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Title: Town Life in the Fifteenth Century, Volume 2 (of 2)
Author: Green, Alice Stopford
Language: English
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                               TOWN LIFE


                         THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY

                                VOL. II


                               TOWN LIFE


                         THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY


                           MRS. J. R. GREEN

                           _IN TWO VOLUMES_

                                VOL. II

                           MACMILLAN AND CO.
                             AND NEW YORK

        _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved_

                    RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED,
                          LONDON AND BUNGAY.




  THE TOWN MANNERS                      1


  THE TOWN MARKET                      24


  THE TOWN TRADER                      57


  THE LABOUR QUESTION                  86


  THE CRAFTS                          110


  THE CRAFTS AND THE TOWN             134


  THE TAILORS OF EXETER               167


  THE GUILD MERCHANT                  190


  THE TOWN DEMOCRACY                  221


  THE TOWN OLIGARCHY                  240


  THE TOWN COUNCIL                    269












  CONCLUSION                          437






THE controversy concerning the bounds and limits of their freedom,
which the English boroughs were forced to maintain with powerful
organizations already settled in the land—with the monarchy,
the baronage, or the Church—represented in the history of each
municipality that which in the case of States of greater magnitude
we call the foreign policy of the commonwealth. But whatever may be
the compass of a dominion, whether it be a borough or an empire, no
influence is more potent in shaping the character and destiny of the
community than the nature of its external relations. It was in the
single-handed conflict with foreign powers, whether superior lord or
insidious rival, that the drapers and mercers, the smiths and butchers
and weavers of every country town were forced, with a patriotism
quickened by necessity, to meddle in matters of State and to concern
themselves about the public weal; their ardours were stirred by legends
of an ancient freedom, while their political instinct was trained
by incessant discussion of legal precedent and right; and in the
strain of perpetual taxation, in heavy burdens imposed upon a people
whose prosperity was new, uncertain, or shifting; above all in the
strengthening of certain forms of narrow municipal despotism born of
the struggle against external danger, they paid the price of a bracing
public discipline.

But there is another side of the town history which is not less
important, and which is far more complicated than the question of its
foreign relations and policy—that is, the problem of its own nature,
of the spirit by which it was animated and the inherent resources
of its corporate life. In the town a new world had grown up with an
organization and a polity of its own wholly different from that of the
country. Members who joined its community were compelled to renounce
all other allegiance and forego any protection from other patrons. The
chief magistrate set over its inhabitants must be one of their own
fellow-citizens—“not a far dweller” unless in time of special need,
such as war, and then only “by the pleasure of the commonalty.”[1]
Adventurers from the manor-houses of the neighbourhood and strangers
in search of fortune were equally shut out; and it was only when a
county squire was willing to throw in his lot with the burghers, to
turn into a good citizen and honest tradesman, and to prove his credit
and capacity by serving in a subordinate post,[2] that he could hope to
rise to the highest office. It is true that country folk were welcome
to pay a double price for having a stall in the market, or a store-room
in the Common House for their wool; while the impoverished knight
might come in search of a renewal of his wasted fortunes through the
dowry of some rich mercer’s daughter. But otherwise the town carried
on its existence apart, in a watchful and jealous independence. Its
way of life, its code of manners, its habits, aims, and interests,
the condition of the people, the local theories of trade by which its
conduct of business was guided, the popular views of citizenship and
government under the influence of which the burghers regulated their
civic policy—all these things must be kept in view if we would gain a
clear idea of the growth of the borough from within.

The way of thinking and acting of the new world of traders and
shopkeepers and artizans lives again for us in a wholly new literature
which first sprang up in England about the middle of the fifteenth
century—in Books of Courtesy and popular rhymes as to the conduct
of daily life. The first English manual of etiquette appeared about
1430. Germany had had its book of courtesy more than two hundred years
before, a set of rules composed for a distinguished society by equally
fastidious writers, one of whom laments that his pen had been made
“common” by writing about masters and servants, and explains that it
was never happy save in describing knights and ladies. In northern
Italy a similar book drawn up in the thirteenth century had taken a
very different character. There the merchants and shopkeepers of the
towns, impatient of “new ceremonies” brought in from over the mountains
which they deemed contrary to all the traditions of the traders of
Lucca and Florence and only fit for the degenerate Neapolitans, framed
rules to suit their own needs and aspirations. The French followed
rather later, at the end of the fourteenth century; and then last of
all came the English experiment.[3]

The very appearance of such a book at this time is most significant.
The nobles had already their own literary traditions handed down
from an older world; and in the ideal of chivalrous conduct which
was enshrined for them in the “Morte d’Arthur,” the Knights of the
Round Table still served as a standard of social virtue and good
bearing for the upper classes—a standard with which the burghers
had nothing whatever to do. But the new literature was for the
townsfolk themselves, and it bore on every line the impress of its
origin. A growing sense of dignity and self-respect in the middle
class of traders and artizans wakened aspirations for polite manners,
and intercourse with strangers abroad gave fresh stimulus to social
ambition. Englishmen who visited Flanders towards the end of the
century were as much impressed by the Flemish manners as by the Flemish
wealth: “they can best behave them and most like gentlemen,” was their
comment.[4] In England the new society, with no heritage of tradition
and no recognized array of models in the past, had to create its own
standard of behaviour, to shape its own social code, to realize for
itself the art of life. Compilers worked busily in the service of the
middle-class aspirants. One book of courtesy after another was adapted
for the vulgar use. The “Rules of S. Robert,” the good Bishop of
Lincoln, whereby “whosoever will keep these rules well will be able to
live on his means and keep himself and those belonging to him,” were
put into English in a brief form, after wearing a more courtly garb of
French or Latin for three centuries.[5] A Latin treatise on manners
was translated for the unlearned by a writer who prayed for help in
his work from Him who formed man after His own image, from Mary the
gracious Mother, and from Lady Facetia the Mother of all virtue.[6]
Sound codes of morals were put in the form of an A B C.[7] The right
conduct of life, especially as it concerned polite behaviour, was set
out in little songs “made for children young, at the school that bide
not long.”[8] Plain directions in verse pointed out the duties of
girls, of young men, of housewives, of wandering youths looking for
service. The rhymes are of the homeliest kind, with trite and prosaic
illustrations taken from the common sights of the market-place, the
tavern, the workshop, or the street with its wandering pigs and its
swinging signs; it is in their very rudeness and simpleness that
their interest lies. Meanwhile political and satirical songs which
had been so common in the foregoing centuries mostly died out of
fashion and were heard no more, as the burghers, quickened into a new
self-consciousness, began to be concerned for a time with matters
nearer home.

These fragments of old speech and song lead us into the very midst of
the lanes and workshops of a mediæval town. They recall for us the
countless political and social troubles amid which the trader was
slowly fighting his way upward, and which left their deep impress on
his character and view of life. A pervading suspicion, a distrustful
caution, are the ground-note of many a song. Rude proverbs of daily
speech, jingling rhymes of wise counsel, all are profoundly marked by
the narrow prudence of people set in the midst of pit-falls, to whom
danger was ever present, whether at the council chamber or at the
tavern or at a friend’s dinner table, and among whom talk and clatter
with the tongue were looked on as an unspeakable indiscretion.[9] They
picture a life anxious and difficult, whose recognized condition is
one of toil that knows no relaxation and no end, of hardship borne
with unquestioning endurance—a life amid whose humble prosperity
family affection and the family welfare are best assured by having
one roof, one entrance door, one fire, and one dining table, and a
“back door” is looked on as an extravagance which would bring any
household to ruin. After a man had lived hard and worked strenuously
he still stood in need of the constantly recurring warning against any
bitterness of envy at the prosperity of a lucky dealer next door. The
limits of his ambition and his duty are bounded by rigid lines; and the
standard of conduct is one framed for a laborious middle class, with
its plain-spoken seriousness, its sturdy morality, its activity and
rectitude and independence, its dulness and vigilance and thrift. It is
the duty of good men to set their people well to work, to keep house
carefully, to get through any heavy job steadily and swiftly, to pay
wages regularly, to give true weight, to remember ever that “Borrowed
thing must needs go home.” They are not to ape their betters in dress,

  “Be as pure as flour taken from the bran
  In all thy clothing and all thine array.”

With one whom “thou knowest of greater state” there should be no
easy fellowship, no dining or betting or playing at dice; above all
there must be no show of overmuch “meekness” or servility, “for else
a fool thou wilt be told.”[10] A practical religion adds its simple
obligations.[11] Men ought to pay their tithes, to give to the poor, to
be strong and stiff against the devil. The prayer on awaking, the daily
mass before working hours, the duties of self-control and submission,
must ever be kept in mind. For the trader indeed the way of virtue was
a narrow one and straight. Three deaths ever stand menacingly before
him. First comes the common lot, the mere severing of soul and body.

  “The tother death is death of Shame,
  If he die in debt or wicked fame;
  The third death, so saith the clerks,
  If he hath no good works.”[12]

But side by side with directions about mercy, truth, and fulfilling
the law, come other warnings—warnings about carving meat and cutting
bread and dividing cheese, about a formal and dignified bearing, how
to walk and stand and kneel, how to enter a house or greet a friend in
the street—all carefully and laboriously shaped into rhyme. In the
new sense of changing customs, of fashions that came and went with
the revolutions of society,[13] training and thought and conscious
endeavour were called in to replace the simplicity of the old unvarying
forms. Manners became a subject of serious anxiety. Throwing aside
the mass of tradition handed down from century to century, when every
usage was consecrated by custom, and determined by immemorial laws as
to the relations of class to class, the burghers, side by side with
the professional and middle classes all over the kingdom, were tending
towards the realization of a new social order, in which men were no
longer obliged as formerly to pass through the door of the Church to
find the way of social advancement, but might attain to it along the
common high road of secular enterprise. The notion of the worth of the
individual man was none the less important for the homely and practical
form given to it in their rude and untrained expression. No one, they
declared simply, need be shamefaced, of whatever lowly position he
might come, for

  “In hall or chamber, or where thou gon,
  Nurture and good manners maketh man.”

In whatever society he might find himself, the humblest citizen should
therefore so order his behaviour that when he left the table men would
say “A gentleman was here.”[14] The practical divinity of plain people
easily drew the graciousness of outward demeanour within the sphere of
religion, and “clerks that knew the seven arts” explained

  “That courtesy from heaven came
  When Gabriel our Lady grette
  And Elizabeth with Mary mette.”[15]

Since “all virtues are closed in courtesy and all vices in villany” or
rudeness, the best prayer one could make was to be well-mannered, for
the virtues of a fine behaviour reached as far as thought could go.

  “In courtesy He make you so expert,
  That through your nurture and your governance,
  In lasting bliss He may yourself advance.”

These books of courtesy show us one side of the great change that
passed over society[16] when the mediæval theory of _status_ was broken
down by the increase of riches which trade brought with it, and the new
chances of rising in the world through wealth. The yeoman might become
a gentleman by getting into a lord’s household, and “spending large and
plenty.” The squire who would be a knight without the danger of bearing
arms need only go to the king’s court with his purse full of money. The
man of letters, the merchant, the seeker after pleasure, whoever and
whatever a man might be, he could win neither degree nor worship “but
he have the penny ready to take to.”[17] When the acquisition of wealth
or the passage from one class to another was practically impossible,
poverty and a low estate might still be dignified. But as soon as
fortune and position had been brought within the reach of all, the man
who remained poor might be looked on as idle or incapable. A new test
of superiority was applied, a test of material prosperity, and by this
measure the townsman was judged by his neighbours and naturally judged
himself. On all sides we find indications of the excited ambition which
had begun to stir in every class,

  “Now every boy will counterfeit a knight,
  Report himself as good as he.”[18]

New distinctions of rank and caste began to appear, and an aristocracy
of energy and skill constantly recruited and invigorated made its
influence felt in every borough, as public honour was attached to trade
in proportion to the wealth which its followers could win. The wool
trade especially held a place of distinction in common esteem; and
people who took to the selling of cloth were supposed to “live like
gentlemen” and rejoice in a really superior station.[19] More and more
the enriched burgher hastened to give proof that he had risen into the
leisured class by donning the fine dress whose cumbrous folds bespoke
a sedate idleness and luxury, so that whereas “sometime afar men might
lords know by their array from other folk, now a man shall stand or
muse a long throw which is which.”[20]

As the chance of rising in the world stirred in the trader a new
ambition, so it stirred too the sense of the power of knowledge. When
the writer of Piers Ploughman counts up the gifts of the Spirit that
were distributed among the commons at the descent of the Holy Ghost as
“treasure to live by to their lives’ end,” and “weapon to fight with
when Anti-Christ assaileth,” he carefully reckons in with the rest
the wit to use words skilfully as preachers and prentices of law who
live leally by labour of tongue, the crafts and “connynge” of sight by
which men win their livelihood with selling and buying, the wisdom to
till and thatch and cook as their wit would when the time came; the
art of divining and dividing numbers, and all such learning of the
schools.[21] Already the workers of the town were reaching forward, as
some of their rough rhymes show, to a true love of learning.[22] Their
zeal took very practical form. Side by side with the great movement for
education which was going on under the patronage of kings and queens,
of archbishops and bishops, and great lords and ladies, humbler work
was taken in hand by burghers and tradesmen for the teaching of their
own people.[23] The founding of free grammar schools all over England
was the work of the trading classes themselves. Sometimes the schools
were founded by Guilds.[24] Sometimes townsmen who had thriven in
the world remembered gratefully the place of their birth or their
education. “By some divine chance” a “teacher of grammar learning” came
to live in Rotherham about the beginning of the fifteenth century, and
one of the town boys, Thomas Scott, who had been taught by him about
1430, became in 1474 Lord Chancellor, and in 1480 Archbishop of York.
In 1483 he founded a college in his old home with a Provost and three
Fellows who were to teach freely any one who came to them. One was to
give lessons in grammar, poetry, and rhetoric; the second in music,
especially singing, playing, and broken song; and if possible these
two were to be priests, or at least one of them. The third Fellow
was to teach writing and arithmetic to youths who were not intended
for the priesthood, but for trades and other employments; for among
the children of Rotherham, said the archbishop, there were many who
were “valde acuti in ingenio.”[25] In the same way bishop Alcock of
Rochester, the son of a Hull merchant, established a free grammar
school at Hull, where the master was to “teach all scholars thither
resorting without taking any stipend or wages for the same, and should
have for his own wages £10.”[26]

So in one way or another the work of education went on throughout the
fifteenth century—a work whose magnitude and importance have been too
long obscured by the busy organizers of the Reformation days, who, for
the giving of a new charter or adapting the school to the new system
established by law, clothed themselves with the glory of founders and
bore away from their silent predecessors the honour of inaugurating a
new world. Not only in the busy centres of commerce, but in the obscure
villages that lay hidden in forest or waste or clung to the slopes of
the northern moors, the children of the later middle ages were gathered
into schools. Apparently, reading and writing were everywhere common
among the people,[27] and as early as the reign of Richard the Second
the word “townsmen” had come to mean people instructed and trained,
and no longer ignorant rustics.[28] But the most remarkable thing
about the growth of the new grammar schools was the part taken in their
foundation by laymen—by the traders and merchants of the towns. The
great benefactor of Sandwich, Thomas Elys, left provision in 1392 for
one of the chaplains of his chantry to serve as schoolmaster for the
town boys; and the son of a draper who had had his education in this
school afterwards founded a grammar school. Sir Edmund Shaa, goldsmith
and once Lord Mayor of London, established a school at Stockport by
will in 1457, and appointed a chantry priest of the parish church,
who, being “cunning in grammar,” should “freely without any wages or
salary asking or taking of any person, except only any salary hereunder
specified, shall teach all manner persons, children and other, that
will come to him to learn as well of the said town of Stopford as of
other towns thereabouts, the science of grammar as far as lieth in him
for to do.” And another London mayor, Sir John Percyvale, who had been
born close to Macclesfield, left money in 1502 to endow a free grammar
school there, because there were few schoolmasters in that country and
the children for lack of teaching “fall to idleness and so consequently
live dissolutely all their days.”[29] It seems also that the
Manchester Grammar School was first planned by a Manchester clothier,
who at his death left money for its foundation; and was completed in
1524 by Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, a native of Oldham;[30] the
children were to be taught “after the manner of the school of Banbury,”
and inhabitants of the town were compelled to contribute to its support
by being forced to grind their corn at the school mills—a custom which
was kept up till 1759.

The new movement marked the beginning of that revolution which was
ultimately to take education out of the exclusive control of the
Church and hand it over to the people themselves. Up to this time the
privileges and profits of teaching had been practically a monopoly
of the clergy, and there was no possible competition save that which
might spring up between licensed and unlicensed teachers within the
ecclesiastical order.[31] A document drawn up by order of the abbot
of Walden tells how the clergy of the parish church there had taught
some children of the village the alphabet, and even more advanced
lessons, without leave from the abbot, who claimed by the statutes and
customs of the monastery a perpetual monopoly of teaching or licensing
schoolmasters. A petition was made by the inhabitants in favour of the
priests, and in consequence of this petition the abbot, to the great
satisfaction of the townsfolk, graciously allowed that every priest of
the Church might (during the goodwill of the abbot and convent) receive
one “very little child” of each inhabitant, and might teach the child
in “alphabete et graciis”[32] but not in any higher learning; a legal
instrument embodying this concession was drawn up by a clerk of the
York diocese, and signed with a beautiful notarial monogram which must
have cost him the greater part of a day to draw.[33]

But under the new state of things another element was brought into
the controversy. The town itself occasionally became the aggressive
party, and took the teaching straight out of the hands of the priest.
An order was made at Bridgenorth in 1503 “that there shall no priest
keep no school, save only one child to help him to say mass, after
that a schoolmaster cometh to town, but that every child to resort to
the common school in pain of forfeiting to the chamber of the town
twenty shillings of every priest that doeth the contrary.”[34] Burghers
accustomed to manage their own affairs easily assumed the direction of
education, and the control of schools gradually passed from clerical to
lay hands and became the charge of the whole community. In Nottingham,
where there had been a grammar school before 1382 at which it would
seem that a boy’s education cost eightpence a term,[35] a new free
school was founded in 1512, probably by the widow of a former mayor,
and was put directly under the management of the mayor and town
council,[36] and as these apparently proved somewhat negligent in the
business the Leet jury constantly interfered in the most officious way
in the government of the school and the choice and supervision of its
teachers. “It will be a credit,” they said, “to have a good master and
a good ussher in one school.”[37]

Of the intellectual life of the towns we know scarcely anything, and
there is perhaps not much to be known. Scholars naturally drifted away
to the Universities or London, and the society of the borough was
occupied with other matters than learning. In Nottingham, in spite of
the educational zeal of the jury, the first evidence we have of a town
clerk who knew enough of the classics to quote a line of Vergil and
a line of Horace is in 1534-1545; while it is not till 1587 that we
find a clerk who had learned Greek.[38] On the other hand Bristol was
evidently a centre of radiant light. An excellent education was given
in its school, if we judge from the famous Grocyn, who was brought up
there and left the school in 1463;[39] and its society was adorned by
men of culture and wide intellectual curiosity. William of Worcester,
the enquirer after universal knowledge, a man of science who practised
medicine and cultivated his garden of herbs, as well as a man of
letters, who at forty-three “hath gone to school to a Lombard called
Karoll Giles to learn and to be read in poetry or else in French,”
and to whom “a good book of French or of poetry” seemed as fine a
purchase as “a fair manor,” might be seen in his later days at Bristol,
practising the art of annalist, in which character he surveyed the
whole town and carefully measured it by paces from end to end.[40] His
friend Ricart, town clerk and historian, spent the twenty-seven years
of his clerkship in writing his Calendar or Chronicle of 332 leaves in
six carefully arranged parts, the first three being devoted to history
and the last three to local customs and laws, in which he carried the
story of Bristol through 3,000 years from the days of Brut to the reign
of Edward the Fourth.[41]

It was inevitable that the purpose and theory of education should
ultimately be modified by the change of masters, as well as by the
change of manners, and already fervent reformers like Caxton began to
look beyond “the alphabet and humanities” and discuss training in the
mysteries of the English tongue itself. Among the “fathers ancient” who
should command the reverence of scholars they counted the famous men of
their own race and speech—men removed from them by but a generation
or two—Chaucer “the father and founder of ornate eloquence,” Lydgate,
the maker of “volumes that be large and wide,” and Occleve; and it
is touching to see men, on the very eve of the heroic age of English
literature, wistfully looking back to the vanished glories of their
grandfather days, when, as it seemed to them, all the “fresh flowers”
of style had been reaped by this handful of ancient worthies, and
“of silver language the great riches” stored away in their treasury,
so that the painful toiler who came after in search of “the embalmed
tongue and aureate sentence,” could now get it only by piece-meal, or
at the most might glean here and there by busy diligence something
to show that he had reverently visited the fields of the blest.[42]
The enlightened zeal of the learned indeed had still to wage a long
warfare with the pedants of the schools and the barbaric notions of
education that governed men’s minds; and the training vouchsafed to the
poor boys of the fifteenth century was then and for many a century
afterwards a rude and brutal one.[43] No doubt, too, the trader’s view
of education, practical as it was, had a touch of unashamed vulgarity.
“To my mind,” says the Capper in the Commonweal, “it made no matter if
there were no learned men at all,” for “the devil a whit good do ye
with your studies but set men together by the ears;” what men wanted
was “to write and read, and learn the languages used in countries
about us, that we might write our minds to them and they to us.”
Scholars, on the other hand, trembled at the results to civilization
and knowledge of the crude ideals of the mere man of business, who if
he had his way would “in a short space make this realm empty of wise
and politic men, and consequently barbarous, and at the last thrall and
subject to other nations; for empire is not so much won and kept by the
manhood or force of men as by wisdom and policy,[44] which is gotten
chiefly by learning.” But whatever were their faults it was in the
schools as much as in the council-chamber or shop that the revolution
of the next century was being prepared; and the wide-reaching results
of the spread of education in town and village were potent factors
in the developement of a later England. “The fault is in yourselves,
ye noblemen’s sons,” wrote Ascham, “and therefore ye deserve the
greater blame, that commonly the meaner men’s children come to be the
wisest counsellors and greatest doers in the weighty affairs of this



CLOSE under the sheltering walls of the parish church we may look for
the market of a mediæval town, with stalls leaning against the building
where possibly the first beginnings of trade had found shelter, where
before any market was held the people of the neighbourhood assembled on
feast days and sold meat and bread at the church without fear of being
called on for any payment for toll and stallage;[46] and in which,
after the community had been endowed with market rights, the rulers and
governors of the market met, the guardians of its weights and measures,
the makers of its laws, the assessors of its tolls, the supervisors
of its wares. There, while the national government was drifting in
perplexity at the mercy of court factions, agitated by problems of the
King’s civil list, pensions to nobles, and the conquest of France,
the towns were rapidly sketching out their commercial system and
tentatively laying down the main lines into which the national policy
was ultimately to be driven.

The market had long been kept out of view by its more showy predecessor
the fair—the offspring of an immemorial antiquity, whose very name[47]
betrays its origin in the ancient gatherings at feasts heathen or
Christian, and reveals it as an institution derived from old tribal and
national usages. Gradually expanding in later times with the growth
of the royal prerogative and necessities of commerce, and drawing
to its miscellaneous gatherings strange merchants fetched from far
and near, the fair had a brilliant history of its own; it had given
birth to universal commerce and watched over its growth; it became
the foster-mother of the Merchant Law; even now it still appears with
the lavish airs of an antique benefactor casting on the green its
faded gifts of holyday and merry-go-round and quack delights. But as
long ago as the fifteenth century the superannuated fair was already
falling into a slow decrepitude, and giving place to its successor,
the product of a later order of things.[48] For the market had another
origin and might trace back its descent to the traditions of the
Roman _municipia_, and claim the Roman Pandects for its sponsors, and
show itself fortified by customs and modes of administration handed
down to England with many another legacy from the laws of the Frankish
kings.[49] With all its air of being the very work and possession of
the people, the market was by descent no popular or tribal right; it
was the king’s prerogative; its tolls and customs were regulated by
the authority of the Justices of the King’s Bench, and its prices were
proclaimed by the king’s Clerk of the Market.[50]

What kings could not themselves profitably enjoy, however, was
generally to be bought at some reasonable price. The privilege of
holding a market could be transferred as a franchise to a subject, and
the whole market system in England grew up by means of royal grants of
monopolies to individuals or to corporations. Between the years 1200
and 1482, almost 5000 local centres of organized trade were established
by grants of markets and fairs,[51] and the towns were naturally well
to the fore in securing whatever bargains were being distributed. But
the origin of the privilege was always independent in theory of the
ordinary municipal franchises;[52] and in many important boroughs
freedom from the Steward and Marshal of the Household and the royal
Clerk of the Market was one of the last rights given to the people.[53]

Closely connected with the right to hold a market was the right to keep
a Beam or Steelyard with its weights, a yard measure, and a bushel.[54]
On the day that each new mayor entered on his office, he received from
his predecessor the common chest, the town treasure, and the standard
measures; and was required forthwith to send out his councillors to
the house of every shopkeeper, baker, brewer, or innkeeper, that they
might carry all bushels, gallons, quarts, yards, or weights back to
the Mayor’s house to be compared with the standard models and duly
sealed.[55] Thenceforth it was his business to make war on spicers and
grocers who sold by horn or aim of hand or by subtlety deceived the
poor commons, on brewers who used cups and dishes instead of lawful
measures,[56] on drapers who measured after their own devices, on
weavers who used stones and not sealed weights to buy their wool; even
merchants of the Staple and country squires and foreign dealers brought
their wool to the “Trove” or Balance, with a fee for the “Fermour of
the Beme,”[57] as soon as general trade proved the inconvenience of a
variety of local weights, or of the primitive method of using stones
which still survived in the fifteenth century, when a Yorkshire steward
writes to his master, “I have a counterpoise weight of the weight stone
that the wool was weighed with, and that ye see that the stone be kept
that the shipman brings.”[58]

Thus the market with its Beam and measures became the source and centre
of an activity absolutely new—an activity which crowded the roads not
only with merchants and chapmen, but with the new race of carriers
that was created at the end of the fourteenth century to transport the
dealer’s wares throughout the length and breadth of the country.[59]
Dealers and manufacturers gathered in groups round the central Cheap
and its Balance with authentic sealed weights, and gave the names of
their several trades to the alleys in which butchers or milksellers
clustered together, or where spurriers and goldsmiths had their shops,
and grocers, mercers, wool-dealers, and cloth merchants were ranged
in ordered ranks round the Guildhall for the greater convenience of
the municipal officers. What the new movement meant we can see in the
change that passed over the face of English boroughs. The first sight
of a mediæval town must have carried little promise to the visitor. We
have a lively picture of the state of Hythe given by the presentments
of its reforming jury in the beginning of the fifteenth century, from
which it is not easy to understand how the inhabitants ever made their
way about the town at all. Streets were choked with the refuse of the
stable, made impassable by the “skaldynge de hogges,” flooded by the
overflow of a house, drowned by the turning of a watercourse out of
its way or the putting up of a dam by some private citizen heedless
of all consequences to the public road. Timber dealers cast trunks of
trees right across the street, dyers poured their waste waters over
it till it became a mere swamp, builders blocked it up utterly with
the framework of their new houses, and traders made their wharves
upon it. Not only the most thriving and respectable merchants, such
as the Honywodes, but the butcher and swine-keeper as well, threw the
waste of house and shambles and swine-cote into the open street till
there was scarcely any passage left for the wayfarer; or established
a “hoggestok,” “which smells very badly and is abominable to all men
coming to market, as well as to all dwelling in the town,” say the
jury. There was hardly a street or lane which was not described as
“almost stinking and a nuisance.” The “Cherche Weye” was occupied by
the pits of a skinner. “There was no carrying through Brokhellislane.”
The street by which the procession went on Holy Thursday, the day of
perambulation of the town, could scarcely be traversed. Everywhere
gates and bridges were falling to decay, ditches unrepaired, and hedges
overgrown; and one offender who had obstructed a road by neglecting to
repair the ditches found an easy way of escape from his obligations
by a courtesy to the Bailiff—“the dyeing of two cloths that the said
ditches may not have to be repaired.” Worse still the Holy Well was
choked with refuse, and so was the well in West Hythe, and “the water
in the cart of Geoffrey Waterleader by which the whole community is
refreshed” was equally obstructed and spoiled by the refuse of the
butchers’ shambles. It is no wonder that pestilence devastated Hythe in
1412, as throughout the century it swept over one town after another.
But it has been calculated that even without the aid of pestilence the
ordinary mortality of a borough in the Middle Ages was almost equal to
that of a town during a visitation of cholera to-day. Even the first
well-meant efforts of Corporations to shut pigs out of their streets
and banish wandering dogs, by levying fines from any inhabitant who
had an “irrational animal going about” in the churchyard[60] or the
market, doubtless added to the dangers of pestilence by removing the
only scavengers known to the early borough.

Nor was this the condition of the smaller towns only. In Nottingham,
a thriving and prosperous borough, we read in the same way of
streets blocked with piles of cinders cast out smoking hot from the
bell-foundry or the iron workshops, or with heaps of corn which the
householders winnowed, or as they said “windowed,” by the simple method
of throwing it from an upper window or door into the street that the
wind might carry away the chaff.[61] In the yet wealthier manufacturing
city of Norwich the market place was not yet paved in 1507, but a
judicious order was issued that no one should dig holes in it to get
sand without the mayor’s licence.[62] The very attempt to get access
to a town was often not wholly free from peril. In 1499 a glover from
Leighton Buzzard travelled with his wares to Aylesbury for the market
before Christmas Day. It happened that an Aylesbury miller, Richard
Boose, finding that his mill needed repairs, sent a couple of servants
to dig clay “called Ramming clay” for him on the highway, and was in
no way dismayed because the digging of this clay made a great pit in
the middle of the road ten feet wide, eight feet broad, and eight feet
deep, which was quickly filled with water by the winter rains. But
the unhappy glover, making his way from the town in the dusk, with his
horse laden with paniers full of gloves, straightway fell into the
pit, and man and horse were drowned. The miller was charged with his
death, but was acquitted by the court on the ground that he had had
no malicious intent, and had only dug the pit to repair his mill, and
because he really did not know of any other place to get the kind of
clay he wanted save the highroad.[63]

All this heritage of squalor and rough disorder however was no longer
accepted without protest. Old abuses were brought to light and
denounced.[64] Towns were swept and garnished, stately market crosses
set up, and new Guild-halls everywhere built with shops and stalls and
storage rooms for the traders. A new interest was awakened in the state
of streets[65] and lanes and central squares when waggons and pack
horses began to struggle through the mire with their loads on market
day. And as travellers multiplied—busy men intent on bargains, traders
flocking to buy and sell, mayors and clerks of distant boroughs come
to negociate a commercial treaty, men of law having the conduct of a
new charter, common earners—all travellers who no longer cared (and
some of them for very obvious reasons) to depend on the hospitality of
monasteries, the towns with one accord began to provide inns where, to
the greater profit of the community, such men might turn for shelter;
and the more luxurious among them might discover good cheer which
demanded a grateful entry—“paid for our bed there, and it was well
worth it, witness, a feather bed 1_d._”[66] Everywhere a new order
reigned under the busy rule of the municipal officers, as they leased
out the market stalls and sheds,[67] appointed the corresponding
pews in the church, allotted storage rooms in the Guildhall, issued
licenses to alien traders, and controlled the wayward will of the
sellers by regulating their prices and their profits. Goods landed at
the wharves of a seaport were delivered up to the public porters and
measurers of the Strand[68] employed by the town to unload vessels
with pulleys and ropes supplied at the common expense, and to carry
them to the appointed place for toll or for inspection; and the
town brokers—public officers sworn to make no private profit while
they held their posts—conducted bargains in the name of the whole
community,[69] freighted vessels, and measured cargoes of corn or
canvas or cloth. Before the mayor the endless officials of the market
were sworn—the clerk of the market who had to search and survey
all victuals, the sergeant who carried the toll-box on market days
after the bailiffs,[70] the “leave-lookers,” the “decennaries,” the
“prud’hommes,”[71] the butchers chosen to oversee the meat market,
the men appointed to control the sale of fish and poultry, the common
weigher, and so on through the long and various list of officials.

A vast system of ingenious and elaborate regulations[72] marked the
long effort of the townspeople to carry out in their new markets the
apparently simple end which lay at the heart of the democracy, that
food and necessaries of life both good and cheap should be within the
reach of every man. According to the theory which still held its ground
in the sixteenth century that “victual being a necessary sustenance
for the body should not be esteemed at the seller’s liberty,”[73] a
fixed price was set on all provisions. Hence the Assize of Bread[74]
(apparently quite neglected by the feudal lords[75]) and the Assizes
of Beer and of Wine were secured by the towns, whether as a part of
their market rights or as an independent privilege.[76] Victuallers
were closely watched lest in selling meat, eggs, butter, or oatmeal
they should take “excess lucre upon them, selling that is to say more
than 1_d._ in the shilling;”[77] innholders were allowed a penny of
gain on every bushel of corn and a half-penny on every seven pounds of
hay, so that if a man could buy a bushel of corn[78] for 2_s._ 8_d._
he was not allowed to sell it for 3_s._; tavern-keepers might have
twopence profit on a gallon of white or red wine, and on sweet wines
brought by Italian merchants, fourpence;[79] cooks must make their
meat “well seasoned and wholesome, and sell it for reasonable winning,
and that they reboil nor rebake no meat in hurt of the King’s people;”
while fishmongers—a class most important in the mediæval world, and
among whom it was impossible to prevent the growth of the middleman,
were subjected to endless regulations.[80] In the unceasing effort to
save themselves from dearth or from fraud the poor commons had their
authorized protector in the Mayor—a protector who on entering office
took oath before the community not only to obey the King but also
to serve the people, and to “keep truly correction on all bakers and
brewers and taverners and cooks and such like people.” No sooner was
the Mayor of Bristol installed than he was bound to call all the bakers
of the town to the Guild Hall, to understand from them what stuff they
had of wheat, to counsel them in their buying and bargaining with the
“Bagers” who brought corn to the town, and to decide on the size of the
loaves. Then all the Bristol brewers were summoned before him, that
he might commune with them about the cost of malt, and decree a fixed
price which no brewer might evade or alter. In like manner he proceeded
to set a price on wood “by his wise discretion,” and to order the hours
of its sale; and he had to examine the colliers’ sacks, and to assure
himself that standard measures for coal were set in the proper places
of the town. Further, throughout the year it was his duty constantly
to watch that his ordinances were duly observed. Occasionally his
walk was extended along the river side, that he might keep an eye on
the timber trade and observe whether the great wood called Berkeley
wood was discharged at one quay, and the smaller faggots at another
landing-place; and that he might from spring to spring watch prices,
and see that there was small wood enough to supply the poor people with
bundles at 1/2_d._ or 1_d._ kept at the “Back,” a waterside street
where the merchants’ stores were piled. At divers times he went to
oversee the quality of the bread and try its weight (for which perhaps,
as at Sandwich, he engaged a goldsmith who was liberally paid for his
experience at the scales); while at Christmas, or whenever there was
holiday or a pilgrimage in the town, it was his business to make sure
that there was bread enough in the shops to supply all needs. And in
order to know certainly that the brewers not only made good ale for
the rich but also a cheap small drink for the poor, on Wednesdays and
Saturdays he was “used to walk in the mornings to the brewers’ houses,
to oversee them in serving of their ale to the poor commons of the
town, and that they have their true measures; and his ale-konner with
him to taste and understand that the ale be good”[81]—a very necessary
task if we accept the picture given us in Piers Ploughman of the
typical beer-seller of his day—

  “Yea, bawe,” quoth a brewer, “I will not be ruled,
  By Jesus, for all your jangling after _spiritus justicie_;
  Nor after conscience, by Christ, for I could sell
  Both dregs and draff, and draw at one hole
  Thick ale and thin ale, and that is my kind,
  And not to hack after holiness; hold thy tongue, Conscience!
  Of _spiritus justicie_ thou speakest much and idle.”[82]

The Nottingham jury a century or two later would have drawn the same
picture. “Master Mayor,” they cry, “we beseech you to be good master to
us, and see a remedy for our brewers, for we find us grieved with them

Nor did legislation stop here. The moment a trader came within reach
of a town he became the object of universal suspicion lest he should
be a dealer travelling with an alert intention to outwit the public
and force an artificial value in the market by some contrivance of
forestalling or regrating or engrossing—that is of intercepting
goods on the way to market in order to buy them more cheaply; of thus
buying at advantage to sell at increased prices; or of keeping back
goods bought at wholesale prices in order to sell them later at a
better value. A jealous watch was kept on him. He was not allowed to
do any business secretly or outside the proper limits, but “openly
in the market thereto assigned,” and even there he was ordered to
stand aside till the townsmen had come back from early mass and had
first been served with such stores of corn and malt, of butter and
poultry and meat as their households needed, and the bell struck the
hour when he might take his turn for what was left.[84] And as he
bought so must he sell only in the established and customary place;
and food once displayed on his shelf or stall could not be taken out
of the town unsold without leave of the bailiffs.[85] Any citizen who
helped a “foreign” merchant by buying or selling goods for him under
his own name lost his freedom.[86] Men who lived “upland”[87] were
rejected from the society of privileged traders of the towns, and
sharp distinctions such as we find at Worcester between the “citizens
denizen” and the “citizens foreign”[88] separated the folk within and
without the walls.[89] In one borough strangers’ stalls in the market
were separated from those of the burghers[90] so that they might not
hinder the townsfolk in their business; in another they were forbidden
to carry their wares from house to house;[91] here they might not sell
their goods with their own hands, there they must dispose of them
wholesale, or forfeit their entire stock to the town if they attempted
to sell by retail; elsewhere they had to wait for a given number of
weeks after their arrival before they could offer their merchandise
to the buyer; if for public convenience aliens were allowed to bring
into the market victuals[92] and a few other articles, the monopoly of
all valuable trade was kept in the hands of the burgesses or of their
Merchant Guild.[93]

It is however needless to multiply instances of monopoly. The system
was universal, and a curious attempt which was once made to establish
free trade at Liverpool died almost as soon as it was born. The
charter of Henry the Third contained the usual provision that members
of the Guild alone might trade in the borough, unless by consent of
the burgesses, but in a new charter of Richard the Second for which
he was paid £5 this clause was left out and free trade practically
established. No sooner however did Henry the Fourth appear in 1399
than the burgesses bought from him for £4 a fresh grant of privileges
with the former clause restored, and the old monopoly was consequently
reasserted, till oddly enough an outburst of religious bigotry
abolished trade restrictions; for seeing that the Liverpool Protestants
were shutting out Roman Catholics from their market, Queen Mary in 1555
proclaimed anew the charter of Richard the Second and the right of free
commerce.[94] Sometimes a lively smuggling trade betrays the weak side
of the monopolists’ position; as when Bristol claimed entire control of
all ports and creeks as high as Worcester, and the only lawful trade
left to Gloucester was the shipping of supplies, mostly of corn, to
Bristol. The shippers of Gloucester saw their chance of a rich lawless
traffic; small boats quickly and easily laden and drawing little water,
shot out of the channel by shallow passages where the bigger Bristol
ships could not follow them, and Irish vessels made their way direct to
Gloucester and escaped the heavy dues at the Bristol port; and while
Gloucester traders grew rich fast, the Bristol folk made complaint that
they were threatened with ruin.[95]

This elaborate system of trade regulation was no doubt mainly due
to the effort which men were forced to make, as centres of thicker
population grew up in a country where the carriage of goods[96] was a
slow and difficult matter, to protect themselves from violent changes
in the price of food;[97] while it is also possible that a society
which dictated wages and profits was naturally drawn on to undertake
the corresponding duty of fixing the value in food and clothing of
these wages and profits. It would seem that for some centuries the
cost of mere subsistence remained almost stationary; and even in
exceptional cases, like the Jubilee of 1420 which brought a hundred
thousand pilgrims to Canterbury, the corporation which had charge of
the preparations was able to ensure that there should be no increase in
the ordinary price of provisions.

It has been commonly held, however, that the old trade laws were not
only invented to protect the people’s food, but to protect wages
and profits as well; and they have been denounced as the outcome of
an ignorant selfishness; and as proving the belief of the mediæval
burghers that the industrial prosperity of the whole community could
only be assured by their securing so complete a monopoly of the entire
trade of the borough that they might themselves reap all the fruit
of their enterprise and gather wealth undisturbed—a belief to which
modern democracies (with one great exception) still cling, though
they throw a grander air over their creed now-a-days by discussing
protection in continents instead of protection in a little market
town. But it seems likely that protection in the modern sense had
scarcely anything to say to the great mass of mediæval legislation
about trade. No doubt it was the natural ideal of every craft to have
the State for its nursing-mother; but the voice of the crafts was lost
in the monotonous reiteration by the general public of their dominant
principle, that manufactures and commerce only existed for the benefit
of the whole community—the “poor commons of the realm,” to use the
phrase of that day. It was for _their_ protection that no unlicensed or
unregulated trade should be allowed to exist, that there should be no
fraudulent manufactures, no secret breaking down of barriers set up by
Parliament for the orderly division and control of crafts, no buying
and selling by forestallers, public enemies to the community and to
the country, hastening by land and by water to oppress the poor;[98]
and rules devised to check a public mischief or secure a public good
are no more to be classed as protective than regulations for the sale
of drugs or the licensing of public houses in our own day. Such rules
indeed were often as unsolicited by the trader as they were agreeable
to the public, and all his cunning was exerted to elude them. Some
little margin of profit was to be won beyond the city boundaries where
there was freedom from the city law and from the city tolls. Therefore
the London corporation complained that the butchers of London “who
have bought their freedom and are sworn of the franchise, do rent
their houses at Stratford and round Stratford, and never come at any
summons nor bear their part in the franchise of the city; but shut
out the citizens (resident butchers) in divers markets where they
ought to buy their wares, so that through them no wares they can get
to the great undoing of the citizens.”[99] Bakers withdrew themselves
“into the foreign” to avoid punishment for frauds.[100] Candlemakers
established themselves in the suburbs, and butchers were presented
“for selling of his tallow into the country and will not sell it to a
man within the town,”[101] or for carrying tallow in sacks at night
out of the city for the making up of candles; and being punished were
ordered to leave candle-making to the chandlers, who on their part were
commanded to keep within the boundaries. In Canterbury, where owing to
the great number of ecclesiastical tenants the main burden of taxation
was thrown on a part only of the population, and where doubtless taxes
were correspondingly high, there came a time at last when traders of
every kind, cloth-makers and brewers and bakers, carried their business
outside the “liberties,” so that according to the story of the mayor
and council “formerly there were divers and many habitations in which
of time past were kept good and notable households, by the which many
men and women were relieved and had their living and increase, being
now uninhabited and greatly decayed, and some of them fall to ruin and
utter destitution ... and it is well understood and known that the
principal cause thereof” was this wicked device of the independent
dealers, by which the tradesmen in the city who had to pay “tax,
tallage, and other impositions,” could not compete with those outside
and “have not the sale and utterance of their bread and ale, as they in
times past have had, to their great impoverishing, and manifold hurt
and prejudice to the commonweal of the said city.” The suburban bakers
sold their goods to “divers and many simple and evil disposed persons
of the city as well to Scots, Irish, and other, which in no wise will
apply themselves to any labour or other lawful occupations, but only
they live upon sale and huckstry of the said bread, beer, and ale, and
for that they have resorting unto them many vagabonds ... whereby many
well disposed persons be greatly annoyed and grieved.”[102] To restore
trade to its primitive simplicity a law was passed with clauses against
the mercenary Scotch and Irish, the troublers of the city’s peace,
and dealers were forbidden to sell their provisions “to no inhabitant
within the said city, but only to such persons as shall be thought by
the mayor and aldermen of good disposition and conversation.”[103]

The prejudice against unregulated trade was no doubt reinforced by
the hostility of the town dealer to competitors who throve at his
expense on illegal profits; but it was probably the governing body
of the town which maintained the most serious opposition to all
traffic that depended on the cheating of the common treasury of the
borough.[104] For no trifling part of the town revenue came, as we see
from the Nottingham records, from fines paid yearly by non-freemen for
the privilege of holding a stall in street or market. In Canterbury
“Tollerati” paid for the right of buying and selling during a limited
period, and at the end of the time renewed the right by a fresh payment
of what was called “Tolleration money”;[105] alien traders living
without the liberties, there known as “intrantes,” took in Romney the
name of “extravagantes.” Some towns shewed a jealousy of strangers,
dictated no doubt by special circumstances; as in Preston, where the
“Foreign Burgesses,” as distinguished from the “Inn Burgesses,” were
drawn from the country gentry and squires and some inhabitants of the
town,[106] and were merely freed from toll[107] for any goods bought
for the use of their families, but were allowed no other profits of
trade, and even though they were inhabitants had no right of common on
marsh or moor, nor could they join in the election of any town officer
nor be themselves elected;[108] while even with these restrictions no
trader who lived outside the walls was admitted among them,[109] and it
was only in course of time that alien dealers were gradually allowed
on payment of a fine to set up stalls in the market-place and carry on
their business under the name of “stallingers.” In general, however, an
open purse was all that was needed to commend a stranger; and if the
charge on it was sometimes excessive it seems to have been enforced
mainly as a means of persuasion to enter the Merchant Guild.

But for whatever reason the regulation of trade was thought desirable,
whether to protect the consumer’s pocket or to fill the town treasury,
it certainly was not intended to keep buyers and sellers at home, to
hamper their enterprise, or to abolish competition. If protection and
monopoly were allowed to look big, they were never allowed to get
seriously in the way of business. In theory and sometimes in fact iron
chains might be flung across the King’s highway, bars thrown athwart
the river, and custom house officers set at the gate to levy toll and
stallage.[110] But gates and bars and chains swung open everywhere
before the trader “if he have the penny ready to take to;” the guilds
enlarged their rolls for foreigners,[111] the towns granted them
their privileges liberally. Since a man could hold citizenship in
more than one borough a speculator or merchant doing business in a
large way might always circumvent the rules against foreign dealers
by being made citizen in some convenient trading centre as well as in
his own town,[112] and so obtain power to carry on the business proper
to an alien speculator with all the privileges of a resident burgher.
Every pedantic hindrance, indeed, was removed out of the way of his
enterprise, for a very slight study of town records disposes of the
idea that mediæval trade was ultimately governed by the formal laws of
statute books. Monopoly was broken through whenever it was advisable
or convenient for special occasions. Bakers and victuallers who rose
to municipal offices turned the assize of bread and the inspection
of cooking houses and fish stalls into an idle tale. In the hands of
merchants the laws of buying and selling were manipulated so as to
interfere neither with the free circulation of goods nor with the
instinct of the dealer to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the
dearest; and it was still left possible to carry food where it was most
needed, whether to supply a manufacturing centre such as Norwich or a
city which was rapidly doubling its population like London.[113] If
the law ordained that the forestaller was to be heavily fined for the
first offence; for the second to lose his merchandise and be put in the
pillory; and for the third to be deprived of the freedom of the city,
the law was simply ignored, or some trifling fine was inflicted—a
paltry sum which a prosperous trader might easily disregard.[114] In
fact it would almost seem that the actual result of the trade laws was
mainly to give the rich wholesale merchant an additional advantage over
the poor trader. Forestalling and regrating became the fashionable
privilege of town councillors and magnates who through their position
and their wealth found it doubly easy to evade local ordinances, of
London merchants who were buying all over the country to supply the
needs of the growing city, and of dealers on a large scale interested
in the export trade; while the terrors of the law served as an
effective deterrent to struggling hawkers and chapmen against meddling
with the profits won by more exalted speculators from a customary if
illegal traffic.

The real foundation of free trade throughout the country, however, and
that which alone gave any value to local arrangements and individual
privileges, is to be found in the early town charters, where this great
gift had a leading place. Almost the first boon asked for by a borough
was a grant which should make its burghers or its merchant guild quit
of tolls and pontage, and stallage and lastage, throughout the whole
kingdom, in fairs and throughout sea-ports, in lands on this and on the
other side of the sea; and give them power to buy and sell throughout
all England, within cities and without, all kinds of merchandise; with
the right to have stalls in other markets than their own without paying
stallage, and to buy in such markets at all hours and not only those
allowed to strangers. Each charter moreover had wrapped up in it a kind
of “favoured nation” clause which gave to boroughs “such liberties as
the city of London hath”—a clause which seems to have been interpreted
(at least as to one of its meanings) as implying the right for burghers
to buy and sell in gross in another town than their own on other than
market days, and that “they may have in this respect as much liberty as
the citizens of London.”[115]

In its wide and unstinted privileges a charter such as this—the grant
of a king who was lord of all fairs and markets—expressed the whole
spirit of free trade; at a word local monopoly and protection in its
true sense were swept away, and every market in the country opened
to any trader duly enrolled as a burgher or a member of the Merchant
Guild. The question indeed still bristled with difficulties. As the
king was constantly giving away or selling his rights, or part of his
rights, over markets, there were innumerable cases when the special
grant to one town to hold a market without disturbance, and the more
general license to its neighbour to consider itself free of all market
dues, were wholly irreconcilable; and the law held that no charter
of freedom could interfere with any earlier rights granted to any
other person or corporation to levy tolls on transport, on crossing a
bridge, on entering a gate, on taking up a standing in the market, or
the like. In cases where two charters were found to bestow conflicting
rights, therefore, the towns set their best lawyers to search out old
evidences and records, and to claim the protection of judges of the
King’s Bench or of Parliament for the grant that boasted of the greater
age.[116] The preliminary question of priority of rights having been
thus decided, the next step was to remedy the dead-lock of business to
which the two communities had been brought by means of formal treaties
such as nations make to-day, in which the right to levy toll and custom
was probably used as systems of tariffs have been used in modern
states—as a means of bribing or threatening refractory neighbours
into some concession of free trade.[117] Southampton made its separate
treaties with at least seventy-three towns or trading corporations
besides all the “honours” of the kingdom, releasing them from payment
of its tolls and customs; its burghers had their own compact with
Marlborough[118] in which they waived such privileges as they possessed
by their own earlier charter; with Bristol they settled the amount
of the tax to be levied on Bristol men who brought merchandise to
their market; they agreed with the men of Winchester that no tolls
should be asked on either side;[119] and in 1501 their treaty with the
Cinque Ports was ratified by “your lovers the bailiff and jurats of
Hastings.”[120] Undermined as they were on all sides, and with gaping
breaches everywhere, the walls of protection which the boroughs had
thrown up round their markets certainly formed no impediment to the
movement of local trade. Before the impatience of traders greedy for
gain, artificial frontiers and barriers and tariffs were swept away,
and from little self-contained communities where the cottagers grew
their own food and spun their own wool and asked scarcely anything
from outside save fish and salt and a little iron, the boroughs grew
rapidly into centres of expanding commerce. To supply their needs or
their luxuries they despatched their traders far and wide. When Ely
sent for John of Gloucester, the famous bell-founder, to make the four
great bells for the cathedral, messengers had to go to Erith for clay,
and to Lynn and Northampton for copper and tin.[121] The Nottingham
goldsmith was employed to repair the cross in Clifton Church, and its
“alablaster man” supplied the faithful in London with little statues of
the Baptist in appropriate shrines.[122] Buyers of wool and sellers of
cloth, saddlers, butchers, fishmongers, hawkers of all sorts, obtained
from the mayor and commonalty of their borough letters of free passage
throughout the kingdom for the carrying on of their business[123] and
kept up incessant intercourse between town and town. Everywhere busy
forestallers were on the look out for eggs and meat and corn, and
bought up supplies all over the country for London or some big town or
for the export trade, or turned their privileges under the clause of
London liberties into a means of buying wholesale all the week long as
regrators in order to sell at a profit on market day, while on that day
itself they were out at cock-crow to buy privately when the citizens
were at mass, so that by six o’clock there was nothing left in the
market for the good folk of the town.[124]

As we look at this mighty volume of commerce pouring from town to town
with a steady force that swept all obstacles out of its channel, we
may well begin to doubt whether the burghers of the middle ages were
indeed stupidly putting their necks under a hard yoke of arbitrary
law, and wilfully destroying their own prospects by preferring bondage
to freedom, or sacrificing general prosperity to local greeds. The
mediæval system, until it began to fall into the decay that precedes
death, was in fact the minister to fine and worthy ends. In a society
where few rights existed save by way of privilege, the trading
“communitas,” whether the borough or the guild, did actually serve
as the great engine for the abolition of restrictions, for extending
privilege, and throwing open a national commerce. There was a time
when every new chartered association was an actual widening of free
trade; and a man entered the community of a town for the same reasons
that he might to-day take out letters of naturalization in a country
where his business lay—not to be ensured against competition, but to
share in all commercial privileges which it had won by treaty, and
in case of peril to own the protection of its flag. Each town had
its own privileged “community” and recognized the “community” of the
neighbouring borough; and it was by this mutual recognition only that
intermunicipal treaties became possible, or that any borough could
ascertain the limits of its responsibility for members in foreign fair
or market, could pledge itself to the fulfilment of its treaties, or
have any guarantee for redress in case of wrong.[125] In the detailed
municipal legislation about debt and surety and mutual responsibility,
about punishment of violence, the suppression of an individual traitor
to the common weal, the protection of a community from false dealing of
any of its confederate states, we may plainly see how local monopolies
had come to be far more significant from the point of view of public
order and general intercourse than of private wealth. Monopoly and
protection in fact had put on the garb of a necessary office and
service. Instead of gaolers who kept the trader fast bound at home,
they were the strong guardians who attended him as he went abroad,
the fore-runners who cut down before him the chains that barred the
highway, the ministers of justice that tracked out in his service the
fraudulent debtor, the pledges to him in every danger of the vigilance
and power of his native town. To each community they were the bonds of
a civil order and the tokens of a corporate fidelity.



WITH the appearance of the new commercial society in the boroughs we
feel that the history of modern England has begun. By the formation
of a prosperous middle class, a new type of character was introduced
into English life—a type which lay altogether outside old traditions,
and was as far from imitating the confident superiority of classes
that held the mastery by traditional right, as it was from preserving
the simplicity and resignation of the masses of those who confessed
a hereditary duty of subjection. The mediæval burgher was trained in
a rough school. Owing nothing to class or family or patron, roughly
judged and consigned to his own place in the ranks by the test of
competition in its simplest form, the industrial rivalry between
man and man, the trader had no helper if he did not help himself.
Merchants burdened with little capital, like the trader pictured by
Holbein in his Dance of Death carrying all their store of wealth bound
up on their persons, and free to change their residence as often as
commerce offered brighter prospects elsewhere, wandered from town to
town, leaving no trade unlearned, no fair unvisited at home, and no
market forgotten abroad. Craftmasters equally destitute of money had to
trust to their own wit in the struggle for life, and became practised
in vigilance and patience, thrift and caution, in the contempt of
hardship, in strenuous and ceaseless activity. The discipline of trade
was severe, and the conditions of prosperity hard. If a gentleman
intruder appeared among these men hoping to find an easy way to wealth
in the more respectable forms of business to which the county families
alone condescended, his experiences were watched with contemptuous good
humour by the burghers, who knew the hardships of the road.

  “I have made many a knight both mercer and draper,”

says the merchant in a mediæval poem,

  “Paid never for their prenticehood not a pair of gloves;
  But chaffered with my chevesance, [bargains] cheved [prospered] seldom

The feeble and incompetent fell away before the severity of the tests
applied, and the trading class was constantly undergoing change.
Perhaps some sturdy Jewish stock, like the Phillips of Birmingham, held
their own for three or four centuries;[127] but more commonly families
spring up into importance and for one or two generations hold the first
place in the payment of taxes, and have control of the chief offices of
government, till after the third generation the name disappears from
the account books.[128] The family has died out, or broken down under
the stress of competition, or it has settled upon an estate bought in
the country and become merged among the county squires; and some new
stock comes in to fight its way with fresh energy and enterprise.

In picturing to ourselves the life of a mediæval borough it sometimes
happens that, with our constant tendency to exaggerate the strangeness
of the past, we perceive only an existence so straitened and humble in
condition that all sense of distinctions is lost, and we create a false
monotony, supposing that because in that remote world business was
carried on in a narrow sphere men’s fortunes were therefore more equal,
or that the general level of commercial prosperity was necessarily
more uniform than it is now. But everything we know of town life,
from the moment when the boroughs come into view, forces home the
conviction of an inequality of circumstance and wealth as sensible as
any that we recognize in the later Middle Ages; of a society which was
at no time either simple or homogeneous, and where the plutocrat and
capitalist held as imposing a place and bore himself in as lordly a
fashion, considering the limits of his stage, as his descendants of
modern times. The secret of wealth was first found, as it was long
kept, by the butchers, brewers, and victuallers of one kind or another.
There were in every borough men like Andrew Bate, the butcher of Lydd,
who became “farmer of Dengemarsh,” and kept the town in a ferment
for years, whether with his herds of cattle which overran the marsh
pastures and trespassed on his neighbours’ fields or commons so that
they could not “occupy in peace,” and would rather sell their land
than be so “grievously hurted by the cattle of Andrew Bate;” or with
his heavy tolls for the “Western men” who came to dry their whiting
on the nesse, and found him a hard “extortioner” who “had driven away
half Dengemarsh”; above all with his ceaseless activity in extending
his borders over the doubtful limits that parted the lands of the town
from the lands of the Abbot; so that though the corporation in 1462
insisted on a careful marking out of their frontiers, and years later
were labouring to have him supplanted in Dengemarsh by another burgher,
Bate was evidently victorious, and ended by seeing his brother, who had
been trained in the law probably with this object, appointed Town Clerk
and practical controller of the affairs of Lydd.[129] In like manner
the rich fishmonger, Daniel Rowe of Romney, who sent his oysters,
crabs, lampreys, and trout to London, the eastern counties, Cambridge,
and along the valley of the Thames as far as Wallingford, and fetched
back in their stead boars, calves, porkers, and bacon, ended by being
made Town Clerk of Romney[130]—as indeed became an educated man, who
kept his daybooks, where all the travelling expenses of men and horses
were carefully set down, in Latin. So also the Romney vintner, James
Tyece, who began life in a very small way in 1387, was important enough
in 1394 to be sent on a deputation to the archbishop; in 1398 he was
Jurat, and in 1414 held so much land that his property was made into a
separate ward named after him in 1432.[131]

In short in every town the bakers, brewers, vintners, cooks,
hostellers, and publicans “built their nests high” buying burgages
out of the pence of the poor,[132] and in spite of law and ordinance
walked the streets in the furred mantles of aldermen, entered the
council chamber, kept the treasure chest as chamberlains—issuing
prudent versions of the town accounts calculated for the public eye,
and themselves regulating the assessments for taxes in the interests
of their wealthy fellowship—and presided over the courts of justice,
where they administered the assizes of bread and beer for the benefit
of the fraternity; while for their services they required a part of the
common land to be enclosed for their use, or pastured their flocks at
the public expense, and in a thousand ways gathered in for generations
the harvest that then ripened for men in authority.[133] No law could
shut them out from the mayor’s seat; and carrying away from office the
robe of “clean scarlet” which gave them the chief places among the
powerful members of “the Clothing,”[134] they still dominated over a
helpless people, with scarcely any check save from the jealousy of
their fellow traders. Thus all Canterbury was disturbed in 1507 by
the brewer Crompe who, having been mayor for a year, returned to his
former business on leaving office, and went about busily canvassing
the small retailers, promising that if they would sell Crompe’s beer
he would be their “very good master whatsoever they had to do in the
Court Hall,” and that he would see to it that their pots should not
be carried off on charges of short measure to the Hall. In cases of
this kind remonstrance from the people seems invariably to have been
perfectly useless, and the only complaint recorded in Canterbury was
that of the rival brewers, who met Crompe’s competition by an appeal
to a custom of the town that the mayor should altogether forsake the
victualling trades; in the course of the half century there had been,
it was said, at least six mayors who had “lived like gentlemen” for
the rest of their lives after leaving office, and though this polite
profession allowed them to carry on the business of drapers or cloth
manufacturers, it was proved that one ex-mayor who had been a brewer
as well as draper left off his brewery and never returned to it;
while another who was a baker sold his business, hired his house to
another man, and “lived after as a gentleman.” Crompe however remained
obstinate, contemptuously protesting that the alleged “custom” was
but fifty years old (a bit of special pleading on his part since this
was just the age of the mayoralty itself in Canterbury) and, that the
mayors had ceased to be victuallers out of self-indulgence, and because
they preferred to live at their ease.[135]

At the first victuallers and publicans owed their supremacy in the
town society to the fact that among a people needy and thrifty the
trader’s only way to fortune lay in selling the common necessaries
of life. The great bulk of the people lived poorly. In general
perhaps the master craftsman scarcely earned a higher wage than
his journeymen,[136] and may have often eked out his livelihood by
ploughing and reaping his lot of the common land at one time, while at
another he worked at his occupation with two or three helpers—servants
and apprentices “which be of no great having,” and who were by law
compelled to cut, gather, and bring in the corn[137] if they were
employed in a trade “of which craft or mystery a man hath no great need
in harvest time.” The first speculators who were tempted by visions
of a great public with its exhaustless needs and unfathomable purse
pursued their dreams with the guile of petty schemers. If a dealer
proposed to make his fortune in malt he opened proceedings with the
strictest economies. A penny or a half-penny served as earnest money to
the peasants from whom he bought his corn, and who were told to come
to the house for payment. “And when they come there and think to have
their payment directly, the buyer says that his wife at his house has
gone out, and has taken the key of the room, so that he cannot get at
his money; but that the other must go away and come again soon and
receive his pay. And when he comes back a second time, then the buyer
is not to be found; or else, if he is found, he feigns something else,
by reason whereof the poor men cannot have their pay. And sometimes
while the poor men are waiting for their pay the buyer causes the corn
to be wetted,” and then tells the peasant he may take it away with
him if he does not like the price offered.[138] In the same way the
cloth contractor started with a modest business that needed no outlay
of money, taking the raw material which his customers brought to him
and handing it over to weavers, who on their side provided their own
tools and did the work in their own homes. As he prospered in the world
he may have become the owner of a few looms which he let out to the
weavers he employed; or he perhaps added to his trade the keeping of a
little shop or some small pedlar’s business for the sake of such petty
gains as the law, looking in those days with scant favour on dealers,
might allow. Often hard set to carry on his business, he sought to
help out his poverty by cunning, and the expedients to which he was
driven—the giving out of bad material or short weight to his workmen,
the devices to save a few pence here and there by deducting it on one
pretext or another from payments due, the giving wages in victuals or
needles or mercery or the waste trifles of his little shop—must often
indicate the distracting pressure of immediate need under which he
anticipated the devices of the small working employer of to-day.[139]

But from the earliest times it is evident that there were many of the
more successful traders who rose to a position which, in a humbler
degree, closely resembles that of our modern capitalists and employers,
and that this class constantly tended to increase in wealth and in
numbers. They evidently rivalled in astuteness their brethren of
lowlier fortunes.

  “Ne had the grace of guile gone among my ware
  It had been unsold this seven year, so me God help,”[140]

the merchant in Piers Ploughman admits frankly. His wife who made the
cloth for sale was diligent in her sphere of economies, ordering her
spinning women to spin the yarn out to great length, and paying for
it by a pound measure that weighed a quarter more than her husband’s
weighing machine—when he weighed true. At the draper’s he was taught
how to stretch out the list of the cloth, or to fasten rich pieces
together with a pack needle, and lengthen them out with pressers till
ten or twelve yards reached to thirteen; and to get rid of his goods
at Winchester and Wayhill fairs he carefully learned to lie and use
false weights. To add to these resources he would go to the Lombards
for lessons in clipping coin and in lending money out at usury.[141]
Weaknesses of remorse troubled him little.

  “‘Repentedst thou never?’ quoth Repentance, ‘nor restitution madest?’
  ‘Yea, once,’ quoth he, ‘I was y harboured with a heap of chapmen,
  I arose and rifled their mails when they a’rest were.’
  ‘That was a rueful restitution,’ quoth Repentance, ‘forsooth!’”

No age, indeed, has a monopoly of clever dealers, and every artifice
practised in earlier days was familiar to the fifteenth century, and
so loudly resented by the consumers, that many people, mistaking
the signs of a public zeal to check abuses for the evidences of a
growing audacity in evil, have discovered in the later middle ages
an accumulating mass of corruption which gradually covered with its
blackness the felicity of a purer age.[142] But whether from “the grace
of guile,” or from sheer ability, the traders prospered on every side.
Langland looking out over all classes of men sees how with them above
all lay the secret of fatness and good cheer:

  “And some chose chaffer, they cheved [prospered] the better,
  As it seemeth to our sight that such man thriveth.”[143]

The large sums that passed from hand to hand—the imposing debts
registered in the town accounts—the complaints of a master being
in arrears to his apprentice for a sum of £100, or an apprentice to
his master for £138—the leasing out of the customs of a great port
like Southampton to a single merchant—all these things indicate
the new plutocracy that was beginning to appear.[144] Drapers and
clothiers were admitted into the select circles of privilege; in the
towns the rank of “gentleman” became the appropriate reward of a
successful cloth merchant,[145] and even in the county society the
clothier was beginning to oust the old proprietors. The Tames of
Gloucestershire were ordinary dealers who made cloth and traded at
Cirencester till about 1480 when John Tame rented great tracts of land
at Fairford for his flocks of sheep, and in the new industrial centre
which he developed there, wool was collected to feed the Cirencester
manufactory. All over the country he bought at a cheap rate lands
which the ruined nobles could no longer hold; and his enormous wealth
increased yet further under his son Edmund, who took his place among
the “gentry” by becoming High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1505,
receiving the reward of knighthood in 1516, and entertaining Henry the
Eighth at his house at Fairford in 1520.[146]

The most wealthy folk in the towns, however, were probably the class
that had grown up with the developement of foreign commerce and the
export trade[147]—the merchants who forsook handicrafts and lived
wholly by “grete aventour.”[148] Their lot was not altogether an easy
one in a society perplexed by the mighty rush of the new commerce,
where men trained in an earlier system looked with a mixture of fear
and dislike on the intrusion of a dubious profession not vouched for
by familiar custom—“covetous people who seek their own advantage,”
and who not only lay under suspicion as men who refused to work, but
were reproached with the destruction of trade by underselling the
goods of English artizans with cheaper foreign wares. The government
was concerned lest by their dealings the merchants should diminish the
stock of gold to be kept in the country;[149] while, on the other hand,
Church and people unanimously saw in bargains with bills and pledges
and sums bearing interest, which were then known as “dry exchange,”
something not to be distinguished from the sin of usury, and called on
the government to declare void all such “damnable bargains grounded in
usury, coloured by the name of new chevesaunce contrary to the law of
natural justice”—“corrupt bargains which be most usually had within
cities and boroughs.”[150] To the delicate conscience of theologian
or social preacher trade could only be defended on the ground that
honestly conducted it made no profit.[151] As for the “poor commons,”
they held that while a man might live by trading, and perhaps make
a modest competence, he had no right to grow rich;[152] his gains
represented to the people the wages of iniquity, and the hungry toiler
sitting over his mess of beans and bacon-rind comforted himself as
best he could with thoughts of the weary ages merchants must at last
count in purgatory, watching kings and knights and bishops pass out of
its gates, while they themselves still lingered to pay the penalty of
great oaths and innumerable taken

  “Against clean conscience, for covetyse of winning.”[153]

Meanwhile their way was made difficult on earth, and along the road to
fair or market the wandering merchant or chapman was held to ransom by
the rustics, while the harmless messenger who travelled by his side was
sent merrily on his road.[154]

To the mediæval mind indeed the merchant burdened with his goods was
the very type of the soul laden with sins, and painfully battling its
doubtful way to heaven. He passed from peril to peril in the transport
of the packages on which he had set the sign that distinguished his
wares, the tall cross with shrouds[155] or the flag. No navy protected
his vessels on seas that swarmed with pirates, and companies of ships
as ready for battle as for commerce, set out together, under command
of one of the captains chosen as admiral,[156] to fight their way as
best they could, while at home fear beset the owner on every side.
If a merchant sent his servant over sea to Bruges, or despatched an
apprentice to one of the Baltic ports to gather in the profits due to
him or to carry merchandise, no man might comfort him, and no religious
thought distract his spirit till his messengers returned;[157] and
even when his goods reached port all his experience and cunning were
needed to deal with the exactions of the king, who demanded the first
choice of his wine or precious cargo, or to baffle the rapacity of the
officers of the sheriff, the officers of the staple, the collectors of
customs, the treasurers of the town, the searchers, or the clerk of the

If, however, the risks of the merchant who dared the “great adventure”
increased a hundredfold, so the chances open to courage and skill
became more brilliant,[159] and the triumphant trader became the object
of national pride. London had its hero—

                            “The son
  Of Merchandy, Richard of Whittingdon
  That loadstar and chief chosen flower
  What hath by him our England of honour?

  That pen and paper may not me suffice
  Him to describe so high he was of prise.”[160]

A brass in the church of Chipping Camden, dated 1401, commemorates the
“flower of the wool merchants of all England.” In Dartmouth the long
prosperity of the Hawleys[161] was recalled in the local proverb—

  “Blow the wind high, blow the wind low:
  It bloweth good to Hauley’s hoe.”

There were none who surpassed the merchants of Bristol—men who had
made of their town the chief depot for the wine trade of southern
France, a staple for leather, lead, and tin, the great mart for the
fish of the Channel and for the salt trade of Brittany, whose cloth
and leather were carried to Denmark to be exchanged for stock-fish,
and to France and Spain for wine; who as early as 1420 made their way
by compass to Iceland; whose vessels were the first from England to
enter the Levant; and who when calamity fell on their business by the
loss of Bordeaux, and by the competition of London merchants and the
concentration of commerce in the hands of its Adventurers, turned their
faces to the New World; sending out in 1480, and year after year from
that time, two, three, or four light ships to sail “west of Ireland” in
search of the “Island of Brasylle and the seven Cities,” till in 1496
Cabot started with five vessels on his voyage of discovery, whence he
came back to live in great honour among his fellow-townsmen, dressing
in silk, and known as the “Great Admiral.”[162] The Bristol merchants
of those days lived splendidly in fine houses three stories high, the
grander ones having each its own tower. Underground stretched vast
cellars with groined stone roofs: the ground floor was a warehouse or
shop opening to the street; above this were the parlour and bedroom,
with attics in the gables; while the great hall was built out behind
with a lofty roof of carved timber.[163] In the towers treasures of
plate were stored which rivalled those of the nobles, and the walls
were hung with the richest tapestries, or with at least “counterfeit
Arras.” Perhaps it was some such house which suggested to the poet,
born perhaps in a village “cote,” and who knew Bristol well, the idea
of an abode which might be offered to the Lord of heaven—

  “Neither in cot neither in caitiff house was Christ y bore,
  But in a burgess house, the best of all the town.”[164]

But the growing luxury of private life is a far less striking feature
of the mediæval borough than the splendid tradition of civic patriotism
and generosity which seems to have prevailed. Burghers who prospered
in the world left their noblest records in the memories of their
public munificence; and there were hundreds of benefactors like
Thomas Elys, the Sandwich draper, who in 1392 founded the hospital
of S. Thomas-the-Martyr, and endowed it with a messuage and 132
acres of land; and within five months after founded the chantry of
S. Thomas-the-Martyr;[165] or like Simon Grendon, three times mayor
of Exeter, who left money to found a hospital for the poor. Gifts to
churches of plate and vestments and books, legacies for chantries or
for priests are too numerous to mention;[166] but there was a steady
tendency among the townspeople to turn their benefactions into very
different channels, and bequeathing their money to the town corporation
instead of a religious body, to devote it directly to secular purposes
and charities of the new fashion—founding free schools, building
walls, repairing bridges, maintaining harbours for their borough, or
leaving a fund for the payment of the ferm rent or certain fixed taxes.
An Abingdon merchant gave a thousand marks towards the bridges over
the two dangerous fords, Borough Ford and Culham Ford, which had to
be built by the Abingdon men “at their own cost and charges, the alms
of the town, and the benevolence of well-disposed persons,” and which
were to make Abingdon the high road from Gloucester to London.[167]
In 1421, when the Friars who owned the sources from which Southampton
had its supply of water could no longer afford to replace the decayed
pipes, a burgher “for the good of his soul” left money for new leaden
pipes sufficient for the whole town as well as for the friars.[168]
An Ipswich burgess gave the very considerable sum of £140 to relieve
his fellow-townsmen of certain yearly tolls;[169] and money was always
forthcoming for gates and walls and market crosses, for the buying of
new charters, the adorning of the Town Hall, or gifts of plate to the
corporation;[170] while as we have seen, a new system of education was
practically founded by the free schools which were so largely endowed
by their liberality.

For the first time in fact since the expulsion of the Jews from England
we find a class of men with money to dispose of; for whatever gold
and silver was available for practical purposes was gathered into
the coffers of the burghers. The noble “wasters” who with gluttony
destroyed what plougher and sower won[171] carried a light purse; while
timid country-folk, terrified by the disorder and insecurity of the
times, unused to commerce and speculation, buried their treasures in
the earth, or laid away bags of “old nobles” with their plate in safe
hiding places,[172] industriously hoarding against the evil day that
haunted their imagination. But among spendthrifts and faint-hearted
economists the burghers came with habits of large winnings and generous
outgoings. They became the usurers and money-lenders of the age. When
the county families had exhausted all possibilities of borrowing from
their cousins and neighbours[173] they had to turn to the shopkeepers
of the nearest town, who seem to have been willing to make special
and private arrangements on better terms than those of the common
usurer.[174] John Paston borrowed from the sheriff of London; Sir
William Parr pawned his plate to a London fishmonger for £120, which
he was to pay over to him in the church of S. Mary-on-the-Hill beside
Billingsgate.[175] From Richard the Second onwards kings borrowed as
readily as their subjects from the drapers and mercers of the towns.
The prosperous merchant in his prouder moments matched his substantial
merits against the haughty pretensions of lords who could go about
begging of burgesses in towns and be “not the better of a bean though
they borrow ever,”[176] and was not without an occasional touch of
disdain for aristocratic poverty. Sir William Plumpton married the
daughter of a citizen and merchant of York, who out of her rich dowry
of houses in Ripon and York was able to leave large fortunes to her
children. One of these wrote a description of a visit she paid to the
house of some aristocratic cousins, Sir John Scrope and his daughter
Mistress Darcy, and of their supercilious bearing. “By my troth I stood
there a large hour, and yet I might neither see Lord nor Lady ... and
yet I had five men in a suit (of livery). There is no such five men in
_his_ house, I dare say.”[177]

But the constant fusion of classes which went on steadily throughout
the century showed how solid were the reasons which drew together the
rich traders of the towns and the half bankrupt families of the county.
Impoverished country gentry were tempted by the money made in business,
just as the “merchants and new gentlemen” hoped to reach distinction
by marriage into landed families. Squires built for themselves houses
in the neighbouring boroughs, turned into traders on their own account,
and commonly took office at last in the municipal government;[178]
while on the other hand successful city merchants were becoming landed
proprietors all over the country, were decorated with the ornaments of
the Bath, and distinguished by fashionable marriages,[179] in spite
of the fretful sarcasms of a “gentle” class consoled in the hard
necessities of poverty by a faint pride. “Merchants or new gentlemen I
deem will proffer large,” Edmund Paston wrote when a marriage of one
of his family was in question; “well I wot if ye depart to London ye
shall have proffers large.”[180] He seems to have preferred that the
Pastons should look out for good connections; and possibly this anxiety
was especially present in the case of the women, for the family seem
to have been rather excited when Margery Paston in 1449 married one
Richard Calle, and went, as John said, “to sell candles and mustard in
Framlingham.”[181] But John Paston felt no hesitation about marrying
the daughter of a London draper. One brother considered the solid
merits of a London mercer’s daughter, and another was very anxious to
secure as his wife the widow of a worsted merchant at Worstead, who
had been left a hundred marks in money, a hundred marks in plate and
furniture, and £10 a year in land.[182] The money side of marriage with
a substantial burgher must have had its attractive side also to the
county ladies. In Nottingham, according to the “custom of the English
borough,” half of the property of the husband passed at his death to
his widow;[183] and a London mercer setting up in business promises in
his contract of marriage “to find surety that if he die she to have
£100 besides her part of his goods after the custom of the city.”[184]

All interests in fact conspired in effacing class distinctions to an
extent unknown in European countries; and in a land where “new men”
had long been recognized among the king’s greatest officials, and
where law created no barriers in social life, all roads to eminence
lay open before the adventurer. Notwithstanding this freedom, however,
the English merchant never rose to the same height of wealth and power
as the great traders of the Continent. We have no such figures as
that of Jacques Cœur,[185] burgher of Bourges, whose ships were to
be seen in England carrying martens and sables and cloth of gold; or
trading up the Rhone; or competing with rivals from Genoa, Venice, and
Catalonia for the coasting trade of the Mediterranean; or sailing to
the Levant, each vessel laden with sixteen or twenty thousand ducats
for trade adventures. Three hundred agents in various towns acted
as his factors in business; and his ambassadors were to be found at
the court of the Egyptian Sultan, or sitting as arbitrators in the
quarrels of political parties in Genoa. “I know,” he writes with frank
consciousness of power, “that the winning of the San Grail cannot
be done without me.”[186] He had bought more than twenty estates or
lordships, had two houses at Paris, two at Tours, four houses and two
hotels at Lyons, houses at Beaucaire, Béziers, Narbonne, S. Pourçain,
Marseilles, Montpellier, Perpignan, and Bourges. In 1450 he had spent
100,000 crowns of gold on the new house he was building out of Roman
remains at Bourges, and it was still unfinished. As Master of the Mint
at Bourges and at Paris, and as the greatest capitalist of his nation,
he practically controlled the whole finances of France; and, indeed,
held in his hands the fortunes of French commerce, and even of the
French nation, for it was his loans to the King that alone enabled
Charles to drive the English out of Normandy. At a time when all
trade was strictly forbidden to the noble class, a grateful monarch,
mindful of timely loans and of jewels redeemed from pawn by his useful
money-lender, ennobled Jacques Cœur, with his wife and children.
His eldest son was Archbishop of Bourges; his brother was Bishop of
Luçon; his nephew and chief factor was Councillor of King Réné, and
Chamberlain of the Duke of Calabria. But just as far as he went beyond
the English trader in his glory and success, so far he exceeded him
in the greatness of his ruin. The same arbitrary power which had set
him above his fellows could as easily be used to cast him down; and
after twenty years of prosperity Jacques Cœur was a State prisoner,
robbed of all his goods, and condemned to perpetual exile. Transforming
banishment into opportunity for new ventures, he set off eastward at
the head of a crusade in 1456 to die on the journey, and find a grave
in Chios.[187]

Beside such a career as this, and measured by the prizes that hung
before the adventurers of the Continent, the life of the English trader
was indeed homely and monotonous. Triumph and ruin alike were on a
modest scale. No great figure stands out from the rest as the associate
of princes or the political agent of kings. No name has come down
to us glorified by a vast ambition, or dignified by an intellectual
inspiration, or made famous for turning the balance of a political
situation. And it is just in this fact that we discover the essential
character of the new commercial society in England. Instead of colossal
fortunes we find a large middle class enjoying everywhere without fear
a solid and substantial comfort. And, perhaps as a consequence of the
widespread diffusion of material prosperity, the republic of traders
had succeeded in developing a marvellous art of organization, with all
its necessary discipline. The triumphs of the English merchants were
won by a solid phalanx of men alike endowed with good average capacity,
possessing extraordinary gifts of endurance and genius for combination,
and moving all together with irresistible determination to their ends.
The uniformity and regularity of their ranks was never broken by the
intrusion of a leader of genius pre-eminent among his fellows; and
whether in towns or in commercial fraternities, the little despotisms
that were set up were despotisms, not of a single master, but of
groups of men who had devised a common policy and by whose voluntary
and united efforts it was sustained. In fact the very spirit of the
people seemed to have entered into the great industrial system which
had sprung up in their midst—a growth free and independent, nourished
out of the common soil from which it came, obedient to its own laws,
expanding by the force of its own nature.

No doubt there was loss as well as gain for a society so constituted.
The special genius of the people, their remoteness from outer
influences, the concentration of the national forces on the pressing
industrial and commercial problems of the moment; all these things
evidently affected the developement of the national life, and tended
in many ways to leave civilization still rude and imperfect. But in
addition to this we are also conscious of the influence of a certain
prevailing mediocrity of station. The horizon of the trading and
industrial classes was bounded by a practical materialism where
intellect had as little play as imagination. Neither the glamour of
ancient Rome nor the romance of a crusade ever touched the fancy of
an English merchant, busy with the problems of the hour. There is no
stately dwelling of those days to show the magnificent conceptions
which might occupy a merchant builder, and a “palace of King John”
at Nottingham,[188] or a turreted house at Bristol, “the best of all
the town,” telling their tale of a comfortable domesticity, contrast
strangely with the famous building of Bourges. So far as we know no
trader or burgher possessed a library; out of the lost past not so much
as a line of Horace found an echo among even the more lettered men of
business till over a hundred years later; not a picture was carried
home from the schools of Italy or the Netherlands; of the mighty
commerce of the world beyond the sea the trader knew everything, of its
culture nothing; and England remained without any distinguished patrons
of the arts or fosterers of learning save those found in bishops’
palaces. And not only was the trader limited on the side of art and
letters; in the hurry of business he had no time and less attention
to give to political problems that lay beyond his own parish or his
industrial domain. Fortunately for his country he reaped an exact
reward. His business prospered, but the work of statesmanship in its
finer sense was given to others; and in the political and commercial
crises through which England had to pass she for a time chose her
leaders from men trained in another and more comprehensive school.
It was only in the next century that the merchant by degrees began
to enter on a new dominion in the world of politics. Under the early
Tudors it became the custom to appoint as representatives of England in
foreign countries traders resident in the place, and though the system
is commonly put down to the niggardliness of the Court, it was more
probably due to the ruler’s sagacity. In England itself it was with
Thomas Cromwell, the clerk of Antwerp, the wool merchant of Middelburg,
scrivener, banker, and attorney, that for the first time the man of
business made his vigorous entry into the Court, struck aside at a
blow the venerable traditions that had gathered there round Church and
State, and from the wreck and ruin of the past proclaimed the triumph
of a new age.[189]



PERHAPS no complaint is at first sight so startling amid the vigorous
growth of manufacture and commerce which marked the fifteenth century,
and in a society where pestilence and plague apparently kept population
stationary, as the complaint of surplus labour; and the elusive way
in which the problem appears and vanishes again makes it yet more
bewildering. People complained at one moment of labourers unemployed,
and at the next they modified old laws because they could not get
workmen enough. Masters on all sides were evading the regulations which
limited the number of their apprentices and journeymen, and still cried
to the State for protection for their craft because the artizan could
find no work to do. Men talked of foreign competition and too many
workers in every trade, and took forcible measures to keep down prices
and wages. The lawmakers were forbidding the import of foreign goods so
as to give employment to destitute artizans at home, and the artizans
were conspiring to limit their output and raise their prices. That
there was some real trouble whose indeterminate presence can be felt
behind all these conflicting appearances we cannot doubt; but it may be
questioned whether the trouble was that of labour for which there was
no demand.

Many of the complaints no doubt arose in some period of peculiar
suffering, when an outbreak of war or the rivalry between England and
the Netherlands shut the great markets across the sea, and left weavers
with idle looms and bales of cloth unsold; and we must occasionally
take the phrases of statutes passed under the stress of some temporary
calamity as merely describing a distress too unaccustomed to be borne
in silence. For instance the statute of 1488 which was passed during
the depression of trade that marked the first years of the reign of
Henry the Seventh proposed to restore prosperity to the drapers’
craftsmen, for “they that should obtain their needy sustentation and
living by means of the same drapery, for lack of such occupation daily
fall in great number to idleness and poverty;”[190] but the commercial
treaties which distinguished the next three or four years of Henry’s
reign were probably more effectual than any statute of this kind, and
they sufficiently prove that the trade was not in a dying or decrepit

Occasionally too the murmurings of the people only tell of troubles
that follow every industrial change. To an employer the new industry
came to search out the extent of his resources and his activity. What
with the haste to make wealth, and the hurry of keeping pace with the
demands of foreign traders and of big markets, he was hard pressed
by the necessity of cheap and swift production, and his attempts to
improve his industrial methods brought him into collision with workers
to whom ruder and more wasteful ways of doing business were often
more immediately profitable. Labour disputes arose over questions of
wages and piece-work, of holidays, of the employment of women[191]
and cheap workers. Occasionally the master carried on an illicit
industry—keeping workmen privately engaged in his own house or on
board a ship in the port,[192] so as to withdraw his servants from the
supervision of the town council, and his goods from charges for the
town dues. If he had accumulated a little capital he perhaps moved out
to the valleys of Yorkshire or Gloucestershire in search of water-power
for his fulling-mills, or of finer wool for his weavers; or forsook the
manufacturing town for some rural district where labour was plentiful,
and where he could escape the heavy municipal dues which his business
could ill afford to pay. While the valley of the Stroud was welcoming
Flemish settlers and seeing mills spring up along every stream, London
and Canterbury found their manufacturing trade slipping away from
them;[193] and the glory of Norwich departed as cloth-makers pushed
along the moorland streams of Yorkshire to Wakefield and Huddersfield
and Halifax, and set up fulling-mills among the few peasant huts of
remote hamlets.

Difficulties also arose when the manufacturer began to contrive the
first rude form of a factory system, and so disturbed the occasional
labour of his neighbourhood; after the manner of the brewers of Kent,
who besides having to supply London and the big trading ports of the
coast were also beginning to send out beer to Flanders, and who no
longer as of old bought their malt from the people, making only some
trifling hundred quarters or so in their own houses, but began to make
at home as much as a thousand or even eighteen hundred quarters, to
the hurt of those farmers and youths who had once gained a livelihood
by preparing malt for sale.[194] Or perhaps enterprising masters began
to introduce new machinery to keep pace with the increasing demand
for their wares. Such an innovation was resisted as hotly as in our
own century. The shearers of cloth raised a cry against a new iron
instrument invented for raising the nap of cloth so that it could be
quickly burned off without the old labour, while shearers were left
idly loitering.[195] Among the cap-makers “some of the trade provided
a water-mill for fulling their caps” in 1376, by which apprentices
and freemen of the trade found themselves deprived of work and “at
the point of perishing.” Their appeal to the town was of course on
the ground that caps so fulled were bad wear for the community,
and the mills were in consequence forbidden;[196] but a century of
disobedience and evasions and wranglings followed until the working
fullers appealed to Parliament itself, and in 1482 it was decreed that
hats, bonnets, and caps, which “were wont to be faithfully ... thicked
by men’s strength, that is to say with hands and feet,” should never
again be fulled in fulling-mills invented “by subtle imagination to
the destruction of the labours and sustenance of many men,” and to the
“final undoing” of the cap-makers.[197]

Even the question of foreign immigration stirred up contention between
clothiers and weavers. Manufacturers trading in marts where the fine
work of Flemish experts—the most skilful weavers in Europe—had been
displayed, required for the success of their trade the services of the
finely trained artizans who took refuge in England from the ruin that
awaited them in Flanders, and in many a town skilled immigrants found
themselves welcome guests.[198] Under the protection of the classes to
whom the foreign artizan can never have been unwelcome—the consumer,
the merchant, and the master—he fared well enough; for so long as he
was subjected to the local control of the guild or the municipality,
forced to dwell in the house of an Englishman, forbidden to sell in
retail, kept under a supervision so strict as practically to shut
him out from the market, the employers of labour saw no reason for
anxiety.[199] On the other hand the complacent view of the manufacturer
was not shared by the English artizan; and in places where trade was
shrinking or where there was financial trouble the foreigner might
chance to be made into the luckless scape-goat of the community, and
have heaped on his head all the calamities that burdened the guild
or the municipality. For example, in the middle of the fifteenth
century when the Bristol wool trade was half ruined by the loss of
Bordeaux which destroyed its great market and brought about lasting
changes in the French manufacturing centres; and by the determination
of the Merchant Adventurers to establish in London and in favour of
London merchants a practical monopoly of the cloth trade with the
Northern Seas, a complaint was made by the journeymen against the
master-weavers who had “brought in and put in occupation of the craft
strangers, persons of divers countries, not born under the King’s
obeisance but rebellious,” urged the desperate working man in search
of an unassailable argument which should finally decide the matter,
“which been sold to them as it were heathen people”; and the Mayor
granted the desired order that no foreign weaver should be brought into
Bristol[200]—a law which did not however restore the cloth trade to
their city.

In this case we seem really to hear the complaint of the poor
journeyman; and elsewhere, in appeals for compassion and protection,
in statutes of Parliament and royal charters,[201] or in ordinances
of Town Councils for his relief, we seem from time to time to find
ourselves on the brink of a labour problem present to the modern as to
the ancient world. But generally the story of foreign immigration as
it has been handed down to us is in no sense the story of the labour
question. An association of masters seeking to secure a strict monopoly
for their own advantage could not bring a more powerful argument than
the desperate situation of their workmen—an argument which might be
used by a powerful corporation confident of official support, or
by a dying trade which had been utterly beaten in the competitive
struggle—and which taken alone throws little light on the subject.
When the dispute with the foreigner emerges it generally seems to
bear the character of a quarrel among dealers rather than a grudge of
artizans. The working man had no doubt his grievance, but it is not
his voice which we hear—it is the voice of his more noisy neighbour
the shopkeeper or the trader, who knowing that he himself had little
to expect from the sympathy of the English consumer, passed briefly
over the subject of his own immediate interests, and used with artistic
skill the sufferings of the wage-earner to kindle a general compassion
and heighten the effect of an appeal to an anxious government or
an alarmed public. For as we read the Town Ordinances and Acts of
Parliament[202] these strange “artificers” who were setting the world
on fire put on the guise of pedlars or small dealers who “bring much
foreign wares with them to sell,” and were thus especially obnoxious
to the native traders; such foreign pests, it appears, were going “to
men’s doors” “taking up standings” and there “showing” their wares to
the undoing of the natives, and hiring servants of their own people to
retail their goods about the country—an unpardonable offence in the
eyes of London merchants, who were moving heaven and earth to become
the only middlemen of the foreign trade. With varying success the
native dealers clamoured for protective legislation, praying that the
strangers might be forbidden to engage freely in trade, and forced as
journeymen to serve only an English master, or as masters to employ
only English servants. A usurper like Richard the Third, anxious to
conciliate the leading burghers of the towns, was ready among other
things to forbid any alien whatever to become a handicraftsman, or any
foreigner to take an apprentice of his own people save his own son or
daughter;[203] while on the other hand, Henry the Seventh carried out
his own views of industrial policy by bringing weavers over to develope
the trade of Yorkshire and Devonshire.

But under whatever restrictions the foreigners still came, and the same
cry against them went up loudly from time to time. Manufacturers and
middlemen who would have gladly welcomed immigrants so long as they
gave themselves out as men working for hire, resented the invasion
of strangers coming from over sea “with their wives, children, and
household, and will not take upon them any laborious occupation as
carting and ploughing but use making of cloths and other handicrafts
and easy occupations;” and this apparently as masters, for the
complaint was that they employed only foreign apprentices, so that
English people were falling into idleness and becoming thieves,
beggars, and vagabonds.[204] “The land is so inhabited with a great
multitude of needy people, strangers of divers nations ... that your
liege people, Englishmen, cannot imagine or tell whereto or to what
occupation that they shall use or put their children to learn or
occupy within your said cities or boroughs”—so the Londoners complain
in 1514: and add that if this went on Englishmen would no longer be
able to pay their rents, maintain their households, and subdue and
vanquish their ancient enemies the French.[205] Hopeless, in fact, of
combating the theory of his time that trade legislation was meant in
the first instance to serve the interests of the buyer rather than the
dealer, and fearing lest an argument for monopoly of sale might hardly
withstand the criticism of a hostile public, the trader was tempted to
discover some circuitous course, and catch at the cause of the poor
workman, the terror of the French, and the patriotic vision of a nation
of warrior weavers,[206] as infallible appeals to the sentiment of his

We find animosities and complaints of the same kind directed against
the struggling suburban manufacturers, who competed with the townsfolk
by dint of braving every hardship, and accustoming their hands to every
form of labour. To the town manufacturer they were an abomination;
and he sought to enlist the sympathy of the public by loud complaints
that it was only workmen who had scarcely learned their trade who thus
left their masters to set up for themselves and make an independent
living. It is probable indeed that their numbers were often recruited
by small masters who had fallen through poverty out of the regular
ranks of industry; as for example when an apprentice or a stranger set
up in business to try his luck, and having been given perhaps three or
four years in which to pay by instalments the sum charged by the guild
for opening shop, made his escape out of the borough just before his
last fine became due,[207] being by that time possibly ready to start
as a free trader in an “upland” hovel, and to eke out a scanty living
by working at his hand loom or his rope-making in the intervals of
cultivating field or garden. But such home industries, however they
originated, were inevitably disallowed by the municipal organizers
of labour. They diverted trade, established a formidable competition
of unregulated labour, reduced tolls, and emptied the tax-gatherer’s
collecting box. Town councillors and shopkeepers and journeymen with
one accord declared war on those who for their own “singular advantages
and commodities, nothing regarding the upholding of the said towns,
nor the common wealth of the handicrafts ... nor the poor people
which had living by the same,” hired farms and became graziers and
husbandmen, and yet took to weaving, fulling, and shearing cloths in
their own houses;[208] or who, like the grasping people that withdrew
from Bridport, took farms “for their private lucre” and not only “used
husbandry” but made cables, ropes, ships’ tackling, and halters in
their idle hours.[209]

Disputes of the kind which have been mentioned, however, were of
trifling importance in the secular controversy between the leaders of
industry and the general body of workers, as it presented itself in
the Middle Ages; and the great problem of all—that which concerned no
separate groups or industries, but the whole mass of labour that was to
be let out for hire—was one inarticulate through its very magnitude.
While workers were being set free from the land wherever arable farms
were turned into enclosed pastures for sheep farming, they were called
for by the manufacturer whose new business of making cloth needed more
hands than the old business of selling wool. But the labour released
from the field was perhaps not always easily transferred to the shop;
and when the countryman who with his fellows had toiled on the land

  “All for dread of their death such dints gave hunger,”[210]

and, save when harvest time gave a brief plenty, ate in suffering his
cake of oats with a few curds, his “bread of beans and peases,” his
onions and half-ripe cherries, and little baked apples,[211]—when he
forsook his “cote” and carried to the town nothing but his hunger,
his ignorance, his want of skill, he did not necessarily mend his
fortune by turning from the serf of the landlord into the wretched
dependent of the employer. Moreover, as though the obstacles in the
way of his helplessness were not already sufficiently overwhelming, by
the ingenious device of man the difficulty was made yet more acute.
Artificial barriers to keep in check the labour that clamoured at their
gates were thrown up with all the united strength of State and Town
and Guild. The State in order to protect the agricultural interest
strictly forbade the poor countryman to leave husbandry for trade,
or to apprentice his child to any craft.[212] The towns for reasons
of their own hastened to intensify the effect of these laws by local
regulations, or by the strictness with which they carried out old
enactments.[213] Finally the guilds fenced themselves about with rules
to protect their monopoly by limiting their numbers and shutting out
intruders. As the fifteenth century went on all these bodies alike
enforced their provisions with increasing severity, and the danger that
threatened the working-class through the industrial revolution was
hardened into a present calamity.

It is impossible to conceive that regulations of this kind were
self-denying ordinances on the part of employers to limit the supply
of labour; they rather come to us as echoes of the first great
controversy concerning the position and privileges of the hired worker.
The “protection” of industry from all competition was the first and
the last creed of the crafts (as distinguished from the general
public)—a protection by which every conceivable danger that might
threaten the interests of the monopolists was struck down, whether
it was the competition of other allied trades, or that introduced by
machinery and new methods of organizing labour, or rivalry between
members in the same craft, or the intrusion of dealers from the
provinces, or the immigration of alien manufacturers from abroad. As
to the main principle there was no dispute; and there were some of its
less important developements where the interests of the masters and
the journeymen coincided. But to employers and dealers the monopoly
of trade chiefly meant their own monopoly of production and sale;
while the wage-earner’s dominant anxiety was to keep surplus labour
out of the craft, lest the regular workman might be deprived of his
comfortable certainty of subsistence. Labour however was too sorely
needed in the enormously increasing trade of the country for masters
to deny themselves its services; nor did any of their ordinances
necessarily tend in the least to produce a result so disastrous to
themselves. In their eyes the important matter was that workers should
be kept docile and obedient, retained in country districts where they
were most advantageous to the contractor, and prevented from making
claims on the control or the profits of industry which must have
hampered the great business of the moment—the expansion of English
trade; and the ability of the craft-leaders was shown in the masterly
tactics which they adopted, the success which they achieved, and the
political sagacity by which they accomplished their purpose without
open strife or public agitation.

For it seems probable that the labour question had its origin with
the very beginning of manufacturing industries, and that long before
the fifteenth century a large class of hired workers already existed.
We know that in the fourteenth century the wage-earners in the crafts
already constituted a force which the State and the municipality
had come to fear, and that not only in London but in other towns
journeymen had learned discontent, and had begun to combine for
self-protection.[214] We know also that before 1340 one manufacturing
town at least (and no doubt the records will ultimately tell of more)
owned its miserable race of labourers who worked by the day at a bare
subsistence wage of a penny, an outcast people whose abject poverty was
their only protection; men possessing absolutely nothing by which they
could be attached for crimes or offences, and who could laugh at any
attempt of the court to summon or to fine them; while their employers,
not being held legally responsible save under some special ordinance
for such day labourers as these, took no care for the debt or crime
of a class without privilege or standing in the eye of the law.[215]
And obscure as the subject still is, we seem at a very early time
to detect behind the guild system a growing class of “uncovenanted”
labour, which the policy of the employers constantly tended to foster,
their aim being on the one hand to limit the number of privileged
serving-men, and on the other to increase the supply of unprotected

It was for this reason that while the demand for manufactures was
increasing beyond all experience, the number of men who sought
through apprenticeship to enter the trade was most strictly limited
by law;[216] and when a man had finished his apprenticeship cunning
devices were found for casting him back among the rank and file of
hired labourers;[217] so that the skilled workman who had passed
through his time of service but had not been admitted to the freedom of
his trade[218]—whether because he failed to secure the recommendation
of the heads of the guild, or because he was unable to pay the double
fees demanded for the franchise of the city and the franchise of the
craft[219]—was condemned henceforth to remain a mere journeyman
without apparently much hope of promotion. For the enrolled journeyman
there was some protection, though of a very limited kind, in the guild;
but a lower and more helpless class of serving-men was recruited from
the apprentices who had not worked out their full time—poor children
whose service had begun at seven or twelve, and who while yet mere
lads were induced to cut short the seven or ten years fixed in their
trade for apprenticeship, and entering hastily on work for a daily
wage found themselves from that time forward counted as unskilled
labourers;[220] apparently deprived of the protection of the law in
the matter of wages, without any standing in the guild, and lying in
the power of the craft-masters for their hire, they were for the rest
of their lives admitted to work on sufferance as bringing cheap labour
into the market. Finally even the statutes which forbade poor country
people to apprentice their children in the towns,[221] far from proving
any intention of withdrawing the villagers from the service of the
manufacturer, may have been the result of an alliance between landowner
and employer to serve their several ends, and have been designed by
the town magnate merely to prevent the dependent country workers from
flocking into the boroughs in search of apprenticeship and subsequent
freedom of the trade.[222] For it seems probable that the town dealers
had very early been accustomed to contract with the country folk for
the lower and rougher kinds of work. In Norwich, for example, all the
tanners’ business was at first done in the country, and the skins
sent into Norwich to be worked and finished by the parmenters; and it
was perhaps but a generation before the passing of the Act of Henry
the Fourth that the tanners came into Norwich and settled down by
its river side. And in like manner all cloth brought to the Norwich
market was country-made, and originally no wool was sold in the Norwich
streets and no cloth manufactured in its workshops.[223] The same
system of contracting for work in surrounding villages[224] was known
far beyond Norwich, but its local history varied greatly with local
circumstances. In that city, where trade was manifestly too vigorous
to be shut up into a few square miles, and where the surrounding
population had turned into a people of journeymen and artizans, the
municipality seems to have inaugurated the policy of governing an
industry it had no desire to suppress, by seizing the organization of
the country districts into the same hands as that of the town, and
bringing the workers under the same municipal control[225]—a policy,
it would seem, of merchants and employers mainly occupied with the
expansion of commerce, and blind to the danger which their experiment
implied of the breaking up of municipal life. But in other towns we
seem to detect a vain attempt of the working population to clutch
at a trade which had grown into a free maturity, and force it back
into the old municipal nursery under the tutors and governors of its
infancy; as in Worcester, where the ordinances contain many proofs of
having been drawn up under strong popular influences, and where the
masters were forbidden to give out wool to weavers so long as there
were people enough in the city to do the work, “in the hindering of the
poor commonalty of the same.”[226] It is evident that the manufacturer
might, from his own point of view, feel the strongest objection to
flooding the towns with an unmanageable number of workers attached to
the guild who could, by virtue of their numbers and their covenanted
position, call on the municipal government to interfere for their
special benefit in the management of the trade.[227]

If we consider therefore the case of the working population in
town or country—whether we remember the poor folk of the hamlets,
known to Langland, that “have no chattel but their crafts and few
pence taketh;”[228] or consider in the towns the lowest class of
casual labourers working at a wage of a penny a day, or the little
more fortunate groups of unskilled serving-men, or the depressed
company of the skilled journeymen; whether we trace in villages or
boroughs the astonishing multitude of religious fraternities which
sometimes at least concealed an illicit attempt at self-protection
by the wage-earners; or examine the rigour with which towns and
guilds repressed every attempt of the working men to combine in any
association for their common benefit—we find ourselves again and
again confronted with the problem of labour. In the thick darkness
which still envelopes the subject dogmatism itself is swallowed up.
But as we look into the obscurity, the borderland of the covenanted
trades and the dim regions that lie beyond their recognized limits
become crowded with the masses of the common workers—dreary groups of
labourers seething with inarticulate discontent, themselves suffering
the terrors and bondage of a harsh law, and from time to time, as they
emerge into a brief light of riot and disorder,[229] kindling the
alarms of the settled and protected classes above them. Associations of
the richer merchants inspired by a common interest drew together for
mutual support; and friendly Town Councils whose policy was to keep
down the number of voters—especially of poor craftsmen who might be
troublesome—and all whose members were indeed themselves employers and
craft masters, made alliance with the guilds, and passed laws which,
by shutting out apprentices from the freedom of the craft, debarred
them from the franchise of the town. It was in vain that from time to
time as the evil increased the central government sought to interfere
with craft-masters and wardens who “for their own singular profit” made
ingenious bye-laws or ordinances for the exclusion of new comers;[230]
local alliances were too strong for it, and local wits too cunning,
and one of the main results of the triumphant guild system was to
develope throughout the country a formless and incoherent multitude
of hired labourers, who could by no possibility rise to positions of
independence, and had no means of association in self-defence. As the
weaker members of the crowd from time to time sank back into utter
penury, the outcasts of the industrial system slowly gathered into a
new brotherhood of the destitute; and even in the fifteenth century,
long before they had been reinforced by the waifs and strays of town
and country that flocked into their sad fellowship on the dissolution
of the monasteries, the advanced guard of the army of paupers appears
in the streets of the boroughs to trouble the counsels of municipal



THE early history of the craft guilds, like that of the municipalities,
is the story of communities in the first strength of youth, growing
by the force of their own vitality into forms which can be reduced to
no mechanical regularity or order, and ever plastic to take on new
shapes according to the shifting exigencies of an age when industry,
commerce, local government, were all in a state of revolution. In
the pride of their first creation, in the humiliation of their later
apparent subjection, in the victorious results at last of their long
discipline, the guilds reflected successive movements in the great
change that transformed English society; and it would be hard to find
a single formula in which to express a life so free and various. Like
the boroughs their systems of government ranged from constitutions
which, if not democratic, were at least republican, to constitutions
which placed in command an oligarchy, whether limited or despotic; so
that we can scarcely say that the towns borrowed their methods from
the guilds, or the guilds from the towns, at a time when both alike
were perhaps tentatively feeling their way towards the only solutions
of the problem of government which the time and occasion admitted. They
had the same period of intense activity, from the awakening of the new
life of England under the Norman kings, till under Henry the Seventh
its industrial and commercial position was definitely established. The
very difficulties by which they were hemmed in were the true conditions
of any lively growth; and it was not till the sixteenth century,
when the militant life of the crafts came to an end, that a fatal
monotony settled down on their associations—a dreary uniformity[231]
both of constitution and of policy, which makes their period of
triumphant prosperity and imminent decay a record at once tedious and

In dealing with the history of commerce the craft guilds necessarily
take a foremost place in their character of trading or manufacturing
associations; but we are here mainly concerned with what we may call
their political relations to the borough, and their influence on
the growth of municipal life. The constitution of the craft becomes
therefore important, not from its economic results, but as indicating
the character and complexion of the guild, the policy which it might
be expected to pursue if it attained to authority, and the extent to
which it could be supposed to favour popular or democratic theories
of government. How far the crafts were actually able to make their
influence felt depends on a second question as to the connexion that
existed—of what kind and closeness it may have been—between the
guilds and the governing body of the borough.

We must remember that the various craft guilds represented all ranks
and classes in the industrial world—the capitalist, the middleman,
and the working man. There were aristocratic fraternities of the
Merchant Adventurers, and of dealers living by the profits of
commerce alone, who were grouped in the great mercantile companies
such as the vintners and spicers and grocers and mercers. In a lower
scale were the middlemen and traders who produced little or nothing
themselves, but made their living mainly by selling the produce
of the labour of others—such as the saddlers, the drapers, the
leather-sellers, the hatters—and whose unions were in fact formidable
combinations of employers. Below these again came guilds of artizans
employed in preparing work for the dealers, to be by them sold to
the general public, as the smiths who worked for the tailors or
linen-armourers,[232] the weavers who supplied the clothiers; the
joiners, painters, ironsmiths, and coppersmiths who made the saddles
and harness for the saddlers; the tawyers who prepared skins for the
leather-sellers; the cap-makers who fulled the caps which the hatters
sold.[233] Finally there remained the crafts which both manufactured
and sold their own wares, like the bakers, tailors, or shoemakers, and
who dealt directly with the consumer without the intervention of any
other guild. It is evident that these various associations had all
their own business to do,[234] and that their policy differed as widely
as did the interests of the several classes. We do not find a guild of
merchants or dealers trying to raise wages or shorten hours; or a guild
of artizans seeking to depress labour and assert the supremacy of the
middleman; or a mixed guild of masters and men intent upon lowering
prices for the public. But we may still ask whether behind all obvious
divergences of interest and of power, there was any ruling instinct
common to all these brotherhoods of trade.

The original motives which drew men together into craft guilds were
no doubt everywhere the same—the desire to obtain the monopoly of
their trade and complete control over it;[235] and also to find the
security which in those days organized associations alone could give
to the poor and helpless against tyrannical and corrupt administration
of the law, just as in the country men enrolled themselves under the
livery of a lord or knight who was their adequate protector against the
iniquities of the courts[236] and by whose arbitration their quarrels
were adjusted.[237] For these purposes associations were formed of
the entire trades of various districts. All the members of the craft,
great and small, were enrolled in the fraternity; and thus every
guild, to whatever order in the hierarchy of industry it belonged,
contained within itself the various ranks of workers who belonged to
that particular occupation. It is in this organization of the whole
craft into a compact body arrayed in self-defence against the world
outside, and in the means that were used to maintain it, that we trace
the peculiar characteristics of the mediæval guild as opposed to those
of modern associations. From the very outset its society was based on
compulsion. Dealer or artizan had no choice as to whether he would join
the association of his trade or no, that question being settled by the
charter which gave the craft power to compel every workman to enter
into its circle. A constitution such as this left a profound mark on
the conduct and ultimate policy of every guild, for where there was no
real freedom of association there proved at last to be no real freedom
of government. Societies such as the modern trade union, created and
maintained by the good will of men naturally bound to one another by
common occupation and interests, and who expect from their association
a common benefit, may long persist as voluntary institutions with a
democratic government. But the ancient guild—a fraternity of the
whole trade with all its ranks and classes, employers and wage-earners
alike, compulsorily bound together into one fellowship as against
the world without, and whose common interest in association tended to
become more and more visionary—was inevitably driven to preserve by
force an artificial and ill-compacted union; and instead of a free
self-governing community, there grew up a society ruled by its leading
members in a more or less despotic fashion, according to the character
of the trade itself and to the support given to its governors by the
authorities at Westminster or in the municipality.[238]

(1) For it is plain that no intimate union can ever have existed
between the three orders that practically made up the guild.[239]
At the head of the society stood the master and the aldermen or
wardens, drawn from among the wealthiest men of the trade; and grouped
immediately round them were all those who, after having passed through
these offices, retained for life a position of dignity among the
members, and from whom the court of assistants or governing council was
wholly or partly formed.

(2) Then came the commonalty, the craft-holders or shopkeepers
or “masters” of the trade—a term which by no means necessarily
implies _employers_ of labour, but rather artificers admitted into
the “mestier”[240] or mistery—who were alone responsible before the
law for offences[241] committed in their shops or work-rooms, and
were therefore alone authorized by the guild to take work from a

(3) Last came the hired workers—that is the trained journeymen or
serving-men; for the unskilled labourers working for a daily hire and
apprentices can scarcely be reckoned as in any sense members of the

In a society thus constituted the notion of self-government never for
a moment implied the modern notion of democracy, or even the idea
that authority should be exercised only by the will of the majority.
In some fraternities indeed the whole community of craft-masters took
part directly in the yearly election of officers, though probably
this was the extreme bound and limit of their influence;[243] but in
general there was the same tendency in the guilds as in the boroughs
to choose their governors by some indirect and complicated system
through which the commonalty was kept well in restraint. Either the
alderman himself nominated candidates for the various offices, from
among whom the select council or fellowship made their choice, or
he appointed a few picked men, five or seven or eight as the case
might be, to choose the rulers for the next year.[244] In the same
way the two or four “sufficient and discreet men” who were to assist
the alderman, “the helpmen and overseers,” or the council of eight
or twelve or twenty-four, were chosen either by a similar committee,
or by the direct choice of the alderman himself “with the aid of his
fraternity.”[245] Nor is there any evidence that this method of
government by the select few was a growth of later corruption; it is
more probable that in societies which could only be founded at the
wish of the more prosperous men in the trade, since they alone could
undertake to raise the money for its charter or guarantee the payment
of its yearly rent, these men were accustomed, in return for their
money or as a security for it, to hold the management of the community
in their own hands; and this seems confirmed by traces of the system
which we find in very early times, as well as by what we know of the
origins of later fraternities.

If the power of the masters was thus limited, the mere journeymen were
practically of no account at all in such great matters as election
and legislation. Perhaps in some trades they occasionally exercized
a slight influence, as in the case of the London bowyers, whose
ordinances were agreed to “as well by serving-men as by masters.”[246]
But in general it is doubtful whether the voice of the hired worker
was ever heard or his will consulted, however much his obedience to
the ordinances was required and enforced. It was supposed that his
interests were sufficiently protected by the town authorities, to
whom an alien who was cheated by his master, a journeyman who found
his wages paid on the truck system, or a weaver who saw his labour
supplanted by that of a woman or a foreigner, could make his complaint;
and who were bound to see that no freeman of the borough took more
apprentices into his household than he could promise to support
comfortably; that the apprentice was not chastised beyond measure,
nor turned out penniless at the end of his service;[247] and that no
fraudulent action of his master should rob him of the benefit of the
exact tale of the years of service he had fulfilled.[248]

In all that concerned the hired worker, indeed, law had become so
rigid and so detailed by the time that Parliament, the Town Council,
and the Craft wardens, had taken their turn at legislation, that it
might be plausibly assumed that nothing remained for the discussion
of the working man. By a series of statutes Parliament endeavoured to
keep the hire of the workers and the length of the working day fixed
in spite of the increase of trade;[249] and mayors and bailiffs in
all boroughs[250] were ordered to compel labour to keep its allotted
times, and to proclaim the wages of craftsmen twice a year, “and that
a pair of stocks be in every town to justify the same servants and
labourers.”[251] Whatever was left undefined by Parliament was put
under rule by the subordinate authorities. Town Councils made provision
for the punishment of “rebel and contrarious” men in the mayor’s court,
examined and corrected the customs of the crafts, forbade workmen to
make their bargains anywhere save openly at the market cross, and fined
them if they stood there beyond one day in the week,[252] probably
on the supposition that they were holding out for a higher wage or
shorter hours. The guild-masters regulated the prices to be paid for
piece-work,[253] issued orders allowing work to be done by night,
and made rules as to apprenticeship and service.[254] For greater
security moreover the masters were accustomed to enter into covenants
for mutual protection against their servants—“And if any serving-man
shall conduct himself in any other manner than properly towards his
master, and act rebelliously towards him,” said the Whittawyers, “no
one of the trade shall set him to work until he shall have made amends
before the mayor and aldermen.”[255] On the other hand journeymen were
invariably bound by oath not to make any sort of confederation among
themselves,[256]—a precaution which State and town and guild were
equally vigilant in enforcing. Under such a system as this, if at any
time the workers proposed to disturb the statute wage or the statute
day, they had to contend not only against the upper class of their
own craft, the masters and wardens and shopkeepers, but against the
governing body of the town, and the opposition of the whole community.

Neither oaths nor laws nor public opinion however could permanently
prevent men from combining to better their position, and from time
to time we can follow the fortunes of a struggle which, when the
town records are published, will probably be shown to have been very
general. In London alone we have during a single century records of
strikes among the workmen of four trades—the shearmen, the saddlers,
the shoemakers, and the tailors.

The journeymen of the cloth shearers took a lesson in combination
from the employers. “If there was any dispute between a master in the
said trade and his man,” ran the complaint of the masters about 1350,
“such man has been wont to go to all the men within the city of the
same trade, and then by covin and conspiracy between them made, they
would order that no one among them should work or serve his own master,
until the said master and his servant or man had come to an agreement;
by reason whereof the masters in the said trade have been in great
trouble and the people left unserved.” These men were also making a
covert attempt to raise their payment by refusing to work at day wages,
and insisting on piece-work through which they could gain more money;
while the masters, so long as they were forced by law to sell at a
fixed price, had a valid reason for protesting before the mayor that
there must be some relation between lowering the price of their wares
and raising the wages of their workmen, or they themselves would be
set between the upper and nether mill-stone; and for making a petition
that the men might be chastised and commanded to work according to the
ancient usage “as matter of charity and for the profit of the people.”
The city magistrates granted ordinances which forbade any attempt to
settle trade disputes by strikes, and ordered all complaints to be
brought before the warden of the craft (himself of course a master),
and failing him before the mayor. Though the court did not forbid
piece-work, it fixed its price at the low rate that prevailed before
the Plague.[257] On the whole the victory therefore lay with the

The shoemakers’ servants were early in the field. They made their
first rebellion before 1306, the main results of which seem to have
been a decree added to their old ordinances that the journeymen of the
trade should make no provisions to the prejudice of the public;[258]
and perhaps the imposition of an oath that they would not make
among themselves any union or confederation.[259] For eighty years
they waited before making a new attempt. At last in 1387 a “great
congregation” of them met at the Black Friars “and there did conspire
and confederate to hold together ... and because that Richard Bonet
of the trade aforesaid would not agree with them made assault upon
him so that he hardly escaped with his life ... to the alarm of
the neighbours.” The meeting was illegal, not only because of their
oath, but because of a law passed four years before to forbid any
confederation among workers; so to make their position more regular the
poor shoemakers hit upon the plan of calling in the help of a friendly
friar preacher, “Brother William Bartone by name, who had made an
agreement with their companions that he would make suit in the Court of
Rome for confirmation of that fraternity by the Pope; so that on pain
of excommunication and of still more grievous sentence (!) afterwards
to be fulminated, no man should dare to interfere with the well-being
of the fraternity. For doing the which he had received a certain sum of
money which had been collected among their said companions.” This form
of Papal interference, however, was not to the mind of Londoners—“a
deed,” they said, “which notoriously redounds to the weakening of the
liberties of the said city and of the powers of the officers of the
same.” The mayor accordingly threw the leaders into prison,[260] and
the attempt of the luckless journeymen came to an end.

The serving-men of the saddlers tried another plan, and formed in 1383
a religious fraternity whose ostensible duties were perfectly harmless.
Its members were wont once a year to array themselves in a like suit
and go out beyond the city bounds to Stratford (in other words, out
of reach for the moment of the city authorities) where they held a
meeting, and returned to hear mass in honour of the Virgin in the
church next to the Saddlers’ Hall; also from time to time their beadle
would summon journeymen to attend at vigils of the dead and pray for
the souls of their old comrades. According to the masters, however,
this was but “a certain feigned colour of sanctity” under which the
men merely wasted their masters’ time and conspired to “raise wages
greatly in excess”—in fact in the space of thirteen years, from 1373
to 1396, they had increased their hire to twice or three times the old
customary rate. The mayor and aldermen agreed with the masters as to
the dangerous character of these proceedings, forbade any such meetings
or any fraternities for the future, and ordered that the serving-men
should be under the masters, and that the “masters must properly treat
and govern” them as in all other trades.[261]

The journeymen tailors took a bolder line, for they not only held
illegal meetings both within and without the city bounds, at which
they assembled wearing a common livery, but also hired houses in the
city where they lived in companies, and defied both their own masters
and the officers of the city. Whereupon the masters and wardens of the
trade notified to the mayor and aldermen “that they were exceedingly
sorrowful at there being such offenders and such misdeeds”; and the
mayor and aldermen “after holding careful council and conference
thereon” decided that it was manifestly to the public peril to allow
journeymen and serving-men—a race at once youthful and unstable—to
have a common livery at their assemblies, or common dwelling-houses
by themselves. The settlement was broken up, and livery and meetings
forbidden. Then the tailors also put on the colour of sanctity, and
a couple of years later (in 1417) we find them petitioning to be
allowed to meet for prayers and offerings for the souls of deceased

That similar attempts, with the same impotent conclusions, took place
in other manufacturing towns is certain; though we have not yet the
means of measuring the extent of the movement. The uniform failure
of every effort at revolt, even the acquiescence of the workmen when
revolt was impossible, declare the helplessness of the mediæval
labourer, entangled as he was in a vast net-work of commercial
theories, administrative maxims, and arguments of vested interests
public and private. For in a society where law ruled all industry, the
whole community was on the alert to resist any defiance of ordinances
avowedly made for their own protection.[263] The right to strike was
denied by law and vehemently resisted by public opinion as contrary to
the common good; and disputes were settled, not as now by an agreement
voluntarily made within the trade, but by the formal decision of the
municipality, against which there was no appeal.

At the same time it is evident that in their dealings with journeymen
and hired servants, if in no other respect, the municipalities did no
more than carry out exactly the intentions of the guilds themselves.
From the moment that they come into view the crafts—that is, all the
more important ones, for from the nature of the case we know very
little about the poorer sort of associations or the humbler trades
concealed under the form of religious societies—are distinguished by
the same creed and policy. Their essential character was laid down
in the oligarchic schemes of administration to which they inclined;
and, as we have seen, the purity of the guild government was further
maintained by the pains which was taken to prevent the journeymen
from pressing on into the upper ranks and weakening the established
system by multiplying the number of small masters; and to select with
adequate care the people admitted to be subjects with constitutional
rights—a people chosen as far as possible from an upper class and
even from the hereditary stock of the guild.[264] By an original
stringent constitution therefore, and by their own later discipline,
the governing oligarchy was protected as by a double course of
entrenchments; and a third line of defence was formed by keeping guard
over every entrance through which the common workman might make his
way into the superior class of artizans who, in however inferior a
degree, might still be recognized as more or less officially attached
to the craft. In its very nature, therefore, the guild organization was
adverse to the claims of the men who worked for hire, and under its
government the journeyman was practically condemned without a hearing.
What with the influence exercised by the masters in the Town Council
and government, and what with the credulous fears of the public of
consumers when they were told what “contrarious” workmen might do in
raising prices and limiting supply, and “the many losses which might
happen in future times” through combinations of hired labour, the
victory of the employers was never for a moment doubtful,[265] and
unions of journeymen such as those which sprang up in the fourteenth
and first half of the fifteenth centuries, broken and disabled almost
at the outset, seem, so far as we can see, to have been again and again
crushed out of existence by the overwhelming forces of guild and town
and state brought to bear on them, and to have found no permanent life
till the eighteenth century.

There was no doubt a sense in which the strong rule of a governing
oligarchy fully justified itself throughout the course of the struggle
for autonomy between the rising crafts and the rising municipalities.
Shaking itself free from discussions and divisions within its own body
by asserting the triumph of the stronger party, the guild was able to
maintain in practice the consistent theory of its constitution—the
undisputed supremacy of the masters in the regulation of the trade
policy; and through centuries of varying and doubtful fortunes the
crafts still contrived to present to the world outside an unbroken
front and a certain air of independence; holding together in companies
under leaders of their own choosing, and, save in rare instances,
scorning to stoop to the custom common in France or Germany of having
their chief officer appointed by some external authority.[266] But this
bold militant attitude was only maintained through a rigid discipline,
and by a ruthless suppression of every attempt to break the ranks.
A body to all appearance uniform, but in fact split up into two or
three hostile groups, the craft only preserved its air of harmony by
abandoning all pretence at democratic government, and avowedly subduing
the weaker classes to the stronger. The policy which had been its
safety in the time of conflict remained its settled creed in the time
of power. It is clear, therefore, that if ever the members of the guild
forced their way into the council chamber of the town, their appearance
can scarcely be taken as marking a popular or democratic movement. That
it enlarged the governing class by bringing in a new group of men to
take part in the active political life of the country is evident; but
on the other hand these men do not seem to have contributed a single
idea to political experience, or carried political experiment a single
step further. Saturated with the customary views of administration
which were the fashion in the upper class of town society, and by which
their own interests had been so well served, the craft-masters sent
their representatives to the council only to give new strength to the
coercive policy of the governing oligarchy. The character of the trade
fraternity was fully shown when, victorious over the foes of its own
household, strong in its complete organization, the craft guild rose
out of its long subjection to public control, and seizing into its own
hands municipal authority, destroyed its terrors for the trader. When
this last step was taken the crafts stood forth in full realization of
their ideal—close corporations fully equipped against the whole body
of consumers, and masters of the labour of the country. What has been
called the decline of the guild system may more truly be called its
triumph—the revelation of its constant aim and true significance.



                                   _s._ _d._
  Bailiff for husbandry             13    4 a year with clothing.
  Master-hind, carter, shepherd     10    0
  Ox-herd and cow-herd               6    8
  Cowdriver                          7    0
  Swine-herd and woman labourer      6    0

No servant of artificer or victualler in a town was to take more than
those in the country (12 Richard II. cap. 4.).

IN 1444.

                         _s._ _d._             _s._ _d._
  Bailiff of husbandry    23    4  With clothing 5    0 and food
  Hind, carter, shepherd  20    0         ”      4    0    ”
  Labourer                15    0         ”      3    4    ”
  Woman servant           10    0         ”      4    0    ”
  Child under 14           6    0         ”      3    0    ”

Summer wages of mason or carpenter 4_d._ a day with food, without
5_d._; tiler, slater, rough mason, and builders 3_d._ with food; other
labourers 2_d._ Without food 1_d._ more in all cases. Winter wages
1_d._ less all round. In harvest a mower 4_d._, reaper 3_d._; labourers
2_d._; 2_d._ more for meat and drink. (23 Henry VI. cap. 12.)

IN 1495.

                         _s._ _d._             _s._ _d._
  Bailiffs had risen to   26    8  With clothing 5    0
  Carters, shepherd, &c.,
    remained at           20    0    ”     ”     5    0
  Labourers had risen to  16    8    ”     ”     4    0 and food
  The hire of women, children, and artificers remained the same.
    (11 Henry VII. cap. 22.)

By 12 Henry VII. cap. 3, all statutes fixing the wages of artificers
and labourers were made void for masons and all concerned in building,
and servants in husbandry. Rogers (Work and Wages, ii. 327) fixes the
wages of the ordinary artizan in the fifteenth century at 6_d._ a day
and agricultural wages at 4_d._, carpenters a little under 6_d._,
plumbers 6-1/2_d._, masons 6_d._ The board of a skilled artizan might
cost in 1438 about 2_s._, of a common labourer about 1_s._, very
commonly from 8_d._ to 10_d._, most generally 8_d._ (Agriculture and
Prices, iv. 505, 751-2.) In 1395 a Nottingham “layer” was charged for
working two days as stone-cutter for 12_d._ against the law, and the
jury stated that “all the carpenters, all the plasterers, all the
stone-cutters, all the labourers, take too much for their craft by
the day, against the statute of our lord the King.” (Nott. Rec. i.
275.) For a list of wages paid in 1464 see ibid. ii. 370-373; in 1511
iii. 328-337. In 1495 a man was employed to dig stones at 3_d._ a day
without food.

That there was difficulty in enforcing the legal wage and that there
was often a difference between the prices actually paid and those which
the law books spoke of as still valid is evident from the ingenious
methods in use of evading the law. Sometimes the workman was paid his
board wages and given his food besides; or false entries were made in
the account books; or a yearly fee was given in addition to wages;
or he was paid a sum of so much a mile for coming to and going from
his work; or his wages were calculated at 6_d._ or 5_d._ according to
ability for 365 days in the year, against the statute which forbade
the workman to receive hire for holidays or for the eves of feasts.
(Rogers’ Agric. and Prices, i. 255; Work and Wages, ii. 328-330; Stat.
4 Henry IV. cap. 14.)

The legal hours of work for country labourers from March to September
were from 5 A.M. till between 7 and 8 P.M., with half an hour for
breakfast, an hour and a half for dinner; from September to March, from
the springing of the day till the night of the same day. They were not
to sleep in day-time save after dinner from May to August. (Stat. 11
Henry VII. cap. 22.) The Saturday half-holiday from noon seems to have
been universal. In shops trading on Sundays, holidays and vigils was
very generally forbidden in the middle of the fifteenth century, save
in harvest time, and unless “great high need may excuse.” (Kingdon’s
Grocers’ Company, ii. 190; Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 169.) Rogers (Work
and Wages, i. 180-2) calculates that an artizan working three hundred
days a year could earn from £3 15_s._ 0_d._ to £4 7_s._ 6_d._, and in
London might get from £6 5_s._ 0_d._ to £6 17_s._ 6 _d._ a year. Walter
of Henley (ed. by Miss Lamond, p. 9) gives forty-four weeks, leaving
eight weeks “for holidays and other hindrances.” But in his translation
of Walter’s Husbandry, Bishop Grosseteste adds a phrase (ibid. 45)
which throws a new light on the matter. “In these forty-four weeks be
264 days besides Sundays”—an explanation which certainly expands the
amount of leisure allowed to country labourers, whether it applied to
town artizans or no.



FROM the mediæval Craft Association to the modern Trade Union the
distance, as we have seen, is great. In the guild or “mistery” of
the older world, instead of associations of working men we have to
deal mainly with associations of producers or middlemen, whose battle
is not the organized attack of wage-earners on the profits of their
masters, but an attempt of dealers and manufacturers to stand out for
their interests against the whole body of consumers or against the
aggressions of competing trades; while far from being a voluntary
association, or a self-governed institution of spontaneous growth,
its individual members were if necessary enrolled by compulsion, and
governed with little regard to their own consent. But the relations
between the trades and the municipalities show a yet more striking
contrast. According to a modern English theory the common good is
best served when we allow every artizan and trader perfect liberty to
develope his own industry in his own way.[267] But the mediæval world
was fully convinced that since all trade and manufacture was carried
on for the benefit of the public, all trade and manufacture should be
subject to public control; and no one then questioned that it was the
duty and the right of the State or the municipality to fix hours of
labour, rates of wages, prices of goods, times and places of sale, the
quality of the wares to be sold, and so on. In the interest, not of
the trader or manufacturer, but of the whole community, the central
government made general laws for regulating industry, and the towns
carried out these laws by their officers and filled up the blanks
of legislation after their own will; while in the exercise of the
enormous power which law and public opinion gave to the authorities,
the power of the people was supposed to be used with impartial justice
alike against the dealer or the employer and the artizan or serving
man, whenever individual claims clashed with what seemed to be the
public advantage. Hence to the governing body of the borough the trade
association was a mere matter of public convenience; and was so little
regarded as depending on the free will of the craft itself that it was
frequently founded by order of the town, and was invariably compelled
to make submission to superior force and receive orders from its master
the municipality. Unable to secure the passing of any new rule save
by convincing the authorities on some pretext or other that it was
devised in the interest of the whole commonwealth, the craft came
at last to be considered as a society which existed mainly for the
advantage of “the common people of the realm,” and indeed, bowing to
a hard necessity, itself contracted the habit of solemnly disavowing
any special regard for “its own singular profit,” and apologetically
described itself as the humble servant of the municipality and the
obedient minister of the public, in phrazes which the modern trade
union would scarcely accept as an adequate description of its uses.

This service of the public, however, was in no sense a voluntary
tribute of the guilds, nor did it enter in the slightest degree into
their original scheme; and if through long and severe compulsion
the crafts learned to wear with decorum their odd cloke of apparent
devotion to the common weal, behind this ostensible policy and
feigned colour of self-abnegation they had still their own purposes
to serve, which were by no means the purposes of the rest of the
community. Occasions of discord were probably far more frequent
than provocations to unity and concord in the society of a mediæval
town, with its hierarchy of struggling workers—the rising dealers,
the small masters who employed two or three servants, the artizans
who let down the ledge from their window to display the goods which
they had themselves made, journeymen working for a statute wage, and
unskilled labourers for whatever they could get—men for the most part
living meagrely by incessant toil, and to whom the public, thrifty
and inclined to bargains, was “the enemy”; and with its population
of consumers, poor and ignorant, without the means of travelling,
forced to buy what they wanted on the spot and thus deprived of such
protection as may be given by a larger competition, able to afford
little beyond the mere necessaries of life so that every fraud brought
to them real suffering, and to whom the trader represented the ancient
adversary lying in wait among the gins which he had privily set for
the innocent. The thin veil of civility thrown over the situation by
the polite phrazes of contemporary convention which have come down to
us in ordinance and compact deceived nobody concerned; and between
the “poor commons” and the whole army of crafts reconciliation never
went farther than an armed truce. To the consumer the dealers seemed
all alike steeped in iniquity. Shopkeepers measured out their wares
“by horn or by aim of hand,” or in chance cups and dishes; and sold
in dark corners where a man could not see what scamped work and
deceitful goods were being handed over to him. Clothiers gave out bad
yarn in scanty measure, and stretched out the list of their cloth
with cunning presses “in deceit of the poor commons.” Hatters because
they knew that everyone must needs wear hats charged exorbitantly for
their wares, and shoemakers were no better, so that statute after
statute vainly sought to mend them. Chandlers asked scandalous prices
for wax candles, images, and figures, “by which means divers of the
people be defrauded of their good intent and devotion.”[268] “All the
bakers, butchers, fishers, taverners, poulterers, chandlers, tanners,
shoemakers, cooks, hostelers, weavers, and fullers,” according to the
comprehensive statement of the Nottingham Mickletorn jury in 1395,
were asking too high prices and selling bad goods; and they go on the
next year to repeat the same complaints.[269] Above all the anger of
the common folk burned hot against the traders they knew best, the
powerful licensed victuallers who heaped up to themselves riches with
the food that should have fed the starving workers: “for took they on
truly, they timbered not so high.” The “sundry sorrows in cities,”
fevers and murrains and floods, or fires which burned down half the
town and seemed ever to begin by the falling of a candle at a brewer’s
or some “cursed place,” were the vivid testimony of the anathema of
the poor and the righteous vengeance of heaven falling on the sinful
traders;[270] and the common rumour of the market is still heard behind
the poet’s parable of the day when Guile was at the point of death, and
when it was only the shopkeepers who recovered him to life:

  “But merchants met with him and made him abide,
  And shutten him in their shops to showen their ware,
  And parrelled him like their prentice the people to serve.”[271]

As for the crafts, on the other hand, whether they were combinations
of employers, or associations of middlemen or dealers, or unions of
wage-earners, or societies of masters and men, in one respect their
unanimity was unbroken; for inspired by a reasonable hostility to the
consumer who wanted to cheapen their wares, they were all ranged on the
same side in the common controversy as to who was ultimately to fix
prices, the seller or the buyer. Then obvious policy was declared in a
number of conspiracies which were constantly made in the various trades
to raise prices by combination among the dealers; but unfortunately
for the traders, always on the watch as they were for opportunities,
they still found the public as alert as themselves, and more powerful
to accomplish their will. When Edward the Third in 1331 fixed the
price of wine of Gascony at 4_d._ a gallon the retail dealers, who
had apparently found their profit best secured by the absence of any
statutory prices for their goods, broke into open rebellion, and “all
the taverners of the city making a confederacy and alliance among them”
closed the doors of their taverns and would not allow their wines to be
sold; till to “put a check upon this malignancy” the mayor and sheriffs
proceeded through the city, and had the names of the taverners so
closing their taverns written down, twenty-nine in number, and twelve
men from each ward of the city were summoned by the authorities to
decide in the name of the injured wine-drinkers upon the punishment
to be awarded to the taverners for their contumacy.[272] In 1363 and
again in 1411 the consumer was protected by law against the rich
Pepperers who had formed a company in 1345, and were accused of raising
prices.[273] The whole body of chandlers in Norwich were presented at
the Court Leet in 1300 for a certain agreement made among themselves
that “no one of them shall sell a pound of candles for less than
another.”[274] And in 1329 when a lime-burner of London bound all the
members of his trade by oath not to sell lime below a fixed price, and
“by reason of his great conspiracy” almost doubled the price of lime,
the city rulers imprisoned him and the “conspiracy” was cut short.[275]

Alliances of this kind to increase profits or raise prices were
universally met by a determined resistance on the part of the
public.[276] But the “poor commons” went far beyond a policy of mere
self-defence. They aimed in fact at nothing less than putting the
crafts altogether under the yoke of the community, at seizing the
whole organization of trade which had been built up and binding it
over to perpetual service. Nothing could have been more distasteful to
the guilds. In the twelfth century, while municipal government was in
its very infancy, they had already aimed at complete independence and
a real autonomy; and certain crafts did in fact succeed in making a
special bargain with the King over the heads of the local magistrates.
By charters bought at Westminster fraternities were made dependent for
their existence on the royal will alone; and were granted rights of
supervision and jurisdiction over their workmen without any reference
to the borough;[277] and since in these early charters the only
definite provision was that all the men of the trade in that particular
district should be enrolled in the guild, the freedom of the craft
as a whole remained for the moment unquestioned even if the freedom
of the individual was limited. An independence so complete however
was bitterly resented by town governments. In London for example the
weavers lived in a quarter by themselves into which the city officers
never entered. They had their own courts and special privileges, and
raised their taxes through their own officers. Under the protection
of the King’s writ they successfully defied the town authorities,
and when in the time of Henry the Third the citizens seemed likely
to overpower them by force they laid up their charter of rights in
the Exchequer as a perpetual record of their privileges. The jealousy
excited in municipal bodies by an alien society settled in their midst,
where the town writs did not run, is not surprising. Every interest
of the city was threatened—the monopoly of the sale of cloth claimed
by the burgesses, the authority of the town magistrates, the orderly
system of administration which the kings were building up, and the
interests of the whole body of consumers. A natural apprehension of
any danger to the unity of the borough was shown not only in London,
but in Winchester, Oxford, Marlborough, Beverley,[278] and possibly
in other towns; the weavers were shut out of the franchise and all
its privileges, hampered in their trade by all sorts of oppressive
regulations, forbidden to buy their tools, or possess any wealth,
or sell their goods save to freemen of the city, while the status
of villeins and aliens in the city courts was allotted to them. But
mere repression left the real evil untouched; and by 1300 the city
authorities in London had found a more radical cure. The Mayor had
gained the right to preside in the weavers’ court if he chose, and to
nominate the wardens of the guild;[279] and no sooner was all danger
from an independent rule thus averted than the weavers were granted
power to buy and sell “like other free citizens.”[280]

From this time all independent trade jurisdictions in the towns came to
an end.[281] No more charters such as that of the weavers were sold by
the crown;[282] and the crafts were presently forced to conciliate the
local powers according to their measure of art or cunning—to beg from
the municipal government a formal recognition for their association
with such limited liberties as the town officers could be induced to
give; to secure a more or less precarious existence by the payment
of fines to the town treasury;[283] or to wrap round them a solemn
conventional disguise, and conceal wholly or in part the fact of their
union for trade purposes by sheltering themselves under the form of a
religious association, and seeking independence “under a feigned colour
of sanctity”[284] as men wholly moved by a zealous care for the souls
of their dead comrades but taking no thought for the bodily welfare of
living brethren.

But by whatever means the fraternities hoped to compass liberty, it
was in vain that they sought to elude the heavy hand of the municipal
government. Trade associations were laid hold of by the boroughs,
brought under the discipline and authority of the public magistrates,
and forced to take their due part in the developement of the municipal
organisation.[285] Towns which obtained a grant to have “all reasonable
guilds” took care to maintain a reasonable authority, and craft
fraternities were only given leave to exist on the express plea that
they were “consonant with reason and redounding to the public honour
and to the advantage of the common weal”;[286] while privileges were
meted out to them on the distinct understanding of the gain which was
to spring from these to the whole commonalty. By a dexterous move
on the part of the town governors the officers of the guild were
transformed into the officers of the community, and the machinery of
the guild became the means by which the public sought to provide for a
full and cheap supply of the necessaries of life, and protected itself
from overcharges and false measures and bad wares, from uproar and
disorder, from drunken workmen, from the flying sparks of the smith’s
forge, or the noise of his hammer at night. In London for example there
was a constant succession of customers complaining at the Mayor’s
Court of the bad bargains they had made in buying cloth, so that the
fullers found themselves excessively “hard worked” in appearing at the
Guildhall to examine the cloths of discontented buyers, and begged that
every one might buy at his own risk.[287]

The masterly manœuvre executed by the town magistrates is revealed
in the self-denying ordinances passed by the later guilds. Crafts
“petition,” as we are gravely told, to have masters and ordinances, and
these being granted the new rules turn out to be simply regulations to
supply wares to the people of a fixed quality and price.[288] We can
scarcely believe that the farriers should of their own free will have
devised the rule that if any one of them, through negligence or any
excess of pride which hindered his asking advice of the craft, failed
in curing a horse of sickness, “then he shall be accused thereof
before the Mayor and Aldermen and be punished at their discretion, in
the way of making restitution for such horse to the person to whom
the same belongs.”[289] Nor is it likely that masons and carpenters
should have volunteered to take oath before Mayor and Aldermen that
they would do their duty in their trade;[290] or that the masons should
themselves propose that if a mason failed to fulfil his contract
certain men of the trade who acted as his securities should be bound
to finish his task.[291] Even the universal rule against night work
was never among the London guilds (save in the single instance of the
hat-makers)[292] made in the interest of the working-man; but on the
contrary was dictated by the sagacious observation of the buyers that
“sight is not so profitable by night, or so certain, as by day—_to
the profit, that is, of the community_;”[293] and if spurriers “who
compass how to practise deception in their work desire to work by night
rather than by day”[294] the reason given for interfering with them was
that they wandered about all day idle, and “then when they have become
drunk and frantic they take to their work to the annoyance of the sick
and all their neighbourhood ... and then they blow up their fires so
vigorously that their forges begin all at once to blaze ... and all
the neighbours are much in dread of the sparks which so vigorously
issue forth in all directions from the mouths of the chimneys in their
forges.”[295] Sunday closing itself was ordered as a matter of public
convenience, because apprentices “could not be trusted to carry on work
in the absence of their masters at church.”[296]

In thus bringing the crafts into subjection the towns were greatly
strengthened by the sympathy of the State, which was the more inclined
to make common cause with them from a growing apprehension of guilds
of artificers and other labourers which in troubled times might prove
centres of disturbance throughout the country. By a series of statutes
the ancient powers of crafts were carefully pruned, and new authority
grafted on to the town governments. “Congregations and confederacies”
were jealously watched and forbidden.[297] The guilds were ordered
to have their charters registered, and their rules and bye-laws
approved by the chief magistrates of the town. They were forbidden to
make ordinances to the damage of the King or the people. Sometimes
jurisdiction over their own members was taken from them; and the right
of search for any articles that “be not pure lawful and able chaffers,”
or even the duty of seeing that the workers were duly paid their wages
in ready money, was handed over to the town officers.[298]

Thus it came about that by the triple alliance of the officials at
Westminster with the governing class of the town and the general
body of consumers, all alike bent on organizing industry in their
several interests, the primitive free associations of workers were
gradually forced into the singular position of deferential servants
of the community. Within its own little realm each guild might use a
narrow independence or a petty tyranny, but in its public aspect it
could assert few pretensions.[299] No craft fraternity could be formed
without the leave of the municipality, and every Warden took his oath
of office before the Mayor, at whose bidding and subject to whose
approval he had been elected.[300] The rules made by any trade for its
government had no force till they had been approved by the Mayor and
Corporation, enrolled by them on the city records, and sealed with
the common seal.[301] And since they reserved the right of making any
addition to these ordinances which they might deem necessary,[302] the
town magistrates could interfere whenever they chose in the interests
of order. Not only did they bear rule over the seller in the market,
but they followed the craftsman to his little workroom and ordered
every smallest detail of his trade, material, wages, apprentices, cost,
the fit of a coat and the quality of a shoe, according to the laws that
“reserved all time to the Mayor and to the Council of the town power
to correct, to punish, amerce, and redress, as well the masters and
all other persons of the said crafts, each after their deserving and
trespass, as the case asketh.”[303] Men who offended against the rules
of the trade were brought before the town officers for punishment, and
half their fines went into the town treasury.[304] Even the wandering
artizans who moved from place to place, who had no fixed shops and no
complete guild organization, found themselves subjected to the town
authorities as soon as they had crossed the borders of the borough.
Carpenters, masons, plasterers, daubers, tilers, and paviours had to
take whatever wages the law decreed and to accept the supervision of
the municipal rulers,[305] and their regulations were framed according
to the convenience of the borough. Thus after the big storm of 1362
in London they were forbidden to raise their prices for repairing
the citizens’ roofs;[306] and the same ordinances of Worcester which
direct that chimneys of timber and thatched houses should be done away
with, and stone or brick chimneys and tiled roofs everywhere made by
midsummer day, contain regulations for the tilers who must have flocked
to the city on such an occasion. They must set up no parliament to make
any one of them “as a master and all other tilers to be as his servant
and at his commandment, but that every tiler be free to come and go to
work with every man and citizen freely as they may accord.” No stranger
tiler coming to the city was to be forced to work for any city tiler,
but might take whatever work he liked by the day.[307]

The rapidity with which the whole movement was conceived and carried
out is one of the most surprising things about it; and nothing was
wanting to the thoroughness with which mediæval society carried out
its theory of the use which the craft guilds might be made to serve,
whether willingly or no, in protecting the interests of the public.
One discovery followed on another. As the King for convenience of
administration constantly delegated new powers to the Mayor, and
successive Acts and Charters added to his load of responsibilities
for supervising work and wages and wares, so the Mayor in his turn
passed on these charges to the craft—apparently exalting its power,
in reality undermining its independence. Town governors embarrassed
by the difficulty of overawing a turbulent community and keeping the
peace with the aid of a couple of constables, found in the guild
organization an admirable machinery all ready to their hands, and
turned its officers, responsible as they were for the good behaviour
and order of the whole trade, into an effective city police; so that
when Bristol was in danger of a general riot in consequence of the
imprisonment of its Mayor, the sheriff and recorder simply summoned the
masters of the various crafts, and ordered them to keep the peace in
their several trades. In the same way the crafts might be charged with
the duty of “setting the watch” at night.[308] Difficulties of taxation
were lightened by shifting responsibility from the municipal officers
to the guilds—by charging for example the bakers or blanket-makers or
fullers with a certain proportion of the ferm, to be collected among
their members and paid in by their officers.[309] If walls were to be
repaired and gates and towers and piers maintained, or if the expenses
of a public festival were to be met,[310] the craft might again be
brought into use, and for the due performance of the allotted task
their common funds or individual profits might be reckoned as security.

When the town had thus laid firm hold on the guilds and discovered
the various uses to which these bodies might be put in the municipal
scheme, it began to look on them with as much favour as it had formerly
shown distrust,[311] and proceeded industriously to multiply their
numbers both by creating new fraternities and reorganizing the old
ones.[312] The public opinion of the day showed itself strongly
in favour of guilds, and indeed often outran the desires of the
workin-gmen, so that the drawing together of artizans into the later
craft fraternities was not always a matter of free will. If trades did
not associate at their own wish they were presently forced to do so,
and at the end of the fifteenth century we find the towns everywhere
issuing orders that crafts which had hitherto escaped should be
compelled to group themselves into companies. In Sandwich, for example,
barbers, surgeons, and wax-chandlers were incorporated in 1482; and in
1494 wardens were appointed of the companies of tailors, shoemakers,
weavers, and shearmen.[313] In Canterbury, where a spirit of revolt
against the rules of the corporation seems to have gone abroad, where
strangers were setting up trades within the liberties and laws had to
be made to insure their paying “reasonable fine” for so doing, where
masters neglected to enroll their apprentices in the books of the
Common Chamber, and where the servants in husbandry riotously resisted
the Statute of Labourers, the outraged city authorities declared that
the crafts needed new regulations “to maintain due order for the
weal and increase of the same,” and set to work to tighten the hold
of the government on manufacturer and artizan, by forcing the trades
to form themselves into companies, and setting at the head of every
craft or mystery two of the city aldermen.[314] In very many cases the
later incorporation of trades was connected with a pledge to undertake
certain town works such as the building or repairing of gates;[315]
and here we probably find the clue to the growing custom of combining
several poor societies into one substantial association. When the
crafts of Canterbury began to grudge spending their money on the Corpus
Christi Play and on the Pageant of St. Thomas (which had to be revived
in 1504 and paid for by the corporation), and also neglected “setting
the watch,” the Town Council would have none of the excuse of poverty,
only made “for lack of good ordering of certain crafts within the
same city not corporate”; and it was settled that every trade “being
not corporate for the nonsufficience of their craft be associate,
incorporate, and adjoining to some other craft most needing support, if
they will not labour to be corporate within themselves”; any obstinate
craft that did not make suit to the Burghmote by next Michaelmas to be
incorporate was to pay 20_s._ and give up their bodies for punishment.
The shoemakers were accordingly joined in one guild with the
leather-sellers and pouchmakers, the apothecaries with the grocers and

But if the town carried on business in this high-handed and imperious
fashion, still in the double bargain made between the municipalities
and the crafts it is not to be supposed that the advantage was all
on one side. If the guild had services to sell to the community,
it in its turn demanded a fair price. The trading society received
all the benefits which fall upon communities by law established;
and municipalities fostered with tender care the fraternities whose
discipline they had first seized into their hands.[317] If trade
was reaching out its branches to markets beyond the sea or if it
was withering away, if the serving-men were growing poor or if they
were waxing prosperous and threatening to dictate wages and prices,
if new machinery was introduced to replace human labour, if foreign
craftsmen came in to supplant the home-bred artizan—whatever the
trouble might be the government of the people bravely stepped in to
set the matter right. Craft rules once entered on the city records
became an admitted part of the city statutes, to be enforced by the
authority of the whole community, and the master found his jurisdiction
recognized and enforced, and might call on the mayor, “if the men are
rebels or contrarious and will not work,” to deal with them “according
to law and reason.”[318] The whole strength of the town government
could be invoked to suppress “foreign” labour or alien dealers and
manufacturers, or combinations of men against their employers. No
remedy was too heroic for patriotic burghers if they thought the
prosperity of the local manufacturers was in danger. When the cloth
trade of Canterbury had fallen into an evil plight the Town Council
passed a law ordaining that in the next year the mayor and each of the
twelve aldermen should buy a certain amount of cloth, the forty-eight
councillors one-half that amount, and certain well-to-do inhabitants a
like measure according to their degree.[319]

The system in fact was a curious balance of compromise among three
distinct parties to a triangular strife—the whole body of traders
and manufacturers organized in craft guilds, whose primary object was
naturally to secure “their own singular profit,” as the phrase went,
and to take on themselves as few of the common burdens as possible—the
body of householders organized for civic purposes as the mayor,
council, and commonalty, whose business was to keep order and carry
on government—and the entire population of the town considered as
consumers, who were thinking only of the supply of their own wants and
whose chief aim was to buy the trader’s goods at the lowest possible
price. For a time the borough corporations and the big public had
the triumph on their side, and the traders were held in a position
which was judged to be “consonant to reason.” But if the crafts passed
through a period of subjection while their organization and discipline
were being perfected, this by no means implied the practice of a like
humility when they had learned how to manipulate the narrow oligarchy
that formed the corporation, and to despise the incoherent masses
that made up the body of consumers. For all this time the guilds
were steadily, by the help of the town customs and administration,
fortifying themselves in their position, strengthening their monopoly,
closing their ranks, shutting out competitors from their gains. There
came at last a moment when the crafts matched their strength with that
of their masters, and the municipalities surrendered to the forces
which they themselves had drilled. How completely the mediæval theory
of the consumer’s interest in legislation about industry was swept
away by the final success of the crafts in enforcing by their compact
majority the original purpose of their own members, we may see from
the chasm that separates in principle the ancient trade guild from the
modern trade union. To-day we also are constantly making attempts to
regulate industry through combinations whether of capitalists or of
wage-earners. We have our associations of employers which have grown
up to resist their workmen, and our unions of working-men formed to
fight the employers; but neither is in the least concerned with the
interests of the public, and not even in a phrase of courtesy are any
of our modern associations supposed to “redound to the common profit”
of the buyers. In this profound difference between the old and the
new organizations of industry we may find a measure of the tremendous
importance of the victory achieved by the crafts, when they had
learned to use the disciplined forces of the guild for the capture of
the municipal government. In later times, when public opinion almost
ceased to work through the machinery of local government and only found
occasional or incoherent expression, teaching societies under their
more modern name of companies employed the same compact organization
of monopolists to press their claims with redoubled success on the
attention of the all-powerful central authorities, and the protection
of the consumer was more and more forgotten in the protection of the
privileged trader.


 Besides the instances which have been given of the interference of the
 town with the crafts in questions that concerned the public, or that
 concerned the journeymen, there were other interesting cases in which
 it took part in struggles between the guilds of artizan producers
 and the guilds of dealers or middlemen for whom they worked. For the
 difference between the greater and the lesser crafts must always be
 borne in mind, and the fact that some of them were mere associations
 of working-men whose ordinances prove their subordinate position;
 though except possibly in rare instances the association was not
 originally formed, or at any time mainly used, for the purpose of
 resisting the middlemen.

 The weavers in London for example who lived by themselves in a
 special quarter of the city formed a union of independent artizans,
 each of whom possessed his own loom; if by chance he became rich
 enough to own a second, he set his son or his wife to work at it,
 being forbidden by the craft-guild to hire it out of his own house
 and so increase the number of workers. They worked for the guild of
 “burellers” or cloth-makers, who gave out the yarn which they wove
 into a coarse cloth, and paid them a fixed wage or price by the
 piece. In very early times the weavers complained of the bad quality
 and short quantity of yarn supplied to them by the burellers, and
 of the prices paid for weaving; and about 1290 they planned a whole
 scheme of organized resistance. They reduced the hours of labour by
 stopping night-work, and appointing seasons when no work at all might
 be done; they limited the number of workers by excluding new comers
 and forbidding looms to be let out on hire; and as their work was
 necessarily done by the piece, they ruled that a given length of cloth
 which could easily be made in two or three days should always count as
 four days’ work and no less; and apparently further devised means for
 making plausible overcharges for work done. To compel the obedience of
 members of the guild they ordered that any weaver who offended against
 these regulations should be called up for judgement before their
 governing council of twenty-four, and punished by it in formal fashion
 in the same way as for offences against legal ordinances. And to force
 the submission of the burellers, they commanded a general strike among
 the weavers in case of complaint, and that all work should be stopped
 until amends were made for the wrong done. In the face of a public
 which had already fixed prices and wages by law and considered that
 question finally closed, the weavers who found themselves shut out
 from direct methods of gaining their ends had thus taken the crooked
 way, at least so their enemies said, of raising prices by limiting
 production, and thus forcing up the price of cloth.

 For ten years middlemen and workmen seem to have fought out their
 quarrel together; but in 1300 the burellers brought their grievances
 to the mayor’s court, and charged the weavers with making new
 ordinances contrary to all law. There was little sympathy in the city
 courts for craftsmen whose rules were framed “for their singular
 profit and to the common injury of the people,” and the jury decided
 that the weavers had no right to limit the production of cheap cloth
 for the public by any device whatever. They were forbidden to shorten
 hours of labour by stopping work at any time save at night, or to
 check manufacture by preventing weavers from hiring out their looms
 to men of the craft; piece-work might be done as fast as any weaver
 chose to do it; all overcharges for work were forbidden. And lastly
 strikes were absolutely prohibited. In a second trial in 1321, when
 the obstinate weavers were called up before the king’s judges at the
 Tower, charged with making a “conspiracy and confederation” in the
 Church of St. Margaret de Patyns to raise the price of weaving each
 cloth by 6_d._, the king’s serjeant, who prosecuted, explained with
 precision that an unlimited number of workers working at full speed
 meant low wages and an abundance of cheap cloth, and that any attempt
 to reduce the number of labourers, to bring in short hours, or slow
 work—every device in fact by which the output of cloth was limited,
 was a device to empty the burgher’s purse into the workman’s pocket.
 In the common interest such “malicious machinations” must needs be put
 down; and indeed it would seem that some doubts were entertained about
 the wisdom of interfering even with night-work if the public was to
 have cheap cloth. (Riley’s Liber Custumarum, 123, 416-425.)

 The guild, which by this time had declined from three hundred and
 eighty to eighty looms, was probably never strong enough in London to
 renew the strife. Perhaps the Flemish weavers supplanted them and took
 up the battle, for we find that in 1362 and 1366 they in their turn
 were making congregations and collecting money among the people of
 the trade through their bailiffs. By the ordinances which were drawn
 up to meet this emergency it was settled that in future congregations
 of the workers and collections of money among them might only be made
 with the consent of the twenty-four best men of the trade, and that
 these twenty-four should be chosen at the discretion of the mayor and
 aldermen. (Mem. Lond. 306-7, 332.)

 A yet more complicated controversy divided the various crafts
 concerned in the making of saddles, where we have the reverse case of
 a union of middlemen conspiring to put under their feet the crafts
 of artizans with which they were connected. The London Saddlers who
 sold to the public formed as early as the twelfth century a guild of
 employers and middlemen. (Madox, 26.) Of the different crafts that
 worked for them were the Joiners who made the wooden framework, the
 fore and hind saddle-bows cut out of a quarter of a horizontal section
 of a tree and hollowed to fit the horse’s back; the Painters who
 painted these frames; and the Lorimers (that is the coppersmiths and
 ironsmiths) who made the metal work for the trapping and the harness
 of the horses. As for the saddlers themselves they seem only to have
 put the finishing touches to the saddles, or put on the leather
 covering for the great lords who were not contented with painted wood;
 but as all orders and all sales were carried out by them they had the
 ultimate control of the whole trade.

 The first dispute arose out of the complaints of the public of the
 badness of saddles supplied to them; the saddlers threw the blame on
 the joiners; and the joiners seem to have in their turn pushed it
 back on an illegal or “blackleg” labour encouraged by the saddlers
 for their own advantage. “Bad apprentices who fly from their masters,
 and other false men, betake themselves to the woods, and there make
 up their work of saddle-bows glued together and send them by night to
 painters and to saddlers within the franchise” who profited largely
 by the cheap labour of the “bad apprentices” working under the cover
 of the woods. The authorities forbade these practices, and in 1308
 granted to the joiners’ guild ordinances to protect their monopoly of
 the trade and check irregular labour. (Lib. Cus. 80.)

 A few years later the joiners made common cause with the painters
 and lorimers—a formidable conspiracy, for the lorimers had already
 been organized as a craft for half a century, and ordinances which
 strictly protected their monopoly lay for safe keeping in the city
 treasury. (Lib. Cus. 78-9. The lorimers included two ranks—the master
 who kept house and forge and paid fine to the commune of London; and
 the journeymen who paid to the mistery but not to the city.) In 1320,
 however, the saddlers contrived to have the lorimers’ ordinances
 annulled and publicly burnt in Cheapside. (Lib. Cus. lix.) In 1327
 the combined trades broke out into open war one day in Cheapside and
 Cripplegate, and “strongly provided with an armed force exchanged
 blows and manfully began to fight.” (Riley’s Mem. 156-162.) Mayor and
 sheriffs came to stop the riot; the trades were summoned to appear at
 the Guildhall, and complaints were presented on both sides. The story
 of the saddlers was (1) that the three trades had organized a union
 for strike purposes, in case any one of them should have a quarrel
 with any saddler.

 (2) That the coppersmiths were “out of their own heads” refusing to
 receive any strange workman of the same trade into their craft until
 he shall have made oath to conceal their misdeeds, the implication
 being of course an attempt to raise prices by limiting numbers.

 (3) And further the joiners and painters “do set every point of
 their trade at a fixed price ... by reason whereof they are making
 themselves kings of the land, to the destruction of all the people of
 the land and to the annihilation of the saddlers.”

 The trades emphatically denied both the strike conspiracy and the
 fixing of prices, which at all events indicates that they knew such
 claims would never be conceded by the public, and formulated their

 (1) That the saddlers had formed a “conspiracy and collusion among
 themselves” and bound themselves to it by oath that they would compel
 the joiners, painters, and lorimers not to sell to any one but
 themselves any work they did pertaining to saddlery. The workman was
 thus to be bound to them hand and foot.

 (2) That when the workmen come to ask for payment due to them they
 are so bandied about among the said saddlers with offensive words,
 beaten, and otherwise maltreated, that they have no longer the daring
 to demand their just debts.

 (3) That the saddlers make old saddles into new, thus cheating the
 workmen of trade that ought to come to them.

 The first charge was denied by the saddlers, but as they promised
 henceforth never to make any confederacy again their denial was
 scarcely conclusive. They pleaded that the sheriff’s court was the
 place for questions of debt. And they promised never again to sell old
 saddles for new.

 Evidently the excitement in London over this trade dispute was
 extreme, for when arbitration by the city officers was proposed, and
 the crafts summoned to meet in the church of St. Martin’s le Grand
 before six chosen aldermen, they arrived there in so great multitudes
 and with such a concourse of people eager to hear the solution of the
 great trade problem, that no business could be done. The aldermen
 ordered another meeting at which elected representatives from each
 craft only should attend. Six saddlers therefore were confronted with
 two ironsmiths, two coppersmiths, two painters, and two joiners;
 and after a day’s discussion a new group of thirteen was chosen by
 the trades and a concord was made “by the ordinance of these common
 friends and presented to the mayor and aldermen.” The result was a
 decided victory of the working crafts over the dealers. The nine
 chief offenders among the saddlers were driven out of the trade, and
 the saddlers bound in a heavy penalty never again to take them back,
 to sustain them, or to help them, till they had made peace with the
 crafts. (Mem. Lond. 156-162.) As to the introduction of “blackleg”
 labour by the masters, it was decreed that no stranger was to be
 brought into the trades till he had been received at the husting by
 the assent of eight respectable men of the craft. The regulation that
 no repaired work was to be sold for new prevented another form of
 irregular labour, since trades might not legally repair for any but
 private customers.

 In this instance it was the employers’ union that was beaten; but
 it is evident that the question mainly turned on the convenience of
 the public, and their dislike to have bad saddles supplied to them.
 It is also evident that save in the case of some unusually powerful
 combination of working crafts there was but little hope for the
 humbler trades in a conflict with dealers or employers backed by the
 public in keeping down prices. The Tawyers or dressers of skins made
 ordinances in 1365 “as to how they shall serve the pelterers and how
 much they shall take for their labour.” (Riley’s Mem. Lond. 330.)
 The records may state that the ordinances were “provided and made
 by the serving-men called tawyers,” but it is hard to believe that
 these “serving-men” acted of their own free will in framing rules
 which put their necks mercilessly and irrevocably under the yoke of
 the pelterers, binding themselves to serve them only, to work for the
 old fixed prices, and to bow to their jurisdiction in trade offences
 “according to the award and discretion of the rulers of the trade of

 There were other grounds of dispute between craft and craft, and
 battles raged at times between guilds as to the boundaries of the
 trades, and the relations between them—disputes which sprang from
 the “overlapping” of different crafts engaged upon one and the same
 product; or from the “apportionment” of work between closely related
 trades. Shoemakers were forbidden to be tanners (Stat. 13 Rich. II.
 i. cap. 12); then allowed to tan leather till the next Parliament
 (Stat. 4 Henry IV. cap. 35); and in 1423 again forbidden to be tanners
 (2 Henry VI. cap. 7). And as the tanners were protected against the
 shoemakers, so shoemakers were protected against cobblers. There
 was many a quarrel between the cordwainers who made new boots and
 the cobblers who mended old ones, the cobblers complaining that the
 cordwainers were preventing them from gaining their living as they had
 done of old. In 1395 at the king’s order the mayor summoned twelve of
 each craft to state their grievances. The question of how much mending
 might be supposed to make a new boot required the most detailed
 inquiry: and the apportionment of labour was exact. No person who
 meddled with old shoes was to make new ones; all work with new leather
 was declared to be within the sphere of the cordwainers, and the
 cobblers were restricted to mending, and that with very small pieces
 of leather. Fourteen years later the lines were drawn still more
 precisely; the re-soling of old boots was reserved to the cordwainers,
 but the cobblers were allowed to mend with pieces of new leather boots
 that were burnt or broken. (Mem. Lond. 539-40, 572-3.) Ordinances of
 this kind were not necessarily designed for the protection of the
 workers, though no doubt that may often have been partly intended; but
 in the first instance were probably meant to make the supervision of
 trades and inspection of wares more efficient in the public interest.



IT was in the fifteenth century, at the very time when the towns
seem to have been most energetic in tightening the bonds that held
the crafts fast to their service, that we find the crafts on their
side most impatient of subjection, and eager to test their strength
in a direct conflict with the civic rulers. Their restless energy
broke down all barriers between trade and politics, and forced each
into the service of the other; for by whatever stratagem the crafts
proposed to compel the constituted authorities to recognize them in a
partnership of power—whether a wealthy guild planned the winning of
a charter which should make it a free and independent corporation in
the town; or whether a combination of less powerful trades demanded
to be officially included in the municipal government which regulated
their business, or in any other way to control its action—in any and
every conflict with the ruling oligarchy the guilds were forced to
enlist the sympathy of the burghers and to become leaders of popular
discontent. On the other hand the commons, with no resource against
the official class save an occasional mass meeting, eagerly welcomed
the aid of the disciplined army enrolled in the guild, and under the
politic guidance of expert leaders, to give weight to their claims for
more power. Thus under the stress of the growing passion for political
emancipation, trading interests constantly seem to merge altogether
into the ambitions and animosities of parties wholly occupied in a
conflict about civic rights. No doubt a prevailing suspicion of some
such intimate connection between the desire of the crafts to escape
from municipal control and a democratic movement in city politics, gave
fire to the discussions which from the first origin of the question
disturbed market-place and council-chamber, law-court and Parliament,
and proclaimed the vehemence of feeling with which so great a matter
was debated.

In the Tailors’ Fraternity of Exeter we have a very curious example of
the part which the Guild organization played in municipal politics.
We have already seen the optimistic view taken by the Mayor and
his Fellowship of “the great commonalty of the city,” united and
harmonious, and worthily represented by the patriotic officers into
whose hands an absolute and unquestioned power had been committed; so
that when John Shillingford sends to the Recorder and the Fellowship an
account of his doings in London in the matter of the Dean and Chapter,
he simply begs them first to make such corrections as they saw fit,
and adds, “This done I pray you to call before you at the Hall the
substance of the commonalty praying every one of them in my name and
charging them in the most straightest wise in the King’s behalf to
come before you in haste for the tidings that I have sent home to you;
and that ye wisely declare before them these answers; so that they
say manly yea and nay _in such points as you think to be done_.”[320]
Throughout the whole of the Mayor’s letters there is not the slightest
indication that he had ever heard of any “impetuous clamours” of a
revolutionary Exeter mob, little mindful of the honour of the city; nor
that after a hundred years or more of gathering discontent a crisis was
close at hand when the commonalty was to measure its strength against
the corporation. Nevertheless the union of the moment was but the union
that comes of confronting a common enemy; and the townsmen seemed
to be only waiting till that strife was temporarily hushed to fling
themselves again into the discussion of their own domestic differences.

It is probable that from the time when the people of Exeter began to
elect their own mayor, bailiff, and eight aldermen of the wards, they
were also accustomed to appoint a body of twelve men to aid the mayor
in all difficult business.[321] As at Colchester, Norwich, and many
other towns, the elections were made by a double jury of Twenty-four;
but how the Twenty-four were themselves elected we do not know. In the
fourteenth century they seem already established, like the Twenty-four
of Norwich, as a permanent council to advise and assist the Mayor; but
the Twelve apparently survived alongside of them, for freemen were
forbidden to assemble for the election of a mayor “in the absence of
the Thirty-six”; and the Twenty-four were unable to perform any act
save in the presence of Twelve men.[322] Until the records of Exeter
are published, however, it is impossible to define the relations of the
two bodies; and the manner in which the Twenty-four took possession of
the Council Chamber is unknown.[323]

In Exeter, as elsewhere, trouble broke out in the middle of the
fourteenth century between the two factions of the community—between
the commons, discontented and rebellious; and the governing class,
who appear, not as innovators or usurpers, but as the conservative
guardians of “the ancient orders and customs of the city.” The quarrel
began in 1339 with “impetuous clamours” of the people against the
constant re-election of one or two men as mayors; and for one year
at least they carried their point, perhaps by some breach of former
customs of election, for a decree was immediately issued that the
people were not to gather together on the day of the mayor’s election
“in the absence of the Thirty-six”; perhaps by some help from the
Church and from country patrons, for it was further ordered that no
clerk of the Consistory Court, nor any man who did not live in the
city should be elected mayor or allowed in any way to meddle with the
election. The decree that no burgher might be excluded from the office
who was resident, had been seneschal and had the hundred shillings of
property which was generally required in all boroughs was, if we may
judge from other boroughs, simply a recapitulation of the common custom.

That the quarrel was still agitating the people’s minds some years
later is shown by the ordinances of 1346 and 1347. The first forbade
that a mayor should be immediately re-elected—an order evidently made
to quiet public opinion but which the Twenty-four had no intention
of observing. The second ordinance of 1347 decreed that the election
should be made “by Twenty-four persons who upon their several and
respective oaths shall make the election”—in fact it declared anew the
custom which had been already recognized for fifty years, and probably
from the first institution of the office, though of late years it had
been called in question.

The victory of the governing body was apparently complete,[324] and
it was indeed inevitable that so long as the city had to keep up its
struggle with Earl and Bishop the needs and discipline of war should
strengthen the position of the leaders and tighten their hold on their
fellow-citizens. In 1427 the Twenty-four appear with the name of “the
Common Council,” ordinances are issued in the name of “the Mayor and
the Common Council,” and “in open court the Mayor and Bailiffs by
the assent of the Twenty-four” transact all manner of town business,
whether it concerned the city franchise, the hearing and carrying out
of the King’s orders, or the voting of money for public purposes.[325]
To them also undoubtedly Shillingford wrote his long letters from
London, respectfully addressing them as the “Fellowship” or “his
Fellows,” with whom he was accustomed to take counsel.

The ordinary burgesses of Exeter therefore, so far back as we can
trace its history, played a modest part in city politics, nor had
their attempt to assert themselves in 1339 won for them any advantage
whatever. In 1460 the townsfolk made a new effort of a different and
singularly interesting kind.

There was in Exeter a certain Tailors’ Guild. Its rules, written or
copied in 1460, ordained that every full tailor worth £20 “shall be
of the Master’s Fellowship and Clothing” and pay as his entrance “a
spoon of silver weighing one ounce and the fashion,” besides buying a
livery once a year and giving twelve pence to the yearly feast. Other
shop-holders were entered as of the Fellowship of the Bachelors, each
paying 8_d._ to the feast and his offering.[326] There were special
charges for the “free sewers”; and every servant who took wages
was also brought into the organization and had to pay his sixpence
yearly to the Guild.[327] The master and wardens sat every Thursday
at nine o’clock to do business, and general meetings of the wardens
and shop-holders were held four times a year, where after they had
dined the free sewers were given the remains of the feast. There was
a council of Eight;[328] and the usual rules for protecting the trade
monopoly, for maintaining discipline, and for collecting funds were

So far the Guild was as other Guilds. But rich, powerful, and well
drilled, it cherished ambitions beyond the perfecting of the tailors’
art.[329] In the struggle between York and Lancaster, the sympathies of
official Exeter were apparently Lancastrian, and when Edward the Fourth
came to the throne[330] he probably found it politic or necessary, by a
generous grant to the Tailors’ Company, to make friends of the trading
classes that had been left outside the governing caste. By the charter
of incorporation which he allowed them they were granted singular
privileges, of a kind which the municipal government bitterly resented.
The charter placed the guild in direct dependence on the King, not
on the mayor. They were given a rare liberty—the right “to make
ordinances among themselves, as to them might beseem most necessary and
behovefull for the said fraternity,” and to “make search” and correct
faults, apparently without need of the mayor’s sanction.[331] Not
only so, but they obtained authority to “augment and enlarge” their
Guild as they chose; and did forthwith begin daily to take into their
company “divers crafts other than of themselves, and divers others not
inhabitants within the same city”—men in fact of every conceivable
trade and occupation, free brethren who swore to be true and loving
brothers of the guild, never to go to law with any of the fraternity,
to pay their fines duly during life to the treasure box, and leave a
legacy to it at their death. The usual rule that no man of the craft
could be admitted to the freedom of the city save by the consent of the
master and wardens gained a new political significance when the bulk
of the inhabitants were thus enrolled under the Tailors’ Guild, and
when consequently it was the master of the Tailors who decided what men
should or should not be made free of the borough.

From this moment the Tailors’ Guild was really a great political
association. The Master and Fellowship of the company were scarcely
less powerful than the Mayor and Fellowship of the Corporation. By
their right of search the guild officers could enter by day or night
almost any house in the city or suburbs. By their authority to amend
defaults they were able to leave the city courts deserted and the city
treasury empty of its accustomed fines. The granting of citizenship
was practically in their hands. Their funds and organization
afforded the means for a steady and ordered attack on the governing
oligarchy. Taking into their ranks all crafts and all classes, they
gathered into one body the overtaxed and discontented populace whose
anger at the authorities had grown big with long suppression; while
they also enlisted members that lay beyond the authority of the
corporation—country people as well as church tenants who, as we know,
were already murmuring at the assessing of their taxes, and prepared to
make common cause with the burghers.

Up to this time the authority of the Mayor over the trades of Exeter
had been unquestioned. Merchants, grocers, drapers, mercers, the
tailors themselves had been subject to his rule as in other towns; till
by this alarming conspiracy the Mayor and Fellowship found themselves
confronted with what naturally seemed to them a “great disorderly body”
of revolutionists, who held conventicles and stirred up commotions in
the town, who even overawed the Mayor and threatened to destroy his
authority—men of “such evil disposition and unpeaceable that the Mayor
of the said city may not guide and rule the people ... nor correct such
defaults as ought by him to be correct,” so that “evil example” was
“likely to grow to subversion and destruction of the same city.”[332]
The royal charter obtained by the Guild was looked upon by the
Corporation as a breach of municipal privilege; and the Guild members
were required to renounce it by oath or to lose the city franchise;
while the Mayor made an example of some of the burgesses who belonged
to the fraternity by striking them off the roll of citizens. The shop
windows of the refractory were fastened down, and inhabitants were
forbidden to have garments made by certain tailors whose names were set
down in a black list, “nor with no other of their opinion.” Members of
the craft who were on the city council were refused the Christmas gifts
of wine and canon bread given to the councillors, and if they held to
the craft were indeed excluded from the Chamber.[333] On the other hand
if a luckless inhabitant sought to make his peace with the Corporation
by withdrawing from the Tailors, and swearing upon the Crucifix and the
Holy Evangelists to renounce their charter as contrary to the liberties
of the city, the armed brethren of the Guild visited his house and
levied his contributions by force of arms, that is to say by jacks,
doublets of defence, swords, bucklers, glaives, and stones.[334] Then
the town officers retorted by “presenting” the guilty tailors at the
next court for the crime of riotously collecting fees, and throwing
them into prison; and so the war went on, evidently at the expense of
the weakest members of the community.

Presently however the quarrel was carried beyond the city courts. The
Corporation appealed to Westminster and was once more plunged into
legal expenses. In 1477 both parties appeared by attorneys before
Edward the Fourth, who used the opportunity of the strife to tighten
the hold of the central authority both on the town and on the craft.
He set aside the contention of Exeter that the Corporation had any
exclusive right of granting charters: the Guild had received its
incorporation from the King and this remained valid; and in future all
disputes between city and guild were to be laid before the King and his
Council. But the royal rights being thus secured, the sympathy of the
central government veered round to the side of the town as against the
craft; and the conditions imposed on the Guild if it would preserve
its charter were such as must necessarily break up the organization
in its actual form. The fraternity was cut down again to the limits
of the tailors’ trade, and might enlist no members and make no search
among those of other occupations, nor beyond the city boundaries; and
even within these limits “saving always the franchises of the Mayor
and Commonalty.” It might issue no order against the rights of Bishop
or Mayor: nor might it admit any man to the freedom of the city by
enrolling him in the craft unless he were first presented to the Mayor.
They suffered indeed a yet further humiliation, for while the Mayor was
given the right of refusing to accept a candidate if he were suspected
of not being of good disposition or conversation; yet if the master and
wardens attempted to prevent a man from gaining the freedom of the city
by refusing to testify in his favour and to make him free of the craft,
the Mayor, bailiffs, and common council might insist on his being
accepted by the Guild.[335]

Provisions such as these, involving the dissolution of the actual
fraternity as it then existed, the ruin of its political position,
and the end of its control over the roll of burgesses, proclaimed
the triumph of the municipal authorities; and “the malice and grief
which was conceived thereof could not in long time be satisfied or
appeased.” The Guild indeed apparently refused to accept defeat; for
ordinances were made in 1479 requiring fresh contributions fixed for
seven years from masters, shop-holders, and free sewers “to the finding
of a priest”[336]—contributions which were assessed so high as to
suggest some “feigned colour of sanctity” in the desire to provide for
a chaplain so unwonted an opulence, in addition to his board at the
Mayor’s cost; and which evidently lasted beyond the seven years, since
in 1500 an order was again made that all serving-men, whether working
by the year, by the week, or by the piece, should pay a penny a quarter
to maintain the priest, and at Michaelmas for the wax. The Guild indeed
was still in good repute and able to hold its own. One of the Tailors
was Mayor before 1482;[337] and in 1481 the Company arrogantly defied
the authority of the Corporation. A tailor summoned to choose between
keeping his place as member of the Guild and retaining the freedom of
the city solemnly renounced his oath to the Guild before the Mayor,
whereupon the master and wardens sued him for perjury; so “by the mean
of gentlemen and money” he made peace with them and was again sworn to
the Guild. But absenting himself from the duties it required of him
“without cause reasonable” he was fetched out of his house, brought
to Tailors’ Hall and set in the stocks, and finally compelled to find
sureties for good conduct in the future.[338] The town councillors of
Exeter learned caution from such incidents; and when in this same year
they granted to the Cordwainers a confirmation of their charter, it was
on condition that the master and wardens of the guild should yearly
come before the Mayor and surrender all their powers, after which on
payment of a fine they should receive them back again by grant of the
Mayor.[339] The next year, 1482, when the Bakers desired to have new
ordinances,[340] the Corporation stipulated that all corn must be
ground in the city mills; that the wardens in making search in bakers’
shops or in hucksters’ houses should always be accompanied by a city
officer or serjeant; and that if any guild rules were made which were
against the city liberties, the Mayor and council might change them at
their will.

The rebellious Tailors, however, had fought their last battle. In 1482
a new petition was laid by the city authorities before Edward the
Fourth praying, in spite of the King’s award, for the total abolition
of the Tailors’ charter; and the Twenty-four voted in this and the
following years over £50 for business in Parliament and legal expenses
“touching the annulling of the charter.”[341] From the history of
other towns about this time, it would seem that considerable anxiety
was beginning to grow up at Court as to the commotions of the populace
and the growth of democracy in the boroughs; the petition was granted
as a matter of course, and the Tailors’ Fraternity sank back into the
subject position of an ordinary craft guild. Discontent and murmurings
were still heard in the city streets, but the corporation had no reason
for fear. In 1496 when one John Atwill was about to be chosen for the
fifth time, “a great division happened amongst the citizens about the
election of the mayor, and for avoiding the like for the future, was
ordered by the mayor and common council hereof, that no man should
be mayor or bear any office here, nor any election hold good, unless
the same were held according to the ancient orders and customs of the
said city, and withal that the Mayor and four and twenty of the said
Common Council should elect the Mayor and all other officers of the
said city.” To make matters quite safe the city got a charter the next
year from Henry the Seventh. The new charter did indeed slightly limit
the claims which the Council had freely set forth in 1496: they were no
longer allowed to elect the Mayor, but were to choose two candidates
for the office, one of whom was to be appointed by the freemen; but
on the other hand they still retained absolute power to fill up their
own vacancies, and to choose the bailiffs. Their name too was for the
first time recognized, and instead of using any longer the old style of
the city, “the Mayor, Bailiffs, and Commonalty of the city,” the king
legislated “by the assent and consent of the Common Council.”[342]

The Tailors, thus beaten in open fight, could only fall back on the
indirect influence of their wealth and compact majority, and make
alliance with the power which they could not destroy. In 1516 the
Master of the craft was also Steward of the city, another member was
Receiver or Treasurer, and others were of the Council of Twenty-four;
while others again had been Mayors or Treasurers of past years. By the
will and consent of these officers of City and Guild, the constitution
of the Tailors’ Company was amended, so as to blot out the last trace
of government by the will of the fraternity; and the Eight men, “the
sent of the occupation,” by whose authority laws had once been made
for the trade, were replaced by a council of those who had once been
masters of the craft, to be summoned by the Master.[343] The full
significance of this step can only be understood by taking it in
connexion with the position which was at this time being given to
“the Clothing” in municipal government.[344] But it is plain that the
ancient strife was now closed by a division of the spoils of power; and
the sorrows of defeat were left to the populace at large. These lay
more hopelessly than before at the mercy of their rulers, for masters
of crafts when they controlled town government had a double reason
for maintaining the authority of the corporation—the instinct of the
master tradesman and the instinct of the town councillor.

The story of Exeter is invaluable from the light it throws on the
mutual attitude of town and craft in the struggle for autonomy. Nothing
is more intelligible than the passionate resistance of a corporation
to royal charters given over the heads of the town officers,[345] if
we realize the quick alarms to which a municipality which had had
experience of the long fight for supremacy with king and church and
baron, was liable when it saw a new enemy, an enemy which it had long
supposed vanquished, springing up in its very midst to threaten with
a fresh danger the unity of the borough. It was speedily discovered
how great an internal weakness must follow from this cleavage in
the political society of the towns; and how the very appeals for
arbitration to the State, and the interference of King and Parliament,
must constantly tend yet further to limit municipal independence; while
there were other hints of danger in the new chances offered for the
country gentry to interfere with the independence of the town life,
when they could make the guild, detached from the town, an engine for
their own political projects.[346] Even for the guilds themselves,
there were to be set against the advantages, whatever these amounted
to, which they actually won by emancipation, grave dangers for the
future—dangers from the difficulty of enforcing discipline without
government support; from the hostility of the corporation and the
annoyances it could inflict by rendering honour to their most unruly
members; and from the encouragement given to a more aggressive
animosity on the part of other companies, rivals in independence and
determined foes in monopoly.[347] The emancipation of the greater
trading companies from local control may have been a necessary step in
setting free a growing national commerce; but it was the evident sign
that the age of municipal freedom and local self-government had entered
on its decline.

Usually, however, it seems that the big trading companies had their own
methods of making terms with authority, or of leading the corporation
captive and peacefully installing themselves in the place of power;
as we may see in the case of the great merchant fraternities and
wholesale dealers who, like the Drapers and Mercers of Coventry,
the Drapers of Shrewsbury, and possibly guilds of the same kind at
Walsall,[348] had made of their combinations the dictators of the
civic administration. But commercial unions such as these, standing in
a group by themselves, somewhat apart from the Exeter Tailors, must be
separately considered. The Tailors’ fraternity may perhaps be taken as
holding a sort of intermediate position—on one side figuring almost
as a merchant company, and on the other as an ordinary manufacturing
craft; and it is in this second aspect that its history indicates
to us the very important part which the trades played in rallying
the elements of revolt, drilling their forces, and lending the guild
organization for the strife. No single instance can ever be taken as
in any way typical or representative, for everywhere the position of
the crafts resolves itself into questions of local circumstances, and
of delicate changes from place to place in the balance of conflicting
forces. Whether there was any town under normal conditions in which
successful resistance was made to a governing oligarchy save with
the help of a good craft organization we cannot as yet say. In every
borough there seem to have been disputes, more or less acute, between
the governing and the governed, whether the conflict took the form
of the attack and defence of a close corporation as at Exeter; or of
a powerful guild merchant controlling the corporation as at Lynn;
or of the great mercantile fraternities as at Coventry. And in some
boroughs in which the commons succeeded in modifying the old oligarchic
system, we can certainly trace the direct action of the manufacturing
crafts. Occasionally the working trades rose against the merchant
societies, and forced their way into the Council Chamber. In Carlisle
the Merchant Guild, while remaining distinct from the municipal body,
gave to the town more mayors and aldermen than any other guild; and as
it admitted no strangers to membership of its society “for no money
whatsoever”[349] its posts and honours became practically hereditary,
until eight crafts or occupations of the town (seven of them being
unions of artificers, and the eighth a union of shopkeepers, seedsmen,
apothecaries, haberdashers, and so on) put an end to this despotism
in the sixteenth century by creating a council of thirty-two, four
from each trade, who joined the council of the mayor and aldermen, and
claiming to act in the name of the whole community took part in making
bye-laws; in choosing the “out-men” who were to be made burgesses;
in auditing accounts; in removing the town officers if necessary;
and in keeping the keys of the common chest.[350] That such powers
as these were voluntarily or even quite peaceably handed over by the
ruling guild is conceivable, though its improbability is shewn by
all analogy. In Newcastle it was after “great commotions, unlawful
assemblies, confederacies,” and general riots that the mercers,
drapers, and corn-dealers were forced in 1516 to admit nine other
crafts to share with them the government.[351] In Norwich, where it
was found possible even for guilds proscribed and forbidden to force
an honourable compromise with their opponents, the settlement was
only brought about after discords by which the city was “divided and
dissolved and in point to have been destroyed.”[352] When Edward the
Fourth, in 1464, sent a royal patent to York ordering that for the
future the craftsmen of the trades should nominate two aldermen, one of
whom was to be chosen mayor, the action must imply that there had been
dissension in the city society, out of which the king perhaps hoped to
make his profit[353] by attaching to himself an important faction in
the community. No doubt there were many cases where the trades had to
confess the entire failure of their attempts, or where their success
was but partial, as in London where the crafts would willingly have
increased their influence if popular opinion could have been taken
out of the way.[354] In a great number of boroughs we know that the
crafts insisted that the only way to the municipal franchise should
lie through their societies;[355] but to what extent this condition
prevailed, to what political uses it was put, and how far it served
as a trial of strength between parties in power and revolutionary
factions, are as yet only matters of guess-work.

The scanty state of our knowledge indeed makes it impossible to sum
up in a phrase the character of a strife which was universal, which
involved every class in a most complicated and highly organized
industrial society, and of which the history has not yet been fully
made out for a single borough. But so far as our evidence yet goes, the
developement of municipal government involved everywhere a struggle
between the classes triumphant and the classes put under subjection.
To discuss whether the subject class who attempted to create new
associations or use old ones to fight their battles, were mere common
burgesses contending with a municipal corporation, or bodies of
artificers resisting a guild of merchants, or an indiscriminate mob
opposed to a religious fraternity of the Holy Trinity or the Holy
Cross, is often a mere juggling with words. For as we shall see, it was
possible for one group of men to bear the three names, and in their
character of “magnates” or “potentiores” to act not only as the Town
Council but also as the Guild Merchant; and to shelter both functions
under a specious colour of sanctity. Under such circumstances it is of
no great consequence under which name they fought, nor by what name
they called the mob, whether commonalty or another; since no change
in their nominal relations materially affected the attitude of men
in power towards those outside, or the policy of merchant and master
tradesmen towards the working people. We must always remember, too,
in discussing the social changes that took place in England, that
the absence of violent dramatic effects, the limited and provincial
character of the contests of classes, were but necessary consequences
of the conditions of English life, at a time when industrial and
political disputes were carried on by the local forces of every little
town independently, in a series of particular conflicts fought out with
varying success by groups of combatants trained in small detachments
for separate service. It would be too much to imagine, because we
read of no open war of classes, no burning of towns or insurrections
quenched in blood, that the whole industrial society of mediæval
England moved together in a harmonious and orderly progression, each
new group as it arrived being peacefully lifted to its destined place
in wealth and council, without the jealousy of predecessors, or the
bitter grudge of after-comers. On the contrary all evidence goes to
show that the tenacity of Englishmen in holding to power, and their
stubbornness in insisting on freedom, were as characteristic of the
race in the fifteenth as in the nineteenth century; that antagonism
between the man who asks and the man who pays a wage, were very much
the same as now; and that class interests were if anything far more
powerful. If therefore we suppose the social and political developement
of the later middle-ages in this country was naturally brought about
by the logical sequence of economic developement, we must allow that
stern sequence to include then, as it would include now, the passionate
efforts of a strong people to turn aside by their might the impending
calamities of fate, and to lay a violent grasp on her uncertain



IN the conflicts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries we see the
town society rent into two factions; and whether the contending groups
call themselves the Burghers and Commonalty, or “the rich” and “the
poor people of the city,” or the Merchant Guild and the Crafts, or by
any other names, they seem practically to represent the same broad
sections of the community. In town quarrels it is hard for us to draw
any valid distinction between groups of citizens and companies of
craftsmen, as though they were led by different passions; for however
numerous were the mere inhabitants who must have lain outside the
organization of the crafts, usually every freeman was a member of some
company, and the whole voting population was thus enrolled under the
banners of the various trades. The real line of cleavage on which we
have to concentrate attention is not the thin line which may be drawn
between the Town Council and the Merchant Guild, the Commonalty and the
Crafts, but rather the broad chasm which breaks the whole industrial
society itself into two factions—on the one side the merchant traders,
on the other the artificers and small retail dealers. Wherever the
lesser crafts who represented the middle classes of the borough, and
whose interests were more or less identified with the cause of the
commons and “poor people of the city,” were forcing their claim to a
share in the counsels of the town; to which their way was barred by a
solid phalanx of hereditary “magnates” and wealthy merchants who had
abandoned the meaner employments of trade and thrown in their lot with
the governing oligarchy of “the rich,” and who fought in alliance with
or under cover of the burghers; there the revolt of the commons against
the Town Council becomes practically a battle of the working crafts
against the rule of the mercantile fraternities—a battle which may be
fought at one time for the winning of civic privileges, at another for
industrial freedom.

If we ask how old this conflict was, and at what time the peace of the
town was first disturbed by the antagonism of the greater commerce and
the lesser crafts, of the trader and the artificer, we must go back for
an answer to the very much earlier period when commercial societies
first became organized, or at least to the twelfth century when the
Merchant Guild and the Crafts come prominently to the front.[356]
Unfortunately the history of the Guild Merchant,[357] from its obscure
beginnings in the days of the Confessor, or of the Norman kings, down
to the time when its organization had spread all over England, and its
fraternities were to be found in most of the trading boroughs, is still
enveloped in the darkness which covers the early records of our towns,
and problems await solution which involve the whole developement of
the Guild. We know that from a remote period men had banded themselves
together in associations to secure protection and monopoly of trade,
and before the close of the twelfth century the majority of trading
towns had each its “Merchant Guild” with rights guaranteed by royal
charter. First born into life in a society where a merchant class such
as we understand it was unknown, we are told that the Guild may have
first consisted mainly of agriculturists busied in tilling their common
lands, and increasing their herds of cows and sheep and pigs; and whose
chief anxiety was to sell the butter and honey and salt meat and wool
that remained over when they had supplied their own wants, and to buy
fish for the fasting seasons, ploughs and spades for their fields and
the simplest furniture for their humble households. But, in the opinion
of its latest historian, from the twelfth century artizans were freely
admitted to its society, and presently formed the majority of the
Guild[358]—each craftsman being a small trader on his own account,
buying his raw material, and selling his manufactured goods at the
stall he rented in the market or on the folding shelf that he let
down to the street from the window of his little workroom. With these
were clergy and women who busied themselves in trade;[359] travelling
dealers among the townsfolk to whom exemptions from jurisdictions
outside the town and freedom from toll were important (things which
mattered little to the homekeeping citizens); and strangers who
brought their wares to the town market,[360] paid their entrance fee
and pledged themselves to bear henceforth their share of the town
taxes, though they were considered free from all other charges that
lay on the “downlying and uprising and pot-boiling” householders.
It is therefore supposed that when the time came for the Guild to
emerge from its humble state of private association, and rise into
the dignity of an official civic body, charged with the protection of
the trading interests of the borough,[361] it formed a really popular
institution, which from its very nature could never become entangled
in a conflict with the crafts—an organization of the whole community
for the control of trade by the common consent of the people, which was
in many respects peculiarly characteristic of English life,[362] and
which was the natural product of an age of freedom before the people
had been trodden under foot of a despotic oligarchy. Theoretically
subject to the authority of the town as part of its regular
administrative machinery,[363] but ruled over by its own officers, and
exercising independent jurisdiction through its voluntary tribunals
of arbitration, the Guild by virtue of its trade monopoly,[364] its
powerful organization and discipline, and the fact that the men who
formed its governing body were generally the same as those who sat on
the governing body of the borough, maintained a far more independent
position than any department of town government to-day.[365]

But according to Dr. Gross the Gilda Mercatoria was doomed to vanish
away before the growth of new industrial conditions. The first blow
was struck at its supremacy by the appearance early in the twelfth
century of crafts, which bought from the king the right to exist as
independent fraternities during his pleasure.[366] From this time the
decline of the Merchant Guild from its old estate kept pace with the
commercial revolution that caused its ruin. It began to undergo its
great change at the close of the thirteenth century, and in the two
following centuries it may be said to have practically ceased to exist.
Broken up into a multitude of independent associations, each of which
carried on business for itself,[367] deprived of all its old functions,
it died because it had no longer any adequate reason to live. Perhaps
it lingered on here and there in agricultural towns where few or no
craft guilds had been formed;[368] or in ecclesiastical boroughs where
its organization provided the only rallying point for the community in
any struggle for freedom; but everywhere else its machinery fell to
pieces;[369] and so completely did it vanish away as a distinct body
that the very name only survived by taking to itself new meanings.
Sometimes the old Merchant Guild became indistinguishably blended
with the town and gave its name to the whole community;[370] though
in another place it perhaps handed over name and functions to the
narrow select governing body of the borough as distinguished from the
general community of citizens.[371] Elsewhere its title was in some
vague way transferred to the aggregate of the craft guilds.[372] As a
mere shadow of its former self, with nothing but the word to mark its
identity, the Merchant Guild might survive as a simple social-religious
fraternity;[373] or perhaps without conflict or bitterness it merely
faded away before the crafts, leaving not so much as a name behind
it.[374] But however the implicit, unspoken compact was carried out,
by whatever means the Gilda Mercatoria, obedient to a final destiny,
effected its renunciation of an inconvenient supremacy, there was
no possible occasion left for strife between Guild and crafts,[375]
and the suggestion of any such quarrel, or of revolt on the part of
the crafts against the superior fraternity from the twelfth to the
fifteenth centuries, must be looked on as a wanton “myth”.[376] Having
fulfilled its course the Merchant Guild took its doom without noise or
struggle, and entered decently into the shades with a grave decorum
before which jarring sounds of contention were put to silence. It was
at a later time, when the old popular organization had died, that the
harmony of the commons was destroyed by the coming in of a tyranny
unknown till then—the tyranny of a select and irresponsible governing
body which by its corrupt administration stirred up a new spirit of
dissension in the boroughs.

Unfortunately this picture of the successive stages of the guild
history, from the free republican period through which they are all
apparently supposed to have passed, down to their extinction or
absorption into a governing oligarchy, a whole borough community, or a
group of trades, has not been verified by following out the continuous
story of any single guild. Moreover it would seem that the difficulty
of making any general statement about the groups of traders who made
the fortunes of the English boroughs, is as great as the difficulty of
making a general statement as to the position and grouping of a host
of irregular troops in rapid march over a tangled country. Amid the
intense activity and the transformation scenes of mediæval life there
is no exact definition which does not prove false with a little lapse
of time, a little change of place; and theories of “natural tendency”
are but as traps set for the unwary. So far as the Guild Merchant
is concerned, there were probably as many various exceptions to any
general rule as there were towns which contained a Guild. Let but a
generation pass away and the institution is perhaps wholly changed;
here it existed in some special form; a few miles off it never existed
at all; in some boroughs it dominated the history of the town, while
in others it left but the bare echo of its name behind.[377] There may
possibly have been towns where at one time the Guild included within
its ranks the majority of the burghers, and perhaps mainly consisted of
craftsmen;[378] but there were evidently others where from the first
it formed a society far narrower and more restricted,[379] or where
it rapidly tended to become a limited body of wealthy citizens out
of whose midst the craft guilds cannot possibly have been developed;
while occasionally it may have happened that the craft guilds preceded
the Merchant Guild.[380] Even if the theory was ostensibly maintained
that craftsmen “were freely enrolled among the members of the Guild
Merchant”[381]—in practice “gifts and entrance fees of a collation, a
bull, beer, and wine” could effectually keep out the poorer sort, and
allow the association[382] to develope rapidly into an exclusive and
comparatively aristocratic society, which demanded from all save owners
of a house or burgage, or men entitled by direct descent to belong to
the fraternity, admission fees big enough to guarantee the new comer’s
fitness to be of their fine company. The two ranks established in the
Andover Guild[383] as early as the thirteenth century suggest how
privilege might creep in even among Guild members themselves; as the
merchants of Bristol teach us how it could be fought for;[384] and
there is no doubt that the policy of each separate fraternity must
have largely depended on whether it adopted the custom of having its
officers chosen by consent of the whole community of Guildsmen,[385]
or by a handful of electors of the superior class.[386] Even if a
considerable number of burghers was admitted to trading privileges, it
by no means follows that they were allowed any voice in the control of

Nor are we less in the dark as to that “natural process” by which the
Guild is believed to have passed to its resigned and painless end. The
“transference of authority from the ancient general Guild Merchant to a
number of distinct bodies and the consequent disintegration and decay
of the former,”[387] the weakening of its strength by the creation
of new crafts, the splitting up of its monopoly into fragments, the
annihilation of its original being to make place for “the aggregate of
the crafts,” the turning of the Guild into a “simple social-religious
fraternity”—a kind of quiet haven of rest for wealthy merchants who
had given up the sweets of power and the real government of trade in
which their fortunes were concerned, to busy themselves with dirges
and masses and chaplains, or even with a Corpus Christi procession—in
fact the whole “gradual and spontaneous” movement in which lay the
death of the primitive fraternity is still enveloped in mystery. If
craftsmen, associated in their own peculiar guilds, yet remained in
the common Guild Merchant[388] which had once made regulations for
their trade, and in many cases still did so,[389] the instances (apart
from cases where the Guild Merchant either was the municipal body,
or had simply handed over to it its name) are rare or perhaps unknown
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; nor can we easily follow
the far more complicated transformation said to have taken place when
the burgesses became the heirs of the general body of guildsmen,
by a double process which changed the idea of citizenship from the
conception of the freeman holding a burgage tenure into the later
idea of a man holding the right to exercise a trade, and which turned
the governors of the guild into the rulers of the town;[390] so that
by natural growth the fraternity of the Guild Merchant, once wholly
distinct from the borough, became identical with it.[391]

It is very possible—indeed it is very probable if we remember the
thrift of the English people in politics, their habit of fetching out
the old machinery whenever there seems a chance of making it useful;
their aversion to repairs or patches beyond what imperative necessity
demands; their indifference to new inventions if the old wheels and
cranks can still be induced to turn—that we may learn something of
the working of the original Guild Merchant by watching the doings of
its successors in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. For whether
the primitive Guild had ceased to exist or no, something going by its
name and clothed in its form confronts us constantly in the later
times, soberly masquerading in an ancient habit which seems scarcely
the worse for wear or out of fashion for all the lapse of centuries;
and figuring before us as a robust survival, as an old organization
fitted out afresh for a pressing emergency, or even as a new creation.
We may watch in Coventry such a Guild, which bears none of the signs
of decrepitude or symptoms of decay—a guild which was in no sense a
simple social-religious fraternity, nor yet an ordinary craft guild;
which was far from being an aggregate of the trades; which refused to
the lesser crafts the right to combine, and despotically governed their
business in its own interests; which was the municipal body of the
city and carried on its entire administration, but never gave its name
either to the community or to the governing body; anti-democratic in
its origin, in its maturity, and in its old age; jealous of dominion;
incapable of making terms from behind its barricaded doors with
dissolution. Late as was its date, it has features in its origin, its
constitution, and its policy far too like those of much earlier guilds,
not to claim our interest.[392]

Born two or three hundred years out of due time (for it was not till
Queen Isabella became owner of part of Coventry and interested in
defending her tenants’ rights against the Prior, that the city was
able to obtain the grant of a Gilda Mercatoria), it was only in 1340
that the Merchant Guild of S. Mary’s was founded[393]—an association
apparently of dealers in cloth, wool, and general merchandise.[394]
Even then it failed to secure license to mortmain, perhaps through the
resistance of the Prior, the lord of the soil; but it is possible that
the charter of incorporation for the town, granted in 1344, was bought
by the Guild, and at least as early as 1347 and 1350 two of its masters
were mayors; while the Town Hall, where the mayor and council met and
where the chest containing the town treasure and the charter were kept,
always bore the name of S. Mary’s Guild.

In the meantime two other societies had sprung up—the guild of S.
John Baptist[395] in 1342, and the guild of S. Catherine in 1343—and
the three companies of S. Mary, S. John, and S. Catherine united into
one body between 1364 and 1369; and finally joined themselves to the
Trinity Guild, which had received license to mortmain in 1364, and gave
its name to the whole association.[396] Considerable property was
handed over in trust for the combined societies to six of the chief
citizens of the town, most of whom had been mayors several times, and
one of whom had been founder of S. John’s Guild. From this time the
history of the municipality is the history of its leading guilds; and
the further step taken in 1392, when the four guilds were more formally
united by a patent of incorporation, and when fresh donations of land
were given to the whole body, was only a fortifying of the position
which it already held.

Though the name of the Merchant Guild was sacrificed, doubtless for
some sufficient reason, the Trinity Guild was nothing more than an
extension of the primitive association under a new title. The founders
and donors and the early mayors are usually classed together as
“mercatores” in the deeds, and the union seems to have represented the
wealthy upper class (drapers and mercers for the most part, with a few
leading members of other trades),[397] living in S. Michael’s parish,
of which Queen Isabella and her successors were the owners. Only one
other society was allowed to exist alongside of it,—the fraternity
of rich traders in Trinity parish (the Prior’s half of the town), who
were in 1348 licensed to form the Corpus Christi Guild. Drawn from the
same rank, sharing the same interests, they cast in their lot with the
merchants of the neighbouring parish, contributed to the general town
expenses, and were admitted to a corresponding degree of influence in
the municipal government.[398]

For the Trinity and Corpus Christi Guilds were in fact the governing
body of the town. According to the general custom the Master of the
Corpus Christi Guild was made Mayor in the second year after his laying
down that post, and two years after his mayoralty he was set at the
head of the Trinity Guild.[399] All important town officials were
sworn members of both the great companies; so were the Leet Jury and
the Twenty-four who elected the mayor (these two bodies consisting of
almost the same individuals); and so were all the men who might be
summoned on the Mayor’s Council to aid the Twenty-four. By this simple
device, the fear of an alien party being formed in the Council was once
for all banished; for if the Corpus Christi Guild held its elections
in the Bishop’s palace[400] and had its centre in Trinity Church on
the Prior’s land,—if its members included the Prior and his bailiff,
the vicar, and strangers, some of them of great estate, from near and
far[401]—all dangerous elements were made harmless by the order that
none of its members should meddle with town affairs unless he had been
first approved and accepted by the Trinity Guild. The Corpus Christi
fraternity in fact was admitted to its position by a sort of cautious
sufferance, and all real power lay with the Guild of the Trinity. Its
master was a Justice of the Peace, and therefore took a leading part
in all the most important business of the courts; he was first on the
list of the Twenty-four who elected the mayor and who also sat at
the Leet Court. Invariably he was one of the five men chosen by the
mayor to keep the keys of the common chest—being, in fact, in matters
of finance supreme; for at the end of the mayor’s year of office it
was to the master that he delivered up his accounts and his balance
“and is quit”; and the Guild was not only charged with the payment of
salaries to public officials—the recorder, the grammar-school master,
the priests in the Lady Chapel of S. Michael’s, and the warden and
priests at Bablake—but as early as 1384 it was ordered by the Leet to
pay yearly the ferm to the Prior, in return for which a certain part
of the common lands was made over into its possession. The keeping of
Bablake Gate was committed to it; and it was given possession of the
Drapery Hall, which was used as the cloth mart under the control of the

But this great society, known on the one side as the Trinity Guild,
on the other as the Town Corporation, owed in neither aspect anything
whatever to popular election,[403] and made no pretence at government
according to the will of the people.[404] From the very moment of the
first union of the fraternities the story of revolt among the 7,000
workers who thronged the streets of Coventry begins, and is repeated
from generation to generation for the next hundred and fifty years.
Incessant riots declared the discontent of the commons at the light
loaves sold under mayors who neglected to keep the assize of bread,
at false measures allowed for selling corn, at the encroachments on
common lands by chamberlains and councillors, at the government of
trade by the drapers and mercers enrolled in the two great guilds
of the city, while weavers, shearmen, fullers, and tailors, lying
for the most part outside these guilds, had little hope of ever
rising to municipal power.[405] The crafts, in fact, were kept in
uncompromising subjection. When the fullers and tailors tried to set up
a fraternity,[406] the ruling guilds obtained a charter in 1407 which
forbade the creation of any other society than their own. They had this
grant confirmed in 1414; and the next year they appealed to Parliament
against the dyers[407] who endeavoured to form a confederation of
cloth-makers and wool-sellers. S. George’s Guild—a union of the
“young men, serving men of the tailors and other artificers, and
labourers working by the day called journeymen,” who defiantly gathered
in S. George’s Chapel and elected “masters and clerks and other
officials to fulfil their youthful and insolent desires,” and “abet
each other in their quarrels”—was put down because it was “to the
ruin and destruction of the Guilds of Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi
and disturbance of all the community.”[408] Though the fullers and
tailors once more obtained license in 1438 to hold property, their
union was broken up in the next ten years;[409] and the persistence
of the dyers in clinging to their illegal combinations was opposed
in 1475 by an ordinance that unlawful writings and oaths made by
dyers and other crafts were to be “void, quashed, and annulled,”
and members of the craft should not be sued for not observing these
illegal ordinances.[410] Circuitous attempts to win independence by
informally setting up voluntary tribunals where the members of the
trade assembled to settle disputes, were met by the order that no
masters of crafts should sue any of their craft in any kind of suit
in special courts until the mayor have heard the matter and licensed
the suit; on the plea that “discord falls out continually because
masters of crafts sue in special courts divers people of their crafts,
affirming they have broken their oaths made in breaking divers rules,
which rules are ofttimes unreasonable, and the punishment of the said
masters excessive, which, if it continue, by likelihood will cause
much people to void out of this city.”[411] With regard to customs on
wool, or the conditions of sale for the coarse cloth of the people, or
the regulations for apprentices, the merchants passed laws which drove
the commons to impotent fury;[412] and the wild dreams of revolution
that passed from street to street for the century after John Ball found
his hiding-place in the lanes of Coventry, are told in the rhymes
nailed by the people on the church door side by side with the official
announcements, where we hear their passionate outcry for the freedom
of the good old days of Godiva, and threats of a time when the “littel
small been” and “wappys” should “also sting”;[413] or in the teaching
of the leader of the populace that the city would have no peace till
three or four of the churls that ruled them had their heads stricken

But if the Trinity Guild was in this complete sense the governing body
of the town—if its legislation was at once so characteristic and so
irresistible—by what strange access of modesty was it restrained from
taking to itself the glory, and letting its name blot out all others
on the city roll?[414] Such renunciation, we can scarcely doubt,
whether in Coventry or in other places where the problem presents
itself, was more likely to spring from the “grace of guile” than
from modesty. From the point of view of worldly wisdom, indeed, the
arguments for a diplomatic self-effacement were overwhelming; for
it was easy to discern the dangers to its hoarded treasure which a
guild must incur from the moment when in the eyes of the law or of
its officers it became confounded with the municipality. Safety lay
in silence, and if the name of the guild lingered in the Guildhall,
it did not pass the precincts; while by a wise precaution the actual
mayor of the borough was never allowed to be the same person as the
actual master of the guild,[415] lest the higher authorities should in
some emergency make an easy confusion between the keys with which he
opened the treasure-box of the community, and those which unlocked the
coffers of the guild.[416] If there were any doubt before 1392[417]
about the meaning of thus carefully preserving the double aspect of
the fraternity, there seems but little after it. For in that year when
the Coventry Guild got its new formal patent and its increased income,
it was only following a somewhat common fashion of the day.[418] In
1392 the bailiffs and commonalty of Birmingham obtained leave to have
their Guild of the Holy Cross—“a guild and brotherhood of bretheren
and sisteren among themselves in that town ... and men and women
well disposed in other towns and in the neighbourhood”—which might
hold lands in mortmain, and which was intimately connected with the
governing body of the town. The Town Hall or Guild Hall was built by
it, and charities were distributed “according to the ordering and will
of the bailiffs and commonalty”; and it “kept in good reparacioune two
great stone bridges and divers foul and dangerous highways, the charge
whereof the town of itself is not able to maintain.”[419] In the same
year, 1392, “the seneschalls of the Guild Merchant of Bridgewater and
of the community of the same town” obtained a grant to assign certain
lands in mortmain,[420] and an indenture which probably belongs to the
beginning of the reign of Edward the First[421] proves that there was a
close relation of this guild on one side to the fraternity of S. Mary
or of the Holy Cross, and on the other to the corporation of the town.
The brotherhood of the Holy Cross at Abingdon, which was established
under Richard the Second, seems to have been practically the governing
body of the borough, owned most of the landed property in the town in
the fifteenth century, and spent money liberally in the building of
churches and the market cross.[422]

Such guilds as these seem to have been the quick retort of the towns
to the Act of 1391, which for the first time extended to cities and
boroughs the Statute of Mortmain passed in 1279, and placed them
in a position where they could thenceforth boast of no advantage
over religious corporations, and like them had to buy leave to hold
property. But it seemed beyond the wit of man to put English traders
into a difficulty which was not by their very touch turned into a new
opportunity for gain. If right to hold corporate property must now be
bought, whatever claimant appeared, then why should it not be bought
by a private society of merchants, sheltered under the Holy Cross or
the Trinity, rather than by the town community or the burgesses? On
the one hand the leading citizens, the intelligent and prosperous
men of the town, thus secured an indestructible claim to guide its
fortunes aright; on the other hand the town funds were by the same
measure garnered once for all in a safe hiding-place—in other words,
if troublesome officers from the exchequer should come with demands
for inconvenient rent or forfeitures, they were met by the fact that
the men of the town _had_ nothing, while the men of the guild _owed_
nothing. The system seems to have worked as effectively as the British
constitution itself. We know that the Coventry Guild, besides the
property it already held, had taken over yet more at its incorporation
in 1392. But in 1468, Coventry being then the fourth city in the
kingdom, it was £800 in arrears for its ferm; and since the goods of
“the mayor and men of Coventry” only amounted to 106_s._, and since the
said “mayor and men” had no other goods or lands within the bailiwick
that could be taken into the king’s hands, no further payment was then
made.[423] If we remember the wealth of the Trinity and Corpus Christi
Guilds, the fact that they probably held the main portion of the common
property,[424] and their close connexion with the city government,[425]
it is plain that the town was doing very good business in withdrawing
its funds from the reach of the king’s officers; and that the traders
had adequately realized their purpose in setting up in their Townhall
one of those familiar companies which was admitted at home to be in
effect the corporation, but which was officially known at Westminster
only as a “simple” social-religious fraternity that yearly carried S.
George and his Dragon or some other poetic emblem through the streets
with solemn festival, or kept great tendrilles of wax burning before
the Holy Cross in the parish church.

That the Trinity society of Coventry was not the last of these astute
fraternities of traders we know;[426] that it was not the first we
may safely believe. Indeed, it might well have been modelled on the
fraternity of the Trinity at Lynn[427]—an older company by a hundred
and fifty years, whose members would at no time have found any trouble
in discussing the secrets of their policy with the merchants of
Coventry. It may be that the texture of society was never so simple
or so uniform as historians have believed, that the humble mediæval
merchant loomed big in the eyes of his yet humbler fellow-citizens,
and that in many a trading town the Guild Merchant was the monument
of the successful capitalists of the village, and of a triumph so
complete that the petty details of its progress fell out of memory.
How many typical forms the early guild may have taken from town to
town, as it squeezed its way with or without a welcome into communities
of every shape and consistence, we have not yet materials to say;
nor do we yet know by what varieties of compact it may have become
the indispensable minister or the master of the municipal authority;
or what was its common relation to the lesser forms of trade. It is
indeed conceivable that later research may show us that in many cases
the subjection of the crafts to the town—a subjection so astonishing
in the silence, the calm, the rapidity with which it is affected—was
carried out by the indissoluble union of guild and corporation.
Organized in days when the way to wealth lay in the buying and selling
of raw material, and in consequence by its constitution destitute of
powers to follow the artizan into his workroom and meddle with his
tools and the stuff of his trade, the Guild Merchant must very early
have seen its officers falling behind the officers of the town before
whom all bars and doors were thrown open; but if, suiting their policy
to the necessities of the situation, seneschals and scavins of the
Guild preserved their power by becoming bailiffs and councillors of
the borough, not by laying down their authority before the wardens of
the cobblers or the tailors, or even by taking them into its councils;
such a guild might make its end neither by resigning to the crafts its
cherished prerogatives nor by a spontaneous death, but by a consecrated
alliance, in which it only seemed to merge its identity in the borough
corporation, while in reality it secured the preservation of its
ancient name and guaranteed the traditions and authority of its order.
As in Coventry, the force which had first served to overthrow the
mastery of the lord of the soil might be employed later to enforce its
own despotism over a subject people; and the question whether it used
an old or a new name was a matter of little consequence to the inferior
and dependent class. In either case the control of the town rested
in the hands of an oligarchy of the richer sort of traders, who by
combination were able to exact from the mass of the working people an
unlimited submission, and practically held at their mercy the fortunes
of the free commons of the city.


 The satisfactory working of the system may be inferred from its
 continued use in the next century. Plymouth may serve as an
 illustration. Among the three little fishing hamlets, the Augustinian
 Priors’ Sutton or South Town at the mouth of the Plym, and two King’s
 Suttons which had been granted out to noble families, the first
 stirrings of independent life seem to have begun about 1282, when the
 Sutton people, wanting to be free burgesses and to have their fair
 and market, begged for a piece of waste ground near the port, five
 perches long and one broad, and a piece of land “in the withdrawal of
 the sea” six acres big, where the King’s bailiff held his court in
 a certain house, and where every fishing boat coming to dry nets or
 sails paid toll to the King. They set up a stone cross and a stall
 for their market; in 1311 they made a final agreement with the Prior,
 and then or very soon after began yearly to elect a “Præpositus, or
 Custos Ville de Sutton Priors, which did then rule and govern under
 the King.” (In the time of Edward the Third he was called mayor;
 Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 274-5, 279, see also 297.) In 1411 the townsmen
 petition that they may yearly elect a mayor and be incorporated so as
 to be able to buy tenements without royal license (Gross, i. 94); but
 apparently it was not till 1440 that they really gained their wish by
 the efforts of a rich merchant of Bristol, Richard Trenode, who traded
 with Plymouth, and of his sister Thomasine, widow of a Plymouth
 citizen; who at great cost and labour won for the group of hamlets
 their final union into the free borough of Plymouth “with one Mayor
 and one perpetual Commonalty”; for which the town in gratitude bound
 itself in a sum of £200 to maintain a chaplain in the parish church of
 S. Andrew to pray daily for their souls.

 The important point is, however, that it was in this year, 1440,
 that the Plymouth Guild Merchant was either first established, or
 formally confirmed and given a definite position. (Gross, i. 15.) On
 one side a religious guild, on the other it was the governing body
 of the town, very jealous of its monopoly of power, as we see from
 the order of 1472, that every man made a freeman should be either a
 whole or a half-brother in Our Lady and S. George’s Guild, a whole
 brother paying 12_d._ yearly, and a half-brother 6_d._; and that if
 any of the commons was made one of the Twenty-four he must pay 8_d._
 yearly to the Guild, while if one of the Twenty-four was made one
 of the Twelve he must pay 1_s._ (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 272.) Like the
 Guild at Coventry of a century earlier the fraternity seems to have
 been at first an organization of the more enterprising inhabitants
 to secure the liberties promised by charter, to make a stand against
 any aggressions of the Earl of Devon, and to rid themselves of some
 of their obligations to the Prior, on the plea of a convenient
 poverty, and a subtle appeal to the new King Edward the Fourth to
 revise arrangements made by Henry the Sixth “late in deed and not of
 right King of England.” (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 272.) The ancient Guild
 of Totnes, known as the “Guild of the Commonalty” as late as 1333,
 survived in full power in 1449, when it was ordered that no one shall
 carry the mace before the mayor save a member of the Merchant Guild
 (Hist. MSS. Com. iii. 344-5).



ACCORDING to a theory which is commonly accepted the English borough
in its first condition, and probably during a considerable part of the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, did actually realize the ideal of
a true democratic society; the spirit of popular liberty penetrated
the whole community, pervading the council and assembly of the town,
the leet court, the guild merchant, the companies of artizans; and
under the favouring influences of equality and fraternity government
was guided by common consent of the burgesses, by whom elections
were conducted and administration controlled. Elsewhere it is known
that the early communes, however strong their protest against the
tyranny of alien despots, were within their own circle far from
democratic in temper or practice; but it has been believed that in
England, possibly by virtue of her people’s passionate instinct for
liberty, town societies wore a more popular character and expressed
a loftier freedom. If this theory be exact, however, the reign of
the democracy was brief, and the later history of the towns from
the fourteenth century onwards is the tale of a swift decline from
the enjoyment of primitive liberty into impotent subjection to the
rule of a narrow and selfish oligarchy, the usurpers of the people’s
rights.[428] The hypothesis of a constant degradation of municipal
liberty from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries becomes invested
with extraordinary interest, since all our judgments of the part that
England has played in the history of free government must be coloured
and determined by the ideas we accept as to the kind of civil freedom
in which her people have really believed, the classes who have held
to that faith, and the means by which they have pursued it. In the
absence of some strong compulsion, forcing men to yield obedience to
a “select” body, we question what outward influences or what inward
apathy could have led the boroughs, at the moment when wealth and
prosperity crowned their vast activity, thus unanimously to betray the
privileges of their constitution and to deny their early faith; for in
view of the whole drift of English history, and remembering how great a
part the men of the towns played at this time in English life, it may
well seem inconceivable that the mental and political emancipation of
the sixteenth century should have been attained by a people who in the
conduct of their own local affairs had already universally abandoned a
noble tradition of ancient rights and idly consented to the tyranny of
a mere plutocracy.

To find an example of the primitive form of municipal institutions,
and how they were at the outset understood by the people, we naturally
turn to the well-known story of Ipswich. On June 29, 1200, “the whole
community of the borough” elected the two bailiffs by whom it was to be
governed, and four coroners, whose business it was to keep the pleas
of the crown and see that the bailiffs treat rich and poor justly;
and on the same day by common counsel of the town it was ordered that
there should be “twelve sworn capital portmen, just as there are in
other boroughs in England, who are to have full power to govern and
uphold the said borough with all its liberties, to render the judgments
of the town, and to ordain and do all things necessary for the
maintenance of its honour.” From this moment “the community” as it were
unclothed itself of power to lay it on the shoulders of the bailiffs
and coroners, who thereupon proceeded to act with all the authority
with which they had been endued. They first appointed four approved
and lawful men of each parish, who in their turn elected the twelve
portmen. This being done, bailiffs, coroners, and portmen met—a little
company of twelve, since bailiffs and coroners had all been appointed
capital portmen too—to make ordinances about the collection of customs
and the police officers by whom their decrees were to be carried out.
In due time the whole community was called together to give their
assent and consent to these ordinances; and they once more assembled
to bestow a portion of their common land on the portmen in return for
their labour in the common service, and to agree that all the laws and
free customs of the town should be entered in a doomsday roll to be
kept by the bailiffs.[429]

Here then we have the simplest form of early government—a council of
twelve “worthy and sufficient men” to assist the mayor or bailiffs in
the administration of the town, controlled by a _referendum_ to the
general body of burghers. The doors of the common house or the church
where the councillors met stood open to all the freemen of the borough
who might attend to hear discussions, even in cases where they were
not allowed to join in them.[430] And in the original idea of the free
borough every public act was legally supposed to require the whole
consent of the community from which theoretically at least all power
was ultimately derived; so that whether a new distribution of the
common fields was made, or soldiers were called out and a settlement
agreed upon as to their payment, or guns bought or hired for the common
house or the church tower; whether an inquiry was ordained about the
“livelihood” of the inhabitants and the taxes to be imposed on them,
or a new law proposed, or new freemen admitted to the city liberties,
or municipal officers elected, it was officially assumed that the
unanimous assent of the whole people had been given in their common

The privileges of the common assembly are perhaps best defined in the
customs of Hereford, drawn up in 1383, but which doubtless embody
customs of older times. There we learn that at the great meetings held
at Michaelmas and Easter, to which the whole people were gathered for
view of frankpledge (in other words at the court leet), “the pleas of
the court being finished, the bailiff and steward, on the behalf of
our lord the king and the commonalty, may command that all those which
are not of the liberty should go out of the house and depart from the
court; and then the bailiff and steward may take notice if there are
any secrets or business which may concern the state of the city or
the citizens thereof, and let them proceed therein as they ought to
do.”[431] To these assemblies, according to the custom of Hereford,
the people ought to come, and if there was anyone “which will complain
of any trespasses committed, or any other thing touching the state of
the city or themselves, they ought to speak the truth upon their own
peril, not bringing with them any stranger ... because we do not use
that strangers shall come and implead amongst us and know the secrets
of the court for divers dangers that thereby may ensue.”[432] In case
of necessity the bailiff “by all kinds of rigour” might compel the
discreeter citizens to come to the court and take their due part in its
labours; and in Sandwich we know that if the burgesses summoned by
bell or horn failed to appear, the “rigour” of the mayor might go as
far as the sending of a serjeant to shut up all shops and work-rooms in
the town, and thus compel the burghers’ attention to public instead of
private business.

In the general assembly there was always present the most conspicuous,
if the most unwieldy, symbol of the authority of the people, and
of the supreme power which was theirs, not only by law, but by an
ancient customary right which to the last remained independent of
statute or charter. It is true that the common gathering of the
people—without executive authority, without power to initiate laws,
called together merely to give or refuse assent to the deeds of the
government—would in itself have given the democracy very little
hold on the town magistrates in the exercise of their office. The
theory of the constitution, however, was that those who were mainly
charged with making and administering the laws should be yearly chosen
for their work by the people whom they were called to govern. The
mayor who stood at the head of the administration was, according to
the common formula which pointed back to the fundamental right and
first intention of the institution, elected “by assent and consent
of the whole community of the town,” and “in the place from of old
accustomed;”[433] and as each community was allowed to decide for
itself how this “assent and consent” should be ascertained, there were
perhaps towns where the practice followed the theory. Thus in Sandwich
the unanimous consent of the whole town was given by public vote in
a general assembly. On the first Monday in December at one o’clock of
the day, the town serjeant sounded the common horn, and made his cry
at the fourteen accustomed places, “Every man of twelve years or more
go to St. Clement’s Church; there our commonalty hath need. Haste,
haste!”; and when the people had gathered in the church, having first
ordered the mayor to withdraw, they named him and three other natives
of the town to be “put in election,” one of whom was then appointed by
the whole assembly voting after their degree, jurats first and freemen

This practice was no doubt rare, but the theory that the mayor was
the elected servant of the whole people, enshrined in the town book
of customs, in ordinance and statute, never died out of the common
speech and belief of the people. “We must obey our chief bailiff as
one presenting the person of the king,” the burghers of Hereford
say deferentially, and proceed to make him swear on assuming office
“that he shall do all things belonging to his office by the counsel
of his faithful citizens”; and to order that if he refused to answer
complaints he should be proceeded against as for perjury; that if
his accounts were not faithfully rendered all his goods should be
seized; and that if “he shall be dishonest or proclaimed or suspected
or convicted of any crime, he shall forthwith be put out of his
place.”[435] And as the mayor was the people’s servant, so in theory
at least his election was supposed to be of their pure free-will. “From
this time forth,” say the inhabitants of Wycombe in 1505, “no burgess
nor foreigner make no labour, nor desire no man to speak before the day
of election of the mayor for no singular desire, but every man to show
their voices at their own mind, without trouble or unreasonable doing
there in the time of their election.”[436]

The chosen head of the people was thus to the popular sentiment the
type and symbol of their freedom, and a Bristol chronicler tells us
how, the mayor being accused by an enemy of the king’s household, the
townspeople followed after him as he was led to prison, lamenting and
weeping “as sons for their natural father.”[437] He was assisted by
councillors also chosen to uphold the liberties of the borough; and the
frequent use of elected juries in public business served still further
to maintain the ancient tradition of rights vested in the people. In
the manor courts of the country the jury made its way slowly and with
difficulty, but in the town courts it seems to have taken complete hold
very early, and to have been worked constantly and elaborately.[438]
The system was applied to all manner of local business. Not only did
the Leet jury in some towns, as in Nottingham and Andover, occupy
itself with a vast range of affairs connected with government and
legislation; but it was a universal custom to appoint representatives
of the community for any special purpose. Everywhere we have glimpses
of bodies of jurors chosen to elect officers, to assess taxes, to make
statements as to a broken bridge, to hold discussions about tallages or
about disputed boundaries[439]—transient apparitions supposed, when
their work is done, to dissolve into their constituent householders,
and which appear and vanish again as the centuries pass, till the
burghers, recognizing in them an admirable machinery for larger uses,
fix or seek to fix them into permanent existence as town councils. To a
people inheriting the high and inalienable prerogatives of a chartered
borough, with the right of free meeting and free speech in their
general assembly, presided over by a “natural father” of their own
choosing, the jury system might seem to afford the final safeguard of

Such was the ideal of a self-governing community in early times—an
ideal to which in later ages men looked back wistfully, as summing up
the faith and practice of a golden age. Whenever the mayor was summoned
to take his oath to the people on “the Black Book” of the city,
instead of the Gospels;[440] whenever according to custom the ancient
ordinances of the town were yearly read before the people gathered
together, the ideal of a noble liberty was proclaimed anew. The boast
that the borough’s rights were founded and grounded upon franchises,
liberties, and free ancient customs, and not upon common law,[441]
remained a living faith; and a tradition of independence sanctioned and
enjoined by authority was handed down from generation to generation, by
men who believed themselves born into a birthright of freedom for which
they need plead neither the law of nature nor the law of Rome,[442]
since it was the honest handicraft of English kings and English
lawyers, and paid for in hard cash out of their own grandfathers’

But behind law and charter there lay always the great appeal to
immemorial custom. In that dim time of which no memory is, a power
yet more venerable and imposing than law itself had been the keeper
of popular liberties; and to the last we may perhaps trace the
obscure record of a double origin of rights in the two words by
which the borough expressed its corporate existence—the “Citizens”
or “Burgesses,” and the “Commonalty” or “Community.” By the common
explanation of these terms they are supposed originally to have borne
exactly the same meaning, and alike served to express the general body
of freemen in the borough; but presently to have diverged in sense as
the more important “citizens” gradually absorbed the management of
public business, and appropriated to themselves the name of honour,
while the lower classes were massed together as “the communitas,” so
that this word at last came to be little more than a contemptuous
nick-name given to the mob in the later days of oligarchic rule. In
the town records, however, we find these two words used from first to
last in a precise and formal manner which is most characteristic of the
Middle Ages; each one having its own character and meaning, and neither
of them invading the place of the other. As far back as the thirteenth
century “the Burgesses” already appear as distinct from the commons at
large, and use their title with an official and technical significance
attached to the phraze which gives it a special value.[443] The use
of the word in charters and deeds seems then to denote the corporate
body of citizens who had been legally endowed with certain privileges,
whose association had been created by charter and was dissolved if the
borough lost its franchise; and who in a vast mass of business, and
especially in relations of the borough to the crown, were represented
by the official body of the town which acted in their name, and
especially assumed the title of “the Burgesses.”

But behind this corporate body lies the “communitas”—a term which has
a far earlier origin and a far deeper meaning. Whatever may be the base
use of the word which has crept into chronicles and common talk, in
municipal deeds and ordinances it is a name of dignity and honour—an
ancient title of nobility. It carries the mind far back to the
primitive society of householders in the ville, bound by mutual ties
and protected by customary rights, which had preceded the free borough,
and by its discipline had created the advanced type of commonwealth
which is discovered to us in Ipswich at the inauguration of its new
career as a chartered town. We feel the story of new beginnings such
as this to be the consummation of a long history; and even under the
corporate life of the citizens recognized by law we may sometimes
detect the persistent survival of the ancient community, which still
emerges in the half light with its consecrated title, and the remnants
of its old functions ever clinging to its shadowy form. For it seems
that in municipal records the “community” or “commune” possibly appears
as something which existed before the corporation in time,[444]
which might have its common seal separate from the mayor’s seal,[445]
which held property and exercised certain powers, and independent as
it was of all charters, survived all loss of franchises conferred by
royal grant alone. We seem to find it asserting its existence when the
borough had been dismembered, and there was no longer any place for
“the citizens.” It sends its appeals to the King over the heads of the
official caste; when an intermunicipal treaty has to be drawn up the
“communitas” usually appears as the contracting body, whose members
are bound together in mutual responsibility; it claimed to hold common
property of the borough under its own name and apparently by some other
title than the burgesses; and by its very existence it maintained to
the last the tradition of an ancient free community reaching back to
a time of which no memory was, and endowed with prerogatives on which
neither mayor nor council dared to lay their hands.

The privileges of the early community were no doubt quickly merged in
the more liberal rights which were made sure to the borough by its
charter; but there was one department, the management of their common
lands, in which the existence of a separate power seems to exhibit
itself beyond all doubt.[446] Never did the commonalty abandon their
right of control over the public estate. The division of strips of
arable ground, the apportionment of pastures and closes, the letting
of stalls or fields, the gathering in of rents for burgages or common
property let on lease, these were things done by the act and in
the name of the whole community, without any mention of “council”
or “citizens”; and in one borough after another any tampering with
the public estate by the governing class drove the whole body of
inhabitants into the streets threatening revolution. In their claim to
“have knowledge from year to year how the common ground is occupied
and by whom, and if that it be not rented the commons to seize it
into their hands, to that end that they may be remembered of their
right, and to have profit and avail thereof” ... and “to know verily
what their rent cometh to,”[447] the freemen of the fifteenth century
carried on a tradition known in the boroughs two hundred years before,
and in many instances their tenacious grip on the town lands was
evidently one of the most important factors in the shaping of town

From the very beginning of municipal records, therefore, we find the
town living as it were a double life—the one buttressed on either
side by law and charter—the other sending roots deep down into the
past, and drawing from primitive custom and tradition a sustenance
which “Westminster law”[449] could neither give nor take away; the one
regularly expressed in the stately proceedings of “the Citizens”—the
other finding a fitful and incoherent, but no less distinctive
utterance in the doings of “the commonalty;” and the two, intimately
allied and constantly hostile, persisting side by side through
centuries of strained but honourable union. With these immemorial
traditions of franchises, liberties, and free ancient customs, it
followed that when burghers set up any plea for liberties old or new
they imported no revolutionary note into their demands. It is hard
to tell from what source they drew their faith in a freedom which
they confessed to have been lost, which indeed neither they nor their
fathers had known; but it seems that the conviction never failed of an
ancient type and pattern of liberty which had been proved once for all
by remote ancestors of the heroic age. Townsmen professed to claim
nothing more than such privileges as were “according to our Red Book
as we do think”; or that had been bestowed by a charter of the House
of Alfred which had once compassed them about with liberty, though it
was now, alas, _casualiter amissa_; or that dated back to the time when
the grace of the Lady Godiva had broken the bonds of slavery. Just
as Englishmen under the rule of the foreign kings looked back with
desire to the good laws of the Confessor, so the burghers had their
fiction, too, of the joy of their first estate as by law established,
and turned over the rolls of their treasure chest and bought copies of
Magna Charta, to discover anew the light of privilege that had once
irradiated the whole commonalty. We have seen in the case of Exeter
how this essential faith of the people survived, as it had preceded,
their study of historical documents. As the spirit of independence and
discussion awoke, the conflict that was presently to be waged in the
domain of religion was oddly foreshadowed in the realm of municipal
politics; when the common folk demanded that they should be allowed to
return to the written law in its primitive and unadulterated purity;
while the guardians of established order, aldermen and councillors
and great people of “the clothing,”—resting on the theory of a
living tradition and its secular “developement,”—appealed with no
less confidence and insistence to the majesty of law as it appeared
when interpreted by the custom of generations and expounded by the
scarlet-robed officials who surrounded the mayor.


 Mr. Maitland (Law Quarterly, January, 1893) gives a most interesting
 account of the customs of holding and dividing lands in various
 boroughs. On the whole he doubts whether the holding of land by
 burgesses subject to communal regulations is generally a very ancient
 arrangement. There seems, however, to be evidence for the antiquity
 of the holding of common property by the community; and it may be
 possible further to discover the existence of a permanent distinction
 between the property thus held by the community for the common use,
 and that held by the corporation for certain special purposes, such as
 payment of ferm, taxes, public servants, and the like—a distinction
 which rests on the different function which I have suggested in the
 case of those bodies.

 The community of Ipswich apparently possessed land before 1200.
 (Gross, ii. 122, cap. xviii. 115.) For its common lands see also
 Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 234-7, 246. Lands were held by Wycombe (Ibid. v.
 556-7). In Morpeth the “burgesses and community” make grants of land
 in the thirteenth century. (Ibid. vi. 527.) Andover in 1314 owned land
 managed by the community. (Gross, ii. 307, 326, 330.) Oxford (Boase,
 47) and Chester might also be cited. Also Hythe (Hist. MSS. Com. iv.
 i. 432, 433), and Worcester (English Guilds, 386) and Preston (Preston
 Guild Records, xxiv.). The Nottingham Records mention the “land of the
 community” (ii. 269. See also 304-6). A grant of six acres of mosses
 was given to Liverpool in 1309 (Picton’s Municipal Records, i. 8, 12.
 For the results of holding this property see 11). Birmingham held land
 and rights of common (Survey of the Borough and Manor, xiv. 74, 102).

 Romney held the Salt Marsh, the Gorse, the Horseho, and the Harpe
 pastures, the old bed of the Rother, the forelands and saltpits and
 warrens and gardens and marshlands, “the land of the commonalty”
 (Hist. MSS. Com. v. 536, 537, 539, 540-3).

 Lydd (Ibid. v. 525, 531-2) seems to have held marshland common on the
 Ripe for at least four hundred sheep, and the boroughs of Dengemarsh
 and Orwellstow. Its ownership of the shore as against the claims of
 the crown was proved in the time of Elizabeth by evidence from “the
 face and vieu of the antienty of the town and church, and buryall
 of men cross-legged and such like monuments.” A seal given to the
 community by the archbishop at the beginning of their incorporation
 “long before the Conquest,” as rumour said, was used (as distinguished
 from the bailiff’s seal) as late as Elizabeth’s time for the selling
 or letting of lands by the town. (Ibid. v. 530-2.) The cases of Lydd
 and Morpeth illustrate the way in which the lord of a borough granted
 it the possession of land along with grants of local government and

 Colchester had 500 acres of Lammas lands besides Mile End Heath, etc.
 (Cutts’ Colchester, 142-4); and meadow still divided by boundary
 stones into strips. (Ibid. 67-8. See also for 1322 p. 142.)

 Coventry owned common lands in the fourteenth century, of which there
 is no suggestion that they were newly acquired, and which belonged to
 the community and not to the corporation, and were distinct from lands
 or property acquired under the statute of mortmain and used for the
 payment of town officers, etc.

 There were boroughs whose disputes about their property dated from the
 very beginning of their corporate existence. Southampton was already
 quarrelling about its common in the thirteenth century; and the
 Norwich citizens were engaged in a lawsuit in 1205 as to their rights
 of pasture on land for which rent was due to the Prior, but which the
 Prior could not legally either enclose or cultivate without a grant
 from the city. (Norwich Town Close Evidences, 4, 5. For the common
 lands see ibid. pp. 52-64.)

 In some instances the burghers apparently did not profess to own the
 soil but only to hold an exclusive right to its use; and the furious
 excitement of the Norwich citizens (see p. 392) about a tribute of
 4_s._ yearly to the Prior for a certain meadow proves how very thin
 the boundary line between possession and use might become.

 The main evidence as to the possession of lands lies in the town
 archives and not in public records. It is a question for lawyers why
 disputes concerning them apparently were not brought before the judges
 of the King’s Bench, but seem to have been settled at home by fighting
 or by arbitration. Possibly because the “communitas” had no power to
 sue in the law courts as a legal person. In any case it must have had
 all kinds of dangers to fear—the danger of having local customary law
 overridden by Westminster law, the danger of advertising the amount
 of their possessions, and a danger which is constantly present in
 town records, of encroachments under one pretence or another by the
 corporation or members of it, and the fear of which, in days when
 “the law is ended as a man is friended,” would give reason enough for
 keeping out of the courts.



IT is evident that if the towns had been called on for a confession of
faith, the declaration of a pure and unadulterated freedom would have
been in every mouth. There remains the question of how far it was found
possible to carry that faith into the common practice of daily life.

We have seen how freedom was enthroned at Ipswich before the whole
community of townsmen, who with outstretched hands and loud unanimous
voice swore before heaven to maintain the liberties of the new
republic. If, however, we glance again at Ipswich when it next
comes clearly into view, a century after it had obtained its grant
of privileges, there is very little trace of a golden age save for
publicans and portmen. For in 1321 we find a narrow official class
in the noontide of their power. Since there was no fixed day for
elections they had been used by “lordly usurpation and private covin”
to make bailiffs at their own pleasure secretly without consent of
the people; they grievously taxed and amerced the commons for their
own private purposes; they used the common seal without the common
consent to the great burden and damage of the commonalty; and made new
burgesses at their own pleasure without the public knowledge, so as to
divide the entrance money among themselves; and by a regular system of
forestalling and secret sale, merchants and inn-keepers had combined
to rob the commons of their right to free and equal trade.[450]
Against these abuses the burgesses sought to repeat and reinforce
the ordinances of the town, but it may well be doubted whether the
customary defiance of the laws of 1200 was likely to be corrected by
the mere re-enactment or amendment of rules in the book of ordinances.

For it was not in Ipswich alone that the commonalty were held at the
mercy of a handful of men in power, without hope of redress through
their assemblies or constitutional methods at home. In 1304 justices
were sent down from Westminster to inquire into a complaint of “the
poor men of our city of Norwich,” where, according to the petition of
the commons, the rich, in defiance of all laws against forestalling,
bought up victuals and goods before they came into the market, and
daily inflicted other grievances on the said poor men “to the manifest
deterioration of the city.”[451] And again in 1307, “les menes gentz de
la communaute de la ville de Norweiz” appeal to the king on the ground
that an inquiry by justices had been promised them concerning the fines
and tallages which weighed them down; the poor people, they said,
had been unjustly taxed by the bailiffs and the rich (“les riches”),
“but on the hearing, the bailiffs and the rich spoke so fair to the
said poor people, promising them redress and that they should have no
cause to complain in future, and that no tallage should be levied from
them without their common assent, that the poor men ceased from their
suit. But now the said bailiffs and rich have levied two hundred marks
without warrant and threaten to levy a still higher tallage.”[452] The
law of the matter was clear enough, for only a year or two before the
principle that the bailiffs could only assess taxes “by the assent
of the whole of the commonalty or of the greater part of the same”
had been re-affirmed;[453] and the king accordingly sent answer, “If
tallage have been made without assent of the commonalty, let them have
a writ against those who have imposed such tallage to answer before the
king, and that henceforth it be not done.”

It is, however, hard to say what amount of relief to the mean folk
was actually given by such an order from high quarters. At the very
same time, in 1304, the people of the neighbouring borough of Lynn
were seeking protection against the ruling burgesses, and charged
them with the usual trespasses—with assessing tallages without the
unanimous consent of the community; levying these tallages and other
great sums of money from the poor and but moderately endowed men of
the community; employing the sums thus raised for their own use and
not for the advantage of the community or the reparation of the town;
forestalling goods on the way to market; and establishing and using
corruptions contrary both to common and to merchant law. The great
people of Lynn, however, easily put themselves beyond all fear of
justice by simply buying from the king in 1305[454] letters of pardon
and release for the crimes of which they were accused—letters which
evidently left them free to go on in the same course. Upon which the
people instinctively turned to their natural ally, the lord of the
manor himself, and through the powerful aid of the Bishop, and his aid
only, were able to win from the mayor in 1309 the composition which
became the charter of their liberties, according to which all the
“unreasonable grievous” tasks and tallages laid by “the great men of
the town upon the mean people and the poor”—or as the Latin version
has it by the potentiores on the mediocres and inferiores—and their
“grievous distressing so violently of them,” were to come to an end,
and taxes were henceforth to be assessed in due measure according to
the three degrees of prosperity.[455]

It is evident that we need not wait for the fifteenth century to
discover an oligarchical system of administration which was in its
full strength in the English boroughs as early as 1300, and can even
be traced back at least fifty years earlier. In the middle of the
thirteenth century the commons of Lincoln, having a dispute with the
lord of S. Botolph’s fair about tolls, formally withdrew altogether
from the fair till they should obtain a remedy from the king; but two
sons of the mayor and two other burghers, rich traders who did not
want their business interrupted, and who were evidently town officials
with command of the common seal, gave the lord a charter promising a
yearly rent of £10 from the Lincoln citizens, and this “without any
assent or consent of the commonalty.” It was in vain that the people
made remonstrance; the charter was still binding in 1276,[456] and in
1325 the inhabitants of Lincoln were still without defence against the
“great lords of the said city” who formed the corporation. While “les
grauntz Seigneurs” themselves paid nothing, the “mean people” were
arbitrarily taxed without their own consent; they alone were forced to
keep the nightly watch; they paid their murage tax for the building
of the wall, and the rulers used the money for their own purposes
and rendered no accounts to the people;[457] and the pitiful appeal
of the commonalty to the king praying him to provide some remedy for
their grievances only proved how helpless they were to influence the
governing body which was supposed to rule solely by their consent. In
like manner the mayor and other officers of Oxford were charged in
1294 with exacting tallages without the king’s order or the town’s
consent, applying the town revenues to their own uses, raising loans
without proper receipts, and collecting money for expenses of the
rich on juries and assizes while the poor were left to pay their own
costs.[458] Probably the richer party secured the jury, for the verdict
was given against the burgher who had instituted the suit; but his
complaint is so absolutely similar to those raised in other towns at
the same time that we can scarcely doubt its truth.[459]

The inner contentions of Bristol[460] and of Andover[461] in the early
years of the fourteenth century repeat in varying forms the same story
of a few rich burghers managing the whole machinery of administration,
and of a commonalty whose voice was often scarcely heard in elections,
who were unable to secure the just assessment of taxes, or to prevent
the money from being devoted to improper uses, and who daily saw the
laws of trade—the assize of bread or beer, the injunctions against
forestalling and regrating and a thousand tricks of commerce—diverted
to the convenience of the rich officials, while the common folk
patiently expiated their sins before the judgment seat of the great
offenders who sat in careless immunity on their high places.

It is manifestly hard to find in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries the happy age of the historian’s dream, when “there was a
warmer relation between high and low, when each class thought more
of its duties than its interests, and religion, which was the same
to all, was really believed in. Under such conditions,” we are told,
“inequality was natural and wholesome;” and apparently an age of
innocence and peace attested the fostering care of a universal faith;
for according to this theory, so highly commended and so widely
believed, it was only “when religion became opinion, dubious more or
less and divorced from conduct, while pleasures became more various
and more attainable, the favoured classes fell away from the intention
of their institution, monopolized the sweets of life and left the
bitter to the poor.”[462] Whatever “the intention of their institution”
may have been, however, there is not a particle of proof that the
intention of the favoured classes themselves did at this time differ
sensibly from that which prevailed at the Reformation; nor were the
dominant folk of town or country disposed voluntarily to nail their
interests on the cross of duty—whether we consider the knight “hunting
hardily” hares and foxes,[463] and wholly regardless of his oath to
the labourer “to keep him and his chattel as covenant was between
them;”[464] or the lord with his loud laugh calling for his rent;[465]
or the trader filling his pockets in “deceit of the poor commons,” the
alderman adding field to field, the cook and brewer building their
burgages out of the pence of the poor. The relations of inequality, in
the exceedingly bitter form in which they were then known, may have
seemed natural, or perhaps supernatural, to an age when all life,
social, economic, and political, was brought under the universal sway
of dogma and superstition; but it is certain that they were not held
to be wholesome by those who suffered, and whose struggles to win the
freedom so long promised to them in ordinance and charter fill the town
records of succeeding centuries.

For in these young republics formidable difficulties lay in the way of
securing any popular control whatever over administration. In the first
place the general assembly, which was to be the pledge of the people’s
liberties, and to assure to them the final word about the taxes they
had to pay and the manner in which they were to be governed, proved
in its actual working but a poor security for freedom. It would seem
sometimes that in the hurry and excitement of expanding trade, men busy
in their shops had as little time or attention to bestow on serious
politics as American citizens of a later date; or perhaps the very
opposite accident might befall the borough, and a heterogeneous and
unmanageable mob gathered at the place of assembly, where strangers
and unenfranchised journeymen pushed their way in among the lawful
citizens. But a tumultuous gathering of ignorant and over-tasked
artizans and poor householders crowding from the narrow lanes of the
borough must manifestly have been a very rare and occasional expedient,
and at the best meant an assembly incapable of real business. In
general it would seem that any small number of burgesses who happened
to be present at a meeting in the common hall or at the court leet,
or a select group of the better class specially summoned by the
mayor,[466] were taken to represent the general body of inhabitants,
and their consent was legally counted as conveying the assent of the
burghers at large. From the very first, and under the most favourable
circumstances, it is evident that the assembly gave no real security to
the commonalty, that through its gatherings they could never hope to
bring sustained or efficient pressure to bear on the governing class,
and that “the entire assent and consent of the whole community” was for
the most part simply taken for granted. If the theory of government by
the people for the people already existed in law books and ordinances
the means of realizing such an ideal had yet to be found.

Nor must it be forgotten that from the very first no man of the people
could hope to aspire to any post in the administration of the town. All
important public offices were confined to persons of a certain station,
and “the rank of a mayor” or “the rank of a sheriff” were well-known
mediæval phrases which expressed a comfortable social position
maintained by an adequate income. Councillors and chief officers were
chosen from the class of “magnates”[467]—men not bound by the law of
frankpledge and possibly holding a position of some authority—of whom
there are traces in Norwich and possibly in other cities; or from the
“good and sufficient” men of the borough; or from the class who were
technically known as the “probi homines,” the “good” or “credible” or
“lawful men” privileged to serve as legal assessors in the civic courts
and “credible witnesses” to bargains, and who had probably come to be
regarded as an official class and gradually organized into a separate
caste.[468] This choice of wealthy officials ultimately depended of
course on the custom of those days by which the chief officers and
the townsfolk were held mutually responsible for defaults; so that in
the interests of the people themselves, as well as of the king, it
was important to secure men of substance whose possessions formed a
guarantee to both parties—a guarantee which was by no means originally
a figure of speech, as we see from the case of the Lincoln bailiffs in
1276, when the receipts for paying the ferm were diminished, “wherefore
they who have once been bailiffs of Lincoln can scarcely rise from
poverty and misery.”[469] The opulent class who bore the chief burden
of responsibility shared the compensating pleasures of power. We have
seen the primitive simplicity with which at Ipswich twelve portmen
divided among themselves all the posts of bailiffs, coroners, and
councillors; and in fact among the handful of “worthy” men which could
be produced in modest little market-towns,[470] whose clustered
dwellings of wood and plaster, bordering narrow alleys that ran to
the central market-place, lay almost hidden in fields and gardens,
the burghers had actually no great choice of rulers. From generation
to generation the chief municipal offices were handed down in the few
leading families of the place. A great merchant would take the command
again and again while the whole town lay at his discretion, for though
a universal law forbade the continuous holding of office and usually
fixed an interval of two or more years before re-election, either the
law was persistently ignored, or as soon as the period of retirement
had elapsed, power inevitably fell back to its former possessor.[471]
How greatly this state of things was determined by economic conditions
we may see from the fact that in a place like Nottingham, where wealth
was widely distributed, it does not seem that any single family rose
to very marked supremacy;[472] and in general a comparison of lists of
town officers indicates that as the growth of trade in the fifteenth
century increased the numbers of well-to-do burghers and merchants,
there was a corresponding variety in the names of men entrusted with
office. At the best however the upper class was but a little one,
and usually the corporation with its one or two councils composed of
twelve and twenty-four members, or even of twenty-four and forty-eight,
as well as the retired magnates who constituted “the clothing,” and
a whole army of officials of various kinds, recorder, town clerk,
chamberlains or treasurers, aldermen, decennaries of the market,
bailiffs, coroners, arbitrators, jurors, and the like, must have
absorbed a very considerable proportion of the well-to-do inhabitants.
A close caste was easily developed out of the compact body of merchants
and thriving traders who formed the undisputed aristocracy of the town,
and whose social pre-eminence doubtless went far to establish their
political dominion.

And if very little space was practically found in mediæval times for
democratic theories of government, whether in the conception of a
governing class, or in the working of the general assembly, still less
are they to be found in the prevailing views as to representation. In
the case of Ipswich we have seen how rapidly the great body of the
townspeople retire from the scene when they have fulfilled their first
simple function of electing bailiffs and coroners. It is the bailiffs
and coroners who nominate the committee to elect the portmen,[473]
and then the twelve between them take charge in a general way of the
borough and its affairs, while the commons go back to attend to their
own business and are henceforth only from time to time summoned for
a general assembly, where they gather like a Greek chorus to view
with official eyes the progress of the drama, and to applaud in due
form the action of the ultimate executive or express an expected
and resigned acquiescence with all their will. People talked, it is
true, of election by the whole community, and this was the theory of
ordinance and charter, but the universal fashion of the day in all
ranks and classes was to adopt some more or less complicated system of
indirect election which, whether intentionally or not, was admirably
suited to the use and convenience of the minority. The nobles who under
the provisions of Oxford formed the council of Fifteen to assist Henry
the Third used exactly the same devices as were of common experience
among merchants and artizans and burghers; for not only in trading
or in social-religious guilds were the members accustomed to choose
their governor through a select committee of four, five, seven, eight,
or twelve men; but in the boroughs themselves the plans by which the
sovereign people delegated their power to a few “worthy and sufficient”
citizens were so ingenious and elaborate that we may well doubt whether
the majority had ever any chance at all of making their will prevail.
In some cases indeed the leading people of the town were altogether
independent of popular election, and hereditary owners of the wards sat
in the high places of the hall in virtue of their landed property,[474]
not of the people’s will; while in others a guild merchant apparently
imposed its own council on the community at large.[475]

Nor can we wonder at anxiety to secure an efficient governing class if
we consider for a moment the work that lay before the council. From
the affairs of a pig-market and the letting of butchers’ stalls they
were required to pass to business of the most complicated kind—to
constitute a Board of Trade concerned with inland and foreign commerce;
a Foreign Office constantly busied with the external relations of
the town, whether to overlord, or king, or rival boroughs; a legal
committee responsible for all the complicated law business that might
arise out of any one of these relations, or out of the defence of the
chartered privileges of the borough; a Treasury Board whose incomings
were drawn in infinitesimal proportions from the most varied and
precarious sources, and whose outgoings included every possible payment
with which any public body has ever had to deal. The king might call
on them for the supervision of the staple trade, the management of
river basins, the draining of marshes, the collection of taxes, the
administration of justice, the local carrying out of laws framed by
Parliament, the guarding of the coast, the provisioning and training of
detachments of the national army. The responsibility thrown on them by
the central government was constantly increased as time went on; and
there was probably nothing which proved so important in tightening the
hold of the oligarchy on government as the appointment of a certain
number of the upper council to be justices of the peace, having a
formidable authority over the working classes, besides the power to
draw into their own hands a mass of business which had once gone to the
court leet of the burghers.

No doubt the official caste from the beginning sufficiently appreciated
the pleasures of power not to deprecate their increase; but apart
from any question of greedy usurpation, it was inevitable under such
conditions that a strong government should have been formed of experts
who need not necessarily be changed every year or elected by a popular
vote. The date at which some custom of this kind became established
is probably much earlier than is commonly supposed; and there is
evidence to shew that it often preceded by a long time the charters
which make it legally binding. Possibly indeed the administrative
despotism of a narrow oligarchy was often as old as the independence
of the borough itself. The need for capable rulers may have been even
greater at the perilous outset of its life than in its later times
of confident strength; and when we remember the imperfection of the
primitive machinery for ascertaining the popular will, the weakness of
the general assembly, and the limitations put on public election, it
is evident that the theory of a free and equal people electing their
own government by the unanimous consent of the whole community, and
controlling administration by a constant criticism, was a theory which
could never have been practically carried into effect; which as a
matter of fact the governing class had no wish to encourage, and which
the mass of the governed had neither the cohesion nor the intelligence
to enforce.

Once in authority it must be admitted that the ruling class carried
themselves bravely, shirking neither responsibility nor power. In
their splendid robes of office, with furs and stripes and rich colours
changed at every great occasion to make a more imposing show, the
municipal officers were the dazzling centre of every procession and
public function in the town—at Advent services, at the bull-baiting
and public games,[476] at the pageant of Corpus Christi, or the yearly
solemnity of recounting to the people the ordinances and liberties of
the borough. Strict discipline, unquestioned authority, a belief in
firm government, were prominent in their administration. Of the general
body of burgesses and craft guilds implicit obedience was required,
and the corporation allowed neither discussion nor interference with
its decrees. Windows through which inquisitive townsmen peeped into
the chamber where they consulted were blocked up; listeners under the
eaves “to hear the words of the council” were violently discouraged;
severe rules forbade the meddling of too active citizens, and fines
and imprisonment fell on those who “in an abusive manner” called a
councillor a “Fliperarde,”[477] or who wickedly “wished that all the
jurats had been burnt in the common ship,” or with “opprobrious and
crooked words” declared that they were “false thieves,” or that they
“were looked upon at Dover as so many grooms.”[478] Administrative
capacity went hand in hand with the self-assertion and exclusive
temper of a successful class. To the townspeople, amid the confusion
of national revolutions and civil war, the mayor remained a standing
witness to the enduring forces of an order triumphant over discord and
confusion; as in Exeter, where between 1477 and 1497 the citizens had
seen a skilfully organized revolt shattered before the municipal power,
and a victorious mayor holding office undisturbed under four successive
kings, three of whom had come to the crown by the violent death or
deposition of their predecessors.[479]

There is perhaps no better type of the superior town official than
the Common Clerk, in his dress of sanguine cloth striped with violet
rays, or of more sober green bordered with fur.[480] The business of
his office came into great consideration with the growth of local
liberties. In the fifteenth century there was scarcely a single town
which did not require to have its “Custumal” written out afresh from
the faded and worn-out copies made in earlier centuries,[481] while in
a vast number of cases, where the old French or Latin was no longer
understood by the townsfolk, the writer had not only to decipher and
copy the old tattered roll, but to translate it.[482] Perhaps portions
of the gospels were needed—“enough to swear by.”[483] Every town
also instituted the making of its own “Domesday Book,” its black book
or white book or red book as the case might be, with copies of all
deeds, wills, and charters relating to municipal affairs;[484] and
whenever a legal question arose or local liberties were imperilled new
search was made in the chest containing the town “evidences” on which
the municipal privileges depended, and copies were written out of
Acts of Parliament,[485] extracts from Domesday, Magna Charta,[486]
or legal documents such as the New Tenures by Lyttleton.[487] The
clerk must be able to translate and to read in the mother tongue
to the community any letters or orders sent from Westminster. He
had to expound legal technicalities to the council, and to use them
effectively in the town’s interest, not only at Westminster, but in
the innumerable disputes that arose between borough and borough as to
the interpretation of conflicting charters.[488] Elaborate accounts of
municipal expenditure were made yet more arduous by the system of Roman
numerals which constantly baffled his best efforts at exact addition.
The keeping of the town rolls in general was a very serious occupation;
in the time of Edward the Fourth the yearly rolls of Ipswich (called
Dogget Rolls from the clerk’s docquet or table of contents) form
bundles as big as a garden roller;[489] and in Nottingham twenty rolls
were covered within and without in a single year with the list of
pleas against foreigners alone. In fact, the supply of parchment began
to fall short of the prodigious demands of the town clerks, who were
driven to take to paper, either to economize the trifling sum allowed
them for the expense of parchment, or in obedience to a direct order
from the corporation.[490] As they added roll to roll and book to
book, they from time to time relieved the tedious labour by adorning
the town accounts with sketches and ornaments, with a snatch of French
song or a few quibbles or catches of very moderate wit,[491] with a
rugged ballad on the evils of over-eating,[492] or a final sigh of
satisfaction from a German copyist, “Explicit hic totum; pro Christo da
mihi potum!”[493]

The town clerk, in fact, was to the local government what two centuries
earlier the trained lay-lawyers had been to the central administration.
From mere superiority of education, as a scholar and linguist, an
accomplished lawyer, something of a historian and an antiquary, a
skilled accountant, a scribe trained to finer penmanship and more
exact views of spelling than the ordinary councillor, or even than
the mayor himself, the clerk must have exercized an easy intellectual
supremacy.[494] Responsible only to the mayor, holding his post
year after year in perfect security, he remained among the changing
officers about him a permanent force, a municipal chancellor in whom
was embodied a continuous tradition of administration and a fixed
jurisprudence.[495] Thriving towns of the fifteenth century vied with
one another in seeking out able professionals for the post. Bridgewater
engaged a man who seems to have been in practice as attorney or notary
public in Oxford; and as early as the fourteenth century a chamberlain
of London wrote letters under the common seal at Romney. Winchester
looked yet farther afield, and seems to have employed a German.[496]
An able lawyer in those days could command the market, as we see by
the story of Thomas Caxton (probably a brother of William Caxton the
printer), who spent a busy professional career of forty years going
from town to town wherever he could best sell his services. A native
of Tenterden, he was brought up to the law, and in 1436 was engaged in
a plea of debt in Romney against one William-at-the-Mill. In 1454 he
was practising as an attorney at Tenterden, and was the leading man
of law in its negotiations with Rye to resist the union of the two
towns into a single corporation. In 1458 he entered the service of
Lydd, which was then in the thick of its troubles about boundaries and
franchises, and was paid £2 13_s._ 4_d._ a year, or double the salary
of his predecessor, and in addition was soon after promised a gown
every year, while ultimately his pay was raised to £4—a sum which at
that time was only given by great commercial towns such as Bristol or
Southampton.[497] On his resignation Lydd returned to its old custom
and once more paid to his successor the original salary of 6_s._
8_d._ a quarter, but the corporation still continued to employ Caxton
constantly on very profitable terms for himself, often sending him to
London on business, or to carry on negotiations with the king. In 1470,
when Lydd had been running into danger on every side, first sending men
to fight under Warwick, and then paying £9 for another body of troops
to go to the help of King Edward, the burghers made Caxton their
treasurer, and two years later he was elected bailiff, and a town clerk
put under him of his own training. We next find him in 1474 as clerk in
Romney; but he was called back again to Lydd in 1476, and employed to
write out its “customall” in his fine bold hand. A yet more important
town however now cast longing eyes on the successful lawyer, and he
was drawn away from Lydd to Sandwich, where he finally settled down as
common clerk.

In fact for professional men of talent in the middle class a new and
comparatively brilliant career was now opened in the towns.[498]
Nicholas Lancaster, town clerk of York from 1477 to 1480, was a
bachelor of laws, who in 1483 became one of the king’s council, was in
1484 alderman of York, and in 1485 mayor.[499] Easingwold, who kept the
rolls of Nottingham for nearly thirty years (from 1478 to 1506), wrote
himself down as “gentleman” among the yeomen, braziers, and smiths,
who paid their 6_s._ 8_d._ along with him to gain the freedom of the
borough,[500] and in his later signatures still kept up the solitary
distinction of this title, which scarcely occurs in the records save
after his name. An educated man with a very tolerable knowledge of
Latin, though he preferred English, he served his adopted town well,
and in his time the old court rolls, which had been carelessly kept
in paper books for thirty years before his coming, were replaced by
parchment rolls with very full and elaborate accounts in a singularly
beautiful and exact writing.[501]

It is obvious that in governing bodies whose members were thus
distinguished from the common mass of burghers by wealth, social
position, culture, who were independent of the people they ruled,
very watchful in the matter of their legal or customary rights, and
abundantly supplied in case of difficulty with advice in the law
by the recorder or the town clerk or the special counsel retained
in their service, no influence was wanting which could foster the
official spirit in its most extreme form, with its pride of position,
its administrative pretensions, its love of legal definition, and its
anxiety for “good order.” “The worshipful men of the great clothing” or
“the imperial co-citizens” of some very minor borough ruled for their
own ends with frankness and capacity; while their natural rallying
cry of “good rule and substantial order”[502] was so well understood
at court that they could always confidently count on support from
that quarter. The alarm of the mob, which since the Peasant Revolt
had troubled statesmen at Westminster as well as aldermen in the
boroughs, drew the ruling classes generally into close alliance; and
towards the end of the fifteenth century, we constantly find the town
officers turning with apprehension to the court for aid, and kings
anxiously lending succour to the corporations. The Wars of the Roses
and dynastic quarrels which once appeared to pass so lightly over the
boroughs, scarcely touching them with a passing alarm of material
calamity, were not brought to a close before they had left a terrible
and abiding impress on the civil life of the people. The shaking of
the national security, the wild hopes and the panic-stricken fears of
rebellion, had their inevitable conclusion in tightening the hold of
authority. In the boroughs the governing bodies, terrified at the signs
of bitter discontent in the subject populace, and justly trembling
lest under some feint of political obedience, the mass of the people
might be arrayed against their rulers and clamour against wrong and
injustice might fill the streets, raised a cry for protection against
social anarchy; and the cry was eagerly responded to by kings whose
title to the crown was their strong will and heavy hand. The progress
of liberty was violently arrested by the fears that shook the settled
classes before threatenings of revolt. “It seemeth that the world is
all quavering; it will reboil somewhere,” onlookers said; men walked
with redoubled wariness in an “unstable” and “right queasy” world,[503]
and while anxious kings urged the mayor and his council to make good
and fearful example of indisposed commons, aldermen gladly locked the
doors of the town-hall, and cast into the freeman’s dungeon the burgher
who still prated of a free community.


 We do not know when or how the leading men of Bristol assumed a
 position of special privilege. All we know is that troubles grew out
 of a quarrel about customs in the port and market, &c., in which
 fourteen of the citizens “were seen to have the prerogative,” while
 the community asserted that the burgesses were all of one condition
 and were equals in liberties and privileges. After many disputes
 the case was brought before the judges of the king’s court, but the
 Fourteen so arranged matters that foreigners or aliens were associated
 with them in the inquisition, which the community alleged to be
 against the liberties of the town. Seeing that their arguments were
 rejected and that their cause was going to be lost, not by reason but
 by favour, the leaders of the people angrily went out of the judgment
 hall and proclaimed to the mob that the judges were favouring their
 enemies. The whole people, called out by the ringing of the common
 bell, flocked into the hall; and there was terrible clamour and a free
 fight with fists and clubs; twenty men were killed; and terror seized
 alike on the noble and ignoble, who tried to escape by windows and
 roofs at the risk of their lives; while even the judges prayed to be
 allowed to fly by the help of the mayor, who himself could scarcely
 soothe the “vast crowd of malefactors.” About eighty men were summoned
 for the riot, and not appearing before the judges were banished, but
 stayed on nevertheless comfortably in the town and were well cared for
 by their fellow rebels. It was in fact the Fourteen who judged it wise
 to leave Bristol, thinking it useless to remain in such a storm. (See
 the extract from the life of Edward the Second by a monk of Malmesbury
 given in Seyer’s Bristol, ii. 94.)

 To quell this tumult the king in 1312 took the government into his
 own hand and appointed Bartholomew of Baddlesmere, constable of the
 castle, as custos; but the mayor and bailiffs, asserting that the
 letter had not been addressed to the _community_, and further that
 the custody of the town had been previously given to them, refused to
 obey orders, and kept the gates of the castle and town for thirty-five
 weeks, building a wall against the castle and refusing to let the
 king’s men go out to fetch victuals save at the will of the community.
 Of their own authority they made John the Taverner mayor, John of
 Horncastle and Richard Legate bailiffs, and John Hazard coroner,
 without making them take their oath of king or constable; and by
 force of arms seized the custody of the prison, levied for their own
 purposes the revenues from the town and port which ought to have been
 collected for the king, and administered justice. The king’s judges
 and servants were imprisoned or driven from the town; the Fourteen
 and half a dozen partizans, who had mostly been in office, were not
 allowed to return to the town in spite of the king’s injunction, and
 the community seized their goods to the value of £2,000, and drove out
 their wives, freemen, and tenants.

 The rebellion lasted for two years. In 1316 six citizens representing
 the community of Bristol were summoned before the king’s council to
 answer for these offences. They denied the charges, and refused to
 submit unless life and limb, rents and land, were secured to them. The
 king, looking on the case as one of evil example, ordered Bristol to
 be besieged by sea and land, and after attempting to hold out for some
 days in the hope that the troops might be called away to the Scotch
 war, the town surrendered half in ruins. The leaders were put in
 prison and the multitude terrified by a series of heavy punishments.
 The banished party returned in triumph to power, and appeared, twelve
 of them, before the king’s council, with the allotted fine of four
 thousand marks to have pardon for all the city’s offences, and to have
 back the franchise of the town. The rebel mayor and his immediate
 friends, excluded from mercy, went in their turn into exile. (See the
 account extracted from Rolls of Parliament 9 Edward II. by Seyer.
 Memoirs of Bristol, ii. 89 to 105.)

 After this matters seem to have gone on as before, a few influential
 families still taking the leading place. One, Turtle, was mayor ten
 times, and another, Tilly, held office for four years. But in 1344,
 the popular party insisted on the appointment of Forty-eight “of the
 chiefest and discreetest” burgesses, to be the mayor’s councillors
 and assistants. When Bristol was made into a county in 1373 the new
 charter recognized the system established in 1344, and provided that
 the mayor and sheriff with the assent of the commonalty should choose
 a Council of Forty, whose consent was required for all ordinances, and
 who took part in municipal elections; while the five aldermen of the
 wards were chosen by the people from among the ex-mayors or members of
 the common council. By a later charter of 1499 it was settled that six
 aldermen were to be elected for life by the mayor and common council,
 and were to have the authority of London aldermen (Charter Henry VII.,
 1499. Seyer’s Charters and Letters Patent of Bristol, 123), while the
 common council itself was to be elected by the mayor and two aldermen
 chosen by him, with the assent of the commonalty.



THE fifteenth century has been popularly taken as the time when
victory crowned the local oligarchies and liberty fled from the
English boroughs, and the restriction of popular rights has sometimes
been attributed to the charters of incorporation given under Henry
the Sixth. In this, as in many other respects, the luckless age has
long lain under a heavy weight of accusations which might more fairly
be distributed among other centuries; for in most towns the work of
adapting the primitive town constitutions to oligarchic government
had practically been accomplished long before the days of Henry.[504]
Indeed it seems as though the characteristic movement of this time, a
movement which naturally sprang out of the industrial developement
of the Middle Ages, was the effort to enlarge the sphere of political
activity. Far from being a time of apathy in local politics, it was a
time of acute excitement. Townspeople on all sides were awakening to
the sense that the free community of which their fathers had talked had
still to be created; and were making perhaps the first organized attack
on the monopoly of “the magnates,” and the first practical attempt to
deal with the problem which confronts Englishmen to-day—the problem
of how to combine popular control with good administration. Traditions
of ancient rights which the commonalty theoretically held by law and
charter mingled with the ambitions of a new world of enterprise, and,
as we have seen, the manufacturing classes by asserting their right to
have some share in the work of government, did here and there for the
first time bring the commonalty into the council chamber.

The problem of government was indeed no longer so simple as it had
been when “the magnates” first easily assumed the control of the town
destinies. As the centuries went on, bringing their commercial and
industrial revolutions, the growth of capital and the organization of
labour, new standards of administration and a more anxious vigilance
on the part of the central authority, the balance of power in local
governments began to sway to one side or the other under the pressure
of contending forces. Every political tendency of the time went to
strengthen the administrative body, and maintain the authority of
the select council. But, on the other hand, the mass of the commons
were neither so poor nor so helpless as they had once been. The
manufacturing classes waxed fat and kicked. Enriched by trade and
disciplined by industrial training, organized in guilds, and practised
in such self-government as this implied, restless under growing
taxation, clamorous for advancement in well-being, tormented by petty
tyranny, they were growing into a real power; and amid all the ugliness
and violence and suffering of the troubled crowd which Langland brings
before us at the close of the fourteenth century, we cannot but feel
the stir of the coming revolution, and of a world transforming itself
under the power of some new force. To the eye of the contemporary
observer the merchants have become too clever at their business, the
lawyers too shrewd, the common people everywhere too independent;
the poor are less content to starve, and are looking for the easiest
ways of getting hot meat and ale and comfortable chimney corners;
the ploughman will not work till hunger has buffeted him so “that he
looked like a lantern all his life after”;[505] if the peasant was for
a moment safe from actual starvation, he was ready to defy the very
Statute of Labourers itself.[506] On all sides there is the movement
of a growing discontent[507]—the criticism and impatience that are
born of a new hope. We have a sense of the vague trouble of a people
grown too rich and too busy and too energetic for the old restraints—a
people that had outgrown its “childish things.” Nature itself seemed to
have been dragged within the circle of some mysterious change, and its
old stately courses turned into confusion—

  “Neither the sea nor the sand nor the seed yieldeth
  As they wont were....

         *       *       *       *       *

  Weatherwise shipmen now and other witty people
  Have no belief to the lyft nor to the lode star.
  Astronomers all day in their art failen
  That whilom warned men before what should befall after.”[508]

In presence of such a world—a world in restless and perpetual
movement—it is difficult to make general statements of what was
likely or “natural” to happen. In some cases the governing class,
terrified by the new force which was stirring the masses of the people,
eluded any serious conflict by making terms with the upper groups of
the middle class, thus detaching to their own side the leaders of
revolt; and a new oligarchy was formed out of the upper and middle
sections of the community—an oligarchy stronger and wider than the
old, and with promise of more permanent existence. In other cases the
people had the advantage, and a more liberal settlement was for a time
brought about in the interests of the commonalty; so that while the
Town Council of one borough appears as a chosen band ostentatiously
arrayed for the protection of a successful oligarchy, we may see it
figuring in another as the advanced guard of the commons entrenched
in the enemy’s country. Never, in fact, did any people endeavour to
solve the difficulty of creating an efficient government with such
endless resource and ingenuity as the mediæval burghers, who as need
arose, flung themselves into the art of constitution making with all
the persistence, temperance, energy, and economy in patching up ancient
models and finding new use for old materials in which Englishmen for
centuries have found their pride.[509] The charters granted to them
allowed wide limits within which they might try their experiments and
plan their own mode of government at their will. A local scheme of
administration was devised; and when they had framed their system it
might depend on the sanction of local custom, or for greater security
and authority it might be defined and ordained by a new charter; and if
again the chartered constitution proved unsatisfactory, the townsfolk
had only to agree among themselves on new methods, and have them once
more embodied in a fresh grant from the Crown.

The whole character of municipal government was thus indefinitely
modified by local circumstances—by the position or the special
industry of the borough, the nature of its tenure and its compact
with the lord of the manor, the power of the merchants or the
owners of property within its walls; and nothing is more surprising
than the variety and intricacy of political systems with which the
mediæval burghers were familiar. As free in theory as they were
free in practice, under bondage to no fixed democratic creed, they
adopted indiscriminately any method that commended itself—whether
of election direct or indirect, election tempered by nomination,
minority representation, public voting, or arrangements by which voters
recorded their will secretly one by one.[510] Every borough, for
example, had its own fashion of choosing its mayor. We have seen that
in Sandwich the whole people made the election; but in Winchester the
council of twenty-four chose two men and the outgoing mayor nominated
one of them as his successor;[511] while in Southampton the plan
was reversed and the outgoing mayor in the presence of bailiffs and
council nominated two burgesses from whom the assembly was bound to
elect one,[512] nor could an occasional outbreak of popular discontent
do more than convince the commons afresh of their true impotence.
Midway between these extremes came an endless variety of customs,
often of elaborate complexity.[513] When the selection of the mayor
was nominally left to the whole “people in the hall,” their choice
was often limited and checked in one way or another. They must take
him from among the upper council; or from among men who had already
served as mayors or sheriffs; or they must send two names to the first
chamber for approval, of whom this discreet company might choose one;
or perhaps the council itself nominated two or three candidates for
the freemen’s choice, as a curb to the license of popular judgment;
or the matter was yet more effectually settled by a decision that the
council alone should elect the mayor.[514] In some boroughs a special
jury was chosen by the citizens for the purpose of electing the chief
officers—either a single jury of twelve as at Bridgnorth,[515] or a
double jury of twenty-four as at Colchester or Preston;[516] and the
election of the jury itself was often far from being a simple matter,
as we see at Lynn. Occasionally the necessity of recognizing various
interests within the town and giving to them special influence in
the municipal constitution seems to have added a local complication,
as in Canterbury, where the aldermen were in early times hereditary
owners and lords of the several wards of the town, and retained in
consequence rights which were not finally extinguished till the reign
of Henry the Eighth; here two “triours” were chosen, one by the two
outgoing bailiffs together with the aldermen, the other by the commons
or “council of the thirty-six”; these two triours then appointed twelve
men from among the council, and the twelve finally chose the bailiffs
for the next year.[517]

In appointing the other members of the corporation there was the same
diversity of method, with a free use of the plan of nomination, so
that a mixed system was sometimes evolved where half the corporation
was elected by the people and the remainder nominated by the mayor or
council. The town councillors might be chosen yearly by the burgesses,
or by a jury nominated for the purpose; they might be turned into a new
class of permanent officials by being elected for life; or made into an
exclusive aristocratic body by being allowed to fill up all vacancies
themselves; and in towns with a double council any two of these plans
might be tried together; or both bodies might be chosen by some one
system. An inevitable tendency to make themselves as independent as
possible of the people over whom they ruled naturally guided the
councillors to the belief that the manner of their election was best
managed by themselves, and there were cases where not only the upper
but the lower chamber became self-electing bodies in which the members
held office for life.[518]

In short every conceivable experiment in government was tried in
one town or another, or in the same town at different times, to the
great confusion of systematic order. In one the original council of
twelve or twenty-four might be maintained in its early representative
character;[519] in another its constitution was gradually transformed.
Sometimes besides the upper council the burghers set up a second
chamber of sixteen or eighty or twenty-four or thirty-six or forty or
forty-eight,[520] and the “worshipful and discreet members of the
clothing,” or the “high election,” had to share their powers more or
less with the “low election”, “the sad and discreet” company arrayed
in plain suits with no finery of fur and velvet. Hereditary owners of
land might sit on the council of one borough, and non-burgesses join
the council of another. Aldermen might be forced on the people, or they
might be forbidden by the authorities.[521] As occasion served the
townsfolk perhaps attempted to form a representative council out of a
jury of electors or of arbitrators, or from a committee of the common
assembly, or delegated members from the crafts.

Underneath this apparent confusion certain broad tendencies can be
discerned; and it may be that with further study these tendencies will
be found to have borne a different character in various districts
of the country, and to have been influenced not only by political
traditions, but by special conditions of trade and industry. As yet
there are not collected materials to justify any general theory; but
something may be learned by observing the constitutional changes which
actually took place in a few boroughs; and by judging how far these
constitutional changes can be adequately summed up in the theory of
a continuous backsliding from popular freedom to the despotism of
a privileged group of opulent traders. A few instances which have
been chosen at hazard may serve to illustrate how various were the
conditions under which civic life was carried on, and how these
conditions influenced the political situation, and were reflected in
the temper and form of government. They fall naturally into three

I. Occasionally it seems to have happened, as at Southampton, that
the original single council of twelve was retained till after the
Reformation, in spite of sporadic attempts of the commons to vindicate
their strength, whether through the general assembly or by some other

II. In the great majority of towns however a second council was
formed—in most cases by creating a sort of committee of the general
assembly. Whether the common people refused to come to assemblies as
was stated at Norwich, or whether their absence was but a pretext of
the governors, it is hard to say; but apparently a system commonly
grew up of calling together on important occasions a group of selected
citizens. Bailiffs and mayors who were anxious to get rid of unruly
and, as they judged, superfluous elements in the town meetings; or
who wished to compel a sufficient number of voters to come together
to carry on business; might fall back on the expedient of sending out
summonses to certain chosen householders whenever an assembly was to
be held, and might thus in informal fashion create a sympathetic and
obedient gathering to endorse the action of the ruling body. Presently
perhaps fines were inflicted in case the summons was neglected; and
when it was once clearly established that a definite number of members
were thus bound to assemble at the mayor’s bidding for the conduct of
business, and when further this body was given the power of the whole
assembly in deciding on all matters that concerned the common interest,
it is clear that a council of the commons had been created—a permanent
body endowed, whether with or without their consent, with the burghers’
rights of legislation. In a number of towns, such as Coventry,
Hereford, Leicester, and many more, the summons to the council was sent
out by the mayor, and the system to some extent represented a victory
of the oligarchy; we can perhaps trace in Nottingham the informal
growth of this custom and its effects.

III. There were boroughs, however, in which the second council was the
monument of a popular victory; and of these Norwich and Sandwich may
serve as instances; in Lynn the system was developed under peculiar


 I add here some very brief notes of constitutional changes in a few
 boroughs, which took place in the later middle ages. They all indicate
 a widespread struggle between the upper and lower sections of the
 community during the fifteenth century. A closer study shows that this
 movement must not be compared to the flicker of an expiring flame,
 but rather expresses the quick burning of a new fire. In some of the
 instances given below the oligarchy seems to have proved the more
 powerful, in others the middle class.

       *       *       *       *       *

 In 1373 the custom of Colchester was that the whole community chose
 four “sufficient men” (afterwards termed headmen), one from each
 ward, “of good conversation, and who had never been bailiffs;” and
 these, being sworn, elected five more from each ward, who likewise
 had never been bailiffs, making together with themselves twenty-four.
 Two at least of every five thus chosen were to be of the common
 council. The twenty-four elected the two bailiffs, eight aldermen,
 and other officers. Then bailiffs and aldermen together chose sixteen
 of the “wisest and most understanding people in the burgh;” which
 sixteen jointly with them carried on the government. “They were to
 meet in assembly at least four times a year; and if any burgess had
 a proposition to make to his governors he was to deliver it to the
 bailiffs in writing, and receive an answer at the next assembly.”
 Edward the Fourth in his new charter directed bailiffs and aldermen
 and the sixteen to choose sixteen other persons, four from each ward,
 to be a common council with “power to make reasonable ordinances and
 constitutions for the good of the borough.” The first sixteen were
 afterwards styled Primum Concilium, the latter Secundum Concilium.

 Assemblies were held in the moot hall for electing officers and making
 bye-laws. No ordinances could be passed unless twenty-five members
 were present. Fines were raised from those who did not come or who
 came after the doors were shut. (Cromwell’s Colchester, 264-5, 269.)

       *       *       *       *       *

 Canterbury was originally governed by a portreeve appointed by the
 king; but at least as early as the thirteenth century the portreeve
 was replaced by two bailiffs, who were assisted by a council of
 twelve aldermen, or “wisest men,” and by thirty-six “probi homines”
 or “jurati.” There is reason to believe that the bench or chamber of
 twelve exercised from the first the powers which belonged to them in
 the fifteenth century. They were sworn to keep the law days twice
 a year, to preserve the memory of the limits and bounds of their
 aldermanries, and to give good counsel to the mayor; they received all
 the accounts of the money in the cofferer’s keeping; and with them
 rested the power to make all bye-laws. (See the cofferer’s oath in
 muniments of city. A. 1.)

 There were some peculiar features about this upper council. The six
 aldermanries of which the city consisted had been originally held
 by the Crown “in capite,” but when Henry the Third granted the city
 to the citizens to hold in fee-ferm the offices were annexed to the
 fee-ferm, and the owners from that time held of the citizens. The
 wards, however, still remained the property of certain families in
 the county of Kent, estates which could be bequeathed by will, and
 which descended for generations from father to son. Their hereditary
 governors need not be either freemen or inhabitants of the city, and
 might moreover make their profit if they chose by leasing out the
 post. At one time S. Augustine’s held an aldermanry at Canterbury
 (Madox, 252); and at the inquisition of 1285 it was proved that
 William de Godstede, who held the aldermanry of Westgate from the
 community of the city at a rent of 3_s._ 4_d._, had leased it to the
 rector of Sturry, two miles away, for 100_s._ a year. At the same
 time their position in the city was most influential, for not only
 had they the usual police control of their wards as in other towns,
 but they were _ex-officio_ members of the chamber of twelve, who
 formed the counsellors of the mayor in the government of the town.
 There they claimed superior place and privileges to their brethren,
 ranking in dignity next to the mayor and above the other six members
 of the chamber; the fine for reviling the mayor being 100_s._; for the
 aldermen, 60_s._; for the men of the chamber, 40_s._; and for the
 thirty-six men of the council, 20_s._ The council of thirty-six may
 possibly have arisen out of the necessity of securing the attendance
 at the burghmote of a sufficient number of freemen. Their duties as
 defined by the oath customary in 1456 were very limited in character.
 “This hear ye, mayor, that I will be true to King Edward and his
 heirs, and true attendance make to the mayor of the city or his deputy
 at such times as I shall be desired or called, and keep the days of
 the burghmote, and truly keep the counsel of the said burghmote, and
 all other things do as one of the common council.” They seem to have
 had no control over the town treasure, nor any power to propose laws,
 and at first had apparently no power even to reject them. It would
 appear that juries were chosen among their body at the burgh court,
 and they took part in the election of the bailiffs.

 A violent dispute broke out in 1445 as to the right mode of electing
 the bailiffs, and when Cardinal Beaufort visited the city bribes
 were used to win his influence in settling the quarrel. The matter
 ended by the grant of a new charter to the city in 1448, by which the
 bailiffs were replaced by a mayor. By this charter, the king gave
 power to hear pleas and to collect such tallages as the mayor and
 aldermen may consider necessary for the maintenance of the city, but
 of the council of thirty-six there was no mention. As early as 1429,
 however, its share in the government seems to have been recognized.
 The name “common council” was recognized in the oath used in 1456; and
 that it represented the people at large is clear from the statement
 in 1489 that the thirty-six were “sworn to the council of this city
 by the assent of all the commonalty of the city.” Finally in 1474 it
 was decreed that every act or ordinance made by the mayor and aldermen
 “with the assent of such of the thirty-six citizens for the commonalty
 of the said city chosen as it shall like the mayor and aldermen” was
 to be enrolled in the common chamber; and in this same year ordinances
 were made by the mayor, five aldermen, the sheriff of Canterbury,
 and two chamberlains; seven names are then given (who may possibly
 have formed the rest of the chamber of twelve with the five aldermen
 already mentioned), and thirty-six citizens (not mentioned by name)
 elected by the community for the public good of the city. In 1497
 certain business in London was said to have been done by order of the
 mayor, aldermen, council, and commonalty. (Records of Burghmote Court.
 Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 140, 146, 167, 169-173. Hundred Rolls, i. 49-55.)

       *       *       *       *       *

 In Shrewsbury, before the plague, twelve men were chosen who
 apparently elected the bailiffs, and presented their accounts yearly
 to six men chosen by the commonalty. In 1380 the town was torn
 by dissensions, and apparently some change had been made in the
 municipal constitution, for the commonalty under the direction of
 the Earl of Arundel now agreed to return to the form of government
 practised at the time of the plague. This lasted till 1389. Discords
 and debates still, however, continued, and the commonalty met in
 1389 in the presence of the abbot and various lords to find a remedy
 for the misgovernment of the town. It was agreed that the bailiffs
 should nominate a council of twenty-five, which council in its turn
 should elect for the coming year the bailiffs, the coroners, and six
 cessors. The cessors were to oversee the spending of town moneys and
 to make up their accounts for six auditors chosen by the commonalty.
 All burgesses were to be present at elections. The bailiffs only
 appointed the serjeants. The collectors of murage might be dismissed
 during their year of office for any fault. Any burgess who resisted
 these ordinances or gave his opinion in the common assembly was to be
 punished. Ordinances were to be read openly every year.

 A new composition made in 1433 gave the council of twenty-five right
 to choose a serjeant in addition to the two appointed by the bailiffs;
 he was to collect the rents due from burgesses for the ferm of the
 town. Further, the commons’ rights in electing the six auditors were
 affirmed and protected from encroachment “in deceit of the said
 commons.” The members of Parliament were also to be elected by the
 whole of the commons. All the burgesses were ordered to attend at the
 guild hall when summoned, and the common seal was to be kept by four
 men chosen by the commons. Lastly, the bailiffs and commons were to
 elect twelve worthy men who were to serve as continual assistants
 to the bailiffs for the term of their lives. In case of death the
 bailiffs and commons were to elect another councillor. The burgesses
 entreat that this composition shall be confirmed by Parliament because
 in the case of previous accords the commonalty could not bring action
 against the bailiffs for contravention of them.

 In 1444 the council of twelve were given the name of aldermen. The
 common council was to act for the whole body of burgesses, who in the
 assemblies at the guild hall were no longer to answer in their own
 persons, but to show their advice to the twenty-four who were then to
 consult among themselves and to elect a speaker who was to declare
 their will to the bailiffs and aldermen.

 At the same time the nomination of the electing jury of twenty-five
 was taken out of the hands of the bailiff; henceforth they were to
 elect two of the common council, and these two were to appoint the
 twenty-five electors, as well as the six auditors and the coroners.
 The commons were also to choose a chamberlain or treasurer. (Owen’s
 Shrewsbury, i. 168-174, 207-9, 212, 216.)

       *       *       *       *       *

 In Winchester “of the heads of the city should be four and twenty
 sworn instead of the most good men and of the wisest of the town
 for to truly help and counsel the mayor”; and the mayor was to be
 “chosen by the common granting of the four and twenty sworn, and of
 the commune, principal ‘sosteynere’ of the franchise.” The mayor and
 the twenty-four then nominated four men to serve as bailiffs, and two
 of these were chosen by the commons. For levying taxes six men were
 chosen “by the common granting and sworn, three of the four-and-twenty
 and three of the commune.” This was in and before the fourteenth
 century. At a later time the twenty-four named two men for mayor and
 the mayor chose one; while for the two bailiffs the twenty-four chose
 four men and the commonalty selected one of them, and in their turn
 chose four more, of whom the twenty-four selected one. The common seal
 was kept in a large coffer with two locks; one of the twenty-four was
 chosen to keep one key, and one of the commons to keep the other.
 (Eng. Guilds, 349-50, 356. Kitchin’s Winchester, 164-5.)

 In the early fifteenth century laws, etc., were made by the mayor and
 his peers and all the community of the city. (Gross, ii. 258-9.) The
 “full assembly” of 1477 mentions the mayor and fifty-seven of his
 peers then present (Ibid. 262). It is a matter for inquiry whether
 the thirty-three citizens added to the twenty-four were specially
 summoned householders, and whether Winchester followed in its common
 council the type of Leicester or of Norwich.

       *       *       *       *       *

 Leicester had originally a council of twenty-four; and the commons
 had a right at first to gather at elections or at a Common Hall and
 watch the proceedings of the council. They had, however, no right to
 interfere with business, and in 1467 a fine was imposed on any who
 cried out or named aloud one of the mayor’s brethren to the office
 of the mayoralty. In the fifteenth century there were rumours and
 speech of ungodly rules and demeanings among the people, and in 1489
 “whereas such persons as be of little substance or reason, and not
 contributors, or else full little, to the charges” still continued
 “their exclamations and headiness,” they were excluded as a body
 from the Common Hall, and the mayor, bailiffs, and Twenty-four, were
 ordered only to summon forty-eight and no more of the most wise and
 sad of the commoners after their discretion. In the later part of the
 fifteenth century orders were made by the mayor and “his brethren
 called the Twenty-four and the whole company of the Forty-eight, then
 and there assembled, for and in the name of the whole body of the
 corporation of the town.” (Hist. MSS. Com. viii. 423; Thomson, Mun.
 Hist. 55-6, 80-84.)

       *       *       *       *       *

 In 1553 “the mayor and burgesses” of Gloucester claimed to have had
 power time out of mind to ordain, constitute, and hold a court in
 their Council House, and to call many and divers men to their council
 at the same court and to compel and swear them in of their council.
 This summoning of additional councillors seems to have made up the
 “Common Council.” In 1526 it was stated that “it has been the custom
 time out of mind to elect certain chief burgesses, sometimes more
 sometimes less in number,” to form a common council; and the number
 was then fixed at forty, twelve of whom were to be aldermen.



THERE are two grounds on which Southampton may claim to stand first
among examples of early municipal government. For centuries it was
the great port of the south—the harbour where for England the trade
of the whole world converged, where carracks of Flanders and galleys
from Venice met to pour upon its wharves the treasures of the northern
and the southern seas. And for centuries its government survived, as
perhaps such a government survived nowhere else in England, in the
order appointed by its first planters, with none of its hedges broken
down by compromise, nor its pure springs stained by infiltration of
popular and democratic fervours. It is possible that the two facts
are intimately bound together, and that the destiny of a Channel port
determined the somewhat unusual lot of the Southampton municipality.

The industrial experiences of Southampton had been very felicitous.
Nearly forty trades are mentioned in the town records of the thirteenth
century, and there were many more than these, carried on not only by
the English inhabitants but by settlers come from Burgundy, Flanders,
Denmark, and Lombardy, and the French colony established in Rochelle
Lane and French Street. Wool of all kind was sold in the market,
coarse, black, broken, and lambs’ wool, much of which was sent to the
Isle of Wight to be made up into web. Coloured “Paris candles” were
manufactured as early as 1297. Cheese was made in great quantities, and
cider. Bends of elms for ploughs were brought from Abingdon.[522] Hemp
was grown for the making of cords, and the shipbuilding trade for which
the town was so noted in the time of Henry the Fifth must have been
already practised in far earlier days, to judge from the history of the
Southampton shipping.[523]

Home industries, however, held a very modest position in Southampton
compared with the fine figure made by its foreign commerce. Ships from
the West bringing “cloth of Ireland,” perhaps drugget from Drogheda or
from Sligo, met vessels carrying wine from the French ports, herrings
and wax and tapestry from Brittany, alum from Biscay and from Genoa,
Eastern spices from the depôts of the Rhine, while harbour dues were
paid for salt-fish, pitch, bitumen, charcoal, and wood from the ports
of the Baltic.[524] The great glory of the town lay however in its
direct trade with the Mediterranean. When in the reign of Edward the
Second Venetian and Genoese ships first began to carry their wares
to England they cast anchor in its harbour,[525] and for two hundred
years Southampton became the centre of English traffic with the Italian
republics.[526] An attempt to make it a free port in 1334 came to
a speedy end, but the advantages the scheme offered must have been
practically secured by the privileges which the kings granted both
to the foreign merchants who came to trade and to the town itself
as a commercial centre. In 1337 the merchants of the Society of the
Alberti in Florence did the carrying trade of wool from Southampton to
Gascony,[527] and three years later part of a tenement near the sea
was let to the Society of the Bardi, the Florentine bankers. In 1378
the King allowed merchants of Spain and the Genoese and Venetians who
carried all the Levant trade, to unlade and sell their goods at its
wharfs instead of being forced to go to the staple at Calais;[528]
and again in 1402 Henry the Fourth granted special permission to the
Genoese to disembark at Southampton and carry their goods thence to
London by land.[529] From 1353, when Winchester was made a staple
for wool, Southampton as the port from which alone all its bales
must be shipped to the Continent had a practical monopoly of the
southern export trade.[530] It was the only harbour to which might be
carried “Malmseys and other sweet wines of the growth of Candye and
Rotymoes, and in any other place within the parts of Levant beyond
the Straits of Morocco.” Carracks from Genoa and Venice, ships from
Spain, Portugal, Almayne, Flanders, and Zealand thronged its harbours,
bringing their wines and spices, and carrying away wool for the weavers
of the Netherlands, or cloth for the dyers of Italy and the traders
of the Black Sea.[531] Attracted by its dazzling prospects of wealth,
London vintners and cloth-workers rented great cellars for storage, and
held houses and lands in the town; and so brilliant was the promise of
its future that in 1379 a Genoese merchant got leave from the king,
for the better security of his merchandise, to occupy the castle which
had just been rebuilt, and promised in return to make Southampton the
greatest port of Western Europe. But before he could carry out his
plans the merchants in London, furious at so dangerous a rivalry, had
him assassinated at his own door.[532]

Nor was commercial enterprise left to the foreigner, for even in the
fourteenth century native traders were sending out English ships to
do business in foreign ports.[533] In 1391 one merchant took a lease
for the whole year of the customs of the town by land and water; while
another wealthy burgess, William Soper, put the towers of the Water
Gate in repair at his own cost, and rented them and the adjoining
buildings for a hundred and twenty years, promising to repair and
maintain them. At the end of the fourteenth century the large sums
which passed from hand to hand, and the numerous bonds for payment of
debts from £60 to £100 bore witness to the growth of trade.[534] The
wool dues in the port were able to bear a charge of £100 a year granted
by Henry the Fourth in 1400 for the repairing and fortifying of the
town walls; and in 1417 Cardinal Beaufort, Lord of Southampton and the
greatest wool-merchant in all England, lent £14,000 to Henry the Fifth
on security of customs on wool and other merchandise in the various
ports of Southampton, and before a third of it was repaid he advanced
another £14,000 on the same security.[535]

The prosperity of the citizens was shewn by their refusal any longer to
interrupt business during the Winchester fair. In 1350 they had already
quarrelled with the bishop on the subject; but he had carried the day,
and the town had again submitted to the old rules that while the fair
lasted there should be no weighing and measuring at the great beam in
the market place, that if a merchant came carrying wares he should only
be allowed to remain if he swore that they were not intended for sale,
and that the bishop’s bailiff should live in Southampton during the
fair to see that the contract was carried out. If it was broken the
inhabitants were bound, not only in their lands and houses but in all
their goods and chattels, to pay a penalty of a thousand marks within
three months.[536] From this intolerable state of things the citizens
were strong enough to free themselves by negociations with the bishop
in 1406,[537] and in 1433 they gained the right to have a fair of their
own every year for three days at Trinity Chapel near the town.

Nor had the town yet exhausted its good fortune. A law of 1455 which
forbade merchant strangers from Italy any longer to ride about the
country buying up with ready money wools and wool cloth from the poor
people, and only allowed them henceforth to buy in London, Southampton,
or Sandwich,[538] drove foreign traders to settle in the town if they
wanted to carry on their business at all; and many more were added
to their number the next year when the whole body of Italian dealers
living in London were driven out by a popular riot, and passing by
Winchester, fixed their new homes in Southampton,[539] which must
then have contained within its walls the great majority of all the
Italian merchants in England. The monopoly of the whole export trade of
Southern England was confirmed to the town by law in 1464; and finally
Henry the Seventh created it a staple of metals, and gave the exclusive
right of melting tin ore to its guild.[540]

Smugglers and illegal traders bore their testimony to the profits
to be made in Southampton waters. Light boats[541] pushed by night
into every creek and cove along the coast to land their casks of
wine; and in the town strange tailors were hard at work cutting up
stuff into garments for the foreign market so as to avoid the duty on
exported cloth. It was decreed in 1407 that no alien tailor, coming
in a ship or galley, should have any shop, house, or room in the town
for the making of any “robes, jepone, ne autres garnements” until
he had made agreement with the masters of the craft; so vessels of
“Spayne, Portingall, Almayne, Flanders, Zelonde, and others in their
vyages” came bringing with them “tailors of divers nations,” who now
however simply abode in their ships and cut up the cloth there at
their leisure, and in 1468, four years after the monopoly of the wool
trade had been again secured to Southampton, it had to pass a new
law against these plunderers of the custom house.[542] Indeed, the
magnitude of commerce at the end of the century may be measured by the
scale on which corruption and false dealing could be carried on even
by the town authorities themselves. In 1484 two London citizens, one
a brewer, the other a “gentleman, and clerk of all the King’s ships,”
owed to the mayor, sheriffs, and bailiffs of Southampton £1,200. These
officers, however, had apparently got into some difficulty about the
sale of 1,086 sacks of wool in which they were concerned, and drew up
an agreement with their debtors that they would forgive this debt of
£1,200 if they might have a promise that they should be held “harmless
in their own names, and not as mayor, sheriffs, and bailiffs.”[543]

There was, however, another aspect of Southampton trade. We have a
glimpse of the hidden side of the town life during the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries in account books of the Hospital of St. Julian or
God’s House, which owned a hundred and eight tenements inhabited by
working people, the prosperous ones living in houses of their own, the
more luckless seeking shelter in selds or open warehouses. But from
the one class as from the other, the Hospital pressed in vain for a
rent which the tenant scarcely ever paid. One of the richer kind is
pardoned 56_s._ arrears; the attorney is forgiven a sum of 50_s._; the
goldsmith who owes £4 8_s._ 6_d._, manages to pay most of his debt in
salt. Others pledge their carpets; some pay 1_d._ or 1/2_d._ or 3_d._
at a time for large accounts against them; in other cases there is the
brief entry “died in poverty and so nothing;” or poor tenants “run away
from the town in poverty,” and the selds that sheltered them stand
empty. Such is the tale of misery—a misery scarcely alleviated by the
alms distributed by the Hospital to the poor—in 1299 three bushels
of wheat given in Advent; in 1306 one-and-a-half quarters of beans
and twenty-nine quarters of peas; in 1318 thirteen quarters of beans.
After the burning of a great part of the town in 1337 by a fleet of
French, Spaniards, and Genoese, matters grew yet worse, and in 1340
the arrears amounted to four times as much as the yearly rents. The
Abbot of Beaulieu owed five years’ rent for the “cheseseld.” There
was due from the five parishes of Holyrood, St. John, St. Michael,
St. Lawrence, and All Saints within the Bar, £127 in 1340, £155 in
1342.[544] Large tenements were broken up into smaller ones where the
people huddled together in their misery, and the terrible legacy of a
very poor population clinging in extreme destitution to the slums and
low suburbs of the town was apparently handed on to the next century,
for so far as the published records tell, Southampton was the only town
in the fifteenth century that gave regular out-door relief to paupers.
In 1441 the Steward’s book gives an account of £4 2_s._ 1_d._ given
away in alms every week to poor men and women.[545]

In Southampton, in fact, riches did not gather in the people’s coffers
while men slept. Wealth which was hard to win, was harder still to keep
in the great port of the southern coast, where life and goods were
held by a precarious tenure whenever England had a quarrel across the
water. At any moment the plea of military necessity might justify all
kinds of irregular and intermittent interference of royal officers,
and the government of Southampton became a matter of divided authority
and shifting responsibility which was probably unparalleled elsewhere
in England. A special guardian of the king’s ships[546] interfered in
the harbour; and a receiver and victualler to the king’s troops[547]
interfered in the shops and market of the town. The Constable of the
Castle[548] long survived the constables of other towns, and was given
powers determined by the court view of the necessities of the times; so
that in 1369, we find a captain of the castle with authority to arrest
all rebels against the king or the government of the town, and to watch
against regrators, artizans, or workmen who should offend against the
law.[549] At a time when the mayor of most boroughs was commissioner
for array-at-arms, the mayor was here jointly responsible for military
defences with the constable and apparently took quite the second

Military discipline in fact pressed relentlessly at all points on a
place continually vexed by war and alarms of war and calls to arms. On
Sundays and holidays all children from seven years old were called out
to practise shooting with bows on the common, while the town cowherd
kept the cattle out of the way.[551] When war broke out every man had
to go out and take his share of fighting, and no one save the mayor was
even allowed to provide a deputy instead of bearing arms in person. If
the inhabitants had no heart to fight, summary punishment was meted out
as a warning for future times; and when in 1338 the mayor, bailiffs,
and burgesses fled before an attack of the French, the custody of
Southampton was seized into the king’s hands, and its franchises
forfeited for a whole year.[552] Besides the cost of three or four
ships[553] to protect the harbour, with wages for masters and men, and
money for their food and rent, Southampton was bound to have “ready for
defence against the foreign enemy great plenty of armour, weapons, and
other artillery and things needful.” There was a town gunner who was
paid sixpence a day to make gunpowder, gunstones and lathe-guns.[554]
Generation after generation of unwilling tradesmen had to repair and
maintain and defend walls over a mile long and from twenty-five to
thirty feet high, with twenty-nine great towers; and to strengthen
the sea-banks and ditches. The work was divided out among the people;
lightermen and boatmen were bound to bring up every year boatloads of
stones and heap them up against the walls on the sea side, while the
townspeople put in piles and kept them in order.[555] The towers were
manned by the various crafts, one by shoemakers, curriers, cobblers,
and saddlers; another by mercers and grocers; a third by goldsmiths,
blacksmiths, lockyers, pewterers, and tinkers; and so on.[556] But so
heavy was the cost of repairs, that after the burning of the town by
the French, when the king, in 1338 and 1340, ordered the fortifications
to be strengthened and a stone wall fronting the sea built at the
expense of the inhabitants,[557] the people simply fled away; and the
Earl of Warwick and his successors, under the title of “guardians of
the town,” were posted in its castle with men-at-arms and archers, “to
take order” about the wretched fugitives, and compel any inhabitants
who attempted to leave the town to return and live there “according
to their estate,” and if they refused, to seize their houses, rents,
and possessions for the king.[558] And in 1376 the poor commons and
tenants prayed that the king would take the town into his hand and
forgive them the rent, since for the last two years they had spent not
only the whole ferm which he had granted them (nearly £300 a year) on
the walls, but had been forced to give besides £1,000 of their own
money, so that half the people had deserted their homes to escape the
intolerable burdens thrown on them,[559] and the rest were going.

The long miseries of the Hundred Years War were soon followed by the
harassing problems of the Wars of the Roses. For Southampton was
reputed wealthy, with its unusually imposing ferm of £226 and the
big roll of the king’s customs, and there were always people waiting
to dip their hands into so rich treasury. The royal generosities
at its expense were an old story. A large part of the ferm was
settled on successive queens from the thirteenth to the seventeenth
centuries,[560] and however low funds might run the town always tried
to keep well at court by paying at least the Queen’s jointure. Great
nobles and servants of the king’s household were not forgotten, and
took their grants as they could get them, partly in money, partly
in wine or foreign fruits or spices. But when two warring parties
each claimed the treasure of Southampton as its own, the municipal
finances became a perilous matter for the council to deal with, and
the crises of the Wars of the Roses are marked by calamity to the town
budget.[561] In 1457 the ferm was only made up by contributions from
seventeen burgesses amounting to over £42.[562] Matters were more
serious in November, 1458, and the mayor had to go to London, from
whence he writes to entreat the auditors “that ye will, as diligently
as ye can or may, with one heart, one will, and one thought effectually
to labour, that an end be had of the books of the bailiffs in all
haste goodly, and to warn the steward that was to make his book ready
against my coming home, for we must with all the diligence we can or
may make provision of money to be had in short time or we be like to be
sore hurt, and that God defend for we have had too much.” One of the
auditors accounts was over £30 too short, “the which is to me right
strange, so much money as he received the last year and this year too,
I cannot understand it.... I remit it to your wisdoms.” Another account
included nothing but the bare fees. These matters must be thought on
“right specially” but “if ye will with good heart and will undivided
and without any ambiguity every man heartily and diligently put his
hand we shall once be brought out of thraldom.” As to political news
he is as cautious as he is anxious. “And so much to do will be amongst
them, God spede the right.” “I can no more, but I beseech God guide us
in all our work.”[563] A few months after the mayor was summoned to the
Exchequer in London about his accounts, but before the day was fixed
the Lancastrian Lord Exeter suddenly sent his secretary to the town
with a receipt under his seal and sign manual for the last half-year’s
rent. “Milord prayed us so fair to be paid here (that is in Southampton
and not in London) and said he had never so great ‘myster’ ne need that
he is paid,” and promised his help in case of any difficulty in London,
“for we told him what hurt and loss it was unto us.” So the town paid
sadly, and the mayor anxiously wrote to their Recorder in London to
try and get them out of the scrape. “And [we will] make aready all the
money that we may in all haste possible whatsomever befall,” he adds

It was indeed hard to gather money at the moment, for in 1460 the Earl
of Wiltshire, Treasurer of Henry the Sixth, making an excuse to get to
Southampton under pretence of intercepting Warwick, found five great
carracks of Genoa lying in the port, seized them all with all their
wealth, filled them with his soldiers, provided them with victuals from
the town without payment, and fled to Flanders with his booty.[565]
Then came the new rulers, and Edward the Fourth ordered Southampton to
pay the treasurer of his household £133 6_s._ 8_d._, and to the Earl
of Warwick as constable of Dover castle an annuity of £154 out of the
same ferm.[566] What with one trouble and another Southampton fell
into arrears with its rent, and a burgess (the very Richard Gryme who
had been mayor a year before and had made the advance to Lord Exeter)
was thrown into the Fleet in London till it should be paid; two of his
fellow-townsmen were sent riding to Westminster “to labour for his
welfare,” and £20 was at last handed over before he was set free.[567]
The same year the sheriff, also summoned before the Exchequer, rode
to London at the town’s cost; and he only got off by having his debt
paid by the Recorder, who was afterwards repaid by the town.[568] There
was further trouble in 1469-70 when the Kingmaker, as the restored
Constable of Dover under Henry the Sixth, demanded his pension from
the ferm, and the mayor travelled to London “to reckon with the Earl
of Warwick,” and spent twelve days there, “for the which twelve days
the cost cometh to 50_s._ 6_d._”[569] Then a few months later came the
other constable of the victorious Edward the Fourth, and the town had
to pay him too and bear the double charge that year.[570]

All these financial difficulties were made yet more acute by the
character of the municipal wealth. Of the £393 which made up the
revenue of the town in 1428,[571] £302 3_s._ 4_d._ came from tolls;
and the foreign commerce on which such sums were levied had to be
maintained amid wars with France, quarrels with Brittany, attacks of
Hanseatic and Breton and Genoese and Venetian traders always on the
watch to seize ships on any plea of wrong done to their merchants, or
in defiance of pirates that swarmed in the Channel, and of smugglers
that haunted the coast. Again and again the people make complaint that
the foreign merchants that used to bring their goods no longer came,
and for lack of tolls to pay the ferm the burgesses had been forced
to borrow £400 for their rent, and that many citizens had been driven
from the town, and others were going unless something could be done to
lighten their burdens.[572]

These were some of the special problems with which Southampton had to
deal—perils of war, its consequences of military rule and divided
authority within the town, a complicated and difficult finance, a trade
at once wealthy and precarious, heavy expenses to be met in good times
and in bad, a very poor class living side by side with a very rich
one. The form of trouble might vary from year to year, but trouble
was always with them. Bargainings, abject petitionings and arbitrary
favours, concessions now on this side now on that, stern exactions and
lavish gifts, left the town open to endless changes and chances of

The general conditions, in fact, must have made the growth of popular
government practically impossible; and from the beginning the town
was probably ruled by a narrow oligarchy. Its first constitution was,
perhaps, framed under the influence of a powerful Merchant Guild,
such as would naturally be formed in a wealthy commercial centre—a
fraternity not unlike the contemporary guild at Lynn or the latter
one at Coventry.[574] It seems that in the twelfth century two king’s
bailiffs had the care of all the royal property, the collection of
the ferm, the gathering in of the king’s debts, and so forth.[575]
Meanwhile the Merchant Guild elected its own aldermen, scavins, usher,
and other officers, to protect the liberties and customs granted
to it by Henry the First and confirmed by Henry the Second and his
sons.[576] In 1199 John granted to “the burgesses” to have their
town at ferm,[577] and it is probable that the alderman of the guild
was charged with the collection and payment of the money, for in the
course of the next generation he appears as mayor of the town.[578]
Both offices, mayor and alderman, were carried on side by side in his
person. He shared the government with the bailiffs, as chief of the
town and the guild, bound to maintain the statutes of both, and having
the first voice in all elections concerning both. If the bailiffs
failed to do justice, he summoned the jurors and judged in their place.
He had charge of the common coffer and the keys of the town gates,
and kept the assize of bread and of ale.[579] By virtue of his old
title and office the mayor was still called alderman in the fourteenth
century,[580] and in 1368 he apparently acted at the head of the guild
organization with its four scavins.[581]

The peculiar position of an alderman of the guild thus turned into a
mayor, is no doubt marked by the fact that he was never, as in other
boroughs, the elect of the whole community, nor even of a jury chosen
by the people. In the fifteenth century it was admitted that from time
immemorial the custom was for the outgoing mayor, in the presence of
the bailiffs and burgesses, to nominate two burgesses, and the assembly
was forced to elect one of these two, unless they chose to re-elect the
mayor himself, which indeed was often done. The system was probably
that which the guild had originally adopted for choosing its aldermen,
and which went on unchanged under the new circumstances. His place as
mayor, indeed, seems to have been an honour slowly and reluctantly
conceded,[582] for in 1249, after “Benedict the son of Aaron” had held
office (possibly for eleven years) the burgesses obtained a royal
patent granting that neither they nor their heirs should ever again
have a mayor in Southampton.[583] Twelve years later, however, the list
begins again, though in a manner as informal as before, for long after
his authority in Southampton was undisputed, the mayor was officially
ignored in that capacity at Westminster, and charters from the time
of Henry the Second to that of Richard the Second were addressed to
“the burgesses.”[584] It was only after a charter of Henry the Fourth,
which among other things appointed the mayor and four aldermen as
justices of the peace,[585] that the style seems to have changed, and
the letters patent of Henry the Fifth are addressed to “the mayor and
burgesses.”[586] At last, in 1445, under Henry the Sixth, Southampton
was made a perpetual corporation to be known by the name of “mayor,
bailiffs, and burgesses,”[587] and this phrase henceforth replaced the
old style.[588]

With the group of officials through whom the alderman ruled the guild
we have no immediate concern. But when the mayor had taken his oath of
office in S. Michael’s Church (perhaps in the north chancel aisle which
was called “Corporation Chapel”), he found himself at the head of an
administrative body of twelve “discreets” and twelve aldermen of the
wards. The aldermen set over the five wards (three of which were ruled
by two aldermen, and the remaining two by three, making twelve in all)
acted as a kind of police to keep the peace in their respective wards,
to enroll the names of all the inhabitants and of their sureties, to
take up malefactors, and to make the round every week or fortnight
to see that all was in good order;[589] and it is possible that they
took part in some work of the mayor’s council in the fourteenth
century.[590] The twelve “discreets” were elected every year by the
whole community in an appointed place, and like the twelve portmen of
Ipswich were sworn to keep the peace, to preserve the town liberties,
to do justice to poor and rich, and to be present at every court.[591]
They had joint charge with the mayor of the treasure and the common
chest of charters and deeds, and no document could be sealed with the
common seal unless at least six of them were present. They themselves
elected the two bailiffs, the common clerk, and the serjeant of the
town.[592] Finally in 1401, two years after the same privilege had been
conceded to Nottingham, the charter of Henry IV. gave the discreets
power to choose out of their own body four aldermen, who together with
the mayor were to be justices of the peace, and were to be aided in
their work by four discreet persons chosen by the mayor and community.
From this time doubtless the mayor and his four brethren became the
chief aldermen of the five wards;[593] and the town council, as in
Nottingham, elected some of its members to sit as aldermen in scarlet
robes, and some to be plain “discreets” or “burgesses.”[594]

The two charters which finally determined the constitution of
Southampton were granted within a year of the similar charters to
Nottingham. The first, in 1445, which formed a deed of incorporation
under the title of mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, recognized elections
by the official body, a custom which appears in the charter of 1401;
while the second made the town into a county, in order to protect the
merchants and mariners who were incommoded by the sheriff of the county
serving writs on them.[595] In the actual government of the place
it does not seem that these charters brought about much change. The
mayor still presided over meetings of aldermen and burgesses at the
Guildhall in Bargate Tower,[596] or in the Audit House which stood in
the middle of the street in the very centre of the fish, poultry, and
pig markets; and the whole community might be gathered together for
the common business at the discretion of the rulers.[597] Nor did the
charter of incorporation alter the old style used in local business.
In affairs that concerned the commonalty, whether it was an agreement
with some other borough about tolls, or ordinances for the town, or a
concord with a neighbour as to the limits of the town’s jurisdiction,
or the leasing of the customs by land and sea for a year, or grants
of land—in all such matters the ancient custom was to use the name
of the “mayor and community”; and even after 1445 the old form “mayor
and community” is still retained in all acts that related to public
property and the town treasure, all leases, water supply, fines due
to the Queen, license to hold a fair, and the like.[598] That the
distinction between burgesses and commonalty was a real one in the eyes
of the people is proved by the fact that on three great occasions when
a solemn consent of the whole town was required, the signature of “the
commonalty” or “the whole community” was formally placed alongside
of that of the official class—once in the treaty with the Archduke
Philip in 1496; once in the treaty with Maximilian as to the marriage
of Prince Charles of Spain to Henry’s daughter the Lady Mary; and once
again in an important transaction concerning the common lands of the

It thus seems probable that administration in Southampton underwent
singularly little change from first to last, save the raising of
councillors into self-elected aldermen and justices of the peace.
Whether the system of close election by the council recognized in the
charters of 1401 and 1445 was new, or whether, as is equally probable,
the custom was already of old standing, it seems plain that no popular
disturbance or protest was excited by these charters. It was not till
fifteen years later, in 1460, that the commons rose in open revolt
under the leadership of the sheriff and five burgesses, and then the
battle raged round the election of the mayor.[600] A hundred or more
rioters rushed to the Guildhall, broke in upon the meeting there with
drawn daggers and loud cries, and proceeding at once to elect their
leader the sheriff as mayor, carried him in triumph on their shoulders,
and set him on the mayor’s seat, while another of the ringleaders was
appointed in his place as sheriff. But the riot had no great results.
The defeated party procured a patent which declared that their old
custom of election was to be observed, and a mayor was lawfully
chosen by it; but as they were unable to displace the usurper, the
quarrel finally ended in a compromise whose only effect was slightly
to increase the part taken by the aldermen in elections. By this new
system the mayor and aldermen met in the audit house a month before
the day of election, and chose four burgesses for nomination; on the
day of election they again met and struck two names off the list. The
remaining two names were proposed to the burgesses and one of them
elected by ballot; the outgoing mayor let it be known which was to be
elected, and the ballot was a matter of form. The people put their
necks once more under the yoke, and the mayor nominated his successor
and handed on to him the traditions of office which he had himself

Twenty years later there seems to have been another impotent effort
to reform the system of election. At this time all such attempts were
watched from the Court with suspicious fear; and Richard the Third
wrote to the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, pointing out that by
their letters patent they had truly the right both to elect municipal
officers and to remove them for reasonable cause, and directing them,
since “certain indisposed persons are about to trouble and vex you
in due execution of the said grant, so to punish the said indisposed
persons as shall be the good and fearful example of others, and if they
be such persons whom ye may not accordingly punish in that behalf, to
certify us thereof to the intent we may provide such a lawful remedy in
the same as may accord with your said privileges.”[602]

In these dissensions it does not seem that the popular anger was
excited by alleged political usurpations, but simply by corrupt
administration, especially perhaps in relation to public money and the
common lands. There was certainly financial trouble. In 1459, as we
have seen, the auditor’s accounts had fallen short by large sums; and
as from of old one of the auditors was appointed by the mayor, and
the treasure chest was kept in the mayor’s house and the keys by the
mayor and discreets, there was probably ground for suspicion on the
part of the people.[603] The remedy, however, was slowly and hardly
won, and it was not till 1505 that a very moderate reform was carried
out by passing a decree that the mayor’s salary should be paid through
the steward by the auditors; “to the intent following that no mayor
from this day forward take upon him to receive or handle any of the
town’s money, that is, to wit, he shall make no fine except it be at
the audit house, calling to him two or three of the aldermen or of the
discreets at the least, and the money thereof coming to be put into the
Common Box in the said audit house.”[604] In course of time it was also
ordered that the common chest should be kept in the guild hall[605]
instead of the mayor’s own house.

In the same year, 1459, there was probably some alarm also as to the
common lands.[606] The 376 acres of Southampton Common, the various
closes, the God’s House Meadow, and the Saltmarsh, were, as we have
seen, the special care of the “community”;[607] and a quarrel had been
going on for centuries with S. Julian’s Hospital as to a tract of
marsh which was claimed by the town as part of its common in spite of
all the fences raised by the warden of S. Julian’s to vindicate his
claims.[608] In 1459 a new warden perhaps suggested the plan which he
carried out a few years later, after the failure of the popular revolt,
when he disseised the town in 1466 of a part of the great marsh or
common, having bought over the mayor by a grant of some of the land in
question to be held of the hospital. Under a later mayor in 1471 the
burghers again broke down the fences put up by the hospital,[609] and
appealed to the king and council to defend their ancient privileges.
“Ancient men” (one aged 104 and more) gave their depositions as to
boundaries,[610] and an award was finally made in 1504, followed by
the necessary legal settlements, in 1505. A new quarrel arose when
the corporation attempted to raise a tax for keeping up the sea-banks
or cutting sluices to save the fields from floods; and proposed, if
this failed, to enclose and hire out a part of the common land to
pay these expenses.[611] The townsmen, on the alert for danger, sent
in eager declarations that the poor commons “will be ever ready to
withstand all manner of persons with their bodies and goods that
would attempt to usurp upon any point or parcel of the liberties and
franchises of the town.” They would not hear of letting any part of
the common; as to paying any money for sluice, bridge, or cut made
by the corporation, “they pray your wisdoms in that matter to assess
none of them, for they intend to pay none in no wise”; unless indeed
some better and happier times might befall them, “remembering your
poor commons are not as yet at a fordele in riches, trusting to God to
increase under your masterships.”[612] The period of wealth, however,
tarried, and so did the taxes; so a few years later the corporation
ordered part of the marsh to be enclosed. Upon this three hundred
of the commons, men and women, marched out to the waste, broke down
fences and banks, and triumphantly proceeded to the guild hall, making
“presumptuously and unlawfully a great shout” to the annoyance of
the court within. Flushed with success they next walked two and two
in procession with their picks and shovels to the mayor’s house near
Holy Rood Church and Cross, and one cried out, “If master mayor have
any more work for us we be ready”; after which they went home without
doing further harm. Four days later one of the king’s council came
down with letters ordering the arrest of the chief offenders, and
perpetual banishment was proclaimed against the ringleaders who had
fled, while six other men were seized, taken to London, and put in
the Marshalsea. The Southampton rioters were struck with terror and
repentance. Petitions were got up in every parish for the prisoners;
the town promised to restore the banks, and never sin again in like
fashion; the corporation sent out a proclamation that all those who
had taken part in breaking down the banks should go out to build them
up again, and only when this was done was the petition for mercy
forwarded to London. Finally, sentence was given by the cardinal and
the council that the prisoners should be sent home, and at their coming
to Hampton should sit in the open stocks under the pillory, till the
mayor and his brethren and the king’s lieutenant walked down the
street, when the penitents were to plead for mercy and forgiveness and
confess their guilt. All this was done; the mayor, in the name of his
brethren, magnanimously, of his great mercy, accepted the apology and
promised that no grudge should be borne against them. “And thereupponne
[he] commaunded them owt of the stokkes, and hadd them to the audite
hous, and bound them by obligacon to be good aberying ageynst the
kinges grace and the mayor and his brethryn hereafter, and so delyveryd
them.”[613] The municipal dignity was vindicated, though the quarrel
was still left to drag on for the next two hundred years.[614]

In spite of irritation over questions of financial fraud and the
management of the common lands, however, there seems to have been
little political activity in Southampton. The civic life stretches
out before us like stagnant waters girt round by immutable barriers.
Scarcely a movement disturbs its sluggish surface. The twelve
perpetually gather round the mayor and rule the town with a despotic
power which hardly suffers change during the centuries from John to
Henry the Eighth. Even the modest claim of townsfolk for some closer
connexion with their mayor only reveals with what a steady hand the
venerable oligarchy maintained its ancient discipline. Against their
consecrated order the commons from time to time made a riotous and
disorderly protest;[615] but there is no attempt to bring about real
constitutional reform. We scarcely hear of the general Assembly; there
is no appeal to old traditions of freedom; no talk of a representative
council of the commons; no organized resistance of the crafts—possibly
because these, however numerous, were too poor and weak (if we may
judge from their inability to maintain the walls and towers, even when
grouped together) to make head against a very powerful corporation.
Mere outbreaks of unorganized and intermittent revolt, which were
occasionally kindled by some grave scandal, died away fruitlessly
before the steady resistance of the authorities in power, and such
paroxysms of transient activity on the part of the people remained
without permanent result.

Southampton had, in fact, a peculiar history and a fixed tradition in
government, which left its people in a singularly helpless position
before authority. The conditions, political and commercial, of
its municipal life necessarily gave the expert a supreme place in
administration; and it is possible that a compact body of merchants
had from the first imposed their methods of government and election on
a population who had no voice in the matter. The state of affairs was
exactly reflected in the attitude of the mayor, who held a place of
singular pre-eminence and might. Far removed from popular criticism or
control, as direct minister of the king[616] he conducted a vast mass
of business in absolute independence, both of the community and of the
guild, not only as being the king’s escheator, the gauger and weigher
of goods at the king’s standard, and measurer over the assize of cloth,
the mayor of the staple of wool, and mayor of the staple of metals
under the king’s orders, but also as the king’s admiral within the town
and its liberties, with supreme control of the port and coast from
Christ Church Head to the Needles thence to Hill Head at the mouth of
Southampton Water, over the port of Cowes and of Portsmouth;[617] and
even as a sort of secretary for foreign affairs, for we must remember
that nowhere, save in London, was the “foreign” question so big and
important. Settlers from France or the Netherlands, such as those
in Sandwich or Norwich, who took up their dwelling there and became
absorbed in the general body of the townsfolk, formed a very different
class from the merchant visitors who flocked to Southampton to look
after business interests which extended all over the country, and to a
great extent conducted the whole carrying trade of the south; and who,
as strangers under the peculiar protection of the king, constituted
a foreign colony, ruled by special laws and kept under special
supervision.[618] In all these different departments of his government
the mayor ruled by other laws than the municipal ordinances; he did
not need the municipal seal for his decrees, nor the assent of the
community for his acts; and the great departments in which his actions
were removed from all possibility of local criticism, and local control
must have made absolute rule the easier and less singular in all other
relations of his office.

Nor ought we to forget wholly the outer influences which were acting
on Southampton from the world beyond the water. With Flanders it seems
to have had little direct communication. So long as the Mediterranean
galleys carried its wool to the Netherland ports, and returned to
pick up their freight for the homeward journey, the associations and
commerce of Southampton were with the great cities of Italy, too far
removed from it in every conceivable respect to serve as schools of
political freedom; and with the communes of France whose liberties
had long suffered decay, and in the fifteenth century were finally
extinguished by the policy of Louis the Eleventh, the subtle enemy of
popular liberties.[619] It is hard to tell how far Southampton may have
been affected by such foreign associations, but at least they did not
tend to weaken the influences at home which made for oligarchic rule.
Undoubtedly if we compare this town with other English boroughs where
civic life was more free and expansive in its growth, the municipal
record, in spite of its brilliant commercial side, is one of singular
monotony, and leaves us with the sense of a stunted developement in the
body politic. Southampton, in fact, was by its position and dignity
called to play so great a part in the national history, both in war
and commerce, that all claim to private and local independence was
superseded. At a far earlier date than other towns its destiny was
merged in the fortunes of the whole commonwealth,[620] and the king
suffered no deviation from the service required of it to the state. In
a very remarkable way Southampton anticipated the history of boroughs
which under the Tudors were drawn into the same duty and service;
through successive centuries its burghers acquiesced in the expert
administration of a small official class, scarcely fettered by popular
control; and abandoned the pursuit of new ideals of communal life or
new experiments in government.



PROBLEMS of government sat lightly on the people of Nottingham.
Singularly favoured as it was by fortune compared with many other
towns, there is something phenomenal in the record of a town so
tranquil, so uniformly prosperous, so exempt from apprehension, with
so complacent a record of successful trading and undisturbed ease.
Administration was carried on in its simplest form, and few sacrifices
were demanded of the inhabitants, whether of labour or of money,
compared with the efforts which were required of less fortunate towns.
The interest, in fact, of its history lies in the quiet picture that is
given of a group of active and thriving traders, at peace with their
neighbours, and for the most part at peace with themselves.

The position of Nottingham was one of great military importance; for
lying almost at the centre of the kingdom, the town held the approach
to the one bridge over the Trent by which the main road from the south
struck northward: and further commanded the navigation of the river
from the point where, broadened by the confluence of the Derwent
and the Soar, it became a great highway of internal communication.
Throughout its history, therefore, from the time of the Danes down to
the time of the Civil War, Nottingham could not be left out of account
when any fighting was going on. But England was in the main a land of
peace, and the occasional and intermittent importance of an internal
fortress was wholly different from the consequence that attached to
a border castle like that of Bristol, or to outposts against foreign
foes such as the walled seaport towns of the coast. Hence the military
advantages of its site made but little mark on the character and
history of the town, and the castle which crowned the sandstone cliff
that rose precipitously from the waters of the river Lene played no
great part in the life of the mediæval borough. Lying well out of reach
of all foreign foes, it fell into no misfortunes such as Rye, which
was destroyed by fire twice in half a century, nor was it impoverished
by taxes for defence against the French such as threatened to leave
Southampton desolate; and its merchants were only occasionally required
to make contribution towards the protection of the coast and the safety
of the sea-borne trade which added to their wealth and luxury. Thus,
when the keeping of the sea was given in 1406 to the English merchants,
their elected Admiral of the Fleet, Nicholas Blackburn, wrote a
peremptory order to Nottingham for £200 as its share of the cost;[621]
but the merchants’ experiment failed, and they were relieved of their
responsibility before they had levied any second toll.

But the same geographical position which, under other circumstances,
would have made of Nottingham a strategic centre, did under the actual
conditions of English life assure the fortunes of the borough in
industry and commerce. By land and by water, trade was almost forced
to its gates. The bridge which spanned the Trent, after it had fallen
into ruins as the property of the kings, was granted by Edward the
Third to the townspeople, who willingly undertook the heavy charges
of its repair and maintenance; each division of the town territory
was made responsible for one or two of its nineteen low arches,[622]
and the wardens appointed to oversee the whole appeared from time
to time before the municipal officers with laborious and portentous
accounts. Over this bridge all traffic from south to north was bound
to pass; while boats from Hull and the eastern ports travelled up the
river to unload at the quays of Nottingham. Thus the burghers, more
fortunate than those of Canterbury, Norwich, or Shrewsbury, had no
cause to fear the troubles of a shifting commerce, of manufacturers
driven away to seek for brighter prospects, or of merchants forsaking
the old ways for some new trade route. A uniform prosperity seems to
have reigned in the town. Traders of every kind were in 1395 winning
more than the law allowed them,[623] and the market-place, which is
said even now to be the largest in England, was covered with booths;
there were twenty fish-boards, thirty-two stalls in the Butchers’
House, thirty in the Mercers’ House, twenty in the Drapers’ House,
and so on, the rents of which were rapidly rising in the second half
of the fifteenth century;[624] and the stately Guild Hall, besides its
council room, and its upper prison for felons and gaols for debtors
with iron grating to the street, had its storage room for merchandise.
Buyers and sellers crowded to the market, for new burgesses were still
willingly admitted[625] on the payment of 6_s._ 8_d._, and it was only
at the close of the next century that the ready hospitality of the town
gave way to a jealous exclusiveness. Strangers without number paid
for license to trade, besides rents for stalls or shops;[626] and the
number of suits between burgesses and “foreigners” or non-burgesses,
was so great that sometimes in a single year twenty rolls or more were
closely written on both sides with the records of these suits alone—a
fact which points to trade dealings with the outer world on a scale
quite unknown to previous times.[627] Even the geological position
of the town added to its sources of wealth, and the corporation as
well as traders made profit from the neighbouring coal-mines.[628]
All kinds of industries seem to have flourished. As early as 1155,
when probably there were few places in England where cloth was dyed,
bales were sent to Nottingham to be coloured red, blue, green, and
tawny or murrey; and if their scarlet dye was liable to turn out not
scarlet but red[629] even in 1434, we must remember that at this time
for a fine scarlet dye English cloth had to be sent to Italy.[630]
Nottingham manufacturers made linen as well as woollen goods.[631] Its
famous workers in iron lived in Girdler Gate and Bridlesmith Gate.
There was a foundry for bells well known in all the neighbouring
counties, and the bell-founder, besides his bells, made brazen pots.
Moreover, there were artists of repute.[632] Among English churches
of the early Perpendicular period, there is none more beautiful than
S. Mary’s, lifted high above the market on the steep hill side.[633]
The Nottingham goldsmith was sent for to repair the cross in Clifton
Church.[634] The town had its own illuminator, Richard the Writer; and
its image-maker, Nicolas Hill, who sent his wares as far as London (on
one occasion as many as fifty-eight heads of John the Baptist, some of
them in tabernacles or niches) and as he worked also in painting or
gilding alabaster salt-cellars, was commonly known as the “Alablaster

The wealth of Nottingham was possibly not equal to that of towns like
Bristol or Lynn, where at a time when capital was scanty the burghers
had accumulated in their coffers good store of gold and silver. But
a general air of substantial comfort and well-being seems to have
pervaded the town. The subsidy roll of 1472 which gives a list of 154
owners of freehold property, from one whose tenth was 74_s._ 7-1/2_d._
down to one whose tenth was set down at 1/4_d._,[636] the inventories
of household goods, and the legacies which occur from time to time,
show a considerable class of citizens living in wealth and luxury, and
a yet larger class of comparatively well-to-do people after the measure
of those times. While the richer merchants were building or adorning
with handsome carved oak houses which a later age called “palaces of
King John,” humbler tradesmen contented themselves with homes such
as are described in a builder’s contract of 1479, where the little
dwelling with a frontage of 18 feet on the street, was to have two bay
windows and to cost altogether about £6.[637] Before the latter part of
the sixteenth century[638] at least there is no indication of poverty
such as we find in various other towns, in Southampton, or Romney, or
Chester, or Canterbury—all places which had to suffer from special
causes of distress—and even the wills do not contain the frequent
bequests for the relief of the poor and of prisoners which occur in
places where the calls of distress were more pressing and insistent.
The financial problems of the corporation were perfectly simple and
regular, and presented no more formidable difficulty than the keeping
in repair of the great bridge. When the ferm of the town was reduced
to £20 by Edward the Fourth it was done, so far as the municipal
records tell the tale,[639] without any of the complainings of utter
misery and desolation by which such favours were commonly won; and in
the next half century there is no more serious hint of distress than is
marked by the fact that in 1499 two of the butchers’ stalls and a few
other holdings were lying vacant, and that the Corporation had borrowed
some small sums.[640]

Nottingham was unfretted too by trouble from without. Set on the
outskirts of Sherwood Forest, but exempted since the time of John from
the Forest laws and the jurisdiction of the Forest officers,[641] its
very position tended to free it from the neighbourhood of any powerful
lord who could threaten its citizens, diminish its rights, or tax its
people with petty wars or law-suits, as Liverpool and Bristol and Lynn
were taxed and harassed. In its only trouble—an occasional dispute as
to the control of the waters of the Trent—it was invariably supported
by the Crown. Sometimes weirs and fishing nets obstructed the river;
sometimes when the water was low boats coming from Hull had to be
dragged along from the banks, and the river-side owners demanded fines
for use of the towing path, so that the price of goods in Nottingham
was increased to “a great dearness.” Then the Nottingham men would
hasten to move the king by “a clamorous relation”; and forthwith royal
commissioners were sent down to inquire into the obstructions; royal
proclamations were issued to forbid the exacting of river-side tolls;
and royal orders forbade the neighbouring lord of Colwick to divert the
waters of the Trent to his own uses to the injury of Nottingham.[642]

Nor were its burghers troubled by claims of any ecclesiastical power
within the town walls, such as those which vexed Norwich and Exeter
and Canterbury. Ecclesiastical interests indeed play no great part
in Nottingham. Two churches already existed under Cnut, and before
the fourteenth century one more was added.[643] But no abbey had been
founded within its liberties, and the yearly journey of the mayor
and his brethren to carry Whitsuntide offerings to the mother church
at Southwell was but a picturesque ceremonial that recalled the time
when Paulinus first founded there a centre of mission work among the

As for Court factions and dynastic intrigues, distant traders with
much work of their own on hands were generally prompted by a prudent
self-interest to side with the dominant power in the State. The
burghers easily transferred their sympathies from the Lady Anne of
Bohemia to Henry the Fourth;[645] they stood by Henry the Sixth so
long as the triumph of the rebels was doubtful, but no sooner were the
fortunes of Edward the Fourth in the ascendant than by gifts out of
their treasure and little detachments of their militia they testified
to a new loyalty, and thus obtained the renewal of their charter and
a reduction of their ferm for twenty years, “to have a reward to the
town of Nottingham” “for the great cost and burdens, and loss of their
goods that they have sustained by reason of those services.”[646] In
1464 they ordered off a little troop in red jackets with white letters
sewn on them[647] to join the king at York, and once more at Edward’s
restoration in 1471,[648] the town spent about £60 for “loans for
soldiers” and liveries, besides many other costs. In October of 1482,
the jury “presented” an offender charged with wearing the livery of
the intriguing Richard of Gloucester;[649] but before the battle of
Bosworth the town hospitably entertained Richard himself, and in its
castle he received the Great Seal;[650] while no sooner was the day
lost for York than a deputation was sent in hot haste to make peace
with Henry the Seventh and obtain a safeguard and proclamation.[651]
Stall-holders and burghers, in fact, intent on their own business, only
asked that Court quarrels might be settled with the least possible
trouble to themselves; and throughout the Wars of the Roses the
Nottingham men did just what the men of every other town in England
did—reluctantly sent their soldiers when they were ordered out to the
aid of the reigning king, and whatever might be the side on which they
fought, as soon as victory was declared hurried off their messengers
with gifts and protestations of loyalty to the conqueror. Meanwhile
they went steadily on with the main business of trade and watched the
rents of their booths and the profits of their shops going up and their
wealth constantly accumulating.[652]

Like all boroughs that held under the Crown, Nottingham won very
early the rights of a free borough. Henry the Second from 1155 to
1165 granted its burgesses freedom from toll, a market, the monopoly
of working dyed cloth within the borough, and free passage along the
Trent; and further gave them power to tax inhabitants of all fees
whatever for common expenses.[653] Originally governed by a reeve who
collected its yearly ferm and managed its affairs on behalf of the
king, Nottingham obtained by charter from John in 1189 a Merchant
Guild, and leave to elect a reeve of the borough who should answer for
the ferm to the Exchequer.[654] In 1230 the burgesses were allowed to
appoint coroners, and (the ferm being fixed at £52) to levy a tax for
weighing at the common scale all goods brought to the town.[655] A
charter of 1255 granted them the freedom from arrest for debt which was
being so commonly given at this time; the return of writs; and an order
that no sheriff or bailiff should interfere in the exercise of justice
in Nottingham unless “the burgesses” had not done their duty. And ten
years later they were freed from the aid of 100_s._ formerly paid
to the sheriff for his good will and that he should not enter their

In the reverses of the Welsh war, when Edward the First summoned two
great provincial councils of knights and burgesses to bestow a grant
for completing the conquest of Wales, Nottingham used his necessities
to secure its own profit; for three years the town had been in
disgrace, with all its franchises forfeited, but in 1284 it not only
regained them, but won permission to elect a mayor “by unanimous
consent and will” of “both boroughs of the same town”—that is the
French and the English boroughs which from the time of the Conquest had
been established side by side, each governed by its own bailiff[657]
according to the different laws and customs of the two peoples. During
the Scotch war in 1314 their position as masters of the northern road
possibly disposed Edward the Second to grant readily any favours they
might demand; and immediately after Bannockburn they received power
to hold all pleas before the mayor, and alien sheriffs or bailiffs
were forbidden to enter the borough.[658] Yet later one of the first
acts of Henry of Lancaster, after the deposition of Richard in 1399,
was to make interest with the keepers of the stronghold of middle
England. He gave lavishly all he had to give: the assize of tenure
formerly held before the judges; all fines, forfeitures, and ransoms
which had not yet been handed over; the election of four justices of
the peace; the placing of the mayor upon all commissions of array of
men-at-arms, so that neither sheriff of the county, nor officer of
the court could henceforth tax the town for military aid without his
assistance and consent.[659] In 1448 Henry the Sixth completed the
emancipation of Nottingham by granting it a charter of incorporation
under the title of “the mayor and burgesses of the town of Nottingham.”
By this charter the town, with the exception of the king’s castle and
gaol, was entirely separated from the county and made into a shire; its
bailiffs became sheriffs, and were henceforth not to go out of the town
to take their oath, but were to be sworn before the mayor; and the
mayor himself was made the king’s escheator.[660] If the king in these
difficult times, with Normandy almost lost, and England on the eve of
rebellion, offered bribes for loyalty, he required a due return; and in
1450 the Nottingham men had to pay their part of the bargain, by hiring
men to go to the help of the sovereign at Blackheath against Jack Cade,
which they accomplished by leasing some of their common lands for a sum
of £20 to be paid in advance.[661]

Unfortunately, owing to the loss of the Old Red Book of Nottingham
and other records, it is only by piecing together scattered hints
and fragments that we can discern anything of the early constitution
of the borough. In the first charters or official dealings with the
court, we hear of “the Burgesses” only, with no mention of reeve or
bailiff; until after the creation of the mayor in 1284, when the formal
style is changed to “the Mayor and Burgesses.” Whatever was the actual
significance of the term “burgesses” we know that it already had a
technical meaning, for a charter granted by Edward the First to “the
Burgesses and Community of our town” in the days before the mayor had
replaced the reeve,[662] shows that even then the two words were used
in a special sense; and this original distinction remains throughout
the records of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In general, the
business of the town was done in a somewhat elaborate manner by “the
mayor, burgesses, and community,” or “the mayor and his co-burgesses
and the community”; but it seems that there were some affairs which
were given over to the “mayor and burgesses”—an occasional treaty with
another town,[663] or the letting of tenements or property acquired by
the corporation and set apart for special public purposes such as the
ferm, or of lands assigned for the expenses of the bridge; while on the
other hand, where the common property of the people in house or land
was in question transactions were carried out in the name of the “mayor
and community.”[664] There are perhaps no more than two cases before
the middle of the sixteenth century in which common lands were leased
by the “mayor and burgesses,” and these happened as late as 1511 and
1514, and were probably acts of a specially corrupt administration.

By the Nottingham folk themselves, therefore, the word “burgesses”
was from the thirteenth century onwards applied to a body which could
be distinguished from the commonalty; and in the use of the words we
seem again to catch the double meaning, first of the corporate body
of citizens as opposed to the ancient “communitas”; and then of the
governing council or assembly as opposed to the whole congregation of
the freemen. When this secondary use of the words grew up in Nottingham
we cannot say, as we know absolutely nothing of the early government
of the town. It is only through one or two brief notices which have
been saved from the general destruction of old records that we detect
the presence in the council chamber of a recognized group of officials
or councillors; and these notices belong to a late time. Meetings were
held in the town hall in 1435 and 1443, in which a council of justices
of the peace and “trustworthy men” did business with the consent of the
commons;[665] and in 1443 we hear of a fine to be paid by “burgesses”
who neglected to come to the hall when summoned, the fine being (as
we learn from other towns) the customary sum levied from absent
members of a regularly appointed council.[666] And from another entry
copied from the records of three years later we know certainly that
a council of twelve did exist in 1446. “Ordered that twelve and the
mayor chosen to order, end, and dispose of as they think meet of all
things belonging to the commonalty of the town without interruption or
contradiction of any person within the town. All orders are with the
consent of the commonalty.”[667]

Whether the order of 1446 was the bringing in of a new method of
administration, or an extension of the powers of an established
council, or merely a declaration of the law that it should do its
business “without interruption or contradiction” of any of the
townsfolk, we cannot certainly tell, for the old Red Book is lost and
the phrase is only preserved for us in a note made by a town clerk a
hundred and fifty years later, whose comment on it, “And there shall
you see the erection and election of the council,” is of little value
in deciding the matter.[668] In the absence of any direct evidence,
the traces of an earlier council certainly suggest the idea that in
the twelve we may have the successors of a body resembling the twelve
portmen elected in royal boroughs for the general administration of
the town, and that from 1399 the four justices of the peace formed
part of this council. The commonalty had the right of entering the
town hall during the meetings of the council, and of confirming the
ordinances of the governing body by their “assent and consent”; and
these powers might of course be more or less left in suspense or fully
exercized as opportunity required. No doubt in a big and busy borough
any frequent gathering of the townspeople was impossible, and it is
very probable that (as at Sandwich), when the mayor did business in
the borough court, any burghers who happened to be present[669] were
taken to represent the general assembly of the commons, and bye-laws or
necessary orders passed by them were understood to have received “the
consent of the community.” In the majority of instances the numbers who
attended were probably few, but their presence is from time to time
distinctly marked, as in the meeting of 1435; in the assembly of a
hundred and thirty burgesses in 1463 to make laws; and in the calling
of the commons together in their common hall in 1480.[670]

If the administration followed this well understood routine, it is
probable that the conduct of public business underwent no great change
when two new charters, in 1446 and 1448, settled the final order of
government in Nottingham, and made it into a county. No mention was
made in these charters of the existing council (unless indeed the term
“burgesses” was commonly understood to mean the council),[671] but by
the second in 1448 it was enacted that “the burgesses” should elect
from time to time _from amongst themselves_ seven aldermen (to answer
to the seven wards of the town), one of whom was always to be mayor,
while all the seven were to be justices of the peace. The aldermen were
to hold office for life, and in their scarlet livery with suitable furs
and linings, after the fashion of the aldermen of London,[672] were
manifestly the leading members of the council; and the six burgesses
who completed that body were within a few years known as “common
councillors,” to distinguish them from the heads of the wards.[673]
The constitution of the Nottingham council seems in fact to have been
exactly the same as that of Canterbury or of Southampton; and here no
doubt, as in other places, the official governing body did at some time
take to itself in a special sense the title of “the Burgesses,” leaving
that of “the Community” to the freemen at large.

The new charter, whether it introduced any change in older methods or
no, at least seems to have awakened no resistance. A Council of Twelve
which ruled before 1448 ruled in like manner afterwards, though now
seven justices of the peace sat in it instead of four. As for what may
seem to us the crucial fact that henceforward aldermen were elected
for life, and elected by their own fellows and not by the people, it
is possible that even this change, if indeed it was a change at all,
seemed less revolutionary to the men of Nottingham in those days than
it does now, for there is no trace of any conflict concerning the
matter either at the time or for half a century afterwards. Indeed the
same method of election was used for the councillors themselves, who
also were appointed for life.[674] It appears that while the aldermen
were always selected from among the six councillors, the councillors
were chosen from “the clothing”—a very important body composed of
sheriffs and chamberlains or treasurers who had passed out of office,
but still wore their scarlet robes on great occasions.[675]

The oligarchy thus established was however no more in absolute
possession of the field than an oligarchy of the thirteenth century.
The people’s right to hold a general assembly was admitted by the
governing class as late as 1480, and claimed by the commonalty
a century later. The jurors of the Court Leet long acted as
representatives of the general body of burgesses for purposes of
criticism and remonstrance. For certain kinds of business touching the
community the custom of electing special juries was maintained; as in
1458 when “twenty-four upright and lawful men from the aforesaid town
of Nottingham, as well as twenty-four upright and lawful men from each
wapentake of the county aforesaid”[676] were summoned to report on the
state of the bridge. It seems probable that at least six burghers took
part in the election of municipal officers; and in 1511 the inhabitants
claimed some share in the elections by virtue of “the statute of
free elections in such cases ordained.”[677] Above all the burghers
exercized their ancient rights over the common property of the people.
For in those days Nottingham boasted of great possessions[678] in
land. From the low cliff of red sandstone which lifted it out of the
floods that constantly swamped the lower grounds, the townsmen looked
out over the common fields and closes and Lammas lands that stretched
round it on every side, and formed until the Act of 1845 a broad
belt of open country which cut off the borough from its surrounding
dependent villages, and might in no way be used for building. These
wide reaches of pasture were yearly distributed in due proportion among
the burghers by common consent of the mayor and the whole community.
In the division, and in questions of boundaries and fences and fields,
the commonalty were all directly interested; and they never consented
to hand over to the undisputed management of a council rights which
touched them so nearly.[679] They asserted their claim to attend the
meetings when the lands were divided or let out on lease, to take part
in all decisions, and to keep a close watch on the councillors lest
these should be tempted to pass over their own names when the poor
lands were divided and to distribute among themselves all the best
closes.[680] At the very end of the fifteenth century their verdict was
still decisive. In 1480 the commons being called together to the Common
Hall by the mayor on a question as to the common lands, “the said
commons would in no wise agree” to his proposal.[681]

It is therefore probable that the charter of 1448 did not mark for
Nottingham the moment of a serious constitutional revolution. Such
little evidence as we have seems to show that the state of affairs
was singularly like that which we have already seen in Southampton
at the same date; that things went on pretty much as they had done
for years past, and that the burgesses neither suffered, nor thought
they suffered, any usurpation of their rights, or any grave loss of
customary liberties. The system established in 1448 had been in full
working for over half a century before any struggle, so far as we know,
took place between the governing class and the people; and even then it
was not suggested that the disturbance was caused by any change in the
legal form of government.[682] For in 1500 Nottingham was in as sorry a
plight as Norwich had been in 1300. It was practically handed over to
the rule of publicans and licensed victuallers, who, with or without
the law, held their own bravely against all opposition. When brewers
and bakers and vintners rose to power they took care that the assize of
bread and beer and wine should not be brought to mind; when butchers
and cattle-dealers became aldermen and chamberlains they encouraged
a confusion which was most profitable to themselves as to the limits
of the common pastures, letting gates and bridges fall into ruin,
and “although they have been often required by the whole community
of the whole town of Nottingham to make common boundary marks, as
their predecessors had done, have hitherto refused to do so;”[683]
even as common trespassers they put their cattle and sheep in the
meadow in the night time unto the great harm of their neighbours.[684]
The officers appointed by the council dutifully served the interests
of their masters: “We often complain of his demeanour, and have no
remedy”[685] is the comment of the Mickletorn jury about the common
serjeant. Year after year the protests of the commonalty were heard at
the local courts. Jurors of the quarter sessions laid their grievances
before the justices of the peace, themselves the main offenders; while
the jury of the Mickletorn or Leet asserted their right to address the
town council (when they could be persuaded to take their places at the
court) and “in the name of the burgesses and commonalty of this town,”
to declare the wrongs of the people.[686]

It was in 1511 that the struggle between rulers and burghers
culminated. In the August of that year the council seems to have
violated the ancient custom, and leased common pastures by the
authority of “the mayor and burgesses,” the witnesses being six
aldermen and six of the common council[687]—a style which had not
been used before in dealing with these lands. This meddling with the
rights of the community apparently heralded an outbreak of revolt. At
the next Court Leet, in October, 1511, the Mickletorn jury presented
the mayor who had been in power when the lease was granted, and charged
him with encroaching on the common lands, and making his servants
“riotously break off our common pasture hedges; it is thought contrary
to right and to the common weal.” Six months later, in April, 1512,
the jury extended their attack, and the actual “Master Mayor” was
presented for being the first beginner of a muck-hill, for misusing
the time of the common serjeant, and for selling unfit herrings in the
market and excluding other men who would have brought as good stuff
and sold eight for a penny where he sold five, though as clerk of the
market he should have increased and bettered it instead of impairing
it, “and upon this runneth a great slander in the country and a great
complaint.” He was charged, along with “all his brethren,” with failing
to account for money in his charge “to the great hurt of the town and
commons.” Further the mayor and chamberlains together were presented
for not repairing the two gates of the town; and the chamberlains for
not looking after a public well; and the mayor’s clerk, “the which
takes our wages not as a beneficial servant unto us in no matter that
any burgess of this town hath to do, but he repugnes and maligns
against the burgesses and commons that they be not content with his

The commons went further than this, however, and raised the question
of their ancient rights of assembling in the common hall and taking
part in the election of officers.[689] At this point the authorities
became genuinely alarmed. A month later, May 21, the Recorder or
legal adviser of the corporation wrote a formal letter of advice to
the governing body on these crucial matters of election and assembly.
“I am informed,” he says, “that divers of the commons of your town
confederate themselves together and make sinister labour to do others
to take their part and say as they do, and intend thereby to make
aldermen and other officers at their pleasure; and if that should be
suffered it should be contrary to all good politic order and rule,
and in conclusion to the destruction of the town. Wherefore now at
the beginning wisely withstand the same and call your brethren and
the council together, and if ye by your wisdom think that by calling
of these confederates every of them severally before you ye cannot
order them without further help, then my advice is that ye send some
wise person to Mr. Treasurer[690] that it would please him to see
reformation, if he be in England, and else that he would write to my
Lord Privy Seal, or to my Lord Steward, now in his absence to see this
matter redressed, ascertaining you have spoke with my Lord Steward in
this matter, and he gave me advice thus to write to you; for if ye
shall suffer the commons to rule and follow their appetite and desire,
farewell all good order. For if they be suffered now they will wait
to do in like case hereafter.” In a postscript he adds, “In any wise
beware of calling of any common hall at the request of any one of them
that make this confederacy. I doubt not but divers of you remember the
saying of Mr. Treasurer of the inconveniences that had ensued upon the
calling of the commons together in the city of London and in other
cities and boroughs.”[691] The sympathies of Mr. Treasurer were duly
enlisted, according to the Recorder’s advice, and on the very day when
a new mayor took the place of the last, he wrote urging him to stand
firm against those commons who would “combine themselves to subvert the
good rule of the town and would make aldermen and put them out at their
pleasure, contrary to the good order of your charter and privilege of
your town.” He begs them, if there be any of such “wilful disposition
to subvert the good rule of the same your said town, that with all
diligence certify me of their names, and I trust to see such remedy for
them as shall not be to their contentment, but I shall see them shewn
condign punishment as they have or shall deserve.”[692]

The shibboleth of “good order” had its accustomed effect, and the
governing body carried their point, though in leases of the common
lands they presently returned to the old style.[693] The new mayor,
John Rose, known to the people as the butcher chamberlain who in 1500
had let their landmarks be removed, and who since then had grown
into innkeeper and victualler, ruled for eighteen months.[694] His
successor, appointed in January, 1515,[695] was Master Thomas Mellers,
an alderman who had a very bad reputation in the presentments of the
Court Leet; after he had reigned two years, a mercer of Nottingham
tried to kill him with a dagger while he was joyfully dining with an
alderman; but he survived to rule again in 1522.[696] Again the jury
returned to the charge. In 1524 the outgoing mayor was presented at
the July sessions for not keeping the assize of bread,[697] and in
October the matter was pressed on the attention of the newly-appointed
mayor. Two years later, however, Nottingham was for the third time put
under John Rose, who in the interests of firm government determined
to suppress once for all the importunate presentments of the jury.
During the whole time of his mayoralty, “in the default of the said
Master Rose there was no verdict given of the jurors sworn for the
body of this present town ... to inquire of things inquirable
afore you justices of record,” nor was the assize of victual ever
put in execution; and by this the town had not only been greatly
disordered but had been put in danger of forfeiting its liberties
and franchises.[698] The next year (1527) the jury were again roused
by the fact that three aldermen, one of them being Rose, the last
year’s mayor, had by their united efforts filled all vacancies with
victuallers; and a formal petition was addressed to the mayor and his
brethren in the name of the whole town. They called to remembrance
the law that “No victualler should be chosen to no such rooms as
judge of victual,” and told again the long tale of their grievances.
They declare that these elections were illegal, “the burgesses and
commonalty of the said town not being made privy, nor thereunto
consenting, contrary to the corporation of the said town, and also
contrary to the statute of free elections in such case ordained,” and
that therefore the whole town might be made to suffer the loss of their
liberties and franchises for non-using or misusing the same. In the
lately elected aldermen “the want of discretion and debility of reason”
was well known to the whole town, so that the common voice and fame of
it ran through the shire; and the jurors thought “that the most wisest
and discreetest men ought to have been chosen to such rooms by you and
the burgesses _and commonalty_.”

Further the jury, “in their most humble manner,” observed that the king
had been deceived in the matter of the last subsidy; for in addition
to their other crimes the three aldermen, when their substance was
assessed for a subsidy at £50 or £55, had “embezzled” the record, and
changed the figures to a nought.

Finally they pray “by the whole minds and agreements” that the present
counsel of the town might use and continue in his place “like as he
unto the same was elect and sworn, and that according to right and
good conscience he may have his fees that is behind to him contented
and paid.”[699] All this the jury spoke in the name of the people,
“whereunto we, the aforesaid jurors, in the name of the burgesses and
commonalty of this town and borough are fully content and agreed.”

In these troubles, it does not seem that the revolt of the people was
excited by any definite constitutional change, nor was the charter
of 1448 called in question or brought forward as the origin of later
evils, nor was any protest made against the election of councillors for
life. Complaints multiply against corrupt administration of the law, or
the holding of office by unfit and illegal men. But the claim of the
people to a share in elections is vague and indefinite, and neither
in 1511 nor in 1527 do the commons appeal to precedent. Opinions as
to their rights are tossed to and fro, balanced by contending winds
of doctrine. In defence of the system of close election the council
call to witness the charter and privileges of the town; while on the
other hand the commons declare that elections are illegal if the
commonalty as well as the burgesses are not “made privy nor thereunto
consenting.” Possibly the explanation lies in a common tendency of
practice to drift away from the theory with which it had first kept
company, and finally to disown its old accomplice. No doubt the commons
inherited theoretically an inalienable right to take part in elections;
but it had apparently become the practice that the people should only
exercise that right in a certain definite way through the half-dozen
representatives who attended the elections, and not through a common
gathering; and thus the situation was one in which either side might
indefinitely urge law and custom without ever bringing conviction to
their opponents.

It is indeed conceivable that the true peril to popular liberty was
of a far more subtle character than the words of any charter would
suggest, and rather grew out of developements in the unwritten
constitution of the borough, than in the written law. Not only in
elections, but in the meeting of the general assembly, insidious
changes may have been brought about by the mere growth of common
custom. In the institution of “the Clothing” there were latent
possibilities which time alone could bring to light. For over half a
century sheriffs and chamberlains were quietly bowed out of office,
and transferred with all their fur and finery to the brilliant company
of the liveried ex-officials to await a happy re-election. But in due
course, as its numbers multiplied, the Clothing was made manifest to
all men in its stately ranks or “clene scarlet” as the very body-guard
and sworn defenders of the central group of high officials, the
traditional depositories of power. Surrounded and shielded by a band
of forty or fifty friends who had already held office and might hold
it again, men dedicated to their interests and disciplined to their
methods, the mayor and his brethren were no longer left face to face
with the whole community. Under the established custom by which any
burgesses who were present at an assembly were taken to represent
the whole body, it was evidently easy even while outwardly observing
constitutional form, to summon to the meeting only members of the
Clothing; and the decrees of the council having been submitted to
this loyal gathering were assumed to have obtained the assent of the
commonalty. Popular control might thus be absolutely extinguished, and
that without revolution or going beyond the letter of the law, when
a council chamber crowded with the official class[700] replaced the
assembly of the commons, and exercized its powers simply by preserving
its name.

The plan of forming a select committee of the General Assembly
nominated by the mayor seems to have been a very favourite custom.
In Coventry, for example, the mayor summoned certain citizens who
were added to the twenty-four to form a common council. Their number
was perhaps at first uncertain, for in 1444 we hear of a meeting
of fifty-three, twenty-four of the council and twenty-nine other
burgesses; but apparently from 1477 twenty-four citizens always
assembled with the twenty-four jurats to form the common council of
forty-eight. Generally, as in Leicester or Gloucester, a fixed number
of representative citizens was summoned. A lower chamber of this
pattern evidently assured the triumph of the oligarchy; and the idea of
popular control was perhaps more completely banished by this narrow and
formal interpretation of the common right of meeting than by mere idle
neglect of the assembly. In Nottingham, so far as we can judge from
the few council minutes preserved during the sixteenth century, the
mayor and his brethren acted with perfect independence of the burgesses
at large, and no longer mentioned the name of the community even in
ordinances which touched the common lands.[701]

Still, however, the jury fought with indefatigable zeal for some
control over administration.[702] They never let slip a chance of
reprimanding their governors. Again and again the mayor was presented
for refusing to enforce judgment on bakers, butchers, and brewers,[703]
and with his brethren was charged with innumerable frauds on the
people. Sometimes we find the jury busied about securing a capable
schoolmaster;[704] sometimes they were demanding to have the accounts
laid before them—the accounts of the bridge and the free school and
the sums raised for the burgesses of Parliament, “and how the residue
of the money is bestowed, for our money is therein as well as yours
was, and therefore it is convenient that we know.”[705] As Englishmen
had once looked back to the times of the good King Edward, so the men
of Nottingham turned wistfully to the golden past when the Red Book
had been the charter of their liberties, and vainly prayed that the
necessary parts of the book (doubtless the ancient town ordinances)
should as of old be read yearly in the hearing of the burgesses.[706]
Clinging to the ideal of a primitive liberty, these inveterate
conservatives robbed reform of all the terrors that attached to what
was new. What had been might safely be again. Nor was there any
tendency to riot or disorder. All must be done in a constitutional
way, and within the limits of tradition. Towards the end of the
sixteenth century, therefore, there was a good deal of tinkering at the
municipal constitution. On March 29 (1577) the number of councillors
was increased from six to twelve, all as before to be chosen by the
Clothing.[707] The democracy had probably very little to say to this
change, for the order was made by forty-five burgesses “being then
all of the degree of chamberlains” who seem here clearly to be acting
as though their assent to an ordinance were equivalent to the consent
of the whole community.[708] Six months later, however, it occurred
to the people to make some use of the ancient custom of summoning a
jury of forty-eight from town and suburbs for public business; and
they proposed to have the common council elected by such a jury—to
which suggestion the ruling class agreed. They further demanded that
the councillors should attend at the Leet when the Mickletorn jury
presented offences and gave their verdicts. All this was, as they
claimed, a return to the authentic custom of former days, “according to
the Red Book as we do think.”[709] But in November the Leet jury were
still praying that this agreement should be carried out, and there is
no evidence that they ever succeeded. In any case, two years later,
when the people once more urged their old claim to have the accounts
made public and “to hear the end and reckoning of any subsidy when any
is,”[710] they advanced a new demand for reform yet more radical; and
suggested that all the common councillors should be utterly abolished,
leaving only the aldermen and two coroners to form an upper chamber,
“and that the forty-eight may be joined to you to confer in any matters
for the town, as there is in other places where their corporations
are better governed than this is,”[711] and that the same forty-eight
as representing the commons should be given a definite share in the
management of the bridge and school.[712]

But all these efforts proved vain, and the Council and Clothing
continued their victorious career. As late as 1598 the commons
endeavoured to revive the old constitution of the town and to call
a general assembly through summons by the constables of the wards;
and even collected money to institute a suit that they might inquire
into a corrupt lease of common property by a member of the council.
In the curious account preserved of the examination and depositions
of the ringleaders in calling the assembly together the passionate
determination of the people still finds voice, and there was at least
one among them to maintain stoutly that he did not care if he died in
a good cause.[713] The beginning of the next century found the contest
slowly dragging along, the Mickletorn jury still protesting against the
negligence of the councillors[714] and the people still discussing new
constitutions with increasing nicety of detail, and debating the merits
of two chambers of twenty-four and forty-eight,[715] or of twenty-eight
each.[716] Meanwhile the twelve of the council are mentioned as
existing unchanged in 1604.[717]

By this time the men of Nottingham had adopted in turn all the
constitutional means of securing popular freedom that lay in their
reach. They had consistently appealed to the old ordinances which in
theory at least endowed them with sovereign power. The Mickletorn
jury had been incessantly called on to right their wrongs by force of
law. The cumbrous machinery of the general assembly had been dragged
out in its noisy inefficiency. The custom of summoning forty-eight
jurors for public purposes had been seized on as an institution out
of which a chamber of the commons might be created and representative
government established. But the mediæval history of Nottingham
closes with the utter failure of schemes so industriously cherished.
Doubtless reform had tarried too long in coming. Whether the general
commercial prosperity had drawn all activity into trading enterprise
and diverted it from politics, whether a common well-being had tended
to an acquiescent conservatism, whether the variety of trades carried
on in the town had, as in modern Birmingham, resulted in the absence
of effective trade organization or of any strong and commanding craft
guild to serve as a centre of union, or whether in this wealthy
community buried in the Midlands there was some lack of ready
interchange of thought and discussion with the outer world, the fact
remains that resistance to the dominion of an oligarchy was of late
and ineffectual growth, and when it did appear it seems to have mostly
lost its energies in talk. In 1600 the men of Nottingham were still
discussing the formation of a House of Commons to represent the will of
the people—an experiment which Norwich had tried two hundred years
before, and for which in municipal life it was now two hundred years
too late.

Thus in the history of civic freedom Nottingham seems to stand midway
between Southampton and Norwich. Not only did it in the fifteenth
century closely follow Southampton in the critical dates of its
municipal history, but it is certain that its local administration must
have been a matter of no less importance to the Crown from a military
point of view. In times of disturbance it was all-important to the king
to keep a firm hold on the Midlands and on their central stronghold,
and preserve as it were a “buffer state” between north and south, east
and west; and we have seen how quick was the central government to take
alarm at any “confederacy” to “subvert the good rule of the town,” and
how anxiously, as in Southampton, it interfered to protect the select
oligarchy against the “sinister labour” of the commons. On the other
hand the belief of its people in an ideal liberty, steeped as it is
in strong emotion, is far removed from the apathy of the Southampton
burghers. In the aspirations of its commonalty Nottingham comes nearer
to Norwich, but here there is a profound difference not only in the
conduct of the controversy between rulers and subjects but in its final
issue; and the council of the commons which the oligarchy was able to
assemble by stealth in Nottingham has no likeness to the lower chamber
created by the middle classes themselves in Norwich.



WHEN we turn from the southern to the eastern coast the first
impression is that of being transported to a new atmosphere. It is not
only that the outer forms of administration are different, for these
differences, however interesting, are but the changes rung on a common
system of local self-government. But in the political temper, the
vitality of the popular institutions, the vigour of reform, we breathe
a bracing air unknown in the Southampton docks and slums.

For the traders and artizans of the eastern coast lived in an
exhilarating clime. Across the water the towns with which they traded
were full of the movement of a free expansive life, very different from
the political depression of the communes which the Southampton traders
knew best. It was to the eastern coast that immigrants came flying from
tyranny and clamorous for freedom; and traders from the eastern towns
who watched in the streets of Ghent and Bruges and Ipres and Dinant,
the violent and tumultuous life of cities where the people were still
fighting for liberty, doubtless brought back from oversea tales of the
passionate temper of independence which swept through the manufacturing
boroughs of the Netherlands.

But however this may be, the towns of the east were distinguished by
an intense vitality; and among the eastern boroughs where civic life
was keenest and most fertile in experiment, Norwich was the pioneer
in the way of freedom,—twenty or forty years ahead of Yarmouth
in time[718]—beyond Colchester in the generosity with which the
commonalty was called to share in the work of government[719]—happier
and stronger than Lynn in having secured the union of its people into
one undivided community for civil purposes. It is not impossible indeed
that it stands in the forefront of all the English boroughs for the
quality and value of its political experiments, and the elaborate
finish of its constitution.

Originally, as we have seen, four bailiffs ruled the four great leets
of the city, from 1223 to 1403. Their mode of administration has been
very minutely described.[720] Each leet was for convenience’ sake
divided into sub-leets, the lesser divisions being at first probably
twelve in number and afterwards ten. The sub-leet was itself composed
of as many parishes as grouped together would contain at least twelve
tithings, and could therefore produce sufficient capital pledges to
hold a leet court. For all purposes of business every tithing was
supposed to be represented by its own capital pledge, who was probably
chosen by the tithing men, but who, once elected, seems to have
held his post for years, perhaps for life. He lived in the parish,
perhaps in the very street of his tithing, and was generally a man
of substance, one of the respectable middle class of the city, and
occasionally might even aspire to enter the official body. In the
whole city the number of capital pledges was probably a hundred and

The business of each sub-leet was taken in its turn before the four
bailiffs all sitting together in the little thatched tolbooth that
stood in the central market place. There the capital pledges appeared
to answer for their tithings at the view of frankpledge; and when this
business was over they served as a jury for “presenting” offences at
the leet court.[722] Year after year there came up the same body of
comfortable well-to-do burghers, who did their business quietly,
without thought of entering into any controversy with the government,
like the juries of Nottingham and Southampton.[723] Whether this was
the result of summoning the pledges in small groups from one sub-leet
at a time, or due to the fact that in Norwich the people already
possessed other means of expression, there is not as yet enough
evidence from other towns to show, but the fact is important.

In later records we learn what was doubtless true in 1223 as well as
in 1365, that one of the bailiffs was chosen for each great leet;
and we also have the first account of the manner of their choosing.
A body of twenty-four men, six from each leet, was elected by the
whole community, and the twenty-four then chose the bailiffs.[724] The
first mention of a custom in fragmentary records by no means implies
its first institution, and this mode of election may have dated from
the earliest times. It also appears that before the close of the
thirteenth century the bailiffs were assisted in judicial business
by a select body of citizens, whose share in considering the case
of offenders seems to show that they were “present in the court as
informal assessors to the bailiffs, or, in other words, forming the
court of which the bailiffs were the sole executive;”[725] and it is
possible that for other business also some of the leading citizens were
summoned to attend at assemblies, and their name affixed to deeds,
separately or collectively.[726] A complaint of “the mean people of the
commonalty”[727] shows that administration and taxation had even at
that early time fallen into the hands of a small body—the bailiffs and
“the rich”; and the “customs” of the city (which were perhaps drawn up
about 1340, but which must in many respects contain traditional usages
of an earlier date) give us some idea who were “the rich” here spoken
of. A body of twenty-four men elected by the community, six from each
of the four great leets, is there described as forming a court for the
control of the whole trade of the city. It appointed supervisors over
the various crafts, and received reports of fraud in trade—charges
which, if it had not been for the intervention of the twenty-four,
would have gone to the leet juries. And the same body of twenty-four
had official supervision of the city finances and received all accounts
of the treasurers and collectors of taxes or town money.[728] Once
more, in 1344, we find them exercising yet another function—“the
twenty-four in the same year elected and ordained by the whole
communitas, in the presence of whom, or of the greater part of them, if
all cannot be present, the business of the city touching the communitas
might be enrolled.”

Lastly it appears that the twenty-four gradually assumed the power of
making laws for the community, and “used this custom that they might
remedy new defaults and mischiefs arising by making new ordinances for
the common profit of the town and the citizens and of others coming
or conversant there.”[729] Apparently the assembly itself was almost
superseded, for on the plea that when assemblies were summoned for the
common good of the city and the country, the citizens did not take the
trouble to come, to the great hindrance of public business, it had been
ordained some time before 1340 that for the calling together of the
commonalty the bailiff’s serjeant should summon certain of the most
worthy and discreet men of each leet who were to be fined two shillings
if they failed to obey the summons.[730]

A council of leading citizens, though it was already organized in
this elaborate way early in the fourteenth century, scarcely appears
in records of the later thirteenth century, and even then dimly in a
vague inchoate form. It is, however, important to notice that from the
very beginning two official styles were in use in the city documents,
which seem at no time to have been interchangeable one with another.
In the Pipe Roll of 1255 there seems to be a distinction between “the
citizens” and “the men of Norwich”;[731] and both in this year and
later, whenever the borough has any dealings with Westminster it is
“the citizens” who ask for favours, and it is to “our beloved citizens,
they and their heirs,” or to “the bailiffs and citizens their heirs
and successors” that grants are made throughout the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries.[732] Exceptions to this form are rare. In 1347
when Edward the Third asked for soldiers to be furnished for the
French war he addressed himself to “the mayor, bailiffs, and the whole
community”;[733] but as there was at that time no mayor in Norwich, the
phrase was possibly that of a new clerk brought into the War Office
in a hurried rush of business. In 1355 he sent a close letter to the
“bailiffs and commonalty” of Norwich to provide him with a hundred and
twenty armed men; and in 1371 a letter to the “bailiffs, good people,
or commons” of Norwich to fit him out a ship. In all these cases it is
obvious that the king’s claim on the people was altogether independent
of any obligations resting on them as citizens of a chartered borough.
Very rarely did the community address the king. In 1304 and 1307[734]
the “mean people of the commonalty of the city” asked his aid; and
once “the commune of the town of Norwich” sent a special petition
to Parliament. The city liberties had been forfeited into the King’s
hands in 1285, and the royal officer set over it had wrongfully
distrained the people’s goods to the value of £300;[735] but since
“the citizens” in the technical sense of a corporate body possessing
certain rights ceased to exist when the city lost its franchise, the
Norwich people had to fall back on that which lay behind all chartered
corporations—on that out of which all other rights had sprung; it
was to “the commune of the town” that wrong had been done, and “the
commune” appealed against it. On the other hand, whenever a question
arose as to common lands or common property the business was always
done in the name of “the commonalty” or “the bailiffs and commonalty,”
and in such cases the style of “the citizens” was never used.[736]

There seems, therefore, ground for thinking that from first to last
the Norwich burghers officially described themselves by two distinct
styles, which to the common understanding had different meanings, and
were not used at hazard. I venture to suggest that here and elsewhere
“cives” was the term used for the corporate body of citizens possessing
chartered rights; while “communitas” stood for the citizens in another
aspect, as the community which held property and enjoyed privileges
by immemorial custom, before the charter of a free borough had been
obtained. The holding of common property was probably the signal
survival of customary rights, the others being gradually merged in the
privileges enjoyed by charter; and hence it was in deeds relating to
land that the traditional form of “cives et communitas” was chiefly
preserved. In every town in England, however, whatever might be its
special constitution, we find other rights universally claimed by the
commons, which carried an authority that their opponents never dared
in any single instance to gainsay, even when they sought to evade
it. We may, perhaps, date back to a distant past the claim of the
whole community to have all laws ratified by their “entire assent
and consent,” to be made privy and consenting to all elections, to
know verily how the town moneys were raised and spent, to admit new
burgesses by the common vote of the people. These were rights which the
oligarchies constantly endeavoured to make void from the time of Henry
the Third to the time of Henry the Eighth; yet no attempt was ever made
to deny or to revoke them. It may be that their authentic force was
derived from that obscure time of which no memory is, when the ancient
“communitas” slowly built up the great tradition of its customary
rights; and that when the remembrance of the primitive community had by
lapse of time fallen into the background its power was still present,
and to the last the name was one of dignity and carried with it a
mandate from an older world. No doubt, however, in the vulgar tongue
“commonalty” came to be used in a popular sense, and sometimes with an
air of obloquy or contempt, to describe the general mass of citizens
who had the right of meeting in common assembly, as distinguished from
the official class. For by degrees old lines of division between the
ruling and the subject classes were drawn sharper and deeper—when
government by the select few took legal form; when a council of
twenty-four sat as assessors in the courts, audited the town accounts,
controlled its trade, and claimed to make its laws; when the assembly
was reduced to a gathering of special men called by the bailiff’s
serjeant; and when even the attendance at the leet began to fall off as
at the end of the fourteenth century[737] its business passed more and
more into the hands of the twenty-four. Then the word “communitas” took
a new shade of meaning. Before 1378 “the citizens” had come to mean in
common talk the governing council, as opposed to the “commonalty” who
were left outside.

It is true that the legal privileges of the community still remained.
They had a claim on part at least of the public property. No new
burgher could be admitted save by the act of the whole commonalty, or
of twelve of them who might be taken to represent the entire body.[738]
Taxes might only be assessed by will of the whole commonalty[739] or
of the greater part of the same. Whatever might be the prevailing
habit, the twenty-four had no legal right to act in the name of the
whole people, and if the commons refused to obey their ordinances they
could not appeal to any court of law to enforce their submission.
In the Assembly Rolls the burghers are mentioned as sharing in the
business of elections, grants of money, and taxation.[740] That they
asserted their rights in a way which seemed to the governing class
“contrarious” we gather from the fact that in 1378 “the citizens” (who
in this case must certainly have meant a very limited body) presented
a petition to Richard the Second in which they declared that of late
“many of the commonalty of the said town have been very contrarious,
and will be so still unless better remedies and ordinances be made
for good government”; and they pray that the bailiffs and twenty-four
citizens to be elected yearly by the commonalty may have power to make
ordinances and to amend them from time to time when necessary.[741] A
ship which they had just built at the king’s orders possibly commended
their request to his judgment, and the grant of the desired charter
placed the council in a position of absolute authority, having power to
issue ordinances without the consent of the people, and to enforce them
by appeal to the royal courts.

What controversies and threats of revolution agitated the men of
Norwich for the twenty-five years that followed this great change
we do not know. The exact position of the twenty-four in the
municipal assembly is not easy to trace from the paucity of existing
documents.[742] The rolls which survive might be expected to shew
some sign of the effect of the charter of 1378 by which the official
authority of the twenty-four was established. Yet such is not the
case. The description of the Assembly both before and after remains
exactly the same. A select group of citizens attends at every
meeting, and takes the whole charge of administration. Yet it is
worthy of notice that neither before nor after 1378 is any order or
resolution ever attributed to the twenty-four, though such orders are
constantly referred to the action of the “tota communitas.” Throughout
these rolls the only authorities mentioned are the bailiffs and the
commonalty.[743] If it is possible to believe, as I have suggested,
that the right of the community to give or withhold consent in
legislation was an immemorial custom which could not be abrogated
by charter, the failure of the twenty-four to carry their point can
be understood. No doubt party feeling on both sides ran high. It
became necessary for a settlement to have a new charter; and in 1403,
probably, at the instance of the ruling class, the city bought a fresh
constitution at the heavy price of £1,000.[744] By this charter Norwich
was made into a county; the four bailiffs were replaced by a mayor and
two sheriffs, to be elected by the citizens and commonalty; and, in
confirming previous grants, the customary phraze used in the charters
of earlier centuries, “the citizens” was replaced by “the citizens and
commonalty”—a term which is recognized in the charter as being already
in use,[745] but which had not until now been invariably employed as
the official style.

The charter of Henry the Fourth seems to have been in effect a
confirmation of the charter given by Richard the Second, and to have
set the victorious conclusion to the whole system of oligarchical
government expressed by the council of twenty-four. The people were
quick to appreciate the difficulty of making use of the powers which
had been attributed to them and to perceive the tendency of the
charter. A crisis was brought about by the very first elections held
under the new constitution. The charter ordered that the sheriffs
were to be elected, not as the old bailiffs had been by the electors
of the four Leets, but by “the citizens and commonalty.” In the
ordinary assemblies, however, made up of the twenty-four and “others
of the community,” at which Parliament men, city treasurers, and
officials, had been chosen, the twenty-four were practically supreme,
and elections carried out in these gatherings were, as a matter of
fact, in their hands. On March 1st, 1404, a mayor was chosen, and
twelve days later two of the bailiffs were made sheriffs (the mayor’s
book says by the “cives”).[746] The altered mode of appointing the
sheriffs, as compared with the more popular custom of electing the old
bailiffs, immediately roused the commons. An assembly was called to
frame ordinances for the new state of things, and the people determined
by their own authority to create a representative council of the
burghers at large. It was ordered that eighty persons should be elected
to attend all assemblies and act in the name of the people. To this
council was given the right of nominating the sheriffs; the eighty were
to go apart by themselves and name three persons, but if the commons
did not approve of their choice they had again to retire and choose
other names until their masters were content. Then the town clerk
and some of the eighty carried the three names to the mayor and the
twenty-four “probi homines”; the mayor chose one and the twenty-four
the other.[747] The new council took part in the Michaelmas elections
of that same year 1404, when the mayor was reappointed, and two new
sheriffs were chosen.

This settlement evidently excited violent hostility, and in 1415 a
Composition was framed to put an end to the discords by which the city
was “divided and dissolved and in point to have been destroyed.”[748]
This document did not err on the side of any lax notions as to the
seriousness of a written constitution. With pedantic nicety it touched
almost lovingly on the minutest details of ceremony and dress, as well
as on the greater problems that vexed the state—the position of the
twenty-four; the rights of the commons; and the share which the two
parties were to have in appointing the officers of the city.

The effect of this Composition of 1415 was to create a miniature
copy of the English kingdom, a little community governed by its
three estates, the mayor, the co-citizens of the mayor’s council,
and the commons. The twenty-four “probi homines” now became “the
twenty-four co-citizens of the mayor’s council,” the mayor having the
same authority over them “as the mayor of London hath,”[749] and the
dignity of the municipal House of Lords was fitly marked by their
dress, a livery “furred and lined as the estate and season of the year
asketh.”[750] Above all it was decreed that they should no longer be
a body elected yearly but should “stand corporate perpetually,” and
even if this should accidentally not be embodied in the charter to be
asked for later, “the citizens” declared that they could establish that
law for themselves and not by point of charter, in virtue of the right
given them in 1378, to make such ordinances as they chose in difficult
or defective cases for which no remedy clearly existed in the city

On the other hand the organization of the lower chamber was made more
complete, and the relative position and authority of the two houses
of the mimic parliament were defined with punctilious exactness. The
common council was reduced from eighty to sixty members,[752] to be
elected from the four wards by all citizens “inhabiting and having
houses on their own account.” It had its Speaker,[753] its own mode
of procedure, its system of elaborate etiquette in all dealings with
the upper house. Henceforth it was to take a part in legislation
which entirely annulled any claim “the citizens” might have put
forward by virtue of their charter of 1378; for though the mayor and
the twenty-four preserved the right of proposing all new laws, “they
shall nothing do nor make that may bind or charge the city without the
assent of the commonalty.” All ordinances made by the upper body must
therefore be formally laid before the common council, and if it seemed
to them that the matter “needeth longer advice and deliberation of
answer, they shall ask it and all that seemeth expedient for the city
by the common speaker of the mayor and of his council.” If needful they
could ask for “a bill of the same matters to be delivered to them,”
that they might give their answer in the next assembly; and “the mayor
shall be beholden as ofttimes as they ask it to grant them for to go
together in an house by themselves without any denying, and none other
with them but the common speaker, and if they will have more to them as
oft as they ask, the mayor shall be beholden to send for them without
any withsaying. And in matters that seem to the aforesaid sixty persons
for the common council that needeth not great nor long advice, be it
lawful if they will, to go apart by themselves or in to the floor with
their common speaker, and goodly and speedily, without great delay to
come in with their answer as them seemeth speedful and needful to the
purpose.” Finally, in “all other points that be necessary to be had for
the welfare of the city that come not now to mind, it is committed to
the whole assembly thereupon to ordain and make remedy by ordinance and
assent of the whole commonalty for profit of all the city.”[754]

In the matter of elections, however, the general assembly reappeared
in full force. When a new mayor was to be chosen the two councils
were summoned to the hall; “and also all the citizens dwellers
within the same city unto the aforesaid election shall freely come as
they are beholden, and the doors of the hall to all citizens there
willing to enter and come in shall be open and not kept, nor none from
thence forbarred nor avoided but foreigners.” After the mayor and the
twenty-four had proclaimed the election from the bench they withdrew
to the chamber, and the whole people in the hall then chose from among
those who had already been mayors or sheriffs two names of “sufficient”
persons, “and if that any variance happen among the commons in the hall
that it may not clearly be known to the common speaker by no manner of
form by him unto them, for to be put or showed, which two hath the most
voices, then the common speaker and the common clerk shall go up to the
mayor and to him shall declare the variance of the people in the hall.
And then the mayor shall give to the common speaker in commandment
for to call together the sixty persons for the common council of the
city, or as many as there be there into an house by themselves. Which
there shall try the aforesaid variance in the same form as it hath
been and yet is used in the city of London.” The names were carried to
the chamber by the common clerk, the common speaker, and the recorder,
with six of the common council; the six commons returned to the hall,
leaving the three officers to take the votes of the mayor and council,
and bring back to the commonalty the name of the elected mayor.

The election of all other municipal officers was carefully divided
between the two parties in the state. The mayor and the twenty-four
elected the common clerk, one sheriff, one chamberlain, one treasurer,
one coroner, two keepers of the keys, two auditors, and eight
constables. The common council chose the common speaker, a second
sheriff, chamberlain, treasurer, and coroner, two keepers of the keys,
two auditors, and eight constables. The whole assembly appointed the
common serjeant, the recorder, the bell-man, and the ditch-keeper; they
also chose the men who were to gather in the king’s taxes, appointing
four men in each ward to assess the tax and two to collect it. The
new mayor named two sword-bearers, of whom the assembly chose one; in
the same way the mayor nominated four persons for serjeants, and the
assembly chose two of them.[755] Members of Parliament were chosen by
the common assembly.

Thus the commons of Norwich made their decorous entry on the official
stage, with a punctilious care to secure their dignity and make fast
their liberties by countless ceremonial ligatures. The Composition
which vindicated their right against the oligarchy proved, however,
like the Ordinances of 1404, a hard saying to many; and disputes
between the mayor’s council and the commonalty were so violent[756]
that the citizens appealed to Henry the Fifth in 1417 for a charter
which should make the late agreement legally binding. The mayor’s
council no doubt brought influence to bear in high places, for their
position was now somewhat bettered. By the charter, for which the
city had to pay over £100,[757] the twenty-four, now first called
aldermen, got rid of one serious difficulty in their way by securing
the clause that they “shall stand perpetually as they do in London,”
and henceforth the old ceremony of annual election was simply recalled
by the custom of reading out the names every year before the wards.
In the composition it had been settled that in making “new ordinances
for the welfare of the city that come not now to mind it is committed
to the whole assembly thereon to ordain by ordinance and assent of the
whole commonalty,”[758] but the new charter decreed that the mayor and
aldermen should have full power to amend the laws and constitution with
assent of the sixty of the common council.[759]

For the rest of the century the government of the city[760] remained
of this pattern. The four great leets which had once elected the
bailiffs now became the four wards, and were ultimately divided into
twelve small wards. Each of these was represented in the upper council
by two aldermen chosen for it by the electors of its own great ward.
Each great ward also elected a fixed proportion of the members of
the common council. The sheriffs held their “tourns” for the four
wards, and appointed for each ward a jury drawn from the “men of good
name and fame.” Meanwhile the leet courts of the sub-divisions over
which the bailiffs used to preside carried on an obscure and feeble
existence, and the capital pledges which formed the leet juries sank
into insignificance[761] under the combined usurpations of the sheriffs
and the two councils. Once when the capital pledges attempted to
secure to the small trader some advantage in landing their goods at a
staith where apparently they escaped some city tolls, the governing
body promptly repressed their insubordination.[762] Evidently the
administration of the city was neither more lax nor more popular
because its governing body was enlarged.

In the obscure years of conflict between 1378 and 1415 we are told
nothing about the men or the organizations of men that made the
revolution. But we know that a very important movement was going on
in Norwich itself in the growth of the craft guilds. Long forbidden
by the civic government because of the loss to the city chest when
the craftsmen were withdrawn from the common courts, they apparently
made matters easy for themselves by regular payment of fines, and
continued to flourish.[763] Between 1350 and 1385[764] a number of
guilds were either founded or reconstituted so as to obtain public
recognition in the city,[765] and the one fact that we catch sight of
in their ordinances amid the absolutely monotonous and formal recital
of religious duties, is that they were in some cases allowed to choose
their own aldermen and council, instead of being subjected as before
to the twenty-four. The importance of this is at once evident in the
ordinances of 1404, where the guilds take a very prominent place; and
in the composition of 1415, when they were finally sanctioned and given
a completed form.[766] Not only was the power of choosing their own
officers granted to every trade, but it was decreed that “citizens
of the city shall be enrolled of what craft he be of” on pain of
forfeiture of his franchise; and that all “that shall be enfranchised
from this time forth shall be enrolled under a craft and by assent of
a craft.” Such a rule practically made the craft-masters the judges of
a new candidate for the city privileges, for if they refused to admit
him to the guild he could never become a burgess.[767] On the other
hand it was commanded that all the members of a craft must become
freemen; foreigners were to hold shops under tribute and fine for two
years and a day, and were then forced to buy the franchise of the
city. “The master of the craft shall come honestly to him and give him
warning to be a freeman or else spear in his shop-window.” If he did
not obey within fourteen days the master with an officer of the mayor
again visited him with his spear, “and he so speared in, nor no other,
shall not hold his craft within house nor without.” Thus no trader or
shopkeeper could remain exempt from the dues and charges of the city,
and the whole commonalty was placed under the police supervision of the
craft masters. The very dress of the crafts was made a matter of strict
definition; all liveries and hoods of former days were to be given up,
and the crafts were to wear liveries the same as those of London.[768]

If, however, during the years of conflict the craft associations may
have done good service to the commonalty, they were met by a counter
organization of the merchants and upper class. It seems to have become
common after the Peasant revolt, when a new terror was stirred as to
what the poor commons might do if left to follow their own will and
appetite, for the richer sort to unite for self-protection and the
preservation of their authority. In Norwich a Guild of S. George was
founded in 1385 as a fraternity with the usual religious colour, and
a - “going each Monday about in the city remembering and praying for
the souls of the brethren and sisters of the said guild that be passed
to God’s mercy.”[769] At first an informal body, consisting apparently
of the wealthier and more powerful people, both lay and ecclesiastic,
of Norwich and the surrounding country, its weakness lay in the fact
that it was “desevered by constitutions and ordinances made within the
city,” and according to the old rule by which the formation of any
guild was forbidden, it was, in fact, an illegal body. The governing
class, however, probably enlisted considerable sympathy at court in
the negociations for the charter of 1417; and the associates of S.
George won from Henry the Fifth in 1418 permission to constitute
themselves into a permanent society, and received a sword of wood
with a carved dragon’s head to be carried before their alderman on S.
George’s day.[770] The great people of the county and their wives
entered the order, bishops, monks and rectors, counts, knights, and
merchants—something like four hundred of them—all men of substance
who rode on horseback to the guild assembly, where the uniform of
S. George was varied by the mayors, sheriffs, aldermen, or masters
of crafts, riding in the garments of their order. The government of
the society was put in the hands of a very close corporation, and
the alliance between Church and State in the guild is manifested by
the association of the prior, mayor, and sheriffs of the city in its

The real danger of such a fraternity lay in the peculiar position
of Norwich, and the impossible task of local government which had
been thrown on its burghers. Beyond the city territory lay a great
manufacturing district—a whole county studded with villages where
weaving and worsted making were carried on in every house—and over all
this district Norwich had the supervision of the woollen trade. The
difficulties of the arrangement by which, in 1409, at the request of
the commons, the mayor, sheriffs, and commonalty were granted the right
of measuring and sealing all worsteds made in Norwich or Norfolk,[772]
must have been extreme. The great employers settled in the city who
organized the country labour and supplied cloth for the export trade
were thus given a certain judicial authority in the county; while
the great wool sellers—land-owners whose vast flocks of sheep[773]
pastured on the broad downs of undulating chalk, and who were turning
into traders on their own account—were forced in their own interest to
meddle with Norwich politics. Besides the general commercial questions
which affected both city and county, there must have been many a vexed
question as to the tenants who owed suit and service to the courts of
their lords, but who as artizans were subject to Norwich rule and whose
fines were swept into the Norwich treasury. On every hand the door was
thrown open to trouble. If the Norwich corporation was to busy itself
in county affairs, the county was bound to exert some control over
the Norwich corporation, whether by guilds of St. George, by securing
office in Norwich for sympathetic mayors, recorders, or sheriffs, by
winning the help of the Earl of Suffolk or of bishop or prior, by
choosing the Norwich members for Parliament, or if all other means
failed, by bribery and violence and the stirring up of street factions.

From one point of view, therefore, the story of the long years of
strife and calamity which followed the reformation of the Norwich
constitution in 1415 is singularly interesting. In presence of a
foreign foe internal dissension is suppressed, and the main story is
no longer, as in Nottingham, that of a struggle between the two classes
of the community itself. When a mayor of alien interests is imposed on
Norwich by a foreign faction he stands alone, and aldermen and commons
hold apart from him as betrayer of the common interests. The enemies
whom Norwich had to fear came from without the community itself, and if
the story of the city remained a singularly troubled one, the troublers
of its peace were not those of its own household. Factions of the State
and factions of the shire flung confusion into the city politics, and
the old burning question of ecclesiastical rights embittered every
local dispute.[774] Norwich was befriended by the Duke of Gloucester
and had a persistent enemy in the Earl of Suffolk, and its fortunes
swung backwards and forwards with the rise and fall of court parties.
From the day when the recorder, John Heydon, betrayed the city into
their hands, the county despots whom we know so well in the Paston
Letters, meet us in its streets and assembly hall, ever followed by
the curses of the people. Heydon of Baconsthorpe, Esq., sheriff in
Norwich in 1431, and recorder from 1441-3,—the man whose putting away
of his wife had created such a scandal that the very mention of it made
him turn pale, the land-jobber, the smuggler of wool, the exactor of
bribes, the parasite of the great lords whose support he could buy, the
organizer of outrages and murder, the audacious schemer willing to
spend two thousand pounds rather than lose the control of the Norwich
sheriff, the patron of liveried followers, the “maintainer” in the
courts of men who defied the law, the overbearing bully whose very
presence was enough to cow the commons into refusing to present their
complaints to the king’s judges,[775]—can be pictured by every one
who tracks his tortuous ways through the letters of the Pastons. In
conjunction with Sir Thomas Tuddenham and others he overwhelmed the
city with extortions, oppressions, and wrongs. These men “through their
great covetousness and false might oppressed all such citizens as would
not consent to make such mayors and sheriffs as they liked,” “purposing
for great lucre to have as well the rule of the city of Norwich as they
had of the shire of Norfolk,”[776] and “trusting in their great might
and power which they had and have in the country by the means of the
stewardship of Lancaster and other great offices and for divers other
causes that no man at that time durst make resistance against them,
knowing their great malice and vengeance without dread of God or shame
of the world.” Even when the people sought to buy the favour of Sir
Thomas, he took their money “by briberous extortion against all faith
and conscience,” and yet showed them no mercy.[777]

It is just possible that the danger to the city called into being a
fraternity to confront the society of S. George, and that the burghers
in their turn seized on the machinery of the religious guild. We catch
one passing glimpse of a curious association known as “Le Bachery”;
which was declared by the mayor and commons to be merely a company of
citizens who out of pure devotion kept up a light in the chapel of the
Blessed Virgin in the Fields (the ancient place for the assembly of the
people) and from mere motives of decency had chosen a livery; but in
whose pious and decent union the hostile fraternity saw an association
fashioned to break the power of S. George, and made haste to use
against it the old argument applied to its own youth—the charge of
being an “illegal guild.”[778]

The association was founded in stormy days. After Heydon was turned
out of office by the people for betraying their interests to the
prior,[779] his friend of S. George’s guild, the mayor Wetherby, an
ally of Tuddenham and a “hater of the commons,” led the party of the
county and the priory, and till his death fourteen years later the city
knew no peace. Four times between 1433 and 1444 its franchises were
forfeited for riot or stormy elections; twice the common seal was
violently taken out of the treasury by aldermen and commons to prevent
the sealing of proposals rejected of the people. Wetherby forced on the
election, as his successor, of a mayor refused by aldermen and commons.
John Qwerdling, falsely pretending to be common speaker, had carried
to the chamber a name not set down by the commons for election; Hawk
the town clerk had written down a wrong return; Nicholas Waleys had
taken bribes enough to win him the name of “ambidexter”; the two city
serjeants had packed juries, and the gaoler had threatened and struck
the resisting commons on the head with his mace. The mayor’s faction
held the guild hall, while the aldermen’s party retired to a private
house, and having elected another candidate, put the offending officers
out of their places, took the common seal out of the guild hall into
their own keeping, and lest by any chance their election should be
held invalid, refused to disperse till the mayor came down to confirm
it, and called the bishop to join them in opposition to the prior. For
the moment Wetherby yielded, but revenged himself by applying for a
commission from the king to examine into the state of the city.[780]
The enraged citizens kept up the broil till 1436, when another
commission was appointed which forced the commons to submit, to restore
the seal to its accustomed place in the treasury, and to put back the
officers they had displaced in 1433.[781]

At the next election, in 1437, commissioners were sent by the privy
council to see that all was done in order according to the charter, and
in case of riot to seize the franchises of the city into the king’s
hand;[782] and thus quiet was secured. But Norwich was not to keep its
restored franchise long. Riots and daily disturbances “concerning their
liberties” broke out between the city and the prior;[783] in June the
inhabitants of Norwich had to appear before the Privy Council, and in
July the franchises of the city were seized and the place committed
to the custody of John Welles, a London alderman who was made citizen
and alderman of Norwich.[784] At the prayer of the bishops of Norwich
and Lincoln the liberties were once more restored in 1439, to be as
quickly lost again.[785] For Thomas Wetherby “who bare a great hatred
to the commons” watched for an opportunity of making fresh trouble.
By his counsel the abbot of S. Bennet’s at Holm prosecuted the city
in 1441 for certain mills it had built on the Wensum; and Thomas
Tuddenham, John Fray, and William Paston (a friend of the abbot’s),
judged the case at Thetford and gave it against the the city, ordering
the commons to pay £100 damages to the abbot and £50 to the prior. At
this the assembly gathered in great numbers, crowded to the hall, in
January, 1442, and took away the common seal that the award might not
be sealed. By the influence of the Earl of Suffolk, the abbot, and
Wetherby, the city was prosecuted for rebellion, and in spite of the
protection of the Duke of Gloucester the mayor was ordered to appear
in London, where he was fined £50 and imprisoned in the Fleet, and the
liberties of the city were again seized into the king’s hands. The
mayor being thus fast in the Fleet, Wetherby got the common seal out of
the chest, sealed the bond of £100 to the abbot of S. Bennet’s at Holm,
£50 to the bishop, and £50 to the prior, without the knowledge of the
mayor, sheriffs, or commons; and then destroyed the new mills.[786]

This led to fresh troubles. On the Shrove Tuesday of 1443 the mayor
and commonalty, at this time united in the mysterious guild of “Le
Bachery,” raised an insurrection, declaring they had power enough in
the city and adjacent country to slay Thomas Brown the bishop,[787]
the abbot of Holm, and the prior of Norwich. John Gladman, a merchant,
rode with a paper crown as king at the head of a hundred and thirty
people on horseback and on foot. At the ringing of the city bells
three thousand citizens assembled, armed with swords, bows, arrows,
and helmets, surrounded the priory, laid guns against it, and at last
won a glorious victory, and forced the monks to deliver up the hateful
deed falsely sealed with the common seal which bound the people to pay
4_s._ a year to the prior and to abandon claims to jurisdiction over
certain priory lands.

Such a triumph was naturally followed by a fresh visit of royal
commissioners in 1444.[788] Wetherby and the prior brought a long
list of charges against the mayor;[789] while the city protested that
Tuddenham and Heydon alone had made mischief out of their peaceful
show; and that Gladman had only “made a disport with his neighbours,
having his horse trapped with tynnsoyle and other nice disguisy things,
crowned as king of Christmas,” while “before him went each month
disguised after the season required, and Lent clad in white and red
herring skins and his horse trapped with oyster shells after him.”[790]

Meanwhile the king had his own grievance against Norwich, for the city
had unluckily brought a suit for £100 which it had formerly lent him,
and now refused to advance any more money when he sent to solicit
it.[791] Once more, therefore, in 1444, its liberties and franchises
were confiscated. But now at last troubles began to lighten. Thomas
Wetherby died, as well as the bishop who had supported him,[792] and
the new bishop, of an old Norwich family, was for peace. In 1447 the
liberties were restored, and in 1448 the king visited the city.[793]
Two years later however, Heydon was again to the front, ready with
Tuddenham to spend £2,000 in buying favour in high quarters in
London, and £1,000 to secure a sheriff in Norwich committed to his
interest.[794] It was suggested that the Norwich folk, the mayor with
the aldermen and all the commons, should ride to meet the Duke of York
when he visited the city, “and all the women of the same town be there
also, and cry out on them also, and call them extortioners, and pray
my Lord that he will do sharp executions upon them ... and let that be
done in the most lamentable wise, for Sir, but if my Lord hear some
foul tales of them, and some hideous noise and cry, by my faith they
are else like to come to grace.”[795] The commission of judges[796]
finally sent to try Heydon for felony, his defiant ride through the
town into the abbey, the rumours that he was to bear rule once more,
his mode of meeting and outwitting or terrorising the commissioners
by turns, all these are told from day to day almost in the Paston
Letters. Finally, in 1452, Judge Yelverton arranged some kind of peace
in Norwich,[797] helped possibly by the poverty and exhaustion of the
city.[798] By giving a loan to the king and a present to the queen with
a promise to befriend her in her anxieties, Norwich got a new charter
in 1452.[799] In this the guild of S. George, which seems to have been
united to the corporation about 1450, was apparently victorious.[800]
It was agreed that the day after the mayor left office he should be
chosen alderman of the guild, and the common council was taken into the
council of the guild.

For the next seventy years the citizens were occupied by strife with
the prior, which dated back to the day when the Norwich burghers were
given the city into their hands.[801] The bickerings of three centuries
ended in a compact drawn up in 1524, when questions of jurisdiction,
tolls, pasturage, water, and rights of way were settled; and it was
admitted that the mayor, sheriffs, citizens, and commonalty might
go to the cathedral church on feast days and occasions of solemn
processions, the mayor with sword and maces borne before him, on
condition that he claimed no jurisdiction, while the prior and monks
“of their amiable favour shall forbear as far as they lawfully can or
may” to arrest any of the corporation or the citizens during these
great processions.[802]

Such stories of local wranglings might well be left forgotten and
obscure if there lay in them nothing more than vulgar quarrels. But the
political experiment of Norwich was one of such serious purpose and
such singular quality, that even in its failure it kindles our sympathy
with men who for two hundred and fifty years had been laboriously
working out the problem of administration. With an admirable political
sagacity they had used in turn every form of local organization to
perfect their experiment in self-government. They had taken the
principle of an elected jury and adapted it for use in their courts,
their council chamber, and their legislative assembly. They had
turned to the problem of the general assembly, altogether useless in
its primitive and unwieldy form, and developed out of it (taking a
pattern from London) a representative council which should guide its
deliberations and express its will. The craft-guilds were organized,
and it is possible that in the struggle their discipline gave order
and strength to the commonalty. When the battle grew hot the machinery
of the religious guild was brought into play on either side, and S.
George measured his force with the Virgin of the Fields. No doubt these
various methods have no claim to originality, being frankly copied
from customs known elsewhere; nor is it in the discovery of a new path
that the merit of the Norwich burghers lies, but in the sound political
instinct by which they steadily directed their way into the broad track
whose ultimate goal is civil freedom, rather than the narrow road of
privilege. As we watch the growth of the house of representatives
which was established among them, an independent deliberative assembly
elected by the commons; and compare it with the chamber of magnates at
Nottingham that by a fine mockery was supposed to typify a gathering
of the whole community; we have a just measure given us of the value
of this more liberal experiment in municipal politics—an experiment
so early in time, so serious in conception, so strong and orderly in
execution, that it might have justified an enduring success.

But in spite of all the ingenuity and sagacity and resolution which
the men of Norwich brought to their fine attempt at ordering public
life, misfortune still waited on their steps, and from the outset the
disaster of the fifteenth century darkens and throws long shadows.
For Norwich was fighting with its doom already proclaimed—harassed
by the harsh dry climate in which fine cloth needed for the foreign
market could not be woven; by the hurry of the new export trade which
drove masters to set up their mills by the streams of Yorkshire and
Gloucestershire, where labour was free and cheap; by changes in
methods of making worsted which shifted the manufacture over to the
Netherlands; and by the false economy which to help a failing trade,
made English weavers refuse Norfolk yarn to foreign buyers—the Norwich
burghers had still to endure the last calamity of pestilence, and
the sweating sickness, which first burst on them in 1485, filled up
the tale of disaster. Industrial difficulties alone might have been
conquered. But a more insidious danger threatened all their liberties.
By a fatal accident of position and circumstances the city, as we have
seen, had been invaded and conquered by the county—by a society wholly
separate from it in political developement. It had bitterly proved
the truth of the extreme apprehension with which men of the towns at
that time looked on the intrusion among them of “foreigners,” bringing
into their newly ordered civic life the feudal traditions of the
county magnates, scattering liveries among their people, and pouring
into their law courts a commanding army of retainers—“because,” to
use their own words, “by such maintainers and protectors a common
contention might arise among us, and horrible manslaughter be committed
among us, and the loss of the liberty or freedom of the city, to
the disinheritance of us and of our children; which God forbid that
in our days by the defeat of us should happen or fall out in such a
manner.”[803] The story of Norwich shows that in a provincial town, as
in a greater state, a constitution framed for home uses and needs may
be shattered by the violence of foreign affairs over which it has no
power, against which it has no arms, and for the guidance of which it
has no instructions.


 Mr. Hudson believes that in Norwich the word “citizen” at first meant
 merely an enfranchised equal, being frequently described as “par
 civitatis,” and that from the thirteenth century onwards the most
 prominent idea which it imported was that of a privileged trader,
 in which sense it is used through the series of Leet Rolls. In one
 class of documents, however, at the close of the thirteenth century,
 he finds it apparently restricted to a limited body of substantial
 burghers, into whose hands the management of the public business had
 gradually passed. In enrolled deeds which have been examined for the
 years 1285-1298 a great number of persons are described merely as
 drapers, tanners, fishmongers and so on, while others are mentioned
 as “merchant citizen of Norwich,” or “tanner, citizen of Norwich,”
 and others again are put down simply as “citizen of Norwich.” Out of
 the hundred and fifty persons to whom the words “citizen of Norwich”
 are applied there are fifty who are apparently of no trade; and of
 the remaining hundred, thirty-two are merchants, twenty-four drapers
 and linendrapers, and the rest, about fifty, belong to a variety of
 occupations, but generally to the skilled handicrafts. No smith is
 mentioned as citizen, and very few among the butchers and bakers. From
 these facts the general conclusion is drawn that the word “citizen”
 was being gradually restricted by the most important burghers to
 themselves, the lower classes of those who held the freedom of the
 city being massed together as the “communitas.” (Arch. Journ. xlvi.
 No. 184, 318-319.)

 The argument, however, rests on entries made in the last years of the
 thirteenth century, between 1285 and 1298, at a time when the state of
 things in Norwich was exceptional. The city rule was that every man
 who bought and sold in Norwich should have “made his ingress” into the
 town and become of the “franchise” or “liberty.” How often the law
 was evaded we see from the presentments of the leet courts. (For the
 last ten years of the thirteenth century see Town Close Evidences,
 12-15.) It would seem that as the prosperity of the city increased
 new inhabitants had begun to flock to it who were far more concerned
 in making their own bargains than in carrying out the laws and customs
 of the borough; and who, especially the poorer sort engaged in humble
 trades, were anxious to escape the payments and responsibilities
 of citizenship. Blomefield (iii. 73) states that about 1306, owing
 to difficulties in paying the ferm, it was ordered that every one
 who had traded for a year and a day in the city must take up his
 freedom, paying for it a fine of 40_s._ if he were not entitled to the
 franchise by birth or service. Since every citizen was bound to have a
 house, building went on fast, and can be measured by the increase of
 rents from houses. For “in 1329 Simon de Berford the King’s escheator
 on this side Trent gave the city much trouble concerning a number of
 houses, shops and tenements lately erected by grant of the city on
 the waste grounds of the said city, on pretence that all the waste
 belonged to the King and not to the citizens, and that the rents of
 all such buildings should belong to the Crown (Custom Book fo. 2) by
 which means great part of the city rents, namely all the rents _de
 novo incremento_ or new increased rents, would have been lost from the
 city to the value of £9 11_s._ 8_d._ a year, by which we may calculate
 the surprising increase of the inhabitants of this place from the
 beginning of Edward II. to this time. The small rents or old rents of
 houses erected upon the city waste from its original to Edward the
 Second’s time amounted to but 9_s._ 2_d._, so that if we compare the
 new increased rents with the old ones we shall find in about thirty
 years’ time nineteen times as many houses erected upon the waste as
 there were before, an argument sufficiently showing how populous it
 grew by its flourishing trade, and indeed its increase continued as
 surprisingly till that fatal pestilence in 1349.

 “To remedy this imposition the citizens sent to Thomas Butt and John
 Ymme, their burgesses in Parliament, then held at Winchester, to
 complain of the usage to the King and Parliament; upon which the King
 afterwards directed his writ to the said Simon, certifying him, that
 by the grants of his progenitors, Kings of England, the citizens held
 the city and all the waste ground by fee-farm, in inheritance, and
 that therefore he had nothing to do to molest them in letting out such
 void grounds to be built upon for their profit and advantage towards
 paying their fee-farm. This writ bears date at Reading March 25, in
 the 4th of his reign.” (Blomefield, iii. 80-1.)

 These facts seem to indicate that citizenship was a less frequent
 thing among the inhabitants of Norwich at the end of the thirteenth
 century than in the first half of the fourteenth century—and was at
 that time possibly confined in practice to those who gained it by
 birth or service, and that purchase was rare.

 For the very different law made by the Bishop of Norwich in 1307 for
 Lynn see p. 408. He may have desired to secure for Lynn the small
 traders who found themselves hard pressed by the Norwich decree of



IT was not in Norwich alone that the people, refusing submission
to a governing plutocracy, made the experiment of creating a lower
house of commons to represent the burghers at large. The peculiar
difficulties that beset popular government in that city were absent
in other towns, but in no case was the experiment a simple matter.
Everywhere unforeseen dangers were presently disclosed, dangers new and
various, and capable of overwhelming the new movement in ultimate ruin
and confusion. Even at the moment when Norwich was forming its second
chamber, the town of Lynn, but a very few miles away, was developing a
common council wholly different in its origin and its constitution, and
threatened by occasions of failure and betrayal of which Norwich had no

The case of Lynn is one of singular interest. Nowhere else in England
was there a corporation more wealthy, or more formidable from its
compact organization and great authority. On the other hand nowhere
else perhaps was there a community of “mean people,” burgesses and
non-burgesses, so prosperous, active, and united; sustained as they
were in every emergency by the effectual protection of their lord the
Bishop, who, in his jealousy of the governing class, was forced to
become the ally of the subject people, and to make their cause his own.
Under these circumstances the conflict between the commons and the
plutocrats who ruled over them had some original characteristics, and
the problem of church and state in Lynn emerges in a new and subtle

The ruling class of the town was from the first the governing body of
the Merchant Guild.[804] For here, as in other leading ports, it is
evident that the rich traders quickly became dominant in civic affairs,
even though their association in a Guild Merchant of itself gave them
no right to govern. In Lynn a powerful merchant class must have been
formed at a very early time. Through the town lay the one way by
which Norfolk could be entered from the west; and its port was the
only outlet for the trade of seven counties. Lynn was therefore the
centre for the largest cattle market in the east of England, whence
the export trade drew supplies of wool and fells and hides;[805] its
middlemen and merchants held in their hands the commerce with Gascony,
the Rhineland, Zealand, “the parts of North Berne,” with Prussia, and
Dacia, and the Hanse towns; and as early as 1271 the German merchants
had some sort of local organization there under their alderman Symon,
a citizen of Lynn, of whom we hear that he gave a pledge on behalf of
some Lübeck merchants to the amount of £200.[806] No interest in the
borough could compete with the great commercial company[807] by whom
the whole volume of trade that was borne over the waters of the Wash
“rowing and flowing,” was ultimately controlled. Under the name of the
Holy Trinity it had obtained a charter from John, and by the time of
Edward the Second had nearly nine hundred names on its bede-roll. The
sons of its old members were allowed to enter the guild on payment of
6_s._ 8_d._; while others, men and women, were willing to give 60_s._
or 100_s._ to be counted among its brethren, the men looking to share
in the political as well as commercial benefits it offered, while women
were perhaps consoled with its spiritual gains; and men and women alike
paid the same entrance fee to be enrolled after death in consideration
of the eternal advantages of such membership.[808] In 1392 the guild
employed thirteen chaplains yearly to say masses in the churches of
S. Margaret, S. Nicholas, and S. James, used much wax for lights in
churches and chapels, and from the profits of the common staith gave
alms and fulfilled works of charity.[809]

The spiritual blessings of the guild, however, pale before the
financial and political boons it had to offer. As a great trading
company it heaped up wealth and increased power. The aldermen and
his brethren made laws to regulate the commerce even of those
burgesses who did not belong to their select company, but carried on
business by virtue of the charter of free trade granted to the whole
borough.[810] The guild owned along with other property the common
staith and all its appurtenances, the quay where by its decree “no bad
persons, nor any spiritual persons should work,”[811] and the right
of passage for a boat beyond the port.[812] The monopoly of various
profitable trades was secured to its members, as for instance the
sale of mill-stones,[813] paving-stones, and grave-stones which were
sold at from 20_s._ to 30_s._ apiece. The brethren of the guild were
the bankers and capitalists of the town.[814] They lent money out on
usury, and not only did the corporation come to borrow from their
treasury, but in 1408 more than fifty townsmen were in their debt for
sums varying from £1 to £119. The trading activity of the company may
be measured by the fact that in 1392 the guild had in ready money £60
13_s._, and in divers merchandise £200;[815] and in 1408 the loans
came to £1,214. In 1422 its wealth was £1,403, of which the debts due
to it made up £1,210. Its expenditure was generous and magnificent.
Large sums were spent on the new guild hall, beginning in 1422 with
£132 4_s._ The silver plate in its treasury weighed in the first half
of the century 440 ounces. A silver wand was borne before its dean; and
its members were carried to their graves under a covering of cloth of

Financial transactions on such a scale as this would in any case
have given the guild control over a town government whose expenses
were fast increasing, and which in every time of need turned to its
coffers for money. But the company of the Holy Trinity exerted far
more than an indirect authority over the corporation. It was in effect
itself the real governing force in Lynn. By a charter of Henry the
Third its alderman (who held office for life and was thus absolutely
independent of popular control) was joined with the mayor in the rule
and government of the borough: in case of the mayor’s absence or death
he was appointed in his stead,[817] and in the election of a new mayor
he took the leading part.[818] Moreover, the twenty-four jurats of
the council, who had the control of all town business, and from among
whom alone the mayor might be chosen, were bound to be brethren of
the guild. Under these conditions the “Potentiores”—the “great men
of the town”—as they were commonly called in the time of Edward the
First, ruled without restraint, and with a high hand assessed taxes,
diverted money from the common treasury, profited by illegal trading,
used customs contrary to common or merchant law, and bought the
king’s forgiveness if any complaint was made of their crimes. Against
their despotism there was no protection for the burgesses of humbler
station—the middle class which went by the name of Mediocres, and the
yet lower layer of the people known as the Inferiores, traders and
householders who were not burgesses, and whose prosperity, if fairly
well established, was of a less brilliant character than that of the
upper classes.

There was, however, a disturbing element in the history of the Lynn
corporation which was absent in Southampton, Nottingham, or Norwich.
The lord of the manor was close at hand, and the governing class had
to reckon with his claims and expect his interference. Local disputes
magnified his power. Thrown together as natural allies against the
potentiores, the mediocres and inferiores were forced to rely mainly
on the protection of the Bishop. He on his part, whether for the sake
of developing the trade of his borough, or for the sake of increasing
the population dependent on himself rather than on the rival power of
the mayor, stipulated—and this at the very moment when Norwich was
compelling all its traders and artizans to buy its freedom—that the
mayor should not have power to force the franchise on any settlers
old or new who might take up house in the town while preferring to
remain free of the charges of citizenship. He won from the mayor,
moreover, in 1309, a Composition for the protection of both mediocres
and inferiores, which not only became the charter of all their
future liberties, but was also the fullest recognition of his own
authority.[819] From this time, in spite of efforts on the part of the
municipality to evade the composition, the mean people, confident of
their legal position and assured of the support of a powerful patron,
formed a society differently compacted from that which we find in other
boroughs, and played a part in the politics of Lynn which was perhaps
unique in town history. The “community” of Lynn differed from the
“community” of other boroughs in being made up, as is formally stated
in 1412, not only of burgesses, both potentiores and mediocres, but
also of inferiores[820] or non-burgesses.

The first detailed account of the constitution of Lynn is given in
Letters Patent of Henry the Fifth in 1417, where the “ancient custom”
which ruled the town was recapitulated.[821] When a mayor was to
be elected the alderman of the guild appointed four “worthy and
sufficient” burgesses, who added to themselves eight comburgesses, and
this jury of twelve elected one of the twenty-four jurats as mayor, and
appointed the other municipal officers for the coming year.[822] The
council of twenty-four jurats, which was drawn wholly from the ranks of
the merchant guild and elected for life, filled up its own vacancies,
so that when any one of them died or resigned his office or was
expelled, the townsfolk appeared as mere spectators in the hall, while
the mayor and remaining jurats chose “one of the more worthy, honest,
discreet, and sufficient” of the burgesses to fill the vacant place.
If it became necessary to elect any other officers the mayor nominated
four comburgesses, who named in their turn eight others to form a jury.

In later days it was supposed that so long as these ordinances were
observed “mayor, jurats, burgesses, and community, rested happily under
the sweetness of peace and quiet throughout the days of prosperous
times.”[823] Prosperous times there had certainly been[824] if we judge
by the growth of the town’s budget. In 1354 the corporation spent £176;
in 1355 £94; in 1356 £266; in 1357 £92; in 1367 £165; in 1371 £163;
in 1374 £249. The year 1377 was very costly to the burghers, whose
expenses suddenly mounted to £874. It was the year of the quarrel
with the Bishop of Norwich,[825] and Lynn had to give £318 15_s._
to the king, his mother, and others “labouring for the community”
when the Bishop laid his complaint before the council “for a certain
transgression done to him in the town”; and to pay £116 10_s._ for the
expenses of the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses who went to London on
the same business. They were required further this year to spend £113
on making an enclosure for the defence of the town; and £103 10_s._ on
a town barge, doubtless fitted out at the king’s demand to serve as a
war vessel. All this naturally ended in a heavy debt; the corporation
had only been able to raise £650 6_s._ 2_d._ and had to borrow £160
from the guild, and to leave the salaries of the mayor, clerk,
serjeants, and chamberlains unpaid. The next year, however, it made an
effort to clear off its debt and actually spent nearly £773, paying off
£241 10_s._ to its creditors. From this time expenditure grew fast. In
1380 it was £351, and in 1382 £204; in 1385 £304; in 1389 £394; in
1399 £461.[826] In 1403 the borough had to lend to the king over £333
which was not repaid till 1425.[827]

The municipal debt of course grew as fast as the municipal expenditure,
and in 1408 the corporation owed the guild between £400 and £500.[828]
The council of jurats borrowed generously from the fraternity in their
capacity of town councillors, and lent as generously to the corporation
in their capacity of members of the guild. The inevitable abuses which
belong to financial administration conducted on this system presently
made themselves felt. Perhaps there was an attempt at reform when in
1402 changes were made in the manner of keeping and auditing accounts,
and each of the four chamberlains had to return a separate statement
of receipts and outgoings.[829] But if so the remedy was ineffectual,
and for the state of Lynn, as for far bigger states, the question of
finance ended in a question of revolution, or was at last the pretext
of revolution. The angry discontent of the community finally broke out
in 1411, when the people demanded the repayment into the town treasury
of a sum of £458, which the last five mayors had spent without the
consent of the community in litigation with the Bishop, to the serious
prejudice and extreme depoverishment of the town. The five mayors on
their side, at the head of the potentiores, retorted by claiming from
the town £280 to repay losses which they had incurred in its service
during their terms of office.

Thus the traditional “sweetness of peace” was at an end, and Lynn was
presently plunged into the excitement of a revolution. Fortunately
for the people the ruling body found itself face to face with all its
enemies at once; for the mediocres and inferiores, alike excluded from
places of honour and power, were as of old drawn into close relations
and were together thrown on the protection of their lord the Bishop for
the defence of their rights; while the Bishop himself, with whom the
municipality had been dragging on a long quarrel for the last thirteen
years, was probably in no conciliatory mood. Everything, however,
was conducted on strictly constitutional lines. By common consent a
committee of eighteen men of the town was appointed to deal with the
grievances of the state, and every section of the town society was
required to give pledges of obedience to its decision. The mayor and
twenty-two potentiores bound themselves in sums of £100 each to submit
to the decrees of the eighteen; eighty-four of the mediocres pledged
themselves in sums of £50 each; and sixty-six of the inferiores in
sums of £5 11_s._ 2_d._ On the committee itself each of the three
classes that made up the community was represented. There were twelve
burgesses, of whom seven were potentiores and five mediocres, and six
non-burgesses or inferiores.

At first all seemed to go well for the popular party. The decisions
of the committee were eminently satisfactory. The compensation money
which the late mayors had claimed was altogether refused; and they were
ordered to repay to the town treasury the £458 illegally spent without
consent of the community. A decree was made that henceforth the mayor
should only have, according to ancient custom, £10 for his year’s fee
and whatever the community might put by for his reward having regard
to his merit or demerit; and that he should answer to the town for all
arrears of contributions during his mayoralty. It was declared that
the non-burgesses had been deprived of the privileges secured to them
by the composition of 1309, and an order was made that from this time
they “shall have and use all rights to the said inferiores granted.”
This was a declaration of ancient law and custom; but the committee
went further and began the process of “mending the constitution” by
issuing a decree that for the future each mayor should choose and take
to himself a council consisting of three potentiores, three mediocres,
and three inferiores, which nine persons together with the mayor should
have full power to deal with the rents, etc., of the community.[830]
By these ordinances which mark the triumph of the alliance between the
mediocres and inferiores with the lord of the manor behind them, just
as the composition of 1309 had marked their triumph a century before,
the non-burgesses were formally given a share in the actual control of
administration—a circumstance which so far as published records go
has no parallel in the history of any other borough. The decrees were
agreed to (how reluctantly was to be proved later) by the corporation
on April 8, 1411, and signed by persons chosen from the three orders of
inhabitants;[831] in November, 1412, they were confirmed by Henry the
Fourth; and once more on April 10, 1413, by Henry the Fifth.[832]

At the same time, in 1411, the important question of elections was
raised; and for the sake of securing to the commonalty a due share
of power along with the alderman and his brethren, it was suggested
that “certain new ordinances and constitutions concerning and about
the elections of the mayor and the rest of the jurats, and officers,
and ministers,” might be drawn up. The commons were to meet together
a week before the day of election, and choose from among themselves a
common speaker—a prolocutor he was called in Lynn. All burgesses who
desired it might freely come to the guild hall for the election, and
the congregation having been made, after public proclamation that none
but a burgess or minister might give his vote,[833] they should choose
two names from among the jurats, and from these two names the mayor
and jurats were to select one as mayor. Throughout this proceeding the
prolocutor and clerk were practically set to act as spies[834] on one
another in the interests of their several parties, the prolocutor
guarding the people’s interest, and keeping watch at the elbow of the
common clerk (the nominee of the mayor and jurats) as he went from
burgess to burgess in the hall to inquire for whom they wished to vote,
or as he carried the nominations to the mayor, and wrote down the
decisive votes of the upper chamber “severally and secretly.” In like
manner the election of the other officers was also regulated;[835] and
above all, the burgesses were, for the first time, given a share in the
election of the council of twenty-four, being allowed at every vacancy
to nominate two candidates; if these were rejected they were again to
choose two other names, and so on until the jurats were satisfied. In
its new constitution Lynn, like Norwich, decided to shape its system
after “the manner and form in which it was used in the city of London;”
but in Lynn there were special difficulties, and the new scheme could
only be brought “at least to the greatest possible conformity with
them of London, forsomuch that in the aforesaid town there are not had
aldermen, wards, recorder, nor divers other things as in the city of

Unhappily for “the sweetness of peace” parties were so evenly matched
in the committee of eighteen that the reforms were only passed by a
majority of one vote.[837] Moreover, the agreement—drawn up by the
committee on April 8, 1411, set forth and assented to by the mayor
and community in May, signed by their orders in July, and sealed with
the common seal in December—was not confirmed by charter till the
following November, 1412.[838] Thus, when the burgesses met on August
27, 1411, to choose a new mayor, their ordinances were still but a
common agreement and without any sanction of law if they were disputed.
Burgesses and non-burgesses gathered in force, some three hundred or so
strong, to see what was going to happen. The question was raised as to
what form of election should be used, and a proposal was made to delay
the business. But the mayor having put it to the meeting that all who
wished to proceed with the election were to sit down and the others
to rise up, all save six “suddenly as in a moment fell on the forms,
benches, and ground”; and a hundred and forty-eight burgesses insisted
on going on with the business. The next point was how the electing
jury was to be named, and the hundred non-burgesses present begged to
have “a little voice” in the matter, which was refused. The alderman
of the guild and the inferiores having been thus set aside, the
burgesses were left in possession of the field, and they proceeded,
with a compromise between the old and new systems, to nominate, as
the alderman had formerly done, the first four members of the jury,
two jurats and two mediocres, who then added to themselves eight
burgesses. In the following year the people again assembled, burgesses
and non-burgesses together to the number of three hundred, in spite of
a notice on the rolls of process for “quieting these dissensions,” and
again carried out the elections after the new mode.[839]

The balance of forces, however, was too even to give the victors any
security of tenure, and government worked with great friction. It
seems that the mayor of the popular party strengthened the radical
vote by admitting to the franchise “foreign” inhabitants (probably
some of the inferiores) against the will of the council; while the
reformers insulted the guild brethren in their own guild hall; and in
1415 “without consent of the mayor and burgesses” quit-claimed the
debts of the town—debts owed, as we have seen, to the guild.[840]
By their enemies the new ordinances were declared to have “furnished
the fuel of grief and hatred,” and according to the malcontents the
late agreement had only caused “immense expenses, charges, losses, and
intolerable damage by reason of discords, strifes, and other ills,” and
must inevitably “redound to the final destruction and pauperization,
but also the desolation and probable overthrowing of all that town.” In
1416 an appeal was made to Henry the Fifth, whose sympathy here, as
in Norwich at the same time, was with the oligarchy; and he summoning
the parties before him[841] ordered a final concord between them.
To “pluck up by the roots and extirpate strifes” the new ordinances
were utterly annulled, the former customs of the town recapitulated,
and the old constitution restored. The alderman received again his
ancient position,[842] the jurats became once more a self-electing
body, and the town was subjected to the system dear to the potentiores,
and against which the people had risen in vain. From this time the
old method of election was resumed and carried on throughout the
century.[843] Murmurs of discontent still seem to have been heard
occasionally. In 1419 one of the townsmen challenged the alderman of
the guild at the election assembly. “We would know,” he said, “by what
authority or right you call up four persons to make our mayor”; but he
was put down by a speech about “our charter,” and after this meeting
it would seem that the public were no longer admitted to the meetings
of the corporation.[844]

Defeated on the great issue of the election of the mayor and jurats,
the commons fell back on the idea of a chamber of representatives. An
attempt had already been made, in 1411, to form a council of nine,
which though appointed by the mayor was to be drawn from the three
orders of the community, and to act for them; but this scheme came to
an end with the annulling of the ordinances. No sooner, however, was
the old power of the potentiores restored by Henry the Fifth than the
idea of a common council immediately revived among the people, possibly
inspired by the example of Norwich which had only a year before secured
the charter that gave its common council a permanent status. It was
decided that each of the nine constabularies or wards in Lynn should
choose three burgesses “having sufficient tenure in the town” who
should take part in all business concerning taxes, tenths, fifteenths,
allowances, repairs of houses, walls, bridges, water-courses, ditches,
all payments, rendering of accounts, and other charges of the borough.
This new body of twenty-seven became at once generally known as the
common council, and was formally confirmed by the Bishop in 1420. The
community bound itself to obey any decree which was issued in the name
of the two councils,[845] and from December, 1418, when the noble
jurats and the discreet burgesses met for the first time in the guild
hall, the whole conduct of town business passed into their hands.[846]
Henceforth decrees and ordinances were made with the assent of “the
whole congregation”;[847] but it is obvious that the institution of
the common council in this form marked the final separation between
the interests of the two lower classes of the community, and the
irrevocable close of their alliance. As in 1411 the inferiores had
been declared incapable of any share in electing officers, so now they
remained without any part in legislation, while the mediocres entered
happily into their inheritance.

So the revolution of Lynn flickered out. For the new common council
cannot be said to have represented after all a very formidable
concession to democratic demands. Unlike the council of 1411 it
apparently took no account at all of the inferiores. The electorates
of the constabularies seldom numbered more than twenty people and
sometimes as few as twelve, and the whole body which elected the new
council did not consist of more than a hundred and fifty persons.[848]
To prevent any trouble, moreover, there was a provision that if
any man proved unfit, the mayor and aldermen and the councils of
twenty-four and twenty-seven might choose another in his place.[849]
With such safeguards the new representatives might be trusted to work
in complete harmony with the older body; the potentiores had taken the
mediocres into their counsels and formed an alliance with them, and the
inferiores, left outside the door of the common hall, deserted by their
old confederates, and dependent on a lord whose influence was steadily
on the decline, sank into obscurity and silence. In course of time the
jurats rose to the full dignity of an upper house, and effectually
secured in their own hands the whole administration of the nine
constabularies by an order (in 1480) that a jurat must be chosen as
alderman in each constabulary, that the alderman and constable together
shall keep the peace and settle debates, and that if they could not
reduce rebellious persons to quiet, no burgess in that constabulary
might be suitor in any court, spiritual or temporal, without the leave
of the mayor.[850] Finally, in 1524, the two ruling classes obtained a
charter which formed their corporation into a close self-elective body;
the mayor was to be elected by the twelve aldermen, and the twelve
aldermen by the common council, and the common council by the mayor
and aldermen.

In the last state of the council we see the strength given to the upper
classes by a common alliance, by the humiliation of the non-burgesses,
and by the increasing weakness of the lord of the manor. It would,
however, be impossible to maintain that in Lynn a primitive democratic
government had been gradually submerged by a usurping oligarchy. If
we compare the demands put forward in 1309 by the inhabitants at
large—demands for freedom of trade and some assurance that they should
not be unjustly taxed—with their claims a century later to be formally
represented in the administration of the town, we see what strides had
been made in that hundred years in the notion of popular government;
and so far as it was not violently thwarted by alien influences the
movement of the early fifteenth century was in the direction of
widening liberty. In the new governing body more than twice as many
members sat as in the old council of the potentiores, and two orders
of the community were represented instead of one; while the commonalty
lost none of the ancient customary rights which had originally belonged
to it. The non-burgesses still made their appearance with the rest
when taxes were to be levied or the common property allotted. In 1435,
when the mayor was sent to Bruges as one of the king’s ambassadors on
commercial matters, his journey and its expenses are ordered “by the
full advice and assent of the twenty-four and the common council and
of all the burgesses and merchants of Lynn.”[851] During the first
years of Henry the Sixth loans of money to the king and the receiving
of re-payments was done in the name of and with the consent of the
whole community;[852] in 1448 arbitrators to decide on a disputed
question about a tenement were in like manner elected by the whole
community;[853] and in the levying of taxes the whole three orders
acted together as of old, so that in 1463, when a sum of £36 had to be
raised, of the eighteen men chosen to assess the tax, six belonged to
the jurats, six to the common council, and six to the “communitas.”[854]

Still, however, from the point of view of any real extension of
liberty, the revolution had failed, and as in Norwich it had failed
from purely external causes. The temporal sovereignty of the Church
had destroyed the political freedom of the State. From the time when
the Bishop had broken their society into two sections, which could
never again unite for civil purposes, an ecclesiastical tradition stood
between the people and freedom. The crucial moment for liberty in Lynn
had occurred a century before, on that day in 1309 when the Bishop
had won from the corporation the right to create as a bulwark of his
power a class of inhabitants protected in every material interest of
their lives, but cut off from the body of free citizens, and carefully
debarred from political independence. For a time the system by which
a privileged class was allowed to buy the protection of the borough
without paying the fair price, and to maintain a position within its
walls by the authority of a power without, seemed to work well for both
parties to the cunning bargain—indeed, to offer certain advantages.
Dependent on the Bishop for all their rights of trade and privileges,
the inferiores were content to let him fight their battles, which he
did so effectually that the mediocres themselves were attracted to
their party, and made common cause with them to the apparent profit
of all concerned. But the only strength of a corrupt alliance utterly
false in principle lay in the support given by the Bishop, and no
sooner did this begin to fail than the whole scheme utterly collapsed.
The question of elections raised at the August meeting of 1411 gave
the potentiores their opportunity to break up the confederation from
within by detaching the hundred or hundred and fifty mediocres from
the rest of the party of resistance, leaving the non-burgesses to
shift for themselves; and when these, suddenly alive to their hapless
situation, tried to recover ground and begged to be taken into the
family of citizen-voters, even by “a little voice,” there was no place
found for their repentance. The common council which the community had
striven to create finally represented only a handful of privileged
people instead of the general body of inhabitants, and any hope of the
political developement of Lynn as a free community was once for all
arrested. The betrayal of the common cause of civic equality brought
its exact recompense on the day when every weapon of the unenfranchised
inhabitants was seen to be broken and useless. In the common assembly
they had no votes. In the common council they had no representatives.
The machinery of all their seventy-five guilds[855] could not in any
way be so handled as to further the power of the people; for so long as
the great body of craft-holders and artizans lay outside the borough
franchise it was impossible for them to employ their organizations
in the service of the common cause. Deprived of the close connection
between the borough and the craft which existed in other towns, they
could neither aspire to send delegates from the trades into the council
chamber, nor could they make the crafts the only way of entrance into
the freedom of the city.

The main result of this breaking up of the “communitas” of Lynn into
three fractions which could never again be united, was the final
affirmation of power in the hands of a small ruling class. In Lynn it
was always the merchants who conquered. One by one they vanquished
their opponents, the Church, the mediocres, the inferiores. A singular
and pathetic unity pervades the history of the town from first to last.
Lynn had won from land and sea a little space of ground, a little
tenure of life, and there, lighted by a passing gleam of beneficent
fortune, it made its brief experiment—a single experience consistent
from first to last, and scarcely subjected to accident or change. The
old borough still retains some subtle charm of a lingering distinction.
Even now as we look at the homes of its last traders—the heavy double
doors which shut off the great court from the street, the houses
built round three sides of the open square, and lifted at the back
straight out of the waters of canals cut to give passage to the ships
and barges which drifted up on every rising tide, almost brushing as
they passed the windows that opened on rich chambers dark with carved
work in wood—we seem to breath the strange air of a remote place and
time in which this old city of dead merchants lies ever steeped. The
very fashion of the place still affirms perpetually that when the end
came the ancient rulers of Lynn made a proud exit, bequeathing their
heritage to none, and leaving their silent dwellings to suffer indeed
the presence of strangers, but with no pretence of acquiescing welcome.



THE attempt in various boroughs to create a municipal house of commons
for the protection of popular liberties is so striking a fact in the
town history of the fifteenth century that, for the sake of again
observing the experiment under a new set of conditions, we may take
one last example of the building up of a representative council. The
case of Sandwich differs considerably from that either of Norwich or
of Lynn, though one significant fact is common to all three boroughs.
In each of these towns the effort to work out the new constitution was
frustrated; and, singularly enough, it was frustrated in every case,
not by any evidence of inherent weakness in the scheme itself, but by
the operation of external and accidental causes. In Norwich the system
was possibly wrecked by difficulties in the working of what we may call
foreign affairs—that is by the ill-defined and impossible relations
of the town to the country, when the town claimed to interfere with
interests over which its authority was limited, while these interests
had no regular representation in its councils, so that intrigue came
in to replace recognized and orderly influence, and the natural
distinctions of parties within the town were submerged in factions more
or less external and artificial, and in the corrupt political ambitions
to which these gave opportunity. In Lynn an equally artificial state
of parties was created and maintained by the miniature strife between
the Church as a temporal power and the civil government. The existence
of a large body of commons delivered by the Bishop from taking up the
just burdens of citizenship, as dependents on his protection, withdrawn
from a full share in the responsibilities of their fellow-townsmen
and used as a sort of occupying army for the maintenance of his
rights over the borough, was fatal to the healthy developement of
municipal self-government. But in Sandwich an altogether new problem
is suggested—the problem of local self-government in the members of a
confederated state, in which the several communities might tend towards
democracy while the central administration remained the stronghold of
aristocratic tradition.

For Sandwich must not be considered as if it stood alone like Norwich,
independent and self-contained. Under the constitution of the Cinque
Ports, as we have seen, certain weighty matters, such as military
defence, finance, foreign trade and foreign traders, the higher matters
of justice, and so on, were under a central government represented
either at Dover or at the Brodhull, and the several towns were mainly
concerned with local affairs. It is possible that in the conduct of
daily business of a comparatively simple kind there was less necessity
than in the greater boroughs for the supremacy of experts, and
apparently administration did not so soon harden into the despotism of
an oligarchy. There was much, moreover, which was favourable to popular
movements in the general conditions of Kent and Sussex, which, even
as early as the twelfth century, were centres of important mining and
manufacturing industries, and in whose midst there arose more than once
movements of liberal and radical thought like those which in our days
have come from the coal-fields and iron mines of the north. The trading
vessels which put out from the ports across the German Ocean kept
the people in constant touch with the commercial towns of the north
European coast where municipal life was most vigorous and enduring. And
of the strangers to whom Sandwich gave shelter, till at last almost a
third of its streets were occupied by foreigners, the main body were
traders or artizans from the Netherlands who, wherever they sought
refuge after their desperate battle against oligarchy in their own
country, must have carried with them their sturdy creed of independence
and freedom of political discussion, and would have inevitably
ranged themselves on the popular side of town politics, whether as
enfranchised voters or as unenfranchised talkers.

Thus the men of the Cinque Ports long preserved a fine tradition of
vigorous independence; and in Sandwich, as in the other ports, the
burghers actually maintained in practice something of the early
democratic theory of government. The mayor, jurats, and other officers,
elected by the whole commonalty,[856] carried on the administrative
and judicial work, but when a question arose as to the making of new
laws or the granting of cesses the whole people were called together
to a hornblowing,[857] and “the mayor and commonalty at a common
assembly may make such decrees as they think proper.” Any gathering
of freemen, no matter how small, who assembled with the mayor,
was “deemed a meeting of the whole body,” and its ordinances were
consequently binding; but the mayor might send the common wardman, or
whom he pleased, to shut up all the windows of cellars and shops and so
forcibly persuade dealers and artizans to join the congregation.[858]

This mode of government by a single council of twelve checked by the
_referendum_ lasted unchanged till the middle of the fifteenth century;
and it was certainly less difficult for the system that in larger
boroughs so quickly developed into the rule of a plutocracy, to keep
its democratic character in a small community which had only increased
from the three hundred and eighty-three inhabited houses of the
Conqueror’s time to four hundred and twenty households in 1565,[859]
and in which the forces that made for freedom and popular government
were strong. It would seem indeed that the mayor’s difficulty was not
so much to force the freemen to fulfil their civic duties, as to check
the too active zeal of inhabitants not enfranchised, and Sandwich
had to reiterate its laws that only free “barons,” indwellers, and
householders, should attend at elections, and at last had to inflict on
any offender a fine of 21_d._ and the loss of his upper garment.[860]

In the middle of the fifteenth century, however, there was a movement
to amend the primitive constitution of the town. The first change was
probably intended to bring Sandwich into harmony with the prevailing
fashion. In 1437 its eight wards were made into twelve, and a jurat
sat over each, with power to appoint every year his own constable and
deputy constable.[861] Other reforms followed under the auspices of
Richard Cok, who was mayor five times in thirteen years, and who was
again chosen for the sixth time in 1470 to make peace with Edward the
Fourth after his triumph over Henry the Sixth.[862] During his first
mayoralty (in 1441) an order was issued that no one might sit on the
bench at court but the mayor, the jurats, and the king’s bailiff; in
other words the dignity of the upper chamber was asserted, and all
intrusion and interference with its consultations made impossible.
The increasing authority of the council was immediately met by an
organization of the commons to protect their own interests, such as
we have seen at Norwich and Lynn half a century earlier. During Cok’s
fifth term of office, in 1454, a representative council of seventy
commons was formed, who, with the consent of the mayor and jurats, were
to make all manner of elections and all scots and lots. In this way
about one citizen householder out of every six was given a share in the
government—a scheme so different from that of either Norwich or Lynn
that it suggests how far Sandwich must have outstripped those towns in
the habit of popular government.

From this time we can trace a steady conflict between the two parties
in the town, the official or governing class and the commonalty. The
common council was remodelled ten years later, in 1464, and its members
reduced to thirty-six. It is very probable that this change was brought
about by the policy of the governing class; for at the same time the
mayor and jurats set up a claim to be the authoritative judges of the
fitness of men sent by the commonalty to serve as councillors, and it
was ordained that the people should henceforth nominate forty-eight
persons, sixteen out of each parish, and that the mayor and jurats
should then choose thirty-six of these to be of the common council.
Their triumph, however, was short, for in 1471, immediately after
Cok’s last mayoralty, the controlling choice of mayor and jurats was
set aside, and it was decided that the commonalty should elect for
themselves, without any interference or dictation, twelve men from
each of the three parishes to be of the common council, to consult
with the mayor and jurats “whenever the mayor pleases” for the benefit
and utility of the town, and to make and establish decrees for its

For over half a century the democratic party had their way. Popular
representation was recognized as part of the Sandwich constitution, and
so far as the town itself was concerned, it would seem that liberal
ideas of government and civic freedom prevailed in a far greater degree
than in either Norwich or Lynn. All went well till the time of Henry
the Eighth. Then a singular danger declared itself, and the story of
the sixteenth century is that of the ruin of popular liberties in
Sandwich. The governing class had in each of the Cinque Ports a source
of peculiar strength. Out-numbered and out-voted as they might be in
each separate port, they reigned supreme in the Brodhull court, where
their majority was certain, and where they could carry matters with a
high hand; and it was there that the governing bodies of the various
ports, all alike threatened with public criticism of their acts and
limitation of their powers, formed a combination for the protection of
their common interests. All devices to establish freely elected common
councils, or any representative bodies to express popular opinion,
received their quietus at the Brodhull court in 1526. The respectable
assembly of mayors, jurats, and delegates there gathered passed a
resolution that the duties of electing the mayor and jurats, receiving
the king’s bailiff, and appointing the bailiffs to Yarmouth, should
be given over in each port to a committee of thirty-seven persons;
and in each corporate town to a body of twenty-four, who were to be
nominated by the mayor and jurats.[864] In 1528 a new mayor of Sandwich
was elected after the new fashion, the whole commonalty nominating
three jurats, one of whom was then chosen by the appointed committee
of thirty-seven.[865] That the freemen did not give up their rights
without a fight we may judge from the fact that in 1535 they again
elected their mayor after the ancient custom of the town; but it was a
losing battle, and as a matter of fact no popular liberties survived
this century. The common council was reduced to twenty-four members,
and both the upper and lower councils alike were appointed by the mayor
and jurats. The election of the mayor was taken from the people, and
the jurats succeeded in turn to the post by order of seniority.[866]
Finally even the right of the commons to vote at assemblies was taken
from them in 1595, to be restored in 1599, and again taken away “for
their insolence and disorder” in 1603.

In Sandwich, therefore, it is obvious that the reform movement failed,
not through inherent vice or defect of its own, but by the overpowering
pressure of an external force—on this occasion by the federal council
of the united states that made up the confederation of the Cinque
Ports. No doubt the easy victory of the whole confederation was made
possible by the decaying fortunes of the town; for at the time of its
defeat the vigour and the glory of Sandwich had departed. Works for
the preservation of the port had been constantly going on since the
thirteenth century when the artificial canal known as the Delf was dug,
and put under the charge of overseers; though after a brave struggle of
two hundred years diggers and sluice-makers could no longer hold their
own against winds and sands that silted up their harbour. In 1483 the
town, under the threat of breaking up the whole wall they had built,
ordered the gentlemen and yeomen of the country who had pastures by the
stream to scour their dykes and make sluices; though neither the forced
efforts of the county squires, nor the royal grant to the town in 1548
of all the plate and treasures of the parish churches to carry on the
works of the harbour;[867] nor a later Act of Parliament for deepening
the Stour, could rescue Sandwich from its doom. In its decrepitude
liberty slipped from its grasp. But the disaster of a later time must
not wholly obscure with its shadow the records of days when Sandwich
was rejoicing in brighter fortunes. If in the decay of its prosperity
and hope the oligarchy fixed their yoke on the neck of the people, and
inaugurated the rule of the plutocrats, their victory was not quickly
won; for throughout the fifteenth century, as we have seen, when by
the necessity of the times the question of stricter organization of
public life was here as elsewhere forced into prominence, the commons
of Sandwich neither renounced their rights to self-government, nor
failed to take an adequate part in moulding the new constitution. It is
indeed not impossible that the oligarchic congregation of the Brodhull
mainly drew its force for the suppression of popular independence from
the support or even the instigation of the Court; for we can easily
understand that at a time when under the policy of the Tudors England
figured as a great power in Europe, laden with obligations and with
hatreds, her ministers were driven to look anxiously to her first line
of defence against foreign foes. The policy of securing the main ports
in the hands of a little group of loyal officials, easily controlled
from headquarters, and no friends to common riots or rebellions, must
inevitably have followed the revival of the ancient tradition which
saw in the safety of the realm the whole purpose of the Cinque Port



WITH the reign of Henry the Eighth a wholly new chapter opens in the
history of the towns. In the preceding centuries we have traced their
gradual rise out of obscure poverty into an illustrious opulence and
dignity. Already in the time of Langland the poet’s imagination was
arrested by the exalted position of the mayor, the “days-man” who could
lay his hand upon the highest and the lowest—on the royal majesty and
the mean people of the commune. When, a hundred and fifty years later,
another poet pictures the court of Fame, where she sits

  “Under a glorious cloth of estate ...
  Encrowned as empress of all this world of fate.”[868]

he sees in the crowd of applicants who press round the throne to
solicit her favours the men of Dartmouth and Portsmouth and Plymouth,
the burgesses and bailiffs of the Cinque Ports, mingling with
messengers from Thrace and Rounceval. Nor were their claims to stand
in such a court but a fantastic fiction of poetry. We have seen how
the commune and the borough—originally in spite of their collective
character mere feudal lordships like the rest, introduced under the
sanction and protection of ordinary feudal custom and according to the
fictions of feudal law—became in course of time a potent force for the
rending asunder of the mediæval framework of society. Patronized and
encouraged by the king, nourished in great measure at the expense of
the baronage, lay and ecclesiastical, these insidious communities of
the people had gradually revealed a character of their own alien to the
whole feudal tradition. Under the shelter of their walls the forces of
the middle class were mustered for battle against the ancient supremacy
of the nobility and the Church. Charters “for the accommodation of the
burgesses in doing their business quietly” became the cover for their
irresistible attack; and the common bell which rang out to assemble the
congregation of enfranchised burghers perpetually announced in every
borough of the kingdom the ultimate triumph of “the common people of
the realm.”

We have also noted the manner in which during these centuries
the boroughs remained strongholds of a robust faith in political
freedom.[869] Theories of liberty taught by statesmen and philosophers,
and debated by barons and knights in their own manner at Runnymede,
on the battle-field, or in the council chamber, assumed in the towns
homelier forms, and became the vulgar property of the people. The
burgher too had his notion of an ideal freedom—a freedom which had
never entered within the range of his experience, but in which he
still believed with a transcendent faith. In what manner the faith
had come to him it is hard to say, through what legal fiction, from
what mysterious tradition, by what dominant instinct of race. To
quell the enemy and the accuser he might call to witness Domesday
or Magna Charta, or liberties registered in the Old Red Book of
the town “as we do think,” or in the customs of the elders; or for
lack of better authority, the fable of a lost charter of the Saxon
House, or a shadowy local legend, or tale of freedom “long before the
Conquest,”[870] served as evidence of repute. But for the believer
testimony was superfluous; the very vagueness of his faith was not
without advantages, since the fancied world of the past might be
adequately furnished with types of all that was desired in the present.
Imagination was stimulated by the rivalry of factions, and political
discussion never ceased. No doubt the vulgarization of the notion of
freedom, thus thrown into the market-place for burghers to cut and trim
to their own needs, has had a permanent effect on English thought.[871]
In communities where strictly personal ambition in government was
reduced to its lowest expression, where the only possible tyranny
was that of a class or of a group, and where the whole society of
burghers was nourished on a tradition of equal and indestructible
rights, the privilege coveted by ordinary folk was not the pleasure
of exercizing authority, but the right to suffer no coercion. Among
the townsfolk the “gentleman” was not the man who ruled his neighbour,
but the enfranchised equal among his fellows. It may not be altogether
fanciful to detect, in the noble translation of a church collect, not
only the fine intuition of the scholar, but an echo of the spirit of
free and equal liberty that was quickening among the people at large.
If the phrase “Cui servire est regnare” carried to English ears a
foreign thought, the English words introduced a new and characteristic
meaning—“Whose service is perfect freedom.”

Lastly we have seen how chequered was the fate of liberty—how often
it was obstructed and impaired in its passage through the market-place
and the bye-lanes of the city, driven from shelter to shelter, banished
from the Guildhall, mocked by a false homage. Between the twelfth
century, when the trading communities had represented a new democracy
and led the attack on the then established magnates of society; and
the sixteenth century, when a ruling oligarchy had been formed out of
their ranks, a vast change had taken place in the political relations
of the prosperous middle class. In their conduct of the great struggle
for emancipation from the county potentates, feudal or official, and in
their development of a general freedom of trade, the more prosperous
burghers who had first come to the front in affairs had proved the
champions of a new liberty. The strong government which they had
established through the administration of a select body of experts
had abundantly justified itself in setting the independence of the
towns beyond attack; and long before the fifteenth century had opened
the boroughs, represented by their magistrates and councillors, held
an impregnable position. Meanwhile, however, the wave of industrial
progress began slowly to lift up out of their dumb helplessness the
masses who had till now learned obedience of poverty and despair, for
“While hunger was their master would none strive.” Imperceptibly the
whole scene was changed, and a new conflict was seen to be preparing.
By the slow changes of time what had been the democracy of 1200 had
become the oligarchy of 1500. On the one hand the plutocrats of the
boroughs had made their way into the circle of the privileged classes;
in a thousand points their interests now coincided with those of the
officials and the gentry in the counties; and their conservative
instincts had won the confidence and sympathy of the court. On the
other hand the humbler sort of traders and artizans, congregated more
and more thickly at the busy centres of industry, made familiar with
the uses and methods of association, and impatient both of tyranny and
of want, were beginning to form a new democracy, and to constitute to
the comfortable classes an alarming social danger. In every borough
the problems which confront the modern world were formulated. On all
side agitators proclaimed the right of the workers to have a voice in
the organization of trade, and the right of the common burghers to
share in the control of municipal affairs. The demand of the people
that government should really be carried on by their consent, so
easily stifled in the thirteenth century, became in the fifteenth loud
and persistent; and riotous confederacies of labourers and artizans
added excitement to the political demonstrations in the streets. A
new terror invaded the council-chamber of the Guildhall—the terror
of the mob. While the craft-masters hastened to fortify the guild
against the forces of misrule, town councillors made strong the borough
administration in the interests of good order. The history of the
municipalities in the fifteenth century is far from indicating an
era of political apathy, or of mere civic indolence and corruption.
In the records of the trade fraternities we see the opening of an
industrial war. In the constitutions and ordinances of the towns we
see the foreshadowing of a political revolution. The original struggle
with feudal forces had closed in triumph for the boroughs, and a new
conflict now takes its beginning. Faction fights, crafty intrigues,
intricate constitutional changes, these signalise the opening of a new
controversy—the controversy between the middle and the lower classes.

At the very moment however when this division of social forces had
declared itself, and when it seemed as though the attention of England
was to be concentrated on the new social problem, the whole movement
was suddenly arrested. All speculation as to what might have happened
in the course of a natural evolution is utterly vain. It is probable
indeed that the poorer classes, unfed, untaught, and undisciplined,
were at that time wholly unprepared to enter on any struggle for
industrial and political emancipation, and if the battle had been
really fought out, must have suffered a crushing defeat. Centuries
of discipline have been needed to consolidate their forces, and
very possibly the course of freedom was best served by delay. As a
matter of fact however the social question was cast aside by external
and arbitrary forces. It was engulfed in the political revolution
inaugurated by the early Tudors. So violent was the change that it is
only in our own age that the controversies which were opening in the
fifteenth century have again taken the foremost place.

For from the moment when the history of national politics begins under
the Tudor kings, the whole character and significance of the local
centres of government undergo a profound change. Henry the Seventh,
as we have seen, had laid the foundation of a vast commercial policy;
but until the reign of Henry the Eighth, England, unconscious of
its capacity and of its destiny, stood aloof from European affairs;
and with her small population, her inadequate navy, her somewhat
old-fashioned army, her feeble political influence, was little more
than an upstart in the august society of continental nations. From this
position she was raised by the genius of Wolsey into a State of which
it might be said that its Crown “is this day more esteemed than the
Emperor’s Crown and all his Empire;” and of whose minister a Venetian
ambassador reports that “he is seven times more powerful than the
Pope.”[872] In a very few years England, courted by French and Spanish
kings, and able to treat on equal terms with Pope and Emperor, boasted
of being mediator and arbiter of European politics. The pride of a
great mission exalted the imagination of her people, and a poet of the
Renascence in his vision of “all manner of nations” who dwelt on the
field of fame, marked the gate of chalcedony which gave entrance to

  “The building thereof was passing commendable;
  Whereon stood a leopard, crowned with gold and stones,
  Terrible of countenance and passing formidable, ...
  As fiercely frowning as he had been fighting.”[873]

By the royal courage and appetite of Henry the Eighth, bent on making
the whole people his accomplices for the carrying out of his personal
will, the work of Wolsey was continued, though in a very different
temper, and the national pride and confidence pushed to the highest
point. If the policy of Cromwell had been fully carried out, the
history of the Reformation and the fortunes of Europe might have been
reversed by the intervention of England. We can well understand that
amid these tremendous schemes local aspirations were forgotten and
local quarrellings silenced. To perfect the policy of the new Monarchy
the destinies of the several towns were submerged in the destinies of
the whole Commonwealth. Sovereigns no longer viewed with interested
regard or with indifferent tolerance, as of old,[874] the growth of
borough franchises and the developement of local governments. Street
riots were no longer matters of the parish, but of the State. The
king’s hand was stretched out over the wealthy corporations whose
liberties had grown into such vast proportions, and like the baronage
and the Church, the boroughs were laid prostrate before the throne.

For under the Tudor system of government the king was the necessary
centre of every interest in the country.[875] He alone could impose
a common policy and give expression to a national will. To him all
classes looked to defend their cause and ensure their prosperity, in
the implicit faith that he lived for them alone and to perform their
will. In the royal power lay the one force by which England could
be held together. At an earlier time, indeed, the common folk had
repudiated the doctrine of the king’s absolute supremacy as it was now
understood. “They say that the king should live upon his commons, and
that their bodies and goods are his: the contrary is true, for then
needed him never to set Parliament and to ask good of them.”[876] But
now new maxims were scattered abroad—“that the king can do no wrong,
however much he may wish to do it; that not only the property but
the persons of his subjects are his own; and that a man has a right
to no more than the king’s goodness thinks fit not to take from him.”
Parliament almost ceased to exist, until in course of time, packed with
members carefully nominated, and by the craft of the king elaborately
duped, it was turned into a mere instrument by which the most ruthless
acts of royal aggression could be given the stamp and semblance of

The new centralized government was carried on by means of a vast
official system which extended from the highest to the lowest
departments, and reached out to the farthest limits of the country. In
its efficient form it was practically the creation of the first Tudor
king. With Warwick the baronial leaders of an earlier time had passed
away; and the weakened remnant of the baronage which emerged from the
civil wars had been carefully depressed by Henry the Seventh. At the
council-board their places were taken by officials who received their
orders directly from the king; and when the barons returned to office
and council they returned as fellow servants with the new officials,
and holding the same functions. Henry the Eighth carried out the same
policy. The great nobles might complain of “low-born knaves” who
surrounded the king; but when the minister “clapped his rod upon the
board” silence fell on an obsequious council—and barons and commons
alike trembled before the son of an Ipswich merchant or a Putney

For the tremendous power of Wolsey or of Cromwell lay in the fact that
the whole hierarchy of officials, from the most exalted to the most
base, was directly responsible to him. Every figure of any importance
in the country was perfectly well known to the minister at the head of
affairs, and on every subordinate through the length and breadth of
the land the court kept vigilant watch. If an official at any point
disagreed with the opinions held at head quarters he was forthwith
turned out of office, and the ease with which Henry and his successors
made national revolutions is the measure of the absolute perfection to
which the machinery of their administration had been brought. In the
boroughs it is impossible to exaggerate the effect of this political
revolution. The consequence to which the towns had risen made of
them all-important centres of administration for the maintenance of
general order. Two-thirds of the members of Parliament were sent from
the boroughs, and the control of these members, therefore, meant the
control of the House of Commons. For a two-fold reason, therefore,
the tendency long shewn by the Court to sympathize with the governing
oligarchy in the municipalities inevitably took from this time a
new force. Under the oligarchic system of administration the towns
could be held for the king by a mere handful of loyal officials; and
the influence of the Crown was naturally flung on the side of the
representatives of good order, as it was understood by the government.
In the interests of the whole State a new policy was developed.
Municipal independence was struck down at the very roots, and the free
growth of earlier days arrested by an iron discipline invented at
Westminster, and enforced by a selected company of Townhall officials,
whose authority was felt to be ultimately supported by the majesty of
the king himself. The number of the town councillors was constantly
diminished, and the liberties of the commons curtailed. Under the new
conditions the individual life of the borough ceased to have the same
significance as of old, and an era opened in which its highest destiny
was to be employed as an instrument of the royal will for national
ends, and its only glory lay in forming one of the members of a mighty
commonwealth. To follow out the internal record of municipal politics
on the old lines, as though the story of the sixteenth century were
the natural consequence of their earlier course of developement would
be radically false; and I therefore pause on the threshold of the new
state of things. The history of the boroughs as schools in which the
new middle class received its training for service in the field of
national politics, and as the laboratories in which they made their
most fruitful experiments in administration, ends before the close of
the fifteenth century. It may be that as the working class in its turn
rises to take its place alongside of its predecessors on the stage of
public affairs, the towns will again become centres of interest in the
national story, as the workshops of an enlarged political science.




  Abingdon, money given towards bridges at, 75-6;
    Guild of Holy Cross, 215;
    supplies Southampton with bends of elms for ploughs, 289

  Accounts of towns, adornment of, 260;
    change in manner of keeping and auditing in Lynn, 411;
    of Norwich, 370, _note_ 4;
    royal, auditing and signing of, 15, _note_ 1

  Admiral of the Fleet, 323

  Admiralty, courts of, 319, _note_ 2

  Adventurers, merchant, Guild of, 112;
    results of their monopoly of cloth trade, 91-92

  Agriculture, law for protection of, 99

  “Alablaster man” of Nottingham, 54, 326

  Alberti, Society of, 290

  Alcock, Bishop of Rochester, 14

  Aldermen in Canterbury, 156, 276, 279, _note_;
    Gloucester, 287;
    Lincoln, 279, _note_;
    London, 279, 375, _note_ 2;
    Lynn, 421, 422;
    Norwich, 362, _note_ 2, 380;
    Nottingham, 309, 339, 340;
    Oxford, 245, _note_ 2, 278, _note_ 2;
    Shrewsbury, 286;
    Southampton, 307-309, 312, _note_

  Andernach, mill-stones brought from, 406, _note_ 1

  Andover, dispute between great people and community in, 245, _note_ 4;
    common lands, 237;
    leet jury, 229;
    merchant guild, 193, _note_ 1, 198, _note_ 1, 199

  Anne of Bohemia, Nottingham given to, 330

  Appleby, its school, 14, _note_ 2

  Apprentices, their duty during harvest, 64;
    escape from town and become free traders in suburbs, 96-97;
    regulations concerning, 99, _note_ 2, 102-104, 108, 120, 212,
        _note_ 1

  Artizans, guilds of, 112;
    subjected to town authorities, 151-152;
    question as to their admission to guild merchant, 192-193, 199

  Ashburton, its school, 13, _note_ 2

  Ascham, his rebuke of noblemen’s sons, 23

  Assembly, the common, 226, 247-249;
    of Hereford, 225;
    of Sandwich, 225-227, 430;
    select committee of, 353;
    of Norwich, 365, 371-372, 377-379;
    its Rolls, 370;
    of Nottingham, 341, 347-348, 352-353

  Assize of beer, 35;
    of bread, 35;
    of wine, 35;
    of breadth of cloth, 67, _note_ 2

  Atwill, John, mayor of Exeter, 180

  Atwood, Thomas, town clerk of Canterbury, 263, _note_ 2

  Atwood, William, one of counsel of Canterbury, 263, _note_ 2

  Aylesbury, charge against miller of, 31-32


  Babington, Sir John, 329, _note_ 1

  Bablake, church at, 203, _note_ 3;
    payment of its warden and priests, 206

  Bablake Gate, Coventry, 207

  Bachelors, fellowship of the, among Exeter tailors, 172

  “Bachery, Le”, Guild of, in Norwich, 389, 392

  Bailiffs, modes of election of, 275, _note_ 3, 276;
    of Canterbury, 227, _note_ 2, 276, 283-284;
    of Ipswich, 223-224;
    of Lincoln, 250;
    of leets in Norwich, 361-364, 373;
    of Shrewsbury, 285;
    of Southampton, 305, 309;
    of Winchester, 286;
    of Yarmouth, 434

  Bakers of Canterbury, 46;
    of Exeter, their ordinances, 179;
    of London, withdraw outside boundaries, 45;
    punishment of fraudulent servants among, 117, _note_ 2;
    their right of search transferred to mayor, 149, _note_ 1

  Ball, John, 211

  Baltic, trade with Southampton, 289

  Banbury, its school, 17

  Bardi, Society of, rent part of tenement in Southampton, 290

  Bargate Tower, Southampton, 310

  Barge, the town, of Lynn, 410

  Barnstaple, use of seal of commonalty in, 233, _note_ 1

  Bartholomew of Baddlesmere, custos of Bristol, 267

  Bartone, Brother William, his connexion with strike of shoemakers’
      journeymen in London, 125

  Bate, Andrew, 60

  Bate (brother of Andrew), town clerk of Lydd, 60

  Bath, merchants become Knights of the, 79

  Bayonne, swearing-in of citizens at, 230, _note_ 1

  Beam, right of keeping, 27

  Beaufort, Cardinal, 292

  Beer, sent from Kent to Flanders, 89

  Bell, the common, 226;
    made for Ely Cathedral, 54;
    metal for, got from Lincolnshire, 54, _note_ 1

  Bell foundry at Nottingham, 326

  Bellman of Guild of S. George in Norwich, 384

  Benedict, son of Aaron, his mayoralty in Southampton, 307

  Bequests to town corporations, 75-76

  Berford, Simon de, 400

  Berkeley, Lady, founder of first lay school, 16, _note_ 2

  Berkeley, Sir Maurice, 79, _note_ 2

  Berne, North, its trade with Lynn, 404

  Berwick-on-Tweed, interest of its burghers in municipal affairs, 234,
      _note_ 3

  Beverley, weavers excluded from franchise in, 142;
    aldermen of trades assent to governors’ ordinances in, 185, _note_ 2

  Bingham, William, founds school, 14, _note_ 2

  Birmingham, its Guild of Holy Cross, 213-214;
    land and rights of common, 237;
    members of Corpus Christi Guild, Coventry, at, 206, _note_;
    town hall, 213

  Biscay, its trade with Southampton, 289, 291, _note_ 3

  Black Sea, trade of Southampton with, 291

  Blackburn, Nicholas, Admiral of Fleet, 323

  Blackheath, Nottingham men sent to help King at, 334

  “Blackleg” labour, London saddlers accused of encouraging, 163;
    law in London against, 165

  Bonet, Richard, 124

  Books of Courtesy, 3-10;
    of towns, 258;
    of Dartmouth and Wycombe, their binding, 230, _note_ 2;
    Black Book of Hythe, 230, 257, _note_ 4;
    of Sandwich, 258, _note_ 3;
    Doomsday, of Dorchester, 258;
    Red, of Nottingham, 334, 337, 355-356;
    White, of Norwich, 258, _note_ 3;
    of Sandwich, 258

  Boose, Richard, of Aylesbury, 31-32

  Bordeaux, effect of its loss on Bristol trade, 91

  Boroughs, results of their external relations, 1-2;
    independence, 2, 3;
    their life in fifteenth century, as pictured in songs, 6-12;
    results of extension of Statute of Mortmain to, 215;
    disputes about property in, 238.
    _See_ Towns

  Bosworth, battle of, 330

  Bowyers of London, 119

  Box, the common, of Southampton, 314

  Bramston, Roger, mayor of Wycombe, 260, _note_ 4

  “Brasylle, the Island of”, Bristol ships sent in search of, 73

  Bread, assize of, 35

  Bredon, Friar John, agitator in Coventry, 125, _note_

  Brewers, Piers Ploughman’s picture of, 38;
    their early wealth, 60-63;
    forbidden to hold offices in towns, 62, _note_ 1;
    of Kent, 89;
    of Nottingham, 38

  Bridges, at Abingdon, 75-76;
    kept in repair by Guild of Holy Cross at Birmingham, 213;
    of Nottingham, 322, 324, 341

  Bridgenorth, priests forbidden to keep school at, 18;
    no burgess to be made serjeant, 271, _note_ 3;
    chief officers elected by special jury, 275;
    its “Great Court” of Twenty-four, 275, _note_ 4

  Bridgewater, its guild merchant, 214;
    Guild of S. Mary or Holy Cross, 214, 215;
    town clerk, 261

  Bridport, its suburban manufacturers, 97;
    use of paper for accounts, 259;
    twelve jurors, 278, _note_ 1

  Bright Waltham, manor of, communal organization of its villein
      tenants, 232, _note_

  Bristol, its Guild of Kalendars, 13, _note_ 2;
    rivalry with Gloucester, 42;
    school, 13, _note_ 2, 20;
    treaty with Southampton, 53;
    trade, 73;
    sends ships on voyages of discovery, 73;
    fine merchants’ houses, 74;
    plate left by grocer of, 74, _note_ 1;
    decline of its wool trade, 91-92;
    complaint of weavers against employment of foreigners, 92;
    law against employment of women at loom, 96, _note_;
    decay of wealth, 104, _note_ 3;
    coruesers, 119, _note_;
    guilds ordered to keep the peace, 153;
    robes of officers, 257, _note_ 3;
    quarrel about customs, 266-267;
    taken into King’s hand, 267;
    appointment of custos, 267;
    Council of Forty-eight, 268;
    Council of Forty, 268, 278, _note_ 2;
    charters, 268;
    influential families, 267-268;
    troubles from neighbouring lords, 328;
    guildhall, 37;
    guild merchant, 198, _note_ 1;
    mayor, his supervision of trades, 37-38;
    feeling of burghers for mayor, 228;
    merchants, in Corpus Christi Guild at Coventry, 206, _note_;
    town clerk, 20, 264, _note_ 1;
    coroner, 267

  Brittany, its trade with Bristol, 73;
    with Southampton, 289

  Brodhull, Court of, 428, 433

  Brokers, their duties and payment, 34

  Bromsgrove, its decay, caused by growth of free-traders, 97, _note_ 3

  Brown, Thomas, Bishop of Norwich, 392

  Bruges, mayor of Lynn sent as ambassador to, 422

  Bull-baiting, attendance of municipal officers at, 256

  Burellers of London, their quarrel with the weavers, 161-162;
    of Winchester, contribution made to ferm by, 154, _note_ 1

  Burgesses, their monopoly of trade, 40;
    early significance of the word, 231-232;
    “inn” and “foreign” in Preston, 47;
    of Nottingham, fined for not attending meetings, 336;
    act with commonalty, 355, _note_ 3;
    the “out”, of Southampton, 47, _note_ 2;
    _see_ Citizens

  Burghers of fifteenth century, their anxiety about manners, 9-10;
    ambition and love of learning, 11-13;
    public munificence, 74-77;
    become usurers and money-lenders, 77-78;
    alliance with guilds against oligarchy, 167-168,
    their theory about the mayor, 227-228;
    traditions of ancient liberties, 235-236;
    buy copies of Magna Charta, 236;
    punished for speaking against town councillors, 256-257;
    _see_ Citizens

  Burgundy, settlers from, in Southampton, 289

  Butchers, forbidden to kill within towns, 32, _note_ 2;
    of London, complaint of corporation about, 44-45

  Butchers’ House, Nottingham, 324

  Butt, Thomas, M.P. for Norwich, 400


  Cabot, his voyage of discovery, 73

  Cade, Jack, 334

  Calendar of Ricart of Bristol, 20

  Calle, Richard, marries Margery Paston, 80

  Cambridge, school attached to Clare Hall at, 14, _note_ 2;
    trade with Rowe of Romney, 61

  Candlemakers of London, 45

  Candles, “Paris”, made at Southampton, 289

  Canterbury, its aldermanries, 283;
    aldermen made heads of guilds, 156, 276, 279, _note_;
    bailiffs, 227, _note_ 2, 276, 283-284;
    bakers, 46;
    charter, 284;
    cloth trade, 158;
    craft guilds, 155-157;
    councils, 278, _note_ 2, 283-284;
    disturbance caused by Crompe, 62-63;
    freedom granted to Lynn merchants, 49, _note_ 2;
    friars, 125, _note_;
    law about inns, 33, _note_ 1;
    “Intrantes”, 47;
    jubilee of 1420, 43;
    manufacturing trade, its decline, 88;
    mayor, 284;
    ordinances of 1474, 284;
    portreeve, 283;
    grammar school, 14, _note_ 2;
    “Tollerati”, 47;
    traders withdraw outside liberties, 45-46;
    town clerk, 263, _note_ 2;
    triours, 276;
    wards, hereditary ownership of, 276, 279, _note_ 1

  Cap-makers resist introduction of fulling mills, 90

  Carlisle, extension of its liberties, 40, _note_ 2;
    its council, 185;
    merchant guild, 185

  Carpenters, rule made by guild of, 147

  Carracks of Genoa, 302, 305, _note_ 1

  Carriers, their introduction into England, 28

  Carrow, Prioress of, her disputes with Norwich, 387, _note_

  Castle of Nottingham, 323;
    of Southampton, 297, _note_ 3;
    constable of, survival of his authority, 297

  Catalonia, ships of, compete with Jacques Cœur for Mediterranean
      coasting trade, 81

  Caxton, William, 21

  Caxton, Thomas, 261-263

  Chandlers of Norwich, 140

  Charles VII. (of France) borrows from Jacques Cœur, 82

  Charters, privileges given to towns by early, 50-51;
    conflicting rights bestowed by two, 51-52;
    of incorporation given under Henry VI., 269;
    of Bristol, 268;
    Canterbury, 284;
    Colchester, 282;
    Exeter, 180;
    Gloucester, 194, _note_ 1;
    Leicester, 25, _note_ 1, 258, _note_ 1;
    Liverpool, 41;
    London, 53, _note_ 1;
    Lynn, 421;
    Nottingham, 330, 332-334, 339;
    Norwich, 371-373, 379, 380, 395;
    Oxford, 278, _note_ 2;
    Southampton, 306-310;
    of cordwainers at Exeter, 179;
    of girdlers of London, 143, _note_ 2;
    to guild merchant of Lynn, 403, _note_, 404, 405, _note_ 5, 407;
    to craft guilds, 141, 143, _note_ 3;
    commons petition for their withdrawal, 182, _note_ 1;
    registration of, ordered by law, 150, _note_ 2;
    of tailors of Exeter, 173-174, 179-180;
    of merchant tailors of London, 143, _note_ 3, 182, _note_ 1;
    of Fraternity of B. Trinity at Shrewsbury, 173, _note_ 4

  Chaucer, his place in estimation of fifteenth-century scholars, 21

  Cheese, manufacture of, at Southampton, 289

  Chest, the common, of Southampton, 309, 314

  Chester, lands of community at, 237;
    two councils, 278, _note_ 2;
    inhabitants forbidden to leave, 299, _note_ 4;
    mayor pays schoolmaster of Farneworth, 19, _note_ 3

  Chesterfield, its guild merchant, 203, _note_ 1

  Children practise shooting at Southampton, 297-298;
    of countrymen not to be apprenticed to crafts, 99, _note_ 1

  Chipping Camden, merchant’s brass in church of, 73

  Churchyards in fifteenth century, 31, _note_ 1

  Cider made at Southampton, 289

  Cinque Ports, rights claimed by merchants of, 52, _note_;
    their treaty with Southampton, 53;
    pay for copying of Magna Charta, 259, _note_ 2;
    jurats of, 278, _note_ 1;
    tradition of independence, 429;
    source of strength of government in, 433;
    resolution of Brodhull in 1526 about elections in, 433-434

  Cirencester, cloth manufacture at, 68

  Citizens, loss of freedom by, for helping “foreign” merchants, 39;
    distinguished from community or commonalty, 231-235, 311, 334-336;
    of Norwich, 366, 367, 368, 370, 373, 376, 399-401;
    “denizen” and “foreign”, of Worcester, 39, 40;
    the swearing-in of, at Bayonne, 230, _note_ 1.
    _See_ Burghers

  Clergy, their admission to guild merchant, 193

  Clerk, the common or town, his position and duties, 257-264;
    of Bridgewater, 261;
    of Bristol, 20, 264, _note_ 1;
    of Canterbury, 263, _note_ 2;
    of Hythe, 263, _note_ 1;
    of Lydd, 60, 262;
    of Lynn, 414, 415;
    of Nottingham, 19-20, 263, 337;
    of Romney, 61;
    of Sandwich, 257, _note_ 4, 262, _note_, 263;
    of Southampton, 309;
    of Winchester, 261;
    of Worcester, 259, _note_ 6;
    of York, 261, _note_ 1, 263

  Clifton church, cross of, repaired by Nottingham goldsmith, 54, 326

  Cloth, contractors of, their growth
  and wealth, 65;
    manufacture of, supersedes business of selling wool, 98-99;
    in Yorkshire, 89;
    shearers of, resist introduction of machinery, 89;
    trade in, law passed in Canterbury to improve, 158;
    supervision of, in Norwich, 149, _note_ 1, 385;
    Irish, 289

  Clothiers, admitted to rank of “gentleman”, 68;
    one in Manchester founds a school, 17

  “Clothing”, the, qualifications for member of, 62;
    its composition, 252;
    at Exeter, 181;
    at Nottingham, 341, 352-353, 355, 356, _note_ 1, 357

  Coal-mines, profits made by Nottingham from, 325

  Cobblers, their quarrels with cordwainers, 166

  Cœur, Jacques, 81-82

  Coin, clipping of, learned from Lombards, 67

  Cok, Richard, mayor of Sandwich, 431, 432

  Colchester, election by Twenty-four in, 169-170;
    land owned by, 238;
    number of men assessed for moveables in 1301, 250, _note_ 2;
    population in 1377, 250;
    mode of election of officers, 276, 282;
    charter, 282;
    two councils, 278, _note_ 2, 282;
    moot hall, 278;
    ordinances, 278;
    fining of late or absent members, 278, 283

  Colle, Henry, of Hythe, 246, _note_ 2

  College at Exeter, its foundation, 13, _note_ 2;
    at Rotherham, 13

  Commons, their petition to Henry VII. about measures, 27, _note_ 3;
    petition to have guild charters withdrawn, 182, _note_ 1

  “Commons”, “the poor”, their views about gains of merchants, 70-71;
    of Exeter, their quarrel with governing class, 170-172

  Commonalty, distinguished from citizens or burgesses, 231-235, 311,
    their interest in matters touching common lands, 234;
    lack of security for freedom, 247-249;
    exclusion from town administration, 249;
    brought into council chamber in fifteenth century, 270;
    its seal, 233, _note_ 1;
    of Norwich, 366-373, 376, 377, 399.
    _See_ Community

  Communes of France, 321

  Community of the town, reasons for entering, 55;
    its services to the guilds, 157-158;
    privileges of early, 232-233;
    its holding of land, 237-239;
    of Lynn, admission of non-burgesses to, 409;
    of Nottingham, their rights, 338-343;
    election of special juries by, 341.
    _See_ Commonalty

  Conesford Ward, Norwich, 376, _note_ 2

  Constable of Dover, 302, 303;
    of castle, survival of his authority in Southampton, 297

  Constabularies in Lynn, 279, _note_, 415, _note_ 2, 421

  Cooks, regulations for, 36

  Cordwainers (shoemakers), their quarrels with cobblers, 166;
    guild of, at Exeter, 119, _note_, 179

  Corn, encouragement of carriage of, 42, _note_ 2

  Coruesers of Bristol, 119, _note_

  Cornhill, S. Peter’s, dispute about presentation to, 276, _note_ 2

  Coroners of Bristol, 267;
    of Ipswich, their election and duties in 1200, 223

  Corporation chapel of S. Michael’s, Southampton, 308

  Cossal, notice of transfer of coal-mine in, 325, _note_ 5

  Cotswolds, wool of, 88, _note_ 3

  Councils of towns, their alliances with guilds, 108;
    various business of, 254-255;
    their variety, 272-274, 277-279;
    probable causes influencing their character, 279-281;
    upper, result of appointing its members justices of the peace,
    of Bristol, 268, 278, _note_ 2;
    of Canterbury, 278, _note_ 2, 283, 284;
    Carlisle, 185;
    Chester, 278, _note_ 2;
    Colchester, 278, 282;
    Coventry, 185, 205, 353, 354;
    Exeter, 170, 172, 180;
    Gloucester, 287, 354;
    Ipswich, 278, _note_ 2;
    Leicester, 287, 354;
    Liverpool, 278, _note_ 2;
    London, 375, _note_ 2;
    Lynn, 402, 413, 419-422, 424, 425;
    Norwich, 170, 278, _note_ 2, 363-365, 376, 377, 395, 419;
    Nottingham, 336, 337-340, 355, 357;
    Oxford, 278, _note_ 2;
    Pontefract, 278;
    Sandwich, 430, 432-434;
    Shrewsbury, 285, 286;
    Southampton, 280, 308, 309;
    Wells, 278, _note_ 1;
    Worcester, 278, _note_ 2;
    of Eight among Exeter tailors, 173;
    of Fifteen ordered by provisions of Oxford, 253;
    Privy, writ sent to Nottingham by, 278, _note_ 1;
    people of Norwich summoned before, 391

  Councillors in early town government, 228;
    of Nottingham, 339-341, 355;
    town, various methods of electing, 277

  Countrymen, their various difficulties, 98-99;
    town employers contract for work with, 105-106;
    policy concerning employment of, in Norwich and Worcester, 106

  Courts of Admiralty, 319, _note_ 2;
    of aldermen, at Norwich, 362, _note_ 2;
    of arbitration, their importance to craft guilds, 114, _note_ 1;
    of Brodhull, 428, 433;
    consistory, clerks of, forbidden to be mayors, 171;
    the great, of Bridgenorth, 275, _note_ 4;
    of King’s Bench, 238;
    the Pye-powder, statute of 1477 about, 393, _note_ 2.
    _See_ Leet

  Coventry, grammar school at, 14, _note_ 2;
    attempts free trade, 53, _note_ 4;
    laws about apprentices in, 99, _note_ 2, 102, _note_ 1;
    Bablake gate, 207;
    Drapery hall, 207;
    wages of journeymen, 104, _note_ 1;
    election of keepers among the smiths at, 118, _note_ 1;
    the White Friars in, 125, _note_;
    obtains right to have no guild, 144, _note_ 1;
    rules about punishment among guilds in 1518, 151, _note_ 2;
    complaint against craftsmen who would not contribute to pageants,
        154, _note_ 2;
    drapers and mercers, 183, 204, _note_;
    election of officials, 205, 207, _note_ 2;
    craftsmen who held office, 207, _note_ 4;
    guild of S. Catherine, 203;
    of Corpus Christi, 204, 206, _note_;
    of S. George, 208;
    of S. John Baptist, 203;
    merchant, 193, _note_ 1, 203-204;
    of Trinity, 14, _note_ 2, 19, _note_ 3, 203-213;
    union of guilds, 203;
    attempts to set up craft-guilds in, 208-209;
    rhymes nailed by commons on church door, 211;
    dyers in, 207, _note_ 4, 208, 210, _note_ 2;
    regulations for crafts made at leet court, 212, _note_ 1;
    apprentices’ fines, 212;
    ferm, 206, 216;
    land of community, 238;
    petitions to have aldermen of wards, 279, _note_;
    procedure in leet, 345, _note_ 3;
    common council, 353-354;
    Queen Isabella’s land, 202-204;
    mayor, 205, 207, _note_ 2;
    town hall called S. Mary’s Guild, 203

  Cowes, control of mayor of Southampton over, 319

  Crafts, their anxiety to protect industry, 100;
    attitude towards countrymen, 99, _note_ 1, 100-101;
    journeymen of, their combinations for self-protection, 101.
    _See_ Guilds

  Crompe, brewer at Canterbury, 62-63

  Culham Ford, bridge over, 75-76

  Customs of Bristol, quarrel about, 266-267;
    of Southampton, leasing out of, 68, 291

  “Customs” of Norwich, 364

  Custumals of towns, copying and translation of, 257-258


  Dacia, its trade with Lynn, 404

  Dartmouth, binding of its corporation books, 230, _note_ 2

  Dean, Forest of, its rovers, 42, _note_ 1

  “Decennaries”, appointment of, 34

  Delf (canal), 435

  Dengemarsh, 60, 237

  Denmark, its trade with Bristol, 73;
    settlers from, in Southampton, 289

  Dereham, work done for Norwich dealers at, 105, _note_ 2

  Deritend, school of guild at, 13, _note_ 2

  Devonshire, Flemish weavers in, 94

  “Discreets” of Southampton, 308, 309

  Dogget Rolls of Ipswich, 259

  Doncaster, S. George’s Church at, merchants’ marks in, 71, _note_ 3

  Doomsday Book, extracts made by town clerks from, 259;
    of towns, 258

  Dorchester, its Doomsday Book, 258, _note_ 3

  Dorset, Marquis of, 206, _note_

  Dover, constable of, 302, 303;
    central government of Cinque Ports at, 428;
    hornblowing, 430, _note_ 2;
    election of jurats, 434, _note_ 2

  Drapers admitted to rank of “gentleman”, 68;
    of Coventry, 183, 204, _note_;
    of Shrewsbury, their school, 13, _note_ 2;
    their guild, 144, _note_ 2, 173, _note_ 4

  Drapers’ house, Nottingham, 325

  Drapery hall, Coventry, 207

  Drogheda, merchants of, in guild at Coventry, 206, _note_;
    its trade with Southampton, 289

  Droitwich, cause of its decay, 97, _note_ 3

  Dublin, merchants of, in guild at Coventry, 206, _note_

  Dye, scarlet, English cloth sent to Italy for, 326

  Dyeing, at Nottingham, 326

  Dyers in Coventry, 207, _note_ 4, 208-210


  Easingwold, town clerk of Nottingham, 263-264

  Edmund Crouchback, his charter to Leicester, 25, _note_ 1, 258,
      _note_ 1;

  Education in the fifteenth century, 12-23;

  Edward I. summons councils to get money for Welsh war, 332;
    his charter to Nottingham, 334

  Edward II., his grants to Nottingham, 333

  Edward III. fixes price of wine of Gascony, 139;
    his charter to girdlers of London, 143, _note_ 2;
    grants bridge over Trent to townspeople of Nottingham, 324;
    demands soldiers from Norwich, 366

  Edward IV., his charters to Exeter tailors, 173-174;
    to Fraternity of Trinity at Shrewsbury, 173, _note_ 4;
    judgment in the disputes at Exeter, 176-177, 179-180;
    his patent to York about election of mayor, 186;
    appeal of Plymouth guild merchant to, 220;
    Lydd sends men to his help, 263;
    his charter to Colchester, 282;
    reduces ferm of Nottingham, 328;
    renews its charter, 330;
    gives election of common council of London to trading companies,
        375, _note_ 2;
    peace made by Sandwich with, 431

  Elizabeth Woodville, coronation of, 79, _note_ 2;
    Nottingham granted to, 330, _note_ 1;
    confirms its charter, 339, _note_ 2

  Ely, its cathedral bells, 54

  Elys, Thomas, his benefactions to Sandwich, 16, 75

  Employers, illicit industry carried on by, 88;
    settlement in country districts, 88;
    their attitude towards foreigners, 92-94;
    towards countrymen, 100-101;
    foster “uncovenanted” labour, 102;
    in Norwich, responsible for their servants, 101, _note_ 2;
    of towns, contract with country folk for work, 105-106

  Engrossing, 39

  Erasmus, his estimate of schoolmasters, 22, _note_

  Erith, clay got from, 54

  Evesham, cause of its decay, 97, _note_ 3

  Ewelme almshouse, 14, _note_ 2

  Exchange, dry, denounced by Church and people, 69

  Exchange, the King’s, Jews replaced by members of Pepperers’ Company
      at, 69, _note_ 1

  Exeter, ordinances granted to bakers, 179;
    “the clothing”, 181;
    college, 13, _note_ 2;
    condition under Shillingford, 168-169;
    quarrel between commons and governing class, 170-172;
    official, its Lancastrian sympathies, 173;
    Henry VII.’s charter to, 180;
    common council, 170, _note_ 2, 172, 180;
    cordwainers’ guild, 119, _note_, 179;
    hospital, 75;
    mayor, election of, 169-171, 180;
    sworn on Black Book, 230, _note_ 1;
    his fellowship, 168, 172;
    recorder, 168, 171, _note_;
    style, 180;
    tailors’ guild, 172-181, 184;
    twelve men, 169-170;
    twenty-four, 170, 172;
    thirty-six, 171

  Exeter, Hugh Oldham, Bishop of, 17

  “Extravagantes” in Romney, 47


  Fairs, their origin, history, and decline, 25;
    grants of, 26;
    of Leicester, 25, _note_ 1;
    of Lenton, 348, _note_ 3;
    of Southampton, 293;
    of Wayhill, 66;
    of Winchester, 66, 292;
    of Wycombe, 25, _note_ 2

  Fairford, Henry VIII. at, 68

  Fallande, Richard, his tablet in Hospital Hall, Abingdon, 76, _note_ 1

  Farneworth, payment of schoolmaster at, 19, _note_ 3

  Farriers, rule made by guild of, 146-147

  Fastolf, Sir John, 79, _note_ 2

  Fastolf, Richard, 79, _note_ 2

  Ferm of Coventry, payment of, 206;
    in arrears, 216;
    of Nottingham reduced by Edward IV., 328, 330;
    its amount, 332;
    of Southampton, amount of, 300;
    part settled on successive queens, 300;
    in arrears, 300, _note_ 2, 301-302;
    arrear remitted, 303, _note_ 1;
    difficulties in raising, 304;
    reduced, 305, _note_ 1;
    of Winchester, contribution of burellers to, 154, _note_ 1

  “Fermour of the Beme”, 28

  Festivals, enforced contributions to, 154, _note_ 2;
    attendance of municipal officers at, 256

  Fishmongers, regulations for, 36;
    of London, plate pawned to one, 78

  Flanders, its manners and wealth in fifteenth century, 5;
    beer sent from Kent to, 89;
    weavers from, in England, 90-91;
    settlers from, in valley of Stroud, 88;
    in Southampton, 289;
    trade with Southampton, 288, 291, 294

  Florence, the Bardi and Alberti Societies of, 290

  Food, regulations of its price, 35-37, 43

  Fordwich, its Kalendar, 258, _note_ 3

  Foreigners, their position in towns, 90-96;
    in Norwich, 320;
    fine paid by, in Romney, 91, _note_ 1;
    tax on, in Sandwich, 91, 320, 429;
    in Southampton, 289, 293, 320

  Forest laws and officers, exemption of Nottingham from, 328

  Forestalling, 39, 50, 54;
    at Nottingham, 50, _note_ 1

  Fork, first mention of, in England, 74, _note_ 1

  France, its wine trade with Bristol, 73;
    appointment of guild officer in, 130;
    settlers from, in English towns, 320;
    communes of, 321

  Franchise in Lynn, settlers not obliged to take up, 408.
    _See_ Freedom

  Franchises of Norwich forfeited, 367, 389, 391-393;
    restored, 391, 394;
    of Nottingham forfeited, 332

  Fray, John, 391

  Freedom of borough obtained by becoming member of craft, 186;
    terms of admission to, in Nottingham, 325;
    loss of, for helping “foreign” merchant, 39;
    traders of Norwich ordered to take up, 400

  Freemen generally members of craft guilds, 190;
    their right to attend meetings, 224;
    of Norwich must belong to craft guild, 383

  Friars, 125, _note_

  Fry, Thomas, 79, _note_ 1

  Fullers of Coventry set up fraternity with tailors, 208-209


  Game laws, men presented for breaking, 246, _note_ 2

  Games, attendance of municipal officers at, 256

  Gascony, its wine, result of fixing price of, 139;
    its wool trade with Southampton, 290;
    trade of Lynn with, 404

  Gate, the Water, at Southampton, 291, 294, _note_ 1

  Genoa, its relations with Jacques Cœur, 81;
    trade with Southampton, 289, 291;
    carracks, 302, 305, _note_ 1

  Genoese, grant of Henry IV. to, 290;
    merchants at Southampton, 290, 291;
    Southampton burnt by, 295

  “Gentleman”, drapers and clothiers admitted to rank of, 68

  Gentry, country, marry traders, 78-80;
    take office in municipal government, 79

  German, a, town clerk at Winchester, 261;
    merchants, their organization at Lynn, 404

  Germany, appointment of guild officer in, 130;
    trade with Southampton, 291, 294

  Giles, Karoll, 20

  Girdlers of London, Edward III.’s charter to, 143, _note_ 2

  Girdler Gate, Nottingham, 326

  Gladman, John, his insurrection, 392-393

  Gloucester, its trade, &c., 42;
    charters, 194, _note_ 1;
    guild merchant, 194;
    common council, 287, 354

  Gloucester, [Humphry] Duke of, befriends Norwich, 387, 392

  Gloucester, [Richard] Duke of, his services to York, 261, _note_ 1

  Gloucester, John of, makes bells for Ely cathedral, 54

  Glover of Leighton Buzzard, adventures of a, 31-32

  God’s House Meadow, Southampton, 314

  Godstede, William de, 283

  Gold, fear of government lest merchants should diminish stock of, 69;
    its exportation forbidden, 69 _note_ 3

  Goldsmith employed to weigh bread at Sandwich, 37-38;
    of Nottingham repairs cross in Clifton Church, 54, 326

  Gorse held by Romney, 237

  Gospels, portions of, copied for swearing-in of officers, 258

  Greek learned by town clerk of Nottingham, 20

  Green, Godfrey, 80, _note_ 4

  Gregory, town clerk of Nottingham, 337, _note_ 3

  Grendon, Simon, of Exeter, 75

  Grocers of Bristol, plate left by one, 74, _note_ 1;
    of London, laws about their apprentices, 102, _note_ 2;
    control claimed by, 116, _note_ 1;
    protest against powers of oligarchy, 117, _note_ 4;
    appointment of wardens, 118, _note_ 2.
    _See_ Pepperers

  Grocyn, his education at Bristol, 20

  Gryme, Richard, of Southampton, 302

  Guilds, schools founded by, 13;
    social-religious, 213-217;
    system of indirect election, 253;
    at Deritend, 13, _note_ 2;
    at Hull, 69, _note_ 2, 182, _note_ 2;
    at Lynn, 405, _note_ 2, 425;
    in Newcastle, 185-186;
    at Shrewsbury, 49, _note_ 1;
    at Southampton, 293;
    at Stratford, 13, _note_ 2;
    at Walsall, 183;
    at Warwick, 186;
    of merchant adventurers, 112;
    of artizans, 112;
    “Le Bachery” in Norwich, 389, 392;
    of S. Benedict at Lincoln, 144, _note_ 2;
    of S. Catherine at Coventry, 203;
    of “common and middling folks” at Lincoln, 271, _note_ 3;
    of Corpus Christi at Coventry, 204-206, 209;
    at Hull, 144, _note_ 2;
    at Lynn, 405, _note_ 2;
    of Holy Cross at Abingdon, 215;
    at Birmingham, 213-214;
    at Bridgewater, 215;
    of S. George at Coventry, 208;
    at Norwich, 384-385, 389, 395;
    of S. George and S. Christopher at York, 205, _note_ 1;
    of S. John at Coventry, 203;
    at Hull, 144, _note_ 2;
    of our Lady and S. George at Plymouth, 220;
    of S. Lawrence at Ashburton, 13, _note_ 2;
    of S. Mary at Bridgewater, 214-215;
    at Coventry, 203;
    of S. Nicholas at Worcester, 13, _note_ 2;
    of palmers at Ludlow, 13;
    of young scholars at Lynn, 13;
    of Trinity at Coventry, 14, _note_ 2, 19, _note_ 3, 203-213;
    at Hull, 144, _note_ 2;
    at Lynn, 217, 404-407;
    at Shrewsbury, 144, _note_ 2, 173, _note_ 4;
    craft, their origin, 113, 114;
    exclusive character, 99;
    alliance with town councils, 108;
    aid burghers in strife with governing body, 167-168, 184-187;
    various forms, 110-113;
    charitable works, 113, _note_ 2;
    courts of arbitration, 114, _note_ 1;
    protection of members, 114, _note_ 2;
    composition, 115-117;
    difference from modern trades unions, 115-116, 134-136, 159-160;
    government, 117-120;
    laws concerning hired workers, 121-123;
    organization, 128-129;
    rule of oligarchy in, 129-131;
    part taken by members of, on appointment to town offices, 130-131;
    founded by order of town, 135, 155;
    attitude towards the public, 136-138;
    struggle for control of prices, 139-140;
    charters, 141, 143, _note_ 3;
    relations with town and State, 143-154, 181-189;
    shelter themselves under form of religious association, 144-145;
    enforced contribution to feasts, 154, _note_ 2;
    increase in number, 155;
    combinations, 156, 157, _note_ 1;
    relations with municipality, 157-158;
    victory in the strife with town, 159-160;
    greater and lesser, 160;
    struggles between, 160-166;
    their alliance with burghers against ruling oligarchy, 167-168;
    freedom of borough often obtained by becoming member of, 186;
    freemen of borough generally enrolled in, 190;
    relations with guild merchant, 191-199;
    at Beverley, 142;
    in Bristol, 153;
    at Canterbury, 156-157;
    at Coventry, 151, _note_ 2, 207-211;
    of Newcastle, 185-186;
    in Norwich, 144, _note_ 1, 381-4;
    at Sandwich, 155;
    at Southampton, their duties, 299;
    of bakers at Exeter, 179;
    in London, 149, _note_ 1;
    of carpenters, 147;
    of cordwainers at Exeter, 119, _note_, 179;
    of drapers at Shrewsbury, 144, _note_ 2, 173, _note_ 4;
    of farriers, 146-147;
    of joiners and lorimers in London, 163-164;
    of kalendars at Bristol, 13, _note_ 2;
    of masons, 147-148;
    of mercers of Shrewsbury, 182, _note_ 1;
    of painters in London, 163;
    of saddlers in London, 162-164;
    of spurriers, 147;
    of tailors at Exeter, 172-181, 184;
    in London, 143, _note_ 3, 149, _note_ 1, 182, _note_ 1;
    at Lynn, 151, _note_ 1;
    of weavers in Leicester, 122, _note_ 1;
    in London, 141-142, 162;
    in Newcastle, 102, _note_ 2;
    in Nottingham, 141, _note_;
    merchant, its early history, and composition, 191-193;
    organization, 193;
    independent position, 194;
    monopoly of trade, 40;
    struggle with crafts, 191;
    Gross’s theory of its decline, 191-197;
    obscurity and local variety of its history, 197-201;
    its successors in fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, 201-202;
    of Andover, 193, _note_ 1, 198, _note_ 1, 199;
    of Bridgewater, 214;
    of Bristol, 198, _note_ 1;
    of Carlisle, 185;
    of Chesterfield, 203, _note_ 1;
    of Coventry, 203-204;
    of Gloucester, 194, note 1;
    of Lichfield, 213, _note_ 3;
    of Lynn, 184, 196, _note_ 3, 198, _note_ 1, 217, 403;
    of Nottingham, 332;
    of Plymouth, 220;
    of Reading, 203, _note_ 2;
    of S. Albans, 203;
    of Southampton, 198, _note_ 1, 207, _note_ 3, 305;
    of Totnes, 33, _note_ 2, 220

  Guildhall, _see_ Hall

  Gun made for Lydd, 54, _note_ 1

  Gunner, payment of, by Southampton, 298


  Halifax, cloth-makers at, 89

  Hall, the drapery, at Coventry, 207;
    guild, its storage rooms, 34;
    of Bristol, 37;
    of Lynn, 406;
    of Nottingham, 325;
    of Southampton, 310, 312;
    of York, 205, _note_ 1;
    town or guild, of Birmingham, 213;
    town, of Coventry, called S. Mary’s Guild, 203

  Hamble, court of Admiralty held at, 319, _note_ 2

  Hanse, its trade with Lynn, 404

  Harpe, held by Romney, 237

  Hastings, metal for gun got from, 54, _note_ 1

  Haverford West, interest taken by its burghers in municipal affairs,
      234, _note_ 3

  Hawk, town clerk of Norwich, 390

  Hawleys, the, of Dartmouth, 73

  Hazard, John, coroner of Bristol, 267

  Henley, Walter of, 133

  Henry I., his grant of liberties to Southampton, 306

  Henry II., his charter to Gloucester, 194, _note_ 1;
    to Southampton, 306;
    to Nottingham, 331

  Henry III., his charter to Liverpool, 41;
    to Gloucester, 194, _note_ 1;
    to Oxford, 278, _note_ 2;
    to guild merchant of Lynn, 407

  Henry IV., his Act about apprentices, 104, _note_ 3;
    charter to Liverpool, 41;
    to Nottingham, 333;
    to Norwich, 373;
    to Southampton, 307, 309;
    confirms decrees of committee of eighteen in Lynn, 414;
    grant to Genoese traders, 290;
    grant for fortification of Southampton, 292

  Henry V., loan of Cardinal Beaufort to, 292;
    his letters patent to Lynn, 409;
    to Southampton, 307;
    confirms decrees of committee of eighteen in Lynn, 414;
    appeal of people of Lynn to, 417;
    confirms guild of S. George in Norwich, 384;
    his charter to Norwich, 379-380

  Henry VI., charters of incorporation given under, 269;
    loans from Lynn to, 423;
    supported by Nottingham, 330;
    charter to Nottingham, 333-334;
    to Southampton, 307-308

  Henry VII., depression of trade in his early years, 87;
    effects of his commercial treaties, 87;
    brings over Flemish weavers, 94;
    repeals Act of Henry IV. about apprentices, 104, _note_ 3;
    charter to Exeter, 180;
    to merchant tailors of London, 143, _note_ 3;
    grants to Southampton, 293;
    Nottingham sends deputation to, 331

  Henry VIII. entertained at Fairford, 68;
    forbids emigration from Chester, 299, _note_ 4

  Hereford, its in-borough and out-borough, 40, _note_ 2;
    customs, 225-227;
    law about steward, 261, _note_ 2

  Heydon, John, of Baconsthorpe, 387, 389, 393, 394, 395, _note_ 1

  Hill, Nicholas, image-maker of Nottingham, 326

  Hoastmen, complaint of London corporation against, 140, _note_ 3

  Holbein, his “Dance of Death”, 57

  Holidays, disputes about, 88;
    trading on, forbidden, 133

  Hollingbrokes, the, of Romney, 59, _note_

  Holme, Abbot of, his disputes with Norwich, 387, _note_, 391-392

  Honywodes, merchants at Hythe, 29

  Horn, the common, of Sandwich, 227

  “Hornblowing”, 430

  Horseho held by Romney, 237

  Hospital of S. Julian, Southampton, 295, 314-315;
    of S. Thomas the Martyr, at Sandwich, 75;
    founded by Simon Grendon at Exeter, 75;
    of S. Paul, Norwich, its dispute with the town, 387, _note_

  House, the audit, of Southampton, 310;
    the butchers’, in Nottingham, 324;
    the common, its storerooms for wool, 3;
    the drapers’, in Nottingham, 325;
    the mercers’, in Nottingham, 324-325

  Houses in Nottingham, 327;
    contrast between English and French, 84;
    of merchants in Bristol, 74

  Huddersfield, cloth-makers at, 89

  Hull, its grammar school, 14;
    merchants, 69, _note_ 2;
    guilds at, 144, _note_ 2;
    use made of them by county magnate, 182, _note_ 2;
    royal charters to guilds, 182, _note_ 1;
    trade with Nottingham, 324, 328

  Hythe, its condition in early fifteenth century, 29-30;
    Black Book, 230, 257, _note_ 4;
    use of paper for accounts, 259, _note_ 6;
    lands of community, 237;
    perambulation on Holy Thursday, 30;
    pestilence, 30;
    its town clerk, 263, _note_ 1


  Iceland, Bristol merchants in, 73

  Illuminator of Nottingham, 326

  Image-maker of Nottingham, 326

  Incorporation, charters of, given under Henry VI., 269

  “Inferiores” of Lynn, 407-409, 412, 413, 420-425

  Ingoldsby, John, 303, _note_ 2

  Inns provided by the towns, 33

  Inn-holders, profit allowed to be taken by, 36

  “Intrantes” in Canterbury, 47

  Ipswich, its coroners, 223;
    early form of government, 223, 224;
    land of community, 237;
    powers assumed by oligarchy, 240-241, 252;
    portmen, 223, 250, 252;
    dogget rolls, 259;
    two councils, 278, _note_ 2;
    agreement made by barber taking apprentice at, 120, _note_ 1

  Ireland, its trade with Liverpool, 41, _note_;
    smuggling trade with Gloucester, 42;
    cloth, 289

  Iron works at Nottingham, 326

  Isabella, Queen, her land at Coventry, 202-204

  Italy, cities of, their commerce with Southampton, 290-291, 320;
    English cloth sent to, to be dyed scarlet, 326;
    merchants from, obliged to buy only in London, Southampton, or
        Sandwich, 293


  Jews at King’s exchange, 69, _note_ 1;
    school for, at Bristol, 13, _note_ 2

  Joan, Queen, 304, _note_ 2

  John, King, his charter to Gloucester, 194, _note_ 1;
    grant of privileges to Southampton, 306;
    “palaces” of, in Nottingham, 327;
    frees Nottingham from forest laws and forest officers, 328;
    charter to Nottingham, 332;
    to guild merchant of Lynn, 404

  John of Horncastle, bailiff of Bristol, 267

  John the Taverner, mayor of Bristol, 267

  Joiners, guild of, in London, 163-164

  Journeymen, their combinations for self-protection, 101;
    protection of, in guild, 103;
    regulations about their wages, 104, _note_ 1;
    position in craft-guilds, 119, 128-129;
    protection by town authorities, 120;
    laws about, 121-123;
    strikes of, 123-127;
    unions of, 129

  Jubilee of 1420 at Canterbury, 43

  Jurats of Cinque Ports, 278, _note_ 1, 434;
    of Lynn, 407, 409, 421

  Juries, system of, in towns, 228-229;
    special, 229, _note_ 2, 275, 276, 341;
    of forty-eight of Nottingham, 356-358;
    of wards and leets in Norwich, 381.
    _See_ Leet, Mickletorn

  Justices, their right to order election of discreet men for town
        officers, 249, _note_ 2;
    of the peace, appointment of members of upper town council as,
    in Nottingham, 339, 340;
    in Norwich, 362, _note_ 2;
    in Southampton, 307, 309


  Kalendar of Fordwich, 258, _note_ 3

  Kalendars, guild of, at Bristol, 13, _note_ 2

  Kent, its decline in wealth during Hundred Years’ War, 88, _note_ 3;
    brewers of, 89;
    popular movements in, 429

  Keyhaven, court of Admiralty held at, 319, _note_ 2

  Kidderminster, cause of its decay, 97, _note_ 3

  King’s Bench, court of, 238

  Kipton Ash, its market, 404, _note_ 1


  Labour, effects of war and rivalry between England and Netherlands on,
    difficulties caused by industrial changes, 87-90;
    by foreign immigration, 90-96;
    problem of, 107-109;
    “blackleg”, London saddlers accused of encouraging, 163;
      law against, 165;
    “uncovenanted”, fostered by employers, 102

  Labourers, unskilled, 103-104;
    country, difficulties of their transfer to towns, 98-99;
    legal hours of work, 133;
    of Norwich, their condition before 1340, 101

  Lammas lands of Colchester, 238

  Lancaster, Nicholas, town clerk of York, 263

  Land, conversion of arable, into pasture, 98;
    disputes about ownership and use of, 238-239;
    common, of towns, rights and interests of commonalty in, 234,
      of Andover, 237;
      of Birmingham, 237;
      of Chester, 237;
      of Colchester, 238;
      of Coventry, 238;
      of Hythe, 237;
      of Ipswich, 237;
      of Liverpool, 237;
      of Lydd, 237, 238;
      of Morpeth, 237;
      of Norwich, 367;
      of Nottingham, 237, 334, 335-336, 342-343, 348, _note_ 3;
      of Oxford, 237;
      of Romney, 237;
      of Southampton, 311, 314-317;
      of Wycombe, 237

  Lanes, naming of, in towns, 29;
    improvement in their condition, 32-33

  Langton, Nicholas, mayor of York, 251, _note_ 1

  Laymen, schools founded by, 16-17

  “Leave-lookers”, 34

  Leet of Andover, 229;
    of Coventry, 205, 206, 212, _note_ 1, 345, _note_ 3;
    of Manchester, 249, _note_ 2;
    of Nottingham, 19, 341, 345, 346, 356;
    of Southampton, 318, _note_

  Leets of Norwich, 361-362

  Legate, Richard, bailiff of Bristol, 267

  Leicester, no plea held in, during fairs, 25, _note_ 1;
    night work allowed by guild in, 122, _note_ 1;
    Crouchback’s charter to, 25, _note_ 1, 258, _note_ 1;
    councils, 287, 354

  Leighton Buzzard, adventures of a glover of, 31-32

  Lenton, agreement with Nottingham about its fair, 348, _note_ 3;
    convent of, 354, _note_ 4

  Lepe, court of Admiralty held at, 319, _note_ 2

  Levant, Bristol vessels first to enter, 73;
    trade of Jacques Cœur with, 81;
    trade of Southampton with, 290

  Liberties, extension of, in Carlisle and Hereford, 40, _note_ 2

  Lichfield, its guild merchant, 213, _note_ 3

  Lime-burners, conspiracy of, in London, 140

  Lincoln, guild of S. Benedict at, 144, _note_ 2;
    bailiffs, 250;
    appeal of commonalty to King against corporation, 244;
    charter, 244;
    dispute with lord of S. Botolph’s fair about tolls, 244;
    its guild of “common and middling folks”, 271, _note_ 3;
    aldermen, 279, _note_

  Lincoln, Robert, bishop of, translation of his “Rules”, 5

  Lincoln, bishop of, begs for Norwich liberties to be restored, 391

  Lincolnshire, its bell-metal, 54, _note_ 1;
    its wool, 88, _note_ 3

  Linen manufactured at Nottingham, 326

  Literature of fifteenth century, 3-10

  Liverpool, its charters, 41;
    attempt to establish free trade, 41;
    council of forty, 278, _note_ 2;
    its mayor, 61, _note_ 2, 251, _note_ 1;
    mosses granted to, 237;
    grant for paving, 32, _note_ 3;
    school, 14, _note_ 2

  Lombards, traders learn to clip coin from, 67;
    settle in Southampton, 289

  London, its aldermen hereditary owners of wards, 279, _note_;
    elected for life, 375, _note_ 2;
    apprentices must be sworn to the franchise before using trade, 103,
        _note_ 2;
    yearly wage of artizans, 133;
    bakers, 45, 117, _note_ 2, 149, _note_ 1;
    bowyers, 119;
    complaint about butchers, 44-45;
    dispute between burellers and weavers, 161-162;
    candlemakers, 45;
    common council, 375, _note_ 2;
    hindrance to influence of crafts, 186;
    complaints about cloth, 146;
    farriers, 146-147;
    complaints against foreigners, 95;
    plate pawned to a fishmonger of, 78;
    trouble about fulling machinery, 90, _note_ 2;
    Edward III.’s charter to girdlers, 143, _note_ 2;
    grocers, 102, _note_ 2, 116, _note_ 1, 117, _note_ 4, 118, _note_ 2;
        growth, 50;
    guild ordinances, 146-148;
    relations with Coventry guild, 206, _note_;
    complaint against hoastmen, 140, _note_ 3;
    images sent from Nottingham to, 326;
    mayors of, 16, 149, _notes_;
    Italian merchants in, 293;
    conspiracy of lime-burners, 140;
    lorimers, 163;
    decline of manufacturing trade, 88;
    merchants of, cause assassination of Genoese at Southampton, 291;
    provision for mercer’s widow, 80;
    laws to protect consumer against pepperers, 139-140;
    the raising of prices for repairing roofs forbidden, 152;
    controversy between saddlers and other crafts, 162-165;
    schools, 13, _note_ 2, 14, _note_ 2;
    sheriff lends money to John Paston, 77;
    dealings with Southampton, 294-295;
    settlers from, in Southampton, 291;
    strikes in, 123-127;
    tailors of, 149, _note_ 2, 143, _note_ 3, 182, _note_ 1;
    rebellion of taverners, 139;
    ordinances of tawyers, 165;
    withdrawal of tradesmen outside boundaries, 44-45;
    jurisdiction of trades, 149, _notes_;
    retaliation in taking of toll, 53, _note_ 1;
    “vice-comites”, 361, _note_ 3;
    regulations about wages of journeymen, 104, _note_ 1;
    decay of wealth, 104, _note_ 3;
    weavers, 141-142, 160-162

  Lorimers of London, 163

  Louis XI., extinction of liberties of French communes under, 321

  Lovel, Sir Thomas, 329, _note_ 1, 347, _note_ 2

  Lübeck, merchants of, at Lynn, 404

  Ludlow, its school, 13, _note_ 2

  Lydd, gun made for, 54, _note_ 1;
    troubles caused by Andrew Bate, 60;
    seals of community and of mayor, 233, _note_ 1, 238;
    lands, 237-238;
    dispute about ownership of shore, 238;
    custumal, 257, _note_ 4;
    helps Warwick, 262;
    helps Edward IV., 263;
    town clerks, 60, 262;
    treasurer, 263

  Lydgate, 21

  Lyhert, Walter, bishop of Norwich, 394, _note_ 1

  Lymington, its treaty with Southampton, 53, _note_ 4

  Lynn, its people seek protection against ruling burgesses, 242-243;
    relations with bishop of Norwich, 403, 408, 412, 419, 423-424, 428;
    advantages of its position, 404;
    three classes in, 407;
    constitution in 1417, 409;
    prosperity, 410;
    expenses, 410-411;
    financial difficulties, 411-413;
    dispute between ruling body and people, 411-420;
    failure of attempt to gain popular liberty, 423-426, 428;
    barge, 410;
    non-burgesses of, their share in administration, 412, 413;
    change in mode of electing for Parliament, 420, _note_ 1;
    cattle market, 404;
    charter, 421;
    committee of eighteen, 412-416;
    councils, 402, 413, 419-422, 424, 425;
    its constabularies, 279, _note_, 415, _note_ 2, 421;
    copper, 54;
    wealth and importance of corporation, 402;
    franchise not obligatory on settlers, 408;
    admission of “foreign” inhabitants to, 417;
    German merchants, 404;
    guilds, 13, _note_ 2, 151, _note_ 1, 217, 403-407, 425;
    guild merchant, 184, 196, _note_ 3, 198, _note_ 1, 403;
    guildhall, 406;
    “inferiores”, their decline, 420-425;
    jurats, 407, 409, 421;
    loans to the King, 411, 423;
    mayor, composition with, 243;
    his powers of distraint, 243, _note_ 1;
    mode of election, 409, 416-417;
    salary, 413;
    sent as ambassador to Bruges, 422;
    “mediocres”, 407-409, 412, 413;
    merchants made freemen of Canterbury, 49, _note_ 2;
    their power, 403, 425;
    ordinances about elections, 414-416;
    prolocutor, 414;
    “potentiores”, 196, _note_ 3, 407-409, 412, 413, 419;
    their alliance with “mediocres”, 421-424;
    election of serjeant, 418, _note_ 3;
    trade, 404;
    town clerk, 414, 415;
    wealth, 326;
    members of Coventry guild at, 206, _note_

  Lyttleton’s “New Tenures”, extracts made by town clerks from, 259


  Macclesfield, school at, 16

  Machinery, trouble caused by introduction of, 89-90

  Magna Charta, copies bought by burghers, 236;
    extracts made by town clerks from, 259

  “Magnates”, of Norwich, 196, _note_ 3, 249

  Malt, made by brewers, 89

  Manchester, its grammar school, 17;
    trade with Liverpool, 41, _note_;
    election of court leet jury, 249, _note_ 2

  Mancroft ward, Norwich, 376, _note_ 2

  Manners, Latin treatise on, translation of, 5;
    anxiety of burghers about, 8-10

  Manufacturers in suburbs, 96-97

  Manufactures, the home, of the suburbs, 97

  Marches, Scotch, their laws codified in fifteenth century, 258,
      _note_ 3

  Margaret of Anjou, grant from revenue of Southampton to, 300, _note_ 3

  Market, its situation, 24;
    origin, 25-27;
    early control of, 26;
    grants of, 26, 27;
    right of, in Scotland, 27, _note_ 1;
    regulation of 33, 34, 39, 40;
    laws made by government and by towns, 36, _note_ 1;
    officials of, 34;
    of Kipton Ash, 404, _note_ 1;
    the cattle, of Lynn, 404;
    of Norwich, 367, _note_ 2

  Market-place of Norwich, 31;
    of Nottingham, 324

  Market-crosses, 32

  Marlborough, its treaty with Southampton, 53, _note_ 4;
    trouble caused by craft guilds in, 142

  Mary, Queen, renews charter to Liverpool, 41

  “Marye of Hampton”, 291, _note_ 3

  Masons, rules made by guild of, 147;
    forbidden to confederate, 148, _note_ 3

  Maximilian, treaty with, 311

  Mayor, testing of weights and measures by, 27-28;
    officials of market sworn before, 34;
    his office as protector of people, 36-38;
    robe of “clean scarlet”, 62;
    modes of his election, 226-228, 274-276;
    his assistants, 228;
    oath on “Black Book”, 230;
    of Bristol, 212, _note_ 2;
    his supervision of trades, 37-38;
    of Canterbury, 284;
    of Coventry, 205, 207, _note_ 2;
    of Exeter, his election, 169-171;
    member of tailors’ guild appointed, 178;
    law of 1496 about his election, 169-171, 180;
    of Liverpool in 1380, his wealth, 61, _note_ 2, 251, _note_ 1;
    of London, 16, 149 _notes_;
    of Lynn, modes of his election, 409, 414-417;
    salary, 413;
    sent as ambassador to Bruges, 422-423;
    of Norwich, replaces bailiffs, 373;
    his imprisonment in London, 392;
    charges brought against, 393, _note_ 2;
    of Nottingham, 251, _note_ 2;
    presented at court leet, 346, 349, 354;
    of Oxford, 244;
    of Plymouth, 220;
    of Romney, elected at Stuppeney’s tomb, 59, _note_;
    of Sandwich, his election, 226-227, 274, 430-434;
    of Southampton, 298;
    deposed, 303, _note_ 1;
    his powers, 306;
    election, 274-275, 306-307, 312-313;
    decree about payment of his salary, 314;
    presented at court leet, 318, _note_;
    his important position, 319-320;
    his authority as King’s admiral, 319;
    alderman of guild, 306, 407, _note_ 2;
    of Wycombe, 228, 260, _note_ 4;
    of York, Edward IV.’s patent about election of, 186

  Measures, petition of commons to Henry VII. about, 27, _note_ 3;
    standard, towns compelled to keep, 27;
    tested and sealed by mayor, 27-28

  “Mediocres” of Lynn, 407, 408, 409, 412, 413, 421, 424

  Mediterranean, trade of Southampton with, 289-290

  Melcombe Regis, election of officers, 275, _note_ 4

  Meller, Dame Agnes, founds school at Nottingham, 19, _note_ 3

  Melors, Thomas, mayor of Nottingham, 349

  “Mercatores” of Coventry guild, 204

  Mercers of Coventry, 183, 204, _note_;
    of London, provision made by one for his widow, 80;
    of Shrewsbury, royal charter granted to, 182, _note_ 1;
    mistery of, at York, 69, _note_ 2;
    house, Nottingham, 324-325

  Merchants, schools founded by, 16-17;
    their difficulties, 69-72;
    wealth, 69, 72-74;
    views of “poor commons” about their gains, 70-71;
    marks, 71;
    one at Abingdon gives money towards bridges, 75-76;
    become landed proprietors, 79;
    Knights of the Bath, 79;
    associations of, 108;
    of Cinque Ports, their privileges, 52, _note_;
    English, keeping of sea given to, 323;
    of Germany, their organization at Lynn, 404;
    Irish, in Liverpool, 41, _note_;
    Italian, laws about their buying, 293;
    expelled from London, 293;
    settle in Southampton, 293;
    of Lübeck, at Lynn, 404;
    of Lynn, made freemen of Canterbury, 49, _note_ 2;
    their powers, 403, 425

  Metals, Southampton made staple of, 293

  Mickletorn jury at Nottingham, 138, 345-346, 356-358

  Mill-stones, cost of, 406, _note_ 1;
    brought from Paris and Andernach, 406;

  Mills, fulling, forbidden by Parliament, 90;
    the school, at Manchester, inhabitants forced to grind corn at, 17

  Monopoly, 48, 49, 51, 56

  Morpeth, 186, _note_ 3, 237, 238

  Mortmain, license to, given to Trinity Guild, Coventry, 203;
    to S. John Baptist’s Guild, 203, _note_ 4;
    to fullers and tailors of Coventry, 209;
    grant to assign lands in, given to merchant guild of Bridgewater,
    statute of, results of its extension to cities and boroughs, 215


  Netherlands, distress caused by their rivalry with England, 87;
    wool sent from Southampton to, 291;
    settlers from, in English towns, 320;
    in Sandwich, 429;
    independent temper of towns of, 360-361

  Netley Abbey, its treaty with Southampton, 53, _note_ 4

  Newcastle, weavers of, 102, _note_ 2;
    piece-work in, 121, _note_ 5;
    quarrel among guilds about government, 185-186

  New Sarum attempts free trade, 47, _note_ 1;
    its treaty with Southampton, 53, _note_ 1

  Non-burgesses of Lynn, their share in administration, 413;
    in Nottingham, their numbers, 325

  Norfolk, supervision of its woollen trade by Norwich, 385-386

  Northampton, its dispute with abbot of Thorney, 52, _note_;
    style, 278, _note_ 1;
    tin, 54

  Norwich, complaint of democracy against oligarchy in, 241-242;
    character and value of its political experiments, 361, 396-397;
    early constitution, 361-365;
    copying of old documents, 370, _note_ 4;
    troubles about election in 1404, 373-374;
    disputes between mayor’s council and commonalty, 379-380;
    its disputes with the prioress of Carrow, hospital of S. Paul, and
        abbot of Wendling, 387, _note_;
    with abbot of Holme, 387, 391-392;
    with prior of the cathedral, 387, 391, 395-396;
    struggle between county party and town party, 385-395;
    insurrection of John Gladman, 392-393;
    refusal to advance money to King, 393;
    visited by him, 394;
    reception of the Duke of York, 394;
    poverty in fifteenth century, 395;
    causes of decay, 397-398;
    cause of failure of its attempt to gain popular liberty, 427-428;
    its account-books, 370, _note_ 4;
    aldermen, 362, _note_ 2, 380;
    apprentices, payments by, 102, _note_ 2;
    assembly, 371-372, 377-379;
    superseded by twenty-four, 365;
    assembly rolls, 370;
    “Le Bachery”, 389, 392;
    bailiffs, 361-364, 373;
    chandlers presented at court leet, 140;
    chapel of the Blessed Virgin in the Fields, 389, 397;
    charters, 371-373, 379-380, 395;
    churches, 329, _note_ 2;
    “the citizens”, 366, 367, 368, 370, 373, 376, 399-401;
    craft guilds, 144, _note_ 1, 381-384;
    supervision of cloth and wool trade, 149, _note_ 1, 385-386;
    system of contracting for work in surrounding villages, 105-106;
    the community or commonalty of, 366-373, 376, 377, 399;
    composition of 1415, 374-380;
    councils, 170, 278, _note_ 2, 363-365, 369-377, 419;
    “customs”, 364;
    election of common councillors, 376, 380-381;
    election of officers after 1415, 377-379;
    employers made responsible for servants, 101, _note_ 2;
    franchises forfeited, 367, 389, 391-393;
    restored, 391, 394;
    freemen must belong to craft guild, 383;
    foreign settlers, 320;
    guilds, 144, _note_ 1;
    guild of S. George, 384-385, 389, 395;
    income in 1378, 370, _note_ 4;
    justices of the peace, 362, _note_ 2;
    condition of its labourers before 1340, 101;
    its four leets, 361-362;
    replaced by wards, 380;
    leet courts, 362;
    loan to King, 372, _note_ 2;
    magnates, 196, _note_ 3, 249;
    manufacturing trade, its decline, 88;
    market, 367, _note_ 2;
    market-place, 31;
    mayor, 373;
    mayor imprisoned in London, 392;
    charges against him, 393, _note_ 2;
    lawsuit about rights of pasture, 238;
    petition to Parliament, 367;
    capital pledges, 362, 381;
    statute of 1477 about Pye-powder court, 393, _note_ 2;
    recorder, 387;
    increased rents, 400;
    common seal, 390, 391, 392;
    sheriffs, 373, 381;
    official styles, 365-368, 373;
    appointment of supervisors of bread, 35, _note_ 4;
    tanners, 105;
    tolbooth,  362, 389, _note_ 1;
    traders ordered to become freemen, 400;
    wards, 376, 380;
    wealth, causes of its decay, 104, _note_ 3;
    White Book, 258, _note_ 3;
    law about ordinances of worsted-shearers, 149, _note_ 1;
    relations with country workmen, 105-106

  Norwich, bishop of, begs for restoration of town’s liberties, 391;
    relations of, with Lynn, 403, 408-412, 419, 423-424, 428

  Nottingham, advantages of its position, 322-325;
    ordered to contribute to keeping of sea, 323;
    condition of people, 327-328;
    small part played by ecclesiastical interests in, 329;
    its quarrel with Sir John Babington, 329, _note_ 1;
    given to Anne of Bohemia, 330;
    supports Edward IV., 330;
    attitude towards Richard III., 330;
    granted to Elizabeth Woodville, 330, _note_ 1;
    sends deputation to Henry VII., 331;
    increasing wealth in fifteenth century, 331;
    originally governed by reeve, 331;
    grants from Henry II., 331;
    from Edward II., 333;
    privileges gained during Welsh war, 332;
    sends men to help King against Jack Cade, 334;
    condition of its government in 1500, 344;
    struggle between government and people, 345-359;
    “alablaster man”, 54, 326;
    aldermen, 309, 339-341;
    common assembly, 341, 347-348, 352-353;
    bell-foundry, 326;
    bell-metal got from Lincolnshire, 54, _note_ 1;
    two boroughs, 332;
    complaint about brewers, 38;
    bridges, 322, 324, 341;
    Bridlesmith gate, 326;
    burgesses, their relations with the people, 312, _note_, 355,
        _note_ 3;
    distinguished from community, 334-336;
    burgesses fined for not attending meetings, 336;
    butchers’ house, 324;
    castle, 323;
    charters, 330-334, 339;
    church of S. Mary, 326;
    town clerk, 19, 20, 263-264, 337;
    “clothing”, 341, 352-353, 355, 356, _note_ 1, 357;
    coal-mines, 325;
    common, 314, _note_ 5;
    “community” or commonalty, 338-343;
    council, 337-340, 355, 357;
    disputes about control of Trent, 328-329;
    drapers’ house, 325;
    exemption from forest laws and forest officers, 328;
    agreement with Lenton convent about its fair, 348, _note_ 3;
    ferm, 328, 330, 332;
    franchises forfeited, 332;
    terms of admission to freedom, 325;
    forestalling, 50, _note_ 1;
    Girdler gate, 326;
    goldsmith, 54, 326;
    guildhall, 325;
    guild merchant, 332;
    common hall, 343;
    houses, 327;
    illuminator, 326;
    image-maker, 326;
    industries, 325-327;
    jury of forty-eight, 356, 357, 358;
    special juries, 341;
    justices of peace, 339, 340;
    common lands, 237, 334, 335-336, 342-343, 348, _note_ 3;
    leet, 341, 346, 356, 19, 229, 345-346;
    market-place, 324;
    mayors, 251, _note_ 2;
      their independent rule in sixteenth century, 354;
      mayor presented at court leet, 346, 349, 354;
      fined for not rendering accounts, 353, _note_;
    mercers’ house, 324-325;
    Mickletorn jury, 138, 345-346, 356-358;
    money borrowed by corporation, 328;
    numbers of non-burgesses in, 325;
    Whitsuntide offerings, 329;
    paviour, 32, _note_ 3;
    recorder, 347-348;
    Red Book, 334, 337, 355, 356;
    sources of revenue, 47;
    rolls, 259;
    free school, 19, 348, _note_ 3, 354, _note_ 4;
    styles, 334-336;
    subsidy roll of 1472, 327;
    tin, 54;
    tolls at Retford, 335, _note_ 2;
    raising of river-side tolls forbidden, 329;
    trade and prosperity, 324-328;
    results of wide distribution of wealth, 251;
    weavers’ guild, 141, _note_;
    provision for widows, 80;
    workmen charged with taking too much pay, 132

  Nycoll, William, sends his ship to Bay of Biscay, 291, _note_ 3


  Occleve, 21

  Oldham, Hugh, bishop of Exeter, completes Manchester grammar school,

  Oligarchy, the ruling, alliance of guilds with burghers against,
        167-168, 184;
    powers assumed by, in Ipswich, 240-241, 252;
      Lincoln, 244;
      Lynn, 242-243;
      Norwich, 241-242;
      Oxford, 244;
    government by, its beginnings in towns, 240-246, 255-257;
    its character, 256-257, 264-265

  Orgram, John, of Nottingham, 337, _note_ 1

  Orwellstow, owned by Lydd, 237

  Oxford, marriage contract of cook’s daughter at, 61, _note_ 4;
    craft guilds, 142;
    charges brought against governing body, 244-245;
    aldermen, 245, _note_ 2, 278, _note_ 2;
    charter, 278, _note_ 2;
    formation of second council, 278;
    common lands, 237;
    mayor, 244, 278, _note_ 2;
    Provisions of, 253


  Palmers, guild of, at Ludlow, its school, 13, _note_ 2

  Paper takes place of parchment, 259

  Parchment, use of, ordered at Worcester in 1467, 259, _note_ 6

  Paris, Jacques Cœur at, 81;
    mill-stones brought from, 406, _note_ 1

  Parliament forbids use of fulling mills 90;
    its laws about hired workers, 121;
    Acts of, copied by town clerks, 259;
    Act for fixing apprentices’ fees in Norwich, 102, _note_ 2;
    for deepening Stour, 435;
    members of, their election in Lynn, 420, _note_ 1;
      in Norwich, 379;
      in Shrewsbury, 285

  Parr, Sir William, 78

  Paston, Edmund, 79-80

  Paston, John, 77;
    his marriage, 80

  Paston, Margery, her marriage, 80

  Paston, William, 390, _note_ 1, 391

  Paving, grant for, to Liverpool, 32, _note_ 3

  Paviours, appointment of, 32, _note_ 3

  Payne, Thomas, his trade with Zealand, 291, _note_ 3

  Peasant revolt, 213, _note_ 3, 265

  Pepperers’ Company of London, founding of, 144, _note_ 2;
    laws to protect consumer against, 139-140;
    replace Jews at King’s exchange, 69, _note_ 1

  Percyvale, Sir John, endows school at Macclesfield, 16

  Perkins, Robert, 210, _note_ 2

  Philip, Archduke, treaty with, 311

  Piece-work, disputes about, 88;
    in Newcastle and London, 121, _note_ 5

  Plate stored in merchants’ houses, 74;
    left by grocer of Bristol, 74, _note_ 1;
    pawning of, 78

  Pledges, capital, of Norwich, 362, 381

  Plumpton, Sir William, his marriage, 78, 79, _note_ 2;
    joins fraternity of S. Christopher at York, 205, _note_ 1

  Plumpton, Lady, joins fraternity of S. Christopher at York, 205,
      _note_ 1

  Plymouth, formed by union of three hamlets, 219-220;
    its incorporation, 220;
    church of S. Andrew, 220;
    guild merchant, 220.

  Poles of Hull, 79, _note_ 2

  Pontefract, its council, 278, _note_ 1

  Portmen of Ipswich, 223, 250, 252

  Portreeve of Canterbury, 283

  Portsmouth, its treaty with Southampton, 53, _note_ 4;
    control exercised by mayor of Southampton over, 319

  Portugal, its trade with Southampton, 291, 294

  “Potentiores” of Lynn, 196, _note_ 3, 407-409, 412, 413, 419, 421-424

  Preston, distinction between “foreign” and “inn” burgesses, 47;
    punishment of mayor for striking burgess, 227, _note_ 2;
    government, 275, _note_ 4;
    election of chief officers, 276;
    school, 14, _note_ 2;
    “stallingers”, 48;
    style, 231, _note_, 275, _note_ 4

  Prices, controversy as to fixing of, 139-140

  Priests forbidden to keep schools at Bridgenorth, 18

  “Probi homines”, 249

  Prolocutor of Lynn, 414

  “Protection” of industry, 53, 56, 100

  “Prud’hommes”, appointment of, 34

  Prussia, its trade with Lynn, 404


  Queensborough, merchants of, in guild of Coventry, 206, _note_

  Querdling, John, 390


  Reading, almshouse of poor sisters at, 14, _note_ 2;
    guild merchant, 203, _note_ 2;
    first use of paper for accounts, 259, _note_ 6

  Recorder of Exeter, 168, 171, _note_;
    of Norwich, 387;
    of Nottingham, 347-348;
    of Southampton, 302-303

  Redehode, his gifts to the church at Wycombe, 75, _note_ 2

  Regrating, 39, 54

  Retford, settlement about its tolls, 335, _note_ 2

  Revenue of towns, its source, 47

  Rhineland, its trade with Lynn, 404;
    with Southampton, 289

  Rhône, trade of Jacques Cœur on, 81

  Rhymes of fifteenth century, their character, 6;
    nailed on church door in Coventry, 211

  Ricarto, Robert de, town clerk of Bristol, 264, _note_ 1;
    his Calendar, 20

  Richard I., his charter to Oxford, 278, _note_ 2

  Richard II., his charter to Liverpool, 41;
    to “the citizens” of Norwich, 371;
    guilds formed in his reign, 155, _note_ 1;
    his grants to the Emperor, 292, _note_ 1

  Richard III., his laws concerning foreigners, 94;
    letter to Southampton, 313;
    attitude of Nottingham towards, 330

  Richard the Writer, of Nottingham, 326

  Ripe, marshland common on, held by Lydd, 237

  Robert, bishop of Lincoln, translation of his “Rules”, 5

  Rochester, Alcock, bishop of, 14

  Rolls of towns, 259

  Romney, “extravagantes” in, 47;
    payment to apprentice at end of service, 120, _note_ 1;
    arrest of non-freeman for attending common council, 224, _note_ 2;
    church of S. Nicholas, 59, _note_;
    town clerk, 61, 261, 262, _note_, 263;
    fines paid by foreigners, 91, _note_ 1;
    jurats, 278, _note_ 1;
    common land, 237;
    election of Mayor, 59, _note_

  Rose, John, chamberlain of Nottingham, 344, _note_ 2;
    mayor, 349

  Rother, old bed of, held by Romney, 237

  Rotherham, college at, 13

  Rowe, Daniel, of Romney, 61

  “Rules of S. Robert”, translation of, 5

  Russell, John, 79, _note_ 1

  Rye, punishment in, for striking mayor, 227, _note_ 2;
    seals, 233, _note_ 1;
    framing of ordinances, 258, _note_ 3;
    proposed union with Tenterden, 262;
    burnt, 323


  Saddlers of London, strike among journeymen of, 125-126;
    their controversy with crafts that worked for them, 162-165

  S. Albans, guild merchant of, 203, _note_ 2

  S. Botolph’s, lord of the fair of, his dispute with Lincoln, 244

  Salt marsh held by Romney, 237

  Saltmarsh, Southampton, 314

  Samon, John, 251, _note_ 2

  Sandwich, member of Cinque Ports, 428;
    primitive constitution, 430-431;
    makes peace with Edward IV., 431;
    changes in its constitution in middle of fifteenth century, 431-432;
    conflict between governing class and commonalty, 432-434;
    royal grant of 1548 to, 435;
    ruin of popular liberties in sixteenth century, 433-436;
    common assembly, 225-226, 430;
    Black Book and White Book, 258, _note_ 3;
    church of S. Clement, 227;
      of S. Mary, 75, _note_ 2;
    town clerk, 257, _note_ 4, 262, _note_, 263;
    common council, 430, 432-434;
    custumal, 257, _note_ 4;
    Delf canal, 435;
    foreigners in, 91, _note_ 1, 320, 429;
    goldsmith employed to weigh bread, 37-38;
    guilds, 155;
    common horn, 227;
    hornblowing, 430;
    hospital of S. Thomas, 75;
    Italian merchants allowed to buy in, 293;
    jurats, 430;
    election of mayor, 226-227, 274, 430-434;
    non-burgesses fined for attending elections, 431;
    grammar school, 16;
    wards, 431

  Schools, causes of their desertion, 14, _note_ 2;
    control of, transferred from clergy to people, 17-19;
    free grammar, their foundation, 13-17;
    their training, 21-22;
    influence, 22-23;
    first school founded by layman, 16, _note_ 2;
    school at Appleby, 14, _note_ 2;
    school at Ashburton, 13, _note_ 2;
      Banbury, 17;
      Bristol, 13, _note_ 2, 20;
      Canterbury, 14, _note_ 2;
      attached to Clare Hall, Cambridge, 14;
      at Coventry, 14, _note_ 2;
      Deritend, 13, _note_ 2;
      Hull, 14;
      Liverpool, 14, _note_ 2;
      London, 13, _note_ 2, 14, _note_ 2;
      Ludlow, 13, _note_ 2;
      Macclesfield, 16;
      Manchester, 17;
      Nottingham, 19, 348, _note_ 3, 354, _note_ 4;
    school at Preston, 14, _note_ 2;
      Reading, 14;
      Sandwich, 16;
      Shrewsbury, 13, _note_ 2;
      Stockport, 16;
      Stratford, 13, _note_ 2;
      Worcester, 13, _note_ 2;
      Wotton-under-Edge, 16, _note_ 2

  Schoolmasters, Erasmus’s description of, 22, _note_

  Scott, Thomas, founds Rotherham college, 13

  Scrope, Sir John, visit of Sir William Plumpton’s daughter to, 78

  Sea, keeping of, given to English merchants, 323

  Seal of the community distinguished from mayor’s seal, 233, 238;
    the common, of Norwich, 390, 391, 392;
    of Southampton, 309;
    of Winchester, 286

  Selling, Prior, appoints master for Canterbury school, 14, _note_ 2

  Serles, John, town clerk of Sandwich, 257, _note_ 4

  Serjeant of Lynn, his election, 418, _note_ 3;
    of Southampton, his election, 309;
    rules about his appointment in Worcester and Bridgenorth, 271,
        _note_ 3

  Servants, their duties during harvest, 64;
    of country gentry, appointed to offices of importance, 79, _note_ 1

  Shaa, Sir Edmund, establishes school at Stockport, 16

  Shearers of cloth resist introduction of machinery, 89

  Shearmen of London, 123-124;
    of Shrewsbury, 126, _note_

  Sheriffs, election of, 275, _note_ 3;
    of Norwich, their election, 373;
    their tourns, 381

  Sherwood Forest, 328

  Shillingford, John, mayor of Exeter, 168, 172

  Ships, English, sent out to foreign ports, 291;
    for protecting Southampton harbour, 298

  Shipbuilding in Southampton, 289

  Shoemakers, protection of tanners against, 165-166;
    protected against cobblers, 166;
    quarrels with cordwainers, 166;
    of London, their complaint about foreigners, 95, _note_ 1;
    strikes among their journeymen, 124-125

  Shrewsbury, constitutional changes in fourteenth and fifteenth
        centuries, 285-286;
    aldermen, 286;
    bailiffs, 285;
    councils, 285, 286;
    disputes with Worcester as to jurisdiction over Severn, 42,
        _note_ 1;
    drapers’ company, 173, _note_ 4, 183-184;
    election of Members of Parliament, 285;
    foreigners in guild, 49, _note_ 1;
    guild of Trinity, 144, _note_ 2, 173, _note_ 4;
    mercers, 182, _note_ 1;
    shearmen, the festival suppressed, 126, _note_;
    school, 13, _note_ 2;
    trade troubles, 324

  Shropshire, its wool, 88, _note_ 3

  Silver, its exportation forbidden, 69, _note_ 3

  Sligo, its trade with Southampton, 289

  Smallwood, John, town clerk of Hythe, 263, _note_ 1

  Smiths at Coventry, election of keepers among, 118, _note_ 1

  Smuggling at Southampton, 293-294

  Songs, political and satirical, their decline in fifteenth century, 6;
    pictures of town life in, 6-12

  Soper, William, repairs Water gate, Southampton, &c., 291

  Southampton, example of early municipal government, 288;
    its early constitution, 305-306;
    attempt to make it a free port, 290;
    burnt, 295, 299;
    interference of royal officers in, 296-297;
    seized into King’s hands, 298;
    heavy charges, 299, 300;
    grant to Margaret of Anjou, 300, _note_ 3;
    money troubles, 300-304, 313-314;
    grant to hold land, 304, _note_ 2;
    Richard III.’s letter to, 313;
    want of political activity, 318;
    outer influences acting on, 320-321;
    administration, 305-321;
    alms, 295-296;
    aldermen, 307-309, 312, _note_;
    archers, 297, _note_ 2;
    audit house, 310;
    bailiffs, 305, 309;
    Bargate tower, 310;
    inquisition of boundaries in 1254, 314, _note_ 4;
    castle, 297, _note_ 3;
    common box, 314;
    burgesses distinguished from commonalty, 311;
    its charters, 306-310;
    common chest, 309, 314;
    church of S. Michael, 308;
    of Holy Rood, 316;
    town clerk, 309;
    foreign commerce, 288-292, 294, 320-321;
    common, 238, 314;
    corruption by town authorities, 294-295;
    council, 280, 308, 309;
    made into county, 310;
    leasing out of customs, 68, 291;
    pressure of military discipline, 297-300;
    twelve discreets, 278, _note_ 1, 308, 309;
    dispute with S. Julian’s Hospital, 314-315;
    with abbot of Westminster, 52, _note_ 1;
    about Winchester fair, 292-293;
    fair, 293;
    ferm, 300-305;
    foreign settlers, 289, 293, 320;
    God’s House Meadow, 314;
    guild merchant, 198, _note_ 1, 207, _note_ 3, 305;
    exclusive right of melting tin ore given to, 293;
    guildhall, 310, 312;
    guild rules, 258, _note_ 1;
    town gunner, 298;
    protection of harbour, 298;
    hospital of S. Julian, 295;
    home industries, 288-289;
    Italian merchants in, 290, 293;
    common lands, 311, 314-317;
    settlement of London traders in, 291;
    mayor the alderman of the guild, 306, 407, _note_ 2;
    his powers, 306;
    election, 274-275, 306-307, 312-313;
    salary, 314;
    authority as King’s admiral, 319;
    importance, 319-320;
    presented at court leet, 318, _note_;
    deposed, 303, _note_ 1;
    burgesses allowed to do without, 307;
    town officers, their election and duties, 308-309;
    “out-burgesses”, 47, _note_ 2;
    outlay in 1428, 303-304;
    paviour, 32, _note_ 3;
    relief to paupers, 296;
    recorder, 302, 303;
    revenue in 1428, 303-304;
    Saltmarsh, 314;
    common seal, 309;
    smuggling, 293-294;
    made staple of metals, 293;
    style, 307, 308;
    decree about alien tailors, 294;
    treaties with trading towns, 53;
    growth of trade, 292-294, 305, _note_ 1;
    maintenance of walls, &c., 292, 298-299;
    wharf, 294, _note_ 1;
    Water gate, 291;
    money left for water pipes, 76;
    condition of working people in fourteenth century, 295, 296

  Southwell, church of, Whitsuntide offerings at, 329

  Spain, its trade with Bristol, 73;
    with Southampton, 290, 291, 294

  Speaker, the common, of Lynn, 414;
    of common council of Norwich, 376;
    of House of Commons, 376, _note_ 3

  Spurriers, guild of, its rules, 147

  “Stallingers” in Preston, 48

  Stapledon, Bishop, founds Ashburton school and Exeter college, 13,
      _note_ 2

  Statutes for regulation of craft guilds, 148-149;
    for protection of drapers’ craftsmen, 87

  Steelyard, right of keeping, 27

  Stockport, its school, 16

  Stour, Act of Parliament for deepening, 435

  Stratford, school of guild at, 13, _note_ 2

  Stratford, London butchers rent houses at, 44-45;
    meeting of journeymen saddlers at, 126

  Streets, improvement in their condition, 32

  Strikes among journeymen, 123-127

  Stroud, Flemish workmen settle in valley of, 88

  Stuppeneys, the, of Romney, 59, _note_

  Suffolk, Earl of, 387, 392

  Sundays, reason for rules about closing on, 148;
    shooting practised at Southampton on, 297;
    trading forbidden on, 133

  Sussex, popular movements in, 429

  Sutton, Priors’, united with King’s Suttons, 219-220

  Sye, John, obtains licence to enclose common ground in Nottingham,
      348, _note_ 3

  Symon, of Lynn, his pledge on behalf of Lübeck merchants, 404

  Syre, John, schoolmaster at Canterbury, 14, _note_ 2


  Tailors of Coventry, 208-209;
    of Exeter, 172-181, 184;
    of Lynn, 151, _note_ 1;
    merchant, of London, granted royal charter, 182, _note_ 1;
    their charters of 1390 and 1502, 143, _note_ 3;
    their right of search transferred to mayor, 149, _note_ 1;
    their school, 13, _note_ 2;
    strike among their journeymen, 126-127;
    alien, decree of Southampton in 1407 about, 294

  Tames, the, of Fairford, 68

  Tanners, protected against shoemakers, 165-166;
    of Norwich, 105

  Taverners, profit allowed to be taken by, 36;
    rebellions of, in London, 139

  Tawyers of London, their ordinances of 1365, 165

  Tenterden, its proposed union with Rye, 261-262

  Thorney, abbot of, his dispute with Northampton, 52, _note_

  Tilers, regulations for their work, 152

  Tilly, mayor of Bristol, 267

  Tin ore, exclusive right of melting given to Southampton guild, 293

  Tol-booth of Norwich, 362, 389, _note_ 1

  Toll, retaliation in taking of, 53, _note_ 1;
    at Ipswich, money left for relief from, 76;
    at Retford, settled by Nottingham, 335, _note_ 2

  “Tollerati” in Canterbury, 47

  “Tolleration money” in Canterbury, 47

  Totnes, its merchant guild, 33, _note_ 2, 220

  Tourns of sheriffs of Norwich, 381

  Towns, the characteristic movement of the fifteenth century in,
    their condition in Middle Ages, 29-33;
    their accounts, use of Roman numerals in, 259;
    town-books, 258;
    burgesses and commonalty, 231-236;
    copies of Magna Charta bought by, 236;
    class inequalities and rivalries, 60;
    effacing of class-distinctions, 80-81;
    ancient customs, 230;
    copying and translating of custumals, 257-258;
    keeping of deeds, 258, _note_ 2;
    systems of government, 223-230, 253-254, 273-281;
    foreigners in, 90-96;
    their relations with guilds, 128-131, 135-138, 140-158, 181-189,
    jury-system, 228-229;
    intellectual life, 19-23;
    common lands, 234, 237-239;
    their traditions of ancient liberties, 235-236;
    prosperous middle class of, 57;
    the appointment of officers in, 249-252;
    rise of oligarchy, 240-246, 255-257, 264-265;
    ordinances affected by local circumstances, 99, _note_ 2;
    strife of parties, 158-159, 190-191;
    early privileges, 50-51;
    questions of conflicting rights in, 51-52;
    rolls, 259-260;
    treaties made between towns, 52-53;
    of eastern coast, their intense vitality, 360-361;
    of Netherlands, their temper of independence, 360-361.

  Trade, mediæval system of, 55;
    contrasted with modern theory, 134-136;
    reasons for its regulation, 43-48;
    its depression under Henry VIII., 87;
    free, 41, 47-56;
    manufacturing, its decline in Canterbury, London, and Norwich, 88;
    between towns, 53-54;
    of Bristol, 73;
    of Liverpool, 41;
    of Lynn, 404.
    _See_ Cloth, Wool

  Trade union, modern, its difference from mediæval craft guild,
      115-116, 134-136, 159-160

  Traders, English, their character, 82-85;
    power to hold citizenship in more than one borough, 49;
    rough training, 57-59;
    position in towns, 60-62;
    devices to increase wealth, 64-66;
    capitalists and employers, 66-67;
    lend money to kings, 78;
    great marriages, 78-80;
    their art of organization, 83;
    their complaint against foreigners, 94-95;
    against suburban manufacturers, 96-97;
    their fraudulent dealings, 137-138;
    feeling of common folk against, 138;
    their foundation of schools, 16, 17;
    withdrawal outside town boundaries, 45-46;
    alien, 39-40, 47-48

  Trades ordered to form themselves into guilds, 155-156;
    disputes about boundaries, 165-166;
    terms of incorporation, 156;
    of London, jurisdiction of, in early fourteenth century, 149,
        _note_ 2

  Treaties between towns, 52-53, 233;
    commercial, of Henry VII., 87

  Trenode, Richard, his services to Plymouth, 219-220

  Trent, bridge over, 322, 324;
    dispute about control of waters, 328-329;
    free passage granted to Nottingham, 331

  “Triours” of Canterbury, 276

  “Trove”, weighing of wool at the, 28

  Tuddenham, Sir Thomas, 388, 389, 391, 393, 394

  Turks, war against, grant from Richard II. to Emperor for, 292,
      _note_ 1

  Turtle, mayor of Bristol, 267

  Tyece, James, of Romney, 61


  Usurers, burghers become, 77-78


  Venice, its trade with Southampton, 288, 290, 291;
    ships of, compete with Jacques Cœur for Mediterranean coasting
        trade, 81;
    galleys, 288, 305, _note_ 1

  “Vice-comites”, 361, _note_ 3

  Victuallers, profit allowed to be taken by, 35-36;
    their wealth, 60-65;
    forbidden to hold offices in towns, 62, _note_ 1


  Wages, payment on truck system, 65-66;
    disputes about, 88;
    fixed by law, 152;
    of labourers and artizans in fifteenth century, 131-133;
    of labourer in Norwich before 1340, 101;
    of journeyman, 104, _note_ 1;
    of town clerk, 262

  Wakefield, cloth-makers at, 89

  Walden, teaching of children at, 17-18

  Waleys, Nicholas, 390

  Wallingford, its trade with Romney, 61

  Walloons in Sandwich, 430, _note_ 4

  Walsall, authority of guilds at, 183-184

  Wars of the Roses, action of townsmen in, 331;
    their effects on towns, 265;
    on Southampton budget, 300-304

  Wards of Norwich, 376, 380;
    of Sandwich, 431;
    hereditary owners of, 253;
    of Canterbury, 276, 279, _note_ 1

  Warden of guilds sworn before mayor, 150

  Warwick, guilds and government in, 186

  Warwick, Earl of, 302;
    Lydd sends men to help, 262;
    his relations with Southampton, 299, 302, 303

  Wayhill, fair at, 66

  Wealth, its unequal distribution among townspeople, 60;
    of butchers, brewers, and victuallers, 60-65;
    devices to increase, 64-67

  Weavers of Bristol, their complaints, 92;
    forbidden to employ women, 96, _note_;
    of Leicester, 122, _note_ 1;
    of London, their privileges, 141-142;
    quarrels with burellers, 160-162;
    decline of the guild, 162;
    of Newcastle, 102, _note_ 2;
    of Nottingham, their payment to King for guild, 141, _note_;
    of Winchester, 121, _note_ 5;
    of York, their monopoly, 106, _note_ 1;
    Flemish, in England, 90-91, 94;
    ordinances for, 162

  Weigher, the common, 34

  Weights tested and sealed by mayor, 27-28;
    use of stones for, 28

  Wells, its council of twenty-four, 278, _note_ 1

  Welles, John, 391

  Wendling, abbot of, his disputes with Norwich, 387, _note_

  Westminster, abbot of, his relations with Southampton, 52, _note_,
      53, _note_ 4

  Wetherby, Thomas, 389-393

  Whittingdon, Richard, his prosperity, 72

  Widows, provision for, in Nottingham and London, 80

  Wight, Isle of, supplied by Southampton with wool for web, 289

  William of Worcester, 20

  William-at-the-Mill, 262

  Wiltshire, Earl of, seizes carracks of Genoa in Southampton, 302

  Winchelsea, its gun-metal, 54, _note_ 1;
    election of jurats in, 434, _note_ 2

  Winchester attempts free trade, 47, _note_ 1;
    its treaty with Southampton, 53;
    fair, 66, 292;
    ordinance against payment on truck system, 66, _note_ 1;
    payment of weavers in, 121, _note_ 5;
    bailiffs, 286;
    craft guilds, 142;
    contribution of burellers to ferm, 154, _note_ 1;
    German town clerk, 261;
    method of electing mayor, 274;
    its constitution, 286;
    its common seal, 286;
    staple for wool, 290;
    Parliament at, 400

  Women might be traders, 33, _note_ 2;
    admitted to guild merchant, 33, 193, _note_;
    disputes about employment of, 88;
    employment as weavers in Bristol forbidden, 96, _note_;
    their property guarded by law, 33, _note_ 2

  Wool stored in common house, 3;
    weighed at the “Trove”, 28;
    manufactured at Nottingham, 326;
    different qualities of, 88, _note_ 3;
    Winchester made staple for, 290;
    trade in, its importance, 11;
    superseded by cloth manufacture, 98-99;
    in Norfolk, supervised by Norwich, 385-386

  Worcester, free school of the guild of S. Nicholas at, 13, _note_ 2;
    its “citizens denizen” and “citizens foreign”, 39-40;
    its disputes with Shrewsbury, 42, _note_ 1;
    ordinance against payment on truck system, 66, _note_ 1;
    complaint about non-observance of assize of breadth of cloth, 67,
        _note_ 2;
    its decay, 97, _note_ 3;
    ordinances to protect townsmen against country weavers, 106;
    regulation for tilers, 152;
    common lands, 237;
    town clerk, 259, _note_ 6;
    use of parchment, 259;
    appointment of serjeants and constables in, 271, _note_ 3;
    its two councils, 278 _note_ 2

  Worsted shearers of Norwich, 149, _note_ 1

  Worsted trade of Norwich and Norfolk, 385-386

  Wotton-under-Edge, first lay school at, 16, _note_ 2

  Wycombe, its fair, 25, _note_ 2;
    gifts to church, 75, _note_ 2;
    mayor, 260, _note_ 4;
    his election, 228;
    binding of corporation books, 230, _note_ 2;
    common lands, 237


  Yarmouth, its two councils, 278, _note_ 2;
    translation of book of laws and customs, 258, _note_ 1;
    appointment of searcher, 79, _note_ 1;
    appointment of bailiffs by Cinque Ports, 434

  Yelverton, Judge, 394

  Ymme, John, M.P. for Norwich, 400

  York, its mistery of mercers, 69, _note_ 2;
    merchant’s daughter of, marries Sir W. Plumpton, 78;
    coverlet-makers, 97, _note_ 3;
    weavers, 106, _note_ 1;
    Edward IV.’s patent about election of mayor, 186;
    guilds, 205, _note_ 1;
    guildhall, 205;
    town clerk, 261, _note_ 1, 263

  York, Duke of, his reception at Norwich, 394

  Yorkshire, Flemish weavers in, 94


  Zealand, its trade with Southampton, 291, 294;
    with Lynn, 404




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[1] Journ. Arch. Ass. xxvii. 461, 488.

[2] Freeman’s Exeter, 146-7.

[3] Book of Precedence, E. E. Text Society, part ii. 8-18, 79, etc.
143, etc. Manners and Meals (E. E. Text Soc.), 175.

[4] Paston Letters, ii. 319.

[5] Lamond’s Walter of Henley 123-145. Monum. Franciscana (Rolls
Series), i. app. ix.

[6] Manners and Meals, pp. 250, 251, 252.

[7] Ibid. 258-260.

[8] Ibid. 274.

[9] “Take not every rope’s end with every man that hauls,” ran the
warning to the young. “Believe not all men that speak thee fair,
Whether that it be common, burgess or mayor.” Manners and Meals, 183.
See Songs and Carols (Percy Society, vol. xxiii.) viii. ix. xviii.

[10] Manners and Meals, 182.

[11] Percy Society, vol. xxiii. Songs and Carols, see songs xxxii. and

[12] Commonplace book of the fifteenth century edited by Miss Toulmin
Smith. Catechism of Adrian and Epotys, p. 40, lines 421-8.


“Men’s works have often interchange That now is nurture sometime had
been strange. Things whilom used be now laid aside And new fetis
[fashions] daily be contrived.”

—Caxton’s Book of Courtesy (E. E. Text Society), 45.

[14] Manners and Meals, 271.

[15] Ibid. p. 265.

[16] The popularity of the “Ship of Fools,” with its trite,
long-winded, and vague moralities, is an excellent indication of the
intellectual position of the new middle class.

[17] Songs and Carols (Percy Society, xxiii.), song xxx.

[18] Songs and Carols (Percy Society, xxiii.) lxxvi.

[19] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 174.

[20] Book of Precedence, 106. “Money maketh merchants, I tell you, over
all.” Skelton’s Poems (ed. Dyce) i. 277.


“‘Though some be clannere than some, ye see well,’ quoth Grace, That
all craft and connyng came of my gift.”

—Passus xxii. 252-3.


“Son, if thou wist what thing it were, Connynge to learn and with
thee to bear, Thou would not mis-spend one hour, For of all treasure
connynge is the flower; If thou wilt live in peace and rest Hear and
see and say the best.”

Book of Precedence, 69. Another rhyme gives the lesson in ruder form.

“Learn as fast as thou may and can For our Bishop is an old man And
therefore thou must learn fast If thou wilt be Bishop when he is past.”

—Manners and Meals, 383.

[23] See Manners and Meals, lii to lxii.

[24] At Lynn there was in 1383 a Guild “of young scholars”; at
Worcester the Guild of S. Nicholas kept “time out of mind a free school
within the said city in a great hall belonging to the said Guild called
the Trinity Hall.” The Guild of Palmers supported a school at Ludlow;
and so did Guilds at Stratford and at Deritend. The Guild of Kalenders
in Bristol had in the twelfth century kept a school of Jews, and when
that business came to an end were still charged with education, public
lectures, and the management of a free library. (English Guilds, 51,
205, 196, 221, 288. See Hunt’s Bristol, 112, 249, 260.) The Drapers had
a school at Shrewsbury (Hibbert’s Inf. of English Guilds, 33); and the
Merchant Tailors in London (Clode, 35). I learn from Mr. A. F. Leach
that at Ashburton the Grammar School founded 1314 by Bishop Stapledon
of Exeter (who also founded Exeter College) was entrusted to the Guild
of St. Lawrence, whose chantry-priest was the schoolmaster. The school
is still kept on the site of the Guild Chapel, the original tower of
which forms part of the School.

[25] Hunter’s Deanery of Doncaster, vol ii. 5-6.

[26] Bentham’s History of Ely Cathedral, 2nd Edition, 182. Hull Grammar
School Gazette, 1891, No. 8, p. 88. See Riley’s Liber Albus, xix.
There was a grammar master at Ewelme Almshouse 1461 (ibid. 627), where
teaching was to be free (ibid. ix. 217-8). Four new grammar schools
were opened in London in 1447, and during the reign of Henry the Sixth
nine were set up in London alone (Pauli’s Pictures, 452). In 1472 Prior
Selling, of Christchurch, reports to the Archbishop of Canterbury that
he has provided a “schoolmaster for your grammar schools in Canterbury,
the which hath lately taught grammar at Winchester and at S. Antony’s
in London” (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 105). John Syre, the grammar school
master in 1436, lived in Gayhow’s tenement, S. Alphege parish (ibid.
139). The Almshouse of the poor sisters in Reading was in 1486 turned
into a grammar school (Coates’ Reading, 15); there was a school in
Appleby taught by a chantry priest before the middle of the fifteenth
century (Transactions of Cumberland and Westmoreland Arch. Soc. part
ii. vol. viii.); and one in Preston whose master was made a burgess
in 1415 (Memorials of Preston Guilds, 14). In Liverpool there was an
endowed free school before the reformation (Picton’s Memorials, ii.
55-6). Miss Dormer Harris has learned from the town records that the
expenses of the grammar school at Coventry in the fifteenth century,
were paid by the Trinity Guild—in other words, by the Corporation.
It is evident that when William Bingham, who founded a grammar school
attached to Clare Hall, Cambridge, says that in 1439 he passed seventy
deserted schools in travelling from Hampton to Ripon by way of
Coventry (Boase’s Oxford, 108), we cannot infer from this any decay
in education. It may have indicated a shifting of population, or more
probably perhaps the results of the effort made in 1391 to prevent
villeins from being put to the clerical schools in preparation for
taking minor orders and so gaining emancipation from their lords. Rot.
Parl. iii. 294.

[27] In the royal accounts the principal artizans in each craft audit
such parts of the accounts as deal with labour and sign every page
(Rogers’ Agric. and Prices, iv. 502).

[28] Richard the Redeless, pass. ii. 41.

[29] The Will of Sir John Percivale, published by the Governors of
the Macclesfield School. I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. A. F.
Leach for this reference—as well as for that about Stockport, and
the reference to the School Gazette and the Town Records of Hull. He
informs me that the first school founded by a lay person of which we
have as yet any record was at Wotton-under-Edge, and was founded by a
woman, Lady Berkeley, in 1385.

[30] Baines’ Hist. of the County of Lancaster, i. 296-7.

[31] The author of Piers Ploughman criticizes the education given by
the clerics of his day. “Grammar that ground is of all” was neglected
so that no one could now either “versify fair” or construe what the
poets wrote.

“Doctors of degree and of divinity masters That should the seven arts
conne and assoil _ad quodlibet_, But they fail in philosophy, an
philosophers lived And would well examine them, wonder me thinketh!”

—Passus xviii. 107-118.

[32] The “alphabet and the humanities” did not imply culture in
anything like our sense of the word, nor yet Latin from the literary
point of view, but the old ecclesiastical discipline, which included
above all things _logic_, and which ultimately led, if the pupil
advanced far enough, to the scholastic philosophy. Thus for example in
the _Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_ one of the (priestly) correspondents
is made to protest against the introduction of the study of Vergil and
other new-fangled writers.

[33] Hist. MSS. Com. viii. 281-2.

[34] Hist. MSS. Com. x. part 4, 425-6.

[35] Nottingham Records, i. 246, 263.

[36] Ordinances for Dame Agnes Meller’s School, Nott. Rec. iii. 453-6.
The Mayor of Chester had the payment of the master at Farneworth,
Lancashire. (Hist. MSS. Com. viii. 370.) In Coventry the corporation
(_i.e._, the Trinity Guild) paid the master.

[37] Ibid. iv. 191.

[38] Nott. Rec., iv. 214.

[39] Collectanea (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), ii. 334-6.

[40] Paston Letters, i. 431. Hunt’s Bristol, 112.

[41] Introduction by Miss Toulmin Smith to Ricart’s Calendar. Lives
of the Berkeleys, i. 5, 7. Skelton was possibly a native of Norfolk,
perhaps of Norwich. Skelton’s Poems, ed. Dyce, I. v. vi.

[42] Caxton’s Book of Courtesy, 33-41. See Manners and Meals, lix.
Skelton’s Poems (ed. Dyce), I. 75, 377-9.

[43] Directions not to spare the rod were constant. Manners and Meals,
384. See the poor boy’s complaint, p. 385-6. Tusser’s lines show that
the system was not confined to the lower schools.

“From Paul’s I went to Eton, sent To learn straightways the Latin
phrase; Where fifty-three stripes given to me At once I had,

For fault but small, or none at all, It came to pass thus beat I was.
See, Udall, see the mercy of thee To me, poor lad!”

Erasmus, in his Praise of Folly, singles the schoolmasters out as “a
race of men the most miserable, who grow old in penury and filth in
their schools—_schools_ did I say? _prisons! dungeons!_ I should
have said—among their boys, deafened with din, poisoned by a fetid
atmosphere; but thanks to their folly perfectly self-satisfied so
long as they can bawl and shout to their terrified boys, and box and
beat and flog them, and so indulge in all kinds of ways their cruel
disposition.” One such master he tells of who to crush boys’ unruly
spirits, and to subdue the wantonness of their age, never took a meal
with his flock without making the comedy end in a tragedy. “So at the
end of the meal one or another boy was dragged out to be flogged.”
Boase’s Oxford, 76-77.

[44] The Commonweal (ed. E. Lamond), 21-23, 30.

[45] Manners and Meals, xxiv. Cf. ibid. xxvi. xlv.

[46] See Crossthwaite. Rep. Royal Com. on Markets, 25.

[47] “Feria” or Saint’s day. The place originally held by the fair is
illustrated by the ancient custom in Leicester, that when merchants
went to the great fairs, when the “fairs were up no plea was holden no
more of them that were at home, than of them that were at the fairs;”
this was altered by Crouchback’s charter of 1277, so that those who
stayed at home might be tried in case of complaint. Hist. MSS. Com.
viii. 423-4.

[48] The Fair of Wycombe was held on the Day of S. Thomas the Martyr
from time out of mind. It had begun to decline by 1527, and the Mayor
and Bailiffs bitterly complained that now scarcely any one came to
keep up the fair and that the shopkeepers kept their shops and stalls
at home in the town as usual. A strict order was made by the Council
in 1527 that “no manner of man nor woman” should keep open shop in the
town on that day or show their goods in the street, but should “resort
unto the Fair there as it is wont to be kept.” Parker’s Hist. of
Wycombe, 29.

[49] Rep. Royal Com. on Markets, 1, 7, 9.

[50] Ibid. 19, 25.

[51] The grants of fairs and markets in the thirteenth century were
about 3,300; in the fourteenth century about 1,560; in the fifteenth
century to 1482 about 100; Report on Markets, 108-131.

[52] Rep. on Markets, 9. On the other hand in Scotland the right of
market was one of the ordinary privileges of a trading town. Ibid. 26.

[53] Ibid. 19. Sometimes not till the fifteenth century, as in Norwich.

[54] Ibid. 9. For the setting up of the beam and directions about
weighing, Ibid. 57, 25. Paston Letters, ii. 106. Kingdon’s Grocers’
Company, I. xiii-xv., xviii., xix., xxiv.-xxxiii. Schanz, i. 579-82.
Towns were compelled to keep standard measures by Stat. 8 Henry VI.
cap. 5; 11 Henry VI. cap. 8; 7 Henry VII. cap. 3. The Commons asked
Henry VII. to have measures made at his own cost; he agreed, but
refused to take the cost. When they were made in 1495 members of
Parliament had to carry them back to their several towns from London.
11 Henry VII. cap. 4.

[55] Boys’ Sandwich, 431, 496, 498, 509.

[56] Report on Markets, 25. Cutts’ Colchester, 154-7. Nott. Rec. i.

[57] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 152. For the uncertainty as to the stone of
wool, Rogers, Agric. and Prices, i. 367.

[58] Plumpton Correspondence, 21.

[59] Rogers’ Agric. and Prices, i. 660. The introduction of carriers
and posts was later in England than in France. Denton’s Lectures, 190-5.

[60] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 489. In very many towns the churchyard was
without any enclosure even in the fifteenth century. For the overseer
of the streets and his hog-man see Boys’ Sandwich, 674.

[61] Nottingham Records, iv. 190.

[62] Blomefield, iii. 183.

[63] Parker’s Manor of Aylesbury, 14-15.

[64] In 1388 town officers were ordered to clean their towns of all
that could corrupt and infect the air and bring disease. 12 Richard II.
cap. 13. The shambles were commonly at the very corner of the Tol-booth
or Moot Hall. Hewitson’s Hist. of Preston, 36. See Shillingford’s
Letters, 89. But in 1487 the Londoners after sixteen years continual
remonstrance obtained a statute that no butcher was to kill any beast
within the walls of the town, and that the same law was to be observed
in all walled towns of England except Berwick and Carlisle. 4 Henry
VII. cap. 3.

[65] A grant for paving was given to Liverpool in 1329. Picton’s Mun.
Rec. of Liverpool, i. 10. Southampton appointed in 1482 a “pavyour” who
should dwell in a house of the town at a price of 13_s._ 4_d._ rent
free “and to have yearly a gown.” Davies, 119, 120. Nottingham decided
in 1501 to have a town paviour at a salary of 33_s._ 4_d._ and a gown;
and gave order that the chamberlains were to find stones and sand.
Nottingham Records, iii. 309. See vol. i. p. 18, note.

[66] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 493. In Canterbury, where the inns were very
numerous, there was a law that no hosteler should “disturb no manner
of strange man coming to the city for to take his inn, but it shall
be lawful to take his inn at his own lust without disturbance of any
hosteler.” Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 172.

[67] Married women might become merchants on their own account and
carry on trade, hold property and answer in all matters of business
before the law as independent traders. (Eng. Gilds, 382. Mun. Records,
Carlisle, ed. Ferguson and Nansen, 79. Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 174.) Women
might become members of the Merchant Gild at Totnes by inheritance, by
purchase, or by gift. (Hist. MSS. Com. iii. 342-3.) Their property was
carefully guarded, and no tenement held by the wife’s right could be
alienated or burdened with a rent unless the wife had given her free
consent openly in the Mayor’s Court. (Nott. Records, i. 83, 265.)

[68] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 540. Boys’ Sandwich, 498.

[69] The brokers were paid by a fixed tax on the merchants’ goods which
passed through their hands. Boys’ Sandwich, 497, 506-7.

[70] Hist. Preston Guild, 16.

[71] Blomefield, iii. 168. Gross, ii. 43, 175, 220. Nott. Records, i.
445-6, 159, 201; ii. 47, 241. See also the serjeant-at-mace in Sandwich
(Boys, 504-5), at Nottingham (Rec. iii. 73).

[72] For typical market rules see Reading, Gross, ii. 204-7.
Southampton, Ibid. 220.

[73] See Schanz, i. 621-2.

[74] The loaf was changed in weight not in price with the price of
corn; the lowest rate conceived by ancient writers was 12_d._ a quarter
of corn; the unit of bread was 1/4_d._ loaf. (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 175.)
Twelve kinds are mentioned in the fifteenth century, but in the Assize
only three sorts were recognized—Wastel or white or well-baked bread;
Coket (seconds); Simnel, twice baked bread, used only in Lent. (English
Guilds, 102. Boys’ Sandwich, 543.)

[75] Manorial Pleas, Selden Soc. xxxviii. For control of bread and beer
at the time of Domesday see Rep. on Markets, 18. In Norwich supervisors
of bread were appointed before 1340. The system seems to have worked
well, for no troubles as to the assize of bread are recorded, as in
other towns. Leet. Jur. of Norwich, Selden Soc. xxxvi.

[76] Rep. on Markets, 25.

[77] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 288. In certain departments, as in the fixing
of the prices of bread and ale, in measures, in various rules about
buying and selling, the towns simply carried out laws made by the
central government; while in other things such as the regulation of the
price of meat, poultry, fish, and wine, they were from time to time
given authority to fix their own standard.

[78] Andover, Gross, ii. 310. Cutts’ Colchester, 154-7.

[79] In 1383 the price of unsweetened wine was practically left to the
towns for about a hundred years. Schanz, i. 647. For common consumption
wine was sweetened with honey and flavoured with blackberries. Archæol.
Cantiana, vi. 328.

[80] Liber Albus, 289, 373-86, 686-91, Liber Custumarum, 117-120,
385-6. Statutes 22 Edward IV. cap. 2. Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 172.

[81] Ricart’s Kalendar, 81-84.

[82] Piers Ploughman. Pass. xxii. 398-404.

[83] Nott. Rec. iii. 357.

[84] Select Pleas of the Crown, Selden Soc. 88-9. Hist. MSS. Com. ix.
172. Gross, i. 45. English Guilds, 353, 381-4.

[85] English Guilds, 353.

[86] Journ. Arch. Ass. xxvii. 476. English Guilds, 392.

[87] Gross, ii. 1 175. Rep. on Markets, 16.

[88] English Guilds, 390, 392, 406.

[89] The town liberties did not always extend over the whole town
territory. The liberties of Carlisle were confined to a small district
in the centre of the modern town, and did not extend beyond the
limits of this “ancient city.” Hereford up till 1830 was divided
into two parts, the In-Borough where the inhabitant householders had
the elective franchise and the Out-Borough comprising all beyond the
In-Borough that was under the corporate jurisdiction. Papers relating
to Parl. Representation, 1829-32.

[90] Collectanea, ii. (Oxford. Hist. Soc.), 13.

[91] Freeman’s Exeter, 143.

[92] Gross, ii. 262. Rot. Hund. i. 356, 3 Ed. i. When an unusual press
of people was drawn to the town by some festival or public occasion
orders were issued to allow country dealers to bring food within the
walls and sell it without paying toll or any other manner of charge.
Davies’ York, 167.

[93] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 606-7. Gross, i. 48-9. See Vol. I. p. 182, n.
4. Sometimes the monopoly was given to the townspeople (Gross, i. 46;
ii. 28, 46, 205, 255); in other cases to the Merchant Guild which had
power to enroll non-residents among its numbers. (Gross, i. 47, 52,
122, 139, 153, 191, 218.) In cases of abuse there was an appeal to the
king. (Rep. on Markets, 25, 60.)

[94] Picton’s Municipal Records of Liverpool, i. 17, 18, 28. It is
evident that the system of protection was not universally popular,
for when in 1515 a commission was sent to examine why Liverpool had
so decayed that its contributions to the Exchequer had fallen off, a
complaint was made that the mayor had caused the decline in the customs
revenue by the enfranchisement of strangers living in the borough, who
were thus freed from the payment of dues that had once gone to the
Crown. (Picton’s Memorials, i. 38.) Leland writing in 1533 says: “Irish
merchants come much thither as to a good haven,” and in the margin he
adds, “at Liverpool is a small custom paid that causeth merchants to
resort.” The trade of later days had even then begun: “Good merchants
at Liverpool, much Irish yarn that Manchester men do buy there.” (Ibid.
i. 46.)

[95] Fosbrooke’s Gloucestershire, i. 204-8. For the trade with Wales,
ibid. 156-7. See also the rovers of the Forest of Dean and the troubles
of Tewkesbury and Gloucester, in Stat. 8 Henry the Sixth, cap. 27.
There were similar disputes between Shrewsbury and Worcester as to the
limits of their jurisdiction over the Severn. (Owen’s Shrewsbury, i.

[96] To encourage the carriage of corn in some places, probably in
many, while the toll on every horse laden with a pack of marketable
goods was 1_d[.]_, a corn-laden beast was charged only one farthing.
(Materials for Hist. Henry VII. vol. ii. 332.) For a case of toll
illegally levied on victuals see Rep. on Markets 57.

[97] Collectanea (Oxford Hist. Soc.), ii. 120; 50-51. In the sixteenth
century when the victuallers’ laws were no longer enforced to any
extent, other measures were found necessary to keep a constant supply
of corn in the bigger towns.

[98] See Collectanea (Oxford Hist. Soc.), ii. 49.

[99] Riley’s Mem. 180.

[100] Ibid. 181.

[101] Nottingham Records, iii. 354. Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 172-5. Ibid. v.

[102] Preamble of Canterbury regulations for brewers and bakers drawn
up in 1487. (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 173.)

[103] Ibid. For suburban trades see girdlers and embroiderers in
London. (Schanz i. 608. Rolls Parl. iv. 73.)

[104] For the attempt at free trade in Winchester in 1430, following
the example of Coventry and New Sarum, see Gross, ii. 261. Another rule
of the assembly in the same direction was passed in 1471, apparently
in the attempt to find a new source of income for payment of the ferm.
Ibid. 262.

[105] Muniments of Canterbury. In Southampton there was a class of
Out-burgesses who did not live in the town; they were allowed to vote
for a mayor and members of Parliament, but might not be present at a
common council. (Davies’ Southampton, 197.)

[106] Preston Guild Rolls, xvi. xx.

[107] For breach of this custom see Rep. on Markets, 57 (Wallingford),
60-61. (Bosworth, Lafford.)

[108] Preston Guild Rolls, xii.

[109] Ibid. xii. xxiv. xxix. xxx.

[110] Rep. on Markets, 61.

[111] In 1209 there were fifty-six foreigners in the Shrewsbury Guild;
forty years later they had increased to 234. (Hibbert’s Influence and
Development of English Gilds, 18.)

[112] Many merchants of Lynn were made freemen of Canterbury and also
admitted to the Brotherhood of the Monastery, by letters of fraternity
which gave them a share in certain spiritual benefits. Is it possible
that any trading privileges were connected with this?

[113] As far away as Nottingham oxen and sheep were forestalled and
sold to butchers of London. Nott. Rec. iii. 48.

[114] Leet Jurisdiction of Norwich (Selden Soc.), lxxiv.

[115] Select Pleas of the Crown (Selden Soc.), 88-9.

[116] Case of the Abbot of Westminster against Southampton. Rot. Parl.
i. 20-21. Trial before the King’s Bench at Westminster in 1201 where
the Burgesses of Northampton claim that unjust toll is taken from them
by the Abbot of Thorney, which he defends by virtue of custom and an
older charter than Northampton. Select Civil Pleas (Selden Soc.), i.
11. See a case at Plymouth, 1495; Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 273. Leicester
and Nottingham; Ibid. viii. 416-417. Southampton and Bristol; Report
on Markets, 56. Winchester; Ibid. 55. See also Ibid. 62; Gross, ii.
257-8; 177-182; 147; 379. A merchant from the Cinque Ports who insisted
on the privilege of burgesses to pay no toll with regard to some wool
in Blackwell Hall, in the time of Henry the Eighth, had to defend his
rights and won his case.

[117] Retaliation in taking of toll is expressly mentioned in the
charter of London. Stubbs’ Select Charters, 104.

[118] 1238. Gross, ii. 173-174.

[119] Gross, ii. 256.

[120] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 16. For agreement between Southampton
and Portsmouth 1239, Marlborough 1239, Bristol 1260, Netley Abbey 1288,
Bishop of Winchester 1312, Lymington 1324, New Sarum 1329, Coventry
1456, see Davies’ Southampton, 225-228; Abbot of Westminster Rot. Parl.
i. 20-21. Other instances Rep. on Markets, 40-41. Select Civil Pleas
(Selden Soc.), i. 11. Nottingham Rec. i. 55, ii. 349, 362. Gross, ii.
389-90, Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 212.

[121] Journ. Arch. Ass. xxvii. 416-7. When a gun was made for Lydd,
metal for it was bought at Winchelsea and Hastings. (Hist. MSS. Com. v.
516-517, 521.) The Nottingham founder sent to Lincolnshire for his bell
metal. (Nott. Rec. ii. 143, 145).

[122] Ibid. ii. 179; iii. 19, 21, 29.

[123] Hist. MSS. Com. viii. 414.

[124] Select Pleas of the Crown (Selden Soc.), i. 89. Rep. on Markets,

[125] See Calendar of Letters from Corporation of London. 1350-1370,
ed. by Dr. Sharpe.

[126] Piers Ploughman. Pass vii. 250.

[127] These can be traced from 1285 to the time of James I.; they were
probably Jews who had come with the Conqueror and were allowed to get
land. Survey of Birmingham, 50.

[128] For example William Hollingbroke of Romney, whose wife Joanna
sold blankets in 1373, was one of the members sent to Parliament and
headed the list of taxpayers in a ward named after him Hollingbroke
Ward from 1384 till 1401. Then his widow took his place till she
retired from business in 1404, and the once opulent family, for a time
represented by a single trader Stephen, seems finally to have become
extinct in 1441. The chief position in local trade then passed to the
Stuppeneys who settled in the town in 1436 and whose local fame is
still recalled by the fact that even now the yearly election of the
Mayor of Romney takes place in the church of S. Nicholas at the tomb of
one of them who was Jurat of the town.

[129] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 523-531.

[130] Between 1353 and 1380. Ibid. vi. 545. Ibid. iv. 1, 424-8. Ibid.
v. 533. The mayor of Liverpool, who in 1380 had property to the value
of £28 6_s._ 4_d._, made up of domestic utensils, grain in store, wheat
sown, nine oxen and cows, six horses, and eighteen pigs, was no doubt a
very rich man in his own borough. Picton’s Mem. Liverpool, i. 30.

[131] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 534, 535, 536, 539, 541-3.

[132] Piers Ploughman. Pass. iv. 83. A prosperous cook at Oxford in
1400 married his daughter to one Lelham “Dominus de Grove.” By the
marriage contract the cook was to give to Lelham twenty marks to be
paid at intervals; to the bride and bridegroom he was to give three
tenements in Oxford; he was to make provision for them in his own house
for eight years, and when after that they were to be set up in a house
of their own he was to provide them with a bed, blankets, sheets, and
all other furniture needful for the same bed, a vessel for water, a
wine vase, two tablecloths, two towels, twelve silver spoons, two
cups, two brass pots, one chawfre, four plates, one dozen vessels for
garnishing the supper, two salts, two candle-sticks. Hist. MSS. Com.
xi. 3, 75-6.

[133] See Nott. Rec. iii. 74-76, 342, 353, 358-60, 461, 463. The
holding offices of all kinds by victuallers and brewers was forbidden
(Stat. 12, Ed. II. cap. 6. 6 Ri. II. st. 1, cap. 9, H.M.C. ix. 174, xi.
3, 19), as a protection to the people from fraudulent administration of
the laws concerning food; but these statutes were everywhere broken.

[134] (See pp. 352-3.)

[135] H.M.C. ix. 173-4.

[136] According to Thorold Rogers (Agric. and Prices, iv. 502-5) about
20 per cent. in excess. Skilled workmen, such as architects, artists,
trained clerks, &c., were paid at very modest rates, though sometimes
they were given honour by being boarded as gentlemen.

[137] Statutes, 12 Richard II. cap. 3.

[138] Riley’s Liber Albus, 261-2.

[139] For particulars of truck wages see Stat. 4 Edward IV. cap. 1.
This payment on the truck system was spoken of as a new thing in the
middle of the fifteenth century (Wright’s Political Songs, ii. 285),
and is referred to in Libel of English Policy. It was forbidden by town
ordinance in Winchester and Worcester. (English Guilds, 352, 383.)

[140] Piers Ploughman. Pass. vii. 213-14.

[141] Piers Ploughman. Passes vii. 215-249.

[142] For a description of the various deceits practised in
cloth-making see 3 Richard II. stat. cap. 2. Stat. of Westminster 7
Richard II. cap. 9; 15 Richard II. cap. 10. In 1221 the jurors of
Worcester were already complaining that the assize of the breadth of
cloth was not observed. Select Pleas of the Crown, Selden Soc. 97.

[143] Piers Ploughman. Pass. i. 33-4.

[144] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 259; xi. 3, 70-73, 111. Davies’ Southampton,
82. Hunt’s Bristol, 74, 97-8.

[145] Survey of Birmingham, 50, 51, 52. See above, p. 63.

[146] Journ. Archæol. Ass. xxvii. 110-148. This as one among many
proofs tends to show how wealth was passing not so much to the mere
land-owners as to the new tenants who were combining the cloth trade
with big sheep farms—the enterprising speculators who were on the
watch for the cheap lands of ruined lords to increase their own

[147] Members of the Pepperers Company began to replace the Jews at the
King’s exchange in the thirteenth century (Kingdon’s Grocers’ Company,
i. x-xii.)

[148] Von Ochenkowski, 112, 125. The upgrowth of the true class of
merchants is shewn in the Hull Guild whose ordinances date from 1499
(Lambert’s Guild Life, 157-160) and the York Mistery of Mercers of
1430, (Ibid. 167).

[149] For the forbidding of exportation of gold and silver and the
consequent regulations about travellers by sea, see 5 Richard II. St.
i. cap. 2.

[150] The Chancellor of England was given power to enquire and judge
on dealings of “dry exchange,” and also Justices of the Peace of the
neighbouring counties. Stat. 3 Henry VII. cap. 6. Compare Luchaire,
Communes Françaises, 242-4.

[151] When in the parable of Piers Ploughman the wicked Lady Mede
defends corrupt gain by the argument that merchandise cannot exist
without meed or reward the answer of Conscience is that trade is
nothing but pure barter.

“In merchandise is no meed I may it well avow It is a permutation
apertelich [evidently] one penny-worth for another.”—Piers Ploughman.
Pass. iv. 282, 315, 316.

See also the limits set even on barter—

“For it is simony to sell what sent is of grace That is wit and water,
wind, and fire the forth: These four should be free to all folk that it

Ibid. Pass. x. 55-7. Here, however, he has doubtless in his mind
the lord’s mill on the hill or by the stream, the rights of turbary
and of gathering wood in the forest, and the great need of the
people—protection in the law-courts.

[152] Von Ochenkowski, 165, 167, 245-9.

[153] Piers Ploughman. Passus x. 26.


“And though they wend by the way the two together, Though the messenger
make his way amid the wheat Will no wise man wroth be, nor his wed
take; Is not hayward yhote [ordered] his wed for to take; But if the
merchant make his way over men’s corn, And the hayward happen with
him for to meet, Either his hat or his hood, or else his gloves The
merchant must forego, or the money of his purse.”

—Piers Ploughman. Pass. xiv. 42-50.

[155] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 443. For merchants’ marks in S. George’s
Church, Doncaster, see Hunter’s Deanery of Doncaster, i. 14.

[156] Plummer’s Fortescue, 235.

[157] Piers Ploughman. Pass. vii. 278-285.

[158] Ibid. Pass. xiv. 50-51.

[159] See Ship of Fools, Barclay, 43, st. 4.

[160] Lib. Eng. Pol. Wright’s Political Poems, ii. 178.

[161] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 601-4.

[162] Hunt’s Bristol, 75, 93-5; 126-8.

[163] Hunt’s Bristol, 94-5, 108. A Bristol grocer left 350 ounces of
silver plate to be divided among his children. Ibid. 108. The first
fork we hear of in England in 1443 belonged to a citizen family in
York. “Unum par cultellorum vocat’ ‘karving knyves’ et unum par
forpicum argenteorum.” (Plumpton Correspondence, xxxiv.)

[164] Piers Ploughman. Passus, xv. 90. For Wood’s account of Oxford
houses, see Boase’s Oxford, 48-9.

[165] Boys’ Sandwich, 149, 185, 186.

[166] The plate of S. Mary’s, Sandwich, amounted to about 724 ounces
of silver, and there was a good deal of silver gilt; it had splendid
brocade of gold of Venice and of Lucca, and a mass of vestments of
white damask powdered with gold of Venice, and blue velvet powdered
with fleurs de lis, or with moons and stars, and so on. (Boys’
Sandwich, 375.) A burgess of Wycombe, Redehode, fitted up the church
with beautiful screens of carved wood, and added other gifts to its
store of jewels and gilt crowns for Our Lady, and other ornaments of
amber, silver, jet, turquoises, with rich garments and ermine fur,
damasks, velvets, silks, a baldachino bearing green branches with birds
of gold, magnificent robes of cloth of gold, &c., and splendid plate.
(Hist. MSS. Com. v. 554-5.)

[167] An ironmonger, Richard Fallande, set up a tablet in Hospital Hall
to remind the townsfolk of the dangers and terrors of the old ford, of
passengers drowned, of poor people pitilessly turned back, or wayfarers
robbed of hood or girdle to satisfy the ferry-men’s greed. People were
constantly drowned and

“Few folke there were coude that way wende But they waged a wed or
payed of her purse And if it were a begger had breed in her bagge He
schulde be ryght soone i bid for to goo aboute And of the poor penyles
the hireward wold habbe A hood or a girdel and let him goo withoute.”

(English Illustrated Magazine, May 1889, p. 951.) For Rochester Bridge,
see Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 285.

[168] Davies’ Southampton, 115.

[169] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 247. For similar bequests, Ibid. x. 4, p.
529-30. Ibid. ix. 208-10. The Common Weal (ed. E. Lamond), 18, 19.

[170] Ibid. xi. 7, 169, 174, 175, 180-1. Ibid. ix. 57, 275, 137, 145.
Davies’ Walks through York, 30-1.

[171] Piers Ploughman. Pass. i. 22.

[172] See the surprising lists of these stores in the Paston Letters,
iii. 312, 270-4, 297-8, 282-9, 436, 313. Compare vol. i. p. 259.

[173] Hist. MSS. Com. x. 4, 297. Paston Letters, iii. 23, 35, 46, 49,
219, 258. See vol. i. 260-2.

[174] Paston Letters, iii. 114-15.

[175] Paston Letters, iii. 194. Hist. MSS. Com. vii. 599.

[176] Richard the Redeless, Passus iii. 145, &c.

[177] Plumpton Correspondence, xxxix. xl.

[178] Sometimes their servants also reached posts of importance. John
Russel, one of Fastolf’s servants, paid a sum down to be appointed
Searcher at Yarmouth. And Thomas Fry, a steward of the Berkeleys
under Henry the Seventh and Henry the Eighth, was “raised by them
to be of principal authority and in commission of the peace of the
city of Coventry, and a steward of great power in that Corporation.”
(Berkeleys, ii. 215.)

[179] The Poles of Hull were rising into importance. (Paston Letters,
ii. 210.) Sir John Fastolf possibly sprang from this class, for
his relation Richard Fastolf was a London tailor. (Hist. MSS. Com.
viii. 265.) Two London drapers, a mercer and a grocer were among the
forty-seven Knights of the Bath created at the coronation of Elizabeth,
queen of Edward the Fourth. (Three XV. century Chronicles, 80.) See
the marriage of Whittingham, Mayor of London, whose son entered the
Royal Household (Verney Papers, 15-17); of Verney, mayor in 1465 and
knighted in 1471 (Ibid. 13, 22); of Sir William Plumpton (Plumpton
Correspondence, xxvii.); of Sir Maurice Berkeley (Hunt’s Bristol, 101).

[180] Paston Letters, iii. 383.

[181] For the whole story see Paston Letters, ii. 341, 347, 350, 363-5.

[182] Paston Letters, iii. 109, 219, 278.

[183] Nottingham Records, i. 169.

[184] Plumpton Correspondence, 12. The lady was sister to Godfrey
Green, who seems to have been of good family, possibly a connexion of
Sir William Plumpton (17 note). Green did a good deal of business for
Plumpton (22-3), and was one of the trustees of a settlement, lxxii.

[185] See Clément, Jacques Cœur.

[186] Ibid. 134.

[187] Clément, Jacques Cœur.

[188] (See p. 327).

[189] See Hist. of Eng. People, ii. 142-3, 151, 164-6, 170-2, 188.
Brinklow’s writings afford a very good illustration of the radical
temper in politics which at this time was developed in the towns.

[190] Stat. 3 Henry VII. cap. 11. The Common Weal, 88-90.

[191] It was often forbidden to employ any woman save the wife or
daughter of the master (Hunt’s Bristol, 82; Riley’s Mem. 217).

[192] Lambert’s Guild Life, 238-9; Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 11, 87.

[193] Kent had sunk from the fifth to the tenth place in wealth
among counties during the Hundred Years’ War. In 1454 the wool of
Lincolnshire, Shropshire, and the Cotswolds, represented the best, and
that of Kent almost the worst quality; this may account for the decline
of Canterbury. The difference in quality would of course tell much more
on the prosperity of a district when the home manufacture of cloth was

[194] Schanz, i. 610-11 (1455); 33 Henry VI. cap. 4; Rot. Parl. v. 324.

[195] Schanz, i. 600; Stat. 11 Henry VII. cap. 27.

[196] Lib. Cus. 127. I suspect that the question of these fulling-mills
in London was much complicated by the supply of water becoming
inadequate to the needs of the growing city, and the great resentment
felt by the fullers of cloth against the intrusion of the cap-makers on
their domain over the running streams. There is some evidence that this
was the case, and it is probable that the want of water-power was one
of the causes which drove the woollen manufacture from certain towns.

[197] 22 Edward IV. cap. 5. There had been trouble about fulling
machinery in London as early as 1298. (Lib. Cust. Rolls, Series, 127-9.)

[198] In 1416 £22 6_s._ 8_d._ was received as a fine for offences from
foreigners in Romney. (Hist. MSS. Com. v. 539.) In Sandwich the tax on
foreigners was assessed by the mayor and jurats. Every indweller having
aliens in his service was to keep back as much of their wages as would
pay his tax. (Boys’ Sandwich, 787.)

[199] See Schanz, i. 414-6.

[200] Hunt’s Bristol, 82, 93, 111. The complaint seems to have been
against master-weavers who employed their own servants and not the
Bristol journeymen. See Rymer’s Fœdera, v. 137.

[201] See Hibbert’s Influence of Eng. Gilds, 64.

[202] See the Commons’ Petition in Parliament, 50 Edward the Third
(1376), Rolls of Parliament, vol. ii., p. 332. “Et come les bones gentz
des touz Citees & Borghs parmy ceste terre si pleignent durement, ̃q
... toute manere de gentz Aliens, & autres qi ne sont pas Frauncs
en les dites Citees & Borghs, poent venir illeõqs demourrer auxi
longement come lour plest, & tenir overtz Hostiels, & recepter ̃q
coñqs persones qe lour plerra: Et s’ils eiount ascunes Marchandises
ils les vendent as autres Estraungers, pur revendre si ̃bn par retail
come autre ̃qcoñq manere ̃q lour mieltz semble pur lours Profitz
demeisne. Par qi les Marchauntz Denizeins sont trop anientiz, la Terre
voide de Moneie, les closures des Citees & Borghs desapparaillez, la
Navye de la terre ̃bn pres destruite, le Conseil de la terre par tout
descovert, toute manere d’estraunge Marchaundise grandement encherie;
& qe pys est, par tieles privees receites les Enemys auxint priveez ou
̃q les loialx Liges: De qi n’ad mestier de autres tesmoignes fors ̃q
sentir & vewe ̃q molte app’tement en touz degreez la provent.”

[203] Stat. 1 Richard III. cap. 9.

[204] Stat. 1 Richard III. cap. 9. About 1528 the London shoemakers
complain that whereas the King had granted leave that a fraternity of
forty-four foreigners might exercise the craft of shoemakers in the
city, by colour of this grant 220 foreign householders employing over
400 apprentices and servants, had set up in the business. An amusing
account is given of the attitude of this foreign company to the English
searchers of the craft. There had once been 140 Englishmen of the
cordwainers’ livery but now there were only twenty, and the wives and
children of those who had been ruined were turned into water-carriers
and labourers. These foreigners did not come to settle, but having made
their fortunes went off home, while others took their places. (Schanz,
ii. 598-600.)

[205] Schanz, ii. 596-8. They pray that the former laws may be put in
force, ordering strangers only to dwell in the houses of Englishmen, to
sell only in gross and not by retail, and to remain only a month in any
town after their first coming.

[206] In the same way Bristol in 1461 forbade its weavers to employ
their wives, daughters, and maidens at the loom, lest the King’s people
likely to do the King service in his wars should lack employment.
(Hunt’s Bristol, 82.)

[207] The customs of Coventry in this respect are exceedingly

[208] Stat. 25 Henry VIII. cap. 18.

[209] Stat. 21 Henry VIII. cap. 12. In the reign of Henry the
Eighth there were complaints that Worcester, Evesham, Droitwich,
Kidderminster, and Bromsgrove, had fallen into decay from the growth of
the free-traders. (Stat. 25 Henry VIII. cap. 18.) See also the coverlet
makers of York. (34 and 35 Henry VIII. cap. 10.)

[210] Piers Ploughman. Passus ix. 187.

“‘It is nothing for love they labour thus fast, But for fear of famine,
in faith,’ said Piers.”

Passus ix. 214, 215.


“Fridays and fasting days a farthingworth of mussels Were a feast for
such folk, or so many cockles.”

Pass. x. 94, 95; see 72-87. Pollard’s Miracle Plays, 31-2.

[212] Children who had served in husbandry till the age of twelve
“shall abide at the same labour without being put to any mystery or
handicraft” (Stat. 12 Rich. II. cap. 5).

[213] It is important in the town ordinances to observe the effect of
local circumstances. For instance, in Coventry the weavers were allowed
in 1424 to take as many apprentices as they liked, “sine contradictione
alicujus,” while the number in other trades was limited. This was just
such an order as might be expected of a town council of rich merchant
clothiers and drapers.

[214] See Chap. V.

[215] The customs of Norwich, 1340, forced some responsibility for
these servants on the masters. (Leet Jurisdiction (Selden Soc.), lxvi.)

[216] No general laws for the whole kingdom which seriously limited the
employment of apprentices were passed before the sixteenth century,
but the various towns made such local laws as seemed necessary. In
most cases masters were bound to enrol their apprentices in the town
court; and at the end of the fifteenth century the Town Councils and
the Guilds were making serious efforts to enforce the law. Miss Dormer
Harris tells me that the capper’s apprentices in Coventry were bound
by surety for £5 to fulfil their covenant. If an apprentice left his
master before the seven years were over, the master might not take
another till the time had expired unless he delivered the £5 to the
keepers for the use of the craft. The masters of crafts there appear to
have been very reluctant to take apprentices, especially after 1494.

[217] In Norwich in spite of the statutes of 1436 and 1503 (15 Henry
VI. cap. 6; 19 Henry VII. cap. 7) the crafts persisted in making rules
by which apprentices were compelled to pay 20_s._ or 30_s._ for entry
into the common hall (compare the composition of 1415 in the Norwich
documents)—a fine which meant that the craftsmen were practically
denied the freedom of the city, and therefore the position of master,
and were thus forced to swell the body of journeymen. An Act passed
in 1531 ordered that no apprentice should pay more than 2_s._ 6_d._
for entry into the common hall; or 3_s._ 4_d._ at the end of the term
for the freedom of the company; but the companies evaded this law by
asking only the statute sum for the freedom of the company, but making
the candidates swear they would not trade without license, for which
they had to pay at the company’s pleasure. This was again forbidden by
Henry in 1537 (Blomefield, iii. 181-2). Among the weavers of Newcastle
in 1527 all who had finished their apprenticeship were admitted to
membership on payment of 13_s._ 4_d._, but any man of the craft
desirous to be of the fellowship a brother thereof, with power to set
up shop, had to pay £20 (Newcastle Guilds). The London grocers in 1345
paid 20_s._ for each apprentice; the apprentice who wished to belong to
the fraternity paid 40_s._ on leaving his master (Kingdon’s Grocers’
Company, i. 11, 12).

[218] Compare Riley’s Mem. Lond. 244, 181, 278, 354. Black’s
Leathersellers, 39.

[219] In London no apprentice after his term was to use his trade till
he had been sworn to the franchise. (Liber Albus, 272.)

[220] Journeymen among the cutlers and founders who had not served
their time as apprentices could only get such wages as the overseers
of the trade allowed to them after examination. (Riley’s Mem. Lond.
439, 514.) The system was probably widespread to judge from the many
ordinances concerning wages. Unskilled journeymen must be spoken
of in the ordinances of the bladesmiths. (Riley’s Mem. 570.) For
serving-men who worked by the day for the glovers see ibid. 246. In
1449 at Coventry a reasonable wage seems to have been 4_d._ a day; but
a capper’s journeyman in 1496 got 12_d._ a week working twelve hours a
day (reference to Coventry records given me by Miss Dormer Harris).

[221] 7 Henry IV. cap. 17.

[222] The law was done away with when it turned to the hurt of the
employers. In a later state of the cloth industry some of the old
centres of industry such as London and Norwich and Bristol found their
wealth decayed; and decided that their trade was starved for want
of workmen while the young people were growing up to idleness and
vice. Then the masters, actually threatened with the loss of their
manufacturing industries, insisted on new laws allowing them to take
apprentices without regard to the Act of Henry the Fourth (11 Henry
VII. cap. 11; 12 Henry VII. cap. 1).

[223] Hudson’s Notes about Norwich; in Norfolk and Norwich Arch. Soc.
vol. xii.

[224] English Guilds, 284-6, 337, 350. See in Exeter the relations of
the Tailors’ Guild to the suburbs. (Ibid. 310.) Possibly the system may
even then have been like the ordinary system which generally prevailed
till the end of the last century. In Dereham in Norfolk the site of a
line of hovels is still marked in which a group of shoemakers lived and
worked for the Norwich masters, whose collector came round every week
to collect the finished work. A rich farmer seems to have served as a
sort of contractor in the tailoring trade; the upper floor of his house
immediately below the roof formed a long room without any partitions in
which ten or twelve tailors worked by day and slept by night, and the
contractor dispatched their work to the Norwich dealer.

[225] Chap. XII. p. 385. See also the monopoly of the York weavers in
the twelfth century, with the control of trade in the whole county
which it must have implied. (Gross, i. 108, note.)

[226] English Guilds, 383.

[227] Von Ochenkowski (Wirthschaftliche Entwickelung, 128-133)
scarcely seems to distinguish sufficiently between the objections to
the competition of the dealers or masters from the suburbs, and to
the employment by town manufacturers of labour outside the town. The
resistance would necessarily have come from different quarters and for
different reasons.

[228] Cf. The Common Weal (ed. E. Lamond), 49.

[229] The well-known rioter is described by Skelton. Poems (ed. Dyce),
ii. 43-4.

[230] This was sometimes done by royal charter. (Hibbert’s Influence
of Eng. Guilds, 96.) All the facts are against the theory of Marx that
the merchant was by some hostile force prevented from buying labour,
though allowed to buy other commodities. The limitations were of the
merchants’ and dealers’ own making for their own purposes. It is
equally improbable that the guild organization excluded division of
labour in the workshop. (Marx, Capital, &c. i. 352.)

[231] This uniformity is well illustrated in the later ordinances of
the Hull Guilds. (Lambert, Two Thousand Years of Guild Life; Gross, ii.

[232] Clode, Merchant Tailors, p. 2.

[233] In 1311 the “hatters” and the “dealers who bought and sold hats”
in London were two quite distinct callings. (Riley’s Mem. 90.) The
distinction was well known in 1327 between the saddlers and the various
orders of workmen employed in manufacturing for them. (Ibid. 157-8.)

[234] A separation of the guilds into these groups is sufficient of
itself to shew of how little value the generalizations of Marx are as
to the relations of the crafts to capital; and how misleading it is to
represent the guilds as providing the main opposition to merchants or
capitalists, especially in the matter of refusing the supply of labour.
(See Marx i. 352.)

[235] Seligman (Two Chapters on Mediæval Guilds, 69) states that
the crafts were not charitable associations giving relief to poor
members till the fifteenth century. Out of twelve crafts mentioned in
English Guilds, nine gave relief to poor, and three do not mention
it. For the Braelers in London, 1355, see Riley’s Mem. 277; the White
tawyers, 1346, ibid. 232; the Lorimers, 1261, Liber Cust. 78-80.
Most of the ordinances in Riley’s Mem. make no mention of relief,
but the ordinances are so manifestly incomplete—merely additions or
alterations made for some special purpose—that no argument can be
drawn from them. The vast majority of religious or social guilds had
some charitable provisions, and in many cases these were certainly
trade guilds. The probability seems to lie on the side of help given to
poor members from the first.

[236] The way in which the guilds fought in defence of their voluntary
courts of arbitration, and the objection of the towns to these, is in
itself proof enough of the importance to their members of a tribunal,
however voluntary and arbitrary, which might relieve them from the
interference on every occasion of the local magistrates, and the
party politics of the town. The advantages of association in case of
being called before the greater courts is evident from the account of
mediæval procedure given in Sir J. Stephen’s History of the Criminal
Law. The illustrations afforded by the Paston Letters are without
number. See Manorial Pleas (Selden Soc.), 136. For the heavy cost
involved by the corrupt practices of lawyers, judges, pleaders, and
attorneys, see the action brought in 1275 by an advocate against an
employer who had withdrawn from the case; the advocate sues for his
fees and also for having been prevented by the stopping of the case
from getting a very large sum of money out of the other side. (Ibid.

[237] It was a disgrace to the lord if any of his “livery” appeared in
the law courts. The protection extended to the members of a craft was
really efficient. See the punishment of a grocer who in 1404 had turned
another of the company out of his house. (Kingdon’s Grocers’ Company,
i. 93.)

[238] The grocers in London claimed control over every one who kept
a shop of spicery even if he did not wear their livery (Kingdon’s
Grocers’ Company, i. 66); but those who refused the livery were fined.
The liveried members paid 2_s._ 6_d._ for the dinner, and “every man
out of the clothing as us seemed they might bear.” (Ibid. ii. 239,
258.) A list was kept of those who wore the livery, those who wore
gowns, and householders and bachelors not in livery. (Ibid. 175-177.)

[239] These divisions must be taken in a general sense. Five orders are
mentioned among the Merchant Taylors (Clode, 8-9); but these really
fall into three main groups. For our present purpose the “Bachelors,”
an intermediate rank formed in some of the richer crafts, may be

[240] See Du Cange.

[241] Riley’s Mem. Lond. 258. See the case of the London bakers where a
special ordinance was needed to make the servants liable to punishment
for the grossest frauds in the absence of the masters. (Ibid. 181-2.)

[242] If a craftsman not admitted to the freedom of the guild took
work, the customer in case of fraud had only the protection of the
common law, and could not appeal to the town or guild ordinances.
(English Guilds, 322.)

[243] From time to time there were protests on the part of the members
of the craft against the power of the oligarchy. There was such a case
in the London Grocers’ Company, when an attempt was made in 1444 to
limit the power of the wardens in appointing new members. (Kingdon’s
Grocers’ Company, i. 123.)

[244] English Guilds, 30, 35, 289. Twelve of the discreetest of the
smiths at Coventry elected the keepers, and formed the court to try

[245] Lambert’s Guild Life, 113, 129; English Guilds, 156, 159, 162,
217, 160, 169, 31, 164, 167, 318, 445. The weavers’ guild was governed
by a council of twenty-four as early as the thirteenth century. (Lib.
Cus. 424.) In religious or social guilds there were cases where the
election of officers was made by the assent of all the brethren
(English Guilds, 47, 49, 148, 213, 232), or “with the assent of the
_elder part_ of the brethren and sistern of the guild” (ibid. 150); but
the prevailing custom was the appointment of picked men to choose the
officers. (English Guilds, 62, 64, 71, 75, 83, 89, 91, 97, 119, 266.)
In one case “all the brethren whom the alderman should send for” were
to elect officers. (Ibid. 35.) In another the alderman chose two men,
the company chose two others, these four chose two more, and the six
elected officers. In a later form copied for another craft instead of
the “company” the “masters of the guild” chose two men. (Ibid. 276.)
In one case a new provost was chosen by the four provosts of the past
year. (Ibid. 186.) In the Grocers’ Company the wardens appointed their
successors. (Kingdon’s Grocers’ Company, i. 10, 14, 18.) A similar
custom prevailed in the Southampton Guild Merchant.

[246] Riley’s Mem. 348. In the Cordwainers’ Guild of Exeter (1481)
two of the wardens were chosen from the shop-holders, and two from
the journeymen. (English Guilds, 332.) It would seem that among the
coruesers of Bristol the journeymen had a certain recognized position,
the visible sign of which was their having the right to provide lights
carried in the municipal processions at certain feasts; and when in
1454 “divers debates and murmurs had arisen between the masters and
crafts of the coruesers and the journeymen,” and the masters and
craft-holders sought to deprive the journeymen of this right, the
attempt was vigorously and successfully resisted.

[247] In Ipswich when a youth in 1448 was apprenticed to a barber for
seven years it was stipulated that he should get suitable clothing,
shoes, bedding, board, and chastisement. (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 259.)
At Romney in 1451 it was decreed that at the end of his service the
apprentice should receive from his master 10_s._ or a bed of that
value. (Ibid. v. 543). A decree against using daggers or knives or
making any affray was limited by the phrase, “provided always that it
shall be lawful to any inhabitant to correct his servant or apprentice
according to the law.” (English Guilds, 390.) But on the other hand
when a master among the tailors at Exeter chastised his servant so far
as to bruise his arm and break his head, he had not only to give a fine
to the craft but to give the servant 15_s._ and a month’s board and to
pay his doctor. (Ibid. 322.)

[248] A master retiring from trade might sell and devise the services
of his apprentice to a new master, but if there was any suspicion that
a sale had been so managed that the apprentice lost credit for one
or two years of the service which he had actually fulfilled both the
masters were deprived of the freedom of the city and craft. (Paston
Letters, i. 378.)

[249] See note A at end of chapter.

[250] Statutes 6 Henry VI. cap. 3.

[251] Statutes 12 Richard II. cap. 3.

[252] English Guilds, 395, 285-6; Hist. MSS. Com. v. 530; Riley’s Mem.
Lond. 246.

[253] Riley’s Mem. Lond. 307; English Guilds, 285-6. Piece-work was
common in many trades. In Newcastle the guild of fullers and dyers in
their ordinances of 1477 regulated the price of fulling and shearing
the various kinds of cloth by piece-work at so much a yard. The weavers
also worked by the piece. The Newcastle slaters had been formed into
a guild and had ordinances in 1451 with similar regulations; the
bricklayers and plasterers were in a guild in 1454 (Newcastle Guilds).
There was piece-work among the tawyers. (Riley’s Mem. Lond. 330-1.) In
Winchester the weavers probably worked at from 3_d._ to 4_d._ a day, as
they were ordered to take from Hallow Eve to the Annunciation for their
work but 1_s._ 6_d._, and from the Annunciation to Hallow Eve but 2_s._

[254] In 1265 Leicester weavers were allowed by the guild to weave by
night as well as by day. (Gross, ii. 144.)

[255] Riley’s Mem. Lond. 232-3. This was true of a great number of
trades. (Ibid. 244, 245-7, 258, &c. For Lincoln tailors, English
Guilds, 183. Kingdon’s Grocers’ Company, i. 20-21.) In this last
company public notice was given of a servant who had left his master to
prevent his being engaged by another.

[256] Hibbert’s Influence of English Guilds, 64.

[257] Riley’s Mem. 247-8, 250-1, 256.

[258] Lib. Cus. 84.

[259] Riley’s Mem. 495.

[260] Mem. Lond. 495-6. The friars from time to time appear as
supporters of the poorer people. In Coventry the White Friars was the
meeting place for the fellowship of the crafts and for the tilers’
company in the fifteenth century; and Friar John Bredon played
the part of a local agitator. The policy of the Friars was often,
as in Canterbury, part of a general antagonism to other religious
establishments. (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 98.)

[261] Mem. Lond. 543-4. The suppression of the May-day festival of the
journeymen shearmen in Shrewsbury was very possibly a similar putting
down of confederations and conspiracies. (Hibbert’s Inf. and Dev. of
Eng. Gilds, 120-2.) See also the Bristol Coruesers, p. 119, n. 1.

[262] Riley’s Mem. Lond. 609-12, 653. Clode, 4, 22-29.

[263] The town records of Shrewsbury note in 1516 a reward to the
king’s messenger bearing letters concerning the insurrection of the
apprentices of the City of London. (Owen’s Shrewsbury, i. 284.)

[264] See p. 102, note 2.

[265] See Note A, p. 160.

[266] English Guilds, cxxi. For an exception at Hull see Lambert’s
Guild Life, 188. For Canterbury see H.M.C. ix. 173-4.

[267] “The people must cheerfully maintain the government, within whose
functions however it does not lie to support the people.” Cleveland’s
Presidential Address. Mar. 6, 1893.

[268] Stat. 11 Henry VI. cap. 12.

[269] Nott. Rec. i. 268-272, 316-318. See also Hist. MSS. Com. vi. 582.

[270] Piers Ploughman. Pass. iv. 80-118. There is an instance of a
guild in which no parson, baker, or wife, was admitted. (Eng. Gilds,

[271] Piers Ploughman. Pass. iii. 222.

[272] Riley’s Mem. 182. A summary of the conflict on the price of wine
is given in Schanz, i. 642-50. By 5 Richard II. Stat. i. cap. 4 if a
vintner refused to sell at the right price the mayor might deliver the
wine to any buyer at statute cost.

[273] Kingdon’s Grocers’ Company, i., xvii., xviii.; Schanz, i. 651.

[274] Norwich Town Close Evidences (Brit. Museum.), 16.

[275] Riley’s Memorials, 174-5. Many other examples might be given. A
later instance occurs when the London Corporation brought a complaint
against the society of hoastmen in 1603 about the raising of the price
of coals in London and the scanty supply, so that “without great
difficulty the city cannot be provided sufficiently of sea-coals for
the poor.” The fraternity of hoastmen make a statement of their reasons
concerning the prices of sea-coals to the Privy Council in answer to
the complaint of the Mayor and Aldermen. (Newcastle Guilds, 44.)

[276] The chief objection of the public to the “unreasonable
ordinances” by which the crafts closed their corporations was the
“common damage to the people,” probably as tending to raise prices. (P.
102, n. 2.) The Coventry Leet opposed the crafts in this matter.

[277] These grants were all of early date, in the twelfth century.
Ashley, Woollen Industry, 15-17; Madox, 26, 191, etc., 212, etc.,
283-4. The Nottingham weavers paid a rent of 40_s._ for their guild
to the King from the time of Henry the Second. For this they raised a
contribution from each loom, and obtained a grant that those who paid
might work in the outskirts of the town. (Nott. Rec. iii. 27, 58, ii.

[278] Riley’s Lib. Cus. 130 etc.

[279] Ibid. 121, 123. The survival of the weavers’ court may be seen in
1321. In certain cases where the bureller was fined by the Mayor, the
weaver was punished by the bailiffs of his own guild. (Ibid. 422-3.)

[280] Riley’s Lib. Cus. 423.

[281] In 1327 Edward the Third granted a charter to the girdlers of
London, which took in all the girdlers of the kingdom, ordered them
under the same rules, and set them under the Mayors of whatever city
they might be in. (Riley’s Mem. 154-5).

[282] Some charters were given by Edward the Fourth and later Kings
to companies of Tailors, Merchants, and so on, which gave them an
existence independent of the town, and power to make their own
ordinances. (See p. 173.) No list has been made out of these companies,
and the subject needs investigation. From the cases which I have met
with I think it may probably turn out that such charters were generally
given to companies with a foreign trade, and given for reasons
referring to that trade. The second charter of the Merchant Tailors in
1390 allowed them to make ordinances among themselves and of their own
authority. (Clode, 3.) This charter seems to have freed them from the
Mayor, but if so they were again put under his control in 1436. (Ibid.
5, see pp. 189-191, 193.) This was followed by a violent attempt in
1442 to have a Mayor of their own company, which failed and caused much
anger. It is evident from the charter of Henry the Seventh, in 1502,
which confirmed their independence, that they dealt in “all and every
kinds of merchandises” “in all quarters and kingdoms of the world.”
(Ibid. 7, 195.) By this they were again given full power to make
ordinances for themselves without interference, so long as these were
not contrary to the laws of the kingdom nor to the prejudice of the
Mayor; and the Mayor was wholly deprived of the power of search among
their subjects—a most important measure, since the master and wardens
“had a great number of householders with their servants to rule and
govern.” (Ibid. 197-200.)

[283] Though guilds were forbidden in Norwich they existed, doubtless
by the payment of annual fines. In the case of the tanners the
complaint in 1287 against them was clearly that in case of disputes
they “made plaint” to their own aldermen and not to the bailiffs.
(Hudson’s Leet Jurisdiction in Norwich (Selden Soc.) p. 13.) The
cobblers had apparently an important guild from the money paid; the
saddlers, tanners, and fullers had also guilds in 1292. (Ibid. 39,
42, 43.) The King reserved the power of creating guilds, and it was
possibly to prevent his exercising it that towns like Norwich and
Coventry obtained by charter the right to have no guilds. Such a
privilege freed them from the fear of fraternities independent of
the municipality, while it left them free to recognise informally
associations whose recurring fines were really the tribute paid for

[284] Some of those so-called religious, but really trading guilds,
have been identified. It is clear that the guild of S. Benedict at
Lincoln was a society of traders or merchants, who traded on loans from
the common fund, paying back half of the increase they made on it.
(English Guilds, 174.) Among other instances see the Guild of S. John
Baptist at Hull (Lambert’s Guild Life, 112, etc. 118, 232, 233); Corpus
Christi (ibid. 124); Holy Trinity (ibid. 126.) A very curious and
interesting account of the formal founding of the Pepperers’ Company as
the Fraternity of S. Anthony in the Monastery of Bury, 1345, is given
in Kingdon’s Grocers’ Company, i., xvii. Compare the records given on
8-15. It had become the Grocers’ Company by 1373. The Drapers’ Guild in
Shrewsbury was originally the Guild of the Trinity. (Hibbert’s Inf. and
Dev. of Eng. Guilds, 32.) For other instances see Chapter V. The custom
was so common in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that it is
highly probable that under any stress of difficulty it would have been
resorted to in earlier days. The artizans must have been fully aware
of the fact disclosed to us by the two forms of summonses for guild
returns issued in 1388, one for the religious and one for the trading
guilds—the fact that the two forms of association were regarded in a
different way by the government. Some guilds are avowedly of a double
character. (English Guilds, 126-128, 179-185.)

[285] See note A at end of chapter.

[286] Riley’s Mem. 627; see also 118, 120-1, 153-4.

[287] Riley’s Mem. 341.

[288] In the second half of the fourteenth century the London guild
ordinances are in the main simply rules against bad or deceitful wares.
See the chandlers, curriers and pelterers, cappers, potters, &c.
Riley’s Mem. 118, 358; Lib. Cus. 94, 101; goldsmiths, Schanz, i. 613-4.

[289] Mem. Lond. 293.

[290] Lib. Cus. 100.

[291] Mem. Lond. 280-2.

[292] Riley’s Liber Custumarum, 101. See the case of the weavers infra
p. 160, where the craft tried to shorten hours and the town forbade it.

[293] Ordinances of Pewterers. Riley’s Mem. 243. See also glovers and
hatters, &c., 239, 246.

[294] Ibid. 226.

[295] Riley’s Mem. 226-7.

[296] Ibid. 218.

[297] Annual congregations made by the masons were forbidden by statute
of Richard II., continued by later Kings (3 Henry VI., cap. i.). The
anxiety of the government was quickened by the number of tilers who
took part in the Peasants’ Revolt. (Stubbs, ii. 496.) Cf. The Common
Weal (ed. Miss Lamond), 88-9.

[298] Statutes of the Realm, 3 Edward IV. cap. 4; ibid. 4 Edward IV.
cap. 1. A law of 1410 withdrew from the worsted-weavers and merchants
of Norwich the supervision of the cloth trade that had been granted
to them in 1348 (Ashley, Woollen Industry, 54-5); and handed over to
the mayor, sheriffs, and commonalty of Norwich, the right of measuring
and sealing all worsteds made in Norwich or Norfolk. (Blomefield,
iii. 125.) A later law enacted that “the worsted shearers in Norwich
shall make no ordinance but such as the Mayor and Alderman shall think
necessary.” (Stat. 1494, cap. xi.) In the fifteenth century the Privy
Council took away from the Bakers’ and Tailors’ Crafts in London
the right of search in their trades which had been granted to their
Wardens, and restored it to the Mayor, and ordered the crafts to obey
the Mayor after the old usages, customs, and laws of London. 1442.
Proceedings Privy Council, v. 196; Seligman, Med. Guilds, 82; Schanz,
i. 617.

[299] The mayor and aldermen of London had full jurisdiction over
all the various trades quite early in the fourteenth century. Two
master-masons were reconciled before the mayor of London in 1298. (Mem.
Lond. 38.) For early part of the fourteenth century see ibid. 90, 118,
120, 153-4, 216, 156, 178, 245-6.

[300] In “the ordinances of the Hull Guilds from 1490 to 1723 there is
no authorization by any but the mayor of the town.” (Lambert’s Guild
Life, 188.) For municipal authority over the Shrewsbury Guilds see
Hibbert, 40, 85-6. For Norwich, Blomefield, iii. 130.

[301] A law of 1413 ordered the registration of charters and approval
of ordinances and bye-laws—a law which was repeated by the Statute
of Henry VI. to prevent the masters of guilds and fraternities making
ordinances to the damage of the King or the people, when it was again
decreed that all their rules should be certified and registered by
Justices of the Peace or by the chief magistrates of cities or towns.
15 Henry VI., cap. 6. See also 19 Henry VII., cap. 7.

[302] English Guilds, 283-286.

[303] Ricart, 78. The examples are too numerous to give. But see the
ordinances drawn up in 1448 for the Tailors’ Guild of Lynn by the Mayor
and the Council. It was ordered that no new tailor should set up in
business unless he was considered “sufficient in conning” not only by
the two head men of his craft, but also by the mayor. Every tailor
admitted to the guild had to pay a fine as entrance fee to the Mayor
and another to the community, as well as his payment to the Guild;
and paid a yearly fee to the town for any sewers and apprentices whom
he employed. Quarrels between shapers and sewers were to be settled
by the Mayor and the head men of the craft. If a tailor sent home an
ill-fitting garment the buyer might bring his complaint to the Mayor’s
Court, and claim amends before the Mayor and the head men of the craft
on condition of paying a fine of 3_s._ 4_d._ if he did not prove his
case. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 165-6.)

[304] Miss Dormer Harris has kindly given me the rules at Coventry as
to how a craft was to proceed to the punishment of a member in 1518.
The master of the craft was first to ask a “reasonable penalty;” if the
offender refused to pay, the master was to apply again after three or
four days and have the refusal recorded; and in case the refusal was
repeated a second time he and three or four of the “honest men” of the
craft were to come to the mayor; and the mayor and one of the justices
were to command the offender to pay a double penalty; and if he refused
yet again, to commit him to prison until it was paid to the craft. At
the same time the offender was to desire the master to be “good master
to him and his good lover.” If the penalty were more than would suffice
for a pound of wax, the remainder was to go to common box, _i.e._, the
city funds.

[305] The tilers were strictly ruled by statute as to how the various
tiles should be made, thatch tile, roof tile, gutter tile, and so on;
how the earth should be prepared and how big the tiles should be.
Justices of the Peace, that is in towns the Mayor and the Aldermen,
were to hear the cases against offenders and appoint searchers. (17
Edward IV. cap. 4.)

[306] Mem. Lond. 308.

[307] English Guilds, 386, 398-9.

[308] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 174.

[309] Nott. Rec. i. 197. In Winchester every bureller had to give one
cloth yearly to the King’s ferm. (English Guilds, 351.)

[310] Enforced contribution of crafts was common; and the cost
considerable. (Gross, ii. 51; Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 166, 225; ibid.
ix. 173-5.) See Kingdon, ii. 260, 318, &c. In Coventry there were
complaints in 1494 that the dyers, skinners, fishmongers, &c., were so
“self-willed” that they could not be made to contribute to pageants.
See Hibbert’s Inf. and Dev. of Eng. Gilds, 63. For the whole question
of plays and pageants see Davidson’s Studies in Eng. Mystery Plays,
printed by Yale University, 1892. The Corpus Christi processions became
after the order of the Council of Vienne, 1318, exceedingly popular;
the guilds of Corpus Christi, having charge of the procession, not of
the plays (91-2), were probably generally composed of the upper class
of people. A list of Miracle Plays and Mysteries has been made for
students by F. Stoddard, California University, 1887.

[311] Von Ochenkowski thinks the relation of municipalities and crafts
depended on the relative force of the three principles then contending
for the mastery—feudal rights, the king’s will, and the common law;
in the conflicts between guilds and towns he sees the alternating
forces of the king’s law and of the common law. (Wirthschaftliche
Entwickelung, 59-60.) Many homelier causes than this were probably at

[312] The surprising number of guilds formed under Richard the Second
and during the next hundred years must strike any one who looks at the
town records. As a single example see the list given for Shrewsbury
in Hibbert’s Inf. and Dev. of Eng. Gilds, 58-9. In many cases it can
be proved that the new fraternity was really an old one, but its
re-constitution is as important as a new creation.

[313] Boys’ Sandwich, 678, 680.

[314] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 173-4. “Provided always that any such masters
so elected shall be none of the same crafts or mysteries whereof they
shall be elected.”

[315] Boys, 685, &c.

[316] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 173-5, 148. Sometimes wealthy guilds united
to gain a monopoly of power in the borough. There was a tendency to
combine even in the poorer social or religious fraternities. (Eng.
Gilds, 219.) A decline took place in the number of miracle plays for
the crafts. Pollard’s Miracle Plays, xxx.

[317] See the curious provision made by the mayor of London at the
request of the farriers to get their bills paid. (Riley’s Mem. Lond.

[318] English Guilds, 285.

[319] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 174.

[320] Shillingford’s Letters (Camden Soc.) 4.

[321] Though this body of Twelve appears first in the records in 1344,
it is impossible to doubt that it was of earlier origin, in view of the
custom of other boroughs. In the same way the notices in 1288, 1301,
and later, of the electing jury do not by any means imply that these
were its first appearances, and all analogy would point to an opposite

[322] Freeman’s Exeter, 147, 149.

[323] Mr. Freeman seems to suggest that the Council of Exeter was
formed by the habitual summoning of certain members of the Assembly to
advise the mayor, and speaks of it as “a committee of the whole body.”
(Ibid. p. 152.) It is, however, not yet certainly ascertained whether
the evidence bears out this view as regards Exeter.

[324] The regular list of recorders or law officers begins in 1354.
Freeman’s Exeter, 154.

[325] Freeman’s Exeter, 146-7. English Guilds, 303, 307, 308.

[326] Both these classes admitted “out-brothers,” probably
“foreigners,” who paid half fees.

[327] English Guilds, 313-316.

[328] Ibid. 318, 324, 327.

[329] Ibid. 321-2.

[330] His first charter to the Tailors was in 1461 (Gross i. 124 n.
2); the second in 1466. A different instance occurs in Shrewsbury,
when Edward the Fourth gave in 1461 a charter to the Fraternity of the
Blessed Trinity making it into the company of the Drapers. (Hibbert’s
Influence and Development of English Guilds, 59.)

[331] English Guilds, 301, 307, 310. Gross i. 124.

[332] English Guilds, 309-311.

[333] English Guilds, 302-304.

[334] Ibid. 303.

[335] English Guilds, 304-8.

[336] English Guilds, 324.

[337] Ibid. 326.

[338] English Guilds, 323.

[339] Ibid. 331-4.

[340] Ibid. 334-7.

[341] This forms the earliest account we possess of the costs of a
private bill. Ibid. 308-311.

[342] Freeman’s Exeter, 146-154.

[343] English Guilds, 328.

[344] See Chapter XIII. p. 352-4.

[345] In 1376 the judges held that no guild could be established save
by royal charter. (Seligman in his Med. Guilds p. 66, quotes Year
Book 49, Edward III. fol. 36.) On the other hand in 1376 the commons
presented a petition complaining that many of the mayors were prevented
from exercising their office thoroughly by the special charters which
had been granted to certain misteries and praying that these special
charters might be withdrawn so as to strengthen the hands of the local
authorities. (Rot. Parl. ii. 331 No. 54.) See Gross i. 113 note 2. For
instances of royal charters to guilds see the Mercers of Shrewsbury
(Hibbert, 64), the Tailors of London (Clode’s Merchant Tailors), and
various companies in Hull (Lambert’s Two Thousand Years of Guild Life).

[346] A curious instance is given in Hull in which one of the county
magnates made use of the guild as an instrument for getting hold of the
borough representation in Parliament. (Lambert’s Two Thousand Years of
Guild Life, 182.)

[347] The story of the Hull Merchants’ Company is very instructive.
Ibid. 180, etc.

[348] See Chapter VIII. The union of crafts in a guild at Walsall
(Gross ii. 248) before 1440 seems to have been very like the union
of crafts at Coventry a century earlier to get control of the town
government, “in eschewing of such great misorder and inconvenience as
here of late hath fortuned and happened.”

[349] Carlisle Mun. Rec. ed. Ferguson and Nansen 89-99.

[350] The town customs and bye-laws were drawn up in 1561 by “the
Mayor and Council with four of every occupation in the aforesaid city,
for and in the name of the whole citizens (Carlisle Mun. Rec. 28, 29,
59). In Beverley the alderman of merchants and twenty-one aldermen of
various crafts gave assent in the fifteenth century to ordinances of
the governors.” (Gross, ii. 23.)

[351] Gross, ii. 380-3.

[352] See Chapter XIII. 374-5.

[353] Gross, i. 111, note 3. The cases of Durham and Morpeth here
mentioned are very late.

[354] Ibid. 112, note 4.

[355] Ibid. i. 124 note 2. Von Ochenkowski (Wirthschaftliche
Entwickelung, 67) argues that this regulation was made in consequence
of the mediæval view of trade as a public trust not a mere individual
act; and that skill in craft was taken as a test of uprightness of
character and a pledge of fitness for citizenship. From this conclusion
follows the belief, which in its turn supports the conclusion, that the
rule was one imposed by the town authorities and not by the will of the

[356] Stubbs, iii. 607.

[357] This history has been treated by Dr. Gross in his “Gild
Merchant.” In the thirteenth century Merchant Guilds existed in at
least one-third and probably in a much greater proportion of the
English boroughs. (Gross, i. 2, 22, 158.)

[358] Ibid. i. 107.

[359] Gross, i. 74, 107, 108, note 3, 109. There were clergy and women
in the Andover Guild (Ibid. ii. 299, 321); and in Coventry (English
Guilds, 228).

[360] Gross, i. 66-71, ii. 236.

[361] Ibid. i. 43, 61, 158-9.

[362] Ibid. i. 282-3.

[363] Gross, i. 61-63, 85. Sometimes the grant of a guild was given
before the grant of other rights. In other cases it followed. Thus
in Gloucester the first charter was given by Henry the Second “to my
burgesses of Gloucester” in 1155. The Guild did not appear in the
charter till 1200, when John granted certain municipal rights to “our
burgesses of Gloucester,” and others mainly of a trading sort to “our
burgesses of Gloucester of the Merchant Guild”; and in 1227 a charter
of Henry the Third seems for the first time to enact that burgesses
must not only dwell in the borough, hold land, and pay lot and scot,
but must also “be in the Merchant Guild and Hanse.”

[364] Ibid. i. 43-52, 158-9.

[365] Ibid. i. 63, 85, 114. “In some places their powers appear to have
been gradually enlarged during the thirteenth century so as to embrace
jurisdiction in pleas relating to trade.” (Ibid. 65.)

[366] Ibid. i. 114-115.

[367] Gross, i. 117, 159-60.

[368] Ibid. i. 116.

[369] Dr. Gross holds that all guilds of merchants formed after the
decline of the Gilda Mercatoria in the thirteenth century must be
considered as being merely craft-unions of the ordinary kind—in most
cases superseding the Guild Merchant (i. 129).

[370] By Dr. Gross’s definition, “What had once been a distinct
integral part of the civic body politic became vaguely blended with the
whole of it.” (Gross, i. 159-60, 163.)

[371] This is stated to have been very rare. (Ibid. p. 114.)

[372] Ibid. 118, 163. The appellation of the Guild Merchant “was
more frequently applied to the aggregate of the crafts” than to the
governing body of the borough. (Ibid. i. 114.) In Carlisle had the term
“been used at all, _it would probably have been applied_ to the eight
guilds aggregately, rather than to the Corporation.” (Ibid. ii. 40.) In
proving that the later Guild Merchant was “an aggregate of the crafts,”
Dr. Gross carries us at a single step into a much later period (pp.
118-123), where the name tells us little apart from the history of the
borough. The case of Coventry seems a doubtful instance.

[373] Gross, i. 161, 163. Lynn is given as an illustration of this
change, but the evidence is not adduced.

[374] Ibid. i. 118. No instance is given of this.

[375] Dr. Gross argues that any struggle which did take place was not
between the Guild Merchant and the crafts, but between “the governing
council (the “magnates,” “potentiores,” etc.) on the one side and the
burgesses at large (“communitas,” “populus,” “minores”) on the other.”
(Gross i. 110, 285.) The “magnates” of Norwich (Hudson’s Mun. Org.
p. 24-5), or “les riches” of the city records, ruled in a city where
there was no Guild Merchant. The “potentiores” of Lynn seem from the
printed records to have been the Guild Merchant. In the town records
“communitas” cannot be understood as synonymous with “populus,” still
less with “minores.”

[376] Gross, i. 109. “Not a single unmistakable example of such a
conflict has ever been deduced.” On this point Seligman (Mediæval
Guilds, 57-8) speaks very dogmatically on most inconclusive evidence,
so far as this is given in his notes. The analogy on p. 58 of craft
guilds including smaller unions is not shewn, nor their common
occurrence proved.

[377] In London, Norwich, and the Cinque Ports, there was no Guild
Merchant at any time. In Lynn, Andover, Southampton, and Bristol it was
all-powerful. In Nottingham no influence of its action can be traced;
the guild mentioned in John’s charter (Nott. Rec. i. 9) is only once
mentioned afterwards, in 1365. (Ibid. i. 189.)

[378] Gross, i. 107.

[379] See Lynn, Gross, ii. 157. Southampton, ibid. 216-226. Andover,
ibid. 4, 8, 294, 344. Derby, ibid. 51-3. Newcastle, ibid. 184-5; other
instances, i. 69. For Reading see vol. i. 302. For the variety in
relations of the Guild to the town see Gross, i. 73.

[380] As at Oxford and Lincoln, Lib. Cus. 671. Gross, ii. 146. It
is very probable, however, that these were confirmations of older

[381] Gross, i. 109.

[382] Ibid. i. 33.

[383] Ibid. i. 31. See also Bury St. Edmunds, ii. 30-3.

[384] See p. 219, note at end of Chapter.

[385] Barnstaple, Gross, ii. 12.

[386] Bury St. Edmunds, Gross, ii. 33-4.

[387] Gross, i. 117. Is there any reason to think that if the enjoyment
of monopoly was split up and divided among the crafts, the exercize of
authority was split up and transferred in the same proportions?

[388] When wealthy individuals of a craft, men perhaps almost in the
position of merchants, were admitted to the Guild, no argument can be
drawn from this as to the relation of the craft itself to the Guild.

[389] Gross, i. 114-5. In the instances here given (p. 116, note 1) of
regulations made for craftsmen by the Guild Merchant it is necessary
to define the exact relation between the Guild and the governing body
of the town. (See Andover in 1314. Gross, ii. 308. Compare Leicester,
ibid. 144.)

[390] Gross, i. 125-6, 159-60.

[391] Ibid. i. 75, 76.

[392] All the materials which I have used in speaking of Coventry have
been given me very kindly by Miss Dormer Harris, who has made a careful
study of the town records on the spot, and will soon, it is hoped,
publish the result of her researches.

[393] Compare Chesterfield, where a Guild was established in 1218 to
guard the “liberties of the town”; in case of need its aldermen were to
choose twelve men to go before the justices or elsewhere to help these
“liberties” of the town; and any one suffering loss for them was to be
repaid by the Guild. (English Guilds, 165-167.)

[394] Compare the very small numbers of the Reading Guild, which was
a survival of olden times (Vol. I. p. 302, note 1). S. Alban’s was
larger, but apparently of a more doubtful character, even in the eyes
of the prudent burghers. (Ibid. 296-7.)

[395] They got land from Isabella, and built their church at
Bablake—the first church built by the burghers.

[396] The taking of a common name may have been connected with the
license to mortmain. S. John’s Guild had got a license in 1342 and land
to build its church, but some extended license must have been needed
for a larger society which desired to possess new property.

[397] Mercers’ obits were celebrated in S. Catherine’s Chapel; drapers’
obits usually in the Lady Chapel belonging to S. Mary’s or the Merchant

[398] The early guildhall of York belonged to the guilds of S. George
and S. Christopher; and when the new hall was built in the middle of
the fifteenth century these two guilds retained considerable power in
it. (Davies’ Walks Through York, 49-51.) Sir William Plumpton and his
wife joined the fraternity of S. Christopher at York, 1439. (Plumpton
Corr. lxii.)

[399] Cf. Norwich (p. 395). This arrangement was probably made for the
sake of financial security (see p. 215-6).

[400] English Gilds, 232.

[401] Accounts of the Guild of Corpus Christi are preserved from 1488.
The brethren and sisters of the Guild seem to have been spread all
over England, and are mentioned at London, Lynn, and Birmingham. They
were of all ranks and of all trades and callings. (Hist. MSS. Com. i.
101.) The Prior of the cathedral, the Prior’s bailiff, the vicar of
Trinity, various craftsmen of the town and vicars of the neighbourhood,
merchants of Queenborough, Dublin, Drogheda, Bristol, Kingston-on-Hull,
London, and many other places, a “merchant of the Staple,” and great
men of the neighbourhood, such as Thomas Grey, the Marquis of Dorset,
Lord Hastings, and others belonged to its association.

[402] S. Mary’s Hall was begun in 1340, and finished in 1413.

[403] The Twenty-four were self-elected; the mayor was elected by the
Twenty-four; the common council were appointed and summoned by the

[404] Compare the case of Southampton where a guild merchant had
imposed its methods on a town government.

[405] The list compiled in 1449 of living craftsmen who had held office
gives fifteen drapers and eleven mercers, and seven dyers; as against
two wire-drawers, two whit-tawyers, and two weavers. The dyers in
Coventry were often cloth merchants of great consequence.

[406] In the time of Richard the Second the fullers and tailors first
attempted to form a guild, and even obtained a patent which licensed
their society to hold property worth a yearly rental of eight marks.

[407] The complaint against the dyers is shown in a petition to
Parliament in 1415 (Rot. Parl. iv. 75), in which the community of
Coventry say that by reason of a confederacy among the dyers they
cannot get their cloth dyed under 6_s._ or 7_s._ a dozen, whereas last
year’s price was 5_s._; and forty pounds of wool was now 30_s._ which
was last year 20_s._, &c. The dyers are also great and common makers
of cloth and take all the flower of the wool for their own cloth, the
remnant serving the common people. The petitioners request that on the
day of the mayor’s election, those that elect him (that is twenty-four
members of the ruling guilds) shall also appoint four persons, two
drapers, one dyer, and one woder, sworn to keep watch over the dyers,
and present them for any “fault or confederacy” to the mayor, bailiffs,
and justices of the peace—in other words to the officers of the
Trinity Guild. For the first fault he was to pay a fine to the king,
for the second a fine and half a year’s imprisonment. They also prayed
that no one who was a dyer should make vendible cloth. These conditions
being refused they claimed the suppression of the guild.

[408] The mayor and his brethren carried their complaint to the king
in 1424, and by royal writ the assemblies were forbidden. In 1422 the
governing guilds issued an order that all wardens should bring the
ordinances of the crafts before the mayor, recorder, and bailiffs, and
eight of the general council by whom honest, lawful, and good rules
should be allowed; and no ordinances might be made against the law in
oppression of people, upon pain of imprisonment or fine at the king’s
will. In 1424 arbitrators were appointed by the mayor’s order to decide
the disputes between the master weavers and their men; and rules were
drawn up for the whole craft. It is obvious that this is very different
from regulation by a guild which still retained the crafts within its
own association.

[409] They gave forty marks for a fresh license for their guild with
mortmain up to ten marks, and leave to elect four masters at the
Nativity to rule the craft and to plead in courts for the whole body.
As of old they seem to have failed in carrying out their scheme in
spite of the license, and in 1448 a petition was presented by them
(whether it was voluntary may well be doubted) that the union between
the fullers’ and tailors’ crafts should be severed. At the suppression
of the guilds the shearmen and tailors held a mill and tenements in
mortmain for the support of their chauntry.

[410] Cf. Exeter, Chapter VII.

[411] How little freedom was left to far the most powerful craft of
all—the dyers—we see from the law of 1530, that if any masters and
journeymen of the dyers can be proved before the mayor and justices
to have hindered any one from becoming a dyer, they are to be fined.
If the journeymen refuse to work for the new dyers, then, without
hindrance from the craft or the journeymen, they may hire others not
inhabitants. In 1530 it was ordered that a certain Robert Perkins was
to become a dyer without “let or hindrance” from craft and journeymen.
In general the corporation resisted the tendency of the lesser crafts
to prevent the setting up of new masters—a policy which is easy
to understand in the rule of merchants, as opposed to that of the

[412] Posted up on the door of S. Michael’s in 1494:—

“Be it knowen and understood This cite should be free and now is bond
Dame Goode-Eve made hit free And now the’ be customes for woll and the
drap’ie. Also hit is made that no prentice shall be But XIII. penies
pay shall he, This act did Robert Grene Therefore he had many a curse I

(Sharp’s Antiquities, 235.)


“This city is bond that shuld be free, The right is holden from the
̄C̄īalte. Our cōins that at Lamas open shuld be cast They be closed
in and hegged full fast.... If ever ye have nede to the cōīalte Such
favour as ye show us such shall ye see. We may speke fair and bid ye
good morwe But luff from our herts ye shall have nevr.... Cherish the
cōīalte and so they have their right For drede of a worse chance by day
or by night. The best of all littel worth shuld be And ye had not had
help of the cōīalte.”

(Sharp, 235.) Perhaps it was from the talk of the streets in some such
local disturbance that Langland quoted when he wrote the lines quoted
in Vol. I. p. 26.

[414] The Coventry craft-masters’ apprentices paid their fines to the
mayor “for the use of the city,” not of the guild; the “searchers” for
the trades were appointed and the regulations made at the Leet Court,
not at meetings of a guild; the same officials attended, but they had
to act as representing the municipality.

[415] As in Lynn, Bristol, and, later, Norwich.

[416] It is a subject for inquiry whether any Guild Merchant gave
its name to a municipality unless it had been made responsible for
the payment of the ferm, and held openly and to the knowledge of the
exchequer some property or rents or tolls for the purpose.

[417] The Coventry Guild held town property for public purposes before
this, apparently as a private arrangement.

[418] It is possible that in the earlier part of Richard’s reign the
fear inspired by the Peasant Revolt may have quickened the spirit of
organization among the wealthier classes. In the Guild of Lichfield,
established by charter in 1387, the master of the Guild and the
Forty-eight were “steadfastly to abide together and see that good rule
be kept in the city.” (Gross, ii. 145.) Similar combinations of the
richer classes seem to have been very general.

[419] English Gilds, 244-6, 249, 250.

[420] Gross, ii. 353.

[421] Hist. MSS. Com. iii. 316. This states that all the burgesses and
the commonalty of the borough of Bridgewater have ordained that they
will choose yearly two seneschals of their guild, and one bailiff to
attend on them; such seneschals to have power to punish those offending
against these ordinances. If any one among them shall maliciously
impute to another a charge of theft, forgery, neifty (“nativitatis,”
the being a born bondman), murder, adultery, or excommunication, and be
convicted thereof before the seneschals, he shall be amerced and bound
to the commonalty to make satisfaction to the other at the award of
his peers. No one shall implead another without the borough under pain
of amercement. Any one neglecting to appear before the seneschals when
summoned is to be amerced. Those opposing execution or distress made by
order of the seneschals to be amerced and bound to the commonalty in
forty pence. No one is to buy flesh or fish before 9 A.M. for regrating
under pain of becoming bound to the commonalty in the price of the
flesh or fish so bought or sold. If any one is elected to the office of
seneschal of S. Mary’s or of the Holy Cross in the church of the said
borough he shall render account for the moneys arising therefrom to the
said seneschals whenever summoned so to do. Any person refusing any one
of those offices, if elected thereto, is to be bound to the commonalty
in the sum of 6_s._ 8_d._ The seneschals are to render account for all
moneys received by them each year upon the morrow of the circumcision
of our Lord. This deed has a large fragment of the castle seal or seal
of the lord of the fee still attached. (Hist. MSS. Com. iii. 316.)

[422] Their meetings for business were held in a small chamber attached
to the church of S. Helen, which is still the exchequer chamber of
their successors, the governors of Christ’s Hospital. (Hist. MSS. Com.
i. 98.) Dr. Gross (i. 83-4, note 11) gives the names of some towns
where the government was guided by a “simple social-religious gild.”
The instances suggest different problems, and need separate examination
of the special circumstances.

[423] Madox, 217. How many later declarations of the poverty of
_corporations_ was due to this convenient system of dealing with their

[424] This system was devised before the doctrine of Trusts was
adopted, in the reign of Henry the Fourth; but even after that doctrine
was accepted the holding of property by a friendly corporation would
have put considerable difficulty in the way of recovering money owed by
the municipality.

[425] English Gilds, 231-5.

[426] See Note A at end of Chapter.

[427] See Chapter XIV.

[428] Dr. Gross is one of the latest writers who insists especially on
the passage from democracy to oligarchy. (i. 108-110, 125-6, 160, 171,

[429] Gross, i. 23-6; ii. 115 et sq. Compare Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 239,
for the forms used in 1291. For elections in 1310 see Ibid. 242.

[430] In Romney an instance is given in 1442 of a man being arrested
who had come, not being free, to hear the common council. Hist. MSS.
Com. v. 540. For Wycombe, Ibid. 557.

[431] Journal Archæological Association, xxvii. 464.

[432] Ibid.

[433] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 493.

[434] Boys’ Sandwich, 429. See also Berwick, English Guilds, 344.

[435] Journ. Arch. Ass. xxvii. 462. If a townsman struck the mayor and
was too harshly punished the friends of the prisoner might call a jury
“of the discreetest and stoutest men of the city,” who should ordain a
just penalty. In Rye as in Hereford the old custom was that the man who
struck the mayor was to lose his right hand (Lyon’s Dover, ii. 352);
in Preston there was some punishment for a mayor who struck a burgess
in or out of court (Custumal, Hist. Preston Guild). In Canterbury if a
bailiff did wrong to any “that may be found by two lawful men of syght
and of hyerth” complaint was made to the twelve aldermen; and if they
charged the bailiff in vain to amend the wrong, the case was carried to
a court of the thirty-six, the aldermen, and the most wisest men, “and
by them right shall be ordained” (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 171).

[436] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 559.

[437] Hunt’s Bristol, 103-5.

[438] For the variety of modes in which juries were elected then and
later see Rep. Mun. Corporations, 27.

[439] We find also special juries—for example a jury of masons and
carpenters to judge “because of a waterfall which fell from the house
and gutter of Richard Maidstone upon the house and ground of William
Bennett” (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 169); and groups of umpires appointed to
settle differences (Boys’ Sandwich, 786).

[440] This was the custom in Exeter. At Bayonne every new citizen was
sworn upon a book containing the charter and statutes of the commune
(Luchaire, 47).

[441] Ricart, 2.

[442] At Wycombe and Dartmouth two Italian copies of the Pandects of
Justinian and commentaries were used in the fifteenth century to bind
up the corporation books.

[443] See pp. 310-11, 334-6, 366-70. A decree of 1328 in Preston was
made by “the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, with all the commonalty,
by a whole assent and consent.” (Thomson, Mun. Hist. 105.)

[444] Mr. Maitland describes the communal organization of the villein
tenants on the manor of Bright Waltham in 1293 (Manorial Pleas, Selden
Soc. 161-4, 168). They formed a “communitas” which held property,
could receive a grant of land, could contract and make exchanges with
the lord (172). These rights were recognized in the manorial courts,
though at Westminster they would have been held very irregular (163).
They elected or recommended the reeve, shepherd, ploughman, swineherd
(170), the whole ville “undertaking” for him (168). The steward kept
watch that no land of servile tenure should be treated as free, and the
villeins themselves were very unwilling that a villein should set up as
a freeman on the ground of holding a freehold acre (164).

[445] In Barnstaple a deed concerning a tenement in the High Street in
1416 was sealed with the seal of the commonalty, not that of the mayor.
(Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 213.) In Rye there was a seal of the community
different from the mayor’s seal, which last was first used in 1377.
(Ibid. v. 489, 511.) Also in Lydd (ibid. 530-2).

[446] See note A at end of chapter.

[447] Worcester, Eng. Guilds, 378.

[448] Frequent cases indicate that where the common lands played an
important part in the wealth or industry of a borough the burgesses
long preserved an interest in municipal affairs. Thus, in Haverford
West, where the townsfolk up to 1832 took a very real part in the
election of their officers and the control of business, the common
meadow still contained over a thousand acres. (Report on Mun.
Corporation, 233, etc.) And at Berwick-on-Tweed, where also affairs
were administered by the whole body of burgesses, the annual value of
the lands whose profits went to the freemen was near £6,000. (Ibid. 31.)

[449] Piers Ploughman, pass. xi. 239.

[450] Merewether and Stephens, ii. 590-2.

[451] Norwich Town Close Evidences, p. 16. A copy of this volume (a
private publication printed in connection with the Town Close case in
1885) may be found in the British Museum.

[452] Norwich Town Close Evidences, 18-19.

[453] Ibid. 17.

[454] It was at this time that the mayor was given power to distrain
for sums levied on the commonalty. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. part 3, 186-7.)

[455] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, pp. 187, 240. Gross, ii. 155-6.

[456] Report on Markets, 62.

[457] Rot. Parl. i. 433.

[458] Madox, 94.

[459] In the list of taxpayers to the poll-tax of 1380 in Oxford, we
find four aldermen mentioned—a vintner, a draper, and two others whose
trade is not mentioned, but who had eight and ten servants, a number
very greatly above the average. The vintner and draper each paid,
like the mayor, 13_s._ 4_d._; but the man with ten servants gave only
12_d._; and the man with eight is not registered as having paid at all.
(Oxford City Documents, Oxford Hist. Soc. 8-45.)

[460] See Note A at end of chapter.

[461] In 1327 a violent dispute broke out between the great people
of Andover and the rest of the community. The story of the election
of a sort of council of fifteen of the richer people in 1303, and of
incidents leading to the riot of 1327 can be traced in the entries
quoted in Gross, ii. 297-321.

[462] Inaugural Address at Oxford by Mr. Froude, Oct. 26th, 1892.

[463] Cases occur in the towns under the game laws. The Jurats of
Hythe present Henry Colle as “a common destroyer in killing hares with
snares and pypys to the great destruction of the sport of the gentry
and against the statute”; and another man “for keeping one ferret for
hunting against the statute.” (Hist. MSS. Com. iv. 1, 431, 2.)

[464] See Piers Ploughman. Pass. ix. 20-31; ii. 96; x. 223, _et sq._


“Then louh (laughed) there a lord and ‘by this light’ said, ‘I hold it
right and reason to take of my reeve All that mine auditor or else my
steward Counselleth me by their account and my clerk’s writing. With
_spiritus intellectus_ they took the reeve-rolls, And with _spiritus
fortitudinis_ fetch it, will he, nil he.’”

—Piers Ploughman. Passus xxii. 461-466.

[466] “If any judgment be given,” say the Hereford Customs, “or any
execution of writs of our Lord the King, be to be impleaded or done,
or if any doubt or ambiguity shall be upon any of our laws or customs,
or anything else touching the whole commonalty, then the bailiff or
steward, by all kind of rigour, may compel _the discreeter especially,
or any other citizen whom they have need of_, to come unto them.”
(Journ. Arch. Ass. xxvii. 464.)

[467] Hudson, Mun. Org., 24-5.

[468] Royal Commission on Markets, 15, 16. The justices had a right to
dismiss poor recognitors, and order the sheriff to cause lawful knights
and other proved discreet men to be elected in their stead (Select
Civil Pleas, Selden Society, 100). The records of the Manchester Court
Leet Jury have only been preserved from 1552. The number varied from
about fourteen to eighteen, who were yearly chosen at the court leets
from the chief burgesses of the town. When the father died his eldest
son or younger brother seems to have been made a juror in his stead.
The jurors, in fact, were chosen generation after generation from the
same small number of families. The reeve and one or both constables
were generally nominated from among the jury then in the box.
(Manchester Court Leet Records, 177-8.) Cf. Ship of Fools. Barclay, 99.

[469] Ibid. 62. See Vol. I. 186, 165, note A. In Canterbury there
was a law that if by the bailiff’s fault the king should send a writ
“in hindering of the liberty” of the town the bailiff should make

[470] In Colchester for example the number of people assessed for all
moveables in 1301 was 390 and the sum raised £24 12_s._ 6_d._ In 1377,
when it stood twelfth on the list of English towns, it is said to have
had about 4,500 inhabitants.

[471] Thus in 1342 Nicholas Langton was elected mayor of York for the
seventeenth time (Hargrove’s York, i. 308) and two men bore rule in
Liverpool for eighteen years between 1374 and 1406—one for twelve
years and the other for six (Picton’s Liverpool, i. 30).

[472] There was a great variety in the names of mayors during the
fifteenth century. John Samon held the office several times, but
generally speaking the mayors were not re-elected, and in no case did
they hold office two years in succession. (See Nottingham Records.)

[473] Gross, ii. 117.

[474] Lincoln and London (Madox, 14; Gross, i. 80). Canterbury (Hist.
MSS. Com. ix. 167).

[475] See Lynn and Southampton.

[476] Ricart’s Kalendar, 72, etc. The Mayor in Nottingham was bound
“to give his brethren knowledge for to see the game of the fishing”
... and “in likewise to give them knowledge of every bear-baiting and
bull-baiting within the town, to see the sport of the game after the
old custom and usage.” (Rec. iii. 449.)

[477] Hythe, Hist. MSS. Com. iv. i. 432, 434.

[478] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 542. Ibid. vi. 572-580. Any man thrice
convicted of “cursing the mayor and slandering him with good and grave
people,” was to be deprived of his freedom by sound of the bell of the
Guild Hall.

[479] See ch. viii. Freeman’s Exeter, 90.

[480] In Bristol the town clerk, the steward, and the attorney, had
forty-two rays, and their under clerks thirty-two rays. (Ricart, xii.

[481] In 1476 Lydd paid 13_s._ 4_d._ for the writing out of its
“Customall.” The custumal of Sandwich written in 1301 was copied about
1465 by the Town Clerk, John Serles. The Black Book of Hythe was copied
in the same way. For Southampton see Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 8.
Instances are too numerous to give.

[482] See the Translation of Crouchback’s Charter at Leicester (Hist.
MSS. Com. viii. 404); a translation from the French in 1491 of the old
book of laws and customs of Yarmouth (Ibid. ix. 305); a translation in
1473 of the ancient rules of the Guild of Southampton known as the Pax
Bread. (Davies’ Southampton, 133.)

[483] Hist. MSS. Com. v. 606-7. The clerk was also responsible for
deeds which were constantly given into the keeping of the Mayor and

[484] The Domesday Book of Dorchester compiled in the XV. century
(Journ. Arch. Ass. xxviii. 29); the Liber Albus of Norwich in 1426
(Blomefield, iii. 141; Arch. Journ. xlvi. 302). Ordinances were drawn
up at Rye in 1397 (Hist. MSS. Com. v. 489); the Fordwich Kalendar in
the fifteenth century (Ibid. v. 606-607). The oldest Year Book of
Sandwich is the Old Black Book in which entries are made in 1432 and
end in 1487. Entries in its White Book begin in 1488 and end in 1526.
The fact that the laws of the Scotch Marches were codified at this time
shews the prevailing tendency.

[485] As in Romney (Hist. MSS. Com. v. 539).

[486] In 1386 the Cinque Ports paid for the copying of Magna Charta
(Ibid. 533).

[487] Nottingham Records, ii. 340.

[488] Hist. MSS. Com. vi. 489.

[489] Ibid. ix. 223-4.

[490] First paper roll in Reading accounts 1463. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi.
part 7, 175.) Accounts at Bridport, Southampton, and Hythe on paper
under Richard the Second. (Ibid. vi. 492; xi. 3-8; iv. 1, 438-9.) Some
of the guild returns were on paper in 1389. (English Guilds, 132-3.)
In 1467 there was a rule in Worcester that the town clerk must be a
citizen, and do his own work with daily attendance and not by simple
and inefficient deputy, and must engross on parchment. (Guilds, 399.)

[491] Hist. MSS. Com. vi. 477.

[492] Ibid. ix. 108.

[493] Ibid. vi. 603.

[494] The difference is seen by comparing with their accounts such
documents as presentments at sessions, bills for goods and the like.
(Nottingham Records, iii. xiv.) See also entries in the records made by
Roger Bramston, mayor of Wycombe, in 1490.

[495] The possible difficulty of getting rid of a clerk is illustrated
by what happened when the mayor, sheriffs, alderman, and commons of
York, in 1475, by their whole and common assent, dismissed the common
clerk “for divers and many offences—excessive takings of money,
misguiding of their books, accounts, and evidences, with other great
trespasses.” They then wrote to D. of Gloucester to entreat his good
lordship and that he would move the king to allow them to name another
common clerk; and the Duke having sent letters to Lord Hastings and
Lord Stanley, finally received an answer from the king that he had
commissioned two serjeants of the law to examine the case, that they
had reported in favour of the corporation, and that a new clerk might
be elected. The grateful town agreed at a meeting of the council that
the D. of Gloucester “for his great labour now late made unto the
king’s great grace” should “be presented at his coming to the city with
6 swans and 6 pikes.” (Davies’ York, 53-55.)

[496] Hist. MSS. Com. vi. 603. In Hereford the steward might be a
“foreigner who is known of the citizens.” (Journ. Arch. Ass. xxvii.

[497] In Sandwich the “town clerk’s” salary was 40_s._ a year, out of
which he had to find parchment, except when he wrote out the cesses,
when the commonalty might give him a shilling or two for the parchment
and his trouble. Other small payments fell to him when a freeman was
made or a corporation letter was signed or suchlike business done.
(Boys’ Sandwich, 476.) In 1390 Romney paid as much as 56_s._ 8_d._;
then the salary fell to 40_s._ in 1428; then to 32_s._ 11_d._; and then
to 26_s._ 8_d._, with 3_s._ 4_d._ for parchment. (Ibid. 803.) This
corresponded with the decline in the fortunes of Romney.

[498] The common clerk at Hythe, John Smallwood, secured for himself a
following of thirty-six men sworn to help him in all his undertakings,
and in 1397 he had even gathered sixty men pledged to bring about the
death of four of his enemies. For four years the town refused to have
any clerk at all, until at last Smallwood made his peace in 1414 by
the gift of certain tenements and lands. (Hist. MSS. Com. iv. part 1,

[499] Davies’ York, 207. Thomas Atwood, who was town clerk of
Canterbury in 1497, seems to have been mayor in 1500. His brother
William was one of the counsel of the city in 1497.

[500] Nottingham Records, iii. 59, 84.

[501] For his writing and one or two of his mottoes see Nottingham
Records, III. ix.-xiii. ii. xvi. For Robert de Ricarto of Bristol, see
p. 20. For Daniel Rowe of Romney, p. 61.

[502] Thompson, Mun. Hist. 82.

[503] See Paston Letters. Cf. The Common Weal (ed. Miss Lamond), 83-4.

[504] See the case of Norwich. The main effect of the new charters was
simply to make the rate of progress apparent, and to some extent to
help it forward by the mere process of reducing everything to formal
legal arrangement, thus incidentally destroying vague liberties, or
hardening the exercise of them into a fixed form which had lost all

[505] Piers Ploughman. Passus ix. 174.


“But while Hunger was their master would none chide, Ne strive against
the Statute, he looked so stern.”

Ibid. Passus ix. 342, 343.

[507] Occasionally we find odd instances of growing independence.
In Worcester “at some seasons of wilfulness” the people had shewn
their revolutionary temper by choosing for serjeants and constables
“persons of worship, to the dishonour of them and of the said city;”
and an ordinance was made in 1467 that none of the twenty-four or the
forty-eight might be appointed to these offices. (English Guilds, 409.)
In like manner the great court of Bridgenorth decreed in 1503 that no
burgess should be made serjeant. (Hist. MSS. Com. x. 4, 426.) In 1350 a
guild was formed in Lincoln of “common and middling folks” who strongly
objected to any one joining them “of the rank of mayor or bailiffs,”
or claiming dignity for his personal rank, and made a rule that if any
such persons insisted on entering their society they should not meddle
with its business and should never be appointed officers. (English
Guilds, 178-9.)

[508] Piers Ploughman. Pass. xviii. 88.

[509] The differences of early charters should all be studied. See, for
example, the charters of Nottingham and Northampton given in the same
year (Stubbs’s Charters, 300-302).

[510] The complexity and apparently inexhaustible confusion of their
methods is well illustrated by the lists drawn up in 1833 by the
commissioners appointed to inquire into municipal corporations. See
appendix to the Rep. on Mun. Corpor. 94, 95; and especially the tables
on pp. 102-132. Evidently the burghers have scarcely deserved the
reproach of those who consider direct election by the people as the
natural rude expedient of unlearned men grouped in political societies
and ignorant of the wiser system of nomination which commends itself to
trained legislators.

[511] Kitchin’s Winchester, 164.

[512] P. 306.

[513] Municipal Corporations Report, 21.

[514] The modes of election of sheriffs and bailiffs were as various
and complicated as those of mayor and council. For illustrations of
this see Rep. on Mun. Corp. 24, 25.

[515] There was also a “Great Court” of twenty-four. Hist. MSS. Com.
x. part 4, pp. 425-7. At Melcombe Regis (Hist. MSS. Com. v. 578) there
was an electing jury of twelve. In Preston the mayor chose in open
court two ancient discreet and honest burgesses, who took an oath that
they would at once select twenty-four burgesses who should not bear any
office in the town during the next year. The twenty-four having been
chosen and sworn, elected a mayor, a bailiff, and a sub-bailiff; these
three at once took their respective oaths, and the mayor before he left
the hall appointed a mayor’s bailiff and a serjeant. Laws were made
by the “mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, with all the commonalty, by a
whole assent and consent.” Government seems to have been carried on by
the mayor and “twelve of those who with him are ordained,” and who were
known as aldermen or capital burgesses. By a guild law earlier than
1328 former mayors and bailiffs, though they might sit on the bench
as aldermen, were not allowed to meddle with the twenty-four during
the election, under penalty of a fine of twenty shillings or loss of
citizenship. (Preston, Guild Record, xxiv. Guild ordinances in history
of Preston Guild, by Dobson and Harland, 12, 17, 19-23.)

[516] To illustrate the variety of town constitutions I have given
three or four, taken at random, in an Appendix at the end of the
chapter. Other instances will be found in Chapters. XII.-XVI.

[517] See note A, p. 283, Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 171-2. This plan was
perhaps modelled on a system common in ecclesiastical elections
and possibly peculiar in Canterbury so far as municipalities were
concerned. There was a dispute in 1435 about the mode of presentation
to S. Peter’s, Cornhill, to avoid the “great strife and controversy”
between the mayor, aldermen, and common council. It was decided that
the mayor and aldermen should choose four priests living within the
city or a mile of it; that these four should name to the common
council four clerks “most meet in manners and conyng”; and that out of
these four the mayor, aldermen, and council should choose one. Three
Fifteenth century Chron. (Camden Soc., 91-92).

[518] Report on Mun. Corporations, 20.

[519] In Bridport there were twelve jurors. (Hist. MSS. Com. vi.
489-90, 492-3.) In Southampton twelve “discreets,” p. 308. The jurats
in Romney and others of the Cinque Ports formed a similar body. So
also in Carlisle, and in Pontefract. (Hist. MSS. Com. viii. 270-1.) A
writ from the privy council was addressed to “the mayor, bailiffs, and
twenty-four notablest burgesses of our town of Northampton” in 1442.
(Proceed. Privy Council v. 191.) Wells had a council of twenty-four.
(Hist. MSS. Com. i. 106-7.)

[520] Oxford, by a charter of Richard the First, had a mayor and two
aldermen. In 1255 Henry the Third made the aldermen four, corresponding
to the four wards of the city, and joined with them eight leading
burgesses mainly to keep peace in the city and to have charge of the
assize of bread, beer, and wine. The twenty-four common councilmen
were elected from the citizens at large. (Boase’s Oxford, 42-44.) In
Ipswich besides the twelve “honest and loyal” portmen elected yearly
in the cemetery of S. Mary Tower there was a council of twenty-four;
and seven of the portmen and thirteen of the twenty-four could together
make rules for the town. (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 242, 244.) In Yarmouth
(Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 305; Blomefield, xi. 301-2, 342), twenty-four
jurats (afterwards called aldermen) were chosen by the burgesses, and
appointed all the officers of the town. Between 1400 and 1407 changes
were made in the constitution. Two bailiffs were elected instead of
four, and besides the council of twenty-four aldermen a common council
was formed of forty-eight members. So also in Colchester and Norwich.
Worcester had two councils, “the twenty-four above and the forty-eight
beneath.” (English Guilds, 379, 396. Also Leicester, Hist. MSS. Com.
viii. 425.) Canterbury had an upper council of twelve and another of
thirty-six. (Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 171-2.) For councils of seventy and
eighty see pp. 374, 432. In Chester a charter of 1506 gave twenty-four
aldermen and forty of the common council. (Hist. MSS. Com. viii.
359-60.) In Bristol (Hunt’s Bristol, 85-86) and Liverpool (Picton
ii. 26) the council was composed of forty “honest and discreet” men.
Colchester had two councils of sixteen each. (Cromwell’s Colchester,

[521] The manner in which the aldermen took their place in the system
of municipal government has not yet been worked out. In London,
Canterbury, and Lincoln they were hereditary owners of the various
wards. The people of Coventry petitioned for aldermen over the wards in
1450, but the mayor and his brethren refused. In Lynn there were only
constables of the wards.

[522] Hist. MSS. Com. vi. 551-569.

[523] Davies’ Southampton, 263.

[524] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3. p. 42, 77-82.

[525] Davies’ Southampton, 250.

[526] Gross, ii. 232.

[527] Davies, 253.

[528] 2 Rich. II. St. 1, cap. 3.

[529] Davies, 254.

[530] Ibid. 250.

[531] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 50, 87.

[532] Ibid. xi. 3, 81, 83, 86. Davies, 253-4.

[533] For example, Thomas Payne, whose barge, the “John of
Southampton,” traded with Zealand; or the goldsmith, William Nycoll,
who was also a merchant, and sent his ship the “Marye of Hampton” to
the Bay of Biscay under the charge of a cousin, his factor and purser.
(Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3. p. 78, 84, 88.)

[534] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, pp. 70-73. Davies, 97-8. In 1399 Richard
the Second granted to the Emperor for the war against the Turks a sum
of £2,000, which was sent through a Genoese merchant and charged on the
customs at Southampton. Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 16. Bekynton, i. lx.
note. In 1401 a second £2,000 was paid.

[535] Davies, 61, 256.

[536] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 66-69.

[537] Ibid. 77.

[538] Davies, 255.

[539] Ibid. 471.

[540] Ibid. 255-6.

[541] In 1411 the burgesses made a great wharf with a crane on it
at the water-gate to increase merchandise and prevent the evading
of customs. Davies, 112. For strangers brought their wines “very
contemptuously” and landed them “within this realm where they think
good themselves.” (H.M.C. xi. 3, 50-52.)

[542] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 11, 87.

[543] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 90.

[544] Hist. MSS. Com. vi, 551-569.

[545] Davies, 294. This may have supported nearly 140 people.

[546] Davies, 82. For supplies for the King’s ship see Hist. MSS. Com.
xi. 3, 113.

[547] Davies, 79. Archers sent to the castle for the defence of
the townsmen were charged to their account, and they had to submit
patiently to their exactions; a letter from Edward the Fourth ordered
the town to release one of the Bowers who had been committed to prison
“for his inordinate demeaning,” and to go on paying him his wages like
other Bowers. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 99.)

[548] The castle wall was not pulled down before the end of the
fifteenth century. Finally the castle hill itself, after its mound had
been lowered and planed, was crowned in 1818 with a Zion chapel on the
site of the Norman keep. (Davies, 76, 84.)

[549] Ibid. 81. For the inconvenience which a constable might cause to
the town if he wished, see p. 83.

[550] See for one example among many, Davies, 81.

[551] Davies, 216.

[552] Ibid. 79.

[553] In the last year of Henry the Sixth the master of one of the
King’s ships received from the Mayor £31 10_s._ 10_d._ In the first
year of Edward the Fourth he again paid for the victualling and custody
of the ship £68 5_s._ 10_d._ (Davies, 110, 113. Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3,
pp. 85, 98.)

[554] Davies’ Southampton, 214. For sum in 1468 ibid. 72, 100.

[555] Davies, 62-3.

[556] Ibid. 105.

[557] With help from the king if necessary. (Davies, 80.) The town had
power to raise a tax on all goods carried in or out of the gates till
the wall was finished. (Davies, 60.)

[558] Davies, 80. Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 61. So a hundred and fifty
years later Henry the Eighth forbade any citizen to leave Chester,
because “the city standeth open in the danger of enemies,” and
requireth all “for its safety and defence.” (Hist. MSS. Com. viii. 370.)

[559] Davies, 60, 61. Similar complaints were perpetually renewed in
the next century.

[560] Davies, 35. Southampton was constantly in arrears of its ferm.
Ibid. 34.

[561] Margaret of Anjou was allowed in 1445 a grant of £1,000 a year
from the great and little customs of the town, and the annuity of £100
which was confirmed to her in 1454 was not resumed by Parliament till

[562] Davies, 37.

[563] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 111, 112.

[564] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 112-13.

[565] English Chronicle, 1377-1461 (Camden Soc.), 90. Davies, 471-2.

[566] Davies, 111. Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 16. See also 98-99.

[567] Davies, 111, 37. In 1462 arrears of the ferm were remitted, and
again in 1484 (Ib. 34). In 1463 a mayor of Southampton was deposed by
the King’s mandamus (Ibid. 168).

[568] Davies speaks of this John Ingoldsby who paid the debt as
afterwards apparently one of the Barons of the Exchequer (p. 38.) A
John Ingoldsby had been Recorder of Southampton from at least 1444 (p.
185) to at least 1459 (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 113) and very probably

[569] Davies, 36. Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3. 100.

[570] In 1486 the pension of £154 was paid to the Earl of Arundel as
constable of Dover Castle, part of it being given in kind. For other
trouble, see Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3. 98.

[571] The outlay of the town in this year was £383 9_s._ 7_d._ (Hist.
MSS. Com. xi. 3. 141-2.)

[572] In this last case they were comforted by a promise of release for
ten years from payment of 140 marks from the rent of £200 which had
been assigned to Queen Joan, and by a grant to the corporation of the
right to hold land to the value of £100. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 42-3.)

[573] The Southampton trade did in fact utterly fail before a century
was over. In 1530 its rent was reduced by £26 13_s._ _d._, and in 1552
the King ordered that when the customs at the port did not amount to
£200, and no ships called carracks of Genoa and galleys of Venice
should enter the port to load or unload, the town should not pay the
accustomed rent of £200, but only £50. To this day certificates are
still prepared every year on November 9th that no carracks of Genoa nor
galleys of Venice have arrived at the port. (Davies, 38-9. Hist. MSS.
Com. xi. 3, 49.)

[574] Unfortunately in the brief extracts from the Southampton records
which have been as yet published, references to municipal government
are so scanty that any sketch of it can only be drawn in faint and
uncertain outline. In the opinion of Dr. Gross the Merchant Guild was
originally a strictly private fraternity, and only became the dominant
burghal authority in the fourteenth century. (Gross, ii. 231.) I have
suggested here the idea of an earlier connexion; but the question needs
full examination.

[575] Davies’ Southampton, 163.

[576] Hist. MSS. Com. Report xi. Appendix 3. p. 43.

[577] Ibid. 44.

[578] Possibly in 1217, certainly in 1237. Davies, 170.

[579] Gross, ii. 220-5.

[580] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 57. See guild ordinances.

[581] Indenture in 1368 by mayor, four scavins, two bailiffs, the
steward, sixteen burgesses named, and the whole community. Ibid. p. 66.

[582] In 1240 the style used is simply “the burgesses.” Ibid. p. 7.

[583] Gross, ii. 214. Davies, 163.

[584] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, pp. 40-2, 43, 46. Compare Nottingham.

[585] Davies, 154, 238.

[586] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 42.

[587] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 45.

[588] Ibid. pp. 46, 81, 84, 87, 106.

[589] Gross, ii. 222-5.

[590] In 1302 a lease of the ferm of the town to certain persons is
granted by consent of twenty-two men named, but without any mention of
their position, “and all the community of the town.” (Hist. MSS. Com.
xi. 3, 56.) Ordinances were made in 1349 by the mayor, aldermen, and
community. (Ibid. 9.)

[591] Gross, ii. 220, 223, 225.

[592] Gross, ii. 220-3.

[593] See the office assigned to the aldermen in 1504, Davies, 76. For
their dress, ibid. 235.

[594] Davies, 237-9. An ordinance was made in 1409 by the mayor,
aldermen, and burgesses, and a similar one in 1486 by the mayor,
aldermen, and burgesses in common assembly; and an ordinance in common
assembly in 1504. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 11.)

[595] Davies, 155. It is possible that at this time the chief aldermen
were fashioned into a close body elected for life after the pattern of
London; at any rate soon after this we find them and their wives in the
orthodox scarlet robes with fur and velvet, in all points the same as
those of the mayor. 235.

[596] Davies, 63, 71-2, 125.

[597] Gross, ii. 225. Davies (p. 136) says that whenever the guild
became settled as the supreme authority, there entered at that period
an element of restriction alien from the more ancient government of
the towns; and traces to the guild the narrowing of common privileges
and subjection of the community to an exclusive system of local
administration. It is possible that wherever a guild merchant did
lay hold on a town government, as here, at Lynn, or at Coventry, the
tendency may always have been to intensify the existing tendencies to
the despotic rule of the richer citizens.

[598] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 7, 60, 61. Ordinances in 1368 and 1393,
9, 8; a concord in 1397, 74; lease of customs in 1390, 72; land in
1373, 1379, 69-70. For other instances see 1403, p. 76; 1410, 77; 1413,
79; 1421, 80; 1422, 80-1; 1433, 82; 1433, 44; 1439, 84; 1462, 85; 1466,
86; 1477, 87; 1482, 90; 1491, 90; 1494, 90-1; 1496, 91; 1507, 91.

[599] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 12, 91, 113.

[600] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 91, 107; Davies, 164. In Nottingham, as
in Southampton, we have an occasional indication that the burgesses
or common councillors, possibly under some fit of impatience at the
pretensions of the aldermen, had intermittent tendencies to side with
the people. In Southampton there was possibly at this time a certain
bond of sympathy, for seven years earlier, in 1452, the burgesses
complained that the aldermen had assumed the right of retaining, as
justices of the peace, fines which had always gone to them towards
the payment of the ferm; and their contention having been maintained
in Parliament, royal orders were sent to the aldermen to molest the
burgesses no more. Davies, 156.

[601] Davies, 164, 165.

[602] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 104. In 1617 two burgesses tried to
oppose the “private nomination,” but were called before the common
council and forced to submit. (Davies, 164, 165.)

[603] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 11.

[604] Ibid.

[605] Davies, 71-2.

[606] As early as 1254 an inquisition of boundaries had been held by
twenty-four lawful men. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 7.)

[607] The same sense of insufficiency of the common to the increasing
number of burgesses seems to have been felt as at Nottingham. In the
next century a man was fined, because “being a bachelor and not keeping
house, he ought not to keep any cattle at all” on it.

[608] The hospital had made encroachments and put up fences in 1438,
which the then mayor had broken down (Davies, 52).

[609] Davies, 53.

[610] Ibid. 53. Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3. p. 14, 91.

[611] Davies, 52.

[612] Davies, 57-8.

[613] Davies, 58-59.

[614] See, for 1549, Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 14; for 1681, Davies,
52. The latest grant of the public land of Southampton was made on
Sept. 16th, 1892, by the Mayor and corporation for a graving dock—part
of the harbour improvements by which Southampton is to be restored to
its old supremacy on the southern coast and once more to give room in
its port to the largest steamers afloat. There was a far-away echo of
old world controversies in the assurance of the mayor to the people
that by this act of the corporation in giving the land at a nominal
consideration there was scarcely anybody in Southampton who would not
be benefited, and “not a soul in Southampton would be injured.”

[615] In the following century we find them making presentments at the
Court Leet about the mayor’s misdoings (Davies, 123).

[616] As the King’s servant orders were sent direct to him without
mention of the community. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, pp. 16, 103.)

[617] By admiralty law the sea was supposed to reach up to the first
bridge, and he therefore controlled the Itchen as far as Woodhill
and the Test as far as Red Bridge, and as admiral held his courts of
admiralty in the accustomed places on the sea-shore at Keyhaven, Lepe,
and Hamble. Davies, 237-40. Compare the mayor of Rochester (H. M. C.
ix. 287).

[618] See for example of one difficulty of this supervision, Davies,
475. For an illustration of his anxieties in the seizing of a carrack,
see Hist. MSS. Com. iii. 111.

[619] See _Louis XI. et les Villes_. Henri Sée.

[620] See pp. 447-8.

[621] Nottingham Records, ii. 34-6.

[622] Nottingham Records, ii. 222-238.

[623] Ibid. i. 269.

[624] Nottingham Records, iii. 412, 62, etc. 39.

[625] For lists of new burgesses admitted in the latter half of the
fifteenth and in the sixteenth century each paying 6_s._ 8_d._ and
in the great majority of cases giving the names of two burgesses as
pledges, see Ibid. ii. 303-305. In the fourteenth century only one
pledge was needed. Ibid. i. 286. At the end of the sixteenth century
strangers who were made freemen paid £10. Ibid. iv. 170-1.

[626] Ibid. ii. 102, 242; iii. 349-52.

[627] Ibid. ii. xi. xii.

[628] There is notice of the transfer of a coal mine in Cossal in 1348.
Ibid. i. 145

[629] Nottingham Records, ii. 147.

[630] Bekynton, i. 230.

[631] Nottingham Records, iii. 113.

[632] Ibid. ii. 142, 158, 166, 160; iii. 403, 445.

[633] Among the cases brought before the leet jury was that of a wager
as to whether the painter of the rood-loft had been paid or not.
(Records, iii. 143.)

[634] Ibid. ii. 178.

[635] Ibid. iii. 18, 20, 28, 83, 180, 499.

[636] Nottingham Records, ii. 284 _et sq._

[637] Ibid. ii. 389.

[638] See Ibid. iv. 259. Similar entries become very frequent.

[639] Nottingham Records, ii. 246, 248, 254, _et sq._; iii. 414, 416.

[640] Ibid. iii. 65, 68.

[641] Ibid. i. 120.

[642] In 1378 a commission was appointed to inquire into the
obstructions of the Trent. Nottingham Records, i. 198. Again in 1382
the King was moved by the “clamorous relation” of the men of Nottingham
and a royal proclamation was issued to forbid the raising of such
tolls; while a new commission was appointed in the following year,
1383, to prevent Richard Byron, lord of Colwick, from directing the
waters of the Trent to his own uses to the injury of Nottingham. (Ibid.
i. 225, 227, 413.) Sir John Babington, who owned considerable land in
Nottingham, seems to have quarrelled with the corporation about 1500.
They appealed to Sir Thomas Lovel for help, who answered that he had
written to him to demean himself as he ought to do until Lovel had
examined the case and decided on it. (Ibid. iii. 402.)

[643] In the fourteenth century there were nearly 70 churches in

[644] Ibid. iii. 362.

[645] Richard the Second seems to have handed it over to Anne of
Bohemia. (Nottingham Records, i. 226.) And under Edward the Fourth it
was granted to Elizabeth Woodville.

[646] Ibid. iii. 414, 416.

[647] One man was paid for cutting out the letters and another for
stitching them on the jackets. (Ibid. ii. 377.)

[648] Ibid. iii. 421.

[649] Ibid. ii. 331.

[650] Ibid. iii. 237.

[651] Nottingham Records, iii. 239, 245.

[652] In 1461 the chamberlains’ expenditure for the whole year came to
£124. Ibid. iii. 418. In 1486 they render account for £440 11_s._ 4_d._
Ibid. 266.

[653] Ibid. i. 1.

[654] Nottingham Records, i. 8.

[655] Ibid. i. 22, 24.

[656] Ibid. i. 40-46.

[657] Ibid. i. 56, 58, 124, 168. The wife’s dower differed in each.
Inheritance went by borough English in the English town; in the French
town it went to the eldest son. (Ibid. i. 186.) The jurors from the
eastern and western sides always remained distinct. (Ibid. ii. 322,
etc.; iii. 344.) By 1330 one of the boroughs had fallen into such
poverty that it could no longer find a bailiff, and leave was given by
charter to elect the bailiff from the inhabitants of any part of the
town that seemed best. (Ibid. i. 109.)

[658] Nottingham Records, i. 78-80.

[659] Ibid. ii. 2-10.

[660] Nottingham Records, ii. 186.

[661] The land was let for thirty years at the yearly rent of a rose,
and the corporation was to make enclosures of ditches and hedges. The
agreement was made by the mayor, sheriff, and aldermen, “with the
assent and consent of the entire community of the town.” Ibid. iii.

[662] Ibid. i. 56.

[663] Nottingham Records, i. 363; ii. 362; iv. 43. It will be seen that
in this case the word community was sometimes used; the term varied no
doubt according to the exact body in which the right was vested that
formed the subject of the treaty, and this again might depend partly on
the date at which the right was acquired. Cf. the various styles used
in Calender of Letters of London Corporation, ed. by Dr. Sharpe.

[664] Some instances of this style follow. There is a mortgage of rent
of certain tolls by the “mayor and community,” 1315. Ibid. i. 84.
Settlement as to common pasture by “mayor, burgesses, and community,”
i. 150. Lease in 1390 by “mayor, chamberlains, and all the burgesses
with the assent and will of the entire community,” iii. 425. For
similar phrases in 1401 and 1416 iii. 425-6; ii. 106-8. In 1435, ii.
362. In 1443, ii. 408. In 1444, ii. 424. In 1451, iii. 408. In 1467,
ii. 269. In 1479 land bequeathed to “mayor, sheriffs, burgesses, and
men of Nottingham,” ii. 304-6, 307. For 1480, ii. 420. In 1482 an
agreement about the Retford tolls is settled by “the mayor and his
brethren and the commonalty of Nottingham,” iii. 427. There is an
extreme particularity in the phrase used in 1485, ii. 353. For a lease
of land in 1494, iii. 431. For 1504, iii. 325-6.

[665] We may compare this with the Council of Southampton; see pp.

[666] In 1435 we read of the mayor, and nine, or possibly eleven,
burgesses named “and many other commons in the said hall,” (Nott. Rec.
ii. 362.) In 1443 there is something very like the council—the mayor,
four justices of the peace named, John Orgram and other “trustworthy
men” of the town, and the two chamberlains, who acted “with the assent
of the whole community of the town.” (Ibid. ii. 408.) For the fine see
ii. 424.

[667] Ibid. ii. 424.

[668] The editor of the Records, Mr. Stevenson, accepts this statement
of Gregory, and says that “The council had no existence prior to 1446,
and it was at first merely a committee appointed by the burgesses
for the management of the affairs of the town.” According to him the
townspeople were accustomed to assemble for the discussion of any
important business, and “this was the system of government in use
prior to the establishment of this committee in 1446.” (Nott. Rec. iv.
ix.) He believes further that “it was, no doubt, the abuses arising
from this system and the inconvenience of having to call a meeting of
the whole community for the consideration of every question connected
with the ruling of the town that caused the burgesses to choose the
committee of 1446.” (Ibid. xi.)

[669] Ibid. iv. xi.

[670] Nott. Rec. ii. 362, 425, 420. The right of the burgesses to ask
for the calling of a common hall is admitted in iii. 342.

[671] Ibid. ii. 186 _et sq._ There are passages in the charter which
seem to convey this impression. In 1465 Elizabeth Woodville confirms a
charter to “the mayor, sheriffs, burgesses, and men of the town,” by
whatsoever name they might be incorporated and known (ii. 255-7).

[672] Ibid. ii. 202-4. For boundaries of wards see iv. 174.

[673] Ibid. ii. 425; iv. xii. 2. The aldermen were still merged for
general business in the council, and appear only three times, possibly
acting as a kind of separate estate—once in 1450 when some land was
let by the mayor, sheriffs, chamberlains, aldermen, and the whole
community; once twenty years later, when in 1471 a complaint was
addressed to the King by the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty; and once
in 1504 when an ordinance was made by the mayor and aldermen to reduce
certain fines to be paid by them for neglect of financial duties, to
which they obtained the consent of councillors and commons. (Nott. Rec.
iii. 325; iii. 408; ii. 334.) In the first two cases the word may have
been used to denote the whole council.

[674] Ibid. iv. xii. xv.

[675] Nott. Rec. iv. xi. xii. xiv. xv. We have only records of the
completed changes in the middle of the sixteenth century, probably
because of the loss of documents. But in the time of Henry VII. the
distinction was already established between the mayor and his brethren
and the clothing (those who had served the office of chamberlain or
sheriff). iii. 449.

[676] Ibid. ii. 227.

[677] See p. 350. In an agreement made in 1500 between the mayor,
council and clothing the names of six inhabitants are included,
apparently unofficial, and possibly representatives of the commons.
(Nott. Rec. iii. 301.) The names set down for the election of the mayor
and officers for the next year are the mayor, recorder, six aldermen,
six common councillors, two sheriffs, the six (apparently) plain
burgesses mentioned in the last list, and twenty-four others of the
clothing. (Compare the lists ibid. iii. 301, 302.)

[678] For a list of the common property and common lands in 1435 see
Ibid. ii. 355-361; see also iii. 62-66; in 1351 iii. 366 _et sq._

[679] The importance to the burgesses of the common lands may be
illustrated by their argument in 1577 against admitting new burgesses
“for there is too many of them already; by making of them the poor
burgesses commons is eaten up, to the great hindrance of all.” At the
same time they insisted that if a burgess let out his part of the land
it should be to a burgess and not to a foreigner. (Nott. Rec. iv. 171,

[680] Ibid. iv. 282. “We present the new council for not setting the
town’s grounds to the true meaning of their new election, but hath
taken the best ground to the richest men, and let the poor men have
nothing that are ancienter burgesses. Also we find that the whole house
or the most of them overhipt (passed over) themselves as it came to
them by order of their names in the book while they were disposing of
Hartliff ground and the coppices, but now that the East Steaner and
other good closes come to be disposed of, they share them themselves,
and leaves poor men unserved that are both ancient and needful.” This
happened in 1606 when the council had got control of the land.

[681] Ibid. ii. 420. No doubt one of the grievances of the people
under a despotic administration was the being deprived of any adequate
control over the admission of new burgesses to share their lands.
Compare Ibid. iii. 459 etc. with the constant remonstrance of the
Mickletorn jury.

[682] The conflict of the sixteenth century lies really beyond our
period in point of time, but the complaints of the people and the
incidents of the fight throw much light on the working of municipal
government, even in earlier days.

[683] 1500, Nott. Rec. iii. 74, 76. The chamberlain concerned in this
business was John Rose.

[684] 1516, Nott. Rec. iii. 353. A very frequent charge against the

[685] Ibid. iii. 344.

[686] Ibid. iii. 300. The Mickletorn mentioned in 1308 was held in
the presence of the coroners and bailiffs, and presentments were made
by decennaries of the daily market, (i. 66, 68.) Seventeen jurors are
mentioned at the Mickletorn of 1395. (i. 268.) It is interesting to
compare the procedure at Coventry, as taken by Miss Dormer Harris from
the records. All petitions to be laid before the court were given in
to the mayor four days before the meeting of the Leet; and these were
inspected by twenty-four men summoned by the mayor. On the day of the
Leet these petitions, if satisfactory, received the assent of the
twenty-four jurats of the Leet.

[687] Nott. Rec. iii. 438.

[688] Ibid. iii. 338-40.

[689] As late as 1480 their right of assembly had been admitted, and at
least six of the commons had taken formal part in elections and other
business in 1500 and 1504.

[690] This Mr. Treasurer was Sir Thomas Lovel, Treasurer of the
Household, Constable of Nottingham Castle, Steward of Lenton monastery.

[691] Nott. Rec. iii. 341-2.

[692] Ibid. iii. 342-3.

[693] In September, 1514, John Rose, mayor, and the burgesses of the
town gave a licence to John Sye to enclose part of the common ground
for his use at a rent of 2_s._ a year. (Nott. Rec. iii. 125.) But in
February, 1515, when leave was given to the guardians of the free
school to enclose land express mention is made of the mayor, burgesses,
and community. (iii. 457.) The agreement in 1516 about the Lenton fair
was made between the convent and the mayor, sheriffs, burgesses, and
commonalty. (iii. 345.) See also 439-40.

[694] June 1513 to Dec. 1514. Again in 1520.

[695] Nottingham Records, iii. 342, 463.

[696] Ibid. iii. 423, 463-4.

[697] Ibid. iii. 357. He apparently neglected their entreaties. 358.

[698] Nott. Rec. iii. 359.

[699] Nott. Rec. iii. 358-60.

[700] Nottingham Records, iv. xiii. For a case in which this certainly
happened see p. 356. The same thing seems to have happened in 1504. A
law of 1442 had ordered that if the mayor and bailiffs did not render
up their accounts before leaving office they should be fined, £20
for the mayor, £10 for the bailiffs; in 1504 the mayor and aldermen
together issued a new ordinance reducing the fine to one half, an
ordinance which was assented to by three common councillors, while for
the commonalty appear the names of seventeen burgesses, of whom one was
certainly one of the sheriffs. (Ibid. ii. 424; iii. 325.)

[701] Nottingham Records, iv. pp. xiii. xxvii. xxviii. 100, 101, 1552.

[702] Ibid. iv. 106-8, 215 _et sq._

[703] Ibid. iii. 365; iv. 10.

[704] Ibid. iv. 106, 191, 223. The free school was left to the
guardianship of the mayor, aldermen, and common council, and if they
were negligent to the Lenton convent, now of course suppressed. (Ibid.
iii. 453 _et sq._)

[705] Nottingham Records, iv. 108.

[706] Ibid. iv. 238.

[707] Ibid. iv. 408-9. The burgesses seem to have twice at least
acted with the people against or apart from the aldermen—once in the
settlement about the town accounts in 1504 (iii. 325-6); and once in
the complaint drawn up by the Mickletorn jury in 1527 against the mayor
and aldermen (iii. 358-60.) The people may have hoped to strengthen
this element of resistance.

[708] Mr. Stevenson thinks that the Clothing about this date became
a portion of the council. Nottingham Records, iv. xiii. The other
explanation seems to me to meet difficulties which this leaves unsolved.

[709] Ibid. iv. 171, 172.

[710] Ibid. iv. 191.

[711] Nottingham Records, iv. 191.

[712] Ibid. iv. 214, 237-8.

[713] Ibid. iv. 245-8.

[714] Ibid. iv. 253.

[715] Ibid. iv. 262-3, 265. See 268, xvi.

[716] Ibid. iv. 269, 282.

[717] Ibid. 270. For the final settlement see iv. xvii.

[718] Hist. MSS. Com. ix. 300-305. Blomefield, xi. 300-342.

[719] Cromwell’s Colchester, 264-5.

[720] See Mr. Hudson’s admirable work on Leet Jurisdiction in Norwich.
(Selden Soc. vol. v.) For the four “vice-comites” of London see Round’s
Geoffrey de Mandeville, 363.

[721] Leet Jur. (Selden Soc.) v. p. xviii. lxii, xliii-li.; Hudson,
Mun. Org. in Norwich: Arch. Journ. xlvi. no. 184, 312, 316.

[722] According to Mr. Hudson the Norwich Leet Juries were solely
a “police” organization. They existed to make “presentments” which
involved a certain amount of previous keeping of the peace in their
own little neighbourhood. In their _individual_ capacity the capital
pledges were the precursors of the “petty constable” [see Selden Soc.
v. lxii. no. 1, and cf. pages there cited]; in their _collective_
capacity as juries they preceded the local “Justice of the Peace,” a
function usurped to a small extent between (say) 1360 and 1420 by the
“twenty-four citizens,” and afterwards wholly usurped by the “Court of
Aldermen,” who were the borough magistrates.

[723] Hudson, Leet Jur. in Norwich, lxxi., note.

[724] Ibid. xv. 1365. Arch. Journ. xlvi. no. 184, 322. In reference to
the election of bailiffs or the “twenty-four” the word “leet” means a
division of the city, not a court.

[725] Leet Jurisdiction in Norwich, xli.

[726] Besides the deed of 1290 (p. 367 n. 2) Mr. Hudson has kindly
sent me the following extracts. Saturday, Vigil of Palms, 27 Edward
I. 1298—John the carpenter and Alice his wife grant a messuage next
the gates of Nedham to “Ballivi, Cives, et Communitas Norwici” “ad
asiamentum muri civitatis erigendi.” (City Domesday, fol. lxxiii.) On
folio lxviii. of the same book there is a grant of a messuage near the
cathedral to the commonalty, 31 Edward, 1302, in the following form:
“to the four Bailiffs (named), Henry Clark, Robert de Holveston, ...
Adam de Blicling, citizens of the said city (15 persons), and all the
Commonalty thereof.”

[727] Norwich Town Close Evidences, printed privately, 1885. (British
Museum), 18.

[728] Arch. Journ. xlvi. no. 184, 322.

[729] They state in 1378 that this had already been the custom. (Town
Close Evidences, 30.)

[730] Arch. Journ. xlvi. No 183, 315.

[731] Town Close Evidences, 7. The phraze used in 1218 (p. 5), “men of
the city,” is not the same.

[732] Ibid. 7, 13, 17, 18, 25, 26, 30. Arch. Journ. xlvi. no. 184, 325.
See Note A at end of chapter.

[733] Town Close Evidences, 27.

[734] Ibid. 16, 18.

[735] Town Close Evidences, 10, 11, 17.

[736] Norwich Town Close Evidences, 14, 24, 27, 31, 32. The same form
was used even after the charter of 1403, in 1420 and 1435. (Ibid. 46.)
We find “the citizens” joined with “the commonalty” in the thirteenth
century. An enrolled deed of 1290, in which license to build a stall
in the market is granted by the “Communitas Norwici et cives ejusdam
civitatis,” is quoted by Mr. Hudson. (See Mun. Org., Arch. Journ.
xlvi. no. 184.) The double style used is, I think, explained by a
contention which occurred a century later, in 1379. “There was a
discussion whether the stalls in the meat-market ought to belong to the
commonalty or to the bailiffs. They are agreed that the said stalls
shall in future remain to the commonalty for ever, without challenge or
contradiction to the present bailiffs or the bailiffs in future.” (Town
Close Evidences, 31.) At that time a great reorganization of the market
was in progress (see Kirkpatrick’s “Streets and Lanes of Norwich,” App.
i. pp. 95, 96) with a view to getting as many stalls as possible into
the hands of the authorities. As the bailiffs had certain sources of
income allotted to them (they being personally responsible for the fee
ferm rent) they need not be blamed for trying to help themselves. On
the other hand the attempt shows how significant was the use of the
word “communitas” in the older deed (see p. 364 no. 1). I think it very
possible that property set apart for a definite public purpose was
held in the joint names of citizens and commonalty; but I am convinced
this last word was never used in a formal way, but always expressed a
tenure and control with which the “cives” or the twenty-four could not

[737] Hudson, Leet Jur. in Norwich, xxxvi. lxxiii. 63. Selden Soc.

[738] Arch. Journ. xlvi. 316-17.

[739] Town Close Evidences, 16-17.

[740] Ibid. 29. Evidently this was a time of very active municipal
life. About 1372 the corporation seems to have begun copying out
carefully older legal documents, and this copying and re-writing went
on through the next century. The account-books which still exist began
to be kept in 1393. In 1378 the income of the city was £374 17 _s._
4_d._ Blomefield, iii. 103.

[741] Town Close Evidences, 30.

[742] Mr. Hudson informs me that there are rolls (more or less perfect)
for about half the years between 1365 and 1385. Then they fail till
1413, when the constitution of the assembly had been entirely altered.

[743] I have to thank Mr. Hudson for his kindness in giving me this
information. He tells me that an assembly on October 7th, 1372, is
thus described: “Prima congregatio ibidem tenta die Jovis, &c. ...
quatuor Ballivis (eleven persons specially named) et aliis de com’tate
presentibus.” This is the constant form in use, whenever the attendance
is recorded, down to the last of these rolls in 1385. The number
of persons specially named varies from eleven to seventeen. Their
similarity in the course of each year suggests that they were specially
bound to attend. In two years 1377-8 and 1379-80 the attendances are
recorded several times, and, as in the first case the total number of
persons named is twenty-five and in the other twenty-four, it seems
reasonably certain that they were the actual twenty-four. This is
confirmed by the fact that almost all the “committee,” as they would
now be called, are appointed from their number and almost the whole
burden of administration is undertaken by one or other of them in
conjunction with the bailiffs.

[744] Citizens left legacies to help in these expenses. Not only was
£1,000 lent to the King, but heavy bribes had to be paid all round.
Blomefield, iii. 120.

[745] Town Close Evidences, 36. In considering the new style two views
present themselves. We may lay the whole stress on the association
of mayor and sheriffs instead of bailiffs with “the citizens and
commonalty”; or, as I incline to think, we may also attach importance
to the formal association in a charter of “citizens” and “commonalty,”
as marking an epoch in the civic history.

[746] Mr. Hudson has been good enough to give me these dates and facts,
in which he has been able to correct Blomefield’s statements, from
evidence in the Norwich Conveyance Rolls, etc.

[747] Blomefield, iii. 123-124. Hudson, Mun. Org., Arch. Journ. xlvi.
no. 184, 299.

[748] Town Close Evidences, 37-43.

[749] In 1354 it was ordered that London aldermen should not be elected
yearly but hold office for life. (Stow’s London, 189.) A common council
appears as early as 1273; and again in 1347. It was then chosen by the
mayor, aldermen, and representatives from the wards. At the end of
Edward’s reign the election was transferred to the trading companies,
but restored to the wards in 1384; to be given back to the companies
by Edward the Fourth in 1467; and restored to the wards in 1650.
(Merewether and Stephens, 734-5, 1988-1992.)

[750] All that had been mayors were to ride in their cloaks whenever
the mayor rode on pain of £20, each of the twenty-four on pain of
100_s._ The hat of the mayor cost in 1418 2_s._ 10_d._, in 1437 10_s._
2_d._ (Rogers’ Agric. and Prices, iv. 579.)

[751] Town Close Evidences, 40-1.

[752] Conesford elected twelve councillors, Mancroft sixteen, Wymer
twenty, and the Ward over the Water twelve.

[753] The Speaker of the House of Commons is first mentioned in 1378.

[754] Town Close Evidences, 39, 40, 41.

[755] Town Close Evidences, 41, 42.

[756] Ibid. 45.

[757] Blomefield, iii. 134.

[758] Town Close Evidences, 41.

[759] Ibid. 45.

[760] In 1423 when the mayor and other judges sat in the city there
appeared before them two coroners, 16 constables for the four wards,
the constables for the liberties of Holmestrete and Spitelond, with the
bailiff of the prior’s liberties in those places, and four men out of
each ward possibly for jurymen. In 1424 a tripartite indenture was made
by the mayor, aldermen, and commons, with constitutions for the better
government of the city, and was ratified at a common assembly in the
guild hall. (Blomefield, iii. 136-139.)

[761] Leet Jur. in Norwich, xx. lxxvi. lxxx.

[762] Leet Jurisdiction, lxxx.

[763] Arch. Journ. xlvi. no. 184, p. 326-7. Leet Jur. lxxxix. Before
the end of the thirteenth century there were guilds of cobblers,
fullers, saddlers, tanners. (Ibid. 13, 39, 42, 43.)

[764] In the list given in English Guilds there is one guild founded
in 1307 and ten (or eleven, if we count the masons’ guild on p. 39)
founded between 1350 and 1385, some of them craft guilds, others
nominally social or religious associations, though it is very probable
that in many cases this was but a thin disguise for a craft guild.
English Guilds, 14, etc.

[765] See saddlers’ guild, which had existed a century before.

[766] The composition of 1415 decided that each craft in the city was
yearly to choose two masters, whose names were to be presented for
the mayor’s consent, and who were to take their oaths before him. The
Monday after the mayor’s “riding” these masters were to make good and
true search in their crafts and to present all offenders before the
mayor for judgement; and half the fines were given to the sheriffs,
half to the masters of the crafts. The mayor had to accept the
presentment of the “masters”; he could not make search either himself
or by any of the town officers; only if a craft refused to be searched
or to elect masters the mayor might himself appoint two masters and
order the search. If the masters concealed any notable default they
were to be punished by the advice of the mayor and more sufficient men
of the same craft. (Town Close Evidences, 41, 42.)

[767] On being enrolled each man must pay to the craft 40 pence, and to
the chamber at least 20_s._ and “more after the quantity of his good.”
(Town Close Evidences, 42.) The profits of admission to the freedom of
the city had in old times gone half to the bailiffs and half to the
community, but now the craft claimed a definite share of the entrance
money. (Arch. Journ. xlvi. no. 184, p. 328.) By the composition six men
were to be chosen “to be of counsel with the chamberlains in receiving
of burgesses.”

[768] Town Close Evidences, 42-3.

[769] Hist. MSS. Com. i. 104.

[770] English Guilds, 443-4.

[771] Lambert’s Guild Life, 108. English Guilds, 443-60.

[772] 1/2_d._ was paid for each piece sealed. The right was leased
to two citizens at 20 marks rent. Blomefield, iii. 125. By the law
of 1442 the weavers were to choose every year four wardens from the
craftsmen of the town, who should in their turn choose two inspectors
or overseers for the stuff out of Norfolk. The wardens tested the
faulty goods and received half of any forfeited stuffs. The law of 1445
ordered them to choose four wardens for Norwich and four for Norfolk,
and directed the wardens to make such laws as were needful for the
improvement of the trade. (20 Henry VI. cap. 10; 23 Henry VI. cap. 3; 7
Edward IV. cap. 1.)

[773] See Paston Letters.

[774] Not only were there disputes with the prior of Norwich, but with
the Hospital of S. Paul (Town Close Evidences, 7-8); the prioress of
Carrow (Blomefield, iii. 64, 147); the abbot of Holme (ibid. 153-4);
the abbot of Wendling (ibid. 147).

[775] “For the people here is loth to complain till they hear tidings
of a good sheriff.” (Paston Letters, i. 166.)

[776] The mayor and citizens were able if necessary to have in harness
from two to five hundred men of the town. (Ibid. ii. 414.)

[777] Blomefield, iii. 144-155.

[778] In 1444. Blomefield, iii. 151, 152. The courts were held in
the tolbooth, but the assemblies of the commons still gathered in
the chapel of the Virgin Mary in the Fields. (Ibid. 92.) Most of the
city business was done there as late as 1455. (Ibid. 160.) It appears
that the citizens frequently availed themselves of other people’s
accommodation (the Priory, Black Friars, Grey Friars) rather than spend
money in providing it for themselves.

[779] Ibid. iii. 153.

[780] William Paston was one of the commissioners. (Blomefield, iii.

[781] Ibid. iii. 144-6.

[782] Proceedings of Privy Council, v. 17-19.

[783] Blomefield, iii. 146-7, 153.

[784] Proceedings of Privy Council, v. 34, 45.

[785] Blomefield, iii. 147. New arrangements were made about the
payments of the sheriffs by raising regular taxes; the sword-bearer and
the three serjeants for the maces were given their offices for life.

[786] Blomefield, iii. 147-149.

[787] The bishop was on the side of the anti-popular party. At his
death he left to John Heydon the cup he daily used of silver gilt with
the cover. (Ibid. iii. 538.)

[788] Hist. MSS. Com. i. 103.

[789] Charges that the mayor had sealed with the common seal measures
bigger than the standard measures for certain favoured citizens, and
that the people were forced to sell to them by these measures; that he
had made an evil use of the Pye-powder Court, using its summary and
autocratic procedure to imprison many men wrongly and tyrannically (one
John Wetherby had been imprisoned); and that he sustained an illegal
guild in the city called Le Bachery. In 1477 a statute was made that
the Pye-powder Court could only deal with contracts or bargains made
during the fair. (Blomefield, iii. 169.)

[790] Ibid. iii. 149-50, 154-5.

[791] Ibid. 147, 152.

[792] He left £40 to Norwich towards payment of the city tax.
(Blomefield, iii. 534.) The city, however, asked in vain for the money
in 1454 and again in 1460. (159.) Walter Lyhert, made bishop in 1446,
was of an old Norwich family. An ancestor of his had been citizen in
1261. (Ibid. iii. 535-6.)

[793] Ibid. iii. 156.

[794] Paston Letters, i. 151, 156, 158.

[795] Ibid. i. 151.

[796] Ibid. i. 123, 183-4, 199-200, 206, 211-2, 225.

[797] In 1460 Heydon left Norfolk for Berkshire. (Paston Letters, i.

[798] In 1456 the common stock was so much wasted that several of the
aldermen remitted debts to the city. (Blomefield, iii. 160.) And even
the guild of S. George was scarcely able to pay its way. (Hist. MSS.
Com. i. 104.)

[799] All ex-mayors were allowed to be justices of the peace. Four of
the justices of the peace were to have the powers of King’s justices,
and the aldermen were allowed to elect the under sheriffs, town clerks,
and sheriffs’ bailiffs. (Blomefield, iii. 158.)

[800] Hist. MSS. Com. i. 104. In 1452 it was ordered that no brother
should wear a red gown save the alderman of the guild or any of the
twenty-four aldermen of the city.

[801] The first attempt at a settlement was in 1205 about the rights of
common of the townspeople. (Town Close Evidences, 4-5.)

[802] Town Close Evidences, 52-64.

[803] Vol. I. p. 221.

[804] Dr. Gross, taking the Trinity guild of Lynn as “a continuation of
the old guild merchant,” speaks of its “line of developement” into a
“simple, social-religious fraternity” (i. 161); and notes that “though
the ancient function of the guild had disappeared, its social-religious
successor was a quasi-official part of the civic polity” (p. 162). He
does not, however, enable us to trace any such “developement,” or to
distinguish “ancient functions” from later ones. From our first glimpse
of the guild in the charters of John and Henry the Third to the patent
of Henry the Fifth it seems to be singularly free from change, nor is
any evidence produced during these centuries for its “transformation
into a simple social-religious guild.” In the case of Southampton Dr.
Gross sees a developement of an exactly opposite kind (ii. 231).

[805] For a most interesting account of the Lynn cattle and sheep
trade, and the Kipton Ash market, set up in 1306, for drafting off the
sheep flocks, see Dr. Jessopp’s paper in the Nineteenth Century, June,
1892, on “A Fourteenth Century Parson.”

[806] Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, 183.

[807] The guild did not include all the town traders (Gross, ii.
166-7), and probably tended to become an exclusive body since it could
keep out all save the sons of its members by charging whatever entrance
fees it liked (p. 164).

[808] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 210-11.

[809] Blomefield, viii. 515. Gross, ii. 159-170. The guild of Corpus
Christi paid in 1400 103_s._ 2_d._ for meat and drinks and spices for
its feast, and 169_s._ for making wax torches; and the beginning of the
century was marked by the foundation of at least three other guilds,
with right to hold land and buildings.

[810] Gross, ii. 166-7.

[811] Gross, ii. 166.

[812] A charter of 1305 secured its possession of certain property.
The charter of 1393 was probably connected with the extension of the
statute of mortmain to towns. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 186, 191.)

[813] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 211. Gross, ii. 153. The best
mill-stones in those days came from Paris, or from Andernach on the
Rhine. A good mill-stone might cost from £3 to £4. (Rogers’ Work and
Wages, i. 113.)

[814] Even from the thirteenth century. (Gross, ii. 153.)

[815] Gross, ii. 159.

[816] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, pp. 225-231.

[817] Gross, ii. 158, etc. 168.

[818] Compare this with Southampton, where the alderman was himself

[819] Gross, ii. 155-156.

[820] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, p. 194.

[821] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 195-6. Beloe, Our Borough, p. 19.

[822] Beloe, Our Borough, 15.

[823] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 196.

[824] In 1345 the king called out a hundred men of the most vigorous to
go to Gascony. (Ibid. 189.)

[825] See Vol. I. 291-2.

[826] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 218-223.

[827] Ibid. 158-9.

[828] Ibid. p. 229.

[829] Ibid. xi. 3, p. 224.

[830] Cf. for comparison and contrast the custom of Dinant after 1348.
(Ville de Dinant. Pirenne, 45-6, 49-50.)

[831] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 191-4.

[832] Mr. Beloe says that the ruling class resisted, and instituted
a costly suit to get a decree under the great seal setting aside the
award, but he gives no particulars. (Our Borough, 17.)

[833] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 197, 200.

[834] Either officer convicted of false dealing was to lose his office
and franchise for ever.

[835] The four chamberlains or treasurers were then to be chosen
from the body of burgesses, two by the mayor and jurats, two by the
burgesses. But, unlike Norwich, where the council and commons divided
the remaining elections between them, in Lynn the only appointment
left to the community besides the two chamberlains was the prolocutor.
Coroners and constables were nominated by the people, and elected
by the jurats, and the other officers, the common clerk, serjeant,
janitors, bell-man and wait, taken from the general community both of
burgesses and non-burgesses, were directly appointed by the mayor and

[836] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 196-202. There were “constabularies” which
corresponded to wards, over which a captain was appointed in time of
war or danger. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 167.)

[837] Beloe, Our Borough, 16.

[838] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 191-4.

[839] Beloe, 17, 18. Gross, ii. 170.

[840] Ibid.

[841] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 195, 203.

[842] Instances of the important place held by the alderman in matters
of town government in 1420. (Ibid. 246, and in 1431-42, p. 162-4.)

[843] In 1426 the alderman of the guild chose four fit persons who
took the accustomed oath and entered the chamber; they chose four
others, who, after being sworn, were brought into the chamber, and the
eight then added to their number four more. The whole body of twelve,
after sitting from the tenth to the third hour, were finally divided
as to the election of the serjeant who had in some way offended the
community, and at whose name a “great murmur now arose amongst the
people” waiting outside. He was, however, chosen after asking pardon of
the mayor and community for his offence. (Ibid. 160.) In 1477 another
election is described, which was carried on in exactly the same way.
(Ibid. 169.) And in 1470, when a constable had to be elected there was
the same procedure.

[844] Beloe, 21.

[845] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 245, 246.

[846] The gradual change in the mode of electing burgesses for
parliament illustrates the action of the councils in absorbing
influence. In 1314 the jury to elect the burgesses had been chosen by
a committee of twenty-six townsmen. But at least from 1425 the mayor
assumed the right of choosing the first four of the jury, who then
named the remaining eight. In 1433, if not earlier, the mayor was bound
to select two of the twenty-four and two of the twenty-seven, and the
added eight members were all taken from the same bodies; and in 1442
this custom was made into a permanent law. (Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3.
240, 157-8, 163-4, 166-9.) About 1523 the burgesses were chosen by
the twenty-four and twenty-seven voting personally in assembly; this
assembly, called the “House,” carried on all dealings with members,
instructed them, paid them, and received their reports. The first
effort of the burgesses at large to take any part in election was at
the Long Parliament. (Ibid. pp. 148-9.)

[847] 1427, Ibid. 160; 1428, p. 161; 1441, p. 163-4; 1442, p. 164;
1466, p. 168. Cf. also p. 148.

[848] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 162.

[849] Ibid. 246.

[850] Ibid. 170.

[851] Hist. MSS. Com. xi. 3, 163.

[852] Ibid. 158-9, 161.

[853] Ibid. 167.

[854] Ibid. 168. The use of the word communitas in 1463 is here
explained as showing how the term had “already lost its original
meaning and was used to designate the humblest and least influential
class of the burgesses.” But community was used in exactly this sense
in 1305. (Ibid. 187.)

[855] For some details of the seventy-five guilds of Lynn see the
Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany, edited by Walter Rye, Part I., pp.

[856] Lyon’s Dover, I. xi.; ii. 267-8, 287, 312, 370.

[857] In Dover the common assembly summoned in the same way was called
a Hornblowing. (Boy’s Sandwich, 797.)

[858] Ibid. 538.

[859] Ibid. 783-4. In 1565 291 households were English and 129
Walloons. But there were many foreigners in Sandwich at a far earlier

[860] In 1466 and 1492. Boys’ Sandwich, 675, 679.

[861] Ibid. 787.

[862] Ibid. 673-6. In 1469 the commons of Sandwich at a Shepway court
desire that the mayor may be kept in safe custody for such charges as
they will allege against him. (Ibid. 676.)

[863] Boys’ Sandwich, 677.

[864] Lyon’s Dover, i. 206-7.

[865] Boys’ Sandwich, 683.

[866] At the same time the jurats, who as late as 1492 need only
have lived a year in the town, “he and his wife together,” must now
have been there at least three years. (Ibid. 679-701.) Jurats were
ultimately chosen or nominated by the mayor in Dover and in Winchelsea.
(Lyon, ii. 268, 371.)

[867] Boys, 686.

[868] Skelton’s Poems. Ed. Dyce, 381-2.

[869] Green’s History of the English People, i. 211-225.

[870] See p. 238. Mr. Maitland’s Archaic Communities (Law Quarterly),

[871] Brinklow’s Papers (Early Eng. Text Soc.) illustrate the
uncompromising ideas of radical reform fostered in towns.

[872] Bishop Creighton’s Wolsey, 51, 59.

[873] Skelton’s Poems. Ed. Dyce, i. 386.

[874] See Vol. I. Ch. VII.


“He rules his commonalty With all benignity, His noble baronage He
putteth them in courage To exploit deeds of arms.... Wherever he rides
or goes His subjects he doth support, Maintain them with comfort Of his
most princely port.”

Skelton, ii. 81-2.

[876] Vol. I. p. 26, n. 5.

[877] “And then they (princes) daub over their oppression with a
submissive, flattering carriage, that they may so far insinuate into
the affections of the vulgar, as they may not tumult nor rebel, but
patiently crouch to burdens and exactions.” (Erasmus, Praise of Folly,
tr.), 151.


—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

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