seven
scholars were appointed to wait in hall, and an eighth to read the Bible
aloud during dinner--not always as a penal and ignominious task.

The statutes, in a general way, permitted no dallying in hall after
meals--a prohibition for which the following reasons are advanced:
"Abuse, slander, strife, scandal, wordiness, and other faults of the
tongue rarely accompany an empty but often a well-filled stomach." It
was therefore ordained that after grace had been said and the loving-cup
had gone round, the fellows and scholars should, without long delay,
betake themselves to their studies. But the rule was not to be unduly
pressed. "If in honour of God or of His glorious Mother, or one of the
saints, a fire is lighted in hall, for the comfort of those who dwell in
the college ... then we allow them to remain for the sake of moderate
recreation and amuse themselves with singing or repeating poetry or
tales, or with other literary pastime." Conversely, "excessive noise,
laughter, singing, dancing, and the beating of musical instruments in
the bedrooms" were sternly denied.


We have now embodied in this and the two preceding chapters practically
all the information relating to University life that can be conveniently
included in a small volume. It is unnecessary to state that,
were more space at our disposal, many other features might be
incorporated--notably University costume, which was the subject of
endless regulations. As the topic is so large and complex, we must
reluctantly forgo any proper discussion of it, but it seems needful to
subjoin a few remarks designed to throw light on the picture, "New
College on Parade," which appears in "Archæologia," vol. liii., part i.

In the middle, fronting the spectator, is the Warden--none other than
the worshipful Thomas Chandler, whose name has been several times
mentioned in these pages. He wears a cassock, and over that what may be
a sleeved cope or tabard. Over that again is a tippet, a development of
the almuce, or worn over it. No hood is visible. On his head is the
_pileus_ with tuft or point. The common meaning of these terms, still
less their emblematic significance, will not be universally understood.
A sleeved cope, then, was the distinctive garb of a canonist not in holy
orders, and as Thomas Chandler became S.T.P. in 1450, the _capa
manicata_ would be obviously out of place on his person. The tabard,
generally associated with heralds, was a sleeveless garment, worn with
and probably over the gown, with which it was afterwards combined, and
the sleeves of which, at that period, came through the armholes. This
garment, a dress of dignity, might be worn by undergraduates, and was
compulsory in the case of bachelors lecturing in the schools. The
scholars of Queen's College, Oxford, are still officially styled

The tippet was an academic adaptation of the ecclesiastical almuce, and
was not the same as the hood, although the almuce seems to have been in
the first place nothing but an ordinary hood with a lining of fur to
keep out the cold. The original meaning of "typet" was the poke of the
cowl, in which, the reader may happen to remember, Chaucer's Frere was
in the habit of carrying his knives and pins. Academically, it was a
distinct article of dress, lined with fur, and formed part of the
insignia of the doctor or master.

The _pileus_ was the hat of honour, evolved from the ecclesiastical
skull-cap, and was distinctive of the higher degrees, particularly of
that of doctor. Indeed, it has been thought that this class alone is
designated by the term _pileati_ found in our old statutes. From the
thirteenth century onwards _pilei_, and the overtopping tufts, were of
various colours according to the faculties which it was intended to
distinguish. It may be added that red, and even green, gowns were worn
by the higher graduates, as appears from wills proved in the
Chancellor's Court at Oxford.

Next to the Warden, on each side, are two figures in sleeveless copes,
tippets and _pilei_, without hoods--doctors in theology or degrees. More
in the background are other _pileati_, wearing both tippet and hood; and
through the armholes of their outer garments show the tight sleeves of
the cassock. These may be secular doctors, or they may be bachelors of
divinity or masters of arts. Five on the extreme right have no _pileus_.
Following them are persons wearing hoods and tippets over what may be a
tabard, to which are attached loose sleeves or flats, with the tight
sleeves of the cassock appearing underneath. This is the most numerous
class represented in the picture, and seems to have comprised masters
and bachelors of the faculties, with the exception, probably, of

Facing the Warden are younger persons, attired similarly to the last,
who may be bachelors of arts; and to the right and left of these are
older individuals, severely tonsured, the majority of whom wear
surplices. If Mr. Clark's conjecture be correct, they are the clerical
members of the choir. Two of them have a scarf over a surplice or, as is
more likely, a loose-sleeved cassock. Lowest in rank are the surpliced
choristers wearing hoods, with, in some instances, a liripipe depending
from them behind.




Between the Universities and the Judiciary of England in ancient times
there existed a close link, which is to be found in the _serviens ad
legem_ or Serjeant-at-Law. He was at once a graduate and a public
official concerned with the administration of justice either as a
recognized pleader or as a judge, for, whether in the higher or lower
grade, he owed his credentials to the Crown.

We will consider the Serjeant-at-Law in the first place in his academic
character, in which he might rank as a B.C.L. or as a Doctor Legum,
though this is not quite what we intended by graduation. Law, like the
other liberal professions, has always been regardful of outward and
visible signs. This being so, we trust we have committed no very serious
sin of plagiarism in borrowing as the heading of this chapter the title
of a well-known work by Serjeant Pulling, one of the last survivors of
the order. At any rate, the plagiarism is open and avowed.

Though the most significant, the coif was not the only exterior note of
the Serjeant, in contradistinction to the laymen; and, in order to show
how he appeared, when in full professional attire, we think we cannot do
better than quote from a fifteenth-century lawyer, one of our greatest
authorities on such matters--Serjeant Fortescue. Writing about 1467, he
says of his class that they were "clothed in a long robe, priest-like,
with a furred cape about the shoulders; and therefrom a hood with two
labels, such as Doctors use to wear in certain Universities, with the
above-described quoyf." The "long robe"--the proverbial emblem of the
legal profession--evidently corresponds with the cassock, the "furred
cape" to the tippet, and the "labels" probably belonged, not, as
Fortescue seems to intimate, to the hood, but were rather the strings of
the coif, which were the attribute of Doctors of Laws. Here we have all
the marks of graduation--that is, the process necessary for the lawful
exercise of a learned calling--and graduation might be equally
accomplished in the schools of Oxford and Cambridge and the Inns of

As regards the remainder of his dress, the Serjeant-at-Law might pass
for a Master of Arts or a Bachelor of Divinity. The distinguishing
feature is the coif, and, wherever it is discovered, it may be safely
accepted as a criterion. Thus in Gosfield Church, Essex, there is an
interesting brass of Thomas Rolf (d. 1440), who is represented as
wearing a cassock, sleeved tabard, tippet, hood, and coif. The
last-mentioned forms a circle round the head, and attached to it are two
loops or lappets, which appear below the hood. Boutell has figured this
brass, which he states to be that of a serjeant-at-law. The inscription,
which has the words _legi professus_, already pointed to that
conclusion, Rolf being devoted to law, as, under the circumstances, he
might have been devoted to religion.

To anyone interested in the study of origins the symbolic value of the
coif is very considerable. Like the _pileus_, it may be traced back to
the ecclesiastical skull-cap, the corollary of tonsure. In the Dark Ages
the lawyers were almost invariably clergy, in the modern sense of the
term. By the thirteenth century the original skull-cap, while retaining
its general shape, had developed into a head-dress of ampler
proportions, and as such, might, and did, serve as a complete disguise
of the clerical calling. For that reason it was forbidden to the clergy
by Othobon's Constitutions (1268), except as a night or travelling cap.
Like the Serjeant's coif of more recent date, it was white in colour;
and, as an appanage of the legal profession, it was worn by judges and
pleaders alike. The strings were used to tie the coif to the head, and
were fastened under the chin. It has been plausibly suggested that the
Black Cap which judges assume, when passing sentence of death, was a
device for concealing the coif, ecclesiastical justices being debarred
from pronouncing capital sentence; and in this connexion we may recall
the constitutional tradition, which requires the Bishops to withdraw
when issues involving life or death come before the Parliamentary

We have spoken of _graduation_ in relation to law. As an explanation of
the phrase, nothing could be more apt than a passage in Coke's "Third
Report," which, although somewhat lengthy, deserves to be cited _in

"As there be in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford divers degrees,
as general Sophisters, Bachelors, Masters, Doctors, of whom be chosen
men for eminent and judicial places, both in the Church and
Ecclesiastical Courts, so in the profession of the law there are
Mootemen [i.e., students], which are those that argue readers' cases in
houses of Chancery, both in terms and grand vacations. Of Mootemen,
after eight years' study or thereabouts, are chosen Utter-barristers; of
these are chosen Readers in inns of Chancery. Of Utter-barristers after
they have been of that degree twelve years at least, are chosen Benchers
or Ancients; of which one, that is of the puisne sort, reads yearly in
summer vacation, and is called a Single Reader; and one of the Ancients
that had formerly read reads in Lent vacation and is called a Double
Reader, and commonly it is between his first and second reading about
nine or ten years. And out of these the King makes choice of his
Attorney and Solicitor General, his Attorney of the Court of Wards and
Liveries, and Attorney of the Duchy; and of these Readers are Serjeants
elected by the King, and are, by the King's writ, called _ad statum et
gradum servientis ad legem_; and out of these the King electeth one,
two, or three, as please him, to be Serjeants, which are called the
King's Serjeants; of Serjeants are by the King also constituted the
honourable and reverend Judges and sages of the law. For the young
student, which most commonly cometh from one of the Universities, for
his entrance or beginning were first instituted and erected eight Houses
of Chancery, to learn there the elements of the law, that is to say,
Clifford's inn, Lyon's inn, Clement's inn, Staple's inn, Furnival's inn,
Thavie's inn, and New inn; and each of these consists of forty or
thereabouts; for the Readers, Utter-barristers, Mootemen, and inferior
Students are four famous and renowned Colleges or Houses of Court,
called the Inner Temple, to which the first three Houses of Chancery
appertain; Gray's Inn, to which the next two belong; Lincoln's Inn,
which enjoyeth the last two but one; and the Middle Temple, which hath
only the last; each of the Houses of Court consists of Readers above
twenty; of Utter-barristers above thrice so many; of young Gentlemen
about the number of eight or nine score, who there spend their time in
study of law and in commendable exercises fit for gentlemen; the Judges
of the law and Serjeants, being commonly above the number of twenty, are
equally distinguished into two higher and more eminent Houses, called
Serjeant's Inn; all these are not far distant from one another, and
altogether do make _the most famous university for profession of law
only_, or of any one human science, that is in the world, and advanceth
itself above all others _quantum inter viburna cupressus_. In which
Houses of Court and Chancery the readings and other exercises of the law
therein continually used are most excellent and behoofful for attaining
to the knowledge of these laws; and of these things the taste shall
suffice, for they would require, if they should be treated of, a
treatise by itself."

This passage has been cited for the special purpose of exhibiting the
close affinity between the Universities and the Law, for which, it will
be generally conceded, it is admirably suited. It is necessary, however,
that it should be pointed out that the learned Coke was writing at and
of a period when the system was fullblown. In the early period when
"hostels" for apprentices of the law began to be, no distinction
obtained into Inns of Court and Inns of Chancery. These apprentices
were, originally, just what the term implies, but their importance
became greater until their representative is now the ordinary

In the year 1292--a date of some significance for us, not only in the
immediate context, but with reference to other portions of the work--the
King (Edward I.) promulgated an ordinance "De Attornatis et
Apprenticiis" in which he enjoined on John de Metingham and his fellows
that they should, at their discretion, "provide and ordain from every
county certain attorneys and lawyers of the best and most apt for their
learning and skill, who might do service to his court and that people,
and those so chosen only, and no other, should follow his court and
transact the affairs therein, the said King and his council deeming the
number of seven score sufficient for that employment, but leaving it to
the discretion of the judges to add to or diminish the number, as they
should see fit" (Dugdale's Tr.).

Serjeant Pulling is somewhat perplexed concerning the precise position
of the _apprenticii ad legem_ at the time of this edict. He, however,
hazards the conjecture that "by the apprentices were meant the advanced
students, or learners of the law, who, as pupils or assistants to the
Serjeants of the Coif, had obtained an insight into practice, and
perhaps also there were included the more irregular followers of the
law--the dilettante practitioners and Cleri Causidici, who continued to
follow the law in the secular courts in spite of repeated prohibitions
and objections."

With the foundation and growth of the Inns of Court, the
apprentices--the better sort at least--obtained full recognition as
practitioners; and at the close of the fourteenth century their
reputation had become so considerable that the great apprentices had
formed themselves into a distinct order, in which they stood next to
serjeants-at-law, the gradation being as follows:

    (i) Serjeants-at-law.
   (ii) Nobiliores, or great apprentices.
  (iii) Other apprentices who followed the law.
   (iv) Apprentices of less estate, and attorneys.

The term "apprentice-at-law" yielded to _apprenticius ad barros_, and
that again to "utter-barrister," corresponding to the modern
"barrister-at-law." Not all the students admitted at an inn were
"called" to the bar, the truth being that only a small proportion
received that distinction. In 1596 an arrangement was made by the Judges
and Benchers of the four Inns of Court, by which it was agreed:

"That hereafter none shall be admitted to the Barr but only such as be
at the least seven years' continuance, and have kept the exercises
within the House and abroad in Inns of Chancery, according to the orders
of the House:

"_Item_, that there be in one year only four Utter-Barristers called in
any Inne of Court (that is to say) in Easter Term, two, and, in
Michaelmas Term, two," etc.

Again, certain orders, made for the better government of the Inns of
Court and Chancery in 1624 provided that not more than eight members of
any one inn should be called to the Bar in any one year, and that no
Utter-Barristers, except such as had been Readers in Houses of Chancery,
should begin to practise publicly at any bar at Westminster until they
had been three years at the bar.

As regards the Inns of Court, their precise origin cannot be clearly
ascertained. We hear of them in the reign of Edward III., mention being
made in the Year Book of 1354 of "les apprentices en Hostells." In the
opinion of Lord Mansfield they were at the outset "voluntary societies,"
for they "are," he says, "not corporations and have no charter from the
Crown." Serjeant Pulling holds that the smaller houses were hired by the
apprentices, and then by lease or purchase possession became permanent.
The greater houses, he thinks, had a similar history. This belief is
borne out by what happened in the case of the Temple. In 1324, when the
King granted the Knights Hospitallers the New Temple, the latter let the
Temple to "divers apprentices of the law that came from Thaveis Inn in
Holborn." This was evidently in existence at the time. How long it had
existed prior to 1324 cannot be stated, but in his will dated 1348, and
enrolled in the Court of Hustings of the City of London, John Tavye,
citizen and armourer, devised to his wife Alicia "illud hospitium, in
quo apprenticii legis habitare solebant." In all probability,
therefore, the existence of the inn did not go back farther than the
lifetime of the armourer. The notice seems to show also that the inns
received their names not from Serjeants, as fathers of the apprentices,
but from the actual owners.

Till about the commencement of the sixteenth century we are wholly in
the dark as to the management of the inns. We then hear of governors,
treasurers, and the control of affairs in the different houses
lay with the senior members of the societies, who were styled
ancients or benchers. The apprentices may be regarded as inchoate
Serjeants--Serjeants in the making, persons on the way to become
Serjeants. The Serjeants had their own inns; and, on joining the
brotherhood, the newly-appointed dignitary was rung out of the inn to
which he had previously belonged by the chapel bell.

From Fortescue's "De Laudibus Legum Angliæ," written in France after his
withdrawal to that country with Queen Margaret in 1463, we learn that
the rule was, when the degree of serjeant-at-law was to be conferred,
for the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, with the consent of the other
justices, to nominate for the purpose seven or eight of the most
experienced professors of the common law. Thereupon the Lord Chancellor
issued a writ to each of them, summoning them to appear under a heavy
penalty, and take upon themselves the state and degree of
serjeant-at-law. On duly presenting themselves they affirmed on oath
that they would be ready on a day and at a place, which were then
determined, to assume the said state and degree, and that they would
_give gold_ according to custom of the realm in such cases ("dabit aurum
secundum consuetudinem regni in hoc casu usitatam").

On the date in question a feast was begun, which continued for seven
days, and this, with other ceremonies, involved an expenditure, on the
part of each debutant of some 1,600 nobles or 400 marks. A portion of
this amount went to the purchase of gold rings, and Fortescue tells us
that, when he was called to the degree of serjeant, the rings he gave
away cost him £40. These differed in value in proportion to the dignity
of the persons to whom they were presented. The most costly were those
of the value of 26_s._ 8_d._, which were given to every prince, duke,
and archbishop attending the ceremony, as also to the Lord Chancellor
and Treasurer of England. The Keeper of the Privy Seal, the Chief
Justices, the Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and every earl and bishop
present received one of the value of 20_s._; while every baron of
Parliament, every abbot, every distinguished prelate (_notabili
prelato_), and every eminent knight there present had one of 13_s._
4_d._ Similar gifts were made to the Keeper of the Rolls of the King's
Chancery, and to each of the justices. Rings of inferior value were
presented to every baron of the Exchequer, chamberlain, officer, and
principal person serving in the King's courts, according to their rank;
and thus almost every clerk, especially if he were of the Common Pleas,
obtained a share of the new Serjeant's liberality. His private friends
were not forgotten, rings being distributed among them also. It has been
computed that the sum of 400 marks in 1429 would be equivalent to £2,660
of our present money; hence we need not wonder that lawyers either too
poor or too economical to welcome this heavy burden sought to evade the
honour. In the time of Henry V. six grave and famous apprentices
respectfully declined the elevation, but in vain. They were called
before Parliament, and there bidden to take upon them the state and
degree of Serjeant. Eventually they did so, and certain of them, as we
learn from Sir Edward Coke, worthily served the King in the principal
offices of the law.

The reader will not fail to have observed the expression "give gold."
This, with the particulars adduced respecting the worth of the rings,
suggests that the articles were esteemed, not for their commemorative
character or artistic interest, but for their sheer pecuniary value.
That this was the case is pretty evident from the fact that, in the
reign of Charles II., Lord Chief Justice Kelynge, addressing one of the
new Serjeants, rebuked them for their gift of rings _weighing_ no more
than 18_s._ each; and he cited Fortescue as saying, "The rings given to
the Chief Justices and the Chief Baron ought to weigh 20_s._ a-piece."
To prevent misunderstanding, he added that he "spoke not this, expecting
a recompense," but that it might not be drawn into a precedent. In point
of fact, Fortescue refers to value, not weight; but it appears to have
been customary to calculate the value of the rings by the worth of their
weight in gold.

The creation of Serjeants took place in the hall of the Serjeants' Inn,
of which the Lord Chief Justice for the time being was a member. The
newly called arrived in a black robe, attended by his clerk, who
brought with him on his arm a scarlet hood and a coif. The Chief
Justice, having solemnly addressed the Serjeants, began the ceremony of
investiture, first placing the coif on the head of each of them and
tying it under his chin; and then putting the hood upon his right side
and over his right shoulder. The Serjeant thereupon departed, and
doffing his black robe assumed a parti-coloured robe of black and murrey
(dark red) and hood of the same colours. Thus arrayed he proceeded to
Westminster, his man carrying before him the scarlet hood and cornered
cap upon it.

Cornered caps were worn by the judges and Serjeants when they attended
church in state. Down to the time of the Reformation it was the practice
for them to visit St. Thomas of Acons in Cheapside, and, having made
their offerings there, to go on to St. Paul's, where they offered at the
rood of the north door at St. Erkenwald's shrine. This custom was always
observed on the admission of new Serjeants, who set forth on this pious
errand after dining. At St. Paul's each of them was appointed to his
pillar in the nave of the cathedral by the steward and controller of the
feast. It was at the parvise, or porch, of old St. Paul's, or at their
allotted pillars, that Serjeants met their clients for consultation.
They assisted the rich _pur son donaut_ and the poor for nothing, and
there appears to have been no question of any intervention by attorneys.
In this connexion it may be worth while to cite the ancient oath which
was taken by members of the order:

"You shall swear well and truly to serve the King's people as one of the
serjeants-at-law; and you shall truly counsel them that you be retained
with after your cunning; and you shall not defer, or delay their causes
willingly, for covetousness of money, or other things that may turn you
to profit, and you shall give due attendance accordingly; so help you

A few months before the Great Fire of London, in which old St. Paul's
was consumed with its parvise and pillars, Dugdale wrote: "At St.
Paul's each lawyer and serjeant at his pillar heard his client's cause
and took notes thereof upon his knee, as they do at Guildhall at this
day." He adds: "After the Serjeants' feast ended they do still go to
Paul's in their habits, and there choose their pillar whereat to hear
their client's cause (if any come) in memory of that old custom."

Naturally, the Order of the Coif was jealous of its distinctions and
privileges; and the following incident, for which we are indebted to the
late Mr. Serjeant Ballantine, will serve to illustrate the point.

"I have now," he says, "taken my readers back to my old inn. I will
venture to surround it with all the halo to which it is entitled. We
were, and had from time immemorial been, connected with the Corporation
of the City of London, and inasmuch as the greatest compliment
appreciated by that august body was annually paid to us, we were
doubtless once upon a time of no small importance ourselves. We received
an invitation to dine at the Lord Mayor's on November 9, and arrayed in
robes that gave us as much claim to notice as men in armour, and,
preceded by a personage known as the City Marshal, we were assigned
seats amongst the principal guests at that great festival, and it was
really a sight worthy of notice....

"Upon this occasion it was the office of one of the high officers of the
Corporation, no less a dignitary than the Common Serjeant[8], personally
to convey to us the invitation on the first day of Michaelmas term at
our inn. Sir Thomas Chambers, when he occupied this office, was
accustomed to commit a most amusing blunder. Whether moved by some idea
of his own dignity, or acting under civic instruction, I am unable to
say, but when he came to perform his task he addressed himself solely to
the Judges, not even naming the Serjeants, although the former were
asked only in that capacity, and were included with the Lord Chancellor
and the Equity Judges specially in their official capacity, and invited
by the Lord Mayor himself personally. The Common Serjeant was not,
probably, aware that, whilst it in no respect derogated from his dignity
to convey a message from one great corporation to another, he was
performing the duty of a butler in conveying an invitation to
individuals belonging to it. There was a worthy member of our body, Mr.
Serjeant Woolrych, who had written a most exhaustive book upon the
sewers, and was very learned about City customs, and who exercised his
mind greatly upon the blunder into which the Common Serjeant had
tumbled, and wanted me, as treasurer, to call attention to it. He
considered that this was due not only to common humanity, but to our
dignity. I was, however, deaf to his entreaties. I do not remember
dining upon more than one occasion in my official capacity. On this
occasion the scarlet robes and heavy, cumbrous wig, necessary to be
worn, destroyed all possibility of enjoyment."

Serjeant Ballantine alludes to himself as treasurer. He was the last to
fill that office, and it fell to his lot, as such, to wind up the
affairs of the ancient society, and so, in a sense, to perform its
obsequies. The fiat had gone forth that no judge should be required
henceforth to take or to have taken the degree of serjeant-at-law (36
and 37 Vict., c. 66, s. 8), and, as this was tantamount to the abolition
of the order, it was resolved to sell the property of the inn. The last
meeting was held on April 27, 1877.




Ancient judicial theory and practice comprehended not merely trials
before a regular tribunal, in which the merits of a case were duly
ascertained by the joint efforts of judge, counsel, and assize, but also
an alternative method of arriving at the same result--namely, a solemn
appeal to the bar of Almighty God. This reference was most common in
criminal cases, but by no means restricted to them; resort was had to it
in pleas respecting freehold, in writs of right, in warranty of land or
of goods sold; debts upon mortgage or promise, denial of suretyship by
sureties, validity of charters, manumission, questions concerning
services, etc. All such quarrels might be submitted to the issue of the
_duel_, which was pre eminently the means of invoking the judgment of
God. To us no proceeding appears less effectual or more cruel, but even
so wise a man as Dante admitted the fairness of it.

Before treating of the duel it is expedient to deal with some
Anglo-Saxon customs, which survived the Norman Conquest, and were
founded on the same principle as the duel. The simplest of these
processes was purgation by oath. Let us take the case of a person
accused of theft. If he was a freeman and had hitherto borne a good
name, all that was necessary was that he should purge himself by his
oath. Suppose, however, that he had been previously inculpated. In that
case he had to clear himself with what was termed his twelfth hand--that
is to say, twelve lawful men had to be nominated, who would swear to his
innocence. Should they refuse, there was nothing for it but some form of
the ordeal--a subject which will engage our attention presently.
Meanwhile it may be pointed out that purgation by oath was itself a
distinct appeal to the Almighty. It was believed that perjured persons
incurred the danger of becoming dwarfs, or of their hands remaining
attached to the Gospels or relics on which they swore. Persons guilty of
this offence were compelled to purge themselves by the ordeal.

The system, resting on the sanctions of religion and honour, was not
suited for general application, and there is no doubt that it was
abused. Confining ourselves to University experience, the bad effects of
the practice are exposed in a protest entered by Dr. Gascoigne in the
Chancellor's Court-book at Oxford, wherein he cautions his successors to
exercise the greatest care in admitting people to the privilege, and
counsels them to withhold the name of the accuser from the accused. He
states that cases have come under his notice in which individuals have
not only perjured themselves, but in private have not blushed to
acknowledge it; and he shows very plainly the futility of the system by
affirming that if a townsman objected to anyone claiming compurgation,
he ran a risk of being assaulted, maimed, and even murdered. The date of
this entry is 1443. It may be added that the majority of the cases were
those of incontinence; and among other charges mention is made of
embezzlement and attachment of a new document to an old seal.

For details of procedure we may glance at the very full accounts
preserved in the records of the City of London, where there were in
operation three sorts or forms of compurgation, by which persons
appealed, impleaded, and accused might obtain acquittal. The first was
termed the Great Law, and had respect to murder and homicide. The
second, the Middle Law, regarded the crime of mayhem, or corporal hurt,
by which a man lost the use of any member that was or might be any
defence to him in battle. The third law applied to insults, batteries,
wounds, blows, torts, effusion of blood, and similar injuries inflicted
at the season of the Nativity, the week of Pasque, and at Pentecost.

An accused person desiring to purge himself by the Great Law was
required to observe the following order: He had to make an oath in his
own person that he was innocent touching the felony and breach of the
King's peace, and the entire crime laid to his charge--"So help me God
and these hallows!" (i.e., the Gospels on which he was sworn). After
that six men had to swear that, according to their privity and
knowledge, he had made a sound oath. Then the accused repeated the oath,
and was supported by the sworn testimony of six more witnesses. So it
went on until thirty-six sworn men had testified in his favour.

With regard to the impanelling of this body it was the custom in London
to choose one of the number from the part of the city east of Walbrook
and the other half from the part west of Walbrook. They were to be of
the liberty of the city, honourable men not kinsmen of the accused; and
the selection was made in his absence. He was then summoned, and the
list of names having been read over to him, he might indicate to the
Mayor and Aldermen any that he held suspect. If he produced reasonable
grounds, the names were erased and others substituted for them. When, at
length, he was content, he placed himself in the hands of this jury as
regarded the purgation of the charge. The names of the thirty-six
persons were delivered to the Justices of the King, before whom the
accused had subsequently to appear and wage his law.

The same rules were observed in the case of the Middle Law, except that
the accused had to make only three oaths and a panel of eighteen
sufficed. In the Third Law the accused made no more than one oath and
the panel was reduced to six. These were to be of his vicinage, but not
bound to him by the tie whether of blood or marriage. Where a
non-freeman was charged with homicide, forty-two compurgators were
required, this disadvantage being due to the prejudice of the citizens
against "foreigners," of which further evidence will be adduced later.
On the other hand if the prosecution were on the part of the Crown,
seven compurgators were deemed enough, the reason being that the King
had not the personal interest in bringing a criminal to justice of a
private appellor.

The date of the election of the compurgators was fixed, at the will of
the Justices, and on that day fortnight the accused had to answer the
appeal, unless the Justices chose to assign a longer term. That is,
according to one statement. Another version sets forth that, by the law
and liberty of the city, a term of forty days was given for answer to an
appeal in a particular case; and this may mark the extreme limit usual.
Probably also it may be connected with the period during which a
criminal was commonly allowed to avail himself of the right of
sanctuary. If the accused did not appear on the day named for the trial,
he was outlawed at the folkmoot. Meanwhile he was delivered in bail to
twelve men, provided that there was some surety sufficient for the
payment of a hundred shillings in case they did not produce him at the
appointed time. Anyone appealed and attached for homicide could not
demand "recognition" until he had acquitted himself of the appeal made
against him; and meanwhile, if he could not find sureties, he was
committed to prison. If the accused was outlawed and abjured the realm,
the sureties were acquitted out of respect for the Church.

By the word "recognition" in the above description is apparently
intended an inquisition into the circumstances by an assize or jury of
twelve sworn men under the presidency of the Justices. In the case of an
appeal--that is, where there was a private prosecutor, who was bound to
have some interest in the matter, e.g., as a blood-relation--this was
not allowed, and the onus of proving his innocence was thrown on the

It was otherwise when a man was taxed with homicide by the voice of
public fame. He was then attached either by pledges or by imprisonment;
and the Justices held a very strict and careful inquisition into the
case, as the result of which the accused might be wholly absolved, or he
might be compelled to resort to compurgation. The compurgators, few or
many, were at once judge, jury, and witnesses; and the final issue of
the proceedings lay with them and the accused himself, the Mayor and
Alderman making the preliminary arrangements and the King's Justices
seeing that the forms were duly observed.

We saw at the outset that purgation by oath was a privilege only
permitted to persons of good reputation, and that failure to secure the
testimony of his neighbours to his innocence, where his reputation had
been damaged, subjected a man to the judgment of water or fire. In Saxon
times every freeman had his _borh_ or surety, who presented him, if he
was accused. Should he be _tyht bysig_, of evil repute, he was forced to
undergo the triple ordeal without more ado; but if his lord gave him a
good character and seven of his neighbours came forward and swore that
oath had never failed him and that he had never paid _theof gyld_ (fine
for thieving), then he might make his election between a pound-worth
oath or single ordeal. If the seven persons summoned declined to take
the oath, the triple ordeal was inevitable, and if the guilt of the
accused was established by this process, he had to restore to the
accuser twofold, pay a fine to his lord, and find sureties that he would
abstain from evil for the future. If he absconded and avoided the
ordeal, the _borh_ was obliged to pay the _ceap-gyld_ or monetary value
of the article stolen to the accuser and the fine to the lord. If the
accused happened to be _theow man_ (servant), and he failed in the
ordeal, the law was that he should be branded the first time; the
second time, there was no _bot_, or reparation, but the head! Finally,
the appellor was obliged to swear by seven lawful men, who were to be
named, that he had laid upon the accused the necessity of the ordeal
neither from hatred nor from any other cause but that he might acquire
his right.

There were various forms of ordeal. A man might be tried by fire or
water, and there was a cold-water as well as a hot-water test. Moreover,
the ordeal might be single or triple, according to the degree of
immersion or the weight of the iron employed. The laws of Athelstan
prescribe that in the hot-water ordeal, if single, the hand should dive
after the stone up to the wrist; if triple, up to the elbow. Similarly,
by the laws of King Edgar, the weight of the iron for the single ordeal
was to be one pound, and for the triple ordeal three pounds.

The ordeal, being the Judgment of God, was distinctly a religious
ceremony, and the whole of the proceedings were in the hands of the
clergy. The three days following the accusations were spent in prayer
and fasting, and the rite, varied according to the nature of the ordeal,
was performed in a church.


The iron was placed before the altar, whence the priest, clad in full
canonicals with the exception of the cope, removed it with a pair of
tongs to the fire, singing as he did so the hymn of the Three Children,
_Benedicite, Omnia, Opera_. Over the place where the fire was he then
recited the prayer: "Bless, O Lord God, this place, that there may be
for us in it sanctity, chastity, virtue, and victory, and sanctimony,
humility, goodness, gentleness, and plenitude of law, and obedience to
God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost."[9]

We learn from the laws of Athelstan that no man was permitted to enter
the church, after the fire had been borne in wherein the ordeal was to
be heated, with the exception of the mass priest and the accused; and
the latter had to measure with his feet nine feet from the stake to the
mark. When the ordeal was ready two men were admitted on either side,
who certified that the iron was of the required heat; and then an equal
number of witnesses on either side having been summoned, were ranged
along the church on each side of the ordeal. All were to be fasting and
abstinent from their wives on the previous night. The mass priest then
sprinkled them with holy water, let each of them taste the holy water,
and gave them the book of the Gospels and the image of Christ's rood to

Whilst the iron was heating the priest celebrated mass, and after he had
taken the Eucharist, he adjured the person who was to be tried, and made
him also take the Communion. From the time the hallowing was begun no
one was allowed to mend the fire, but the iron rested on the hot embers
until the last collect. It was then laid on the _stapula_, and the
priest, having sprinkled holy water over it, recited the prayer: "The
blessing of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon
this iron for the discerning of the right judgment of God." Meanwhile
all were enjoined to observe complete silence "except that they
earnestly pray to Almighty God that He make manifest what is soothest."

The accused then proceeded to the ordeal and carried the iron the
measured distance--nine feet, divided into three equal parts, over which
the person had to pass in as many steps regulated by signal. His hand
was thereupon enclosed in an envelope under seal, and so remained until
the expiration of three days, when the envelope was removed and an
examination took place to see whether the hand was foul or clean within.
If festering blood was found in the track of the iron, the accused was
judged to be guilty; if otherwise, he stood acquitted. An infraction of
the rules not only rendered the ordeal void, but was punishable by a
fine of 120 shillings.


Instead of carrying iron of a given weight a stipulated distance, an
accused person might traverse barefoot a certain space in which nine hot
ploughshares were laid lengthwise. To this species of judgment Queen
Emma, mother of Edward the Confessor, is alleged to have submitted, when
charged with adultery with Alwyn, Bishop of Winchester. The precise
nature of this trial is more than usually obscure, and there is some
reason for doubting whether Blackstone's account is accurate. He states
that the accused person was blindfolded and that the ploughshares were
placed at irregular intervals--evidently with the design that the person
might escape contact with some of the irons: possibly all. Blackstone's
authority, Rudborn, in his story of the trial of Queen Emma, conveys a
totally different impression of the proceedings--at any rate, on that
occasion. He says distinctly that she was _not_ blindfolded, and that
she pressed each ploughshare with the whole weight of her body: "Emma
vero nullam mamphoram sive pannum ante oculos habens--super novem
vomeres novem passus faciens et singulos eorum totius corporis pleno
pressens pondere."

On such occasions the following collect was in use: "Lord God Omnipotent
... we invoke Thee, and, as suppliants, exhort Thy majesty, that in this
judgment and test Thou wilt order to be of no avail all the wiles of
diabolical fraud and ingenuity, the incantations either of men or of
women; also the properties of herbs; so that to all those standing
around, it may be apparent that Thou art just and lovest justice, and
that there is none who may resist Thy majesty. And so, O Lord, Ruler of
the heavens and the earth, Creator of the waters, King of Thy whole
creation, in Thy holy name and strength, we bless these ploughshares,
that they may render a true judgment; so that, if it be so that that
man is innocent of the charge in this matter which we are discussing and
treating of amongst us, who walks over them with naked feet; Thou, O
omnipotent God, as Thou didst deliver the three youths from the fiery
furnace, and Susanna from the false charge, and Daniel from the den of
lions--so that Thou mayest see fit, by Thy potent strength, to preserve
the feet of the innocent safe and uninjured. If, moreover, that man be
guilty in the aforesaid matter; and, the Devil persuading, shall have
dared to tempt Thy power, and shall walk over them; do Thou, who art
just and a Judge, make a manifest burn to appear on his feet, to Thy
honour and praise and glory; to the constancy and confidence in Thy
name, moreover, of us Thy servants; to the confusion and repentance of
their sins of the perfidious and blind; so that, against their will,
they may perceive, what willingly they would not--that Thou, living and
reigning from ages to ages, art the judge of the living and the dead.


When the ordeal was by boiling water, the priest first performed mass
and then descended to the place of trial, bearing a cross and a book of
the gospels. After he had chanted a litany, he exorcized and blessed the
water, which was to be boiled. He then stripped the accused of his
clothes and arrayed him in ecclesiastical vestment of the kind worn by
an exorcist or a deacon; sprinkled some of the water over him, caused
him to drink of it, and gave him the cross and the gospels to kiss. The
priest having said, "I have given to thee this water for a sign to-day,"
wood was laid under the cauldron, which might be of iron, of brass, of
lead or of clay. As the water grew warmer, prayers were recited by the
priest, and it continued to be heated until it lowed to boiling. The
accused then said the Lord's Prayer, and signed himself with the sign of
the cross; and the cauldron having been quickly set down beside the
fire, the judge held suspended in the water a stone, which the accused,
in the name of God, had to draw forth at the depth of his wrist or his
elbow, according as the ordeal was single or triple. On the third day
his hand was inspected, and his innocence or guilt determined.


The cold water ordeal is in some ways the most interesting of all. In
this instance the accused was thrown into a pond or tank, which was
technically described as the _fossa_ or "pit." If he floated, he was
adjudged guilty; if he sank, his innocence was regarded as divinely
proved. It is sometimes stated "if he floated without any appearance of
swimming," but swimming appears to have been precluded if it be true
that his thumbs were tied to his toes, or he was bound hand and foot!
Grimm explains the principle of this test by tracing it to an old
heathen superstition that the holy element, the pure stream, would
receive no misdoer within it. King James I. in his "Demonologie,"
however, lays it down in the case of witches that they having renounced
their baptism, the element with which the holy rite is performed will
justly reject them. This elucidation is in exact accord with the ancient
formula of consecration pronounced over the accused, which was as

"May omnipotent God, who did order baptism to be made by water, and did
grant remission of sins to men through baptism; may He, through His
mercy, decree a right judgment through that water. If, namely thou art
guilty in that matter, may the water which received thee in baptism not
receive thee now; if however, thou art innocent, may the water which
receive thee in baptism receive thee now. Through Christ our Lord."

The priest afterwards exorcized the water, saying to it:

"I adjure thee, water, in the name of the Father Almighty, who did
create thee in the beginning, who also did order thee to be separated
from the water above ... that in no manner thou receive this man, if he
be in any way guilty of the charge brought against him; by deed, namely,
or by consent, or by knowledge, or in any way; but make him to swim
above thee. And may no process be employed against thee, and no magic,
which may be able to conceal that" [i.e., the circumstance of his


A fifth form of the ordeal was the test of eating consecrated bread and
cheese. This was known as the _corsned_, or morsel of execration. The
priest wrote the Lord's Prayer on the bread, of which he then weighed
out a certain quantity--ten pennyweights--and so likewise with the
cheese. Under the right foot of the accused he set a cross of poplar
wood, and holding another cross of the same material over the man's
head, threw over his head the theft written on a tablet. He placed the
bread and cheese at the same moment in the mouth of the accused, and, on
doing so, recited the conjuration:

"I conjure thee, O man, by the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost and
by the four-and-twenty elders, who daily sound praises before God, and
by the twelve patriarchs, the twelve prophets, the twelve apostles, the
evangelists, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, by all the saints and by
our Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our salvation and for our
sins did suffer His hands to be affixed to the cross; that if thou wast
a partner in this theft or didst know of it, or hadst any fault, that
bread and cheese may not pass thy gullet and throat, but that thou
mayest tremble like an aspen-leaf, Amen; and not have rest, O man, until
thou dost vomit it forth with blood, if thou hast committed aught in the
matter of the aforesaid theft. Through Him who liveth."

The following prayer and exorcism were also used and ordered to be
repeated three times:

"Holy Father, omnipotent, eternal God, maker of all things visible, and
of all things spiritual, who dost look into secret places, and dost know
all things, who dost search the hearts of men, and dost rule as God, I
pray Thee, hear the words of my prayer; that whoever has committed or
carried out or consented to that theft, that bread and cheese may not be
able to pass through his throat.

"I exorcize thee, most unclean dragon, ancient serpent, dark night, by
the word of truth, and the sign of light, by our Lord Jesus Christ, the
immaculate Lamb generated by the Most High, conceived of the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary--Whose coming Gabriel the archangel did
announce; Whom seeing, John did call out: This is the living and true
Son of God--that in no wise mayest thou permit that man to eat this
bread and cheese, who has committed this theft or consented to it or
advised it. Adjured by Him who is to come to judge the quick and the
dead, so thou close his throat with a band--not, however, unto death."


Thieves were sometimes tried by means of two pieces of wood and a
psalter. One of the pieces having a button on the top was inserted in
the psalter above the verse: "Thou art just, O Lord, and righteous are
Thy judgments." The book was then closed and pressed firm, and then the
projecting button was placed in a hole made in the other piece of wood,
from which the psalter now hung. The wood was held by two persons on
opposite sides of the psalter, and the accused having been placed before
them, one of them said thrice to the other: "He has the thing" (i.e.,
the stolen article). The other thrice answered: "He has it not."
Thereupon the priest declared: "This He will deign to make manifest unto
us, by Whose judgment are ruled things terrestrial and things celestial.
Thou art just, O Lord, and righteous are Thy judgments. Turn away the
evils of Thy enemies, and destroy them with Thy truth."

The fate of the accused depended on the miraculous turning of the
psalter. If the direction was from left to right he was innocent; if
from right to left, he was guilty. It would appear from the prayer, in
which the priest invoked Divine revelation, that he held the book, and
therefore it is natural to assume that, consciously or unconsciously,
his opinion must have influenced its movement. The prayer ran:

"Omnipotent, everlasting God, who didst create all things from nothing,
and didst form man from the clay of the earth, we pray Thee, as
suppliants by the intercession of Mary the most holy Mother of God ...
that Thou do make trial for us concerning this matter about which we are
uncertain; so that if so be that this man is guiltless, that book which
we hold in our hands shall [in revolving] follow the ordinary course of
the sun; but that if he be guilty that book shall move backwards."

There were other forms of procedure, in some of which, as in the trial
of the cross and the touching of the bier, the supposed criminal was
confronted with his victim. Ordeals were abolished in England in the
year 1219; but the tradition did not die, and in the time of the
Commonwealth, Hopkins, the notorious witchfinder, ridiculed in
"Hudibras," employed the cold-water ordeal for the conviction of
witches. "The suspected person," says Sir Walter Scott, "was wrapped in
a sheet, having the great toes and thumbs tied together, and so dragged
through a pond or river. If she sank, it was received in favour of the
accused; but if the body floated (which must have occurred ten times for
once, if it was placed with care on the surface of the water) the
accused was condemned."

That the issue of the ordeal might be arranged appears to have been
recognized even in the Middle Ages. Thus, fifty Englishmen, it is said,
having been ordered by William Rufus to be tried by the hot iron, every
one of them escaped unhurt. Thereupon the King announced that he would
try them again by the judgment of his court and not abide by the
so-called judgment of God, "which was made favourable or unfavourable at
any man's pleasure." By the Assize of Northampton (1176) suspected
persons, who had been acquitted by the water ordeal, were liable to
banishment, though again acquitted by the "judgment of God."

Trial by battle, though obviously based on the same principle, was
technically distinguished from the ordeal or judgment. The former
appears to have arisen in the countries of the North, where it was known
as the _holmgang_, the combats taking place on islands. Among the
English this mode of settling differences was not much in favour either
before or after the Norman Conquest; and the statutes of William I.
contain provisions whereby the natives were permitted to substitute the
more familiar ordeal for the trial by battle.

"It was also decreed there that if a Frenchman summon an Englishman for
perjury or murder, theft, homicide, or 'ran'--as the English call
evident rape, which cannot be denied--the Englishman shall defend
himself as he prefers, either through the ordeal of iron or through
wager of battle. But if the Englishman be infirm, he shall find another
who will do it for him. If one of them shall be vanquished he shall pay
a fine of forty shillings to the King. If an Englishman summon a
Frenchman, and be unwilling to prove his charge by judgment or by wager
of battle, I will, nevertheless, that the Frenchman purge himself by an
informal oath."

In subsequent reigns wager of battle was infinitely more common, and
great encouragement was given to it by the martial race, whose ideas and
habits were imposed on the subject population. The principles were
established and the procedure regulated by the "Assises de Jérusalem"
(1099), whose ordinances were received and recognized throughout Europe
as a code of law and honour. For a general statement of conditions and
effects we cannot do better than turn to the pages of the almost
impeccable Gibbon.

"The trial by battle," he says, "was established in all criminal cases
which affected the life, or limb, or honour, of any person; and in all
civil transactions of or above the value of one mark of silver. It
appears that in criminal cases the combat was the privilege of the
accuser, who, except in the charge of treason, avenged his personal
injury, or the death of those persons whom he had a right to represent;
but wherever, from the nature of the charge, testimony could be
obtained, it was necessary for him to produce witnesses of the fact. In
civil causes the combat was not allowed as the means of establishing the
claim of the demandant; but he was obliged to produce witnesses, who
had, or assumed to have, knowledge of the fact. The combat was then the
privilege of the defendant, because he charged the witness with an
attempt by perjury to take away his right. He came therefore to be in
the same position as the appellant in criminal cases. It was not, then,
as a mode of proof that the combat was received, nor as making negative
evidence (according to the supposition of Montesquieu), but in every
case the right to offer battle was founded on the right to pursue by
arms the redress of an injury; and the judicial combat was fought on the
same principle, and with the same spirit, as a private duel. Champions
were only allowed to women, and to men maimed or past the age of sixty.
The consequence of a defeat was death to the person accused, or to the
champion, or witness, as well as to the accuser himself; but in civil
cases the demandant was punished with infamy and the loss of his suit,
while his witness and champion suffered an ignominious death. In many
cases it was the option of the judge to award or to refuse the combat;
but two are specified in which it was the inevitable result of the
challenge: if a faithful vassal gave the lie to his compeer, who
unjustly claimed any portion of their lord's demesnes; or if an
unsuccessful suitor presumed to impeach the judgment and veracity of
the court. He might impeach them, but the terms were severe and
perilous: on the same day he successively fought _all_ the members of
the tribunal, even those who had been absent; a single defeat was
followed by death and infamy; and where none could hope for victory it
is highly probable that none would adventure the trial."

Second only in importance to the "Assises de Jérusalem" are the "Grand
Coutumier de Normandie" and Beaumanoir's "Coutumes de Beauvoisis." As
regards England, the forms of procedure are narrated by Bracton and
Britton; and Selden in his treatise "De Duellis" cites a number of
cases, both civil and criminal, in which resort was had to trial by

When an appellor offered to do battle in person, it was his duty to say:
"Sir, A complains to you of B, who is there, that he has assassinated C;
and if he deny it A is ready to prove it with his person against the
person of B, and to slay him or make him confess in the space of an
hour, and here is his pledge." If he offered to do battle by a champion,
the formula was: "Sir, A complains to you of B, that he has assassinated
C; and if he deny it A is ready to prove it if he shall not bring his
champion on the day; and to slay, etc., and see here his pledge." The
defendant replied in the following terms: "Sir, B denies and contradicts
the assassination imputed to him by A, and is ready to defend with his
person against A's person; and see here his pledge."

The combatants were to be armed according to their quality; and the arms
and armour of knights, who should do battle in a case of homicide or
assassination, are duly set forth. They had to fight on foot; their
lances were to be of equal length, and their shields half-a-foot higher
than their persons, and pierced with two openings through which they
could see their adversary. The arms had to be shown to the Court, and
each champion was obliged to make oath on the Gospels that he had upon
him neither writing, charm, nor any other arms than those shown to the
Court. The combatants were then placed and fought. Near at hand stood
the warders of the field, so that they might catch the words "I repent"
in the event of their being uttered. In that case they said to the other
party, "You have done enough"; and he who had been vanquished was taken
to the lord, by whose order he was trained to the gallows and hanged.
Similar treatment was paid to a combatant who had been slain, even if he
had not said "I repent." The same procedure was observed where the
champions were of inferior rank, save that their arms were not knightly.
If the case were not one of homicide or assassination, knights fought on
horseback and in armour, with the same consequences to the vanquished.
His arms were forfeited; and, if the charge were treason, his heirs were
deprived of their inheritance. Combatants of lower than knightly rank
fought on foot with shields and spears of equal length. If anyone not a
knight struck a knight, he lost his right hand, "because of the honour
and dignity which a knight has, and ought to have, over all other kinds
of persons."

We may now refer to some typical examples. In the reign of Henry III.
Hamon le Stare was appealed for robbery by Walter de Bloweberme; and the
record is specially interesting on account of a contemporary drawing of
the fight and subsequent execution of the vanquished.

In a MS. of Merton College, Oxford, occurs a note of a case in the time
of Edward I. R. de B. having demanded the advowson of a church against
the Prior of Sens, the latter waged battle. On the appointed day his
champion appeared, "and in the open field the duel was fought." The
Prior's champion was struck down, and upon this the Prior's attorney
came forward and surrendered the advowson. Accordingly, judgment was
given that R. should recover seisin, and that the Prior should be in
mercy. The same MS. contains a comment by the Judge (Saham) to the
effect that if, after battle joined, at the second or third assault the
tenant acknowledge the tenement to be the right of the demandant, and
for that acknowledgment the demandant grant to the tenant that he shall
hold of him for life, and that afterwards the tenement shall revert to
him (the demandant), that acknowledgment is as stable as if a fine were
levied in a writ of warranty of charter.

In Hil., 29 Edward III., a writ of right was brought by the Bishop of
Salisbury against the Earl of Salisbury for the Castle of Salisbury.
Battle was waged; but on the accoutrements of the champions being
examined by the Justices, a further day was assigned on the ground that
the coat of the Bishop's champion had been found to contain several
rolls of prayers and charms. In this instance no battle took place, as a
compromise was arranged, whereby the Bishop was to pay the Earl 1,500
marks, and judgment was given for the Bishop on the Earl making default.
With regard to charms, it may be remarked that there is copied on the
fly-leaf of a MS. volume of reports, _temp._ Edward I. and II., in a
contemporary hand, a charm comprising a list of the names of God, to be
recited only in special cases, one of which was "par doute de plai." We
may add that ecclesiastics not unfrequently retained a champion not for
one occasion, but permanently, and he was in receipt of regular pay.
Richard de Swinfield, Bishop of Hereford, followed this course, giving a
bond to Thomas de Bruges in consideration of the said Thomas performing
the duties of champion. Similarly, by a deed dated London, April 28, 42
Henry III., one Henry de Fernbureg was engaged for the sum of 30 marks
sterling to be always ready to fight as the Abbot of Glastonbury's
champion in defence of the right which he had in the manors of Cranmore
and Pucklechurch, against the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Dean of
Wells and other their champions whatsoever.

Naturally, however, the judicial combat was an institution in which the
court and the aristocracy had a greater interest than the church. It has
been suggested, with much probability, that the office of the King's
Champion originated from this custom. In any case, members of the royal
house arranged, and even participated in, duels of this order; and one
of the best accounts of the practice has been preserved in a long and
elaborate epistle addressed to Richard II. by Thomas Duke of Gloucester
and Constable of England. The following are extracts:

"The king shall find the field for to fight in. And the lists shall be
lx paces of length and xl paces of breadth in good manner; and the earth
be firm, stable, and hard, and even, made without great stones, and the
earth be plat; and the lists strongly barred round about and a gate in
the east and another in the west with good and strong barriers of vij
foot of height or more.... The day of battle the King shall be in a sege
or scaffold there where they shall be.... When the appellant cometh to
his journey, he shall come to the gate of the lists in the east in such
manner as he will fight with his arms and weapons assigned to him by the
court, and there he shall abide till he be led in by the Constable, so
that when he is comen to the said gate, the Constable and Marshal shall
go thither. And the Constable shall ask him what man he is which is
comen armed to the gate of the lists, and what name he hath, and for
what cause he is comen. And the appellant shall answer, 'I am such a
man, A. de K., the appellant, the which is comen to this journey, &c,
for to do, &c.' And then the Constable shall open the visor of his
bassinet, so that he may plainly see his visage, and if it be the same
man that is the appellant, then shall he make open the gates of the
lists, and shall make him enter with the same arms, points, victuals and
other lawful necessaries upon him, and also his counsel with him, and
then he shall lead him afore the King, and then to his tent, where he
shall abide till the defendant be comen. In the same manner it shall be
done of the defendant save that he shall enter in at the west gate of
the lists.

"The Constable's clerk shall write and set in the register the coming
and the hour of entering of the appellant, and how he entered the lists
on foot; and also the harness of the appellant, and how he is armed, and
with how many weapons he entered the lists, and what victuals and other
lawful necessaries he bringeth with him. In the same manner shall be
done to the defendant.... And the appellant and defendant shall be
searched by the Constable and Marshal of their points of arms, otherwise
called weapons, that they be vowable without any manner of deceit; and
if they be other than reason asketh they shall be taken away, for
reason, good faith, and law of arms will suffer no guile nor deceit in
so great a deed. And it is to wit that the appellant and defendant may
be armed upon their bodies as surely as they will."

Previously it had been said: "And the Constable shall make take heed
that none other before or after the appellant or defendant bring more
weapons nor victuals other than were assigned by the court." The
"points" assigned by the court were the long sword, the short sword, and
dagger--no other knife great or small or any other "instrument or engine
of point." The combatants had each to swear on the mass-book that they
were thus armed, and that they had no stone of virtue nor herb of virtue
nor charm nor any other enchantment. Also they were made to take each
other by the hand to do all their true power and intent on each other,
and make their opponent either yield or give up the ghost. All but two
lieutenants of the Constable and two knights were ordered to quit the

The Constable sat in front of the King as his "Vicar general" and
regulated the combat. "The Constable schall say w^t y^e voice as
foloweth, 'Lessiez lez aler'; that is to say, 'lat them goo and reste
awhile'; 'lessiez lez aler & faire leur devoir depdieu'; that is to say,
'lat them goo and doo ther devour i goddes name.' And this seyde eche
man schal depte fro bothe pties soo that they may incountre
& doo that them semeth best."

From that time forth neither appellant nor defendant might eat or drink
without leave and licence of the King; and it was the Constable's duty,
in case the King commanded the parties to separate, rest, or abide, for
whatever reason, to see that this took place in such a way that they
should be in the same "estate and degree" in case the King should order
the resumption of the combat. He was also to have good "hearkening and
sight," if either spoke to other of yielding or otherwise, for to him
and to none other belonged the witness and the record of the words from
that time forth.

In this battle, supposed to be on account of treason, he that was
convicted and discomfited was disarmed in the lists by command of the
Constable, and a corner of the lists broken "in reprove of him." Through
this he was drawn out by horse through the lists from the place where he
was disarmed to the place of justice, where he was beheaded or
hanged--"the which thing appertaineth to the Marshal."

"And if it happen so that the King would take the quarrel in his hand
and make them accorded without more fighting, then the Constable taking
the one party and the Marshal the other shall lead them before the King,
and he showing them his will, the said Constable and Marshal shall lead
them to the one part of the lists with all their points and armour as
they are found, and having when the King took the quarrel in his hand as
is said. And so they shall be led out of the gate of the lists evenly,
so that the one go not before the other by no way and nothing, for sen
he hath taken the quarrel in his hand, it should be dishonest that
either of the parties should have more disworship than the other.
Wherefore it hath been said by many ancient men that he that goeth first
out of the lists hath the disworship and this as well in cause of
treason as in other cause whatsoever it be."

It cannot be repeated too often or too clearly understood that the duel
was not exclusively a chivalrous custom, confined to those of high
station. Like the ordeal, it was prescribed, as a mode of juridical
determination, for burgesses and others, though, as we have shown,
equality of rank was postulated in the combatants no less than equality
of "points." By way of illustration we may turn to the annals of
Leicester, where wager of battle was enforced on the townsmen for the
settlement of their disputes. We have seen that knights undertook to
bring matters to a conclusion within the space of one hour. Honest
burgesses, less expert in the use of lethal weapons, and either less
courageous or less callous in taking human life, appear to have shown
extremely poor "sport" in their involuntary matches. At Leicester a
combat is recorded to have commenced at 6 a.m. and continued till 3
p.m., when it was terminated through one of the parties falling into a
pit. The character of the affair and the behaviour of the champions
occasioned a great scandal; and the townsmen, in order to prevent a
repetition of the incident, engaged to pay the Earl their lord three
pence for each house, on condition that the "twenty-four jurors who were
in Leicester from ancient times should from that time forward discuss
and decide all pleas they might have among themselves."

In London and other chartered towns parties to a quarrel could not be
made to fight against their will. The rule was that wager of battle did
not lie between two freemen without the consent of both; and a case is
on record in which one citizen, having been charged with felony and
robbery, offered to defend himself with his body. The appellor declined
dereignment by battle, and so it was decided that the accused should be
tried by the Middle Law, with eighteen compurgators.

The duel was employed for the determination not only of criminal, but of
civil causes, and in such controversies the demandant, whatever his
condition, might not engage in the combat himself, but was represented
by a champion, who occupied the position of a witness. The claim would
be made in some such form as the following:

"I demand against B. one hide of land in such a vill (naming it) as my
right and inheritance, of which my father (or grandfather, as it might
be) was seised in his demesne as of fee, in the time of Henry I. (or,
after the first coronation of the King, as it might be), and from which
he received produce to the value of fifty shillings at least (as in
corn, hay, and other produce); and this I am ready to prove by my
freeman John, or if anything should happen to him, by him or
him"--several might be named, though only one might wage battle--"who
saw this."

Or the form might conclude: "And this I am ready to prove by my freeman
John, whom his father on his death-bed enjoined, by the faith a son owes
his father, that if he ever heard of any plea being moved concerning
this land, he would dereign (or prove) this, as what his father had seen
or heard."

The tenant might then defend himself in person or by deputy at his
option. The demandant's champion was not to be a person hired for
reward, and if he was convicted of receiving money or vanquished in a
duel on the point of right, not only did the demandant lose his suit,
but the champion forfeited his _legem terræ_--that is, he could never
act in a similar capacity again--and was fined sixty shillings _nomine
recreantisæ_--for cowardice. In the reign of Henry II. these
arrangements were modified, and the tenant might put himself on the
assise. "The assise," says Glanville, "is a royal benefit conferred on
the nation by the prince in his clemency, by the advice of his nobles,
as an expedient whereby the lives and interests of his subjects might be
preserved, and their property and rights enjoyed, without being any
longer obliged to submit to the doubtful chance of the duel. After this
the calamity of a violent death, which sometimes happened to champions,
might be avoided, as well as the perpetual infamy and disgrace attendant
on the vanquished, when he had pronounced the _infestum et inverecundum
verbum_." The horrible word was "creaunt" (or craven).




Many of our ancient ballads and lyrics, such as the cycle of Robin Hood
and that exquisite love-poem "The Nut-Brown Maid," are based on the
custom of outlawry. One of the most charming of these early English
productions is "The Tale of Gamelyn," in which we meet with the
following passage alluding to the ban:

  "Tho were his bonde-men sory and nothing glad,
  When Gamelyn her lord wolues heed was cried and maad;
  And sente out of his men, wher they might him fynde,
  For to seke Gamelyn vnder woode-lynde,
  To telle him tydinges, how the wynd was went,
  And al his good reued, and alle his men schent."

The expression "wolf's head" was an old Saxon formula of outlawry, and
appears to have originated from the circumstance that a price was set on
the fugitive equivalent to that at which a wolf's head was estimated.
One of the laws of Edward the Confessor deals with the case of a person
who has fled justice, and pronounces: "Si postea repertus fuerit et
teneri possit, vivus regi reddatur, vel caput ipsius si se defenderit;
lupinum enim caput geret a die utlagacionis sue, quod ab Anglis
_wlvesheved_ nominatur. Et hec sententia communis est de omnibus

Already we are in possession of the salient facts as regards outlawry.
As a rule the outlaw was not banished, as citizens were ostracized at
Athens, to secure the State from dangerous rivalries. In other words,
they were commonly not men of character and distinction, but just the
reverse--persons whose conduct was so destitute of honour as to degrade
them, in the eyes of the community, to the level of the worst sort of
vermin. And they were treated accordingly. They were held to be unfit to
exist as an integral part of the body politic, and either destroyed or,
as an alternative, constrained to abjure the realm. The head and front
of their offence was not any act of which they might have been guilty.
The direct, and, it may be said, the sole, cause of their proscription
was refusal to submit to the laws, to accept justice at the hands of
their country-men.

This comes out quite distinctly in the legislative enactments of our
remote ancestors. Kemble in his "Saxons in England" quotes the following
law of King Edgar:

"That a thief be pursued, if necessary. If there be present need, let it
be told the hundred men, and let them afterwards make it known to the
tithing men and let them all go forth whither God may direct them to
their end; let them all do justice on the thief as it was formerly
Eadmund's law. And be the _ceapgild_ (i.e., market value) paid to him
that owns the chattel; and be the rest divided in two, half to the
hundred, half to the lord except men; and let the lord take possession
of the men.

"And if any neglect this and deny the judgment of the hundred, and the
same be afterwards proved against him, let him pay to the hundred 30
pence; and the second time 60 pence; half to the hundred, half to the
lord. If he do it a third time, let him pay 1/2 lb; the 4th time let him
lose all that he hath and be an outlaw, unless the King will allow him
to remain in the land....

"We have also ordained that if the hundred pursue a track into another
hundred, notice be given to the hundred elder, and that he go with them.
If he fail to do so let him pay £30 to the King....

"If anyone flinch from justice and escape, let him that hath him in
custody pay damages (_angild_). And if he be accused of having aided the
escape, let him clear himself according to the law of the country."

_Angild_ is defined by Maitland as the money compensation which the
person who has been wronged is entitled to receive--i.e., damage as
distinct from the fine (_wite_). Here, it is evident, we are on the same
ground as in the chapter treating of purgation by oath and the ordeal.
When we recollect that the thief had to face the pain and uncertain
issue of an ordeal, and that conviction might involve, _in addition to
the fine_, banishment, slavery, or the loss of a foot, we see at once
the temptation to abscond, but the disappearance of the accused was not
only prejudicial to the accuser, but compromised the person who was
responsible for his production. The escaped thief, therefore, was a
_nuisance_, as well as a danger, and, if he remained contumacious,
forfeiture of life and property was deemed not too heavy a penalty. If,
instead of being a thief, the felon chanced to be a murderer, the
inconvenience to the community, in whose midst the crime had been
perpetrated, was still greater. One of the laws of Edward the Confessor
ordained that if a man were found slain and the slayer could not be
found, a fine of 46 marks (£30 13_s._ 4_d._) was to be paid into the
Treasury by the township and hundred. The Pipe Rolls contain many
instances of payments for murders of which the doers were not taken
red-handed, the fines varying in amount. In 14 Henry II. the Sheriff of
Devon accounted for 100_s._ for one murder in Wonford Hundred, 10 marks
for several murders in Axminster Hundred, and 20_s._ for a murder in
North Tawton Hundred. Another sum of 20_s._ was remitted by the village
or township of Braunton for peace in respect of a murder committed

The position of affairs is thus clear. The murderer was regarded as a
member of a corporation, which had to answer for him, and, failing to do
so, was liable to a forfeit. The manslayer, therefore, if he did not
make his surrender, added to his original offence against an individual
or family those of disloyalty and injury to a community; and,
accordingly, he became the mark of private or public vengeance, the laws
which he had violated and contemned ceasing to afford him protection.

In these circumstances, what was he to do? To judge from the testimony
of the ballads and poems before mentioned, his best and usual course was
to wend his way to the greenwood and join himself to a band of jovial
companions who found themselves in a similar plight to his own. That
this course was sometimes adopted is a fair inference from the very
existence of these compositions, and is rendered probable by the vast
extent of the forests and the sparseness of the population, which these
desperadoes might conciliate with a share of the ransom extorted from
rich wayfarers. But a homicide who flew to this remedy was not very
safe. As an enemy of the established order, he had to perform prodigies
of valour, and, once captured, his fate was sealed. Outlaws of this
description can hardly have been common, even in the days of Hereward
the Wake. The majority of those who came under this denomination were
not heroes, and acted quite differently. They threw themselves on the
protection of the Church.

"Holy Mother Church, as a kind mother, gathers all into her bosom; and
thus each and all, good and bad, who take refuge with her, are protected
unhurt under her mantle."

Such was the language of the Synod of Exeter in 1287; and the statutes
go on to quote from the provisions of the Legatine Council held under
Cardinal Othobon at St. Paul's, London, twenty-one years before, which
were the basis of the constitutions adopted in the various dioceses: "If
anyone shall drag out from the church or cemetery or cloister the person
that has taken refuge there, or prevent his being supplied with
necessary food; or shall in a hostile or violent manner carry off
property deposited in the aforesaid places, or cause or approve of such
carrying off by their followers, or lend their assistance, openly or
secretly, to such things being done by those presuming on their aid,
counsel, or consent--we bind them _ipso facto_ by the bond of
excommunication, from which they shall not be absolved until they have
made full compensation to the Church for the wrong suffered."

Hence it is clear that the malefactor had a ready way of evading or
postponing the consequences of his crime and refusal to "put himself on
his country," for every church was a sanctuary in the sense of affording
security to terrified wretches, innocent or guilty. It may be well to
recall that outlawry did not date from the commission of the crime or
the flight of the criminal; and up to the time of conviction, judgment
going by default, the law gave no countenance to his assassination. The
rule affirmed by the statute of King Edgar, whereby sentence of outlawry
was pronounced only after opportunities had been granted for
repentance, continued to be in force all through the Middle Ages. This
appears from a note on the proceedings of the Salop Iter of 1293, which

"Although one who is appealed of the death of a man, or for other
felony, make default at three County Courts, yet at the fourth County
Court he may appear, and give mainprize to appear at the fifth County
Court; and then, if he do not come, he will be outlawed. And if the
appellor abandon the prosecution, the exigend shall tarry until the
Eyre; and then he shall be tried (for he may return to the peace if he
will) at the suit of the King. And if he will not come, he shall be
called at the three County Courts; and if he do not come at the third,
he shall be outlawed at the fourth County Court, if he do not come and
give mainprize to come at the fifth County Court."

It may be taken for granted that, in the vast majority of instances,
this degree of consideration sufficed in the case of any person honestly
desiring to take his trial; but circumstances might exist which rendered
it impossible for a man to prevent his being outlawed, and then the
right of sanctuary might be of the utmost value in staying injustice.
That the supposition is not purely imaginary is proved by a remarkable
petition of the early part of the reign of Edward I., in which John
Brown, scholar of Oxford, states that during his absence at Rome he has
been falsely appealed by a Jewess for a Christian child, pursued from
county to county, and outlawed; wherefore on his return he was put in
prison and he now prays the King's mercy, without which he cannot
go to the common law. John Brown, it is clear, did not take
sanctuary--probably because he was not apprised of the facts in time;
otherwise it would have afforded him all needful security and allowed
him a period for reflection as to the wisdom of surrendering or quitting
the realm.

The right of sanctuary must have been founded on the principle that the
guilt of the fugitive had not been established. Even the ordinary law
was laudably sensitive on this point, and care was taken not to
prejudice the accused by an apparent assumption of guilt. If a person
was charged with murder, the bailiffs were obliged to approach him with
white wands as a sign that they had no intention of committing or
provoking a breach of the peace. They then summoned him to yield himself
to the peace of "our lord the King." If they came in the first instance
armed in a warlike manner with swords, etc., it was lawful for him to
defend himself, and there is one instance on record in which a man did
this, fighting a pitched battle with the bailiffs in the garden of his
inn, and being afterwards upheld by the court. If, however, the person
would not surrender, when summoned in a peaceable way, force might be
employed against him. But the officers had first to find or overtake
him; and in this they might be anticipated by those who had suffered
injury. Obviously, therefore, the homicide, who had no confidence in the
justice of his case, would be well advised in flying without delay to
"the bosom of Mother Church."

The refugee was as often as not an habitual criminal, who might have
broken out of prison on the eve of execution. Some light on this point
is derived from the Northumberland Assize Rolls of the years 1256 and
1279. For instance: "Robertus de Cregling et Jacobus le Escoe', duo
extranei, capti fuerunt pro suspicione latrocinii per ballivos Willelmi
de Valencia et imprisonati in prisona ejusdem Willelmi apud Rowebyr'
(Rothbury). Et predictus Robertus postea evasit de prisona ad ecclesiam
de Rowebyr' et cognovit ibi latrocinium et abjuravit regnum coram
Willelmo de Baumburg tunc coronatore."

Offenders were obliged to state the nature of the crimes alleged against
them, and the Durham register shows that by far the largest number were
murderers and homicides. Some claimed the rights of sanctuary for debt,
some for stealing horses or cattle and burglary; and others for such
crimes as rape, theft, harbouring a thief, escaping from prison,
failing to prosecute, and being backward in their accounts. Townships
which failed to arrest the criminal before he reached the church, or
allowed him to escape after he had taken refuge in it, were fined by the
King's Justices, the circumstances proving that the institution was
tolerated as a necessary evil by those responsible for the maintenance
of law and order--not regarded with favour.

The Thucydidean speech of the Duke of Buckingham on the removal of the
Queen of Edward IV., with her younger son, the Duke of York, to the
sanctuary of Westminster in 1483, furnishes a searching criticism of the
use and abuse of this privilege in the practice of the fifteenth
century. Addressing the Privy Council, he is represented to have said:

"And yet will I break no sanctuary; therefore, verily, since the
privileges of that place and other like have been of long continued, I
am not he that will go about to break them; and in good faith, if they
were now to begin, I would not be he that should go about to make them.
Yet will I not say nay, but that it is a deed of pity that such men as
the sea or their evil debtors have brought in poverty should have some
place of liberty to keep their bodies out of the danger of their cruel
creditors; and also if the crown happen (as it hath done) to come in
question, while either part taketh other for traitors, I like well there
be some place of refuge for both. But as for thieves, of which these
places be full, and which never fall from the craft after they once fall
thereunto, it is a pity that Sanctuary should screen them, and much more
man-quellors, whom God bade to take from the altar and kill them, if
their murder were wilful; and where it is otherwise there need we not
the sanctuaries that God appointed in the old law. For if either
necessity, his own defence or misfortune draweth him to that deed, a
pardon serveth, which either the law granteth of course, or the King of
pity. Then look we now how few Sanctuary men there be whom any
favourable necessity compel to go thither; and then see, on the other
side, what a sort there be commonly therein of them whom wilful
unthriftiness have brought to nought. What rabble of thieves, murderers,
and malicious heinous traitors, and that in two places especially; the
one the elbow of the city [that of Westminster] and the other [St.
Martin's-le-Grand] in the very bowels. I dare well avow it, weigh the
good they do with the hurt that cometh of them, and ye shall find it
much better to lack both than to have both; and this I say, although
they were not abused as they now be, and so long have been that I fear
me ever they will be, while men be afraid to set their hands to amend
them; as though God and St. Peter were the patrons of ungracious living.
Now unthrifts riot and run in debt upon the boldness of these places;
yea, and rich men run thither with poor men's goods. There they build,
there they spend, and bid their creditors go whistle. Men's wives run
thither with their husband's plate, and say they dare not abide with
their husbands for beating. Thieves bring thither their stolen goods,
and live thereon riotously; there they devise new robberies, and nightly
they steal out they rob and rive, kill and come in again, as though
those places give them not only a safeguard for the harm they have done,
but a licence also to do more."

There is one aspect of the privilege, not mentioned in this balanced
judgment, which deserves consideration and that is the inadequacy of the
law to assure victims of injustice against oppression. As an instance of
the sort which, it may be hoped, was not too common, we may take the
following (undated) petition:

"Margery, who was the wife of Thomas Tany, late _chivaler_ of the
College of Windsor, & is Executrix of his last will and testament,
pleads that whereas on the Thursday ... in the Feast of Corpus Christi
in the late insurrection proclamation was made that all who had any
right or title to recover any debts or bequests whatsoever should come
before the King at the Tower of London and shew their evidence, &c,
without delay, she, the s'd Margery, and her eldest son John Thorpe,
came with a bill to present to the King for recovery of debts due to her
by force of the will & test of her s'd baron & of the judgments given &
rendered by three Chancellors of the King; and they had not leisure to
present the bill then, but on the morrow, Saturday, delivered the s'd
bill to the King in his Wardrobe in London. But forasmuch as the Father
in God, the Archb'p of Canterbury, then Chancellor of England and Judge
in this, ... had sequestrated all the goods and chattels of Sir William
Mugge, then Dean of the said College, escheated into the hands of Walter
Almaly, present Dean of the s'd College, commanding by letters patent
the s'd Walter, under certain penalties, that no livery should be made
until satisfaction had been done to the s'd Margery for the debts due
from the said W^m. to the said M. by the said test, and that John de
Thorp, younger son of the s'd Marg^t., had received a mandate from the
s'd Chancellor to summon the s'd Walter and Sir Richard Metford to
appear & answer before the Chancellor, the s'd Sir Walter caused the s'd
John Thorp, eldest son of the s'd Margery, to be arrested and kept him
in prison for three days, wrongfully and in contempt of the King ... and
besides this the s'd Sir Walter caused the s'd John de Thorp, younger
son of the s'd, M., to be arrested in Suthwerk by John Chirche, serjeant
of London; and while he was under arrest the s'd Walter, of malice
prepense, assaulted him, beating him on the head and other parts of the
body, which beating & punishment of the body caused his death in the
prison of Newgate; where, though he offered repeatedly to find as
sureties good and sufficient men of the City of London to offer
themselves before the Mayor & Sheriffs of London, to wit, the then
mayor, William Walleworth, to be responsible for him, body for body, yet
was he not delivered out of prison until he was dead, and moreover the
s'd Walter threatened to destroy the s'd Margery as he had destroyed
her son, so that she _took sanctuary_ and dared not issue forth for
fear of death," etc.

It has been stated that all churches, parochial, collegiate, and
cathedral, were sanctuaries; but there were in different parts of
England about thirty supreme sanctuaries, of which Westminster, York,
Durham, Glastonbury, Ely, Ripon, and Beverley may be taken as types.
They owed this pre-eminence to the possession of relics and stories of
miracles wrought by the tutelar saint for the protection of suppliants
or the chastisement of those who violated the shrine. The origin of the
civil sanction is most obscure. Individual churches attributed their
franchise to the favour of ancient kings--Hexham to Ecfrith, King of
Northumbria; Ripon and Beverley to Athelstan, and York to Edward the
Confessor. Tradition affirms that in primitive times the term of
protection at Durham was thirty-seven days and at Beverley thirty days
on the first and second occasions, and if the fugitive resorted thither
a third time, he had to become _serviens ecclesiæ imperpetuum_. These
intimations, if true, point to a process of evolution from small
beginnings represented by the three nights' protection to which the
sanctuary rights of an ordinary church were limited by the laws of
Alfred (887) to the extraordinary privileges which, if we accept Mr. R.
H. Forster's conclusions, existed at Durham.

These concerned both the area and the duration of the immunity. At other
places the right of sanctuary comprised the precinct as well as the
church itself. For instance, at Beverley, the story goes that Athelstan,
on his return from a victorious campaign against King Constantine,
conferred the privilege on the church of St. John and a portion of the
surrounding country. The bounds were indicated by crosses. The base and
part of the shaft of one of them is, or was lately, to be seen in a
hedge on the road to Skidby. Others were erected at Molescroft, on the
road towards Cherry or North Burton, and near Killingwoldgrove, on the
Bishop's Burton road. At Durham, however, if we follow Mr. Forster--and
he makes out an excellent case--the precinct included the whole of the
County Palatine, and the term of protection, instead of being confined
to the ordinary period of forty days, was perpetual. At York, Beverley,
and Hexham there was what may be termed an outermost precinct and
various inner precincts, the relative sanctity of which is shown by the
scale of punishments inflicted for violation. In Prior Richard's history
of Hexham it is stated that there were at that place four crosses, each
of them erected at a distance of one mile from the church, and in a
different direction. Anyone who arrested a fugitive within these limits
was fined two _hundreth_, or sixteen pounds. For an arrest "infra
villam" the penalty was twofold. If the person were seized "infra muros
atrii ecclesiæ," it was threefold; and if within the church itself,
sixfold, to which was added penance "sicut de sacrilegiis." Supposing,
however, that anyone, "vesano spiritu agitatus diabolico ausu quemquam
capere præsumpserit in cathedra lapidea juxta altare quam Angli vocant
_fridstol_, id est, cathedram quietudinis vel pacis, vel etiam ad
feretrum sanctarum reliquiarum quod est post atlare"--then the crime was
_botolos_ (without remedy); no monetary payment could be received as
compensation. When Leland was at Beverley, he was shown a frithstool, on
which he made the following note: "Hæc sedes lapidea Freedstool dicitur,
i.e., Pacis Cathedra, ad quam reus perveniens omnimodam habet
securitatem." There was a frithstool endowed with similar privileges at
York Minster, and another at Durham. Stone seats claimed to be
frithstools are still shown at Hexham and Beverley.

Of all the localities which drew to themselves especial distinction as
sanctuaries none rivals in antiquarian interest the monastery of Durham.
This is because of the existence of an ancient work on the "Rites of
Durham," which enters in considerable detail into the ceremonial
observed on such occasions, and was received for a long time as
authoritative. Recent criticism by Mr. R. H. Forster has rather impaired
the credibility of the document. He points out that its professed date
is 1593, or more than fifty years after the dissolution of the Priory;
and maintains that it is not a first-hand chronicle of events of "the
floryshinge tyme" before the suppression of the house, but a compilation
based partly on old records and partly on the reminiscences of aged

Nevertheless, the narrative must be considered to possess a high degree
of historical value, and is undeniably picturesque. We catch a glimpse
of the fugitive "knocking and rapping" at the grim twelfth-century
knocker "to have yt opened." We see him "letten in" by "certen men that
did lie alwaies in two chambers over the said north church door," and
running straightway to the Galilee bell and tolling it. ("In the weste
end in the north allie and over the Galleley dour there, in a belfray
called the Galleley Steple, did hing iiii goodly great bells.") The work
goes on to state that "when the Prior had intelligence thereof, then he
dyd send word and command them that they should keape themselves within
the sanctuary, that is to saie, within the Church and Churchyard." This
was until the official of the convent and witnesses had assembled for
the formal admission and registration of the fugitive, which took place
in the nave, in the Sacrist's exchequer, which was in the north aisle of
the choir or "in domo registrali." The official who presided over the
ceremony was commonly the Sacrist, but the duty was sometimes performed
by the Chancellor of the Cathedral, the Sub-prior, or a monk qualified
as a notary public. As for the witnesses, they might be monks, servants
of the convent, clerks, masons employed on the fabric, or they might be
friends of the fugitive who had attended him to Durham as a bodyguard.
Frequently, however, they were casual onlookers or persons who had
flocked out of curiosity to the "show."

On admission, the "grithman" received a gown of black cloth "maid with a
cross of yeallowe cloth called St. Cuthbert's Cross, sett on the lefte
shoulder of the arme" and was permitted to lie "within the church or
saunctuary in a grate ... standing and adjoining unto the Galilei dore
on the south side," and "had meite, cost and charge for 37 days." The
writer of the book alleges that maintenance was found for fugitives
"unto such tyme as the prior and convent could gett them conveyed out of
the dioces," but Mr. Forster traverses this statement and adduces
documentary evidence to show that, in various instances, "grithmen" were
permanently domiciled in the diocese. We have, however, an account of
one such "conveyance." A certain Coleon de Wolsyngham, in the year 1487,
on retiring from the church, was delivered by the sheriff to the nearest
constables, and after that by constables to constables, that he might be
conducted to the nearest seaport, there to take shipping and never
return. He is stated to have received a white cross made of wood.

Bracton and Britton both state that the criminal could elect his own
port, but we generally hear of a port being assigned him by the coroner,
and he was required to proceed thither without deviating. A case is on
record where "one A. had abjured the King's realm and went a little out
of the highway; the menee was raised upon him, and he was taken in the
highway, and this was found by the jury." Nobody was suffered to molest
the felon on his journey seawards on pain of forfeiting goods and
chattels. This part of our subject receives excellent illustration from
the customary of the Cinque Ports:

"And when any shall flee into the church or churchyard for felony,
claiming thereof the privilege for any action of his life, the head
officer of the same liberty, where the said church or churchyard is,
with his fellow jurats or coroners of the said liberty, shall come to
him and shall ask him the cause of his being there, and if he will not
confess felony, he shall be had out of the said sanctuary; and if he
will confess felony immediately it shall be entered in record, and his
goods and chattels shall be forfeited, and he shall tarry there forty
days--or before, if he will, he shall make his abjuration in form
following before the head officer, who shall assign to him the port of
his passage, and after his abjuration there shall be delivered unto him
by the head officer, or his assignees, a cross, and proclamation shall
be made that while he be going by the highway towards the port to him
assigned, he shall go in the King's peace, and that no man shall grieve
him in so doing on pain to forfeit his goods and chattels; and the said
felon shall lay his right hand on the book and swear thus:

"'You hear, Mr. Coroner, that I, A. B., a thief, have stolen such a
thing, or have killed such a woman, or man, or a child, and am the
King's felon; and for that I have done many evil deeds and felonies in
this same his land, I do abjure and forswear the lands of the Kings of
England, and that I shall haste myself to the port of Dover, which you
have given or assigned me; and that I shall not go out of the highway;
and if I do, I will that I shall be taken as a thief and the King's
felon; and that at the same place I shall tarry but one ebb and flood if
I may have passage; and if I cannot have passage in the same place, I
shall go every day into the sea to my knees, and above, crying, "Passage
for the love of God and King N. his sake;" and if I may not within forty
days together, I shall get me again into the church as the King's felon.
So God me help, and by this book, according to your judgment.'

"And if a clerk, flying to the church for felony, affirming himself to
be a clerk, he shall not abjure the realm, but yielding himself to the
laws of the realm, shall enjoy the liberties of the church, and shall be
delivered to the ordinary, to be safe kept in the convict prison,
according to the laudable custom of the realm of England."

When it became known that a malefactor had taken refuge in a church it
was the duty of the authorities to _beset_ the place, and send for the
coroner, who parleyed with the person in the manner described in the
above recital. From the same account it will be gleaned that the maximum
limit allotted to the refugee was ordinarily forty days, after which he
would cease to receive sustenance. According to Britton he had forty
days after being summoned by the coroner. It will be further observed
that the criminal undertook to "hasten" to the port of departure. It is
generally stated that forty days were granted him for this purpose, but
it is certain that this was not always the case. By the Assize of
Clarendon persons of evil repute, who had purged themselves by the
ordeal without satisfying their neighbours as to their innocence, were
required to quit the realm within _eight_ days:

"The lord King wishes also that those who shall be tried and shall be
absolved by the law, if they be of very bad testimony and are publicly
and disgracefully defamed by the testimony of many and public men, shall
forswear the lands of the King, so that within eight days they shall
cross the sea, unless the wind detains them; and with the first wind
which they shall have afterwards they shall cross the sea; and they
shall not return any more to England unless by the mercy of the lord
King; and there, and if they return, shall be outlawed; and, if they
return, they shall be taken as outlaws."

The same fate was in store for any felon who deviated from the highway
in proceeding to his assigned port. He might not, however, be reserved
for judicial execution, being at the mercy of his captors, who could do
as they pleased with him. "Some robbers indeed, as well as some thieves,
are lawless--outlaws as we usually call them--some not; they become
outlaws, or lawless, moreover, when, being lawfully summoned, they do
not appear, and are awaited and even sought for during the lawful and
fixed terms, and do not present themselves before the law. Of these
therefore the chattels and also the lives are known to be in the hands
of those who seize them, nor can they for any reason pertain to the
King."[11] ("Dialogus de Scaccario," x.).

An outlaw, as such, was incapable of exercising the most ordinary
rights--he could not devise, inherit, own, or sell lands or houses.
Civilly, he was dead. The only question is whether these
disqualifications attached to him as the effects of felony or the
resultant outlawry. The point was tested in a case which came before the
Common Bench in 1293, and decided by an eminent justice of the period in
relation to a certain Geoffrey, who had committed felony, and before
this became known had disposed of tenements to one John de Bray.
"Inasmuch," said Metingham, "as all those who are of his blood are
debarred from demanding through him who committed the felony, in like
manner every assign ought to be barred from defending the right to
tenements which have come from the hands of felons; and it is found by
the Inquest that Geoffrey was seised after the felony was committed. And
inasmuch as felony is such a poisonous thing that it spreads poison on
every side, the Court adjudges that William [the lord, who had brought a
writ of escheat] do recover his seisin, and that John be in mercy for
the tortious detinue."

Sanctuary for treason was abolished in 1534, and for crime in 21 Jac.
I., but debtors enjoyed the time-honoured immunity, at Whitefriars and
elsewhere, till 1697.




Just as the Universities and the Judiciary were found to have a common
link in the Order of the Coif, so we find that the Judiciary and the
City were bound each to each by the existence of by-laws, or, as they
were termed in a technical sense, "customs." Although, to avoid
misapprehension, these "customs" may be styled by-laws, and many of them
strictly answer to the description, on the whole they bore a very
different relation to the laws of the land from the by-laws of modern
corporations, the latter being purely subsidiary, while the former
affected the most important issues, and, in the absence of much general
legislation, possessed all the validity of statute law.


As there was considerable variation between the customs of different
towns and different counties, it became the duty of the Justices on Eyre
to investigate what was the custom, with regard to the subject of the
plea, in the particular locality, and they gave their decisions

Some of these cases are sufficiently amusing, as may be gathered from
the following record of a case heard in the Salop Inter of 1292:

"One Adam brought a writ of Entry against B.--B.: 'Sir, we vouch to
warranty, &c, W. de C., who is under age, to be summoned, &c.'--C. came
and prayed his age.--_Spigornel_ (for Adam): 'Sir, according to the
custom of the town, he is of age when he knows how to count up to twelve
pence, and he shall answer in a writ of Right at that age; and inasmuch
as he would answer in a writ of Right at that age, he shall warrant at
that age, or shall counterplead, &c. But now he is nineteen years old,
which is nearly of full age. Judgment if he shall not warrant or
counterplead.' Judgment that he should."

From the same Year-Book we obtain an insight into the working of what
may be termed communal law in the weighty matter of succession. One
Isabel brought the Novel Disseisin against a chaplain named Martin de
Hereford and others for a tenement in Shrewsbury. The defence was that
Martin had entered by the devise of one William Silke, and that the
custom of the town permitted a man on his death-bed to devise tenements
of his own purchase. Isabel's counsel, on the other hand, contended that
William's father held the tenements by the law of England, and that
William merely purchased the freehold, arguing also that the devise was
made in contravention of the statute (7 Ed. I., st. 27), since it was
made in mortmain for the beneficiaries to chant for him and his heirs
for ever. The Judge ruled that alienation contrary to the statute was no
justification for the heir to enter; and he drew attention to the
inconsistency of counsel in pleading that Silke could not devise his
inheritance, and that he could devise if there were no infraction of the
statute. Counsel thereupon elected to abide by his first contention, and
the question of fact was referred to the Assise (or Jury) which found
that part of the tenements were in William's seisin and that William had
purchased his father's estate therein.

We now come to the concluding passages of this highly interesting suit:

"_Berewyke_ [the Judge]: 'For that he could not purchase his own
heritage so that it could be styled his own purchase; and he devised the
tenements; and the custom of the town does not permit a man to devise
his heritage; Therefore this Court adjudges that Sybil (_sic_) do
recover her seisin of the tenements which were not devisable. Now what
say you as to the remainder?'

"The Assise said that the remainder of the tenements were of his own
purchase from several persons in the town, and that in his last illness
he devised them to Martin for the term of his life, and that the
testament was proved at the Guildhall according to the custom of the
town; and that the executors were commanded to deliver seisin to Martin,
and that according to the custom he had the seisin, &c.

"_Berewyke_: 'Since it is found that he entered on the tenements
according to the custom, &c.--although you were seised for four weeks,
yet that ought not to give you a title--this Court adjudges that you do
take nothing by the writ, &c. After Martin's death be well advised.'"

Communal law, however, was not allowed to _override_ the law of
England.[12] This principle was asserted in 1293, when Thomas le
Chamberleyn brought a writ before the Common Bench against a certain W.,
who, he complained, had taken his horse in the highway in the town of
Bernewell. The writ ran--"took in the highway and still keeps
impounded." There was the usual wrangle between counsel, and an attempt
was made to oust or invalidate the writ by asserting that six years and
a half before it (the writ) was purchased the animal had been
surrendered. After this preliminary fencing counsel for the defence
produced his real case, which was that by the King's charter the
burgesses of Cambridge had a franchise to this extent, that when clerks
or other persons were in debt they might seize their horses or other
property within the liberty; and as Thomas was bound in so many
shillings, his horse was seized according to the custom of the town, and
in no other way. The trespass being admitted, the Judge (Gislingham)
proceeded to give judgment on the plea of justification. He said:

"For that it is against the common law and against the statutes to make
such a taking in the highway unless he be the King's bailiff,
notwithstanding any franchise which the King may have granted, therefore
the Court adjudges that Thomas do recover his damages, and that W. be in
mercy for his tortious taking."

This leads to another point. Corporations had their local courts, and
some of them, by virtue of this fact, claimed exemption from the
jurisdiction of the higher courts. Such was the case at Liverpool, and
according to Sir. F. A. Picton there are instances on record in which
they succeeded in establishing their claim. How far these local
authorities were fit to be entrusted with the execution of justice may
be estimated by some lively incidents which took place in the early days
of October, 1565. One Thomas Johnson had been apprehended for picking
purses. Apparently he underwent no regular trial, but was dealt with
summarily, the programme being as follows: First, he was imprisoned
several days and nights, and then he was nailed by the ear to a post at
the flesh-shambles. As the next item, he was turned out naked from the
middle upwards, and many boys, with withy rods, whipped him out of the
town. He was then locked to a clog with an iron chain and horseblock
until the Friday morning following, and finally abjured the town before
the Mayor and Bailiffs, at the same time making restitution of 6_s._
8_d._ to the wife of one Henry Myln. Thus, there was a rude efficacy in
the process, but it might perhaps have been received as sufficient
ground for a writ of certiorari if Johnson had again fallen into the
hands of his tormentors.

It is certain that at times towns had to answer, through their
officers, for alleged acts of illegality in their corporate capacity.
Thus in 1292 one Adam--the reader will observe that the records do not
give the actual names, Adam being chosen as beginning with the first
letter of the alphabet--brought the Replegiare against B., &c., stating
that B., &c., had tortiously taken his chattels in the High Street of
the Town of Gloucester and conveyed them to their toll booth in the same
town. B. and C., the bailiffs, defended the seizure, asserting that by
the custom of the town of Gloucester only freemen might cut cloth
there--strangers might sell cloth by the piece, but not cut it.

Adam was not a freeman of the town, but, in opposition to the custom, he
had come and cut his cloth. As against this Adam produced a charter
witnessing that the King had granted him the right of cutting cloth in
the same way as other freemen, and, by virtue of the charter, he
maintained that he had been seised from time whereof, &c. The bailiffs
repudiated this claim. We do not learn what the judgment was in this
case, but the phrase "other freemen" is suspicious. It suggests that the
charter had been granted in ignorance of the custom of this particular
town, not out of disrespect for it, since the tendency of all the
evidence is to show that local autonomy and local privileges in such
matters were treated with infinite care. It almost appears as if Adam
had taken advantage of an ambiguity. As regards ordinary civil rights
Adam was doubtless a freeman--otherwise he could not have brought this
action--but he was not a freeman in the sense that he paid scot and lot
in the town of Gloucester.

Such persons were often styled "foreigners," and therefore the plaintiff
in this case would have occupied precisely the same position as
"foreign" merchants who transgressed the customs of London. One of these
was that they were not to attend any market or fair at a greater
distance than three miles from the City, nor had Justices or Sheriff
power to give them leave to do so. If a Sheriff caught any "foreign"
merchant beyond those bounds, he was supposed to bring him back, and
the money found on his person having been confiscated was shared between
the Sheriff and the citizens. If, however, the citizens were alone
responsible for the capture, the whole of the money went to them. Other
rules were that merchants repairing to London for the sale of linen,
cloth and wool might do business only on three days of the week
(Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays). They were then, if anything
remained to be sold, to pack up their goods and wait till the following
week; and in no case were they to sell _ad detail_ (retail).

A custom which we meet with at Dover and Reading, and was probably
adopted by other towns, is one described in sundry ordinances _de
stachia_, the latter being barbarous Latin for "stake." This was a
device for recovering possession of a tenement after a specified time,
when the tenant had fallen into arrears of rent, and consisted in the
landlord erecting a stake in front of the house as a notification of his


Despite identity of usage at Dover and Reading on the subject of the
stake, it would be pardonable to conclude that in those times of
difficult communication there existed a great diversity of burghal laws,
entailing considerable inconvenience and hardship, especially in the
case of those engaged in trade. Since the adoption or growth of customs
depended on the interests or sentiments of particular communities,
diversity was, to some extent, inevitable, but the tendency to local
independence--an independence tenaciously maintained and jealously
guarded--was tempered by counter-tendencies. Thus it was not always to
the interest of a town or city to stand in complete isolation from
centres of a similar type, or possibly of a superior organization; and,
in such instances, a smaller, weaker, less perfectly developed community
might seek to improve its status or fortune by modelling its
arrangements on those of a more advanced and more powerful neighbour,
and in addition to and as a corollary of this, enter into a formal or
informal alliance with it, in which the latter would hold the position
of protector or patron.

In the Middle Ages there subsisted between the towns and the feudal
aristocracy an antagonism sometimes silent and slumbering, sometimes
wakened into fierce consciousness and expressing itself not only in
hardy words, but in sanguinary deeds. On the Continent the towns were
the hotbeds of revolution, and the commune, with its mayor as
figure-head, signalized the triumph of the insurrectionary temper. This
state of things was more marked on the Continent than in England, where
the Barons led the assault on tyranny, and where, for his own purposes,
the monarch fostered the prosperity of towns of his own planting. But
Mr. J. H. Round, in his singularly able article on "The Origin of the
Mayoralty of London," contributed to the "Archæological Journal," shows
conclusively that this institution, now the ægis of all that is staid,
stable, and respectable, was the offspring of the spirit of revolt which
spread like a contagion from Italy to France, Germany, and the Low
Countries, and thence to the Thames.

Dr. Gross's valuable contribution to the "Antiquary" (1885), treating of
the affiliation of towns, is of a general character, and illustrated
largely by continental examples; anyone, however, who wishes to grasp
the full significance of mediæval relationships as between town and
town, will be well advised in consulting that succinct account. Here we
must confine ourselves to English experience, in which the same traits
appear, only more faintly. Before proceeding to this inquiry it may not
be amiss to advert briefly to another aspect of the subject. We have
said above that, in England, the monarch inclined to favour certain
towns for his own purposes, and such towns were naturally of the highest
precedence. If we turn to Liverpool, we shall find that in 1206 it
received a visit from King John, who the following year issued letters
patent of which the following is a translation:

"John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of
Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to all his liegemen who
would desire to have burgages at the town of Liverpool, greeting. Know
ye that we have granted to all who may take burgages at Liverpool that
they may have all the liberties and free customs in the town of
Liverpool which any free borough on the sea has in our land; and
therefore we command that securely, and in our peace, you may come to
receive and occupy our burgages. And in testimony thereof we transmit to
you these our letters patent. Witness, Simon de Pateshill, at
Winchester, the 28th day of August in the ninth year of our reign."

At a later period the people of Liverpool might not have thanked the
Crown for facilitating the settlement of a large body of strangers in
their midst. Everywhere burgesses were strongly opposed to the
colonization of their towns by "upland men," less on sentimental grounds
than from the fact that these "foreigners" frequently did not take steps
to become naturalized and pay scot and lot towards communal expenses.
Clearly this objection did not apply to Liverpool in this instance, and
at that relatively early stage of its history the incorporation of a
number of well-to-do and industrious immigrants might naturally have
been hailed as a gain. It must have been so regarded by the King.

Liverpool was the port of embarkation for troops sailing to Ireland, and
is said to have owed its foundation to this circumstance in the days of
Strongbow. The advantage of a numerous, loyal, and able-bodied
population was seen in 1573, when the Earl of Essex passed through the
place on his way to Ireland. It happened that he left behind him a
detachment of soldiers, and the "motley coats" and "blue coats," having
quarrelled, used their weapons on each other. With admirable
promptitude, the Mayor summoned the trained bands, and the rest of the
story may be told in the vivacious language of a contemporary:

"Mr. Mayor and all the town suddenly, as pleased God Almighty, were
ready upon the heath, every man with their best weapons; so as by good
chance every householder being at home, Sunday morning, eager as lions,
made show almost even like to the number of the captains and all their
soldiers.... After the battle array [which was efficacious in staying
the conflict] Mr. Captain showed all gentleness and courtesy to the
Mayor, and came up to the town in friendship and amity."

Trained bands formed part of the equipment of a well-appointed mediæval
town--a description to which, as we shall show, Liverpool possessed
exceptional claims. But the Crown did not benefit solely in this way.
The burgages erected numbered 168, each of which paid a ground rent of
one shilling per annum into the royal exchequer. The custom dues of the
Duchy of Lancaster were another source of profit, and retainers of the
King were occasionally quartered on them. Thus in 1372 one Rankyn, a
follower of John of Gaunt, was retained on condition that he "in time of
peace shall be at board at court ... and that he shall have and take for
the term of his life, in the whole, twenty-five marks sterling from the
farm of the town of Liverpool."

The object of all towns was to acquire the fullest measure of
self-government, and in this respect, despite probable exactions arising
from the system of fee-farm leases, Liverpool must be reckoned
extraordinarily fortunate. The term "commune" also--word of sinister
import since 1871, but used in mediæval England in the innocuous sense
of "borough"--seems to have special point in reference to the trading
regulations of that ancient port, if compared with the greater
individualism of other places, though commercial transactions were
universally the subject of manifold restrictions designed to protect the
interests of the native against the intrusive and vexatious rivalry of
the foreigner. At Liverpool matters went far beyond that.

The Corporation itself for a long time farmed the custom dues, and also
levied tolls on, all merchandise that passed through the port. Much land
and other property belonged to it, as well as the ecclesiastical
patronage, which included the appointment and dismissal of incumbents,
wardens, and other church officers. The hanse, composed of the entire
body of freemen and burgesses, required that all produce, upon
importation, should be first offered to it, and it was then inspected by
"prizers" or appraisers, who gave an estimate of its value. If the
importers did not care to sell at the price, they had to haggle with the
town respecting the sum to be paid for leave to sell in the open market;
and any merchant or trader who treated with them on his own account was
liable to heavy penalties.[13]

We have previously given a sample of original methods of administering
justice at Liverpool, and much might be written of its curious penal
code, which embraced such offences as eavesdropping. Hence the protest
embodied in the following presentment of the Grand Jury on March 31,
1651, may well express the inner thought of many preceding generations
of culprits:

"Item, wee p'sent William Mee for saying and cursing in the court,
pointing His finger towards Mr. Mayor and the Jurie, 'If such men as
those can give anie judgment, the Divell goe with you and all the acts
you have done.' Amerced in five pounds."

We need not recur to the topic of trained bands, and will only remark
that in this and other respects Liverpool obtained a degree of
self-sufficiency and independence surpassing anything known at the
present time, and, apparently, far beyond the common standard even of
mediæval towns. It might therefore have stood forth as an object not so
much of envy as of imitation. In point of fact, Liverpool--owing, no
doubt, to its comparatively late rise and geographical situation--was
not one of those towns whose customs were widely copied. In Wales the
custom of Hereford held the field, and in the south-west the custom of
Winchester, which, through transmission to Newcastle, prevailed also in
Northumberland and Scotland. The customs of York and the Cinque Ports
attracted smaller groups, while the custom of London was not only mother
of the custom of Oxford, but grandmother of the custom of Bedford, since
the citizens of Oxford were called in by the last-named town to
adjudicate on obscure points, and they themselves repaired to London, as
the fountain-head, in the event of any internal dispute. The court of
appeal, when mother and daughter towns were at variance on the subject
of privileges, was the King and Council.

In England the powers of the mother-town were purely advisory, whereas
on the Continent some towns appear to have exercised coercive
jurisdiction over those whose laws were derived from them. Perhaps this
circumstance, that the process was one of adoption rather than
subjection, was the chief reason why English towns were so careful not
to communicate their privileges, at any rate freely, to boroughs of
_servile_ condition, i.e., those which owed service to some lord. The
case of Hereford is thus stated:

"The King's cittizens of Hereford, who have the custodye of his citty
(in regard that it is the principall citty of all the market townes from
the sea even unto the boundes of the Seaverne) ought of ancient usage to
deliver their lawes and customes to such townes, when need requires, yet
in this case they are in noe wise bound to do it, because they say they
are not of the same condition; for there are some townes which hould of
our Lord the Kinge of England and his heires without any mesne Lord; and
to such we are bound, when and as often as need shall be, to certifie of
our lawes and customes, chiefly because we hold by one and the same
tenure; and nothing shall be taken of them in the name of a reward,
except only by our common towne clerke, for the wryting and his paynes,
as they can agree. But there are other markett townes which hold of
diverse lords of the Kingdome, wherein are both natives and rusticks of
auncient tyme, who paie to their lord corporall services of diverse
kinds, with other services that are not used among us, and who may be
expelled out of those townes by their lords, and may not inhabit in them
or be restored to their former state, but by the common law of England.
And chiefly those and others that hold by such forreine service in such
townes, are not of our condition; neither shall they have our lawes and
customes but by way of purchase, to be performed to our
capitall-bailiff, as they can agree between them, at the pleasure and to
the benefitt of the citty aforesaid."

Towns were extremely jealous of their purity in this respect, a fact
which may be illustrated in another way. Thus no person of servile
condition was allowed to be a freeman of the city of London. If, after
admission, he was ascertained to be of such condition, he forfeited his
rights. During the mayoralty of John Blount, Thomas le Bedelle, Robert
le Bedelle, Alan Undirwoode, and Edmund May, butchers, lost their
franchises, because they acknowledged that they held land in villeinage
of the Bishop of London and dwelt outside the liberty. On July 18, 11
Rich. II., it was ordained that no one should be enrolled as an
apprentice or received into the freedom of the city by way of
apprenticeship unless he first swore that he was a freeman and not a
native, and whoever should be thereafter received into the freedom of
the said city by purchase or any way but by apprenticeship should make
the same oath, and also find six honest men to undertake for him as had
been wont to be done of old.

"And if it happen that such native be admitted by false suggestion
without the knowledge of the Chamberlain, as soon as the circumstance is
notorious to the Mayor and Aldermen, let him lose the freedom of the
city and pay a fine for his deception, at the discretion of the Mayor
and Aldermen.

"Again, if it happen in the future that such native, at the time of
whose birth his father was a native, be elected to a judicial office of
the City such as Alderman, Sheriff, or Mayor, unless he notify to the
Mayor and Aldermen concerning the servile condition before he receive
that office, he shall pay to the Chamberlain for the use of the City one
hundred pounds, and nevertheless shall lose his freedom as aforesaid."


Thus the fundamental principle of freedom, in all corporate towns, was
independence of the feudal aristocracy, and along with this went a sense
of social superiority relatively to those dependent upon, and subject
to, lords of fees. Burgesses claimed to be masters in their own house
and acted in concert with an eye to the common good. This led to the
growth or institution of customs divisible into two main categories. One
of these was concerned with the correction of refractory or immoral
persons dwelling within the gates; and the other with the regulation of
commerce. These categories were not entirely divorced, since the
infraction of trade ordinances was visited with something more than mere
obloquy. On the other hand, the presence of evil livers, though it had
no immediate bearing on commerce, added nothing to the security,
prosperity, and reputation of the town or city. The customs of London
form too large a subject to receive adequate treatment here, but in what
remains of our space we propose to limit ourselves to them alone.

It would be possible to write at considerable length on the position of
aliens in mediæval London, and, incidentally, on the charming festival
of the Pui, wherewith they consoled themselves for the many hardships
and restrictions inflicted on them by the jealous citizens, examples of
which have been previously given. Reserving this topic for another
occasion, we will glance at certain enactments with which innkeepers and
their congeners found their avocations fenced about. The citizens did
not welcome the appearance of casual strangers, any more than the
presumption of the foreigner who came and settled amongst them. Almost
of necessity the former class resorted for food and shelter to the
public-houses, which were of two kinds--the inns kept by hostelers, and
the lodging-houses kept by herbergeours. These places of resort were
supplemented by cook-shops answering to our modern restaurants.

In the time of Edward I. an ordinance was passed that "No Portuguese or
Germans shall keep hostels, but that persons of those countries shall
lodge with freemen of the city." It has been supposed that by "freemen"
are intended native freemen, but this is doubtful, since cases occur of
strangers and foreigners being admitted to the freedom for the very
purpose of becoming hostelers and herbergeours. Even when this privilege
was granted them, they were not suffered to compete on equal terms with
the Englishman, being required to keep their houses "in the heart of the
City," and rigidly excluded from the more profitable regions on the
banks of the Thames.

The necessity of hostelers and herbergeours being freemen was due
apparently to the survival of the old Saxon law of frank-pledge, which
was still in force at the close of the reign of Edward III. No hosteler
or herbergeour might entertain a stranger longer than a day and a night,
unless he undertook to answer for his guest's behaviour, and he was left
in no uncertainty as to the course of conduct he was expected to pursue
towards the always undesirable alien. In many respects his position
resembled that of a master of a workhouse rather than a speculative
tradesman. Thus, at times when it was forbidden to carry arms in the
City, it became his duty to take possession of his guests' arms and
retain them until the strangers departed. If the latter did not comply
with his demand, they were fined and imprisoned. At other times, when
the regulations were not so severe, he had to tell his guests that they
were not to carry arms after curfew rang, or go wandering about the
streets of the City. Should it happen that urgent business compelled a
guest to be absent from the hostel for a night, the keeper was obliged
to warn him, with the best grace he might, that he must take care to be
back as soon as possible.

Obviously there would have been much unfairness in making hostelers and
herbergeours answer for the misdeeds of persons with whom they had only
transient relations, if there had been no system for preventing the
escape of dishonest and desperate characters who would be especially
susceptible to the attractions of a great city and could not be held in
check by the fatherly admonitions of an anxious host. Nor, again, was it
to be supposed that the native population consisted wholly of highly
moral and virtuous persons, incapable of such low crimes as burglary. To
counteract the designs of these enemies of order, it was enacted temp.
Edward I. that barriers and chains should be placed across the streets
of the City and "more especially towards the water (Fleet River) near
the Friars Preachers." From the same reign also dates an ordinance that
the Aldermen and men of the respective wards should keep watch and ward
on horseback at night, each Alderman keeping three horses for that
object. Moreover, each of the City gates was placed in charge of a
Sergeant-at-arms, who had his quarters over the gateway. It was the duty
of this official to keep guard by night, and he was assisted in this
task by a watchman (wayte), whose wages he had to pay out of his own
salary. The regulations of the City required that each gate should be
kept in the daytime by two men, well armed; and on certain occasions the
Bedel received orders to summon the men of the ward to watch the gate
armed. If they did not attend in person, they had to find substitutes at
their own expense.

One of the grandest spectacles in Old London was that of the Marching
Watch on St. John's Day. Comprised in it were about two thousand men,
some mounted, others on foot. There were "demilances" riding on great
horses; gunners with harquebuses and wheel-locks; archers in white
coats, bearing bent bows and sheafs of arrows; pikemen in bright
corslets; and bill-men with aprons of mail. There was likewise a cresset
train numbering nearly two thousand men. Each cresset--flaming rope,
soaked in pitch, in an iron frame held aloft on a shaft--was carried by
one man and served by another. Very imposing were the Constables of the
Watch, with their glittering armour and gold chains, each preceded by
his minstrel and followed by his henchman, and with his cresset bearer
by his side. Then came the City waits (musicians) and the morris
dancers--Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and the rest; after whom appeared the
Mayor, with his sword bearer, henchmen, footmen, and giants, followed by
the Sheriffs. All the windows facing the street stood open, and there
was no lack of distinguished spectators. To quote Nicols:

  Kings, great peers, and many a noble dame,
  Whose bright, pearl-glittering robes did mock the flame
  Of the night's burning lights, did sit to see
  How every senator, in his degree,
  Adorn'd with shining gold and purple weeds,
  And stately mounted on rich trapped steed,
  Their guard attending, through the streets did ride
  Before their foot-bands, graced with glittering pride
  Of rich gilt arms, whose glory did present
  A sunshine to the eye, as if it meant
  Amongst the cresset lights shot up on high
  To chase dark night for ever from the sky.

By the Setting of the Watch on Midsummer Eve appears to have been meant
the stationing of these armed guards in various parts of the City, which
they were to secure from harm on that night only. In the thirty-first
year of his reign Henry VIII. abolished the Marching Watch, and
substituted for it a permanent watch maintained out of the funds which
had previously gone to support the great annual pageant. For harnessed
constables Londoners now had watchmen equipped with lanthorn and
halberd, whose duty it was to call upon the sleeping citizens to hang
out their lights, as required on dark wintry nights:

  Lanthorn and a whole candle light.
  Hang out your lights! Hear!

The next thing to be added was a bell. This institution was not popular
with all; and Dekker, satirically expressing the feeling of the
malcontents, defined the bell as "the child of darkness, a common
night-walker, a man that had no man to wait upon him, but only a dog;
one that was a disordered person, and at midnight would beat at men's
doors, bidding them (in mere mockery) to look to their candles, when
they themselves were in their dead sleeps."

Milton, on the other hand, makes grateful mention of the salutation as a
lullaby and prophylactic:

  Far from all resort of mirth,
  Save the cricket on the hearth
  Or the bellman's drowsy charm
  To bless the doors from nightly harm.

Having said something of the means employed to prevent crime and arrest
criminals, we must go on to refer to the punishments in vogue in the
event of conviction. And here it may be observed that, among other
interferences with commerce and the liberty of the subject, hostelers
were not allowed to make either bread or beer. The former they were
compelled by public enactment to buy from the baker, and the latter from
the brewer or brewster (female brewer). But the City, if it defended
what was esteemed the legitimate claim of the baker to a proper
livelihood, was equally solicitous for the welfare of his customers, and
woe betide the baker who sold bread deficient in weight or quality! For
the first offence he was drawn on a hurdle from the Guildhall through
the principal streets, which would be thronged with people and foul with
traffic, and hanging from his neck was the guilty loaf. In the
Record-room at the Guildhall is an Assisa Panis containing a
pen-and-ink sketch of the ceremony, from which it appears that the
unhappy tradesman wore neither shoes nor stockings and had his arms
strapped to his sides. It seems also that the hurdle was drawn by two
horses, which suggests that it was rattled along at an inconsiderate
pace. For the second offence the baker was again conveyed on a hurdle
"through the great streets of Chepe," and he further underwent an hour's
exposure in the pillory, probably erected in Cheapside, with what
consequences may be imagined. If he proved so incorrigible as to commit
the offence a third time, the hurdle was again requisitioned, but,
public patience being exhausted, his oven was demolished and he was
forced to abjure his trade of baker in the City for ever. From the reign
of Edward II. the penalty of the hurdle was no longer imposed for the
first offence, the pillory being employed instead.

Exposure in the pillory was a favourite prescription, a kind of judicial
panacea, to which all sorts of the morally infirm were introduced in
turn. Mr. Riley has compiled a list of the sins atoned for by such
involuntary penance, which, if we were guided by that alone, would
testify to a shocking state of depravity in the Metropolis. Culling from
this catalogue, we find that the pillory was considered a fitting reward
for various impostures: pretending to be a holy hermit; pretending to be
the son of the Earl of Ormond; pretending to be a physician; pretending
to be the summoner of the Archbishop of Canterbury and so summoning the
Prioress of Clerkenwell; pretending to be one of the Sheriff's sergeants
and meeting the bakers of Stratford and arresting them with a view to
fradulently extorting a fine, etc., etc. _Scandalum magnatum_ also
merited the pillory--a fact brought home to an idle gossip who occupied
that uneasy elevation for "telling lies" about the famous Mayor, William
Walworth. "Telling lies" of John Tremayne the Recorder was, in the same
way, held to justify a public exhibition of the impudent and imprudent
person. So, too, anti-social forestalling.

There were cases, however, in which this common method of advertising
paltry offences was thought not to involve an adequate degree of
notoriety and reprobation. We have already adduced one instance--that of
the unscrupulous baker--in which it was attempted to evoke superior
indignation. There were others. The natural destiny of impostors was, as
we have seen, the pillory; among the qualifications for this shadow of
crucifixion being "pretending to be a physician."

The civic fathers endeavoured to cope with the "social evil" by
drenching all engaged in immoral traffic with nauseous doses of public
ridicule. Thus, if a man were convicted of keeping a house of ill-fame,
immediately his hair and beard were shaved off, save for a fringe
(_liste_) on his head two inches in breadth. He was then conveyed to the
pillory, accompanied by minstrels, and there he had to abide at the
discretion of the Mayor and Aldermen. If he was found guilty of the
offence a third time, he was compelled to abjure the City.

A woman convicted of being a common night-walker was committed to
prison--probably the Tun, on Cornhill--and thence she was led to Aldgate
with a hood of rayed cloth on her head and a white wand in her hand.
Next she was escorted by musicians to the thewe (pillory)--in Cheap,
probably--and there the character of her offence was proclaimed.
Finally, she was taken through Cheap and Newgate to "Cokkeslane" without
the walls, where she was required to dwell. If guilty a third time, her
hair was cropped close, while she stood in the pillory, and she was
marched to one of the gates and made to abjure the City for the
remainder of her life. A procurer or procuress was also set in the thewe
to the accompaniment of music, with a "distaf with towen"--i.e., a
distaff dressed with flax--in his or her hand; and the transgressor was
made to serve as a public spectacle for such time as the Mayor and
Aldermen deemed fit. A priest detected in the company of a loose female,
if she were single, was conveyed to the Tun, attended by musicians; and
upon a third conviction he was forced to abjure the City for ever, the
woman meanwhile being taken to one of the Sheriff's Counters and thence
to the Tun. If his partner in guilt chanced to be married, both of them
were conducted to one of the Counters, or to Newgate, and after that to
the Guildhall; and in the event of conviction they were removed to
Newgate, where their heads were shaved like those of thieves. This done,
they were led with the inevitable music through Cheap, and lastly
incarcerated in the Tun during the pleasure of the Mayor and Aldermen.
The same procedure was observed if the male offender was a married

Incidentally in the course of the narrative we have mentioned various
instances of interference with business. We may conclude the chapter by
citing a few more, and, as we have spoken of bakers, illustrations may
be drawn from that trade. Every baker dwelling within the walls was
obliged to have his own seal for impressing the loaves, and these seals
were periodically inspected by the Alderman of the Ward, who kept a
counterpart of the impression. A baker might not sell bread "before his
oven" or in any secret place--only in the King's markets; and to every
baker was assigned his market, to which the bread was carried in baskets
hence called panniers. "Panyers Alley," in Newgate Street, was a famous
stand for bakers' boys. Bread was sold also by female hucksters or
regratresses, who received it from the bakers and delivered it from
house to house. They were allowed to have thirteen batches for twelve,
which is the origin of the phrase "baker's dozen," and the extra batch
represented their legitimate profit; but a practice grew up whereby they
obtained sixpence on Monday mornings as _estrene_, and threepence on
Fridays as "curtasie money." This was disallowed by ordinance on pain of
amercement, and bakers were admonished, in lieu of such payments, to
increase the size of the loaf "to the profit of the public."




Blount's "Ancient Tenures," a meritorious seventeenth-century work which
has been edited by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt, contains a description of the
military and civil functions performed, and the privileges enjoyed, by
the house of Fitzwalter, in connexion with the City of London. The
latter stand in close relation to the subject with which we have just
dealt, but it will be convenient to discuss first the obligations and
then the "liberties" annexed to their observance. By way of preface we
may recapitulate what Blount, who obtained his account from Dugdale, has
recorded, and, having done so, we will proceed to investigate and
amplify his version of what is beyond question an important chapter in
the early administration of the city.

Confining ourselves to the facts as there stated, we find that the duty
of providing for the safety of London devolved on the hereditary
castellans, the Fitzwalters, Lords of Wodeham, who discharged the office
of Chief Standard-bearer in fee for the castlery of Castle Baynard
within the City. When war loomed on the horizon Fitzwalter, armed and
astride his horse of service, and attended by twenty men-at-arms, who
were mounted on horses harnessed with mail or iron, proceeded to the
great door of the Minster of St. Paul with a banner of his arms
displayed before him. There he was met by the Mayor, Sheriffs, and
Aldermen, who came armed and afoot out of the Minster, the Mayor
bearing his banner which was _gules_ and charged with the image of St.
Paul, _or_, the head, hands, and feet _argent_, and in the hands a sword
also _argent_.

On perceiving their approach, Fitzwalter dismounted, saluted the Mayor
as his comrade, and, addressing him, said: "Sir Mayor, I am come to do
my service, which I owe to the City." The Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen
replied thereupon: "We allow you here, as our Standard-bearer of this
City in fee, this banner of the City to carry and govern to your power,
to the honour and profit of the City."

Fitzwalter then took the banner in his hand, and the Mayor and the
Sheriffs, following him to the door, presented him with a horse of the
value of £20, garnished with a saddle of his arms and covered with a
sendal of the same. They also delivered to his chamberlain £20 sterling
for his charges of that day. Holding the banner in his hand, Fitzwalter
mounted the horse presented to him, and, as soon as he was seated,
desired the Mayor that a marshal might be chosen straightway out of the
host of London. This request having been complied with, he preferred
another--namely, that the common signal might be sounded through the
City, when it would be the duty of the commonalty to follow the Banner
of St. Paul, borne before them by the Castellan, to Aldgate.

In the event of Fitzwalter marching out of the City, he chose from every
ward two of the sagest inhabitants to superintend the defence of the
City in his absence, and form a council of war, holding its sittings in
the Priory of the Trinity adjoining Aldgate. It was supposed that the
Army of London might be engaged from time to time in besieging towns or
castles; and should a siege exceed a year in duration, the utmost amount
Fitzwalter could claim as remuneration was one hundred shillings. If
such were the duties of the Castellan in time of war, he had rights
hardly less important in time of peace. Here it should be premised that
under Norman rule the King's justice or the King's peace was assured by
the grant of soke and soken--the former being the power of hearing and
determining causes and levying fines and forfeitures, and the latter the
area within which soke and other privileges were exercised. In the City
of London the Fitzwalters had a soken extending from the wall of the
Canonry of St. Paul as a man went down by the "bracine" or brewhouse of
St. Paul to the Thames; and thence to the side of the mill that stood on
the water running down by the Fleet Bridge, by London Walls, round by
the Friars Preachers to Ludgate, and by the back of the friary to the
corner of the wall of the said Canons of St. Paul. It embraced, in fact,
the whole parish of the Church of St. Andrew, which was in their gift.

Appendant to this soken were various rights and privileges. Fitzwalter
might choose from the sokemanry, or inhabitants of the soken, a Sokeman
_par excellence_; and if any of the sokemanry was impleaded in the
Guildhall on any matter not touching the body of the Mayor or any of the
Sheriffs for the time being, the Sokeman might demand the court of
Fitzwalter. But while the Mayor and Citizens had to allow him to hold
his court, his sentence was expected to coincide with that of the
Guildhall. He exercised, indeed, a co-ordinate rather than an appellate
jurisdiction, as may be shown in the following manner:

Suppose that a thief had been taken in the soken, stocks and a prison
were in readiness for him; and he was thence carried before the Mayor to
receive his sentence, but not until he had been conveyed to Fitzwalter's
court and within his franchise. The nature of the sentence, to which the
latter's assent was required, varied with the gravity of the offence. If
the person were condemned for simple larceny, he was conducted to the
Elms, near Smithfield--the usual place of execution before Tyburn was
adopted for the purpose--and there "suffered his judgment," i.e., was
hanged like other common thieves. If, on the other hand, the theft was
associated with treason, the crime, it was considered, called for more
exemplary punishment, and the felon was bound to a pillar in the Thames
at Wood-wharf, to which watermen fastened their boats or barges, there
to remain during two successive floods and ebbs of the tide.

So important a franchise in the City was in itself a high honour, and it
carried other distinctions with it. The Fitzwalter of the day, when the
Mayor was minded to hold a Great Council, was invited to attend, and be
a member of it; and on his arrival, the Mayor or his deputy was required
to rise and appoint him a place by his side. During the time he was at
the hustings, all judgments were pronounced by his mouth, and such waifs
as might accrue whilst he was there were presented by him to the
bailiffs of the City or to whomsoever he pleased, by the advice of the

Such is the story as we find it in the pages of Blount, in which it
appears apropos of nothing--merely as an instance of curious and
picturesque usages which had long ceased to exist. Blount, as we have
seen, gives as his authority Sir William Dugdale, who alludes to the
subject in his "Extinct Baronage of England," and Dugdale seems to have
owed the information to the "Collection of Glover, Somerset Herald."
Stow also knew of the "services and franchises," and it is thought that
he had seen a copy of them in the "Liber Custumarum." The latter is
accessible in print in Riley's edition of the "Munimenta Gildhallæ
Londiniensis," and corresponds in all or most respects with what we have
found in Blount.

So much for the antecedents of the story.

The Fitzwalters are said to have come over with the Conqueror, and to
have been invested with the soke before mentioned by his favour and in
requital of their services. That the family had at one time
extraordinary rights in the City of London is shown by the evidence of
the Patent Rolls, from which we learn that in the third year of Edward
I. (1275) Robert Fitzwalter received licence from the Crown to transfer
Baynard Castle, "adjoining the wall of the City, with all walls and
fosses thereunto pertaining, as also the Tourelle called Montfichet," to
Robert Kilwardley, Archbishop of Canterbury, for the purpose of founding
the House and Church of the Friars Preachers--"provided always that by
reason of this grant nothing shall be extinguished to him and his heirs
which to his Barony did belong, but that whatsoever relating thereto, as
well in rents, landing of vessels, and other franchises and privileges
in the City of London or elsewhere, without diminution unto him the said
Robert, or to that Barony, have recently belonged, shall henceforth be

This Robert was the son of Walter Fitzwalter and grandson of his more
illustrious namesake, the Marshal of the Army of God and Captain of the
Barons in the days of King John; and it may be noted in passing that
either to the last-named or his son Walter, as lord of Dunmow in Essex,
has been ascribed the institution of the Flitch. Thirty years after the
sale of his patrimonial estate Robert Fitzwalter, in 1303, recited and
claimed his services "and franchises" before Sir John le Blount, Warden
of the City; and as late as 1321, as shown by the "Placita de Quo
Warranto," the Justiciars of the Iter were inquiring into the claims of
Fitzwalter in relation to the City of London. One of his rights he was
prepared to waive--namely, that of drowning traitors at Wood-wharf. The
Justiciars refused to take cognizance of the matter, but the Fitzwalters
did not soon or easily abandon their demands, which were renewed by
John, grandson of Robert Fitzwalter, in 1347. On the feast of St.
Matthew in that year it was announced to the Mayor, Aldermen, and
Citizens in Common Council "that John, Lord Fitzwalter, claims to have
franchises in the Ward of Castle Baynard wholly repugnant to the
liberties of the City, and to the prejudice of the estate of his
lordship the King, and of the liberties of the City aforesaid. For now
of late he has made stocks for imprisonment of persons in the said Ward
and [has claimed] to make deliverance of persons imprisoned." Thereupon
it was agreed "that the said John had no franchise within the liberties
of the City aforesaid, nor was he in future to intermeddle with any
pleas holden in the Guildhall of London or with any matters touching the
liberties of the City."

Probably this resolution served as a quietus of the efforts of the
Fitzwalters to establish or re-establish the right of jurisdiction over
the citizens of London. It seems likely that these were endeavours to
reinstitute ancient privileges rather than to create new. The document
in the "Liber Custumarum," used in support of the claims of Robert
Fitzwalter in 1303, contains a reference to the Friars Preachers, which
would lead to the supposition that it was drawn up at the time; but
Riley believes that it was remodelled, perhaps only to the extent of
this interpolation, and that otherwise it was a copy of an earlier
pronouncement pertaining to the days of the first Robert Fitzwalter, who
would have been the actual owner of Baynard Castle.

This has an important bearing on the reality of the dual or reciprocal
obligations, which were apparently embodied in a compact between the
Mayor and Citizens of London on the one part, and their military chief
or champion on the other. Thus it will be necessary to glance at the
personal history of the elder Robert Fitzwalter, on which something has
been already said. According to the Chronicle of Dunmow and other early
records, the principal reason of Fitzwalter's insatiable hatred of King
John was that the monarch had attempted the chastity of Matilda,
Robert's fair daughter, who, by the way, is identified by Anthony Munday
and other Elizabethan playwrights with the Maid Marian of Robin Hood.
Dugdale is disposed to accept this story; but, granting that it is true,
it hardly suffices to explain Fitzwalter's pre-eminence in the forces of
the rebellious Barons. This seems to have been due to his influence with
the wealthy citizens of London, who were among the staunchest opponents
of the astute and tyrannous sovereign. On May 24, 1215--the Sunday next
before Ascension Day, when many of the inhabitants would have been in
attendance on Divine service--the army of the Barons, marching from
Ware, were permitted to enter the City, unopposed, through the gate of
Aldgate. Fitzwalter's position as Castellan, and his connexion with the
Priory of Holy Trinity at Aldgate, furnish an easy and natural
explanation of this proceeding. In 1217 the citizens of London raised a
force of 20,000 men for the assistance of the Dauphin of France against
King Henry and his guardian William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and
Robert Fitzwalter acted as commander. He died in 1234, and was buried
before the high altar in the church of Dunmow Priory.

In the description of the banner delivered to Fitzwalter by the Mayor we
have the earliest mention of the assumption of any sort of arms by the
City of London. It may be noted that the sword is stated by some
heraldic authorities to have been argent, whilst by others this detail
is omitted. In Saxon times York also had its standard-bearer. The "Great
Gate" of St. Paul's was probably the Northern Gate.

Still keeping to the military aspects of the subject--at the
commencement of the fourteenth century there was at the west end of St.
Paul's Cathedral a waste piece of ground, which was the property of the
City; and here it was the custom for the citizens to make a muster of
arms under the command or inspection of the lord of Baynard Castle for
the defence of the City, "so often as the said citizens might see fit."
Moreover, at the east end of the church lay a smaller plot, on which the
citizens held folkmotes and made parade of arms for preserving the
King's peace. This was perhaps a relic of the Anglo-Saxon institution of
Inward, which is mentioned in Domesday, and was designed for the
maintenance of order within the walls. Adjacent to this smaller plot was
the clochier or campanile of St. Paul's, which was a distinct building
from the cathedral proper, and contained the great bell, known as the
_motbelle_, by which the citizens were summoned to the Folkmote or an
assembly of arms on occasions "when within the respective bailiwicks of
the Aldermen anything unexpected, doubtful, or disastrous against the
realm, or the royal crown, chanced suddenly to take place." When the
King required the services of the Host of London against foreign enemies
or outside the confines of the City, it is natural to suppose that the
muster was held on the larger of the two spaces.

The musters and parades of the Host probably lapsed when, by the sale of
Baynard Castle, the Fitzwalters ceased to be _de facto_ Castellans of
London. This is a fair inference from the circumstance that in 1321 the
citizens complained before the Justiciars Itinerant that the Dean and
Chapter had unlawfully taken possession of the vacant spaces, enclosed
them with walls, and even erected dwelling-houses on the eastern plot.
The blazonry of the Banner of St. Paul, which would have been no longer
used, was so far forgotten that eighty or a hundred years later nothing
remained but the sword, which was supposed to stand for the dagger of
that militant mayor, Sir William Walworth, who is said to have
terminated therewith the lawlessness of Wat Tyler.




Were we obliged to sum up the difference between town and country in one
word, that word would be "trade." In mediæval, far more than in modern,
times country places had their fairs, but London, with its markets open
Sundays and week-days, enjoyed all the benefits of a perpetual fair;
from which strangers and foreigners, though under some disadvantages
compared with freemen, were by no means excluded.

One of the great principles regulating commercial transactions in the
Middle Ages and enforced by law and custom was publicity. Bakers, as we
have seen, might not sell bread "before their oven," and to this we may
add that fishmongers might not take fish into their shops--they had to
expose it for sale outside. The object of such arrangements was to
ensure fair dealing all round. As Justice is usually figured with a pair
of scales, it may be taken for granted that the important question of
due weight did not escape the attention of legislators, and it attained
considerable prominence in 31 Edward I. (A.D. 1303), in which
year the statute De Nova Custuma was promulgated. This statute provided
that in every market town and fair throughout the Kingdom there was to
be erected in some fixed spot the Royal Beam or Balance, and that both
vendor and purchaser were to view the scale before weighing, to see that
it was empty. Prior to being used, the arms of the balance had to be
exactly equal, and when the tronator was weighing, he had to remove his
hands as soon as they were level. It may be observed that the citizens
of London refused to accept the "New Custom," stating that it had
always been the custom for all buyers of wares, whether archbishops,
bishops, earls, barons, or other persons, to have the draught of the
beam; but we have learnt by this time that a local custom was not
allowed to override the law of the land, and thus it is most improbable
that this protest, though it led to the issuing of two Royal mandates,
was long persisted in.

But the "New Custom" statute contained another provision--namely, when
once a bargain had been ratified, neither of the contracting parties was
to recede from it. If they, or either of them, took this course after
the weighing process, it would be bringing the Royal Beam into contempt,
and such profanation could not be contemplated; but the sacredness of
contract had been affirmed by local ordinances or customs before this
measure was enacted. A contract was held to be good when God's Penny, or
earnest money, had been given and received by the principals. As God's
Penny, or that which it symbolized, was the basis of all business, and
business was the life of towns, the custom appears worthy of notice in
some detail.

The _arles_, or earnest money, was given to a servant on hiring, as
shown by an entry in the Shuttleworth Accounts (printed by the Chetham
Society) for September, 1590: "4_d._, earnest money, was paid unto a
cook to serve at the next Assizes." Similarly, in February, 1592: "To
John Hay upon earnest to serve for a year as butler and brewster at
Smithhills, 4_d._" Previous entries state that 12_d._ was paid to John
Horebyn "upon erlynges" of a bargain for ditching, and that "3_d._ was
given of erles unto the gardener for his hiring another year."

Mr. Gerald P. Gordon, to whom we are indebted for much valuable
information, quotes as an analogous instance the gift of the "King's
shilling" to a recruit on enlistment. As regards mercantile transactions
he considers that the usage "was not so much a partial or symbolic
payment of the price as a distinct payment for the seller's forbearance
to deliver to somebody else." This view of the case appears to us
extremely doubtful, as it would render the contract binding on one of
the parties only--namely, the buyer; whereas Bracton and "Fleta" aver
that if the seller default he must pay double the earnest. Mr. Gordon
subsequently adduces a Preston decree, that "if a buyer should buy any
goods in large or small quantities and give earnest, and he who agreed
to sell should rue the bargain, he shall pay the double asked. But if
the buyer fingers the goods, he must either take them or pay the seller
5_s._" We infer, therefore, from his evidence alone, that the payment of
earnest was essentially symbolical and served all the purpose of a
written contract.

That the act was regarded as expressive of mutual understanding is shown
by a Northampton ordinance of about the year 1260: "That if anyone put a
penny or any merchandise before the seller be agreed to the bargain, he
shall forfeit the penny to the use of the bailiffs." The importance of
the due-fulfilment of the contract was recognized by the imposition of a
penalty on anyone who delivered the earnest and afterwards declined to
make good the bargain. At Waterford about 1300 it was enacted that
"whoever gives God's silver and repents, be he who he may, shall pay
10s."; and at Cork in 1614 an ordinance was passed, disfranchising the
defaulter of his councillorship and freedom and compelling him to pay a
fine of £20.

In the early part of the sixteenth century God's Penny was paid at
Waterford on ships' freights; and at Youghal, in 1611, it was paid into
court for the right of buying wines on board ship. As may have been
noticed in previous examples, the arles did not necessarily consist of a
penny. An ordinance of Berwick of the year 1249 declared: "If anyone buy
herring or other aforesaid goods and give God's penny or other silver in
earnest, he shall pay the merchant from whom he bought the said goods
according to the bargain made." But a penny sufficed. Noyes, the
Attorney-General of Charles I., is emphatic on this point. "If," he
says in his "Maxims," "the bargain be that you shall give me two pounds
for my horse, and you do give me one penny in earnest, which I do
accept, this is a perfect bargain." The impression left upon one's mind
is that the most important contracts as well as the most trifling
dealings were settled by the exchange of God's Penny or some equivalent

Now, it is evident on the face of it that the transactions must have
taken place in the presence of witnesses; otherwise a man who had made
an awkward bargain would have found it easy to escape from his dilemma
by denying that he had either given or received the penny. In early
times, before writing became a common accomplishment, and when, as now,
men might be eager to clinch a bargain without loss of time, it was
desirable in the interests of common honesty that such agreements should
be made in the light of day and in the face of the world. This custom
appears to have continued to a late date. Thus, if O'Keeffe the
dramatist may be believed, there was in the centre of Limerick Exchange
a pillar with a circular plate of copper, about three feet in diameter,
called "the nail," on which the earnest of all Stock Exchange bargains
had to be paid. At Bristol there are said to have been four pillars
called "the nails" in front of the Exchange, the purpose being the same;
and similarly, at Liverpool, bargains were completed on a plate of
copper, also called "the nail," and standing in front of the Exchange.
It is probable, however, as Mr. Gordon observes, that, the phrase
"payment on the nail" did not originate from circumstances like these,
but was an adaptation of the Latin _super unguem_ or the French _sur
l'ongle_, by which is meant "paying down into a man's hand." It might
thus stand for a bargain the opposite of that of which God's Penny was
the usual symbol. It appears to have been the custom at Ipswich in 1291
for traders not to make writings or tallies if two witnesses were in
attendance to prove that the undertaking was to pay on a near day _ou
freschement sur le ungle_. The notion of immediate payment is still
conveyed by the expression, and would cover the entire amount, not
merely God's Penny. However, that payment was undoubtedly made "on the
nail;" hence some confusion may have arisen, especially where plates and
pillars were provided for the deposit of earnest money.

In all this there is much to remind us of the Roman _mancipatio_, a
method of sale which demanded the presence of five witnesses, and in
which the buyer took possession of his new purchase by holding in his
hand a bronze ingot and repeating the formula: "This man [i.e., a slave]
I claim as belonging to me by right quiritary; and be he [or he is]
purchased to me by this ingot and this scale of bronze [i.e., that in
which the purchase money had been weighed out]."

We have expressed the opinion that the payment of God's Penny was a
symbolical act, and this opinion is supported by the fact that there
were in mediæval England hand-clasp bargains. Marbeck, a musician and
theologian of the sixteenth century, remarks: "As ye see: after all
bargaines there is a signe thereof made, eyther clapping of hands or
giving earnest." Among the provisions of the Grimsby charter of 1259 is
one to the effect that only buyers of the said town might make bargains
by hand-clasp for herring or other fish or for corn. To this was added
that hand-clasp bargains were to be valid, unless the merchandise, which
was the subject of such a bargain, should be inferior to that agreed
upon--a question which has to be determined by men worthy of credit. In
Shakespeare's "Henry V." we meet with the saying: "Give me your answer,
i' faith, do; and so clasp hands _and a bargain_; how say you, lady?"
This recalls that the joining of hands in the marriage ceremony is in
the highest degree symbolical; and it is, of course, the common token of
faith in friendship. Judging by these parallels, the payment of God's
Penny was not less symbolical than its equivalent, the clapping or
clasping of hands.




In the course of the preceding chapter reference was made to the
illiteracy of our ancestors in its bearing upon trade usages. In the
present chapter we propose to supplement this allusion by drawing
attention to a feature of commercial life which was certainly influenced
by, if not actually due to, the prevailing lack of education. The
combination "Merchants' Marks" is so familiar as to suggest that such
marks were used by merchants alone. This was by no means the case.
Farmers also had their marks. "When a yeoman," says Mr. Williams,
"affixed a mark to a deed, he drew a signum by which his land, cattle,
etc., were identified"; and in Sussex, we are informed, the post-mortem
inquisitions from the time of Henry VII. to that of Charles II. exhibit
a large number of yeomen's marks--"other than crosses"--which were
employed as signatures. Masons' and printers' marks are further
varieties of the same mode of identification.

All these are distinctively trade uses, but the astonishing thing is
that, in Germany at any rate, marks were affixed, in conjunction with
regular signatures, by ecclesiastical dignitaries and secular nobles,
probably as an additional guarantee. They were also used on shields, and
in England were frequently impaled with the owners' arms.

Marks, then, were in no sense the exclusive characteristic of the
merchant class; and yet, owing to the fact that these devices were
necessarily more used by traders, they may be considered on the whole as
belonging to their domain. As we have seen, every baker in the City was
obliged to stamp his loaves with his own proper mark; and in other
branches of commerce men would value their mark as a means of
advertisement. As persons engaged in commerce were commonly debarred
from the privilege of armorial bearings, marks were freely employed not
only in relation to special callings, but also for ornamentation or
commemoration in any and every sphere in which merchants desired to
leave the impress of their personality and interest. They were to be
found on the fronts of houses, over the fireplace in halls, on seals, on
sepulchral slabs and monumental brasses, and on painted windows. In his
description of a Dominican convent--printed in full in Prof. Skeat's
"Specimens of English Literature" (a.d. 1394-1579)--the author of "Peres
the Ploughman's Crede" speaks as follows:

  Than I munt me forth the minster to knowen
  And awayted a wone wonderly well y-built,
  With arches on every hall & belliche [beautifully] y-carven
  With crochets on corners, with knots of gold,
  Wide windows y-wrought, y-written full thick,
  Shyning with shapen shields to shewen about,
  With _marks of merchants_ y-meddled between,
  Mo than twenty and two, twice y-numbered;
  There is none herald that hath half such a roll,
  Right as a ragman hath reckoned them new.

Another circumstance has to be noted--namely, that merchants' marks were
entirely distinct from shop signs, such as that of the Golden Fleece,
which, though serving the same purpose of aiding or enlightening the
unlearned, were more pictorial in character. Dr. Barrington, in his
"Lectures on Heraldry," defines merchants' marks as "various fanciful
forms, distorted representations of _initials of names_," which, he
says, were "placed upon articles of merchandise, because armorial
ensigns could not have been so placed without debasement."

To those merchants who had no arms--and they were doubtless the vast
majority--the mark served as a substitute, and was regarded with the
same feelings of pride and attachment as the ensigns of the nobility and
gentry. But unquestionably its chief value was strictly commercial, as
is proved by an instance of litigation in the twenty-second year of
Queen Elizabeth's reign, which is thus narrated by Mr. Justice
Doddridge: "An action was brought upon the case in common pleas by a
clothier, that, whereas he had gained reputation by the making of his
cloth, by reason whereof he had great utterance to his great benefit and
profit, and that he used to set his mark to his cloth, another clothier,
perceiving it, used the same mark to his ill-made cloth on purpose to
deceive him, and it was resolved that an action did lie."

Merchants' marks appear to have been especially common in towns
depending on the manufacture of wool. It so happens that one of those
towns was that in the immediate neighbourhood of which these chapters
were written; and, agreeably to what has been stated, the Church of St.
Peter, Tiverton, which owed much to the munificence of the old
merchants, carries a number of such marks. East Anglia is particularly
rich in such marks, as is shown by Mr. W. C. Ewing's papers in the
"Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Archæological Society" (vol.
iii.). Mr. Dawson Turner, in his Historical Introduction to Colman's
"Engravings of Sepulchral Brasses in Norfolk and Suffolk," after stating
that merchants or burgesses were probably the only classes except the
military that were represented on monuments, goes on to observe that
"these are chiefly to be found in borough towns or the parochial
churches of large commercial counties where the woollen manufacture
flourished." And, as we have pointed out, the merchant's mark very often
accompanied him to his grave.

We have now reached the borderland, where from urban customs we pass to
those of the country; and it will form a natural transition if we
conclude the chapter and the section with some remarks on the rural use
of marks, which is still common in regard to stock. In this Connexion
they are generally styled yeomen's marks; and, from the circumstances of
the case, it seems certain that the adoption of such symbols took place
on the farm long before they were employed on the mart. The point has
been raised whether so-called "pictorial marks" are, and have always
been, nothing more than rude drawings of familiar objects. Mr. J. H.
Scott has dealt with this problem in an examination of Homeyer's theory
that marks were originally runic forms, and he expresses the opinion
that, assuming this to be true of certain types of marks, "they lost
their character at an early period and were regarded merely as signs or
symbols not as letters of an alphabet." As regards "pictorial marks," he
holds that the similarity to various objects is accidental. If so, this
is rather in favour of Homeyer's derivation of marks from runes, the
forms in some cases being identical. Moreover, as Homeyer notes, "signa"
for identifying cattle, horses, trees, clothes, and as boundary marks,
are referred to in the Lex Salica, the Edictum Rotharis, and the
Anglo-Saxon laws, so that we have here something like a pedigree of the




Urban customs appear of more interest and importance than rural usages
by reason of the greater complexity of relations implied by the
interdependence of members of a populous community. In the country the
organization of society is more simple, and the life of the fields, if
more tranquil, must always be less vivid, and, if the term may be
allowed, less conscious than that of the town. Nothing, however, is more
certain than that the formation of towns came after and was in most
instances the progeny of rural conditions. It is an amazing circumstance
that not until the middle of the last century did the great city of
Manchester emancipate itself from the last traces of feudal subjection
by the purchase of manorial and market rights. Just as the word
_pecunia_ is derived from _pecus_, just as the merchant's mark is in all
likelihood descended from that of the yeoman, even so in many municipal
appointments there is strong evidence of the once all-prevalent
agricultural element.

If we turn to London, we shall discover that its administration was
conducted, to a large extent, on country and manorial lines. The
necessary result was chaos. As Mr. J. H. Round observes, "The genius of
the Anglo-Saxon system was ill adapted, or rather wholly unsuitable, to
urban life ... while of unconquerable persistence and strength in small
manageable rural communities, it was bound to, and did, break down when
applied to large and growing towns, whose life lay not in agriculture,
but in trade. In a parish, in a hundred, the Englishman was at home, but
in a town, and still more in such a town as London, he found himself at
his wits' end." But the practical spirit, the common sense of our race,
successfully asserted itself--e.g., in the case of the Sheriffs, who in
London are elected by the citizens. In general, sheriffs are appointed
by the Crown, and, as the name implies, they are strictly county
officers. In the case of the special franchise of the Fitzwalters we
have seen how eagerly the Corporation embraced the opportunity afforded
by the sale of Baynard Castle to secure greater freedom and homogeneity
in the government of the City.

Subordinate to the sheriff in the administration of a county are various
classes of bailiffs; and the bailiff bore to the lord of a fee much the
same relation as the sheriff did to the King. For one or other of these
reasons the mayors of provincial towns were, in the early days of local
autonomy, termed bailiffs. By a charter granted in 1200 King John
permitted the citizens of Lincoln to elect two of their number "well and
faithfully to maintain the provostship (_præposituram_) of the city."
Twenty-two years afterwards the persons holding this office were called
upon to represent the city in a dispute with the burgesses of
Beverley--"Ballivi civitatis Lincolnie summoniti fuerunt ad respondendum
burgensibus de Beverlaco." The record continues: "Et Major Lincolnie et
Robertus filius Eudonis ballivi Lincolnie veniunt et defendunt," etc.
Maitland, in his edition of Bracton's "Note-Book," in which these
particulars occur, suggests that the name of one of the bailiffs has
been omitted, but Mr. Round is doubtless right in holding that the
senior bailiff was the "Mayor of Lincoln." Stevenson's "Report on the
Gloucester Corporation Records" (9th Appendix to the 12th Report on
Hist. MSS.) renders it certain that the titles were interchangeable. "A
noteworthy circumstance," he says, "is that although the office of
Mayor of Gloucester was not created until 1483, one Richard the Burgess
is frequently described in the witness clauses as 'tunc Majore de
Glouc.' The dates of these deeds range between _circa_ 1220 and _circa_
1240. Sometimes this appears to be the title of the senior Bailiff, as
Richard Burgess and Thomas Ouenat are described as Bailiffs in a deed
_circa_ 1230, but in another deed of the same date Burgess is called
'Major' and Ouenat 'Bailiff.'"

In some boroughs the old royal officer, the Portreeve--the title is a
hybrid compounded of the Anglo-Saxon _gerefa_ and the Latin _porta_ (not
_portus_), alluding to the gate, where the markets were held--bore sway.
At Tiverton, which was incorporated in 1614, the offices of Mayor and
Portreeve existed side by side, and down to the year 1790 the latter
exercised the power of summoning certain people to attend the septennial
perambulation of the Town Lake--a stream of water the property of the
inhabitants. On such occasions the Portreeve completely effaced the
Mayor, who is not mentioned by name in connexion with the proceedings.
The following extracts from a record in the Court Leet books of the
proceedings on September 1, 1774, will demonstrate that the celebration,
which took place entirely within the confines of the borough, was a
survival of a state of things anterior to the grant of a charter.

"A procession and survey of the ancient rivulet, watercourse, or town
lake, running from a spring rising near an ash pollard in and at the
head of a certain common called Norwood Common, within the said Hundred,
Manor, and Borough to Coggan's Well near the Market Cross in the town of
Tiverton aforesaid, belonging to the inhabitants of, and others his
Majesty's liege subjects, living, sojourning, and residing in the town
of Tiverton aforesaid, for their sole use and benefit, was made and
taken by Mr. Martin Dunsford (Portreeve), Henry Atkins, Esq. (Steward),
Thomas Warren and Philip Davey (water bailiffs) and the Rev. Mr.
William Wood ... and divers other persons, free suitors, tenants and
inhabitants of the said town, parish, and hundred of Tiverton, by the
order of the honourable Sir Thomas Carew, baronet, Dame Elizabeth Carew
and Edward Colman, Esq., Lords of the Hundred, Manor and Borough
aforesaid, the first day of September in the year of our Lord one
thousand seven hundred and seventy-four.

"The Portreeve and Free Suitors, having adjourned the Court Baron, which
was this day held, proceeded from the Court or Church House in the
following order:--The Bailiff of the Hundred with his staff and a basket
of cakes; the children of the Charity School and other boys two and two;
the two water bailiffs with white staves; music; Freeholders and Free
Suitors two and two; the Steward; the Portreeve with his staff; other
gentlemen of the town, &c., who attended the Portreeve on this occasion;
the Common Cryer of the Hundred, Manor, and Borough aforesaid, as
assistant to the Bailiff of the Hundred with his staff.

"In this manner they proceeded at first to the Market Cross, and there
at Coggan's Well, the Cryer with his staff in the well made the
following proclamation in the usual and ancient form--'Oyez! Oyez!!
Oyez!!! I do hereby proclaim and give notice that by order of the Lords
of this Hundred, Manor, and Borough of Tiverton, and on behalf of the
inhabitants of this town and parish, the Portreeve and inhabitants now
here assembled, publicly proclaim this stream of water, for the sole use
and benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Tiverton and other his
Majesty's liege subjects there being and sojourning, from the Market
Cross in Tiverton to Norwood Common." They then proceeded in the same
order through the Back Lane, in every part as it ran and through the
ancient path of the water bailiffs time out of mind and made the like
proclamation at the following places.... The Portreeve and free suitors
and others that attended them in their way noted every diversion and
nuisance that seemed to affect the Lake, and afterwards returned to
Tiverton and dined at the Vine Tavern, where they gave the following
charity children and other poor boys that attended them twopence

These duties are now performed by the Mayor and Corporation, but the
custom was observed in the traditional manner at least as late as 1830.
We have ascertained that not only did the Portreeve take the lead on
these occasions, but, like the Mayor and other members of the
Corporation, he was ex officio guardian of the poor of the town and
parish--a privilege which he shared with them alone. We have here,
therefore, an instance of dual authority lasting well into the
nineteenth century, or nearly six hundred years after London had purged
itself of the feudal element in its administration. To appreciate its
full significance we have to remember that there existed, side by side
with corporate towns, others which were not actually corporate, but were
known, nevertheless, as free boroughs or liberties, the reason being
that the owners of tenements in them held of the lord by burgage tenure
in the same way as the freemen of Liverpool held of the King, and that
there were manorial courts, which exempted the burgesses from the
jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Hundred Court, the Sheriff's County Court,
and even the higher courts of the Crown.

The executive officers, the Portreeve and the Bailiffs exercised
functions probably as old as the borough itself, and therefore, in
almost every instance, to be traced to the freer times preceding the
Norman Conquest. Stoford, in Somerset, a good type of such a town,
retained its constitution until the middle of the eighteenth century. In
the reign of Edward I. it included no fewer than seventy-four burgages;
and the burgesses set such store by their privileges that they would not
permit an inquisition to be taken by the jury of the county save in
conjunction with a jury of their own. The borough had a guildhall, the
"Zuldhous," for which a rent of 2_s._ was paid to the lord of the fee
by certain Representatives of the "Commonalty." Commenting on this
circumstance, the late Mr. John Batten, F.S.A., remarks: "It proves that
the burgesses had not acquired the true element of a corporation, by
which the Guildhall would have passed by law to the members for the time
being; but that it was necessary to convey it to certain persons as
feoffees or trustees." Stoford, however, had its official seal, bearing
the ungrammatical, but intelligible, legend,


This may seem rather an example of _urbs in rure_ than of _rus in urbe_,
for it was on such half-emancipated towns that corporate boroughs like
Hereford looked down (see above, p. 177), and precisely because of their
subjection to a lord. Stoford, and similar places, were deemed, and
were, wholly, or almost wholly, rural, and the real question is how far
the term urbs is applicable to them. As used in this connexion, it is
intended to denote precisely what the term "borough" did in its widest
signification--namely, a self-governing community; and the "free" but
non-corporate boroughs were clearly more allied to ordinary manors than
to towns and cities priding themselves on their independence.

The terms "portreeve" and "bailiff" are extremely familiar, and the
offices they denote are by no means extinct; but, in addition to these
functionaries, there has been perpetuated a whole family of minor
ministers even more closely associated with the agricultural aspects of
town life. Mr. G. L. Gomme, F.S.A., so well known for his labours in
various fields of antiquarian interest, has devoted particular attention
to this matter, and for what follows we are indebted entirely to his
industrious research. He points out that "the old village community was
organized and self-acting," and "possessed a body of officers and
servants which made it independent of outside help." These officers and
servants were, in fairly numerous instances, retained long after the
village had outgrown its primitive limits. In quite a variety of places
we meet with pound-keepers, pound-drivers, and pinders; and the hayward
also has been found in as many as fifteen different towns. In the same
list are included the brookwarden of Arundel, the field-grieve of
Berwick-on-Tweed, the grass-men of Newcastle-on-Tyne, the warreners of
Scarborough, the keeper of the greenyard in London, the hedge-lookers of
Lancaster and Clitheroe, the molecatcher of Arundel, Leicestershire, and
Richmond, the field-driver of Bedford, the herd, the nolts-herds, the
town swine-herds of Alnwick, Newcastle, Shrewsbury, and Doncaster, the
pasture-masters of Beverley and York, the moss-grieves of Alnwick, the
moormen and mossmen of Lancaster, the moor-wardens of Axbridge, the
fen-reeves of Beccles and Southwold, and the woodwards of Havering and

It will occur to most people that, if these offices were maintained, the
reason must have been something more than the mere force of
conservatism, great as that has been in the steady evolution of English
life; and such was undoubtedly the case in most of, if not all, the
cases cited. In other words, the townsmen, individually, as a body, or
in the persons of a limited number of elect, continued to enjoy certain
rights, and to hold a financial stake, in the soil surrounding that on
which their town was planted. The officers were often paid not in cash,
but in kind, either a quantity of grain being allotted to them or a
piece of land. The latter form of remuneration, which was the more
common, is exemplified at Doncaster, where there is a field called the
Pinder's Balk, which the pinder cultivated for his own profit. At
Malmesbury, it appears, he occupied the position of honour held in other
towns by the Mayor, and his salary is represented by a piece of land
called the Alderman's Kitchen.

Let us now turn to the communities themselves. At Nottingham resident
burgesses have a right, falling to them in order of seniority, to the
"burgess part"--i.e., a piece of land, either field or meadow, for which
each pays a small ground rent to the Corporation.[14] These "parts"
number 254, and they are of varying value, so that, as Mr. Gomme puts
it, they constitute "a sort of lottery." At Manchester there are 280
allotments, each about an acre in extent, in which all the commoners
have an interest. To forty-eight landholders is assigned an acre each,
and twenty-four assistant (?) burgesses have each of them an additional
acre. At Berwick-on-Tweed there are two portions of land, of which one
is demised, under the name of "treasurer's farms," by the mayor,
bailiff, and burgesses to tenants. The other part includes sundry
parcels called meadows ranging from 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 acres; and every year
at a meeting of the burgesses--the "meadowguild," as it is termed--the
lands vacated by the death or departure of those last in occupation go
to the oldest burgesses or burgesses' widows eligible by residence, the
right of choice depending on seniority.

The land belonging to the Corporation of Langharne is similarly
allocated. When an occupier dies, the profits accruing from his share
are kept by his representatives, and at the ensuing Michaelmas Court the
burgess next in age to the deceased is presented by the jury, and
obtains the share previously held by him. Mr. Gomme points out that the
reverence for age discoverable in so many of these customs is
characteristic of the Teutonic races and of primitive communities in
general. An interesting feature of this case is that corn is sown in 330
acres for three years in succession and during the next three years they
are grassed out.

The heading of the chapter is "Rus in Urbe," and, still following Mr.
Gomme's guidance, we have now to trace a transition that occurred in
the use of these public lands as the urban element became more and more
preponderant. It seems that while there are boroughs with common pasture
only, there has been found no instance of a borough having arable and
meadow allotments, and no common pasture. The inference is that, as the
community grew more addicted to mercantile pursuits, they were less able
to devote themselves to the cares of husbandry, and, accordingly, the
lands ceased to be cultivated. But they were still of considerable value
for grazing purposes. The merchants' cattle and horses might be placed
in them--the latter, perhaps, being subsequently entered in the service
of trade. Existing arrangements in boroughs which have abandoned
agriculture afford clear indications that at one time allotments were
carried out and rules enforced with regard to cultivation and the annual

The history of many towns shows that they formerly enjoyed rights of
common which they no longer enjoy, and the manner in which these became
lost is in numerous instances a mystery. When, from being lands of which
the tenants were virtually seised for life, they passed through some
evolution into being the property of the corporation let to freemen or
others as the case might be, they might not improbably be sold for the
good of the community at large. In earlier days the right may have been
surrendered by timid or ignorant townspeople under the pressure of a
local lord of the manor strong enough to set the law at defiance, or a
compromise may have been effected between him and those in temporary
enjoyment of the benefit. These, as we have observed, sometimes
consisted of no more than a fraction of the inhabitants, and, as the
population increased, this would be a diminishing fraction, with the
result that outsiders would be apathetic regarding the fate of the
common. Where there was a special qualification, it was not necessarily
seniority. At Huntingdon, for example, it was the freemen dwelling in
"commonable" houses who were privileged to use the common.

There were other restrictions than those already named. In the locality
just mentioned "commonable" burgesses, if we may imitate their manner of
speech, might depasture two cows and one horse from Old May-day till
Martinmas, and four sheep from Martinmas till Candlemas. At Coventry, in
what are called Lammas Lands, the allowance is two horses and one cow.
How very wise and necessary these limitations were may be gleaned from
the following extract from a decree in Chancery in 42 Elizabeth. The
bill--we have modernized the spelling--recites that,

"Divers years past sundry godly and well-disposed persons having
commiseration of the poor estate of the said town and parish, did in
sundry times in divers kings' reigns assure certain lands, tenements,
rents, common of pasture, of profits of markets and fairs and other
annual commodities under divers and sundry persons for the ease and
relief of the same poor inhabitants of the said town and parish, and
namely one William, sometimes Lord of the Town and Borough of Torrington
Magna aforesaid, by his deed did assure unto the free burgesses of the
said town, and some others of his free tenants of his said manor
dwelling in the parish of Torrington aforesaid, common of pasture for
their beasts and cattle in and throughout his waste grounds within his
manor of Great Torrington, lying within the aforesaid parish and known
by divers names there, by the name of the Wester Common and one other by
the name of Hatchmoor Common with, others, which waste grounds in the
whole do contain about five hundred acres of land and are lying very
near adjoining to the said town on each side thereof, the which hath
been and so might continue and be very profitable and commodious for all
the poor inhabitants of the said town and other free tenants of the said
manor that by the same grant ought to have common of pasture therein, if
the same were used in any reasonable rate or with any indifferency
according to the good and charitable mind and intent of the said granter
thereof, but in what form or what the words of the deeds are the said
complainants could not express.

"They, or some of them [the defendants], do continually oppress and
surcharge with their beasts, sheep, and cattle the common grounds, so as
the poor inhabitants cannot well keep a cow or horse thereupon for their
use and commodity in any good estate, whereas if the same were used with
any indifferency according to the true intent of the donor thereof,
every inhabitant within the said town that hath any ancient burgage to
which the said common of pasture was granted might well keep two kine or
a cow and a gelding or a horse beast with little or no charge. All which
was devoured and eaten up by six or eight of the richest greedy persons
of the same town and the inhabitants thereof."

But the benefit of common was sometimes not merely attenuated by the
action of a powerful and covetous few, but, as was before observed,
wholly or partially lost. The following passage from the same bill
throws some light on the point:

"And also the said Roger Ley under colour of a lease, which he himself
with the residue of his consorts made of certain tenements, parcel of
the said lands and tenements, unto certain of the children of the said
Ley wherein he had cunningly inserted parcel of the same common ground
contrary to the knowledge and weeting of the residue of his cofeoffees
or some of them had entered upon parcel of the said common ground called
Hatchmoor or lying in Hatchmoor, wherein the said complainants, having
burgages within the said town, and all other that dwell in the ancient
burgages or dwelling-houses within the said town, ought and had used
time out of mind to have common of pasture, without any colour of lawful
right had enclosed and tilled two parcels thereof containing about
fourteen or sixteen acres and made divers leases thereof to persons
unknown, and had shut up an ancient lane or way, commonly called Dark
Lane, leading from the said town to the said common of Hatchmoor,
through which the inhabitants of the said town had always time out of
mind, until the said enclosure, used go and drive to the said common, to
the great hindrance, hurt, and damage of the said complainants, and to
the disinherison of the said town for ever."

That towns, and even great towns, abode by the traditions of country
life, is now abundantly manifest, but the indications above given shed
only partial light on rural conditions in their earliest and fullest
form. These will furnish the theme of the following chapter, which, it
is hoped, will furnish the clue to much that is mysterious in the data
thus far supplied.




The state of things exhibited in the previous chapter is essentially
transitional. What we have there seen is the town emerging out of the
country, or, to put it another way, the country merging, through the
principle of attraction, into the focus of the town. This method of
viewing the subject is necessarily partial and incomplete. The existence
of a common in association with a town or village or group of villages
is not a self-evident proposition, to be taken for granted. It is
clearly part of a system which it now becomes our business to

To all appearances many of the arrangements found in the course of, and
to the close of, the Middle Ages, and even (in a decaying and
disappearing form) almost to our own generation, were descended from
that well-nigh immemorial antiquity, in which our forefathers were
colonists in what was to them a new world--a world of forest and of fen,
of man-eating beasts, and alien foemen as fierce or fiercer than they.
These conditions determined the course of action of the men who lived
under them. For safety, men of one blood dwelt together in a stockaded
village or tún. They and their stock, however, had to subsist on their
labour and the bounty of the earth; and therefore around the village a
tract of cultivable land was appropriated to the use of the community.
Until some degree of security was attained it was futile to dream too
much of individual rights; the inhabitants would have been only too glad
of the co-operation of their neighbours, and whilst some worked others
no doubt stood to arms. Within this area seem to have lain fenced
fields for the shelter of calves and other young animals, but this was
probably the only exception. Beyond the arable land lay a ring of meadow
land; beyond that the stinted pasture; and beyond that again the forest
or waste.

By the term "common" is generally understood common of pasture; it is
not unusual to meet with the phrase "cow commons," as though cows were
the principal, if not the sole, objects which rendered commons of
service. This may well have been the case in later times. In early days
however, there went along with it common tillage, examples of which are
still to be found on the Continent. Traces of the open-field system
exist also in various parts of England, notably between Hitchin and
Cambridge, where there are huge turf balks dividing the fields. It is
said that within the last century the country lying between Royston and
Newmarket was entirely unenclosed, and till quite late in the century
parishes like Lexton, in Northamptonshire, retained this characteristic.
Other examples occur at Swanage in Dorset and Stogursey in West


Before proceeding to describe the methods of cultivation employed, it is
desirable to glance at a custom which, there is reason to suppose, is
connected with that remote period when the English were not _de jure_
masters of the soil, but occupied the position of colonists, who either
expropriated the original inhabitants or entered upon possession of land
as _res nullius_, to which they had established no solid claim by
prescription. We have already referred to that valuable repertoire of
national customs, so judiciously edited as to merit the higher praise
_in_valuable--the Year-Books. The reports of the pleas in the Common
Bench for 1293 include the following:

"One A. brought a writ of entry against B., saying, 'Into which he had
not entry except by such an one who had tortiously, &c, disseised his
father Robert.' And he laid the descent thus: 'From Robert descended the
right, &c, to Adam the present demandant, as his youngest son and heir,
according to the custom of such a place, &c.'

"_Asseby_: 'Sir, we tell you that Adam has an elder brother named N.,
who is legitimate and is alive, and whom they have omitted. Judgment of
the omission.'

"_Sutton_: 'Sir, even if he had made a quit-claim to him, yet that could
not be a bar to us, because by the custom of the country the youngest
shall have his inheritance, wherefore there is no need to make mention
of him.'

"_Asseby_: 'Sir, he has brought a writ at common law; judgment if he
ought not to be answered at common law, and if he (the demandant) can
allege the custom.'

"_Sutton_: 'In many places in England a woman demands her dower by the
writ "Unde nihil habet," which is a writ at common law, and yet,
according to the custom of the country, she will recover for her dower a
moiety of the tenements which belonged to her husband, where by common
law she would have only the third part, and also in the case of
tenements in some countries which are holden by knight-service the lord
can avow the taking as good for cornage according to the law of the
country; and yet the writ is at common law. And also in Gavelkind
according to the custom [of Kent] the younger brother shall have as much
as the elder; and yet one brother shall recover against the other
brother by right "De rationabile parte," and by the "Nuper obiit," which
are writs at common law. So in the present case.'

"_Metingham_ [the judge]: 'Asseby, answer.'"

Now what was this custom? It is that known as "Borough English," and the
reader will have already inferred from the report of the action that,
wherever it prevailed, the youngest son claimed to succeed to his
father's estate. It is therefore the antithesis of the right of
primogeniture, whereby real estate falls to the eldest son. An old
record given to print by the late Mr. Robert Dymond, F.S.A., exhibits in
great detail the customs of the Manor of Braunton, in Devonshire, and
among them is that of Borough English, or, as it is termed in local
parlance, "cradle-land." This testimony is of peculiar interest, since
the document comprises a provision for the assignment of the property in
the not wholly improbable event of the family consisting entirely of
daughters. The section touching upon Borough English is thus formulated:


"_Item_, the Custome ys in every of the sayd manors that if eny manner
of person or persons be seased of eny manner of land or tenements, rents
or premises of the yonger holdyng liying withyn eny of the seid manors
or liberties in fee symple or in fe tayle, in demeane or in usu, and
have divers sonnys by dyvers venters, viz. by dyvers wyvys, or women by
divers men, and dye, that then the yonger son of them shall inherite the
seid lands and tenements with other the premyses in fe symple as in fe
tayle that so descendith in the seid yonger holdyng in demeane or in
use, except ther be any other estate made & proved to the contrary by
wryting & if the[y] have no yssue butt all doughters that then the seid
inheritance [is] to be parted betwene theym except any lawful wryting or
state made to the contrary after the custom."

Neither of these rules of succession was in any way confined to the West
of England. Indeed, the late Mr. T. W. Shore, who appears to have been
quite an authority on the subject, affirms that "in a general way it may
be said that the further we go from Kent the less numerous become the
instances in any county of England." This statement is confirmed by a
yet greater authority. "Borough English," says Elton, "was most
prevalent in the S.E. districts, in Kent, Sussex, and Surrey, in a ring
of manors encircling ancient London, and, to a less extent, in Essex and
the East Anglian kingdom." Mr. E. A. Peacock, however, points out that
there are in Lincolnshire seven places where the custom is still
abiding--viz., Hibaldstow, Keadby, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Long Bennington,
Norton (Bishops), Thoresby and Wathall; and he further calls attention
to the fact, which is certainly most important, that the custom may be
traced over nearly all Europe with the exception of Spain and Italy, and
up to the boundaries of China and Arracan. The German name is
_jungsten-recht_; and the practice for which it stands existed, amongst
other places, at Rettenburg in Westphalia. How then did it become known
as Borough _English_? The reason is suggested by the two sorts of
tenure--Burgh Engloyes and Burgh Francoyes--which are found in different
parts of the town of Nottingham in the reign of Edward III. Borough
English was the native custom which had succeeded in holding its ground
against the effects of the Norman Conquest.

As has been said, Borough English was in vogue all around London--at
Lambeth, Vauxhall, Croydon, Streatham, Leigham Court, Shene or Richmond,
Isleworth, Sion, Ealing, Acton, and Earl's Court. In some of these
places--Fulham, Wimbledon, Battersea, Wandsworth, Barnes and
Richmond--the "yonger holding" descended not only to males but to
females; and at Lambeth (and at Kirton-in-Lindsey, in Lincolnshire)
there existed the identical arrangement which has been found at
Braunton, in Devon. This equal division between daughters Mr. Shore
regards as an "intermediate stage between Borough English and
Gavelkind." The latter is distinctively the "custom of Kent," and
signifies that the land was "partible," and inherited by the sons in
equal shares, the youngest son retaining the homestead, and making
compensation to his brethren for this addition to his share. Borough
English and gavelkind, therefore, though not the same, are near akin;
and it is an interesting question which of the two was prior to the
other. It may be that gavelkind is the older, and that Borough English
is a remnant or distortion of what appears, on the face of it, a more
equitable condition of things. On the other hand, gavelkind may have
been, so to speak, grafted on a more simple usage which the community,
through change of circumstances, had outgrown, and had ceased to possess
the same justification as at first.

Why should the youngest son take the inheritance? One explanation is
that he was presumed to be least able to provide for himself. This,
however, expresses only half the truth. The other half has, we think,
been furnished by Mr. Peacock:

"The most popular explanation in the last [eighteenth] century was the
calumny known as _mercheta mulierum_, now known as a malignant fable
popularized by novelists and playwrights. Another suggestion is that it
is a custom that has survived from some prehistoric race; a third that
it has grown up at different points...." Mr. Peacock regards the last as
the most likely. "It is only when the population becomes relatively
dense that land, apart from what it produces, is of any value. A time,
however, would soon be reached when land would have a value of its own.
The good soil would soon be taken up, and in the days of a primitive
mode of culture third-rate land would be valueless. Then the
house-father would be forced by circumstances to make provision, ere his
death, for the sons sharing the ancestral domain between them.

"Here we have the origin of gavelkind--a form of devolution more widely
spread than even ultimo-geniture or Borough English. Gavelkind, however,
could be but a temporary provision. As the population grew, so it would
be absolutely necessary that the young men of the household should make
new settlements for themselves. This fact accounts in its measure for
the vast shifting of the population that took place when the Roman
Empire was in its protracted death-agony. The torrents of human beings
which poured in on the decaying Empire were considered by the older
historians as evidence of nomadic barbarism. We, with our present
lights, say rather that they indicate a population too dense for their
own homes to support.

"It would be a matter of course that the elder sons should go forth and
carve out for themselves new homes in the West; but when the swarm
departed, all the sons would not go forth from the shelter of the native
roof-tree. One at least, commonly the youngest, would stay behind. On
him would devolve the duty of looking after the old folk and his
unmarried sisters. On him would devolve in due time the duties of the
sacrifices connected with the sacred hearth; and when the father died to
him would devolve the paternal dwelling, with its ploughland, its
meadow, and its rights of wood and water. Here is, we believe, the key
to the origin of Borough English."


We now pass to the methods of cultivation observed in the open
field--the conditions of early agriculture. There is reason to believe
that at the time of the English settlement extensive tillage must have
existed, at any rate to some degree; but this was soon superseded by
intensive culture. Certain fields, that is to say, were allocated for
the raising of particular crops, the limits being marked by large balks
or banks. Beside these arable fields there was a tract of meadow land,
from which the cattle would have been excluded during the time necessary
for the growth and carrying of hay. After harvesting operations had been
completed, and all through the winter, the cattle were allowed to range
at will among the stubble of the arable fields, and over the meadow
land, as also over the waste, which was more properly their domain.

As it was impossible to raise crops year after year from the same fields
without gravely impoverishing the soil, this system was exchanged in
some places for another--that of cropping one or two fields and allowing
the other to lie fallow. This modification was not always judged
requisite to prevent the exhaustion or deterioration of the land; and
thus there arose a third--what is termed the "three-field" system, by
which out of three arable fields two were under cultivation at the same
time, one lying fallow. The third plan was that which ultimately met
with most favour. In the early autumn the field that had lain fallow
through the summer was ploughed and sown with wheat, rye, or other corn;
and in the spring the stubble of the field that had yielded the last
crop of wheat was ploughed up, and barley or oats sown in it. The third
field, in which the previous crop had been barley, retained the stubble
till the early days of June. It was then ploughed up and left in that
condition until a fresh crop was sown in the autumn. Professor
Cunningham, whose account we here follow, has furnished a convenient
chart or diagram which we venture to reproduce as an aid to the
comprehension of the subject:

                       I.               II.            III.
                 Wheat (or rye)     Stubble of     Stubble of
  _Jan_       |      sown        |    wheat     |  barley (or  |
              |                  |              |     oats)    |
              |                  |    Sow       |              |
              |------------------+--------------|              |
  _March_     |                  |   barley     |              |
              |                  |              |  Plough and  |
              |                  |              |--------------+
  _June_      |                  |              | leave fallow |
              |------------------+--------------|              |
              |                  |   Reap       |              |
  _August_    |                  |              |              |
              |                  |              |  Plough and  |
              |                  |              |--------------+
  _October_   |                  |              |  sow wheat   |
              |      Wheat       |   Barley     |              |
                    stubble           stubble

This chart represents one year's labours. In the following year the
first field would take the place of the second, the second that of the
third, and the third that of the first. The process would be repeated in
the third year, and in this way the rotation would continue to be
maintained. There were districts in which the three-field ousted the
two-field system; and others in which neither entirely displaced the
other. Both eventually gave way to the more modern method of four-course
husbandry. The three-field style of agriculture may date back to the
remote reign of King Ine, when, it seems certain, open-field cultivation
in some form was the rule. This being the case, it was necessary that
the fields in which corn and grass were growing should be fenced off for
the time being; and one of King Ine's laws has reference to the
recognition or neglect of this neighbourly duty:

"If churls have a common meadow or other partible land[15] to fence, and
some have fenced their part, and some have not, and (cattle stray in
and) eat up their common corn or grass; let those go who own the gap and
compensate to the others who have fenced their part the damage which
there may be done, and let them demand such justice on the cattle, as it
may be right. But if there be a beast which breaks hedges, and goes in
everywhere, and he who owns it cannot restrain it, let him who finds it
in his field take it and slay it, and let the owner take its skin and
flesh, and forfeit the rest."

The picture this law presents is that of fields divided by temporary
fences, in which, if the three-field system were in use, two would be
under cultivation and the third fallow. One great field of thirty acres
would have sixty distinct strips, with a narrow margin of turf serving
in each case as the line of demarcation. To each servile holding in the
Confessor's time the landlord assigned a pair of oxen with which to work
it; and these may have been combined into a powerful team of eight or
twelve, similar to manorial teams, though plough-teams varying in
numerical strength are recorded, and the efficiency of some of them may
well be doubted.

If there were oxen, it is clear that provision must have been made for
their support; and this consisted in the hay from the meadow, in the
pasture of the common waste, and that of the fallow field and the other
fields in the interval between harvest and seed-time. The question
whether the tillers were bond or free probably made no difference to the
way in which agricultural operations were conducted.

The collapse of this system may be attributed to the scarcity of labour
brought about especially by the Black Death. When men could not be had
in sufficient number, the necessary consequences was the expansion of
pasture and the contraction of tillage; and this dual process was
assisted by the stampede of labourers to the towns and the policy of
enclosure to which landowners resorted as a remedy. Deprived of their
quit-rents, and not having resources for the payment of wages on an
adequate scale, supposing that labour was obtainable on reasonable
terms, the landholders fell back upon the only expedients that remained
to them. They had land, and they had stock; and, as an escape from
absolute ruin, they let the land to tenants who took over the stock and,
probably, as the need arose, replaced it with their own beasts. This
revolution, already in full swing in the fourteenth century, paved the
way for the present order of things, under which the tenant pays a fixed
rent for the use of land and buildings, and finds the capital for


We have next to deal with the waste. The meaning of the term is
clear--it signifies land which, from the poverty of the soil or other
reasons, had never been brought under cultivation. The commons that
still survive are mostly of that description, the more valuable land
having been resumed during one of the successive periods of enclosure,

Originally, there is little doubt, such land belonged to the family or
sept, by whom it was used as forest for game or as pasturage for cattle.
Unlike the arable field or the common meadow, it was not distributed
into sets, but enjoyed in common by all who possessed the right of
stocking it. In a genial article in the "Antiquary" describing how the
world wagged in his parish of Blewbury, Berks, in the eighteenth
century, the Rev. N. L. Whitchurch observes: "There were 'cow commons'
on the downs in those days, and a road from the village is still called
the 'cow way.' In the early morning a man would collect the various cows
of the village, which he drove to pasture for the day. The ancient bell
which he rang at the foot of the 'cow road' is still preserved in the

In Saxon times the purchase of stock by an individual was a matter of
general concern to the community in which he lived. By a law of King
Edgar, if a man in the course of a journey bought cattle, he was
required on his return to turn them out into the common pasture, "with
the witness of the township." If he omitted to do so within five nights,
the townsmen were to acquaint the hundred elder, and the cattle were
forfeited, the lord receiving one-half and the hundred the other. If the
townsmen failed in their duty, their herdsman was subjected to a
flogging. For the purchase of cattle the witness of the township was not
enough. Twelve standing witnesses were appointed for every hundred, and
the buyer had to make it his business to seek out two or three of them
so as to secure their presence at the transaction.

Whatever the primitive constitution of society may have been, in
historical times three parties possessed an interest in the waste.
Blackstone defines common as "a profit which a man hath in the land of
another, as to feed his beasts, to catch fish, to dig turf, to cut
wood, and the like." In theory, the waste belonged to the King, who
vested portions of it in individual lords or religious houses, and they
thus became recognized owners of the soil. In case of outlawry or
attainder, the waste reverted to the Crown, which, according to custom,
held possession of it for a year and a day. Thirdly, the _use_ of the
soil, for various specified purposes, resided in the inhabitants of
certain townships or hundreds, was appendant to certain tenements, or
was reserved as easement on the sale of the land.

Some very interesting questions, arising out of this joint occupancy,
were raised in the courts at the close of the thirteenth
century--notably the right of search for the object of ascertaining
whether there were on the common more animals than any of the parties
was entitled to place there, and, if so, of impounding them. Was this
right appurtenant to the manor, or was it also appendant to a frank
tenement in a particular vill? In one case where the lord had depastured
an excess of beasts, the court decided against him, and in favour of a
commoner whom he accused of "tortiously" taking his cattle. But,
notwithstanding this judgment, there is some uncertainty on the point,
as appears from the report of an action tried in the Middlesex Iter of

"Robert Fitznel brought the Replegiare against Richard, the son of John,
saying that he had tortiously taken his beasts in the wood of the Abbat
of Horwede, formerly the forest of King Henry, by whom it was given as a
chace to N., ancestor of Richard."

"_Warwick_: 'Sir, we offer to aver that Robert and all those who have
held the land in N., which he holds have been seised for all time, &c,
of the common in the wood where his taking was made as appurtenant to
their frank tenement....'

"_Gosefield_ imparted, and returned and said: 'Sir, we will tell you the
truth of this matter; and we tell you that the place where the taking
was made was King Henry's forest; and Henry granted what was the forest
to our ancestor by way of chace; and that in that chace, according to
the custom of the chace, no person could put to common more beasts than
could be fed or wintered on the produce of the land which he held in the
same chace; and because Robert brought his beasts from his lands which
he held elsewhere, which beasts could not be fed or wintered on the land
which he held within the chace, contrary to the usage and custom of the
said chace, he (Richard) took them, &c....'

"_Warwick_: 'Sir, first of all they avowed the taking, and said that we
ought not to have any kind of common; and now they have admitted our
right of common partially, viz. as to beasts which can be wintered ...'

"_Gosefield_: 'The assise of forest is notorious and well-known to all,
viz., that no man can have therein more beasts to common than can be fed
off the said land.'

"_Warwick_ (he spoke then for the King): 'Richard, do you claim to have
assise of forest?'

"_Gosefield_: 'Nay, sir. But King Henry granted and gave it to us to
hold as a chace in the same manner as he held it while it was a royal
forest; and we have three swain-motes yearly for searching and inquiring
whether anyone puts more beasts therein than he ought to put; and,
inasmuch as King Henry granted it to us to hold like as he held it, it
seems to us that there is no need to take the Inquest.'

"_Hertford_ [the judge]: 'Do you accept the averment or not?'

"_Gosefield_ (being obliged to accept the averment) said: 'Sir, they
were never seised of common for more beasts than could be wintered and
fed and supported on the growth of the said land.'"

There is appended to this report a note which lays down the law in a
different sense from that before stated. It is as follows:

"It is not sufficient for anyone who avows distress to say that he
avows the taking, &c., for that he found the beasts in his chace of such
a place, or in the common of such a place, where he had no right of
common; for it may be that neither party had a right of common; and thus
it is not sufficient but he must say that he found them in his several
pasture, or must say some other thing that touches himself and gives him
a right to impound what he found. For no man can avow a distress in a
common pasture save the lord of the soil of the common pasture. For if
any of the commoners were to make avowry for beasts taken in the common
pasture it would then follow that if the Inquest were to pass against
the plaintiff, he who avowed the taking in the common pasture would have
the return of the beasts and the amends, and not the lord of the
pasture, and that would be improper. But this does not hold good where
the King is the lord of the common pasture, and several persons holding
of him in socage have common, because in that case anyone having common
may avow a good distress. The reason is because the King will not be a
party in such case or distrein anyone."

In mediæval country life, then, commons might be either manorial or
forestal. Bishop Stubbs in his "Constitutional History" affirms that
"neither the hundreds of England nor the shires appear ever to have had
common lands." As regards hundreds, on the enclosure of a common,
allotments were made to several townships of Knaresborough, and Stubbs
himself allows that "it seems a fair instance of common lands of a
hundred." Similarly, there is in the hundred of Coleness in Suffolk a
pasture common to all the inhabitants. But in each instance we have
probably to distinguish between use and ownership; and the same
distinction applies to counties, otherwise the case of the Devonshire
Commons might seem to refute the dictum.

The Devonshire Commons are not to be confused with the Forest of
Dartmoor. They constitute rather the purlieus, and, in general, afford
better pasturage than the forest itself. Neither are they identical
with the commons of the separate vills--the manorial or parochial
commons. The whole of the inhabitants of the county may be regarded as
possessing an interest in the Devonshire Commons, with the exception of
the people of Barnstaple and Totnes, the reason being that those
districts not having been afforested with the rest of the county, the
residents acquired no new privileges when Devonshire was disafforested.
The other inhabitants retained whatever rights they had previously
enjoyed not only in respect of the Devonshire Commons, but of the Forest
of Dartmoor, of which, at some early period--before the era of
perambulations, in which they were not included--those commons had no
doubt formed part. One effect of the wide extent of the right of common
was that the rule of _levant and couchant_ did not obtain here.
Naturally, when all Devonshire men were entitled to the use of the land,
it was impossible to fix a limit to the number of the beasts that might
be turned out throughout the length and breadth of the county.

Mention was made above of royal forests as occupying, in some respects,
a different position from other lands in which a right of common was
exercised. Dartmoor, although the property of the Prince of Wales as
Duke of Cornwall, may be taken as, to all intents and purposes,
answering to that description; and thus peculiar interest attaches to
the usages which prevailed, and still prevail, within its bounds.

The question of "Venville Rights on Dartmoor" is one that engaged the
attention of a very capable writer as well as an accomplished antiquary,
the late Mr. W. F. Collier; and although the subject has been handled by
other investigators, it is from him that we have derived the bulk of our
information on this very remarkable aspect of commonage. First, as to
the name. "Venville" is a provincial corruption of _fines villarum_,
each vill paying a larger or smaller sum for the right of pasturage; and
certain parishes or manors on the outskirts of the forest were said to
be "in venville." "The perambulation [of 1224]," says Mr. Birkett,
"establishes three important facts: viz., that the moor was originally
part of a royal forest; that the Commons of Devon, and surrounding
parishes were once part of the forest; and that the moor is not waste of
a manor." The townships were grouped into four bailiwicks--North, South,
East, and West; and the fines payable compose too long a list to be
given entire. The following, however, are specimens: The township of
Trulegh (Throwleigh), 2_s._ 6_d._; the parish of South Tawton, 7_s._
4 1/2_d._; the township of Sele (South Zeal), 6 1/2_d._; the hamlet of
Lowyngton, in the parish of Meavy, 2_d._; the township of Gadamewe
(Godameavy), in the same parish, 2_d._; the township of Chagford,
12_d._; the hamlet of Teigncombeham, with [within?] the parish of
Chagford, 4_s._ This was in 1506-7. In return for these payments the
commoners have certain "venville" rights, which extend over the forest
proper and the Devonshire Commons, and include the taking of stone and
sand for their own use. But the most valued is that of agistment or
pasturage, especially of ponies. The Duchy, on its part, claims and
exercises the right of "drift"--a picturesque survival on which we may
well bestow some regard.

The division of the forest into four quarters still continues, each
being in charge of a moorman; and over these wide tracts and the
adjacent Commons sheep, bullocks, and ponies are turned out by the
tenants to graze at will. In the autumn the animals are driven to a
traditional spot, in order that they may be claimed by their owners.
There is a bullock drift, and a pony drift, of which the former is the
earlier; and each quarter has its own drift days, which are usually
different. In any case, no notice is given, but about two o'clock in the
morning the moorman is apprised by a messenger that he must "drive" his
quarter for bullocks or ponies. Thereupon, according to the regular
procedure, he ascends the tors and blows his horn as an intimation to
the tenants to assist in the drift. In the western quarter there was
formerly a stone, through a hole in which it was the custom to blow the
horn, but this stone now graces a wall in a hedge.

The drift to Merrivale Bridge is accomplished by men on horseback and
men on foot, and dogs, to the accompaniment of horns and halloos; and
when all the animals have been gathered, an official of the Duchy takes
his stand on an ancient stone and reads a proclamation, which done the
owners are summoned to claim, let us say, their ponies. The venville
tenants identify their beasts, making no payment; but other persons--and
in no case, apparently, is the right of pasturage disputed, nearly the
whole of Devonshire having been forest--have to render a fine for each
animal. They have also to meet a trivial charge for night rest, which is
supposed to have arisen from an old custom that debarred anyone from
remaining on the forest by night, with the consequent temptation to
deer-poaching. An unclaimed animal is driven to Dunnebridge Pound and
there kept for some weeks, at the expiration of which, if he is still
unclaimed, or if the owner refuses to pay for poundage, etc., he is sold
for the benefit of the Duchy.

Each quarter of the moor has its peculiar earmark for ponies, consisting
of a round hole at the base or the tip on the near or off ear, through
which a piece of string is tied, there being thus four distinct marks.

Some of these ancient usages have fallen into desuetude. The last
occasion on which the horn was sounded was in 1843; and the four
quarters are now let to as many "moormen," who endeavour to make as much
profit as possible out of them. To this day, however, neither on
Dartmoor nor on the Devonshire Commons, is any man denied pasturage for
his ponies or cattle.


From vills we may naturally turn to those who in ancient days--the word
has another meaning now--were named after them _villeins_. More than once
in the course of this work we have had occasion to refer to the
existence of an unfree class in England, on which prouder and more
happily circumstanced persons looked with considerable disdain, and
therefore our account would fail of a necessary element of completeness
if it omitted to deal, in some measure, with this striking phenomenon of
mediæval English life. The subject is too wide and complex to be
discussed with any approach to thoroughness, but some aspects of it may
be introduced, and indeed _must be_ introduced, being, as we have said,
complementary to statements of social relationships already set down.

The position of those who rested under the stigma of servitude is
brought home to us pretty forcibly by a report of proceedings in the
Middlesex Iter of 1294:

"One A. brought a writ of imprisonment against B.

"_Heilham_ (for B.): 'He ought not to be answered, for he is our

"_A._: 'A free man and of free condition, ready, etc.'

"_Heilham_ said as before.

"_Metingham_ [the judge]: 'He cannot give a higher answer in a writ of

"_Heilham_: 'We will tell you the truth; his father was our villein, and
held of us in villeinage land in the vill mentioned in his count, and
where he was taken; and he begot this A., and also one B., his brother,
of whom we are now seised, as of our villein; and this A. went out of
the limits of the villeinage, and afterwards returned, and we found him
at his hearth in his own nest, and we took him as our villein, as every
lord may well do; and we pray judgment.'

"_Metingham_: 'If my villein beget a child on my land which is in
villeinage, and the child so begotten go out of the limits of my land,
and six or seven or more years after return to the same land, and I
find him in his own nest and at his own hearth, I can take him and tax
him as my villein for the reason that his return brings him to the same
condition as he was when he went.'

"_Heilham_: 'He fell into the pit which he hath digged.'"

We must beware of attributing this doctrine of Neifty to the Norman
Conquest, which merely supplied names; in definiteness and cruelty
nothing could exceed the practice of serfage under the Saxons. "The
slave," says Green, "became part of the live stock of the estate, to be
willed away at death with the horse or the ass, whose pedigree was kept
as carefully as his own. His children were bondmen, like himself; even
the freeman's children by a slave-mother inherited the mother's taint.
'Mine is the calf that is born of my cow,' ran the English proverb." In
the same passage he points out that the number of the serfs was being
continually augmented from various concurrent causes--war, crime, debt,
and poverty all assisting to drive men into a condition of perpetual
bondage.[16] Degradation of freemen into serfs remained a disagreeable
possibility as long as the system endured.

The agricultural population actually consisted of three elements. First
there was the lord; secondly, his free tenants; and thirdly, the
villeins or serfs. The main difference between the two latter classes
was that the free tenants had proprietary rights in their holdings and
chattels. They could buy, sell, or exchange without the lord's
intervention; and, in the event of a dispute, they could sue him or
anyone in the courts. Nevertheless, they stood in some degree of
subjection to the lord, since the geld due to the State was paid through
the lord as responsible to the sheriff for all who held land within the

Another very important distinction between the free tenants and the
villeins was the payment of _merchet_ on the marriage of daughters,
which signified that the offspring of such marriages would be the lawful
property of the lord. From this payment, and all that it implied, the
free tenants were exempt.

Predial services, on the other hand, might be rendered as well by free
tenants as by villeins. This is shown by an entry in Domesday:

"De hac terra [Longedune] tempore Regis Edwardi tenebant ix liberi
homines xviii hidas et secabant uno die in pratis domini sui et
faciebant servitium sicut eis precipiebatur."

Much would depend on the capital possessed by the free tenant, who might
elect to make good any deficiency by corporal labour. The villein had no
capital, and was simply an instrument, like the cattle of which he had
charge, in the working of the estate. He was bound to the soil with
which all his interests were linked; and he was regarded in the light of
an investment, in which the lord had a perpetual stake. It was the lord
who furnished him with the means of gaining a livelihood, and, in return
for this accommodation, the lord demanded from him, and his children
after him, lifelong service.

From the "Rectitudines Singularum Personarum," an eleventh-century
document, we learn that the _cotsetle_, for his holding of about five
acres, was required to labour for his lord on one day a week all through
the year,[17] and this was known as _week-work_. He had also to give
what was called _boon-work_--namely, three days a week in harvest.
Another type of unfree tenant was the _gebur_, who held a yardland of
some thirty or forty acres, which, upon his entrance, was stocked with
two oxen, one cow, six sheep, tools and household utensils. His
week-work amounted to two or three days a week, as the season required;
in winter, he had "to lie at his lord's fold," when bidden; and he had
to contribute his quota of boon-work. Certain payments also had to be

The first attempt to regulate wages was made in the statute of 12
Richard II., cc. 3-7, the preamble of which affirms that "the servants
and labourers will not, nor by a long season would, serve and labour
without outrageous and excessive hire, and much more hath been given to
such servants and labourers than in any time past, so that for scarcity
of the said servants and labourers the husbands and land tenants may not
pay their rents nor unnethes live upon their lands, to the great damage
and loss as well of their lords as of all the commons; also the hires of
the said servants in husbandry have not been put in certainty before
this time."

The "hires" were now defined, and this act penalized masters who paid
labourers at a higher rate than was allowed under it. The scale of wages
varied in different reigns. Here we may confine ourselves to the
provisions of the statute of 11 Henry VII., which not only determined
the maximum payments, but sanctioned reductions on legitimate grounds.
Thus regard was had to the current wages in the locality, which the
employer was under no obligation to exceed. Less was to be paid at
holiday than at other times; and if a man were lazy in the morning or
lingered over his meals, he might be mulcted at his master's discretion.

Premising that the purchasing power of a penny in the fifteenth century
was about twelve times as much as it is now, we are able to form some
idea of the economic position of the different classes which were the
subjects of this legislation. The bailiff, it appears, might have a
salary of 26_s._ 8_d._; the common servant in husbandry cost 16_s._
8_d._ and 4_s._ for clothes; and the artisan received per day 5_d._ in
the summer and 6_d._ in the winter. This brings us to the hours of
labour, which depended on the season, and were also regulated by
statute. These were from 5 a.m. till between 7 and 8 p.m. from the
middle of March to the middle of September, half an hour being allowed
for breakfast, and an hour and a half for dinner and a siesta--an
indulgence countenanced from May to August. During the winter, the rule
was that work was to be carried on whilst there was daylight.

Mention has been made of holidays. These, though inevitable, were
evidently regarded as seasons of danger, since the favourite recreations
of labourers, if left to their own devices, were poaching and politics.
Against these twin evils the King's counsellors took precautions in an
act (13 Rich. II., st. I., c. 13), of which the preamble ran:

     "Forasmuch as divers artificers, labourers, servants, and grooms,
     keep greyhounds and other dogs, and on the holy days, when
     Christian people be at church hearing Divine service, they go
     a-hunting in parks, warrens, and coningries of lords and others to
     the very great destruction of the same, and sometimes under such
     colour they make their assemblies, conferences, and conspiracies
     for to rise and disobey their allegiance, &c."

Hence none but laymen with 40_s._ and clerks with £10 were suffered to
keep dogs or use ferrets, nets, harepipes, cords, or other engines to
destroy deer. Instead of engaging in such perilous diversions, servants
and labourers were ordered to "have bows and arrows and to use the same
on Sundays and holy days, and leave all playing at tennis or football
and other games called quoits, dice, casting of the stone, kailes
(skittles) and other importune games." Swords and daggers were
prohibited "but in time of war for the defence of the realm of
England"--a wise measure when the country was infested with vagrants and
there were so many liveried retainers prompt to resent a real or
imaginary affront.




At the conclusion of the previous section allusion was made to retinues
as constituting a danger to the industrious members of the body politic.
In this, our final section, we turn, or rather return, from the life of
the fields to that of the hall. Some notice of the interior order of
great houses has appeared in earlier chapters--e.g., that on "Children
of the Chapel"--but such special reference, involving no more than the
religious side of domestic arrangements, leaves a sense of
incompleteness, and this void we must now proceed to fill.

Starting with the peril and annoyance involved in the maintenance of
retinues, the proposition may be easily demonstrated. Alike in town and
country the presence of armed and idle ruffians was a source of
well-grounded apprehension. Thus, when the Bishop of Durham attended
parliament, he had to obtain a licence before his retainers could be
quartered at Stratford-at-Bow; and the manifold inconveniences produced
by these satellites in country districts during the reign of Edward I.
form the subject of a versified complaint, to be found in Wright's
'Political Songs'. One of the causes of the grievous scarcity of labour
is believed to have been that nobles and others, under the pretence of
husbandry, kept in their pay able-bodied dependants who, rather than eke
out a miserable existence on the land, preferred to follow some warlike


As usual, the trouble began at the fountain-head. Everybody knows the
term "billeting" as applied to soldiers on the march, who are
compulsorily quartered on licensed victuallers and others at fixed
rates. This is really a very ancient custom, which is closely, and
indeed lineally, connected with the topic under discussion.

In the early days of royal progresses it was the duty of the Marshal of
the King's Household to secure lodgings for the members of the retinue
which accompanied him; and this he did by means of a billet, by virtue
of which he appropriated for the occasion the best of the houses in the
vicinity, marking them with chalk and ruthlessly ejecting the occupiers.
The Marshal, it may be observed, did not do the chalking himself--a task
which seems to have been delegated to the Sergeant Chamberlain of the

Even London did not escape this intolerable vexation, though its
immunity from billeting was expressly laid down in a succession of
charters. The royal officials, paying scant heed to the sanctity of
these clauses, repeatedly invaded the precincts of the City; and in the
reign of Edward II. they went so far as to seize the house of one of the
sheriffs, John de Caustone, and quarter therein the King's Secretary,
sergeants, horses, and harness. The sheriff acted boldly. He erased the
chalk marks, and proceeded to expel the intrusive sergeants--perhaps
even the Secretary himself, unless, as Mr. Riley thinks probable, that
person "walked quietly away." For this resolute vindication of the
liberties of the City, Caustone had to answer before the Seneschal and
Marshal of the King's Household, sitting in the Tower, but, as there was
no excuse for the insolent aggression, he suffered no harm. The
citizens, indeed, were so assured of their rights in this particular,
that at some date--probably in the reign of Edward I.--an ordinance had
been passed:

"That if any member of the royal household, or any retainer of the
nobility, shall attempt to take possession of a house within the City
either by main force or by delivery [of the Marshal of the King's
Household]; and, if in such attempt he shall be slain by the master of
the house, then, and in such case, the master of the house, shall find
six of his kinsmen [i.e. as compurgators], who shall make oath, himself
making oath as the seventh, that it was for this reason that he so slew
the intruder; and thereupon he shall go acquitted."


The humbler people who escaped billeting might still have cause to
regret royal journeys owing to the inconsiderate exercise of the right
of pre-emption. Subjects were compelled to sell; and the worst of it was
that the King's purveyors were in the habit of paying not in cash down,
but by means of an exchequer tally, or a beating! A tally was a hazel
rod which had certain notches indicating the amount due. It obtained its
name from the circumstance that these rods were in pairs, the creditor
having one and the debtor the other, so that they could be used for the
purpose of comparison. In practice it was found no easy matter to
recover under this system, which lent itself to the worst exactions, and
is the subject of numerous complaints in our early popular poetry. Thus
in "King Edward and the Shepherd":

  "I had catell, now have I none;
  They take my beasts, and done them slon,
    And payen but a stick of tree ...
  They take geese, capons, and hen
  And all that ever they may with ren
    And reaves us our catell....
  They took my hens and my geese
  And my sheep with all the fleece
    And led them forth away."

Somewhat similarly, when a ship arrived in port with a cargo of wine,
the prerogative of _prise_ was enforced, whereby the King was entitled
to "a tun before and one abaft the mast," or the equivalent in money.

The royal household and those of "the great lords of the land" enjoyed
the right of pre-emption not only in the country but in the London
markets. Dealers in fish, for example, were not allowed to quit the City
in order to meet a consignment "for the purpose of sending it to any
great lord or a house of religion, or of regrating it," until the King's
purveyors had first purchased what was required for their master's

When fish had been brought to the City, no fishmonger might buy "before
the good people have bought what they need." It was the same with
poultry. Until prime had been sounded at St. Paul's, poulterers were
forbidden to buy for resale, the object being that "the buyers for the
King and great lords of the land, and the good people of the City may
make good their purchases, so far as they shall need."


So much for purveyance. As regards the disposition of the provisions
thus obtained, it was expressed by the term "livery," formerly of much
wider application than at present. The word comprehended all that was
delivered or dispensed by the lord to his underlings or
domestics--money, victuals, wine, garments, fuel, and lights; but no
doubt it was employed more particularly of external and distinctive
garb. The Wardrobe Book of 28 Edward I. and the Household Ordinances
show that officers and retainers of the Court were presented with a
_roba estivalis_ and _hiemalis_. The _livrée des chaperons_, so often
mentioned, refers to hoods or tippets of a colour sharply contrasting
with that of the garment over which they were worn. Subsequently this
mark took the form of a round cap, attached to which was a long
liripipe, which might be wound round the head, but more usually hung
over the arm. In the dress of the City Liverymen traces of it may still
be found.

This suggests the remark that livery was used not by the members of
great households merely, but by brotherhoods and _gentz de mester_;
hence it is that Chaucer in his Prologue of the "Canterbury Tales"

  A Haberdassher and a Carpenter
  A Webbe, Dyere, and a Tapicer;

and says of them:

   ... they were clothed alle in a liveree
  Of a solempne and great fraternitee.

The statute 7 Henry IV. conceded this privilege to the "trades of the
cities of the realm," thus confirming previous acts of the reign of
Edward III. and Richard II., which sanctioned the wearing of livery by
menials and members of gilds, but prohibited the distribution of badges
to adherents who assumed them in testimony of their readiness to aid
their patron in any private quarrel. The practice was therefore a grave
menace to the King's peace.

The prohibition was renewed 8 Edward IV., c. 2., which inflicted a
penalty of one hundred shillings for every person "other than his menial
servant, officer, or man learned in the one law or the other," so
retained by anyone "of what estate, degree, or condition that he be."
The fine was to be repeated for every month "that any such person is so
retained by him by oath, writing, indenture or promise," and a similar
penalty attached to the person retained. But there were many
exceptions--"Provided that this ordinance do not extend to any livery
given or to be given at the King's or Queen's coronation, or at the
installation of an archbishop or bishop, or erection, creation, or
marriage of any lord or lady of estate, or at the creation of Knights of
the Bath, or at the commencement of any clerk in any university, or at
the creation of serjeants in the law, or by any gild, fraternity, or
mystery corporate, or by the mayor and sheriffs of London, or any other
mayor, sheriff, or other chief officer of any city, borough, town, or
port of this realm of England for the time being, during that time and
for executing their office or occupation; nor to any badges or liveries
to be given in defence of the King or of this realm of England; nor to
the constable and marshal, nor to any of them for giving any badge,
livery or token for any such feat of arms to be done within this realm;
nor to any of the wardens towards Scotland for any livery, badge, or
token of them to be given from Trent northward, at such time only as
shall be necessary to levy people for the defence of the said marches,
or any of them."


The establishment of a great noble or ecclesiastic sometimes embraced a
vast category of persons; and if we would learn on what an elaborate
scale housekeeping might be conducted by subjects, we cannot do better
than turn to Gascoigne's account of Cardinal Wolsey's colossal retinue.
After stating that the ambitious churchman had in attendance upon him
"men of great possessions and for his guard the tallest yeomen in the
realm," he proceeds:

"And first, for his house, you shall understand that he had in his hall
three boards, kept with three several officers, that is, a steward that
was always a priest; a treasurer that was ever a knight; and a
comptroller that was an esquire; also a confessor, a doctor, three
marshals, three ushers in the hall, besides two almoners and grooms.

"Then had he in the hall-kitchen two clerks, a clerk-comptroller, and a
surveyor over the dresser, with a clerk in the spicery, which kept
continually a mess together in the hall; also, he had in the kitchen two
cooks, labourers, and children, twelve persons; four men of the
scullery, two yeomen of the pastry, with two other paste-layers under
the yeomen.

"Then had he in his kitchen a master-cook, who went daily in velvet or
satin, with a gold chain, besides two other cooks and six labourers in
the same room.

"In the larder, one yeoman and a groom; in the scullery, one yeoman and
two grooms; in the buttery, two yeomen and two grooms; in the ewry, so
many; in the cellar three yeomen and three pages; in the chandlery, two
yeomen; in the wafery, two yeomen; in the wardrobe of beds the master of
the wardrobe and twenty persons besides; in the laundry, a yeoman,
groom, and thirteen pages; two yeomen purveyors, and a groom purveyor;
in the bakehouse, two yeomen and grooms; in the woodyard, one yeoman and
a groom; in the barn, one yeoman; porters at the gate, two yeomen and
two grooms; a yeoman in his barge, and a master of his horse; a clerk of
the stables, and a yeoman of the same; a farrier and a yeoman of the
stirrup; a maltlour and sixteen grooms, every one of them keeping four

"Now I will declare unto you the officers of his chapel, and singing-men
of the same. First, he had there a dean, a great divine, and a man of
excellent learning; and a sub-dean, a repeater of the choir, a
gospeller, an epistler of the singing-priests, and a master of the
children: in the vestry a yeoman and two grooms, besides other retainers
that came thither at principal feasts....

"Now you shall understand that he had two cross-bearers and two
pillar-bearers; in his great chamber, and in his privy-chamber, all
these persons, the chief chamberlain, a vice-chamberlain, a
gentleman-usher, besides one of his privy-chamber; he had also twelve
waiters and six gentlemen-waiters; also he had nine or ten lords, who
had each of them two or three men to wait upon him, except the Earl of
Derby, who had five men.

"Then he had gentlemen cup-bearers, and carvers, and of the sewers, both
of the great chamber and of the privy-chamber, forty persons; six yeomen
ushers, eight grooms of his chamber; also, he had of alms, who were
daily waiters of his board at dinner, twelve doctors and chaplains,
besides them of his chapel, which I never rehearsed; a clerk of his
closet, and two secretaries, and two clerks of his signet; four
counsellors learned in the law.

"And for that he was chancellor of England, it was necessary to have
officers of the chancery to attend him for the better furniture of the

"First he had a riding clerk, a clerk of the crown, a clerk of the
hamper, and a chafer; then he had a clerk of the check, as well upon the
chaplains as upon the yeomen of the chamber; he had also four footmen,
garnished with rich running coats, whensoever he had any journey. Then
he had a herald of arms, a physician, an apothecary, four minstrels, a
keeper of his tents, an armourer and instructor of his wards, an
instructor of his wardrobe of robes, a keeper of his chamber
continually; he had also in his house a surveyor of York, a clerk of the
greencloth. All these were daily attending, down-lying and up-rising;
and at meat he had eight continual boards for the chamberlains and
gentlemen-officers, having a mess of young lords, and another of
gentlemen; besides this there was never a gentleman, or officer, or
other worthy person, but he kept some two, some three persons to wait
upon them; and all others at the least had one, which did amount to a
great number of persons.

"Now, having declared the order according to the chain roll, use of his
house, and what officers he had daily attending to furnish the same,
besides retainers and other persons, being suitors, [that] dined in the
hall: and, when shall we see any more such subjects that shall keep such
a noble house? Therefore here is an end of his household; the number of
persons in the chain were eight hundred persons."[18]


One department of Wolsey's household may not have passed
unheeded--namely, the minstrels. As a class, these musicians were
doubtless peripatetic, so that the term "wandering," as applied to them,
has almost the character of a standing epithet. But in the "Romance of
Sir Degrevant" mention occurs of the Earl's "owne mynstralle," and,
where these artists were not permanent members of the establishment,
they were always of "great admittance" to the houses of the nobility,
who treated them with high distinction and much liberality. Naturally,
the status of minstrels differed. Of those who played before Edward I.
at Whitsuntide, and who were divided into ranks, five are styled
"Kings," and each of them received five marks. A valuable gold cup is
recorded to have been given to a minstrel, but the usual presents were
robes and garments.

What is signified by the phrase "great admittance" is rendered clear by
a decree of Edward II. published in the year 1315, and called forth by
the dishonest practice of certain persons who procured entertainment
under colour of minstrelsy. It was therefore ordered that "to the houses
of prelates, earls, and barons none resort to meat and drink unless he
be a minstrel, and that of these minstrels there come none except it be
three or four Minstrels of Honour at the most in one day, unless he be
desired of the lord of the house; and to the houses of meaner men that
none shall come unless he be desired; and that such as shall come so,
hold themselves contented with meat and drink, and with such courtesy as
the master of the house will show unto them of his own good will,
without their asking of anything."

Minstrels, however, were after all only an incident. They served to
entertain and amuse, as well as to keep alive the memory of great deeds
and sentiments of truth and honour. But they were essentially a luxury,
not a necessity, for the circumstances of a rough age sufficed to
perpetuate the type which it had created. For more stable and
significant elements we must look elsewhere. Just as the lower fabric of
society reposed on the humble apprentice, so its upper framework
depended on the page as the repository of its traditions and guarantee
of the future. As early as the reign of Henry II., and doubtless
earlier, the sons of nobles and gentlemen were entered at the King's
Court, baronial halls, and episcopal palaces as "henchmen." To these
scions of chivalry--and a similar remark applies to the "demoiselles,"
their sisters--such places were a school of manners wherein they learnt
the duties of obedience and reverence to their elders and betters; and,
in process of time, they attained the rank of squire, and, eventually,
the knight's belt. Received into the lord's family on the best terms, as
became their birth and connexions, they had, nevertheless, to wait at
table and perform other tasks that would now be deemed menial, such as
walking by the lord's charger; and, until their education was complete,
they had to submit to his orders, whatever they might be.

Perhaps the first of many books on etiquette in English is a treatise
written by Grosseteste for Margaret, Countess of Lincoln, and entitled
"Reules Seynt Robert." Here it is laid down that servants and retainers
should be of good character, loyal, diligent; and if they grumble or
gainsay, they should be discharged, as there are many others to take
their place.

We have seen that Cardinal Wolsey had young gentlemen in his household.
This was also the case with Thomas à Becket, one of whose protégés was
the heir to the throne. Another churchman, Longchamps, Bishop of Ely and
Chancellor of Richard II., was notorious for the rigour of his
discipline towards the young and noble members of his establishment.

The custom, one can scarcely question, was evolved from the military
requirements of early Teutonic society; and, as private war died down,
so the status of the page became impaired, until in the reign of
Elizabeth we find him a pampered domestic, whose pert air and gaudy
dress represented all that was left of a formidable troop armed with
sword and buckler. Ben Jonson deplores and ridicules the transformation
in lines with which the present volume may well close. The host in the
play has refused his son as page to Lord Lovel, saying that he would
hang him sooner than "damn him to that desperate course of life."

    _Lovel_. Call you that desperate, which, by a line
  Of institution from our ancestors,
  Hath been derived down to us, and received
  In succession for the noblest way
  Of brushing up our youth, in letters, arms,
  Fair mien, discourses civil, exercise,
  And all the blazon of a gentleman?
  Where can he learn to vault, to fence,
  To move his body gracefully, to speak
  The language pure; or turn his mind
  Or manners more to the harmony of nature
  Than in these nurseries of nobility?
    _Host_. Ay, that was when the nursery's self was noble
  And only virtue made it, not the market,
  That titles were not vended at the drum
  And common outcry; goodness gave the greatness
  And greatness worship; every house became
  An academy; and those parts
  We see depicted in the practice now
  Quite from the institution.
    _Lovel_. Why do you say so?
  Or think so enviously? Do they not still
  Learn thus the Centaur's skill, the art of Thrace,
  To ride? or Pollux's mystery, to fence?
  The Pyrrick gestures, both to stand and spring
  In armour, to be active for the wars;
  To study figures, numbers, and proportions
  May yield them great in counsel and the arts:
  To make their English sweet upon their tongues,
  As Chaucer says?


  à Becket, Thomas, 53, 247

  Abbeys, Bath, 13;
    Eynsham, 66;
    Girwy, 13;
    Monte Cassino, 14;
    Oseney,  66;
    Wearmouth, 13;
    York, 14

  Abbot of Unreason, 41

  "Abbot, The," 41

  Abelard, 91

  Abjuration, 83, 163-5, 170

  Ad Montem ceremony, 50

  Affiliation of towns, 173-4, 177-8

  Alcuin, 12-14

  Aldgate, 188, 193

  Aliens, 179

  Allotments, 210-11

  Alms and loans, 61-70, 104

  Alnwick, 210

  Alwyn, 134

  Ancients, 117

  _Angild_, 152

  "Antiquary," the, 173, 226

  Appeals, 77

  Apprentices-at-law, 119-21, 123

  _Arles_, 196

  Arrears of rent, 172

  Ashburton, 59, 61

  Assise, the, 149

  "Assises de Jérusalem," 140, 142

  Assize of Clarendon, 165;
    of Northampton, 140

  Athelstan, King, 20, 133, 160

  Augustine, St., 27

  Aungerville, Richard, 68

  Austin Friars, 108-9

  "Austins," 107, 109

  Australs and Boreals, 93

  Bachelor of Arts, 102-3, 109

  Bacon, Roger, 108

  Badges, 242-3

  Bailiffs, 205-6

  Bakers, 183-4, 186, 195;
    "baker's dozen," 186

  Ballantine, Mr. Serjeant, 125-6

  Banishment, 98

  Banner of St Paul, 222-3

  Barbers, 79-80

  Barbitoria, 80

  Bargains, hand-clasp, 199

  Barnstaple, 62

  Barrington, Dr., 202

  Beam, Royal, 195

  Beards, 85-6

  Beaumanoir, 141

  Becket, Thomas à (see under A)

  Bedel Stokys, 104

  Bedels, 72-7, 96

  Bedford, custom of, 177

  Bell, Prior, 16

  Benediction of a widow, 21

  Benefactors, 68, 111

  Berwick, 197, 211

  Beverley cycle, 58, 60;
    sanctuary, 160-1

  Birkett, Mr., 231

  Black cap, 117

  Black Death, 225

  Blackstone, 134, 226

  Blakiston, Mr., 68

  Blewbury (Berks.), 226

  Blount's "Ancient Tenures," 187, 189

  Bondmen, 233-7

  "Book of Nurture, The," 37

  "Booke of Orders and Rules," 245

  Borough English, 217-23

  Boroughs, free, 208-9

  Botticelli, 65

  Bower, 28

  Boy-Bishop, the, 39-50;
    Song of, 39

  Bracton, 142, 163, 197

  "Brais," meaning of, 89

  Bristol, 198

  Britton, 142, 163, 165

  Broadgates Hall, 84-5

  "Brother," "brotherhoods," technical meaning of, 13

  Buckingham, Duke of, 157-8

  Burgages, 174-5

  "Burial of the Alleluia," 42

  Burnby Prior, 16

  Butler, Alban, 20

  Cambridge, 61-2, 110, 169

  Came, Bedel, 73-5

  Carrara, Bridge of, 52

  Castellans, hereditary, 188

  Catherine, play of St., 53

  Causes, civil, 149

  Caustone, John D., 239

  Cawthorne (Yorks.) 62

  "Chamberdekenys," 98

  Champions, 141, 144

  Chancellor, office of, 77-90, 94-5, 98, 100-1, 103-6

  Chapel, children of the, 32-7;
    gentlemen of the, 32-6

  Chapels, domestic, 32-3

  Charms, 142, 144, 146

  Charter, 171, 206

  Chaucer, 63, 84, 113, 242

  Chaundler, Dr., 64, 113

  Cheapside, 184-6

  Chester plays, 54-6, 60

  Chests, 66-9

  Chetham Society, 196

  Churchwardens' accounts, 59-63

  Cinque Ports, 163, 177

  City marshals, 125

  Clark, Mr. A., 64, 114

  Cloth, cutting, 171

  Cluny, 12

  Cobham, Bishop, 69

  Coke, 117, 119

  "Coke-Lyght," 82

  Colet, Dean, 46

  "Collection of Glover, Somerset Herald," 190

  Collections, 74-5

  Collier, Mr. W. F., 230

  Colman's Engravings, 202

  Commissaries, 77, 95

  Common Serjeant, 125

  Common town bargains, 176

  Commons, 212-17, 229-32

  Compurgation, 82, 128-31, 240

  Constable of England, 145-7

  "Constitutional History," Stubbs's, 229

  Cooks, 82-3

  Copes, 43-5, 49

  Coroner, 163-5

  Corporation MSS., 60

  Corporation of London, 125-6

  Corpus Christi festival, 54-5, 58-9

  Council of Vienne, 54

  Council, Roman, 27

  County Court, 155

  Court Leet proceedings, 206

  Costume, legal, 115-6;
    university, 113-4

  Coventry plays, 57-9

  Creations, 105-6, 124

  Crosses, 43, 90

  Crying creaunt, 149

  Curfew, 181

  "Curtasie money," 186

  Customs (by-laws), 162, 172, 177-8

  Customs (revenue), 175

  "De Nova Costuma" (statute), 195-6

  "Demonologie," 136

  Determination, 101-2

  Devonshire commons, 229-32

  "Dialogus de Scaccario," 153, 166

  Doctors of laws, 115-6

  Doddridge, Justice, 202

  Dover, 172

  Ducange, 13

  Duel, 127, 140-9

  Dugdale, 125, 187, 190

  Dunmow flitch, 191;
    priory, 193

  Dunstable, 52

  Durham, 49, 156-7, 161-2

  Durham College, 68, 98

  Dymond, Mr. R., 219

  Earmarking, 232

  Earnest money, 196-9

  Ebner, Herr, 12

  Ecfrith, King of Northumbria, 160

  Edgar, laws of King, 154, 226-7

  Edward I., 246

  Edward the Confessor, laws of, 150, 224

  Edwards, Richard, 37

  Edwin, King of Northumbria, 17

  Elizabeth, St., 20

  Elms (near Smithfield), 189

  Elton, Mr., 220

  Emma, Queen, 134

  Essex, the Earl of, 174

  _Estrene_, 186

  Ewing, Mr. W. C., 202

  Exeter _Ordinale_, 47

  "Extinct Baronage of England," 190

  Faculties of Law, Medicine, and Theology, 109-10

  Fast, the Lady, 27-31

  Fasts, 27

  Feast of Fools, the (see _Rex Stultorum_ festival)

  Feasts, 85-6, 101-5, 122

  Fee-farm leases, 175

  Felons, punishment of, 189

  Ferrières, 14

  Festivals, 28-9, 42, 179

  Fines, 96, 151-3

  Fisher, Bishop, 111

  Fishmongers, 195

  "Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry," 36

  Fitzwalter, John, 191;
    Matilda, 192;
    Robert (Marshal of the Army of God), 191-3;
    Robert (grandson), 191-2;
    Walter, 191

  Fitzwalters, Lords of Wodeham, 187-94

  _Fleta_, 197

  "Foreigners," 171, 174

  Forest, 228-9, 230-2

  Forster, Mr. R. H., 160, 162-3

  Fortescue, 115, 122-3

  Francis, St., 20

  Franciscans, 108-9

  Frideswyde Chest, 66

  Frideswyde's Church, St., 90

  Frideswyde, the Blessed, 90

  Frithstool, 161

  Froude, Mr., 91

  Gascoigne, Dr., 128

  Gascoigne, Sir William, 243

  Gavelkind, 218, 221

  "General sophist," 109

  Germans, 101

  Gibbon, 141

  Gilds, 54-5, 242-3

  Glastonbury Abbey, 20

  Gloucester, Thomas, Duke of, 145

  Gloucester, town of, 171-2, 205

  God's Penny, 195-9

  Godwin's "Life of Chaucer," 52

  "Going a-Kathering," 48

  Gomme, Mr. G. L., 209, 211

  Googe, Barnabe, 28

  Gordon, Mr. Gerald P., 1, 6-8

  "Grand Coutumier de Normandie," 142

  Grammar masters, 99-101

  Green, J. R., 234

  Greenwood, the, 153

  Gregorie, 49

  Gregory of Tours, 80

  Gregory, Pope, 53

  Grimm, 136

  "Grithmen," 163

  Grosseteste, Robert, 66, 108, 247

  Halls, 98

  Hazlitt, Mr. W. C., 187

  Hearne, 81

  Henderson's "Select Historical Documents,"  132, 154

  Henry VI., letter of, 78

  Henry VIII., Acts of, 30-1, 48, 65, 182

  Herbergeours, 180

  Hereford, 177-8

  Hereward the Wake, 154

  Hexham, 161

  Highway, taking in the, 169-70

  "Hires," 236

  "History of the University of Cambridge" (Willis and Clark's), 62

  Holidays, 237

  _Holmgang_, 140

  Holy women, festival of, 21

  Homeyer, 203

  Hopkins, witchfinder, 139

  Host of London, 188, 194

  Hostelers, 180-1

  "Hostels," 119, 180-1

  "Hudibras," 139

  Hugo de Balsham, Bishop, 108

  Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, 69

  Hunting, 97

  Immortality, 179, 185-6

  Impostors, 184-5

  Inception, 103-6

  Ine, King, law of, 224

  Innkeepers, 179-81

  Inns of Court, 118-21

  Inquisition, post-mortem, 200

  Ipswich, 198

  Irishmen, 92, 94

  Islip, Archbishop, 17

  James I., 136

  Jews, 90

  John, King, 173, 192

  John's Coll., St., Cambridge, 80, 110-12

  Jonson, Ben, 248

  Judgment by default, 154-5

  Judgment of God, 144-9;
    of the Boiling Water, 135;
    of the Cold Water, 136-7;
    of the Glowing Iron, 132-4;
    of the Morsel, 137-8;
    of the Ploughshares, 134-5;
    of the Psalter, 138-9

  Judith, 19

  Kelynge, Chief Justice, 123

  Kemble, 151

  "King Edward and the Shepherd," 240

  King's Champion, 144

  King's Purveyors, 240

  King's Secretary, 239

  "King's Shilling," 196

  "King's Musick, The," 37

  "Kloster Gebets-verbrüderungen, Die," 12

  Knights Hospitallers, 121

  Lacy, Bishop, pontifical of, 21

  Lansdowne MS., 63

  "Last Supper, The," 57

  Laud, Archbishop, reforms of, 67, 105

  Law, Great, 128;
    Middle, 129, 148;
    Third, 130

  Leagues of Prayer, 11-17

  "Lectures on Heraldry," 201

  "Legible" days, 75, 87

  Leicester, 60, 148

  Leland, 25, 161

  Letter, testimonial, 64

  Letters, patent, 173

  "Liber Custumarum," 190, 192

  Librarian, 69-70

  Library, 68-70

  _Libri vitae_, 17

  Licentiates, 88, 103-5

  Limerick, 198

  Lincoln, 205

  Lindisfarne, monks of, 13-17

  Linguists, 112

  Liverpool, 170, 173-7, 198

  Livery, 33, 241-3

  Liverymen, City, 241

  Lollards, 81

  London, 171-3, 177-87, 193, 195, 204, 239-41

  Longchamps, Bishop, 247

  Lord Mayor's Banquet, 125-6

  Love-days, 83-5

  Lucian, 40

  Magdalen College, 97

  Maid Marian, 192

  Maitland, 152

  Manchester, 204-11

  _Mancipatio_, 199

  Manning, Robert, 53

  Mansfield, 121

  Manu, the, 18

  Marbeck, 199

  Marching Watch, the, 181-2

  Margaret, Countess of Richmond, 110-11

  Marks, pictorial, 203;
   Merchants, 200-2;
   Yeomen's, 199, 203

  Marshal, 45-7;
    of the King's Household, 239-40

  Martin's-le-Grand, St., 158

  Mary, Queen, 39

  Master Henry Sever, 68

  Master of the Children, 36-7, 43

  Masters Regent, 101-2, 106-7;
    Non-Regent, 100

  Matriculation, 99

  Mayhem, 129

  Mayor, Lord, 189-91

  "Mayoralty of London, The Origin of," 173

  _Mercheta mulierum_, 221, 235

  Metingham, Judge, 166

  Middlesex Iter, 227-8, 233-4

  _Ministri sacelli_, 110

  Minstrels, 246-7

  Montague, Anthony, Viscount, 245

  Montesquieu, 141

  Monuments, funeral, 25-6

  Mootemen, 117

  Mortmain, 168

  _Motbelle_, 194

  Munday, Anthony, 192

  "Munimenta Gildhallæ Londiniensis," 190

  Muster of arms, 193-4

  "Nations," 91-7

  "New Custom," the, 196

  New College, 80, 113-14

  Newcastle, 58, 60, 177, 210

  Nicholas, St., 43-4

  Nicols, 182

  "Norfolk and Norwich Archæological Society Transactions," 202

  Norris, Lord, 97

  Northampton, 197

  Northumberland, 177;
    Assize rolls, 156

  Northumberland Household Book, 33-4

  Nottingham, 210-11, 220

  "Novel Disseisin," 168

  Noyes, Attorney General, 197

  "Nut-Brown Maid," the, 150

  Oaths, 95, 124, 127, 146

  Oblates, order of, 20

  Officers, domestic, 243-5;
    municipal, 209-11

  O'Keeffe, 198

  Open field, the, 217, 222-5

  Orders, Dominican, 25-6

  Orders, Franciscan, 25-6

  Orders of widows, 19

  Ordinances, household, 241

  Oriel College, 81

  Othobon's Constitutions, 116, 154

  Outlawry, 150-66, 227

  Oxford (academic customs, _passim_)

  Oxford Historical Society, 89

  Oxford, city of, 86, 177

  Pageants, 52, 54-9

  Pages, 247-8

  Panniers, 186

  "Panyers Alley," 186

  "Paradise of Dainty Devices," 37

  Paris, Matthew, 52

  Patent Rolls, 190

  Paul, St., 19, 23

  Paul's Cathedral, St., 44-6, 124, 188, 241

  Peacock, Mr. E. A., 220-1

  "Peres the Ploughman's Crede," 201

  Peterhouse, Cambridge, 108

  Petitions, 88-9, 92, 158

  "Piers Plowman," 27

  Pillory, 184-5

  "Placita de quo Warranto," 191

  Plays, Miracle, 51-60

  Plymouth, 62

  "Points," 146

  Ponies, Dartmoor, 231-2

  "Popish Kingdom, The," 28, 50

  Portuguese, 180

  Portreeve, 206-8

  Pound, Dunnebridge, 232

  Pound-keepers, 210

  Precinct (sanctuary), 160-1

  Precinct (university), 72

  Pre-emption, 240-1

  Preston, 197

  _Prise_, 240

  Privilege, the, 71-90

  Processions, 87, 90, 206-8

  Proctors, 75, 95, 104

  Professions, 22

  Professors, Regius, 105

  Purcell, Henry, 38

  Pui, festival of the, 179

  Pulling, Mr. Serjeant, 119, 121

  Punishments, 183-6

  Puritans, 60

  Puttenham's "Arte of Poesie," 47

  Queen's College, Oxford, 113

  Questionist, 101

  Readers, 117-18, 120

  Recreations, 112

  "Rectitudines, Singularum Personarum," 235

  Responsions, 101

  Resumption, 109

  Retinues, 238-48

  "Reules Seynt Robert," 247

  _Rex Stultorum_ festival, 42

  Rhodes, Hugh, 37, 39

  Riley, Mr., 190

  Rings, 23-4, 26, 122-3

  Riots, 86-7, 90, 92, 94, 97

  "Rites of Durham, The," 161

  Robin Hood, 150

  Rogers, Archdeacon, 55-6

  Rolf brass, 116-17

  "Romance of Sir Degrevant," 246

  Round, Mr. J. H., 173, 204

  Rudborn, 124

  Rye, 60

  Salisbury, Bishop of, 144

  Salisbury, Earl of, 144

  Salop Iter, 155, 167

  Sanctuary, 155-66

  Sarum Missal, 21

  Saturnalia, 40-1

  "Saxons in England, The," 151

  Scholastica's Day, St., 87

  School-street, 101

  Scotland, 177

  Scots, 92-3

  Scott, Mr. J. H., 203

  Scott, Sir Walter, 41

  "Scouts," 76

  Second marriages, 18-19

  Selden, 142

  Seneschal of the King's Household, 239

  Sergeant Chamberlain, 239

  Serjeants-at-law, 115-26

  Sermons, 46-7, 111

  Servile condition, 177-9

  Shaving, 80-1, 185-6

  Shop-signs, 201

  Shuttleworth accounts, 196

  _Significavit_, 77

  Soke and soken, 189

  Sokeman, 189

  "Specimens of English Literature," Skeat's, 201

  Stake, 172

  Stamford, 105

  Stealing children, 36, 107-8

  Stoford, 208

  Strongbow, 174

  Strype, Archbishop, 42

  Stubbs, Bishop, 229

  Summary justice, 170

  "Sussex Archæological Collections," 245

  Synod of Exeter, 154

  Tabarders, 113

  Tailors, 79

  "Tale of Gamelyn," 150

  Tallies, Exchequer, 240

  Tavistock, 63

  Templars, 81

  Thavie's Inn, 118, 121

  Theft, 127, 131

  Thomas of Acons, St., 124

  Timothy, First Epistle to, 19

  Tiverton, 202, 206-8

  Tokens, 50

  Torrington, 213-15

  Trained bands, 175

  Trial by battle, 140, 143-8

  "Trial of Jesus," the, 57

  Tryvytlam's "De Laude Oxoniæ," 93

  Tun (on Cornhill), 185-6

  Turner, Mr. Dawson, 202

  Tusser, Thomas, 36

  Tyndale, 27

  "Typet," 113

  "Upland men," 174

  Uthred de Bolton, 93

  Utter-barristers, 117-18, 120

  Venville rights, 230-1

  Vice-Chancellor, 105

  Villeins, 233

  Vills, 230

  Virgin, the Blessed, 27-8

  Vowesses, 18-26

  Vows, broken, 24-5

  Wadham College, 63

  Waking of the Sepulchre, 51

  Walworth, Sir William, 159, 184, 194

  Ward, Dr., 53

  Wardrobe book, 241

  Warranty, 168

  Warton, Thomas, 39

  Waste, the, 225-32

  Watch and Ward, 181

  Watchmen, 182-3

  Waterford, 197

  Welshmen, 92

  Westminster Sanctuary, 157-8

  Wheels, 28-9

  Whipping boy, 37

  Whitchurch, Rev. N. L., 226

  Widows, Benediction of, 21;
    Hindu, 18;
    order of, 19

  William I., 140

  William Rufus, 139

  Winchester, 177

  "Wolf's head," 150

  Wolsey, Cardinal, 243, 247

  Woodbury (Devon), 61

  Woolrych, Mr. Serjeant, 126

  Writ of forest, 228

  Writ of imprisonment, 233

  Writ of right, 168

  Wunibald, 14

  Wykeham, William of, 22

  Year-books, 168-70, 217-8, 227-9, 233-4

  York, 44-8, 52, 55, 58, 60, 161, 177, 193

  Youlgreave (Derbyshire), 63

  Youghal, 197

_This book has been abridged to bring it within the length of this

_Printed in Great Britain by Jarrold & Sons, Ltd., Norwich._


[1] I.e., by the Guild of All Souls, the Confraternity of the Blessed
Sacrament, etc.

[2] Paro = apparel in the technical sense.

[3] This was a counsel of perfection. The bedels certainly received fees
(see below).

[4] It is, nevertheless, a fact that high dignitaries of the
Church--e.g., Cardinal Pole--are represented with beards; and St.
Benedict himself is depicted with this virile appendage!

[5] These petitions are taken from a large and valuable collection
translated by Miss Lucy Toulmin Smith and contributed to the
_Collectanea_ (Third Series) of the Oxford Historical Society. They are
copied substantially as she gives them; but curiously enough the
accomplished lady stumbles over the word "brais," for which she proposes
"arms" as the translation, evidently thinking of _bras_ and quite
forgetting that _braies_ is the French for "breeches."

[6] In 1334 a number of masters and scholars migrated to Stamford and
attempted to found a University there. This is known as the Stamford

[7] The University of Cambridge is believed to have been founded in
consequence of a migration from Oxford in 1209. The relative space
assigned to Oxford, as the typical English University of the Middle
Ages, in the present work, may be justified by some words of Mr.
Blakiston: "The University of Cambridge, occupying a less central and
more unhealthy situation, and having less powerful protectors, did not
compete in popularity and privileges with the older society before the
sixteenth century. It was not even formally recognized till it received
the licence of Pope John XXII. in 1318.... Oxford schools were renowned
as a 'staple product' at a time when Cambridge was famous only for

[8] The Common Serjeant was for long to the City what the King's
Serjeant was to the Crown. The appointment lay with the Court of Common
Council, and till 1824 the custom was to elect the senior of the Common
Pleaders in the Mayor's Court. He was originally rather an advocate than
a judge. The office goes back at least as far as the commencement of the
fourteenth century, being mentioned in the civic records of that date.

[9] This and the other prayers cited are translated from the "Formulæ
Liturgicæ," published by Gengler and Rozière, and included in
Henderson's "Select Documents" (Bell).

[10] The "Dialogus de Scaccario" contains the following legendary
account of the origin of this custom, which, like so many others, was an
Anglo-Saxon usage continued under the Normans:

"Now in the primitive state of the kingdom after the Conquest those who
were left of the Anglo-Saxon subjects secretly laid ambushes for the
suspected and hated race of the Normans, and here and there, when
opportunity offered, killed them secretly in the woods and in remote
places: as vengeance for whom--when the Kings and their ministers had
for some years with exquisite kinds of tortures, raged against the
Anglo-Saxons; and they, nevertheless, had not, in consequence of these
measures altogether desisted--the following plan was hit upon: that the
so-called "hundred," in which a Norman was found killed in this
way--when he who had caused his death was not to be found, and it did
not appear from his flight who he was--should be condemned to a large
sum of tested silver for the fisc; some indeed to _l._36, some to
_l._44, according to the different localities, and the frequency of the

"And they say that this is done with the following end in view, namely,
that a general penalty of this kind might make it safe for the
passers-by, and that each person might hasten to punish so great a crime
and to give up to justice him through whom so enormous a loss fell on
the whole neighbourhood."--Henderson's "Select Documents," p. 66.

[11] In Norman times the prosecutor was compensated _twofold_ out of the
chattels of the tried and convicted thief; the rest of his goods went to
the King.

[12] Except in the matter of succession. See p. 219.

[13] "Common town bargains" were the rule also at Dublin.

[14] This and the whole of the following evidence, with few exceptions,
was derived from the appendices to the reports of the Municipal
Corporations Commission of 1835; and it is not likely that the state of
things thus revealed continues, in all cases, to exist.

[15] "Obviously strips in the common arable field" (Cunningham).

[16] It is difficult to estimate the proportion of bond to free; Seebohm
holds that the former comprised the bulk of the population.

[17] For the cultivation of the demesne, perhaps a fourth of the entire

[18] It is impossible within our present limits to specify the relative
duties of this formidable array of officers and serving-men, although
materials for the task are available, notably in "The Booke of Orders
and Rules" of Anthony Viscount Montague, printed in vol. vii. of the
"Sussex Archæological Collections." From this we learn that the Steward
was expected to keep a "perfect checkroll" of his lordship's household
and retainers in order that he might "with more certainty make the
proportion of liveries and badges for them." Yeomen waiters attended
their master in the streets of London and at his table there in their
liveries, with handsome swords or rapiers at their sides; and this was
also the rule in the country at the solemn feasts of Christmas, Easter,
and Whitsuntide, and on other special occasions. When the Lord and Lady
went a journey, the Steward and all the higher members of the household
rode immediately in front of them, and the Gentlemen Usher led the
cavalcade bareheaded through towns and cities.

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