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Title: The story of Coventry
Author: Harris, Mary Dormer
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The story of Coventry" ***

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_The Story of Coventry_

[Illustration: _Henry VI._

_from the painting in the National Portrait Gallery._]

 _The Story of_ Coventry

 _by Mary Dormer Harris_

 _Illustrated by Albert Chanler_


 _London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd._
 _Aldine House_  _Bedford Street_
 _Covent Garden W.C._  1911

_All rights reserved_



In preparing this volume for the press I have omitted some of the
matter in _Life in an Old English Town_, which did not seem suitable
for this series, and added fresh material likely to be useful to
those who wished to identify the historic sites, and see the historic
buildings of Coventry. In expanding Chapter XV. in so far as it dealt
with the Corpus Christi plays--a task the labours of Dr Hardin Craig
have rendered comparatively light--I have been able to add one hitherto
unpublished item to the subject of the mediæval dramatic history of
Coventry (p. 296), and dispel the idea that the name "S. Crytyan"
given to a play acted in 1505 is a misreading for S. Catherine. For
permission to publish this item I am indebted to the kindness of Mr
William Page, F.S.A., editor of the _Victoria County History_. Another
point remotely bearing upon the pageants is the chronology of royal
visits to Coventry (p. 288), which I have endeavoured to clear up as
far as I could, Sharp's _Dissertation on the Coventry Mysteries_, the
usual guide in these matters, being extremely faulty in this respect
on account of the confusion which prevails in the MS. annals or
mayor-lists, on which he depended for dates. Of these extant lists,
both in print and in MS., I have given a detailed account (p. 106) in
connection with the entry concerning Prince Henry's supposed arrest
by Mayor Hornby, a matter which, in view of the Shakespearean interest
involved, is more fully treated of here than in my previous book.

My thanks are due to Mr J. Munro and the Early English Text Society
for the kind permission to print extracts from Dr Craig's _Two Corpus
Christi Plays_ and from my own edition of the _Leet Book_. To Mr
George Sutton, Town Clerk of Coventry, and all the unfailing courteous
officials with whom I so constantly came in contact during my work, I
must (not for the first time) express my gratitude. My obligations to
Messrs Longmans and the Society of Antiquaries for permission to print
portions of Chapters XII. and XIII. respectively have been acknowledged
in my previous work.


 Leamington, _Aug. 7, 1911_.



 _The Three Spires and Coventry_                             1


 _Leofric and Godiva_                                       14


 _The Benedictine Monastery_                                24


 _The Chester Lordship_                                     37


 _Beginnings of Municipal Government_                       45


 _Prior's-half and Earl's-half_                             56


 _The Seigniory of the Prior and Queen Isabella_            66


 _The Corporation and the Guilds_                           73


 _The Mayor, Bailiffs, and Community_                       84


 _Coventry and the Kingdom of England_                      95


 _The Red and White Rose_                                  112


 _The Last Struggle of York and Lancaster--the
 Tudors and Stuarts_                                       135


 _The Lammas Lands_                                        169


 _The Companies of the Crafts_                             212


 _Daily Life in the Town--the Merchants and the
 Market_                                                   233


 _Daily Life in the Town (continued)--Religion and
 Amusements of the Townsfolk_                              269


 _Old Coventry at the Present Day_                         317

 _Index_                                                   346


 _King Henry VI._ (_From a painting in the National
 Portrait Gallery; painter unknown_)          _Photogravure Frontispiece_

                                                        FACING PAGE
 _A Courtyard in Little Park Street_                           6

 _Smithford Street_                                           82

 _Palace Yard_                                               166

 _Council Chamber, showing Panelling_                        174

 _Bablake and S. John's Church_                              208

 _New Street_                                                224

 _Butcher Row_                                               228

 _Mayoress' Parlour, showing State Chair_                    338

 _The Two Spires from top of Bishop Street_                    2

 _8 Much Park Street_                                          5

 _Remains of Old Wall--back of Godiva Street_                  7

 _Saint John the Baptist, Coventry_                            9

 _Gosford Green_                                              11

 _24 Gosford Street_                                          12

 _130 Far Gosford Street_                                     13

 _Godiva Window_                                              20

 _Heraldic Tile found in Hales Street_                        21

 _Peeping Tom_                                                23

 _Cathedral Ruins_                                            24

 _Carved Miserere Seat, S. Michael's Church_                  25

 _Priory Row, Coventry_                                       27

 _Cheylesmore Manor House_                                    39

 _Gable of Cheylesmore Manor House_                           43

 _34 Far Gosford Street_                                      52

 _Old Whitefriars' Monastery, now Coventry Union_             54

 _40 Far Gosford Street_                                      58

 _Courtyard, S. Mary's Hall, Coventry_                        78

 _Minstrel Gallery, S. Mary's Hall_                           81

 _The City Keys_                                              85

 _The City Mace--The Sword_                                   86

 _The Old State Chair_                                        89

 _High Street, Coventry_                                      99

 _View of Interior of Saint Michael's_                       117

 _Gosford Street_                                            123

 _Smithford Street, Coventry_                                136

 _Cook Street Gate_                                          142

 _Old House in Little Park Street_                           148

 _Queen Mary's Chamber_                                      164

 _Swanswell Gate_                                            167

 _The Council Chamber, S. Mary's Hall_                       185

 _Trinity Lane_                                              213

 _Arms of City of Coventry_                                  214

 _Old House beside S. Mary's Hall_                           235

 _Whitefriars' Lane_                                         239

 _Oriel Window and Stocks, S. Mary's Hall_                   241

 _Old Bablake School_                                        260

 _Ford's Hospital_                                           261

 _Holy Trinity Church_                                       271

 _Swillington's Tomb, S. Michael's Church_                   274

 _Pulpit, Holy Trinity Church_                               277

 _Old House in Cox Street_                                   291

 _36 Gosford Street_                                         293

 _91 Gosford Street_                                         294

 _Old House in Cox Street_                                   295

 _Entrance to Kitchen, S. Mary's Hall_                       331

 _Archdeacon's Chapel, Holy Trinity Church_                  340

 _The Staircase, Old Bablake School_                         344

The Story of Coventry


_The Three Spires and Coventry_

 "Now flourishing with fanes, and proud pyramidès,
 Her walls in good repair, her ports so bravely built,
 Her halls in good estate, her cross so richly gilt,
 As scorning all the Towns that stand within her view."

 Drayton, _Polyolbion_, xiii.

Time has brought many changes since old Drayton thus vaunted the
stateliness of Coventry. The walls, the cross are gone, and of the
twelve stately gates, but two remain. Gone, too, is the splendid
conduit in the Cross Cheaping, S. Nicholas' Hall in the West Orchard,
meeting-place of the Corpus Christi guild; and S. Nicholas' Church, out
to the north beyond Bishop Street, which fell to ruin soon after the
Reformation. But the "proud pyramidès," the "three spires," remain yet,
and give greeting to all who approach Coventry, dominating the flat
midland country for many a mile, changing their relative position as
the spectator moves, and their colour in the shifting lights. Highest
and fairest of all--so "the Archangel," says Fuller, "eclipseth the
Trinity,"--is the nine-storied belfry of S. Michael's, tower, octagon
and spire, a wonderful example of symbolism of design and harmonious
disposal of ornament. The tower, begun in 1373, was the gift--says
tradition--of the men of the Botoner family, the spire of its women,
not the least among the many noteworthy achievements that in Coventry
history are linked with a woman's name.


Such a medley is Coventry that the great steeple over-shadows quiet,
memory-haunted places, and streets filled with the clamour of traffic,
pleasant houses rich men have lately built, and squalid courts, that
occupy the site of many an ancient burgage croft and garden. It is
a typically English city, whose history might serve as the "abstract
and brief chronicle" of England. A thoroughly corrupt borough in
the worst days of municipal corruption, rigidly Puritan under the
Stuarts, loyal under Elizabeth, steady for hereditary right at Mary's
accession--but Protestant, as witness its martyrs--Lollard in the
hey-day of Lollardry, patriotic and Talbot-worshipping in the Hundred
Years' War--as England was, so was Coventry. In art and letters, also,
the city recalls what is most characteristic in the achievements of the
English people. Here flourished mediæval architecture, an art wherein
Englishmen have excelled greatly, and the mediæval religious drama,
foundation of Shakespeare's greatness; while chance, and the sojourn
of George Eliot, have given the city associations with the literary
outburst of the Victorian time.

The doings of Coventry folk or the happenings within the city must have
impressed the minds of generations of English folk, since the name has
entered into folk rhymes[1] and flower names, and proverbial English
speech. Old botanists speak of "Coventry bells" and "Coventry Marians,"
where now we say "Canterbury bells"; children play card-games called
"Peeping Tom" or "Moll of Coventry"; and we still, by silent avoidance
of our friends, "send them to Coventry," a reminiscence maybe of the
uncivil treatment the city Roundheads gave to imprisoned Cavaliers what
time the bitterness engendered by the Civil War was abroad in the land.

Interesting too--albeit scanty--are the relics of legendary lore
and heathen custom which ofttimes perplex the student of the city's
history. Here was played the Hox-Tuesday play, survival, say
folklorists, of the struggle to gain possession of a victim for the
sacrifice; here the national legend of Godiva grew up; and here, men
fabled, S. George, patron of England, was born.

In the country round about Coventry two Englands meet, one a land of
green woods and well-watered pastures, the other black with the toil of
the coal-fields. The city turns its most prosperous side southwards,
and the common view of the spires is the one from the south, where
the tree-bordered road from Kenilworth, whereon so many kings and
queens have travelled, slips into Coventry, past a fringe of ample,
comfortable houses, that the well-to-do have raised in our own time.
This was Tennyson's view of the spires, and George Eliot must have
seen it daily in her school-life, which she passed in the house that
is farthest from the town in Warwick Row. It is the common view,
but not the most interesting, since the octagonal Decorated steeple
of Christchurch, recased in fresh stone, last remnant of the now
demolished church of the Greyfriars, is the least commanding of the
three, and by its nearness somewhat dwarfs the rest. The Greyfriars
of Coventry, be it said, have gained by a scribe's error, a probably
quite unmerited fame as producers of the noted Corpus Christi plays; in
reality, this honour should belong to the lay-folk and craftspeople of
the city.

It is well--so the journey is made from the south--to gain a more
distant view of the "proud pyramidès" over the flat fields from the
Stoneleigh Road, where Christchurch falls into its proper place. The
trees make the way through Stoneleigh a lovely one, and the village
church, redolent of eighteenth century peace, with a magnificent Norman
chancel arch, furnishes a fine excuse for delay. Nearer to Coventry
the way winds on over Finham Bridge, shadowed by poplars, and through
Stivichall, a hamlet the widow of Earl Ranulf of Chester gave to the
Bishop of Lichfield for the welfare of her husband's soul. Allotment
gardens and newly-built streets occupy the land to the south-east
of the city, formerly known as the Little Park, once part of a royal
estate. It is a commonplace-looking site nowadays, albeit thronged with
memories. Here Lollard sermons have been preached and miracle-plays
played, and hither Laurence Saunders and others were led out to be
burned in 1556, on ground now occupied by a factory, where once long
after men discovered charred fragments of a stake. They are building
streets over the Park area by the station nowadays; but this was a
practice inaugurated long ago when Much Park Street (_vicus parci
maioris_) and Little Park Street (_vicus parci minoris_) were built
on ground cut out of the royal estate. The east end of Little Park
Street may be reached by Park Road, past a newly-raised memorial to the
Coventry martyrs.



Much Park Street led by Whitefriars through Newgate to the London
Road; Little Park Street led but to a postern gate. In Stuart
times the latter road had little traffic and much social dignity;
beautiful houses stood therein with spacious gardens, where dwelt the
neighbouring gentry, who were wont to enjoy the amenities of urban
life for a season, a common feature of the social life of country
towns at that period. Sir Orlando Bridgman's house, most magnificent
example of these gentlefolks' dwellings, was wantonly demolished in
the early nineteenth century, though the Jacobean mantelpiece from
the presence-chamber is still preserved in the school at Bablake. The
street still retains in Banner House, and a lovely little quadrangle of
the time of William III., relics of the grandeur of that bygone time.


The London Road comes past Whitley, a manor held in the fifteenth
century by William Bristow, the most troublesome and litigious person
in Coventry history, and Shortley, where in Edward II.'s time, one
John de Nottingham, a necromancer, dwelled, concerning whom there is
much to be found in this book. At Shortley is the Charter-house where,
incorporated in a modern dwelling, are remains of the Carthusian
monastery, which the Botoners helped to build, and whereof Richard
II. was patron. Wayfarers from London and Daventry (Shakespeare's
"Daintry") entered the town at Newgate by Whitefriars, the modern
workhouse. At Newgate the mural circuit was begun in 1356, when
Richard Stoke, mayor, laid the first stone. Here, too, in August 1642,
Charles I. made a breach in the town wall, whereat divers Cavaliers
found entrance; but so vehement was the onslaught made upon them by
the townsfolk--men and women--and so impregnable were the citizens'
barricades of carts and furniture, that the Royalists withdrew
discomfited. Another breach in the wall, twenty years later, made
also at Newgate, marked the beginning of the work of dismantling the
fortifications. This was done by order of Charles II. to avenge the old
affront offered to his father, and occupied 500 men for three weeks and
three days. The superstitious found in the destruction of the walls
the subject of one of the famous Mother Shipton's prophecies. It was
foretold, they said, "that a pigeon should pull them down," and in
truth they were dismantled in Thomas Pigeon's mayoral year.[2]


From Little Park Street only two spires are seen; and but the same
number is visible in Bishop Street, which lies to the north. The
traveller comes almost suddenly into the turmoil of this street from
the pleasant uplands of Fillongley, where the Hastings' family had a
castle, and the Shakespears a farm-house, and Corley, of George Eliot
memories, with its prehistoric camp on the Rock. It is good to see but
two spires, that it may serve as a reminder that the church of the
Greyfriars is but an unessential feature in Coventry history. The twin
steeples of S. Michael's and Trinity represent the two parishes--the
two estates, Earl's-half and Prior's-half--which anciently composed the

Maybe these two steeples look most magnificent in the twilight from
Poolmeadow, formerly covered by a sheet of water known as S. Osburg's
Pool. This is a bare place running east and west of Priory Street,
to the north of the site of the ancient monastery. By daylight the
surroundings of Poolmeadow are unbeautiful enough, yet it is in some
respects the most interesting spot in Coventry, since it is connected
with the earliest name that occurs in Coventry history.

What connection there was between the Saint, whose nunnery the Danes
destroyed, and this pool, we know not. At her shrine in the priory were
miracles wrought, and her head seems to have appeared among the relics
treasured by the religious house at the Dissolution.

Another non-parochial church comes very prominently into view when the
approach is made from the south-west, Canley and Hearsall, though I
imagine that few enter by those by-lanes save the ruddy, brown-gaitered
farmers on their way to the Friday market. This is the guild-church
of S. John the Baptist at Bablake, whereof the tower, that has a
fortress-like touch, rises high above the roofs of the town. Even the
sea-element is not lacking in the history of this inland city, since
the guild brethren declared that they wished to raise this church in
part as a memorial "for the good success the king had upon the sea"
upon S. John's day--probably at the battle of Sluys, June 24, 1340.[3]
Hard by this church and the collegiate buildings clustered behind it
stood Bablake Gate, and all who came by the great highway leading from
the north-west--now called the Holyhead Road--made their entrance
there. Before coming to Bablake, however, wayfarers would cross the
Sherbourne at Spon, close by the chapel of S. James and S. Christopher,
now incorporated in a modern dwelling-place. Here they would, belike,
pay their devotions just as other travellers coming from London and
Daventry paid theirs at the Lady Tower, wherein was a wooden image
of our Lady, hard by Newgate and Whitefriars.



Smithford Street, which reminds us of the early activity of the
workers in iron, leads to Bablake, and by the bridge there tradition
says that there grew a great tree "that from the strangeness of the
fruit was called Quient" (quaint), an imaginary etymology of the name
Coventry. Modern scholars are, however, agreed that it was from some
memorable (and possibly sacred) tree that the earliest form of the word
"Cofantreo" is derived.


 Gosford Green]

To those who look on the spires from Gosford and the eastern side
the tall ones appear in their relatively close proximity. This is
the entrance to Coventry where most historical associations abound.
"Two dukes should 'a fought on Gosford Green," succinctly say the
city annals in 1397, but, as all the world knows, Richard II. forbade
Bolingbroke and Mowbray to fight. Sinister memories for the House of
York are connected with the Green, for here in 1469 Queen Elizabeth,
Woodville's father, Lord Rivers, and her brother, John, were beheaded
by Warwick's orders. It is said that it was on this side of the city
that Edward IV. advanced in 1471, what time the King-maker held the
city against him. Further west, beyond Far Gosford Street, is Dover
Bridge, whereon once stood S. George's Chapel, meeting-place of the
tailors and shearmen's guild, demolished in 1821. Outside this chapel
once hung the blade-bone of the dun-cow, slain, says the legend, by
Guy of Warwick of famous memory.

[Illustration: 24 Gosford ST]

In Gosford Street, long, ancient and grimy, was formerly the first
station for the performances of the pageants; and in Cox Street,
anciently Mill Lane, which runs to the north of Gosford, were the
pageant-houses or places for storage of theatrical paraphernalia owned
by the crafts. From Gosford the long thoroughfare street passes into
Jordan Well--commemorating the well sunk by Jordan Shepey, mayor of
Coventry, who died 1349, the year of the Black Death--and thence into
Earl Street, where, it may be, a castle of the Earls of Chester once
stood with an entrance at Broadgate.


 130 FAR Gosford ST]

To see the spire of S. Michael's alone it is best to leave this long
thoroughfare and turn to the right by a half-timbered Tudor house down
the narrowness of Pepper Lane where the immense steeple almost seems to
blot out the sky.


[Footnote 1: Northall, _Eng. Folk Rhymes_, 403.]

[Footnote 2: Mayor-list or MS. Annals (eighteenth century) in the
possession of Mr Eynon of Leamington.]

[Footnote 3: Morris, _S. John's Church_.]


_Leofric and Godiva_

It was ever the boast of Coventry men that their city was of "much
fame and antiquity,"[4] being "remembered," so John Throgmorton, the
recorder, assured Queen Elizabeth, "by Polydore Vergil to be of ...
small account in the time of King Arviragus (which was forty-four years
after our Saviour) in the Emperor Claudius' time."[5] And Shakespeare's
contemporary, Michael Drayton, had a pretty fancy of his own concerning
the place,[6] whereby its antiquity is made manifest. He tells us how,
when Coventry was but "a poor thatched village," the saint of Cologne
brought thither

                           "That goodly virgin-band
 Th' eleven thousand maids chaste Ursula's command,"

who at departing,

                "Each by her just bequest,
 Some special virtue gave, ordaining it to rest
 With one of her own sex";

which special virtues, the poet adds, were in aftertimes bestowed on
Godiva, "that most princely dame," who freed Coventry from toll on the
occasion of her famous ride.

But of all this history tells us nothing, even as it tells us nothing
of Vespasian's visit to Exeter, or the founding of London by Brutus of
Troy, in the days when the foundations of Rome were not laid. Coventry
is not old in the sense wherein we apply the word to Colchester,
York, Bath, or Winchester, and many towns dating from Roman or early
Saxon times. If the site of the present city were ever occupied by
the Romans--and the point is a doubtful one--their occupation left
no permanent traces.[7] But just as families love to boast of a high
and noble ancestry, so dwellers in cities and members of institutions
delight to trace their origins back to a legendary past, and the
fables of Brut, who came from Troy to London, or the story of Mempric,
contemporary of David, and founder of the university of Oxford,[8]
were once accepted as truth. We, however, are content to leave this
record of obscure beginnings unexplored, confessing that we have, as
Dugdale says, "so little light of story to guide us through those elder

In truth, we hear nothing authentic concerning the Romans', and but
rumours of the Danes', coming to Coventry. In 1016 the Northmen, led
by Canute and the traitor Eadric Streona, laid waste the Midlands, and
are said to have destroyed a nunnery on the spot founded by an obscure
Saxon saint, the virgin Osburg, who probably came from the neighbouring
house for nuns at Polesworth.[10] But S. Osburg is a shadowy figure,
and the memory of her foundation has almost entirely passed away. The
convent of the "convent town,"[11] did not gather together there until
the middle of the eleventh century, when Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and
his wife Godiva, built a dwelling for an Abbot and twenty-four monks to
live under the rule of S. Benedict. Thus was laid the first stone of a
monastery which ranked with the Confessor's Abbey of Westminster, King
Harold's College at Waltham, and the twin abbeys built by William I.
and Matilda in their city of Caen, among the most famous foundations of
that age. The monastery became the nucleus of a thriving town in later
days, as was the case with Bury S. Edmund's, Abingdon, Reading, S.
Alban's, and many other places in England.

It was a great time for the founding of religious houses, and the
Confessor, as befitted one of known sanctity of life, greatly
encouraged these pious deeds. "It behoves every man," ... runs his
charter to the monks of Coventry, "diligently to incline to almsgiving,
whereby he may release himself from the bonds of sin. For our Lord
in a sermon thus speaketh: 'Lay up for yourselves with alms-deeds
a treasure-hoard in heaven, and a dwelling with angels.'[12] For
which needful things I make known to you all that I grant with full
permission that the same gift which Leofric and Godgyuæ have given
to Christ, and His dear Mother, and to Leofwin, the abbot, and the
brethren within the minster at Coventry, for their souls to help,
in land and in water, in gold and in silver, in ornaments, and in
all other things, as full and as forth as they themselves possessed
it, and as they that same minster worthily have enriched therewith,
so I firmly grant it. And furthermore, I grant to them also, for my
soul, that they have besides full freedom, sac and soc,[13] toll,
team,[14] hamsocne,[15] foresteall,[16] blodewite,[17] fihtwite,[18]
weardwite,[19] and mundbryce.[20] Now I will henceforward that it
ever be a dwelling of monks, and let them stand in God's peace, and
S. Mary's and in mine, and according to S. Benedict's rule, under the
abbot's authority. And I will not in any wise consent that any man take
away or eject their gift and their alms, or that any man have there
any charge upon any things, or at any season, except the abbot and his
brethren for this minster's need. And whosoever shall increase this
alms with any good the Lord shall increase unto him Heaven's bliss; and
whosoever shall take them away, or deprive the minster of anything at
any time, let him stand in God's anger, and His dear Mother's and mine.
God keep you all."[21]

Thus the monastery was endowed by Leofric and Godiva with twenty-four
lordships of land; and by the king with full rights of jurisdiction
over the tenants dwelling in these various estates, privileges greatly
valued by the monks. They laid the two generous founders, the husband
in one porch, the wife in the other, of the minster in Coventry, when
they came to die. As for this building, it was one of the glories of
the age, and seemed too narrow, a chronicler tells us, to contain the
abundance of treasure within its walls. Godiva paid the most famous
goldsmiths of her day to visit the place, and make reliquaries and
images of saints to beautify the church she loved; she also gave a
rosary of gems to hang about the neck of an image of the Virgin, her
chief patroness. The monks, too, gathered in a great store of relics,
whereof the most famous was an arm of S. Augustine of Hippo, brought
from Pavia by Archbishop Ethelnoth, having been purchased for the sum
of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.

Of this minster, however, nought remains, and its successor, the Gothic
cathedral, was destroyed after the Reformation. The legend of its
foundress has been more enduring. Vulgarised by later associations, the
narrative, in its early forms, has a grandeur which still impresses
the imagination. The story was a favourite one with Landor from his
boyhood, though his _Imaginary Conversation_, and Drayton's brief
lines are less popularly known than the poem of Tennyson. There is
no contemporary evidence to guide us, for Roger of Wendover, whose
account of the famous ride is probably the earliest we possess, died in
1237,[22] some hundred and fifty years after the noble lady herself.
The chroniclers differ as to the motive which prompted the undertaking,
some asserting that the Coventry folk were to be freed thereby from
a grievous incident of villeinage; others again[23] connecting it
with the local immunity from the payment of toll--except for horses,
a special feature of the market of Coventry.[24] It is in the latter
connection that the story has impressed itself on the local mind.

 "I Lueriche for the love of thee
 Doe make Coventre Tol-free,"

was written under a window placed in Trinity Church in Richard II.'s
time in commemoration of the deed.[25]

 "This cite shulde be free, and now is bonde,
 Dame goode Eve made hit free,"

wrote a discontented burger poet of the fifteenth century, when a
custom for wool had been laid on the people of the town.[26]

Roger of Wendover tells us how the countess besought her husband
continually, with many prayers to free the people from the toll; and
though he refused and forbade her to approach him with this petition,
"led by her womanly pertinacity," she repeated the request, until he
gave answer: "Ride naked through the length of the market, when the
people are gathered together, and when thou returnest, thy petition
shall be fulfilled.... Then the countess, beloved of God, loosened her
hair thus veiling her body, and then, mounting her horse and attended
by two knights, she rode through the market seen of none, her white
legs nevertheless appearing; and having completed her journey, returned
to her husband rejoicing, and ... obtained from him what she had
asked," for he forthwith gave the townsfolk a charter emancipating them
from the aforesaid service.[27]

Naturally, the charter is not forthcoming, and historians have shrugged
their shoulders at the mention of the story this many a day. It was
not, however, until the time of Charles II. that the Godiva procession
became a feature of Coventry fair. In 1678, we are told "Lady Godiva
rode before the mayor to proclaim the fair" and the custom thus
inaugurated obtains to this day. Of the window noted by Dugdale all
traces disappeared amid the vandalism of the eighteenth century save
a few fragments of glass now in the Archdeacon's chapel of Trinity
Church, and of these one showing a tiny figure in a yellow dress riding
a white horse and holding some foliage in the hand, is traditionally
said to have formed part of the original design.[28]

[Illustration: GODIVA WINDOW]

Such is the story which some accept undoubting, others dismiss as
fabulous, and a third school, following the lead of Mr Hartland[29]
and perceiving in the tale elements which occur in the folk-lore of
widely distant countries, regard as a reminiscence of heathen ritual,
maybe some processional festivities of spring or summer.[30] In support
of this contention it may be urged that the story is not peculiar to
Coventry, that there is a good deal of evidence showing the part unclad
or bough-clad women played in magical and religious rites,[31] that
black-faced characters--whereof more presently--appear in festivals
manifestly derived from heathendom, and that the "Peeping Tom" element
may be part of the universal fairy tale which relates the punishment
awaiting those who pry into sights forbidden. Moreover, the prominence
given to the horse in the story is extremely suggestive. In one version
it is the neighing of Godiva's steed that attracts the attention of the
peeper, causing him to look forth from the window, whence it comes that
in Coventry market there is no exemption from toll for horses.[32] It
may not be too fanciful to recall in this connection the part played by
the hobby-horse at folk-festivals, and the sacrificial character of the
horse in Teutonic heathendom.[33]


The nearest variant of the Coventry story belongs to St Briavel's in
the Forest of Dean, like Coventry a woodland district. Here it is
said that the wife of one of the Earls of Hereford won from her lord
privileges of woodcutting for the commonalty by undergoing a like
ordeal.[34] In a Dunster tradition the parallel is not so close. Here
Sir John de Mohun's wife gained from her husband for the Dunster folk
as much common land as she could make the circuit of, barefoot, in a
day's space.[35]

Godiva is always traditionally represented riding on a white horse. It
is curious that in an illuminated document formerly in possession of
the Smiths' company, two Godivas appear, one a white woman on a white
horse and another a black woman on an elephant--the last in allusion
to the elephant and castle, the arms of the city.[36] Black-a-vised
characters--explained by various theories[37]--are of common occurrence
at festivals on May Day and Midsummer; it is only about forty years ago
that a Jack-o'-green and his attendant sweeps ceased to parade the city
on May Day, while at Southam, near Coventry, and possibly in Coventry
also, a "black lady" rode in the "show fair" as well as Godiva.[38]

As for the "Peeping Tom" incident it may well be older than the
eighteenth century, when the first printed allusion appears.[38] A
ballad written about 1650 mentions that Godiva ordered all persons to
keep within doors during her ride and shut their windows[39]; but in a
Coventry version given in the MS. city annals[40]--dating, it appears,
before the use of glass became common in domestic buildings--the
peeper is said to "let down" a window, _i.e._ the wooden shutter of
early times. The famous figure of Peeping Tom, mentioned in the city
accounts in the year 1773,[41] still looks out of the northeast top
window of the "King's Head" in Hertford Street. It is a wooden figure,
thought to represent S. George, with armour of the time of Henry VII,
broad-toed sollerets, and under a monstrous and absurd three-cornered
hat is a bascinet. The arms, as far as the elbow, have been hacked
away, and to the spectator in the street the figure is only visible
from the waist upwards.

[Illustration: PEEPING TOM]

For many people Coventry suggests Godiva. It is always well to bear in
mind she was an authentic person, wife of Leofric, mother of Aelfgar,
Earl of East Anglia, also buried in the monastery, grandmother of
the Earls Edwin and Morkere, and of Aldgyth, first wife, then widow,
of Gruffydd, Prince of Wales; then wife and widow of Harold, King of
England. After Godiva's death, stories of her holy life and alms-deeds
would be soon rife among the oppressed Saxons. It is noteworthy that
Matilda, queen of Henry I., a sovereign of the old Saxon blood royal,
and a most pious princess to boot, was called Godiva, no doubt in scorn
of her birth, by the Norman courtiers.


[Footnote 4: Harl. _MS._ 6195 f. 7.]

[Footnote 5: Poole, _Coventry_, 90. Elizabeth visited the city in 1565.]

[Footnote 6: _Polyolbion_, xiii.]

[Footnote 7: Some rough (?) Roman pavement was discovered in the Cross
Cheaping during excavations at the end of the last century. _Victoria
County Hist._ i. 246.]

[Footnote 8: Rashdall, _Universities_, ii. pt. ii. 323.]

[Footnote 9: Dugdale. _Warw._ i. 134.]

[Footnote 10: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 11: A convent is properly a _body_ of monks or nuns; a
monastery or nunnery their habitation. The etymology of Coventry is
dubious; but the popular derivation from the Lat. _conventus_ is now
discredited. The earliest form in which the word occurs is Cofantreo.
Here treo = tree, and Dr Hen. Bradley, to whom I am greatly indebted
for information on this point, suggests a possible origin of the other
syllables in a personal name, Cofa or Cufa; _cf._ Oswestry = Oswald's

[Footnote 12: See Matt. v. 20. This translation mainly follows Birch.]

[Footnote 13: Privilege of administering justice.]

[Footnote 14: Obscure. Birch says privilege of vouching to warranty.]

[Footnote 15: Power to punish for forcible entry.]

[Footnote 16: Power to inflict punishment for waylaying.]

[Footnote 17: Power to punish assault with bloodshed.]

[Footnote 18: Power to punish assault.]

[Footnote 19: Power to maintain watch.]

[Footnote 20: Power to punish for breach of peace.]

[Footnote 21: Add. MSS. Ch. 28657. Birch, _Edward the Confessor's
Charter to Coventry_. "A most elegant specimen of eleventh century
native palæography" (Birch).]

[Footnote 22: On events which occur before 1154 (or 1188) the
chronicler is dependent on some earlier unknown writer (_Dict. Nat.
Biography_, _s.v._ "Godiva").]

[Footnote 23: They follow Higden, author of the _Polychronicon_, who
was the first to mention the ride in this connection. As a monk of
S. Werburgh's, Chester, a city which held frequent intercourse with
Coventry, he may have had opportunities of hearing the tale from local

[Footnote 24: In Coventry market the burgesses were free from toll,
except for horses, in the time of Edward I. (Dugdale, _Warw._ i. 162).]

[Footnote 25: Dugdale, _Warw._ i. 135. Some tiny fragments of this
window yet remain in the Archdeacon's Chapel of Trinity Church. See
also _Gent. Mag._ (1829), pt. i. 120-1, for another account of the

[Footnote 26: _Leet Book_ (E.E.T.S.), 567.]

[Footnote 27: Rog. Wendover, _Flores Historiarum_, i. 497.]

[Footnote 28: So an old sexton told Sharp, the antiquary. See also
_Gent. Mag. Topography_, xiii. 53.]

[Footnote 29: _Science of Fairy Tales._]

[Footnote 30: Chambers, _Mediæval Stage_, i. 119.]

[Footnote 31: Grant Allen, _Evolution of the Idea of God_, 110
(festival of the Pòtraj).]

[Footnote 32: Hartland, _op. cit._, 77.]

[Footnote 33: As a tyro in folk-lore I venture with some diffidence to
put forward the theory that it may be by research in custom and belief
as regards the horse that we may arrive at an explanation of some
of the problems of this mysterious legend. See Grimm, _Teut. Myth._
(trans. Stallybrass), 47, 392; Frazer, _Golden Bough_, ii. 24, 64;
Gomme, _Ethnology and Folk-lore_, 35; Chambers, _op. cit._, i. 131.]

[Footnote 34: Rudder, _Gloucestershire_, 307 (quoted Hartland).]

[Footnote 35: Camden, _Britannia_ (Gibson), 67. I am indebted to Mr
Addy for this reference; _cf._ the story of the Tichbourne dole,
Chambers, _Book of Days_, i. 167.]

[Footnote 36: _Coventry Standard_, Jan. 15-16, 1909. The MS.
(1684-1833) has passed into private hands, and I have never been able
to see it.]

[Footnote 37: Sir Lawrence Gomme explains the black Godiva by a
reference to Pliny's account of the woad-stained British women, but see
Chambers, _Mediæval Stage_, i. 125.]

[Footnote 38: _Science of Fairy Tales_, 71-92. Mr Hartland was the
first folklorist to submit the story to scientific investigation. He
gained his local knowledge of the Southam black Godiva from the late
W.E. Fretton of Coventry.]

[Footnote 39: See _Dict. Nat. Biog._, _s.v._ "Godiva."]

[Footnote 40: Hartland, _op. cit._, 77.]

[Footnote 41: See _Dict. Nat. Biog._, _s.v._ "Godiva."]


_The Benedictine Monastery_

The Benedictine house was built in part upon the northern slope of a
low hill, in part in the hollow through which the river Sherbourne
flows. This was a situation well adapted for the building of a
monastery; there was rich soil in the neighbourhood, good roads--both
the Watling Street and the Foss Way ran within a few miles from the
spot--and running water. The Sherbourne is but a small stream nowadays,
but it was a more important watercourse in earlier times, and in the
fifteenth century many precautions had to be taken "in eschewing peril
of floods." The monks could stock Swanswell Pool[42] with fish, and
plant their orchards or vineyards in or near the hollow in which the
monastery lay.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL RUINS]

Little remains of the minster save the bases of a few clustered pillars
of the thirteenth century, the remains of the west end by the Blue
Coat School at the north end of S. Michael's Churchyard, and the
fragment of the north-west tower, now incorporated in a dwelling-house
in New Buildings. Under the gardens and pleasant red brick eighteenth
and nineteenth century houses of Priory Row, which give the churchyard
the look of a cathedral close, diggers often come upon fragments of
ancient masonry, showing how the cathedral stretched down the slope of
the hill. Between the cathedral and the southern bank of the Sherbourne
were the Priory buildings, with the cloister garth, locutorium or
parlour, synodal chamber and grammar school,[43] which last had an
endowed existence as early as 1303.


Another relic of the monastery, a beautiful old timbered hostry or
guest house in Ironmonger Row, was only cleared away in 1820. The inn
known as the "Palmers' Rest" now occupies a portion of this site, and
carvings of hunting scenes, and grotesques worked into the window
frames, and now painted a dreary brown, were taken from the ancient
guest house of the monks. Some of the obligations of hospitality were
lifted from the monks by the foundation in the twelfth century of the
hospital of S. John the Baptist, whereof only the church is left. Here
poor wayfarers had food and lodging and the sick poor of the place were
nursed and tended. The brethren were clothed in a black or dark brown
garb, ample and flowing, and marked with a black cross, and the sisters
wore a white veil and long closed mantles or cloaks. Another foundation
for the nursing of the sick was the lazar-hospital at Spon, dedicated
to S. Mary Magdalen, of which not a trace remains.

The main feature of a monk's life was its well-ordered monotony, so
congenial to many minds; but as a class monks were not specially
addicted to idleness or solitude. Neither were they in most cases
entirely devoted to spiritual things, for although the salvation of the
individual soul was the primal object of monasticism, members of the
religious orders were adepts at secular business, and did not suffer
their houses to decay from neglect of the affairs of this world. There
was always plenty of work for any monk possessing a clear head and
a faculty for administration. The various officers of the convent,
_obedientiarii_ as they were called, had each his appointed task. Every
one was allowed a certain proportion of the convent revenue to devote
to the expenses connected with his office.[44] In return he presented
his accounts at the annual audit, keeping them carefully and exactly,
recording everything, down to the receipt of a pot of honey, "or the
price of the parchment on which the various items were written." In the
case of Coventry the rents of certain tenements in S. Nicholas Street,
Bailey Lane, Well Street (_super corneram Vici Fontis_), among others,
were assigned to the cellarer;[45] those coming from land in Keresley
to the treasurer; the same forms being observed with regard to the
pitancier and sacristan. The rents paid in kind--butter, honey, eggs,
etc.--were probably entered among the kitchener's receipts; while the
accounts, compiled from daily entries, must have given many clerks
almost unceasing labour.


 Priory Row Coventry]

We have, unfortunately, no local chronicles,[46] such as those kept
within the cloisters of S. Alban's, giving us particulars concerning
the lives of the Coventry monks. But no doubt, in essentials, the
management of various houses differed little. At Evesham, for example,
the prior was bound to furnish the parchment required for the
scriptorium, and all other writing materials except ink, out of the
sum allotted to him. The manciple provided the wine, mead, oil and
lamps, and kept up the stock of earthenware, jugs, basins, and other
vessels required for the convent use. The precentor--as befitted one
whose office was to train the choir--was bound to keep the organ in
repair, and over and above to find all the ink and colour required for
illumination, together with all materials for binding books. While
to the chamberlain a certain revenue was assigned to provide for the
clothing of the monks.[47] All these matters gave the convent officers
daily occupation, and must have absorbed much thought and interest.

For those of fervent spirit the daily religious exercises were the salt
of life, but for others--possibly the greater number--they were merely
part of the daily routine, and repetition had increased monotony. Many
hours of the day were passed in these regularly recurring services of
the Church. At midnight the brethren rose and went to Matins and Lauds.
Prime was celebrated at six, Tierce at nine, Sext at twelve, Nones at
two or three, Vespers at four, and Complin at seven. After Tierce the
duties of the day began; and the different obedientiaries went each to
fulfil his appointed task. The rest sat in the cloisters, taught the
children in the school, or copied manuscripts. There were frequent
consultations in the chapter-house, and on Sundays, before Prime or
Tierce, the abbot sat in the cloisters to hear the monks' confessions,
and appointed to each the penance due for his fault. Now and then
the coming of an important stranger--a royal guest, perhaps, such as
William the Conqueror, who passed, it is supposed, through Coventry on
his way from Warwick to Nottingham in 1068--would furnish the brethren
with a topic for many weeks' conversation.

Sometimes the brethren were suffered to have a glimpse of the
great world without the convent with their own eyes. The prior,
who was of the company of mitred abbots, was frequently forced to
journey to whatever place the King might appoint for the meeting
of the parliament. The rank and file of the convent had now and
then opportunities of seeing life in travel. They might undertake a
pilgrimage; or, when a dispute was on hand, and appeal had been made
to the Holy Father, one of the brethren would journey Rome-wards,
with well-lined pockets, to look after the convent's interest at the
papal court. These lawsuits were not infrequent, as may be shown by
the career of Geoffrey, Prior of Coventry during the reign of Henry
III.[48] In 1224 the monks tried to raise him to the episcopal throne,
but the election was quashed by the archbishop, and the usual appeal
to Rome only brought another--a papal--candidate to fill the vacant
seat. This occurrence did not in all probability predispose the minds
of the actual and would-be bishop to mutual goodwill. In 1232 the
prior was suspended for resisting the episcopal visitation, and,
together with the abbot of Westminster, set out hot-foot to Rome, to
lay his grievances before the Pope. A year or two later we find him
involved in a quarrel with the Abbot of S. Augustine's, Bristol. What
heart-burnings these obscure disputes must have occasioned, what
journeyings to and fro, and, above all, what wealth was lost to the
monastery to satisfy the Roman greed of gold!

It is the record of these disputes that forms the bulk of the history
of the monastic houses of England, and the priory of Coventry is
no exception to the general rule. Placed in a somewhat dependent
position--for during the episcopate of Robert de Limesey (1086-1121)
the bishop's seat had been transferred from Chester to this place--the
monks were, earlier or later, bound to realise the dangers of episcopal
tyranny and encroachment. Limesey, the first bishop in whom the
abbacy was vested--the superior of the convent being henceforward
called a prior--soon made the monks feel his heavy yoke. Bitter
were the complaints they made concerning his conduct. On the death
of the last abbot he obtained leave to farm the convent revenue,
and, using the permission to serve his own ends, wrought much harm
to the estates of the monastery, pulling down houses thereon, and
carrying off the materials to his own manors, seizing horses and
other monastic property. But the crying instance of his greed, one
which the chroniclers have carefully and tremblingly noted, was his
plunder of the magnificent minster. He scraped off the silver coating
of a beam--worth 500 marks--most likely from a shrine in that goodly
treasure-house![49] It was little wonder that the indignant monks
turned to Rome for aid against this devourer of their substance.[50]

Nor was this the only bishop who, from his fair palace in S. Michael's
Churchyard, caused his neighbours of the priory to tremble for the
safety of their possessions. Hugh of Nunant, a monk-hater, who vowed,
it is said, that "if he had his own way he would strip every cowled
head in England," was nominated to the see in 1188. He is variously
described as a man of piety and eloquence or as one desperately
wicked.[51] Politically he was a follower of Prince John, who, during
his brother King Richard's imprisonment in Germany, was endeavouring to
strengthen his own position by forming a rebel party in the Midlands.
Nunant obtained licence to incorporate the prior's barony with his
own episcopal one, and by his accusations so enraged the monks that
they fell on him during a synod in the cathedral church, and broke
his head with a crucifix. The bishop, indignant in his turn, applied
to Longchamp, the absent King's representative, for licence to punish
the outrage. And he was allowed to expel the brethren, "contaminated,"
so he said, "with secular pollution," from the monastery, and appoint
secular canons, who probably came from Lichfield, in their stead.
Appeal was made to Rome, but the monks were now too impoverished to
obtain a favourable hearing of their suit at the papal court. So they
remained in exile for several years.

But the adversary's triumph was, after all, short-lived. In 1194 King
Richard, ransomed from prison, returned to England, and the scheme
of Prince John and Bishop Nunant fell to the ground. The latter was
deposed from his bishopric, and the monks he had oppressed took heart
of grace, and bethought them how they might return to their old home.
The story goes how one of their number put an end to the brethren's
exile by his intercession with the Pope. Although often forced to
beg his bread, brother Thomas tarried long at Rome, and offered to
each fresh occupant of S. Peter's chair the petition of the monks of
Coventry. On one occasion his Holiness in an angry mood bade the monk
withdraw, telling him that other petitions to the same purpose had been
exhibited to Clement and Celestine, his predecessors, but rejected,
and therefore his expectations were vain. Unto which the monk, with
bitter tears, replied: "Holy Father, my petition is just and altogether
honest, and therefore my expectation is not vain; for I expect your
death, as I have done your predecessors', for there shall one succeed
you who will hear my petition to purpose." Then said the Pope to the
cardinals: "Hear ye not what this devil hath spoken?" And immediately
turned to him and said: "Brother, by S. Peter, thou shalt not expect my
death; thy petition is granted."[52] So the monks returned joyfully to
their old home; but Hugh of Nunant, so the chroniclers tell us, died in
remorse and torment of mind, deploring the injuries he had done to the
Coventry brethren "with abundant sighs and tears," and praying that he
might die in a frock of the order he had in life despised.

But grasping bishops were not the only enemies known to the monks.
There was a long-standing feud between the brethren of Coventry and
the canons of Lichfield, dating from the time when Stephen gave them,
together with the canons of Chester, permission to elect the bishop
of the diocese.[53] The monks frequently defeated their object by
nominating a candidate of their order, usually the prior, whom the
canons would in nowise be induced to accept. Appeals to Rome would
follow; and the Pope, seizing the opportunity, would set aside previous
nominations, and impose his own candidate upon the contending parties.

At the first election we hear of, the Coventry brethren were able to
secure the bishopric for one of their order, the prior of Canterbury,
in spite of the canons' protests and appeal to Rome. But when, after
his enthronement at Coventry, bishop Durdent came to Lichfield, the
canons barred the gates of their fortified close against him, and,
in the face of the episcopal excommunication, denied him entrance.
They also refused to enthrone Gerard la Pucelle, elected by the
sole voice of the monks in 1183. "Unica est sponsa mea, nec habeo
duo cubicula,"[54] said the bishop in his discouragement. And this
learned and righteous prelate died four months later, not without
suspicion of poison. Nunant was appointed by the Crown; but on his
death in 1199 the passions of the rivals, strengthened by political
antagonism--for the canons were partizans of John while the monks clave
to King Richard--again broke loose. On the nomination of Richard's
candidate, one of the monks led off the _Te Deum_, as a signal that
the proceedings were over, though the canons had taken no part in
the election. "Who made thee cantor here?" cried the Archdeacon of
Stafford, a member of John's party, in great wrath, for the cantor
on these occasions conducted the singing. "I am cantor here, and not
thou," was the reply, and as King Richard's party was then predominant
the monks had their will.[55]

At the next election[56] the brethren were brought face to face with
King Richard's successor, and John found it a hard thing to subdue the
Coventry monks, though he had at his back the entire company of the
canons of Lichfield. When England was under an Interdict, the King sent
to them the Abbots of Oseney and Waltham, proposing the Archdeacon of
Stafford as a candidate for the vacant See of Coventry. But the monks
would have none of him. They elected their prior, Joybert of Wenlock,
and purposed to send the nomination oversea to the incoming archbishop,
Stephen Langton. At Tewkesbury, John proposed the Abbot of Bindon. The
monks refused utterly. "None whom I love wilt thou choose," cried
the angry King. Then to the justiciar said the prior, afraid: "If it
suits the lord king well, I will elect his chancellor." The chancellor
was Walter de Grey, who was subsequently raised to the See of York.
This proposal found no favour then, and the King appointed another
meeting with the monks at Nottingham. On their return home they held
a consultation in the chapter-house, and determined that they would
elect neither of the King's candidates, Richard de Marisco nor the
Abbot of Bindon. At Nottingham Castle Joybert and six monks besought
the King that he would allow them to elect freely and canonically
the prior or some other fitting man. Meanwhile all manner of threats
and blandishments were used to make them give their voice for one of
the royal nominees, but they held firm. Next morning, however, when
the prior and two monks tarried long in the King's chamber, the four
remaining brethren, fearing that their superior would at last give way,
determined to go home and reserve their vote; but Fulk de Cantilupe
shut the castle gate in their faces, vowing "by the tongue of God" that
they should not leave ere they had made a bishop to the King's liking,
"and other things he uttered," the record continues, "not meet to be

At last Prior Joybert began to waver, for the King promised him great
rewards and honours if he would do his will, and urged him, saying:
"Speak, prior, speak!" Then Joybert fell on his knees. "By the soul of
thy father the King," he said, "and of thy brother the King, and by the
honour of thy life, who art King, if it be not possible for us to have
any other than one of these two, give us the Abbot of Bindon." "Never
while I live shall this be," cried one of the monks, named Thomas,
"and never shall he be my bishop." A bystander reproved him for this
outburst towards his superior. "In the cloister I am but a monk," the
fearless brother answered, "but here at the election of the bishop,
I am the prior's fellow." Then John, looking about him in great anger
left the room, and many nobles gathered about the monks, and urged them
to fulfil the King's will. "Verily ye have much to fear," they said,
"if you bring down his wrath upon your heads."

The unhappy monks were again summoned into the King's presence. "Lord
prior," the tyrant began, "I have always loved thee, and thou wilt not
do my will. What sayest thou to my chancellor, whose name thou didst
propose to me at Tewkesbury?" The prior signified that he willingly
accepted this candidate, and the King gave orders that the canons
should be summoned to ratify the election. At this the smouldering
jealousy between monks and canons burst into flame. "By S. Milburg,"
cried the prior, "they shall not come; never shall they be present at
our election!" But John swore "by the tooth of God" that they should
come in. "I would rather die," Joybert answered, "than be the cause of
the destruction of my order." The nobles, who were present, gathered
round the monks, and falling upon their necks entreated them to submit.
Then the prior, vanquished, said: "Because nothing else is pleasing to
you, and it is not possible to do other, do your will." A _Te Deum_
was then sung by the company of monks and canons, although the former
murmured greatly at the constraint laid upon them.

The case was afterwards laid before the papal legate, and the election
of Walter de Gray annulled. The long dispute between monk and canon was
temporarily allayed in 1227, when it was ordained that the election
should take place alternately at Coventry and Lichfield, the prior
having first voice and the dean second.[57] The quarrel gradually died
away, and, well tutored by Pope and King, the electors peacefully met
to choose the particular candidate designated by those in authority.
Other quarrels brought the house low. In 1248 the resources of the
convent had become so impoverised by lawsuits concerning the Bishop
of Coventry's right of visitation[58] that it was feared some of the
monks would be compelled to disperse, a disaster the monks of Derley
averted by receiving divers inmates of the Coventry Priory for a time
into their hospitable house. When trouble again arose, the convent
of S. Mary found that the enemy had sprung up under the very shadow
of the monastery itself, and that the men of Coventry were even more
implacable foes than the canons of Lichfield had been in times past.
These quarrels between ecclesiastical bodies and their burgher tenants
were of common occurrence in mediæval life. The strong corporate
feeling which flourished amongst the monks, the zeal they bore for
their order in general and their house in particular, which involved
them in endless quarrels, caused them to play a notable part in
municipal history. As a body they were opposed to the growth of free
institutions among the townsfolk. They never rightly understood their
tenants' desire for increase of municipal liberty, and feared by giving
way to their demands to forego the rights of the Church, and bring
their souls in peril thereby.[59]


[Footnote 42: Guy of Warwick also freed Coventry from a fabulous
monster. In the last century there was still shown there "a great
shield-bone of a bore (_sic_) which "he" slew in Hunting, when he
(_i.e._ the boar) had turned with his Snout a great Put or Pond
which is now called Swanswell, but Swineswell in times past." Gough,
_Collect. Warw._ (Bodleian Library).]

[Footnote 43: _Vic. Count. Hist. Warw._, ii. 319.]

[Footnote 44: For a popular account of a monastery _v._ Jessopp,
_Coming of the Friars_, 113-165.]

[Footnote 45: _Leet Book_, 448-9.]

[Footnote 46: The chronicler, whose name--Walter of Coventry--seems to
attest some local connection, was not a monk of this house. Stubbs,
_Pref._ to Walter of Coventry (Rolls), I. xxii.-xxxiii.]

[Footnote 47: Jessopp, 138.]

[Footnote 48: Luard, _Annales Monastici_, iii. 90; i. 89-90.]

[Footnote 49: Dugdale, _Monasticon_ (1846), iii. 178.]

[Footnote 50: Beresford, _Diocesan Hist. Lichfield_, 54.]

[Footnote 51: Beresford, _Diocesan Hist. Lichfield_, 78.]

[Footnote 52: Dugdale. _Warw._, i. 161. Rather an improbable story.
More likely after Nunant's fall the monks found some one to plead their
cause with the King.]

[Footnote 53: Beresford, 69.]

[Footnote 54: Which may be paraphrased: "I have but one diocese, and
must I have but one cathedral?" (Beresford, 76).]

[Footnote 55: Cott. MS, quoted Dugdale, _Monasticon_, VI. iii. 1242.]

[Footnote 56: _Ibid._ 1242-3.]

[Footnote 57: Luard, _op cit._, iii 104.]

[Footnote 58: _Vict. County Hist._, ii. 55.]

[Footnote 59: For the disputes between ecclesiastics and their tenants
see Mrs Green, _Town Life_, i. 333-383; Thompson, _Municipal History_,
_passim_. This feature is not confined to England. For the disputes
between the men of Rouen and the chapter see Giry, _Établissements de
Rouen_, 34.]


_The Chester Lordship_

The place where the monks settled was probably little better than
a village. We may picture it as a couple of straggling streets
intersecting one another, with small wooden houses on either side
of the highway, which was comparatively empty of people except on
market days when country folk would come in to sell their wares in the
"Cheaping" at the monastery gates. Domesday records that there were
only sixty-nine heads of families living in Godiva's estate at Coventry
in 1086,[60] though Leicester and Warwick were fair-sized towns,
as towns were accounted then. Of the two parish churches, existing
probably at the Conquest, S. Michael's served maybe for the tenants of
the lay lord, and Trinity for those of the ecclesiastical estate. For
from the beginnings of its history the town had been divided into two
lordships, whereof the convent held the northern part or Prior's-half,
not mentioned in Domesday, as the gift of their founder, Earl Leofric;
while the southern portion, the Earl's-half, which Leofric retained,
became a part of the Earl of Chester's vast inheritance.

After the Conquest the convent retained their estate, receiving a
gracious charter of confirmation from William, who, no doubt, was
willing to link his name with that of his kinsman, the Confessor, as
patron of this famed foundation.[61] The Earl's-half, however, passed
to other masters. Probably Godiva held it during her lifetime; but at
her death the Conqueror took it, as the lady's grandchildren and direct
heirs were, as rebels, naturally shut out from the inheritance. How it
was that the estate passed into the hands of Ranulf Meschines, Earl of
Chester, we can only conjecture. He had probably deserved well at the
King's hand and had his reward. Though not, it is true, so disturbing
an element in the burghers' lives as his continental brethren,
an English feudal lord had much power for good or evil over his
dependents. His castle--with its fortifications, often breaking into
the line of the city wall, as Rougement did at Exeter, or the Tower,
built by the Conqueror to overawe the men of London--was a perpetual
menace to the citizens. His officers or deputies could annoy and
terrify the tenants in various ways. Thus one Simon le Maudit, who held
in farm the reeveship of Leicester, went on to collect gravel-pennies,
which he said were due to the lord from the townsfolk, long after these
payments had been remitted by charter. But this document having been
destroyed by fire, the burghers had no evidence wherewith to support
their claim, and Simon "the Accursed" had his will.[62] Instances of
feudal oppression seem, however, to have been comparatively rare,
though warlike lords by involving their tenants in their quarrels
frequently brought trouble upon them.


Earl Ranulf came of a strong race. The founder of the family--whom
the Welsh called Hugh "the Fat" by reason of his great girth, but the
Normans "the Wolf" by reason of his fierceness--held manors of the
Conqueror in twenty shires of England. Lord of the county palatine
of Chester, the special privileges granted to him for the purpose of
strengthening his hand against the Welsh made him almost independent
of royal authority.[63] Meschines himself is an obscure figure, but
the fame of his successor, Ranulf Gernons, whose doings were accounted
terrible even in Stephen's time, when every man's hand was against his
fellow, spread far and wide. In 1143 Coventry became the battle-ground
of this earl and Marmion of Tamworth, King Stephen's ally. That was an
evil time for the monks, as Marmion seized and fortified the priory,
and for the townsfolk, as they were between Marmion and Ranulf, the
hammer and the anvil. The Tamworth lord died early in the struggle, for
falling into one of the trenches he had made to enclose the monastery,
he was killed by a common soldier. No doubt the monks reminded one
another that their sacrilegious oppressor, who so justly came to this
evil end, was of an impious stock. Did not his ancestor, one Robert
Marmion, expel the nuns of Polesworth from their dwelling, until,
warned in a vision by S. Edith, their foundress, and sorely smitten
by the staff of the saint, he repented and caused the sisterhood to

Ranulf lived on to find a reverse of fortune at Coventry. Four years
after the fight with Marmion, the earl, finding the King's forces
were possessed of the castle there, laid siege to the stronghold,
but Stephen appearing, Ranulf's army was put to flight. It was a
fitting end to this lawless life that he should die by poison and
excommunicate; and his widow gave to Walter, Bishop of Coventry, under
whose curse her husband lay, the hamlet of Stivichall, so that his soul
might have peace.[65]

There was trouble also in the days of Earl Hugh, Ranulf's successor.
He joined in the great feudal rising of 1173, when all England was a
scene of strange confusion, and only the energy and promptitude of
Henry II. and a few faithful followers saved the King's throne. Henry's
sons were arrayed against him, supported by the arch-enemy, the King of
France, the Scotch, the Flemings, and many nobles both in England and
Normandy, whose power and lawless ways the King had sought continually
to restrain. Such were the Earls Ferrars, Bigod of Norfolk, Robert of
Leicester, and Hugh. The men of Coventry lent the Earl of Chester aid
in this rebellion, as the men of Leicester did to their lord, Robert
Blanchmains, for those tenants who held land by military service were
bound to follow their feudal superior to battle. But one by one the
King's enemies were defeated. Earl Hugh was taken prisoner at the siege
of Dol in Britanny quite early in the struggle, and suffered a short
imprisonment in the Castle of Falaise.[66] Swift destruction--siege
and fire--came upon Leicester for the share the townsfolk had taken in
this rebellion, and the inhabitants for a time forsook the place.[67]
Coventry, as a place of less note, suffered less; but what liberties
the townsmen possessed were confiscated, not to be redeemed until
after Hugh's death, eight years later, by a payment of twenty marks.
The men of Norwich had also cause to regret the part they took in the
celebrated rising, but it was Bigod who dealt them their punishment,
burning the city out of revenge because his men had declared for the
King's party.

The men of Coventry had, it is true, one reason to dwell with gratitude
on the memory of Earl Hugh. Dugdale tells us that among this lord's
following was a leper. And it may have been for the sake of this man
that Hugh built the lazar-house and chapel of S. Mary Magdelene at
Spon in the fields on the western side of the city.[68] All traces of
this chapel have now disappeared, but the name Chapel Fields still
serves to commemorate the place, with which the chapel of S. James
and S. Christopher,[69] whereof there are remains in Spon Street, is
sometimes--but quite erroneously--identified. Leprosy, brought from
the East by the Crusades, took terrible hold on the people of western
Europe, and few towns of any note in those days were without their
lazar-houses or hospitals for these sorely afflicted folk. The chief of
these leper hospitals was at Burton Lazars in Leicestershire, but the
one that is best remembered nowadays is that of S. Giles, once "in the
Fields," now in the heart of London.

The most famous among the Earls of Chester was Ranulf, surnamed
Blondvil, who succeeded to the earldom on Hugh's death. This befell
in 1181. Ranulf was the last of the old order, the race of the feudal
barons of the Conquest, who, by reason of their vast estates and
almost princely power, were a constant source of anxiety to the kings
of England. Men sang songs of Earl Ranulf,[70] either of his loyalty
to his master John, or of his feats in warring with the Welsh at home
or the heathen abroad, for he joined the Crusades, and was present
in 1219 at the siege of Damietta. He was as much of a popular hero
as Robin Hood during the fourteenth century. The Church knew him as
the benefactor of the monastic house of Pulton, whence he removed the
monks, its inhabitants, to Dieulacres in Staffordshire. And his pious
deeds availed to save him after death, people said, in spite of many
offences. For at the time of his dying, a solitary man at Wallingford
saw a company of demons hurrying past, and learnt from one of them that
they were hastening to the earl's death-bed to accuse him of his sins.
Adjured to return within thirty days, the demon came back and told
the hermit what had befallen. "We brought it about," he said, "that
Ranulf for his ill deeds was adjudged to the pains of infernal fire;
but the mastiffs of Dieulacres, and many others with them, without
stinting barked so that they filled our habitation with a loud clamour
whilst he was with us; wherefore our prince, disgusted, ordered to be
expelled from our territories him who now proved so grievous an enemy
to us."[71] In this manner was the earl's soul delivered from the evil
place. In 1232 he died childless, and his vast lands were divided among
his sisters and their issue. The Earl's-half of Coventry fell to the
lot of Hugh of Albany, and then passed to his daughter Cicily, wife of
Roger de Montalt. This family continued to hold it until the days of
Edward III., when by some arrangement with Queen Isabel, the King's
mother, it was vested in the royal line, ultimately becoming part of
the duchy of Cornwall, heritage of successive princes of Wales.


The only relic of the associations of the earls of Chester's family
with Coventry lie in the Cheylesmore manor house, to the south-east of
the city. The house itself is mostly modern, but there are fragments of
ancient buildings--a chimney-shaft--incorporated with it. It is most
likely that the Black Prince, who gave--say the annals--the ostrich
feathers to Coventry, and prince Henry, afterwards Henry V., sojourned
in the ancient dwelling at Cheylesmore.


[Footnote 60: Reader, _Domesday for Warwickshire_, 9: "The countess
held Coventry. There are 5 hides. The arable employs 20 ploughs, 3 are
in the demesne, and 7 bondmen. There are 50 villeins, and 12 bordars,
with 20 ploughs. A mill pays 3s. A wood 2 miles long and the same
broad. In King Edward's time and afterwards it was worth 12 pounds, now
11 pounds by weight. These lands of the countess Godiva Nicholas holds
to ferm of the king." See also _Vict. County Hist._, i. 310.]

[Footnote 61: Add MS. Ch. 11,205. Leofric's gifts of lands, etc., with
"sac and soc, toll and team," are therein confirmed to Leofwine, the
abbot, and the brethren "sicut ... Edwardus, cognatus meus, melius et
plenius eisdem concessit."]

[Footnote 62: Bateson, _Rec. Leicester_, 42.]

[Footnote 63: Ormerod, _Cheshire_, i. 10.]

[Footnote 64: Dugdale, _Warw._, ii. 1107. The incident is commemorated
in a modern window in Tamworth church.]

[Footnote 65: Ormerod, i. 20-6. Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 137.]

[Footnote 66: Ormerod, i. 26.]

[Footnote 67: Thompson, _Hist. Leicester_, 42.]

[Footnote 68: Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 197.]

[Footnote 69: See Dormer Harris, _Troughton Sketches_, 24.]

[Footnote 70: _Piers Ploughman_, Passus v. l. 402. Sloth (a
personification of one of the Seven Deadly Sins) says:--

 "I can nought perfitly my pater-noster ...
 But I can rymes of Robyn hood, and Randolf, erle of Chestre."

It is more likely this earl is meant than his grandfather Gernons.]

[Footnote 71: Hales, _Percy Folio_, i. 264-73.]


_Beginnings of Municipal Government_

But how did the men live who inhabited Coventry, who were neither
warriors nor monks, but the rank and file of the townsfolk, the mere
tillers of the ground and retailers of food and clothing, farmers,
bakers, butchers, shoemakers, weavers, and the like? These men owed
fealty, according to the position of the land they held, either to the
prior or the Earl of Chester. It is with the earl's burghers that the
main part of our story lies. It was they who won, after many checks
and struggles, such liberties of trading and self-rule as helped to
make their city rich and famous in after days. For wherever townspeople
found that their lord, whether he were a noble or the King himself,
had need of their money or support, they bargained with him for a
charter, a duly written and attested document giving them the power
to exercise certain rights, such as the collecting of their own taxes
or the managing of their own courts, without the interference of his
officials. Just as the barons of England gained Magna Charta from John
in his need and weakness, or forced Edward I. to confirm the same ere
they would give him money to prosecute his wars, so the townsfolk
played out the same play in their own much humbler theatre, and drove
their bargain with this or that great owner of estates.

For towns on the royal demesne the question resolved itself into one
of mere traffic. Was the town rich enough to induce the King to grant
a charter to the inhabitants conferring on them the liberties of which
they stood in need? If so, the money was paid, and the town started on
its career of independence. Nobles, too, were often willing to forego
their manorial privileges for the sake of a substantial sum of money.
But with churchmen and religious corporations the case was different.
They were unwilling, under any circumstances, to part with the rights
of the Church, "for fear," as the Coventry monks said, "of blemishing
their consciences." In growing and prosperous communities, where men
suffered by the restrictions laid upon their trade or persons, the
attitude of the religious community, which stood to them in place
of feudal lord, gave rise to great bitterness of feeling among the
tenants. Discontent was in many cases the precursor of riot and
bloodshed, showing how fierce was the spirit of resistance among these
men, and with what tenacity they clung to the idea of freedom.

The condition of the men of S. Alban's, or those of any town where the
inhabitants were serfs, was often miserable, or at best precarious.[72]
A serf must perform for his lord frequent and often unlimited service.
His offences were punished in his lord's courts of justice. He could
not sell or depart from his holding or marry his children without
licence. He must grind his corn at his lord's mill, and bake his loaves
at his lord's oven.

But from these most oppressive burdens the Coventry men were free. They
had in ancient custom a guarantee that their lord could not urge such
claims upon them, for they held of him "in free burgage";[73] that
is to say, they were quit of all personal service, and merely paid
a money rent for house and land. They were not compelled to leave
their business to carry in the crops on the lord's demesne, or follow
him for a great distance to war, or bake at his oven, a custom the
men of Melton observed until the days of James I.[74] Still, although
they were not entirely at the mercy of their feudal superior, the men
of Coventry had, as yet, no voice in the town government. They owed
obedience to three powers--the Earl of Chester, the King, and the Prior
of Coventry. For any fault or misdemeanour they were summoned to appear
at the earl's castle, where the constable fixed their punishment, and
the fine they paid passed into the earl's hand. The author of any grave
or serious crime was answerable to the sheriff, the King's officer.
While the prior, the lord of the soil in the Cross Cheaping, regulated
all matters connected with the traffic of the market.

The townsfolk were neither rich nor strong enough to free themselves
from the sheriff's jurisdiction, or their trade from the prior's
surveillance. But in the reign of Henry II. they struck a bargain
with Ranulf Blondvil, Earl of Chester, a great founder of towns,
whereby they obtained certain rights and privileges, and some measure
of self-government. In his charter the earl granted to his burgesses
of Coventry the same customs as those enjoyed by the men of Lincoln,
for it was usual for townsfolk to ask that their constitution might
be modelled on that of some freer or more important place.[75]
Lincoln,[76] in common with most of the larger towns in England,
borrowed certain customs from London, and Coventry, in its turn, was to
serve as model to other towns later in acquiring freedom.[77]

The Earl's charter, a model of the exquisite penmanship of the twelfth
century, runs thus:--

"Ranulf, Earl of Chester, to all his barons, constables, bailiffs,
servants, men and friends, French and English, present and future,
greeting. Know ye, that I have given to my burghers of Coventry, and
confirmed in this my charter,[78] all things which are written in the
same. Namely, that the said burghers and their heirs may hold well,
honourably, and undisturbed, and in free burgage of me and of my heirs,
as they held in my father's time or my other predecessors', better,
more firmly and freely. I grant them the free and good laws that the
burgesses of Lincoln have better and more freely. I ... forbid my
constable to bring them into my castle to plead in any cause; but they
may freely have their portmote, in which all pleas pertaining unto
me and unto them may be justly treated of. Moreover, they may choose
for me one whom they will among themselves, who may be judge under
me and over them; who, knowing the laws and customs, may keep these
in my council reasonably in all things, every excuse put away, and
may faithfully perform unto me that which is due. And if by chance
any one fall into my amercement, then he shall be reasonably amerced
by my bailiff and the faithful burghers of the court. And whatever
merchants they draw thither for the bettering of the town, I command
that they have peace, and that no one do them an injury or unjustly sue
them at law. If, indeed, any stranger merchant do anything unfitting
in the town, that shall be amended before the aforesaid justice in
the portmote without a suit-at-law. These being witnesses ... Robert
Steward de Mohaut ... and many others."

We see from the terms of this charter that the Coventry folk had
already acquired a certain status as free burghers. Now their liberties
were enlarged by a grant of self-jurisdiction. A further grant from
Henry II., appended to the confirmation of this charter, limited the
fine due from the burghers to the earl for any fault to 12d.;[79] "but
if by testimony of his neighbours he cannot pay so much, by their
advice it shall be settled as he is able to pay." We can call up a
possible picture of the court of portmanmote, to which the charter
refers. In some large open space, possibly S. Michael's churchyard,
the townsfolk might be seen gathered together for the meetings of the
court. Conspicuous among the little group of townsmen would be the
bailiff, the earl's representative, a man whose yea and nay was very
powerful among the lord's tenants, for was he not there to watch over
the interests of his master, and arrange for the payment of fines and
forfeitures which were his master's due?[80] By his side some fuller,
weaver, baker, or prosperous agriculturalist would probably take his
seat[81] as the justice, the elected representative of the townsfolk.
A clerk would also be present, for from the time of Henry III. court
records were strictly kept and enrolled. Probably not all the townsmen
attended each meeting, but only such of them as were concerned in any
suit, and even these--within reasonable limits--might plead _essoyne_,
or a valid excuse for absence. What individual part was played by
the justice and bailiff in the hearing of suits it is impossible to
tell, but we may infer that the misdemeanours of the townsfolk were
made known to the court by a jury, drawn perhaps from every street
or ward.[82] These men affirmed on their own knowledge, or on common
report, that certain offences had been committed within the township.
These offences were of a simple, trifling kind, those of a more
serious nature being tried at higher tribunals, before the sheriff or
the justices in eyre, or possibly in some other court of the Earl of
Chester.[83] A presentment, for example, would be made to the effect
that Nicholas, the son of William, had let his cows stray over the
mowing-grass in a certain field which is in the earl's demesne, thereby
causing damage to the extent of fourpence. Nicholas is at mercy,[84]
for it is well known that he is guilty, and he is thrown on the mercy
of the court. Let him pay the damage, and twopence in addition for the

Or the jury say that Margaret, the wife of Anketil, took from the
bakery of William of Stonelei two loaves, value one halfpenny, and
afterwards defamed and struck Joan, William's wife, in the open street
known as the Broadgate. And Margaret defends (denies) the deed:
therefore it is adjudged that she come and make her law six-handed
at the next court.[85] Or the jury declare that William, son of Guy,
contrary to the assize of bread, whereby, if a quarter of wheat sell
for 3s. 6d., the farthing loaf of wastel bread should weigh 42s., gives
only 39s. weight of bread in the loaf, to the damage of his customers,
the King's liege people.[86] Moreover, William was bidden at the last
court to come and wage his law twelve-handed; this he has failed to
do.[87] Therefore he is at mercy. The fine is twelve pence. William
cannot pay at once, but his pledges are John the Dyer and Thomas atte

Such cases as these would be the everyday business of the local court;
but civil matters also required a great deal of attention. Transfers of
land were executed there, being witnessed by the principal suitors of
the court. John the Smith, for example, would make over his house in
Earl Street with all its appurtenances to Richard the Weaver and his
heirs in return for an annual rent of fourpence, and would warrant it
to him against all comers.

Certain documents called indentures[89] would then be drawn up in
duplicate by the clerk, the names of the chief of the folk present
appearing therein as witnesses to the deed. To one of the indentures
the grantor fixed his seal, to the other the grantee, each retaining
the copy to which the seal of the other party in the transaction was
attached by way of title-deed.


At least twice a year the townsmen appeared before the sheriff,[90] at
whose court criminal or "crown" pleas received a hearing, and who, in
his military capacity, overlooked the muster-at-arms of the townsmen,
and fixed what number of archers were to be levied for the King's
service. The proceeds, of this court, goods of felons and the like,
went to swell the royal treasury. The system of presenting criminals by
means of a jury[91] obtained here as in the town court, but in doubtful
or serious cases the accused would be condemned or acquitted not in
accordance with evidence, but through an appeal to the interposition of
Providence by means of trial by ordeal or battle. Thus, a man who was
thrown into the water was, if he sank, pronounced innocent, if he swam,
guilty; or the one of two champions, who overcame the other in fight,
was held to have proved his case. But these irrational methods of trial
were falling rapidly into disfavour. The "ordeal" was forbidden at the
Lateran Council of 1216, and the Saxons, who much disliked the Norman
method of trial by battle, always sought in their local charters to win
exemption from the necessity of having recourse to it. Step by step the
modern jury system was introduced, which, whatever may be its faults,
is the most workable method hitherto discovered of obtaining a more or
less unbiassed verdict in any suit.


Another provision of the charter, as confirmed by Henry II., was
possibly an expedient to remedy the disasters which had lately befallen
the townsmen under Gernons and Hugh. It was necessary, if the town was
to grow and prosper, to attract settlers from different parts, and to
those seeking a home in Coventry the clause that "newcomers should be
free from all [payments] for two years after they began to build" would
be most welcome.[92] From this time no doubt the advent of passing
or abiding strangers was not infrequent, and the place began to put
on the appearance of a thriving little thoroughfare town. The grant
of a fair to the Earl's-men in 1217, and one to the prior some ten
years later, brought stranger merchants within the town-gates.[93] The
place was important enough to attract the Greyfriars thither before
1234, and the spire of their church still recalls their presence. More
than a hundred years later came the Whitefriars or Carmelites, whose
magnificent cloister is now incorporated in the workhouse. A colony of
Jews also found shelter in Coventry before the days of Edward I.[94] We
know no more than the names, and now and then the occupations of the
men of the place in the thirteenth century; for our inquiries among
the land-transfers of the time can elicit nothing save the records
of the sale of a tenement and curtilage by a William de Artungworth,
"le drapier," or their purchase by Richard le Tailleur, hosier, or
Richard de Mora, merchant. But even this bare enumeration of trades and
callings show the advance made by the men of Coventry since the time
when a handful of villeins and bondsmen tilled the lands that had been
Godiva's at the taking of the Domesday Survey.


[Footnote 72: For a list of the manorial services required of villein
tenants see Maitland, _Select Pleas in Manorial Courts_ (Selden Soc.,
i.), 102-4.]

[Footnote 73: Green, _Town Life_, i. 197-8]

[Footnote 74: Green, _op. cit._, i. 199. The Preston men bargained
that they should not be required to follow their lord on a warlike
expedition lasting more than one day (_Ibid._).]

[Footnote 75: For Henry II.'s charter to Lincoln see Stubbs, _Select
Charters_, 166.]

[Footnote 76: See Gross, _Gild Merchant_, i. 244-257; Bateson, "Laws of
Breteuil," _Eng. Hist. Rev._, xvi.; Tait, _Mediæval Manchester_, 43-4.]

[Footnote 77: Nottingham and Winchester received a grant of particular
customs after the pattern of Coventry. London was taken as a model by
Norwich. See Hudson, _Rec. Norwich_, i. 12.]

[Footnote 78: Dugdale assigns this charter to Blondvil, and I see no
reason to differ. If Blondvil were the grantor, then the date would lie
between the years 1181, that of Earl Hugh's death, and 1189, the date
of the death of Henry II., who confirmed it. I am inclined to think
that the charter should be assigned to 1181-2, in which year the men of
Coventry paid 20 marks to the king.]

[Footnote 79: Corp. MS. B. 2. The charter is dated "apud Merlebergam" =
Marlborough. This charter was first printed by the late Mary Bateson in
"Laws of Breteuil," _Eng. Hist. Rev._, xvi. 98-9.]

[Footnote 80: The townsfolk had not yet power to commute the fines and
forfeitures for a fixed sum, called fee-ferm.]

[Footnote 81: For the association of the feudal lord's representative
and the chosen official of the townsfolk in a town court see the case
of Totnes (Green, _Town Life_, i. 252).]

[Footnote 82: We infer from analogy that presentments were made by
a jury in this court. Norwich was--for judicial purposes--divided
into four leets. Each leet was divided into sub-leets, these latter
divisions being composed of as many parishes as would furnish twelve
tithings. The head-man, or "capital pledge" of every tithing--a band
of ten, twelve, or more citizens responsible for one another--made the
presentment of anything, which had happened in his tithing, which came
under the cognizance of the court. See Hudson, _Leet Jurisdiction in
Norwich_ (Selden Soc., vol. v.), xii.-xxvi.]

[Footnote 83: It is not clear whether the townsfolk at this period
attended the earl's leet or the sheriff's court. They certainly
attended the latter court in the time of Edward III. (Madox, _Firma
Burgi_, 108-9).]

[Footnote 84: _i.e._ has to be amerced, or fined.]

[Footnote 85: _i.e._ appear with five of her neighbours, who swear that
she is not guilty. This method of clearing the character by oath of the
neighbours was called compurgation.]

[Footnote 86: Shillings and pence were used as weights. We still speak
of "pennyweights" (Maitland).]

[Footnote 87: Because no neighbours could be found to swear, therefore
he is guilty.]

[Footnote 88: Pledges or sureties for the fine. These cases are all
imaginary, but drawn from analogous ones to be found in the Selden
Society's publications, the _Nottingham Records_, etc. I am by no means
sure that such cases as the last two would come within the purview of
the portmanmote. On the difficult question of the line between manorial
and regal jurisdiction see Hearnshaw, _Court Leet of Southampton_.]

[Footnote 89: So called because the parchment on which the two deeds
were written was so cut (indented) that they would exactly fit or
dovetail into one another when put together at any future time.
Hundreds of these documents are now at Coventry. See Section C of Mr
J.C. Jeaffreson's catalogue of Corp. MSS.]

[Footnote 90: In cases where the lord of the manor was entitled to hold
a leet or view of frankpledge, the tenants were exempt from attendance
at the hundred court. In the "view of frank-pledge" each testified
that they were enrolled in a tithing or body of mutually responsible

[Footnote 91: The direct ancestor of our modern Grand Jury.]

[Footnote 92: The conditions under which strangers were admitted into
a town differed with the particular locality. A free craftsman would
be admitted to citizenship by purchase. If a serf escaped from his
master's estate, and lived unclaimed for a year and a day, he was as
a general rule permitted to continue in the town. In Lincoln it was
necessary that he should pay the town taxes during that period (Stubbs,
_Select Charters_, 159).]

[Footnote 93: Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 161.]

[Footnote 94: Cole, _Documents Illustrative of Eng. Hist._, 309-19.]


_Prior's-half and Earl's-half_

In Coventry we now enter upon a period where the townsmen not only
sought to make good the privileges they had already won, but strove
to gain, either by fair means or foul, such fresh concessions as they
deemed necessary for their comfort and prosperity. The story of the
struggle for liberty in English towns, though little known, is one of
great interest. Though the whole thing is on a small scale, yet the
narrative of events is no less stirring than the account of the revolt
of a great nation. There was as fierce a conflict at S. Alban's among
a score or two of men in 1327 as among tens of thousands in Paris at
the Revolution. Few leaders of forlorn hopes have shown more desperate
courage than the good folk of Dunstable, who were ready to brave not
only the terrors of punishment in this world, but in the world to come,
for, being cursed with bell, book, and candle by the bishop and their
prior, they said that they recked nothing of this excommunication, but
were resolved rather "to descend into hell altogether" than submit to
the prior's extortions. And conceiving that they were likely to be
worsted in the quarrel, they covenanted with a neighbouring lord for
forty acres of land, preparing to leave their houses and live in tents
ere they would pay the arbitrary tolls and taxes the prior had laid
upon them.[95] It is true there were no philosophic fervour about the
mediæval burgher, no enthusiasm about liberty in the abstract. What he
wanted was some small practical advantage his masters denied him.[96]
All the townsman of S. Alban's asked at the beginning of the quarrel
was, that he should be allowed to grind his corn at home instead of at
the abbot's mill. But wanting this strongly and sorely, and seeing a
chance of victory, he was willing to fight for it perhaps to the death.

The struggle for freedom is, in Coventry, at first interwoven with an
old quarrel existing between the tenants of the two lords who held
the town between them: for we have seen that Coventry was divided
into two lordships; on the one hand lay the property of the earls of
Chester, the Earl's-half; on the other the Prior's-half, or the convent
estate. The government of these two manors was absolutely distinct. The
Prior's-men had no lot or part in the privileges conferred in Ranulf's
charter, and the Earl's-men none in those the convent won from Henry
III. The customs practised by the Earl's-men on one side of the street,
and those followed by the prior's tenants on the other, might differ
to a considerable extent. They attended different courts; some were
compelled to pay dues from which their neighbours were exempt; the
prior's tenants might be forced to carry their lord's harvest, or work
on his estate; while the Earl's-men, as free burghers, had long since
discontinued feudal labour. A priory tenant would stand in his lord's
pillory, or hang on his gallows; an Earl's-man met his punishment at
the castle, or the sheriff's court. While the convent tenants could
very likely bring their butter, horse provender, or coarse cloth to
sell in the market free of toll, another owing the earl fealty might
have to pay a penny or more before his stall could be set up in the
market-place. These differences of tenure, custom, and privilege,
naturally bred disputes among the townsfolk, a frequent occurrence in
those places wherein different lords held sway, dividing the allegiance
of the inhabitants.

[Illustration: 40 far Gosford St.]

There appears to have been some ill-feeling arising from a trading
jealousy between Earl's-folk and Prior's-folk. The former were
disposed, as early as the days of Henry II., to entertain some grudge
with regard to the ordering of the market in the Prior's-half,[97]
but we know no particulars of the grievance. So hotly, however, did
the quarrel rage between them, that there were "debates, contentions,
namelie killing of divers men,"[98] in the streets. Doubtless, in the
interests of peace, it was better that one or other of the contending
parties should become predominant within the town, and force the
other to consent to a compromise. The last Earl of Chester being
dead, and his successors, the De Montalts, men of little mark, the
chance lay with S. Mary's convent; and an enterprising prior, William
of Brightwalton, was not slow to avail himself of the opportunity.
Hoping, so the convent folk afterwards declared, to allay the strife
by uniting the two manors whereof the town was composed under one
lord, he proposed to purchase the earl's estate, a scheme to which
Roger de Montalt, being in need of money for a Crusade, was fain to
agree. So in 1249 the latter resigned the manor into the prior's hand
in return for a yearly rent of £100, with ten marks to the nuns of
Polesworth, and by this means the head of the convent became lord of
the Earl's-half,[99] Prior's-men and Earl's-men alike holding of him
house and land, and owing him rent and accustomed services. Thus the
lay lords of this great family slip out of the city's history; the
ruling power in the town is the great religious corporation which owed
its existence to Saxon piety.

Whatever changes this transfer may have brought about, one thing is
certain, it did not establish peace in Coventry. Twenty years later
the old jealousy flamed up anew. About 1267 both townsmen and convent
took advantage of Henry III.'s necessities to negotiate for a charter,
but with a different result. The former obtained a bare confirmation
of their ancient liberties,[100] the prior, on the other hand, owing,
belike, to his superior command of the purse, or in return for help he
may have rendered the King in the late wars, was able to purchase fresh
concessions for himself and his men. He was allowed to appoint coroners
for the town, and further, licence was given to form a merchant guild
among his tenants.[101] The grant of these graces brought about an
outbreak in the Earl's-half. Hitherto, it may be supposed, Earl's-folk
and Prior's-folk had carried on their trade on fairly equal terms,
but the new charter would bring about a revolution. The object of the
formation of a merchant guild was to confine the trade of the district
to its members; they would become local commercial monopolists. No
wonder the Earl's-men resisted the foundation of this society. If it
were once established, and they were excluded from its ranks, what a
blow would be dealt to their prosperity.

The guildsmen would make it impossible for them to trade under
anything like favourable conditions. They might be mulcted by tolls;
subjected to the annoying supervision of the guild officials in respect
to the weight or quality of their goods; restrictions affecting the
time, place, or manner of their selling might be imposed on them; or
they might have to relinquish bargains they had closed in favour of the
members of the guild merchant.

So when the terms of this new charter were known the Earl's-folk rose
in tumult, withstood the priory coroner when he attempted to see the
body of a man, slain, no doubt, in these brawls, and prevented their
neighbours in the Convent-half from forming the guild according to the
permission vouchsafed to them. Nor could the sheriff's officer, sent
by the royal order at the prior's request to proclaim these charters
and liberties in Coventry, bring the unruly townspeople to obedience.
"Certain men, we learn," ran the King's writ, "from those parts with
others, armed with force, took Gilbert, clerk to the said sheriff,
sent thither to this end, and imprisoned him, and broke" the royal
"rolls and charters, and beat and ill-treated the men of the prior
and convent."[102] What was the end of the tumult, or the fate of the
luckless clerk, we cannot tell, but, as we hear no more of the prior's
guild, it seems that this outbreak of the Coventry men "with others"
prevented its establishment.

We now enter upon a fresh phase of the quarrel. It is no longer the
Prior's-men but the prior himself who is the Earl's-men's enemy. Their
whole energy is absorbed in the effort to free their trade from the
restrictions the present lord of the Earl's-half has laid down for
them to observe. For the Earl's-men appeared ill-content with the
change of masters. Did the prior encroach upon the rights of the
townsfolk? Probably not; previously established customs founded on
the charter of Ranulf would bar his claims. But though the law may
not alter, the interpretation of it may vary from time to time; so
may the circumstances under which it is administered. It was so with
the customs which had hitherto regulated the Earl's-men's lives. They
and their present masters were disposed to differ as to the meaning
these could bear, and hence a way was opened for numerous quarrels and
lawsuits. Moreover, restraints, which had been borne without complaint
in early days under the Chester lordship, were found unendurable when
the townsfolk's commerce, and with it their desire for freedom, had

The matter of the merchant guild was only the forerunner of more
serious trouble. The townspeople were rapidly growing rich, whether
by soap-making,[103] or the manufacture of woollen cloth, or the
entertainment of travellers, or a happy combination of all three
sources of wealth. Under Edward I. they were able to pave their
city,[104] which had now risen to a sufficiently important position to
be accounted a borough, and to return two members to the Parliament of
1295.[105] Its prosperity attracted the notice of Edward I., who in
1303 summoned two Coventry merchants to attend a council;[106] and of
Edward II., who asked the inhabitants for a loan of 500 marks for the
prosecution of the Scotch war. It is small wonder if the townsfolk
were jealous lest this growing prosperity should be checked by the
petty regulations the prior chose to lay on them. Was their wealth to
be curtailed because, forsooth, the convent officials charged them, not
to sell here, or make there, to relinquish a favourable bargain, or
never to open stall or shop for sale of goods during certain hours of
the day?

The prior in the days of Edward II. was Henry Irreys, and his hand lay
heavy on the townsmen. They were not able to live, they complained,
"by reason of his oppression." Moreover, like the jolly, illiterate
Abbot of S. Alban's named Hugh, who "feared nothing so much as the
Latin tongue,"[107] and so oppressed his tenants, Prior Irreys was
an ally of Edward II., for it was by "maintenance of the King and of
Spencer, Earl of Winchester" (_i.e._ Despenser), that he was enabled
to keep the malcontents in check. In his days arose a second dispute
concerning traffic, but at what date we cannot tell. The Friday market
had always been held in the Prior's-half, and there only were the
Earl's-men permitted to sell their wares on that day.[108] Now certain
of them broke through the prior's order, and sold openly in their
own houses[109] during market hours. Appeal was made to the law. In
vain the townsmen pleaded that by virtue of the clause in Ranulf's
charter, giving them the same liberties as the Lincoln folk, they were
free to sell their goods when or where they would. Vainly, too, they
tried to strengthen their case by declaring that before the prior had
purchased the Chester estate they had been wont to hold a fair in the
Earl Street, where now their shops stood. These pleas availed nothing,
and a verdict was returned for the prior with £60 damages, the Earl's
men being forbidden to sell anywhere but in the Prior's-half during
market hours. The prescribed payment must have well-nigh ruined William
Grauntpee and other traders concerned in the struggle, for £60 was then
accounted a great sum.[110]

It was in 1323 that the townsfolk sought, after a very novel fashion,
to rid themselves of their oppressors. Their enemies accused them,
whether truly or untruly we cannot tell, of having recourse to the
black art, and strange rumours were afloat concerning the unlawful
dealings of the citizens with one Master John de Nottingham, limb
of Satan and necromancer, who inhabited a ruinous house in the
neighbourhood of the town. Witchcraft was not then considered an
ecclesiastical offence, but one against the common law, and it was,
it seems, before the Court of King's Bench that the approver, Robert
le Mareshall, told his story. He had been living, he said, with one
Master John de Nottingham, necromancer, of Coventry. To whom, on the
Wednesday next before the feast of S. Nicholas, in the seventeenth
year of the King's reign, came certain men of the town, citizens of
good standing, and promised them great profit--to the necromancer,
£20, and "his subsistence in any religious house in England,"[111] and
to Robert le Mareshall, £15--if they would compass the lives of the
King and others by necromancy. Having received part of the promised
payment as earnest at the hands of John le Redclerk, hosier, and John,
son of Hugh de Merington, apprentice of the law, with seven pounds of
wax and two yards of canvas, the magicians began their work. On the
Sunday after the feast of S. Nicholas they fashioned seven magical
images in the respective likenesses of Edward II., with his crown,
the elder and younger Despenser, Prior Henry, Nicholas Crumpe, his
steward, the cellarer of the convent, and Richard Sowe, probably one
of the priory underlings who had made himself unpopular. As far as the
last-named enemy upon the list was concerned--for upon him they chose
to experiment "to see what might be done with the rest"--they were
entirely successful. On the Friday before the feast of the Holy Rood
about midnight John de Nottingham gave his helper, Robert le Mareshall,
a leaden bodkin, with command to thrust it into the forehead of the
figure of Richard Sowe. The effect was well-nigh instantaneous. When
the necromancer sent Robert on the morrow to inquire how Richard did,
the messenger found him crying "Harrow," and mad as mad could be. And
on the Wednesday before the Ascension, John having on the previous
Sunday removed the bodkin from the forehead of the figure and thrust it
into its heart, Richard Sowe died.[112]

Meanwhile the necromancer and the accused gave themselves up in court,
consenting to plead before a jury. All, save the necromancer, were
admitted to bail.[113] He no doubt looked to receive no mercy, and
when after sundry delays the trial came on, the marshal certified that
Master John de Nottingham was dead. Another of the accused, Piers
Baroun, who had been a burgess at the Parliament of 1305,[114] died
also during the interval.

Others had fled from justice, though of these one Richard Grauntpee,
without doubt a near relative of the man who had lost his suit with
the prior in the matter of the market, afterwards came and surrendered
himself in court. Either the sympathy of the neighbourhood was with
the accused, or it was thought that Robert's tale was unworthy of
belief, for a jury taken from the neighbourhood returned a verdict
of acquittal. But the trial greatly embittered the feelings of the
citizens, and when the tide turned, and they were able to do the prior
hurt, they availed themselves of the opportunity gladly.


[Footnote 95: "Prior Richard and Monks" in _Cornh. Mag._, vi. 840.]

[Footnote 96: Thomson, _Municipal History_.]

[Footnote 97: Earl Hugh forbade his tenants to meddle with the prior's
markets (Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 159).]

[Footnote 98: Burton MS. f. 109_a_.]

[Footnote 99: Dugdale, i. 138.]

[Footnote 100: Quoted in _Inspeximus_, 17 Ed. II. (Corp. MS. B. 4); the
date there given is Jan. 30, 52 H. III. (1268).]

[Footnote 101: Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 162.]

[Footnote 102: Merewether and Stephens, _Hist. Boroughs_, i. 469. The
transcript of the MS. is given in Gross, _Gild Merchant_, ii. 365. The
expression "with others" is very significant; these were probably men
from the country, who had hitherto been allowed to trade in the town,
and feared the establishment of the guild.]

[Footnote 103: Soap was made in the neighbourhood of Coventry about
1300. "Sope about Couentre." Robert of Gloucester, _Chron._, i. 143.]

[Footnote 104: Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 138.]

[Footnote 105: _Parl. Writs_, i. lii.]

[Footnote 106: Lawrence de Shepey summoned to attend a council of
merchants at York in 1303 (_Ibid._ i. 135). He had been burgess for
Coventry in 1300.]

[Footnote 107: Froude, _Short Studies_, iii. 54. Edward II.'s overthrow
was the signal for a rising against this abbot.]

[Footnote 108: Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 162.]

[Footnote 109: It is probable that there were no shops, in our sense,
in the fourteenth century. The traders' goods were kept in a cellar
below the ground floor (Turner, _Domestic Architecture_, iii. 36). See
also, Dormer Harris, _Troughton Sketches_, 53.]

[Footnote 110: The value of £60 would represent more than £700 at the
present time. In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the
average price of an ox was 13s. 1-1/4d,; of a sheep, 1s. 5d.; of a cow,
9s. 5d.; and a fowl, 1d. (Rogers, _Agriculture and Prices_, i. 361-3).]

[Footnote 111: Probably a corrody or daily allowance of food from the
monastic table during the life of an individual. This ensured for the
individual who held it a share in the prayers of the brethren, and
sometimes included lodging within the monastery.]

[Footnote 112: Lansd. MS. 290, f. 533. It is the earliest trial for
witchcraft extant in England. See also _Parl. Writs_, ii. Div. 2, App.

[Footnote 113: Divers natives of Warwickshire and citizens of London
went bail for them.]

[Footnote 114: _Parl. Writs_, i. ii.]


_The Seigniory of the Prior and Queen Isabella_

Hitherto it had fared ill with the Earl's-men in their struggle with
the convent. Were they to be worsted like the men of S. Alban's or
Bury S. Edmund's? The former were now utterly broken in spirit. After
a hard fight lasting from the days of Henry III., they obtained in
1327 a charter, conferring on them the control over the local courts
and the privileges of a free and independent borough. And yet they
were powerless. Five years later they voluntarily surrendered their
charter into the abbot's hands. They gave up the perambulation of
their borough. They took their handmills--the initial cause of the
contention--and left them in the churchyard in token of renunciation.
They presented to the abbot the town chest with the keys belonging
thereto, thus relinquishing all their rights as a free and independent
community. Nor did better success attend the Bury S. Edmund's men,
who had the same high hopes as the S. Alban's folk, and who in the
same year compelled their abbot to concede to them a guild merchant,
a community, a common seal, and the custody of their gates. Five
years later they too were forced to abandon these claims, and, after
a fruitless effort at the time of the Peasant Revolt in 1381,[115]
both towns sank into apathy, each under the rule of the great local
religious house.

But alone among convent towns, a piece of supreme good fortune awaited
Coventry. The townsmen, just at a critical time, gained a powerful
champion. In 1327, by some bargain between Isabella, widow of Edward
II. and the representatives of the Chester family, the rents coming
from the Earl's-half passed into the Queen's hands, to become after
her death parcel of the duchy of Cornwall, heritage of the princes of
Wales. We have nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the quarrel
which raged for twenty years between the Queen and the prior of S.
Mary's convent. The undoubted gainers in this conflict were the men of
Coventry; for, helpless under Isabella's repeated attacks, the monks
conceded to their tenants those rights of self-government whereof they
had stood in need so long.

Soon after the Queen's entry into possession of the De Montalt estate,
the prior had many bitter complaints to make of the treatment he
received at her hands and at the hands of his "mortal enemies," the men
of Coventry. His courts were deserted by the men of the Earl's-half,
the profits of his franchise finding their way, no doubt, into the
Queen's coffers, as her steward held a court at Cheylesmore. His dues,
waifs, heriots, the mournful enumeration proceeds, were withheld, and
certain tenements belonging to him seized into "my lady's hand" in
spite of charters shown to prove his ample right to the same. Great
destruction had been wrought in his woods at Whitmore under colour
of the Queen's claim to gather her "estovers," or fuel, therein. And
the boundaries about these woods had been violently thrown down,
and if "they be not now enclosed to prevent cattle from pasturing
therein, they will be ruined for ever past recovery." The men of the
Earl's-half lived in the prior's tenements in the Earl's Orchard,
detaining the rent, twenty marks a year, "by tort and force." But
this was not the worst. By cover "of the Seigneurie of my said lady,"
the prior continued, a great part of the rents in Coventry were
treacherously withheld, and the monks dared not take distress and force
the defaulters to pay "for peril of death." For when their bailiff,
Simon Pakeman, went to demand the aforesaid rents without making any
distraint for the same, "up came Peter de Stoke and other mad folk
... and assaulted the said Simon with force of arms, and beat and
maltreated him, saying ... that if the said prior and convent ever
made any demand of the kind in the Earl's-half they would make their
heads fly" (_ferryent voler les testes_).[116] Again and again the
prior and convent poured forth their monotonous complaint. Now they
"prayed restitution" for the rent of two messuages, "which for two
years last past my lady had given to a demoiselle of her chamber."[117]
Now they averred that she had put the bailiff of the Earl's-half out
of his office, whereby they had lost all profits arising from their
franchises. Still the spoliation continued; they fixed the damage the
convent had sustained at £20,000,[118] and, turning from the deaf ears
of Queen Isabel, besought the King to see justice done for God's sake,
"and for love of our Lady, his dear Mother, in whose honour the priory"
had been founded, lest the convent should be compelled to disperse.[119]

Meanwhile the men of Coventry were gaining every year important graces
from Edward III. Now that the power of the prior was thus diminished,
there was no one to prevent the acquisition of fresh liberties, and
their money circulated freely at Westminster, the messengers bringing
back in return the precious slips of parchment sealed with the King's
seal, the testimony of new rights to be enjoyed by the townsfolk. In
1334 their merchandise was freed from toll in all places throughout
the King's dominions.[120] Six years later licence was given them
to form a merchant guild,[121] while other kindred societies sprang
up, and received licence to hold land in mortmain.[122] In 1341 the
King granted a charter to the effect that any inquisition of lands or
tenements within the city should be taken by the townsmen, and not by
strangers, an important provision at a time when there were frequent
lawsuits between the Queen and the prior.[123]

The convent give a graphic description of the effect of such an
inquisition upon their holding, and of the plot between the Queen and
the Earl's-men which caused the inquiry to be made.[124] "There came
the Men of the Earl's-half of Coventry amongst others ... Conspiring
and Compassing the undoing of the said prior and of his monks, and the
Disinheritance and Destruction of their Church, and making show of
their Intent unto my said Lady that her Seigniorie was more largely
than she had occupied.... Whereupon the Stewards and some of the
officers of my said Lady, without having any Power or Commission from
the Court of our Lord the King, took an Inquisition of the said
Men, Adversarys to the said Prior and Convent, what were the Bounds
in Ancient times of the Seigniorye of the Earl Rondulph ... which
men quickly and Maliciously gave up the said false verdict to the
Damnation of their Souls, Saying that all the Prior's-half, which is
of foundation of the Church, is two little leys (meadows), whereon the
profits by year are not above 50s.... and did fasten stakes of Division
to Separate the Seigniory of my said Lady from the Seigniory of the
said Prior." What made this action so particularly galling was that it
was the "Seigniory of the ffoundation" of their "Church" Isabel called
in question, though they had held it, they declared, long time before
the coming of the Conqueror, and before the Earls of Chester, whose
representative the Queen was, had been heard of in England.

The prior's complaints availed nothing; the men of Coventry were
in a sure way of victory, and in 1345 the city was incorporated by
charter. Three years later one John Ward took his seat as first mayor
of the city. The mayor, bailiffs, and community were henceforth to
be responsible for the fee-ferm;[125] and power to hear and adjudge
certains pleas, hitherto treated of in the county court, was given to
the city officers. The prior and his brethren looked upon this as a
last indignity. "They are become lords of the said prior, all whome
beforetime were his tenants," and in consequence of the inquisition
above mentioned, he and his brethren were now "entirely involved within
the danger of the mayor and his bailiffs, for they had not a foot of
land of their Seigniory" beyond the priory gates.[126]

Wearied of a struggle which had lasted for twenty years, the litigants,
the Queen, the prior, and the newly-made corporation allowed the
dispute to be set at rest once and for all in 1355, and the "Indenture
Tripartite" made between them took the form of a compromise. Each of
the three parties agreed to restore or forego the exercise of certain
rights, or at least to accept an equivalent. The prior gave up all
claim to jurisdiction over the Earl's-men, and the Queen forgave him
£10 of the yearly ferm owing to her, while the franchises he thus
relinquished--the right of holding view of frankpledge or leet and
other courts with the exercise of the coronership--Isabel bestowed
on the mayor, bailiffs, and community. These in their turn agreed to
indemnify the convent by a payment of £10 a year.

Other matter of contention was laid at rest. The prior's tenants were
to be taxable with the Earl's-men, and to serve as mayors and bailiffs
with their fellow-citizens. The restrictions on buying and selling,
which had given rise to the lawsuit in the former reign, were wholly
laid aside. "Any persons of whatsoever condition they be, [may] sell
any manner of wares" in the Earl's part, "or buy at what day or time it
shall please them, and they shall not be disturbed by the said prior
and convent." And although the market was to continue to be held as
of old in the Prior's-half, no toll was to be taken according to the
ancient custom, except for horses, while all the regulations concerning
sale and merchandise should henceforth "be at the ordinance of the
mayor and community." The assize of bread, ale, and victuals was to be
kept by the mayor; and though the prior was to have all the profits
arising from the fines of offenders against the assize, the officers
of the corporation could enter the convent half, and, in case the
prior's officers neglected to punish fraudulent brewers and bakers,
could levy fines upon these evil-doers and see justice done.

Various restitutions were made on the Queen's part, showing that she
and her advisers were really intent on a peaceful solution of the
difficulty. The advowson of chapels, chantries, and the like, which
she had appropriated, were restored to the prior, who, in his turn,
forgave all the delinquencies of the Earl's-men against himself.[127]
The "Tripartite" was drawn up so clearly, and in so fair a spirit, that
in essentials it was never afterwards called in question. Disputes
arose between the convent and the townsmen in later days, it is true,
but not concerning the all-important matters of trade and jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, this compact put an end, once and for all, to the prior's
dominion in Coventry. Henceforth in recounting the history of the
place, we have little concern with the convent; our subject touches
only upon the rule and fortunes of the mayor, bailiffs, and community
of the city.


[Footnote 115: Thompson, _Municipal History_, 22 _sqq._ Green, _Town
Life_, i. 298.]

[Footnote 116: Burton MS. f. 88. This appears to be the sense, but this
portion of the document is missing from Burton's folio. I found it on
a loose leaf in the _Leet Book_, copied in Norman French in a modern
and rather illegible hand from the deeds which were in the Stanton
collection of papers destroyed in the Birmingham library fire. [It is
now in Burton's Book Corp. MS. A. 34.]]

[Footnote 117: _Ib._, f. 110_a_.]

[Footnote 118: Burton MS. f. 63_a_. An incredible sum.]

[Footnote 119: _Ib._, ff. 109-12.]

[Footnote 120: Corp. MS. B. 7.]

[Footnote 121: _Ib._, 6.]

[Footnote 122: These were S. John the Baptist, S. Catherine, the Corpus
Christi, and the Trinity guilds, founded respectively in 1342, 1343,
and 1364.]

[Footnote 123: _Inspeximus_, 15 Ed. III. (Corp. MS. B. 7). This would
be highly important in a trial taking place at the county court, where
the sheriff might impanel a jury, not of townsmen, but of those in the
country round, who would not be acquainted with the "metes and bounds"
dividing the two estates. The Prior of Dunstable was accused by the
burgesses of introducing foreign jurors into the town (_Cornh. Mag._,
vi. 837).]

[Footnote 124: Burton MS. f. 110_a_.]

[Footnote 125: The fee-ferm rent, representing the King's rights over
the fines, forfeitures, etc, taken from criminals, was fixed at £50
a year. The liberties granted to be summed up thus: (1) The townsmen
may duly elect their own mayor and bailiffs. (2) They have cognizance
of pleas, of trespasses, contracts, covenants, and all other business
amongst themselves. (3) There is to be a seal for the recognition of
debts. (4) Mayor and bailiffs to have profits of view of frankpledge
with the court, to have control over the gaol, fair, market, etc., and
in return a ferm of £50 to be paid to the Queen and her heirs (Corp.
MS. B. 11).]

[Footnote 126: Burton MS. f. 111_a_.]

[Footnote 127: Burton, MS. ff. 98-103.]


_The Corporation and the Guilds_

After the Settlement of 1355 the figure of the head of the great
religious house at Coventry fades into comparative insignificance,
and all further quarrels between city and convent hardly rise above
the level of petty squabbles of no historical moment. The prior is no
longer lord of the place; he merely appears as host of the royal folk,
kings, and kings' sons, representatives of the ancient line of the
Earls of Chester, when they sojourn within the city. The rent of the
Earl's-half[128] now swells the revenue of the Princes of Wales, hence
the appellation "Camera Principis," or the prince's (Treasure) chamber,
the familiar motto on the city arms.[129]

With the disappearance of earl and prior from the foreground of the
picture there emerges another figure, the city merchant, type of a
newly-enriched class, the future guide of the destinies of the place.
Curiously enough, it is this man's work in stone that has best survived
the test of time. What has become of the castle of Hugh and Ranulf? It
has utterly disappeared; indeed, its very existence has been sometimes
doubted; the name "Broadgate" alone recalls the entrance (_latam
portam_) whereto reference is made in one of Earl Hugh's charters.[130]
Where is the priory of Irreys and Brightwalton? Mean streets cover the
site, and of the cathedral nought remains but a few bases of clustered
shafts in Priory Row and a portion of the North-West tower converted
into a dwelling-place. But the outline of S. Michael's spire[131] built
by the people is still the wonder of Coventry, and the guild-hall of S.
Mary with its glorious roof and window has behind it five hundred years
of continuous civic life.

Coventry was now a free and independent corporate borough. The townsmen
had power to elect their own officers, and hold their own courts,
taking for the common use the profits of jurisdiction, so long as
they paid into the royal exchequer the annual fee-ferm of £50 and the
prior's ferm of £10. The leading men of the place, most likely the
wealthy merchants and others, who had won the charter of liberties
from Queen Isabel,[132] now set to work to reorganise courts, elect
officials, in short to shape the whole administration to fall in with
the new order of things.[133] We know nothing of the manner in which
this was done, and as so many of the early records have been lost we
can give no account in many cases of the form of municipal rule chosen
by the citizens. Here and there curious documents give us a glimpse
of the working of certain courts, or the municipal action of this
or that body of men. But the information concerning very important
points is unfortunately lacking. We are referred, for instance, to the
"old custom" of electing officials, but we do not know what the old
custom was, and are hence left in ignorance of the manner in which the
election was made.

What part the poorer folk--menus gentz--smaller craftsfolk, and
working-people played in the struggle for liberty is dark to us,
but we may infer from the analogy of other towns,[134] and from the
subsequent history of Coventry, that they had but little effective
power under the new constitution. The growth of oligarchy[135] in towns
is a matter of much debate. How early the few in Coventry engrossed
the governing power of which the whole community was--in theory at
least--the source, it is impossible in our present state of knowledge
to determine. We have testimony as early as 1450 of the great influence
of the leading crafts, mercers, and drapers. The evidence--though not
always so clear as we could wish--points to a gradual absorption of the
conduct of affairs during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by a
small official class. In the end this clique succeeded so effectually
in freeing itself from every device framed to ensure some regard for
the popular will, that the charter of 1621 vested all power--and
incidentally considerable official emolument--in a close select body
"entirely independent of the rest of the community."[136] How early
the citizens became aware of the trend of affairs we know not, but it
is, maybe, significant that that popular discontent began to manifest
itself within a generation after the incorporation of the city. In the
late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries the commonalty set order
at defiance, reviled the mayor in the guild hall, and sought occasion
to break out in riot and tumult, while under the veil of religious
societies, industrial combinations--akin to the modern strike--formed
again and again, and were with difficulty suppressed.

After 1420, when the graphic chronicle contained in the _Leet
Book_[137] begins to be available for our researches, a glimpse is
given of a fully evolved constitution in working order. On January 25,
the feast of the Conversion of S. Paul, the mayor, chamberlains, and
wardens were annually elected, the permanent officials, the recorder,
legal adviser of the corporation, and the coroner re-appointed, the
justices of the peace selected, while the bailiffs, according to
ancient custom, received nomination at the Michaelmas assembly of
the court leet. The justices of the peace--with the exception of the
recorder--served also as key-keepers of the chest containing the common
treasure. The court of portmanmote, mentioned in Ranulf's charter,
still survived under various names, and in it pleas for debt were
tried by the presiding officers, the mayor, and bailiffs. At quarter
sessions the mayor, recorder, and three other late mayors, justices
of the peace, dealt with criminal offences, and it was, probably, the
activity of these comparatively recently created officials,[138]that
brought about the degeneration of the leet or view of frankpledge,
normally a court of justice for the trial of minor criminal offences,
particularly evasions of the assize of bread and beer.[139] By the
fifteenth century, the Coventry leet had retained little or nothing
of its judicial functions, and merely survived as a court wherein
by-laws, binding on the whole community, and grounded on petitions of
grievances, received the sanction of the jurats of the leet. Another
body, which also possessed legislative functions, was the mayor's
council of forty-eight, later known as the common council. While it is
from a small select body called the council-house, of which the mayor
and aldermen appear to have been ex-officio members, that there sprang
the close, corrupt corporation of later times.


There are certain officials whose elections or appointments are not
entered in the regular municipal records, but who, nevertheless, had
great weight in the councils of the city. Such were the aldermen, who
first appear in 1477.[140] These officials discharged certain police
duties in their respective wards and were of the inner council of the
mayor. Under the charter of James I. they became permanent justices
of the peace, and members of the corporation. While as justice of the
peace, key-keeper, head of the electoral jury and jury of the leet, the
master of the Trinity guild was one of the foremost figures among the
municipal rulers. His connection, and that of his fellow, the master of
the Corpus Christi guild, with the mayoralty was very close. Two years
before entering office each mayor was master of the Corpus Christi, and
two years after quitting it, master of the Trinity guild. The control
they exercised over the revenues of the guilds, which were often put to
municipal uses, gave these masters much power and authority with the
magnates of the city. The guilds joined their funds with those of the
wardens to pension deserving townsfolk[141] and pay the salary of the
recorder.[142] Before 1384 the Trinity guild discharged the ferm of
£10 due to the prior, receiving a share of common land to be held in
severalty[143]--that is separate from the lands of the community--as
compensation. Indeed, the guild officers were so clearly considered
as officers of the corporation that when they, together with the city
wardens and chamberlains, neglected to present their accounts at the
annual audit[144] they were one and all brought to book by the leet,
and ordered to remedy their neglect under pain of punishment.

The origin of societies known as guilds is involved in controversy,
but they were common throughout all Europe in the Middle Ages, bearing
eloquent testimony to the fortifying power of combination. They
afforded mutual protection to their members, frequently making good any
loss sustained from an insurance fund to which all were contributory,
and devoting other portions of their revenues to feasts, almsgiving,
and public works. Guilds are best remembered, however, in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries, as monopolist organisations, and a third of
all the towns in England, with the possible exception of London, had
their merchant guild, or body of traders and handicraftsmen, engrossing
the local commerce to the exclusion of all men without their ranks. The
craft guild was a century behind the merchant guild in its rise and
development. Its members met together to make rules, by which all who
practised a particular calling in the locality were to be directed in
all affairs connected with their trade or handicraft. They devoted some
of their revenue to religious uses, the members frequently supporting
some church or chapel, or providing candles for altar or processional
lights. Other local guilds not definitely commercial, but rather
social, in character, often called after some saint, were active in
the performance of all good works; they clad the poor in their livery,
supported churches, colleges of priests and grammar schools, and
pensioned decayed and deserving members. At Coventry, in the later
fourteenth and earlier fifteenth centuries, guilds rose rapidly, and
as rapidly coalesced, or, in the case of those "yeomen" or journeymen
fraternities, which served to focus the prevailing industrial
discontent, failed to maintain themselves in face of the hostility
of other powerful previously existing associations. Two fraternities
survived to play a great part in the city's mediæval history, the
Corpus Christi guild, founded in 1348, and the better-known society
of the Holy Trinity, S. Mary, S. John the Baptist, and S. Catherine,
properly a fusion of four different fraternities, founded between 1340
and 1364, and known for brevity's sake as the Trinity guild.


It is possible that it was to the foundation of the merchant guild of
S. Mary[145] in 1340, the kindred associations which sprang up around
it, and to the gifts of their members in lands and money that the
townsfolk owed the purchase of the incorporation charter.[146] It is
frequently found that the same man serves in different years as mayor
and master of the merchant fraternity.[147]

The town hall of S. Mary, in which not only the guild feasts were
held, but municipal business[148] was transacted, and the town chest,
as well as the guild plate,[149] stored, tells by its name of its
connection with S. Mary's brotherhood. The vaulting of the entrance
porch of this building still bears on its central boss a carving
which represents the coronation of the Virgin; another of the porch
carvings--now weather-worn--recalled the Annunciation, and a scene on
the famous tapestry within the hall, the Assumption,[150] so that the
guild brethren, could be everywhere reminded of the scenes in the life
of their chief patroness. No church, however, recalls the Virgin's
name, though materials from an unfinished building, which should have
borne that dedication, were transported from Cheylesmore to Bablake,
where the stately, early Perpendicular church of S. John the Baptist
was rising on ground granted by Queen Isabel in 1342 to the fraternity
called after that saint.[151] Both S. John the Baptist's guild and S.
Catherine's--the latter connected with S. Catherine's chapel in S.
John's Hospital,[152] coalesced between 1364-5 with the guild merchant,
to be absorbed later by the all-embracing Trinity fraternity. This
fusion of the guilds, which had certainly taken place informally
before 1384,[153] was ratified by patent in 1392,[154] when the united
revenues were increased to the amount of £86, 13s. 4d. a year. The
completion of S. John's church became the especial care of the Trinity
guild, and the dues taken at the Drapery, where cloth was sold, were
devoted to that purpose, while a college of priests, whose number was
in 1393 increased to nine, officiated at this church, and lived on the
bounty of the brotherhood.[155]

[Illustration: SMITHFORD STREET]

The priests of the merchant guild, as was meet, occupied from the
beginning the most honourable place of all. They sang their "solemn
antiphonies" in the lady-chapel of S. Michael's, the great parish
church of the Earl's-half, a practice which was still continued
after the title of the guild became merged in the society of the
Trinity;[156] while the guild of the Corpus Christi, composed, it would
seem, of the prior's tenants, occupied the corresponding chapel in the
parish church of the Trinity.[157]

One guild, that of the fullers and tailors, called after the Nativity,
carried on an obscure existence in connection with the since demolished
chapel of S. George outside the Gosford gate. The formation of this
society was violently opposed by the powers that were in 1384 on the
ground that the purpose of its members--"labourers and artificers
of the middling sort" and strangers--was to withstand the mayor and
officers of the city, and not to promote the welfare of souls.[158]
After 1400, further guild-making had come to have little favour with
the ruling men of the city. Three several times did the mayor and
bailiffs obtain patents forbidding the formation of guilds other than
those already existing within Coventry.[159] While the close alliance
of the older fraternities and the corporation is shown in the fact
that the meetings of the guilds of S. Anne and S. George, formed by
journeymen tailors in the first quarter of the century, were suppressed
by royal command under the pretext that their meetings were to the
manifest destruction of the ancient foundations, the guilds of Holy
Trinity and Corpus Christi.[160]


[Footnote 128: See above, page 70.]

[Footnote 129: _Cf._ the expression "queen's-chamber" as applied to
Bristol, where the ferm was paid to the queen-consort.]

[Footnote 130: The "Casteldich" is mentioned Corp. MSS. C. 61.]

[Footnote 131: On the belfry as continental symbol of independence, see
Round, _Commune of London_, 244.]

[Footnote 132: For instance, one of the twelve whose names are handed
down in the mayor-lists as winners of the freedom of the city was
Walter Whitweb. He was master of the guild merchant in 1353 (Corp.
MS. C. 148). Four of the twelve served afterwards as mayor, some
others as bailiffs of the city. We may note that the leading families
under the prior still continue to take the foremost place after the
incorporation. Thus to Lawrence de Shepey, member of Edward I.'s
assembly of merchants (_Parl. Writs_, i. 135), and in 1300 member for
the borough (_Ib._, I. lii.), succeeded Jordan de Shepey whose name is
yet commemorated in Jordan Well, second mayor of the city and first
master of the guild merchant (Gross, ii. 49). A parallel case is shown
in the Kelle family. Robert was burgess in 1298 (_Parl. Writs_, I.
lii.), and Henry one of the founders of the Trinity guild in 1364, and
four times mayor of the city.]

[Footnote 133: On the solemn consultations thus involved in the case of
Ipswich, see Gross, _Gild Merchant_, i. 23.]

[Footnote 134: On the troubles attending the grant of a charter to
Norwich in 1380, where the commonalty were "very contrarious," see
Hudson, _op. cit._, I. liv. _sqq._]

[Footnote 135: Bateson, _op. cit._, II, lxvi.]

[Footnote 136: Charter 17 Jas. I. On the corruption of the Coventry
corporation, see _Munic. Corp. Report_ (Coventry, 1835) 12; Webb,
_Local Government_.]

[Footnote 137: _Coventry Leet Book_, 1420-1555, edited for the Early
English Text Society by the present writer; part i. 1907, part ii.
1908, part iii. 1909, part iv. in progress.]

[Footnote 138: The mayor, recorder, and four lawful men of the city are
allowed to exercise all that appertains to the office of justice of the
peace for labourers and artificers in the county of Warwick, _i.e._ fix
the rate of wages (Charter 22 Rich. II. Burton MS. f. 253). For a trial
of felons by the justices of the peace, see Sharp, _Antiq._, 212.]

[Footnote 139: Hearnshaw, _Leet Jurisdiction_, _passim_.]

[Footnote 140: _Leet Book_, 420.]

[Footnote 141: _Leet Book_, 59.]

[Footnote 142: _Ib._, 681.]

[Footnote 143: We learn in 1384 that the annual ferm of £10, due to
the prior according to the terms of the Tripartite, was drawn from the
coffers of the guild (_Leet Book_, 2-6). Directly the guild lands were
confiscated in 1545 the corporation made a great outcry concerning
their poverty. They had, they declared, no lands whence they might
derive an income to meet the yearly ferm of £50, and in trying to
discharge it one or two of the citizens were yearly ruined (Vol. of
Correspondence, f. 63, Corp. MS. A. 79).]

[Footnote 144: _Leet Book_, 295.]

[Footnote 145: Gross, _Gild Merchant_, ii. 49; Toulmin Smith, _Eng.
Gilds_, 231. In the return of 1389 it is stated that several messuages
worth £37, 12s. 4d. a year are waiting for the licence of the King
and the mesne lords to be given to the guild. No doubt the Statute of
Mortmain was often evaded. The corporation records show that the guild
held house property as early as 1353 (Corp. MS. C. 148).]

[Footnote 146: The foundation of the guild has evidently a municipal
reason, since the statute of 1335, by declaring that all merchants
might traffic with whomsoever they would, and in what vendibles they
chose, effectually did away with this monopoly of the merchant guild
(Ashley, _Econ. Hist._, i. pt. i. 84).]

[Footnote 147: Many early mayors were masters of the guild merchant;
the cases of Jordan de Shepey and Walter Whitweb have been noted. In
William Holm, master in 1356 (Corp. MS. C. 153), we have undoubtedly
William Horn of the mayor-lists.]

[Footnote 148: Sharp, _Antiq._, 211. The guild hall was used for
municipal purposes as early as 1388.]

[Footnote 149: _Ib._, 212.]

[Footnote 150: In Mantes the guild "aux marchands" was one with
the "confrèrie de l'assomption de la Vierge" (Luchaire, _Communes
Françaises_, 34).]

[Footnote 151: _Vict. County Hist._, ii. 120.]

[Footnote 152: Sharp, _op. cit._, 159.]

[Footnote 153: _Leet Book_, 3.]

[Footnote 154: _Rot. Pat._ 16, Ric. II., pt. i. m. 19. The guilds of S.
Mary and S. John were united as early as 1362 (Corp. MS. C. 159). Sharp
says that the union took place between 1365 and 1369 (_op. cit._, 131);
but in a deed executed in 1372 the guilds mentioned are SS. Mary, John
the Baptist, and Catherine (Corp. MS. C. 165).]

[Footnote 155: Sharp, _op. cit._, 130-2.]

[Footnote 156: Sharp, _op. cit._, 24-5.]

[Footnote 157: _Ib._, 81.]

[Footnote 158: See _Vict. County Hist. Warw._, ii. 154-6.]

[Footnote 159: Corp. MS. B. 35. Letters patent against the formation
of new guilds, dated Nov. 18, 8 Hen. IV. (1406), confirmed in 1414 and
1441 (B. 38 and 47). A great deal of confusion and wrong dating exists
in the Hist. MSS. Com. Catalogue with regard to this point.]

[Footnote 160: Corp. MS. B. 40 (1406); B. 41 (1414); B. 43 (1424).]


_The Mayor, Bailiffs, and Community_

We have seen that it was the stable and well-to-do classes which bore
rule over their fellow-citizens. Men of substance, and they only, were
eligible for office, and the terms "degree of a mayor," "degree of a
bailiff," used in assessing fines, show that there was some strictness
maintained with regard to this property qualification. And indeed it
was needful that mayors, bailiffs and the like should be moneyed men,
for their responsibilities were great and the turns of fortune curious,
for should any source of revenue fail, they were compelled to make up
the deficit, and hence were poorer men at the year's end than at the
beginning. Thus when the prior refused to pay the murage tax for twenty
years, the chamberlains, or treasurers, contributed the sum that was
lacking from their own purses.[161] Still, on the whole, the magnates
preferred to acquiesce in their election rather than pay £100, 100
marks, or £40 as a fine for refusing to fill the respective offices of
mayor, sheriff or master of either guild. Once, indeed, a certain Roger
a Lee declined to occupy the office of chamberlain, though he was a man
well-to-do, having received £30 in money and plate with his wife, and
must--so the prevailing opinion was--have "had right largely of his
own," or else "John Pachet would not have married his daughter to him."
When solemnly adjured to "come in and exercise the said office," Roger
persisted in his refusal, nor did the imposition of a fine of £20 avail
to shake his resolution.[162]

[Illustration: THE CITY KEYS]

But having once accepted office, with all its emoluments, risk and
toil, a citizen was forthwith raised to a platform, high above the
mere "commoner," who had neither lot nor part in the rule of his city.
He became one of the "men of worship," whom to insult was a dire
offence;[163] and his doings must not be cavilled at, or explained to
the vulgar herd. Gravity, decorum, and, above all things, secrecy[164]
marked the councils wherein he took part. Seemliness of behaviour was
demanded from him; a late mayor must live cleanly, the leet decreed,
and not give way after warning to "avowtre, fornicacion, or usure," if
he wished to rise higher as master of the Trinity guild, or continue to
meet his brethren at the council board.[165]

[Illustration: THE SWORD]

[Illustration: THE CITY MACE]

Distinguished on great occasions by his official dress, he was
surrounded by an atmosphere of form and ceremony, which no doubt had
its effect on the outside world. When the mayor went to mass every
morning at "seven of the clock" the sword-bearer and officers attended
him. A like procession was formed on the way back, for though the
underlings might go about their business during service, they were
commanded to "hearken" the time of the mayor's coming out of church
so as to be ready to accompany him homewards.[166] So sensible were
these worthy men of the dignity of their position, that questions of
precedence were ever considered of great moment. When Harry Boteler,
the recorder, fell into disgrace in 1484 by magnifying his office at
the mayor's expense, the council thought it a due punishment that
he should yield his place to the master of the Trinity guild, who
thenceforth went by the mayor's side in all municipal processions,[167]
an order afterwards rescinded probably to gratify one of Boteler's
successors; the mayor from that time walked alone, the master and
recorder together.[168]

The labours of the town officials were greatly increased by the
all-embracing character of the local legislation. The people of the
Middle Ages believed devoutly in the efficacy of the law, and many
matters concerning prices, wages, and the like, now known to regulate
themselves according to supply and demand, were at times the subject
of an infinite amount of often fruitless law-making. Nothing could
check the zeal and energy of the local law-givers; no subject was too
difficult for them to grapple with, none beneath their consideration.
The worshipful men might reverse the whole organisation of the crafts
connected with the iron industry at one leet sitting,[169] or, on the
other hand, turn their attention to the local supply of halfpenny
pies, or the amount of wheat put by the families of the two parishes
into the holy cake, or blessed bread, distributed to the congregation.
No doubt it was impossible to enforce all these regulations. All the
energy of the leet, or council, and the vigilance of the town officers
often failed to do away with a long-standing abuse. It was forbidden,
under penalty of £10, to throw refuse into the Sherbourne; yet though
"great diligence" was made to learn who the offenders were, it did not
hinder the commission of the offence.[170] And although, according to
the decrees of leet and council, people were compelled to be cleanly,
honest and peaceable, I make no doubt that ducks[171] and swine still
appeared in the streets,[172] bakers' loaves fell short of the proper
weight,[173] and men of craft bore arms in the city, and wounded each
other in quarrel.[174] In short, many regulations were mere paper
regulations to the end of the chapter.

The mayor and his colleagues had no light work before them on taking
office. Numberless details of municipal business went far to fill
their days with employment. In addition to his judicial duties, a
mayor examined, either in person or by deputy, a great part of the
household stuff which came into the city to be sold. He must needs have
some acquaintance with matters military, when a threat of invasion or
civil war turned him into a captain, and the citizens under him into
soldiers, such as they appeared at the half-yearly muster, each armed
with such weapons as suited his degree.[175] While, in order to acquit
himself with credit in the difficult and delicate relations wherein the
citizens were frequently involved with the outside world of politics, a
mediæval mayor must gather all the information he could upon affairs of

[Illustration: THE OLD STATE CHAIR]

The bailiffs, with their work of court-holding, ferm-paying, and
fine-collecting;[176] the chamberlains, who overlooked the common
pastures, and put the murage money to its proper use;[177] the wardens,
who supervised town property and made payment of sundry expenses,
delivering up their accounts for the annual audit, were all deeply
immersed in business. And the keeping of these accounts was no easy
matter, so great a variety of items was included therein, and so
frequent were the demands upon the public purse. Now the wardens would
be called upon to entertain and reward the bearward of a neighbouring
nobleman, or the groups of strolling players who set up their booth
in the inn-yard or market-place; or, again, to contribute to the
maintenance of the knights of the shire,[178] or lay down the ten
pounds, which the mayor took as the "fee of the cloak";[179] now to
defray the cost of a civic banquet, or that of the mayor's new fur
cap, keeping in the latter case, the "olde stuffe" for the use of
the town.[180] Surely much of the activity of the House of Commons
under Edward III. and the House of Lancaster is in the main due to the
training many of its members received at home in the local guild-hall
or council-house.

A great part of the municipal business in the Middle Ages was carried
on by bodies consisting of twenty-four men, a double jury, a number
occurring in London as early as 1205-6,[181] in Leicester in 1225,[182]
and rather later in Norwich.[183] In Coventry in the fifteenth century
twenty-four late officials, frequently including the justices of the
peace, brought together by some indirect process of which we have
lost the secret, elected the officers for the ensuing year. The same
number, and to all intents and purposes the same men, were the jurats
of the leet. A council of twenty-four, chosen by the mayor and perhaps
identical with the jury of the leet, examined petitions four days
before the two great assemblies of this court, in order, it seems,
to discuss and decide on their rejection or acceptance by the jury
of the leet. Moreover, twenty-four nominees of the mayor reinforced
the electoral jury of twenty-four to form the mayor's council of
forty-eight.[184] In practice, however, there was no rigid adherence
to these numbers; small executive or deliberative bodies frequently
met, and on occasions when it was deemed necessary large "halls" or
assemblies of indeterminate numbers were summoned by the mayor to
testify to the popular will. This calling together of the community,
a relic maybe of immemorial custom,[185] affording in its traces of
ward[186] organisation evidence of a form of government older and more
popular than the system employed by the town rulers in the fifteenth
century, reveals a lack of any well-thought-out scheme to ensure the
election of representatives. Hence it seems to have been of little
avail for purposes of popular control. The members were summoned at
the requisition of the mayor, and were frequently to a great extent
members of the official class. Hence in the cases of which we have
record they did nothing but set the seal of approval to the official
policy. Thus in 1384[187] the mayor summoned four or six out of every
ward to learn what the common wish was concerning the Podycroft and
other common lands, which the Trinity guild kept in severalty in
return for the annual ferm of £10 paid to the prior on behalf of the
corporation, the assembly was in favour of the continuance of the old
arrangement, though it was avowedly a most unpopular one. And no orders
of leet availed to check the open discontent of the common folk, who
certainly did not feel themselves in any way bound by this assembly.
The guild constantly found that their fences were broken down, and
their fields overrun by the people at Lammas; and in 1414[188] it was
thought necessary to decree that people trespassing (_delinquentes_) in
the enclosures should be arrested, and imprisoned until they had made
sufficient amends "by view of the guild master and six of the guild

But the discontent of the commonalty did not abate, and once more, in
1421, the officers in high place went through the form of consulting
their fellow-townsmen. A hundred and thirty-four citizens, summoned
at the mayor's requisition to S. Mary's Hall, gave the lie to popular
discontent a second time, and approved of the giving over of the
Mirefield, the Podycroft and Stivichall Hiron to the use of the
guildsmen. But the anger of the townsmen became so hot that in the
following year they destroyed certain gardens at Cheylesmore, which,
it appears, had been enclosed by well-known townsmen, members of the
mayor's council and justices of the peace.[189]

The mayor's council of Forty-eight, one of the most important of the
constitutional expedients ever devised by the ruling class at Coventry,
met apparently for the first time in 1423. In the previous year, no
doubt with the notion of allaying the prevailing discontent, the idea
of selecting a definite number of commoners from every ward to form
a council to watch over the interests of the commonweal first took
shape. There had been "dissentious stirrings" concerning enclosures,
and there is little doubt that at the Michaelmas leet there was some
speech of giving those outside the corporation some means of checking
the alleged malpractices of the municipal rulers. The mayor had been
charged to call forty-eight commoners, divers out of every ward, to
hear _the chamberlains' accounts_ for three years past, and to witness
any _grants made under the common seal_.[190] But there is little or
nothing to tell of the activity of this body of commoners.[191] On the
other hand, at the first opportunity the corporation turned this idea
of a council into a weapon for their own defence by providing at the
election of the mayor in the following January that there should be one
consisting of the staunchest supporters of the town rulers. "It was
provided," the _Leet Book_ says, "that the said mayor should call and
take to him the same twenty-four worthy men, that were of his election,
with other twenty-four wise and discreet men, chosen to them and named
by the said mayor," and that this company should "put in rule all
manner of good ordinances" for the benefit of the city.[192] And the
worthy men were determined that this good ordaining should be followed
by prompt obedience.

"It is and hath been accustomed," says an insertion in 1484 in the
records of Leet, "that whatever the foresaid forty-eight persons
ordaineth and establisheth for worship of mayoralty, bailiffs and
commonalty of this city, according to the law, all the whole body
of this city shall be bound thereby."[193] A certain latitude was
allowed to the mayor as to whom summons should be sent "when he had
need of forty-eight persons," save that he was always warned to
require the attendance of "sufficient" men,[194] _i.e._ of suitable
rank. After 1446 we find that the presence of a quorum of twelve
persons was sufficient for the transaction of business, the whole body
afterwards giving their assent to the measures ordained by this smaller
company.[195] And it was most probably this small working body that
was the ancestor of the inner council of the mayor and aldermen, which
ultimately, by the charter of James I., gained complete and unchecked
control over the municipal affairs of Coventry. The rule of this
council gradually became a veritable tyranny. Even the official class
rebelled against its dictates. We hear of a majority, "the most part"
of the council, and this includes the idea of a dissentient minority.
Those who transgressed the commands of this majority, if they had never
filled the sheriff's post, lost the freedom of the city; while late
mayors or sheriffs lost their official rank. He shall "be exempt,"
the order ran[196] in the sheriff's case, "from wearing scarlet among
his company in all common assemblies, feasts, and processions"; and
further, to be punished with fine and imprisonment at the mayor and
council's discretion; on a late mayor the same penalty was laid, with
the addition that he should be "exempt from his cloke and council";
while any citizens "comforting the disobedient" were to suffer the same
penalties. When we learn that this order was framed in 1516 for the
correction of John Strong, late mayor and _ex officio_ member of the
council, we may form some conception of the tyranny of this body, whose
doings even divided the corporation against itself.


[Footnote 161: _Leet Book_, 597. They were afterwards reimbursed when
the suit was decided against the prior.]

[Footnote 162: _Leet Book_, 619.]

[Footnote 163: See Green, _Town Life_, ii. 256, for examples of the
punishments of those who insulted officials. In Coventry two men--John
Smith and John Duddesbury--for their ill-behaviour to "men of worship"
were, in 1495, put under surety from session to session until their
submission should content the justices of the peace (_Leet Book_, 569).]

[Footnote 164: Six of the mayor's council met every Wednesday. The
sergeant kept the council-house doors so that no unauthorised person
might enter (_Ib._, 516).]

[Footnote 165: _Leet Book_, 544. The mayor was to be deprived of his
"cloke" (_i.e._ official rank) and council, of which body he was an
_ex-officio_ member.]

[Footnote 166: _Leet Book_, 662.]

[Footnote 167: _Leet Book_, 521. The recorder was the legal adviser of
the corporation.]

[Footnote 168: _Ib._, 642.]

[Footnote 169: _Ib._, 180.]

[Footnote 170: _Ib._, 455.]

[Footnote 171: _Ib._, 27.]

[Footnote 172: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 173: _Ib._, 24.]

[Footnote 174: _Leet Book_, 28.]

[Footnote 175: Green, _Town Life_, i. 127.]

[Footnote 176: The bailiffs by their oaths were compelled to pay all
due ferms and fees, and to be present on court days and sessions of the
peace (_Leet Book_, 224).]

[Footnote 177: See the chamberlains' accounts (_Ib._, 54-5).]

[Footnote 178: _Leet Book_, 107. Knight's fees to be paid by wardens,
and not by chamberlains.]

[Footnote 179: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 180: _Leet Book_, 334. If the cap cost more than 13s. 4d.,
the surplus was to be paid by the mayor.]

[Footnote 181: Round, _Commune of London_, 237-8.]

[Footnote 182: Bateson, _Rec. Leic._, i. 34-5.]

[Footnote 183: Hudson, _Norwich_, xxxv.]

[Footnote 184: See below, p. 93.]

[Footnote 185: Any business touching the public weal--such as the
payment of a royal debt, granting away of town property and the
like--could not be transacted without the official consent of the
community. Thus in 1422, when the mayor summoned sixteen of the
magnates to weitness the sealing of deds relating to town property,
"it was perceived by the mayor and all present that it would be
more expedient ... for the mayor to summon these following and many
concitizens" (_Leet Book_, 40).]

[Footnote 186: Those who were summoned for purposes of consultation
came according to their wards. Thus in 1384 it was determined that the
mayor should summon four or six citizens out of every ward (vico), who
should testify "tam pro seipsis quam pro tota communitate ville," what
the general will was concerning the enclosure of certain meadows by the
Trinity guild (_Ib._, 5).]

[Footnote 187: _Leet Book_, 5.]

[Footnote 188: _Ib._, 20.]

[Footnote 189: The commons destroyed Julius (? Giles) Allesley's
gardens without the Grey Friar Gate (Harl. MS. 6,388, f. 16). Giles
Allesley was mayor in 1426. Attilboro, a member of the usual council of
twenty-four, who took part in the election of the mayor (_Leet Book_,
22), and Southam, a justice of the peace (_Ib._, 44), had gardens which
encroached on the common lands, for which they were allowed, when the
survey was taken, to pay a composition (_Ib._, 50-1).]

[Footnote 190: _Leet Book_, 42. These grants were given to enable
certain citizens to dispense with the ordinary regulations of leet;
probably much favour and affection were shown in the granting of them.]

[Footnote 191: We cannot tell whether this council even met. In 1423 we
hear that the chamberlains' accounts were audited in the presence of
the mayor and "48 honest and legal men" elected by the aforesaid mayor
to hear the accounts (_Ib._, 54). Query, were these the commoners, or
the mayor's council of Forty-eight?]

[Footnote 192: _Leet Book_, 44.]

[Footnote 193: _Ib._, 520.]

[Footnote 194: _Ib._, 157.]

[Footnote 195: _Ib._, 228.]

[Footnote 196: _Leet Book_, 647-8.]


_Coventry and the Kingdom of England_

So far was Coventry from the great centres of the national life, that
there is little to connect the place in the earlier parts of its
history with the history of the kingdom.

William I. may have passed through on his way from Warwick to
Nottingham on one of his journeys to crush the rebellious Saxons,
and Stephen, as we have seen, swept down on the castle--that famous
"castlelet or pile"[197] in Earl Street--and razed it to the ground.
Other notable travellers came during this period to Coventry, but
secretly, for they wished to escape pursuit. Many evil-doers claimed
the protection of the Church in those days, and when any fugitive
entered the sanctuary, he was safe from pursuit. There he made
confession of his crime, and, if he left of his own free will, he must
abjure the kingdom, and make straight for some port appointed him by
the coroner, there to take ship for foreign lands. Many criminals on
quitting the sanctuary found their enemies lying in wait, and perished,
although they held the cross, symbol of the Church's protection, in
their hand. Men feared to incur the penalty of excommunication, which
the violation of sanctuary always brought, by dragging Faulkes de
Breauté from Coventry church; and this Norman adventurer, whom the
favour of John and Henry III. had raised to riches and greatness until
he was "plasquam rex in Anglia"--of more account than the King--put
himself under the bishop's protection, and travelled in his company
to Bedford to throw himself on the King's mercy. He was banished the
kingdom. With him fell, in 1222, the foreign party under Peter des
Roches, who for so many years had thwarted the designs of Henry's great
minister, Hubert de Burgh.

In other ways the reign of Henry III. was locally a memorable one.
During the siege of Kenilworth, which lasted from midsummer to December
1266, the neighbourhood was the centre of military operations, but
when the castle containing the remnant of De Montfort's following
surrendered, the smouldering fires of civil war died away. Part of the
famous ruin that witnessed this siege, the Norman keep, or Cæsar's
Tower, is standing yet. But of all these events the local documents
tell us nothing. In spite of the stirring scenes enacted at Kenilworth,
scarce five miles away, we do not know whether the folk of the town
took part with De Montfort or with the King.

The city has no associations with Edward I.,[198] but his son, who had
strong partisans among the convent folk, appointed a levy to meet him
at Coventry on February 28, 1322, before he went to fight with and
defeat Lancaster at Boroughbridge.[199] Edward III. tarried in Coventry
in 1327, the year Cheylesmore passed into Isabella's hands. This queen
is one of many women who bulk large in Coventry history. Her ears were
always open to the complaints of the hard usage her tenants received
from the prior, and messengers doubtless often travelled between
Coventry and Castle Rising, in Norfolk, to bear news to the queen of
her enemy's undoing. She also took the Grey Friars, who had become
famous for their sanctity, under her protection, and a letter[200]
from her, written at their request, begging that there might be no
interference with their privileges of burial, is still extant. At that
time many bodies of great folk, who "as Franciscans thought to pass
disguised," were buried clothed in the habit of the order in the Grey
Friars' chapel, bringing no small profit to that famous house. No doubt
the Queen's protection of their rivals was another drop in the monks'
cup of bitterness.

After Cheylesmore and the Earl's-half became a royal manor, kings and
princes very frequently visited the city; for as Coventry had by this
time become an important place--already accounted the fifth city in the
kingdom--its wealth was an attraction to needy kings, who desired to be
on good terms with burghers who were becoming a power in the land. It
was this wealth which enabled the citizens to establish their position
in the reign of Edward III. and his grandson by the purchase of fuller
and yet fuller charters of liberty; but this wealth did not relieve the
city from the agrarian and industrial unrest which makes memorable the
reign of Richard II. At the time of the Peasant Revolt in 1381 John
Ball was taken in hiding in an old house, says Froissart, in Coventry,
where he had possibly a home or relatives.[201] The commonalty of
the city had, maybe, given ear to his doctrines of equality and
communism in former days, for there was at that time great suffering
and discontent among the poorer folk. The artizans were oppressed not
by their lord--as the men of S. Alban's or Bury S. Edmund's--but by
their own fellow-townsfolk, the rich merchants, who held high office
in the corporation. Year after year there comes the same complaint.
This or that mayor enclosed the common pasture lands,[202] so that
the people had not sufficient grass for their cattle, or refused to
punish his brethren and allies the victuallers, who broke the assize
of bread, so that the people were cheated of the barest necessaries
of life. The enraged artizans, who, in 1387, "cast loaves at the
mayor's head because the bakers kept not the assize, neither did the
mayor punish them according to his office," would no doubt listen
gladly to the discourses of this old-time socialist. "Good people," he
would say to the assembled multitude, "the maters gothe nat well to
passe in Englande, nor shall nat do tyll every thyng be common.... We
be all come fro one father and one mother, Adam and Eve; wherby can
they (the gentlemen) say or shewe that they be gretter lordes than we
be?... They dwell in fayre houses, and we have the payne and traveyle,
raine and wynde in the feldes; and by that that cometh of our labours
they kepe and maynteyne their estates.... Thus Jehan [Ball] sayd ...
and the people ... wolde murmure one with another in the feldes and
in the wayes as they went togyder, affermyng howe Jehan Ball sayd
trouthe."[203] Change a word here and there, substitute "merchant" for
"gentleman," and "in the workshops" for "in the fields," and you have a
discourse which would have greatly enraged the men of Coventry at the
time of the Peasant Revolt.

The murmur about another name greater than that of John Ball had also
reached the citizens. Lutterworth is scarcely fifteen miles distant
from Coventry, and if we may judge by the tale of subsequent troubles
and persecutions, there were many followers of Wickliffe within the
city.[204] William Swynderby, who had preached to crowds in the
Lollards' chapel at Leicester, being forsaken of his friends because he
had recanted rather than face martyrdom, left that place and so came to
Coventry in 1382.


There he tarried nearly a year, making many converts, but being forced
by the clergy to depart, he vanished into the fastnesses of the forest
beyond the Malvern Hills and there hid from his persecutors many

Nevertheless the Wickliffite tradition must have persisted after his
departure, for in Oldcastle's day the city had become a centre for
the issue of Lollard books.[206] Nicholas Hereford, collaborator in
Wickliffe's version of the Bible, is also associated with Coventry,
where--after 1417--he died.

His was a life of strange vicissitudes, for having endured imprisonment
in a papal dungeon at Rome, and "grievous torment" in the archbishop's
castle of Saltwood, Kent, he abandoned Lollardry, recanted at Paul's
Cross, and rising to important position in the Church, learned to
persecute those of his ancient faith. In later years he entered into
the solitude and silence of the Carthusian monastery at Coventry and so
vanished from our sight.[207]

The foundation-stone of the church of this very monastery had been
laid in 1385, by that champion of orthodoxy, Richard, King of England,
who, in the hearing of the mayor and other notables promised to be
the founder thereof and bring the work to completion.[208] After the
Dissolution this house passed into the hands of the Lincoln family;
the arms of Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln, are painted in one of
the rooms of the still existing house. Part of the Prior's lodging
remains, and in one room a portion of a large fresco of the Crucifixion
reveals the figure of Christ from the knees downwards sprinkled with
fleur-de-lys. Two years later Richard again visited the city what time
Chief-Justice Tressilian, the "hanging judge" of the Peasants' Revolt,
and the court of King's Bench,[209] sat therein, and bestowed on the
mayor the right to have the civic sword borne before him by an officer.
The MS. Annals say that in 1384 the mayor, John Deister, had forfeited
this right, and that the sword was borne behind him, "because he did
not justice." The _Leet Book_, however, makes John Marton mayor in this
year,[210] and indeed the Annals have come down to us in a state of sad

Maybe these frequent royal visits were not always welcome. A court of
justice accompanied the King wherever he went, for the steward and
marshal of the household had jurisdiction, superseding other authority
of shire or borough, over an area of twelve miles to be counted from
the King's lodging.[211] Before setting forth the steward gave notice
to the sheriff of the place wherein the King proposed to sojourn, so
that prisoners might be brought thither for trial at the household
officers' court, a practice so little popular that rich and powerful
towns purchased the chartered privilege, whereby the mayor became
steward and marshal of the household. This right Coventry obtained in
1451. Kings, when they came to the city, were usually lodged at the
Priory, though there was a quasi-royal residence, first occupied by
the Mohauts, at Cheylesmore; but the vast retinue found shelter within
the town. At the command of the marshal the doors of the principal
folk of the place were marked with chalk, and the dwellers there found
they had to accommodate some member of the royal party. There was a
certain price to be paid for the advantages of situation as a great
thoroughfare town between London and the north-west, and a manorial
relationship to the Princes of Wales.

The most memorable sojourn of this vain, beautiful, decadent king,
Richard II., within the city took place in 1397 when Coventry witnessed
the preparations for the duel between Henry Bolingbroke and Mowbray,
Duke of Norfolk. The splendour of royal and knightly accoutrements at
this meeting must have dazzled the sober townsfolk, and perhaps they
shared in the bewilderment of the Court at the strange vacillation of
the King, who, when all preparations were made, forbade the duel to
take place. Holinshed[212] tells of the "sumptuous theater" on Gosford
Green wherein the lists were made ready for the combat; and wherein
too, after the combat had been stayed, the two adversaries sat two
long hours waiting until the King's pleasure should be known. When
sentence of banishment was pronounced and leave-takings over, "the duke
of Norfolk departed sorrowfullie into Almanie, and at the last came
to Venice, where he for thought and melancholie deceased"; for Harry
Bolingbroke, however, whose sentence was not like his adversary's, for
life, but for ten years, many active days remained. Gosford Green,
where this scene was enacted, is still a green, and as yet unbuilt
on. The ruins of Caludon Castle, where Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk,
passed the night before the meditated encounter with Bolingbroke, are
still visible from the highway leading from Stoke to Leicester, but
of Baginton Castle, where his adversary slept, scarcely more than
the foundations remain. Richard was lodged in a tower belonging to
Sir William Bagot, about a quarter of a mile without the town. Sir
William, who with Bushy and Greene acquired such unenviable notoriety
as creatures of Richard II., lies buried in Baginton church, where a
monumental brass of rare workmanship, now placed immediately under the
rafters of the chancel roof, once marked the place where he was laid.

It is likely that Richard saw Coventry once again when, badly horsed
and in unkingly array, in 1399 they brought him, a prisoner, on the way
from Flint on the last journey to London.

It is fitting that in a city so unorthodox as Coventry the first
attack should be made on the vast possessions of the Church. At the
summoning of the "Unlearned Parliament" in 1404 a special precept was
given to the sheriffs to prevent the return of those skilled in the
law as members of parliament, and Coventry, remote as it was from the
law-courts at Westminster, was a happy spot to choose for such an
assembly. The respect the clergy had once commanded was now withheld
from them by reason of the dissolute lives so many led, and their
greed of wealth, whereto we find such abundant allusion in "Piers
Plowman" and Chaucer's poems, and the proposal to appropriate the
wealth of the Church to secular ends was well liked by the knights
of the shire. Archbishop Arundel pleaded in response to this attack
that the clergy gave tenths and the laity only fifteenths towards
the King's necessities; moreover, the Church was not wanting day nor
night in rendering the King service by masses and prayers to implore
God's blessing upon him. Whereat Sir John Cheyne, the speaker of the
Commons, with a stern countenance, said "that he valued not the prayers
of the Church." But it was early days for such words as these. "It
might easily be seen what would become of the kingdom," was the severe
reply, "when devout addresses to God, wherewith His Divine Majesty was
pleased, were set so light by." The work of Henry VIII. was not to be
anticipated, and the knights desisted from the attempt at the threat of

The town was witness at this time of an example of the lack of
reverence for the mysteries of religion displayed by the people who
were about the person of the King. Dysentery was very prevalent at
Coventry during the session of parliament, and one day the archbishop
of Canterbury encountered a procession bearing the Host through the
streets to some sick man's bedside.[214] The archbishop bent his
knee, but the King's knights and esquires, not interrupting their
conversation, turned their backs upon the Sacrament. The ecclesiastic
was filled with holy indignation at such irreverence. "Never before
was the like abomination beheld among Christian men," he cried, and
went to complain of the offenders to the King. Henry was at first loth
to punish his followers, but he was finally moved to do so by the
prelate's eloquence, for the House of Lancaster in its weakness had
allied itself with the Church, and looking to that body for support,
the King was careful not to alienate so powerful a friend as the
Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Lancastrian kings were, however, better known in the city as
borrowers than as champions of the orthodox faith. Royal folk at that
time, in spite of their great array and state, were often at a loss for
ready money, and the treasury of Henry IV. was notoriously an empty
one. Henry V. too, wanting money to prosecute his wars, in the third
year of his reign borrowed 200 marks from the mayor and community,
leaving in pledge "his great collar, called Iklynton collar,"[215]
garnished with 4 rubies, 4 great sapphires, 32 great pearls, and 53
other pearls of a lesser sort, weighing 36-3/4 oz., and then valued
at £500. When the King or any great noble desired to borrow, and
the citizens were willing to lend, collectors were appointed by the
corporation to go through each ward and take from every man his
contribution towards the loan. Each citizen paid, according to his
ability, a sum varying from 13s. 4d., taken from the most substantial
people, to a penny from those, of the poorest class. The extent
of every one's property, more or less accurately gauged on these
occasions, was a matter of common knowledge. Where there was so little
privacy in life and such frequent assessments, neither wealth nor
poverty could well be hid.

Did Shakespeare glean any legends of Prince Hal from Coventry sources?
He must often have visited the city as a travelling player, and,
since both the names of Shakespeare and Ardern (or Arden) occur in
the Coventry records, the poet may have had kinsfolk in the place.
He brings the prince quite gratuitously thither, causing him to
meet Falstaff followed by the famous ragged regiment on the high
road leading to the city.[216] Falstaff was in his youth "page to
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk,"[217] who held Caludon Castle, a
few miles from Coventry, and Peto, whom his master bade meet him
at the towns-end, bears a Coventry name.[218] It may be there is
little or no contemporary evidence for the tale of Henry's wild
doings, which Shakespeare localised at Gadshill and the "Boar's Head"
tavern in Eastcheap, and it is more or less a matter of temperament
or preconceived notions with historians whether, on weighing the
testimony, they dismiss or accept familiar traditions of the prince's
robbery of his own receivers,[219] or assault on Judge Gascoigne.[220]
To the ordinary reader it seems as if there cannot have been such a
vast deal of smoke without some little fire. The suspicion grows that
Henry may well have passed a short time of idle apprenticeship before
becoming a veritably industrious master.

There is a familiar Coventry variant of the Gascoigne story
wherein the mayor, John Hornby, plays, as it were, the part of
the Chief-Justice, since he, in 1412, say the City Annals or
Mayor-lists--"arrested the Prince in the Priory [one MS. reads "city"]
of Coventry." Unfortunately the source whence this information is
obtained--the MS. Annals or Mayor-lists--is not above suspicion.
The annals are a collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century
documents,[221] varying slightly among themselves, but evidently,
as far as the bulk of the earlier entries are concerned, copies of
a common original, now probably lost. A chronological tangle, they
contain most valuable and authentic information--particularly about
the mystery plays--coupled with entries that are manifestly corrupt.
It is conceivable that the earliest annalist placed on record that the
prince "rested," _i.e._ remained at the priory during that particular
mayoralty, or that he was concerned in some arrest made at the time,
and that the entry has been transformed by the errors of successive
copyists. In the latter case the process could be paralleled by
the entry of 1425 when the MSS. gave as the principal event in the
mayoralty of John Braytoft:--"He arrested the Earl of Warwick and
brought him to the Gaol of this city." This is, beyond all possibility
of doubt, an error. No Earl of Warwick was ever arrested at Coventry.
Thomas Sharp, who worked eighty or ninety years ago, from documents
that have been since destroyed, gives the early, correct version, borne
out by independent testimony, when he reads: "The Earl of Warwick came
to Coventry to seize on the Franchises, and inquisition was made of
John Grace, and the mayor arrested him and brought him to the Gaol of
the City."[222] It is therefore possible that similar errors may have
crept into the Hornby entry, though this cannot be dismissed as a pure
invention until a searching investigation has been made of contemporary

Henry V. seems to have been much beloved in Coventry, if we may
judge by the hearty welcome given to him on his coming thither on
March 21, 1421. The mayor and council ordered that £100 and a gold
cup worth £10 should be presented to the King, and the same to the
Queen "in suo adventu a Francia in Coventre," for those times a truly
magnificent gift. The citizens never thereafter beheld the King. For
in the following year, being overtaken at the Bois de Vincennes by a
so grievous sickness that his physicians told him he had but two hours
to live, he bade his confessors chant the Penitential Psalms. And in
the midst of their chanting, as if in answer to an unseen adversary, he
cried: "Thou liest, thou liest! My part is with the Lord Jesus." Thus
died Henry V.

Troubles connected with religion soon came upon Coventry. In 1424
the preaching of a hermit attracted a great audience in the Little
Park during five days' space. The preacher, one Grace, who had been
first a monk, then a friar, and lastly a recluse, disarmed suspicion
by announcing that he had been licensed to preach by the bishop's
ministers of the diocese. At last, however, a report spread that he
was not "licenciate," "and grett seying was among the people that
the priour and frer Bredon wold have cursid all tho' that herdon the
said John Grace preche." This rumour of the intention of the two most
influential churchmen in the city--the head of S. Mary's convent,
and the best-known member of the community of Grey Friars--greatly
moved the townsfolk, and the two ecclesiastics above-named, fearful
lest harm should befall them, refused to leave Trinity church, whither
they had repaired for evensong, until the mayor should come to appease
the multitude. "Notwithstandyng they myght have goone well inoughe
whethur thei wold," the _Leet Book_ says, with a touch of contempt.
And thus it was that a report went about in the country "that the
comens of Coventre wer rysen, and wold have distroyd the priour and the
said frer," which report unhappily spread to the ears of those that
were about the King. The next year the Earl of Warwick and a special
commission of justices were sent down from Westminster to inquire into
this movement within the city.[223] For some time the franchises were
in danger of confiscation; but after the citizens had borne great
charges, upwards of £80 for "counsel" and other costs, their peace with
the ruling powers was made.

It is natural to infer that this disturbance, which the city
authorities treated as so trifling, but which appeared to the powers
at Westminster a highly serious matter, was connected with Lollard
preaching. It seems that this obscure sect was never wholly crushed,
but lingered on in certain districts throughout the fifteenth century.
Leicestershire, in Wickliffe's time, had been a perfect hot-bed of
heresy. "There was not a man or woman in that county," it has been
said, "save priests and nuns, who did not at that time openly profess
their disbelief in the doctrines of the Church, and their approval
of the new views of the Lollards."[224] The contagion soon spread to
Warwickshire. No doubt persecution did its work in many parts. The open
profession of Lollardism was highly dangerous in the fifteenth century,
and the cause counted many martyrs.

The Coventry men were, most likely, implicated in the obscure rising
under Jack Sharpe in 1431; at least arrests were made in their
neighbourhood.[225] These offenders, whose scheme for the disendowment
of the Church was both behind and in advance of those times, were shown
no mercy, but suffered the penalty of treason. The bishops of Coventry,
at a later date, made the city the theatre of their persecutions,
whereat many recanted, but others endured to the end.

Echoes, first of the great doings of Englishmen in the French wars,
and then of the reverses which befell them, reach us from time to
time, chiefly in the form of requests to relieve the royal poverty.
And the chief folk of the town frequently travelled to London in order
to procure sureties for repayment of money lent to the King or other
members of the royal house. Thus when the Earl of Warwick, in 1423,
wrote to beg the citizens to relieve the necessities of the child-king
Henry, "now in his tender age and his greatest need," informing them,
as an incentive to their liberality, that the townsmen of Bristol
had "notably and kindly acquit them" in these matters, the citizens
lent £100 willingly enough. But with the prudence which distinguished
their everyday doings, they sent John Leder, late mayor, to London to
negotiate for pledges for future repayment,[226] which sureties, we
are told, "might not be gotten without great labour."[227] Richard
Joy and Laurence Cook[228] undertook a like errand the same year,
for the protector Gloucester, the husband of Jacoba of Hainault,
who proposed--so he informed the citizens--"to pass over the sea
with God's might ... to receive ... his lands and lordships," begged
the good folk of Coventry to ease him in his undertaking with £200
"upon sufficient surety." Whether the good folk believed that the
expedition to Flanders would turn to "right great ease of the people,
and especially of these merchants of this realm," as the duke boasted,
we cannot tell; but they sent him 100 marks, insisting nevertheless
upon obtaining the security he had been so ready to offer. They gave,
however, "with all their good hearts" to those more worthy of respect
than Gloucester; and when Talbot was a prisoner in the hands of the
French, they sent 23 marks towards his ransom.[229] To the King's later
applications for a loan, they usually gave a favourable answer. In 1431
Laurence Cook bore to London £100, lent for the prosecution of the
war, "and many lords, spiritual and temporal," the _Leet Book_ says,
"that is to say, the worthy cardinal, then bishop of Winchester, the
bishop of Bath, the bishop of Ely, and the bishop of Rochester, lords
spiritual, the duke of York, the duke of Norfolk, the earl of Warwick,
the earl of Stafford ... with other reverent barons and bachelors
... took the water at Dover, and riveden (arrived) thro' God's grace
at Calais, and so comen to the city of Roan (Rouen) by the land of

Four years later the government was forced yet again to have recourse
to borrowing, and on the occasion of the congress at Arras the same
sum was collected to relieve the King's necessities "by way of loan"
throughout the wards of the city.[231]

There were other charges besides direct loans that the citizens were
forced to support that they might pleasure the members of the royal
house. The Dukes of Gloucester and Bedford came frequently to the
royal castle of Fullbrook, which lay some four miles beyond Warwick,
and the good folk of the town felt called upon to furnish them with
appropriate gifts. Thus, in 1434, a sum of 50 marks, with a silver
cup, was presented to the Duchess of Bedford, and an offering to the
Duke, of 24 pike, 12 bream, 12 tench, and a ton of red wine.[232] These
presents were often not without some political significance. Thus, in
1431, the year wherein the protector Gloucester made a progress through
England on the track of the Lollards, the Coventry men, who were, it
seems, not free from the suspicion of holding unorthodox tenets, sent
to the duke and duchess at Fullbrook a silver cup, 40 marks, and a
plentiful supply of fish and wine.[233]


[Footnote 197: This castle, afterwards rebuilt, fell into decay, and
was let out into tenements. Cheylesmore, where the De Mohaut's lived,
had originally been a nursery for the Earl of Chester's children (Stowe
in Harl. MS. 539, No. 4: see also Corp. MS. C. 61).]

[Footnote 198: The borough sent two members to the 1295 parliament, but
remained unrepresented from 1315 to 1452.]

[Footnote 199: Stubb's _Const. Hist._, ii. 49.]

[Footnote 200: Sharp, _op. cit._, 179.]

[Footnote 201: The name of Ball occurs in Coventry deeds. It is, of
course, a common name.]

[Footnote 202: On the Trinity guild enclosure of 1384, see _Leet Book_,
6; on the formation of the first of the defiant artizan guilds about
this year, see above and _Vict. County Hist., Warw._, ii. 154.]

[Footnote 203: Berners, _Froissart's Chron._ (1901) ii. 224.]

[Footnote 204: Warwickshire may have been a county addicted to
Lollardry. John Lacy, vicar of Chesterton, near Warwick, was charged
with receiving and harbouring the famous Oldcastle, Lord Cobham
(_Diocesan Hist. Worcester_, 103).]

[Footnote 205: Trevelyan, _Age of Wycliffe_, 315; Knighton, _Chron._
ii. 198.]

[Footnote 206: _Eng. Hist. Rev._ xx. 447.]

[Footnote 207: Trevelyan, _op. cit._, 310; _Dict. Nat. Biog._, _s.v._
Hereford, Nicholas.]

[Footnote 208: _Vict. Coun. Hist._, ii. 84.]

[Footnote 209: Knighton, _Chron._ ii. 235.]

[Footnote 210: _Leet Book_, 3.]

[Footnote 211: Green, _op. cit._, i. 209.]

[Footnote 212: Holinshed, iii, 494.]

[Footnote 213: Dugdale, _Warw._, i. 142. The only reference to Coventry
in the business of this parliament is a petition from the convent
against the men of Coventry, who injured the conduit built by the
people of the priory (Corp. MS. B. 34).]

[Footnote 214: Trokelowe and Blaneforde, _Chron. S. Albani_ (ed.
Riley), 394.]

[Footnote 215: _Leet Book_, 70. _Issue Roll of Exchequer_, H. III.-VI.,

[Footnote 216: Shakespeare I. _Hen._ IV. iv. 2.]

[Footnote 217: _Ib._, iii. 2. See my letter in _Athenæum_ 4330, p. 489.]

[Footnote 218: Henry Peyto was mayor in 1423. The Peto family came from

[Footnote 219: Kingsford, _Early Biographies of Henry V._, in _Eng.
Hist. Rev._, xxv. 78. Although Stow's _Chronicle_, where this story
first occurs, was not published until 1570, the author relied on early
authority ultimately derived, it seems, from the Earl of Ormond, who
died 1452.]

[Footnote 220: See Solly-Flood, "Henry V. and Judge Gascoigne," _Trans.
R. Hist. Soc._, iii. 49; Harcourt, "The Two Sir John Fastolfs,"
_Ib._ 3rd Ser. iv. 47; Kingsford, _Henry V._, 80-93. The Gascoignes
subsequently settled at Oversley, Warwickshire.]

[Footnote 221: Two versions are printed, and there are at least seven
in MS. For the former, see Fordun _Scoti-chronicon_ (ed. Hearne). V.
App.; Dugdale, _Warw._ (1730), i. 147-53; for MS. versions, see British
Museum Harl. MSS. 6,388 (a compilation of several previously existing
copies made in 1690 by Humphrey Wanley); Add. MSS. 11,364; Birmingham
Free Library, _Warw._, MSS. 115,915 (see _Athenæum_, No. 4328);
Coventry Corp. MSS. A. 37, A. 43, A. 48. An eighteenth-century version
in the hands of Mr Eynon of Leamington has relatively correct dates.
See also Solly-Flood, _op. cit._, 50-1.]

[Footnote 222: Sharp, _op. cit._, 205.]

[Footnote 223: Sharp, _Antiq._, 205; _Leet Book_, 96-7.]

[Footnote 224: Thompson, _Hist. Leicester_, 78.]

[Footnote 225: _Proc. Privy Counc._, iv. 89; Ramsay, _Lanc. and York_,
i. 437.]

[Footnote 226: _Leet Book_, 83.]

[Footnote 227: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 228: The surety for the loan "might not be gotten without
great cost," and the different emissaries of the citizens spent, one
40s., one 13s. 4d., and another £6, 2s. 2d. in journeys to London,
Boston, and Sandwich about this business (_Ib._ 86).]

[Footnote 229: _Leet Book_, 119-20.]

[Footnote 230: _Ib._, 129-30.]

[Footnote 231: _Ib._, 174.]

[Footnote 232: _Leet Book_, 152. The total cost of these presents
(exclusive of the 50 marks and the cup), with the carriage, was £12,
15s. 4d. In addition to this, the expenses of officers and all the
worthy men, riding to Fullbrook, amounted to 29s. 6d.]

[Footnote 233: _Ib._, 138.]


_The Red and White Rose_

We are now come to the time when the history of Coventry is closely
interwoven with that of the nation at large. The city and its
neighbourhood became the chosen home of the Court circle during the
earlier part of the Wars of the Roses. The Lancastrian cause found some
of its staunchest supporters among the folk of the "Queen's secret
harbour," as the city was called, because Margaret of Anjou so often
took refuge therein to plot and scheme for the undoing of the Yorkists.
But the devotion of Coventry to Lancaster did not last throughout the
struggle; the citizens' minds were alienated by the Queen's partizan
fury at the "Diabolical Parliament" in 1460, and by the unruliness of
her troops, and they afterwards professed themselves devoted followers
of Edward IV. These professions did not, however, hinder them from
backing the winning side when Edward's supremacy was imperilled through
Warwick's revolt, and the Yorkist King punished their treachery by the
confiscation of the city liberties. It was only by means of Clarence's
costly mediation and the payment of an enormous fine that the citizens
were enabled to make their peace with Edward. Thus Coventry partook
to a greater extent than other towns of the miseries of this dynastic
conflict. The citizen class were, as a rule, only too glad to let
the barons fight out the question among themselves, submitting, as
far as we can judge, to whichever army was victorious and at their
gates. After all, the battles of the Roses meant little more than
the concentration of the fighting power of the kingdom, usually at
that period employed in desultory local warfare, into one place, and
frequent provincial frays and skirmishes were really more harmful to
the district wherein the feud raged than civil war itself.

Happily for the Coventry men there was in the earlier part of the
fifteenth century no great lord living within the walls to drag them
into his frays and quarrels, and to anticipate that great period of
party strife which was so soon to break in upon the kingdom. It is true
that the townsfolk had not always been able to keep clear of baronial
influence. We hear of fighting between the young Earl Stafford, the
lord of Maxstoke, and the citizens, though we are not told what was
the cause of the quarrel. Such animosity was felt by the two parties
at variance that in 1427 the Duke of Gloucester summoned the mayor
with others of the citizens to Leicester, and bound them over to keep
the peace.[234] Men held this earl, better known by his later title of
the Duke of Buckingham, in great awe, for in war-time he could arm two
thousand fighting men bearing the Stafford knot.[235] "The indignation
of the lordship of the said duke,"[236] said Sir Baldwin Montfort, whom
Buckingham imprisoned in Coventry because he made some difficulty about
surrendering his manor of Coleshill into the duke's keeping ... "had
in those days been too heavy and unportable for me to have born." We
find the citizens, however, on good terms with this omnipotent nobleman
during the civil war; and in 1458 the mayor and his brethren received
an invitation to come and share in the festivities which took place at
Maxstoke Castle on the occasion of the marriage of one of his younger

It is doubtful whether even Buckingham's great influence would have
been sufficient to turn the scale in favour of Lancaster in the coming
season of strife if the frequent visits of the King and the princes of
the reigning family, as well as the old connexion between the city and
the first prince of the blood as Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester,
had not bred among the citizens a feeling of loyalty, which kept them
on the side of Henry and Margaret for many years. The year 1449 marks
a crisis in the reign of King Henry. The re-opening of the French war
was the herald of a series of swift disasters, which put an end to the
rule of the English in France. Town after town opened its gates to the
invading host of Frenchmen, and Rouen, and with Rouen the last English
foothold in Normandy, capitulated after a siege of nineteen days. To
this pass had England been brought under the guidance of Suffolk and
Somerset, and the King not only breathed no word of dismissing these
unpopular ministers, but gave them every mark of his favour and support.

An unmistakable sign of the times was to be found in the fact that the
nobles were quietly arming; and acting probably on a hint from the
Court, the Coventry men made ready to equip a goodly number of men for
the city's defence. Every man that had been mayor was commanded by
order of leet to provide 4 jacks, with as many sallets, habergeons,
and sheaves of arrows for this purpose; while late bailiffs,
chamberlains, and all commoners able to bear the cost were respectively
required to furnish three, two, and one of these several parts of an
archer's accoutrement.[237] By this means there was provision made
for over six hundred men. In the following year, wherein Jack Cade
held London in fear for many days, a strong guard of forty armed
men kept nightly watch within Coventry.[238] As the year drew to a
close, there were expectations of war on every side. Wherefore in
the beginning of Richard Boys' mayoralty (1451) it was resolved that
all the fortifications should be made ready in case of attack. At a
great meeting of the worthies of the council on the Saturday after the
feast of the Purification, a plan of operations was laid down "for
strengthening this city, if need be, which God forbid."[239] The town
ditch was cleansed by common labour, so as to furnish a surer means
of protection. Portcullises were made for the gates, and iron chains
to close up the ends of divers lanes in the city.[240] There was some
debate as to whether aldermen should be made over every ward, to
whom the men of their several districts might have recourse "if ony
aventure falle," but it seems no steps were taken in this direction. Of
ammunition the worthy men laid in a plentiful store. Four "gonnes of
brasse," two greater called "serpentynes,"[241] and two smaller, were
cast and brought from Bristol at great cost, for they weighed, we are
told, 328 lbs., and the price of transport amounted to 6s. 8d. These
guns, "a barell of gonnepowdur" thirteen "pelettes" of iron for the
larger, and four dozen of lead for the smaller guns, were kept in the
tower of Bablake Gate, in readiness for the troubled times which were
at hand.

Though England was rid of Suffolk, who, after his impeachment and
banishment, was killed on board the _Nicholas of the Tower_ by some
political enemies, affairs in 1451 prospered no better under the
guidance of Somerset and the Queen, and the whole kingdom was uneasy
with foreboding of the coming strife. Doubtless the news of the good
order which prevailed in Coventry, and of the great military efforts
the citizens had made, reached the ears of the King, as he made a
progress through the Midlands in the late summer of that year. And
on September 21 he came from Leicester, another famous Lancastrian
fortress, to bestow his praises on the rulers of the city.[242] The men
of Coventry made great preparations for his welcoming. And in order
to avoid "stody and labur" hereafter, the mayor "let to compile" the
account of the King's reception and residence within the city, a sort
of manual of etiquette to be referred to in future.

[Illustration: View of Interior of Saint Michaels]

"When the kyng our soveren lorde," the _Leet Book_ says, "came from
Leycestur toward Coventre, the meyre ... Richard Boys and his wurthy
bredurn arayed in skarlet and all the commonalty[243] cladde in grene
gownes and rede hodes, in Haselwode beyonde the brode oke on horsbak,
attented the comeng of our soveren lorde. And also sone as they haddon
syght of our soveren lordes presens, the meyre and his peres lyghton on
fote, [and] mekely thries kneleng on their knees dud unto our soveren
lorde ther due obeysaunce, the meyre seyeng to hym thes wordes: 'Most
highest and gracious kyng, ye arn welcome to your true lege menne withe
all our hertes'"; and therewith, after taking the mace from a sergeant,
he kissed it, and presented it to Henry. "The kyng," the _Leet Book_
continues, "tarieng and herkening the meyres speche in faverabull wyse,
seyde thes wordes: 'Well seyde, Sir meyre, take your hors.' The meyre
then rode forthe afore the kyng bereng his mase in his honde with the
knyght-constabull next afore the kynges swerde, the bayles of this
cite rideng afore the meyre withe ther mases in ther hondes makeng
wey & rome for the kynges comeng; and so they ridon afore the kyng
till the kyng come to the vttur[244] yate of the priory. The kyng then
forthewithe send for the meyre and his bredurn be a knyght to come to
his presence and to speke withe hym in his chambur, and the meyre and
his peres accordeng to the kynges comaundement come into his chambur,
and thries ther knelleng dudde ther obeysaunse. Thomas Lytelton then
recordur[245] seyde unto the kyng suche wordes as was to his thynkyng
most pleasaunt, our soueren lorde seyeng agayne thes wordes, 'Sirs,
I thank you of your goode rule and demene and in speciall for your
goode rule the last yere past for the best ruled pepull thenne withe
in my reame. And also I thank you for the present that ye nowe gaue to
vs'--the whiche present was a tonne wyne & XXti grete fatte oxon.
The kyng then moreover gaf hem in comaundement to govern well his cite
and to see his pease be well kepte as hit hathe been aforetyme, seyeng
thenne to hem he wolde be ther goode lorde, and so the meyre and his
peres departed."

With what a glow of pride the town clerk must have recorded all these
gracious sayings, little knowing that the King's good will could
avail them nothing in the troublous times that were at hand! Henry,
it appears, remained several days at Coventry, the Earl of Salisbury
and the Duke of Buckingham attending upon him there with a numerous
following. He was engaged, the historian tells us, upon an ineffectual
attempt to bring the Dukes of York and Somerset to friendly terms,[246]
but the former, far from desiring peace, was at that moment weaving
plans for his rival's overthrow. The good-hearted King did not neglect
religion in all this pressure of political business.[247] "The kyng
then abydeng stille in the seide priory apon Michaelmas Evon sende
the clerke of his closet to the churche of sent Michell to make redy
ther his closette, seyeng that the kyng on Michaelmas day wolde go on
procession and also her there hygh masse." The "meyre and his peres"
suggested that the Bishop of Winchester (Waynflete) should be asked
to officiate. "And agayne the kynges comeng to sent Michell churche,
the meyre and his peres cladde in skarlet gownes with ther clokes and
all oder in ther skarlet gownes wenton vnto the kynges chambur durre
ther abydeng the kynges comeng." Possibly as an especial honour to the
Trinity guild the clerks of Bablake went in the procession through S.
Michael's churchyard before the celebration, the King devoutly walking
in the train, bare-headed, and "cladde in a gowne of gold tussu furred
with a furre of marturn sabull, the meyre bareng the mase afore the
kyng ... tille he come agayne to his closette. At the whyche masse when
the king had offerd and hes lordes also, he sende the lorde Bemond
(Beaumont) his chamburlen to the meyre, seyeng to him, 'hit is the
kinges will ye and your bredurn come and offer,' and so they dudde."
After the evensong the King sent by "two for his body and two yeomen of
the crown," "the seyde gowne and furre ... and gave hit frely to god
and to sent Michell. Ynsomyche that non of them that brought the gown
wolde take no rewarde in no wyse."[248]

Henry did not remain long in Coventry after the celebration of the
Michaelmas festival. On the following Tuesday he went to Kenilworth,
the corporation and the "commonalty" riding with the company and
preserving the same order as they had used at his welcoming a few
days previously. When they came to a place beyond Asthill Grove,
"agayne a brode lane the (that) ledethe to Canley ... the kyng willeng
to speke with the meyre and his bredurn seyde to hem thes wordes:
'Sires, I thank you of your goode rule and demene at this tyme, and
for goode rule among you hadde and in speciall for your good rule of
the yere last past, and where as ye ben nowe baylies we will that ye
be herafter sherefes, and this we graunt to you of our own fre wille
and of no speciall desire. Moreour,'" he went on, mindful no doubt of
his own danger, and of the preparations for war among the factious
nobles of the country, "'we charge you withe our pease among you to be
kepte and that ye suffer no ryottes, conventiculs ne congregasions of
lewde pepull among you, and also that (ye) suffer no lordes lyvereys,
knyghtes, ne swyers (squires) to be reseyved of no man withe in you
for hit is agayne our statutes ... and yif ye be thus ruled we will
be your goode lorde.' And thus don, the meyre and his bredurn takeng
ther leve of the kyng ... departed and ridon to Coventre agayne," no
doubt astounded at the idea of this new responsibility and greatness
now thrust upon them. The mayor and council held great consultations
concerning the bailiffs' acquisition of the sheriffs' dignity summoning
Thomas Littleton, their recorder, and Henry Boteler, who was soon to be
this famous lawyer's successor in the office, to their deliberations,
to learn what privileges were most needful for them to include within
the charter which was to convert their city into "the city and _county_
of Coventry."[249]

In the year 1453, which saw the close of the Hundred Years' War and
the birth of a Prince of Wales, Henry was attacked by insanity.[250]
In 1454 the King's recovery marked the close of the Duke of York's
protectorate and the restoration to power of the Queen's friends,
particularly Somerset. The Yorkist party fell into disgrace, and
measures were taken to compass their destruction the following spring
in a parliament to be held at Leicester. The duke on hearing this drew
sword in the north, and marched on London with a goodly following at
his back. The royal troops barred his way at S. Alban's; but when the
first battle of that long and weary struggle was fought out at that
town on the great London highway, the Coventry men were not found in
Henry's ranks. In fact the battle was hardly looked for at that time.
It is true the townsfolk received a summons for "such feliship ...
in their best and most defensable aray" as they could furnish, and
that "having tendurnes of the well fare and also of the saveguard of
our soveren lorde," they duly equipped 100 men. Much ado was made to
provide the men with a new "pensell" or standard "in tarturne," at a
cost of 16d.; 14d. went "in rybands" to the same, while the making,
with a tassel of silk attached to it, cost a similar sum; "bends," or
badges of red and green, were also provided, with a garment of red,
green, and violet for the captain. But in spite of all this preparation
the men never saw S. Alban's fight, or the terrible execution done
by Richard, Earl of Warwick, among the Lancastrian ranks. For on May
22, the day whereon the mayor received the commission, the battle was
fought and over, and the King in the hands of his victorious enemies.
"They wenton not," says the _Leet Book_, with some reticence in
referring to the soldiers, "for certen tydenges that wern brought," the
King having returned to London.[251]

[Illustration: Gosford St]

Henry was shortly after this again attacked by insanity, and for a
few months York was appointed regent. Duke Richard's power did not,
however, wholly cease with the King's recovery, and after March 1456
he continued for some months to direct the government, which was
nominally in the hands of the Bourchiers, half-brothers of the Duke
of Buckingham. Meanwhile the two arch-enemies, the Queen and the Duke
of York, watched and "waited on" each other ceaselessly until August,
when Margaret's plans were laid, and she drew off the King to sport
in the Midlands, having fortified Kenilworth with cannon in case of
another appeal to arms. A great council of notables was summoned to
meet at Coventry for October 7.[252] The news of the Queen's intended
visit reached the city about August 24, and a council was called to
provide for her highness's welcome.[253] A hundred marks was collected
throughout the wards to be given as an offering to the Prince of
Wales and his mother, together with two cups whereof the joint value
amounted to £10, 7s. 1d. The prince did not, however, accompany the
Queen on this occasion, so fifty marks were laid aside "against his
coming," though the magnificence of his mother's reception was not
lessened on this account. The "makyng of the premesses " of the Queen's
welcoming fell to the lot of one John Wedurby, of Leicester,[254] and
by his arrangement pageants as gaily dressed as at the Corpus Christi
festival, with appropriate personages standing thereon to utter words
of welcome, were placed at all the principal points in the streets
between Bablake and the "utter" gate of the Priory. John Wedurby
thought as other men of his time, that Margaret's son would one day
have rule in England, and hoped that each party would forget their
differences and live in peace under his government.

 "The blessyd babe that ye have born prynce Edward is he,
 Thurrowe whom pece & tranquilite shall take this reme (realm) on hand,"

said Prudence to the Queen in the pageant of the four Cardinal Virtues;
while the prophet Isaiah declared to the Queen that,--

 "Like as mankynde was gladdid by the birght of Jhesus,
 So shall this empyre joy the birthe of your bodye."

And the companion prophet Jeremiah was equally positive:

 "The fragrant floure sprongen of you shall so encrece & sprede,
 That all the world yn ich (each) party shall cherisshe hym & love & drede."

In his conception of the Queen's character Wedurby was a thorough

 "The mellyflue mekenes of your person shall put all wo away,"

the same prophet said; and S. Edward greeted her as "moder of mekeness."

To what strange freaks will not the rules of his art--and especially
alliteration--betray a poet! The "she wolf of France" had nothing of
the quality thus assigned to her; her name had merely the same initial

The King and Queen entered Coventry on Holy Cross day, by the Bablake
Gate.[255] Close by the entrance was a pageant whereon stood the
two above-named prophets, and a "Jesse," or figure representing the
genealogy of Christ, was placed upon the gate itself. At the east end
of Bablake church were the figures of the Confessor--in allusion to
Prince Edward--and S. John the Evangelist. A few paces distant at the
conduit in Smithford Street the four Cardinal Virtues were displayed.
A second set of pageants, grouped in the open spaces at the Cheaping,
next met the Queen's eyes. There were the Nine Conquerors, Hector,
Alexander, and the rest; and finally by the conduit a stage was placed
whereon S. Margaret appeared, "sleying" a great dragon "by myracull."
While upon the cross itself were grouped a company of angels, and the
pipes of the conduit ran wine. Between the cross and the conduit the
Queen received the homage of the Nine Conquerors, while her name-saint
gave to her a final salutation:

 "Most notabull princes of wymen erthle,
 Dame Margarete, the chefe myrth of this empyre,
 Ye be hertely welcum to this cyte,
 To the plesure of your highnes I wyll sette my desyre,
 Bothe nature & gentilnes doth me require,
 Seth we be both of one name, to shew you kyndnes,
 Wherfore by my power ye shall have no distresse;
 I shall pray to the prince that is endeles,
 To socour you with solas of his high grace.
 He wyll here my peticion, this is doutles,
 For I wrought all my lyf & that his wyll wace;
 Therefore, lady, when ye be yn any dredeful cace,
 Call on me boldly, ther of I pray you,
 And trist to me feythefully I well do that may pay yow."

John Wedurby was, no doubt, an indifferent poet, but viewed in the
light of subsequent events, his verses have all sorts of ironical and
tragic meanings, whereof he was, of course, wholly unconscious.

The pageants and welcome entertainments cost the citizens not a little,
we may suppose, in time and treasure. They made the king a present
of a tun of wine costing £8, 0s. 4d.; while by the "advice of his
council" the mayor distributed 20s. among "divers persons of the king's
house."[256] Lord Rivers too had a glass of rose-water at the mayor's
expense, whereof the cost was 2s.; thirteen years later his lordship
had a very bitter drink at Coventry.[257] Still the coming of the
Court no doubt brought trade to the city; had it brought also peace,
all would have been well. The council met on October 7, and a blow was
aimed at the Duke of York in the dismissal of the Bourchiers.[258] It
was even said that the duke's life was in danger, but that his kinsman,
the Duke of Buckingham, assisted him to escape. Margaret required the
presence of Somerset to lend strength to her party, and with him there
came, it seems, a company of turbulent retainers. These men fell out
with the city-watch and slew three or four of the townsmen; whereat,
says a writer in the Paston series, "the larum belle was ronge and the
toun arose and would have jouperdit to have distressed the men of the
duke of Somerset, ne had the duke of Buks taken direccion therin."[259]
Coventry was already ceasing to be the well-ordered and peaceful place
whereon the mind of King Henry loved to dwell. Next year we hear that
the civic finances were disorganised, that the officers of the city
were negligent in the performance of their duty, and that the citizens,
being "of froward dispositions," were inclined to appeal to "mighty men
in strange shires" for their support in carrying on lawsuits against
their neighbours in courts without the city.

In February, 1457, the court was again at Coventry; the King came
thither on the 11th "to his bedde," and the Queen coming "suddenly"
next day "unto her mete."[260] Margaret was doubtless burdened with
some weighty tidings, for "she came rydyng byhynde a man, and so rode
the most part of all her gentylwemen then, at which tyme she sende vn
to the meyre and his brethern that she wold not that [the] spiritualte
ne the temporalte shold be laburd to met her then, and so she was not
met at that tyme." A great council[261] was held at Coventry from
February 15 to March 14, all the great men of both parties being
present, and the Duke of York was re-appointed to the deputyship of
Ireland. Henry left the city for Kenilworth on March 14, the mayor
and his brethren, and a "goodly fellowship of the city" having "right
great thank" for accompanying his highness "to the utter side of their
franchise." A characteristic touch is given concerning Margaret's
departure for Coleshill two days later. The mayor, his brethren, and
a "feyre felyship" of the commons--we seem to gather from these words
that there was but a scanty attendance--went with Queen Margaret to
the boundary of the city liberties. The mayor, having his mace in his
hand, rode immediately before her, the sheriffs with their white yards
or rods directly preceding the mayor. Hitherto this ceremony in its
completeness had only been observed when the King was in question. "And
so," the _Leet Book_ says, "they did never before the quene tyll then,
for they bere before that tyme alwey theire servants (sergeants') mases
... at her comynges, at which doyng her officers groged (grudged),
seying the quene owed to be met yn like fourme as the kyng shold, which
yn dede," the writer continues with some trepidation, "as ys seide owe
to be so, except her displeser wold be eschewed."[262]

An unexplained rising took place at Hereford in April, and the King
and Queen went thither to quell it, Margaret alienating even her
friends in that district by her severity. At Whitsuntide, however, the
whole Court again sojourned at Coventry, and a grand procession at
the Pentecostal feast dazzled the eyes of the citizens.[263] The Duke
of Buckingham followed next after Henry, but Lord Beaumont "bere the
kynges treyne," the Earl of Stafford "his cap of astate," and Sir John
Tunstall his sword. The great nobles followed every one in his proper
rank, while after her the Queen and her chief lady, the Duchess of
Buckingham, there came "mony moo ladyes yn her mantels, surcotes, and
other appareyll to theyre astates acustumed." Mass was celebrated in
the cathedral by the Bishop of Hereford, assisted by the dean of the
King's chapel, the prior and his monks.

Queen Margaret could occasionally be gracious, and her eagerness to
see the Mystery Plays performed at the feast of Corpus Christi must
have flattered the citizens. She came "prively" from Kenilworth on the
eve of the festival, and "lodged at Richard Wodes, the grocer,[264]
where Richard Sharp sometime dwelled; and there all the plays were
first played," save _Doomsday_, the drapers' pageant, which could not
be seen, for evening came on and put a close to the performance. The
mayor and bailiffs sent a present to Richard Wood's house, namely
"ccc (300) paynemaynes,[265] a pipe of rede wyne, a dosyn capons of
haut grece,[266] a dosyn of grete fat pykes, a grete panyer full of
pescodes and another panyer of pipyns and orynges, & ij cofyns of
counfetys, & a pot of grene gynger." Quite a little court was assembled
at the grocer's house to witness those strange spectacles in which
the dramatic instinct of the Middle Ages found vent. The Duke of
Buckingham and "my lady his wife," who might be regarded as natives
of the city, would do the honours of the place; and let us hope those
ardent Lancastrians, Lord Rivers and his lady, father and mother of the
future queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and the elder and younger Countess
of Shrewsbury, applauded the ravings of Pilate and Herod, the pompous
characters of the religious drama, or heard with complaisance the
devil's jokes. It is hard to imagine Queen Margaret, that tireless
fighter and plotter, or Lady Shrewsbury, the great Talbot's widow,
whose feud with the Berkeleys filled Gloucestershire with strife for
over a generation, engaged in such a harmless amusement as laughing
over the quaint performances of their citizen supporters, nibbling
the while some of the good mayor's supply of apples and sweetmeats.
How delighted the citizens were at her highness's condescension!
When she went next day "to her mete" to Coleshill, "right a good
feliship--which plesid her highnes right well,"--attended her to the
"vtmast side of theyre franchise, where hit plesyd her to gyff them
grete thank bothe for theyre present and theyre gentyll attendaunce."
In the August of that same year, Henry and his Queen again visited
Coventry, sleeping there from August 31 until September 2, and "about x
of the belle" on the latter day the Queen rode to Sharneford and on to
sleep at Leicester "toward the forest of Rokyngham for to hunt," while
at two o'clock Henry rode forth on his journey towards Northampton, and
the men of Coventry did not see them again for two years, when a more
troubled scene had opened.

The records of Coventry are nothing but a blank during the succeeding
years; for the council merely met at the appointed season to elect a
mayor, but transacted, as far as we know, no other business; tradition
has it that the city was divided against itself, a highly probable
case when we consider how high the tide of Yorkist and Lancastrian
party spirit was running in the rest of the country. In the political
world this season was filled by ineffectual peacemakings and renewed
preparations for war. Warwick, after provoking the wrath of the
Lancastrian party, fled to Calais, and his father, Salisbury, met and
worsted Lord Audley, the royalist leader, who had been sent to capture
him, at the field of Bloreheath (September 23, 1459). The Yorkist lords
flew to arms; but when the King proposed to give battle at Ludford,
weakened by the defection of a certain Andrew Trollope, they all
dispersed and fled. The Yorkists being thus humbled, the time was come
for Margaret's vengeance. No writs were sent to the principal Yorkist
chiefs for the parliament summoned to meet at Coventry on November
20, and the knights and burgesses were nominated by the Lancastrian
leaders. The assembly met, and, by one sweeping act of attainder,
deprived twenty-three leading Yorkists of their inheritance. People
called this the "diabolical parliament"; henceforward there was no
hope of a reconciliation between York and Lancaster. A petition[267]
presented by John Rous, the antiquary of Guy's Cliffe, to this
parliament, calling attention to the enclosure of common lands and
increase of pasture, is now lost; it fell on deaf ears at that time of
party strife.

It seems that the Queen's late violent proceedings, or the plundering
propensities of her followers, had caused the townspeople to grow
somewhat cold in her cause. When a commission of array dated from
Northampton arrived a few days before the Candlemas feast, 1460, the
sheriffs kept it back, and it was fourteen days before the newly
elected mayor, John Wyldegrys,[268] received the missive addressed to
his predecessor conveying the king's command. This was surely not the
result of accident but design, the sheriffs having their own reasons
for thwarting the mayor, or being ardent Yorkists. Then the Duke of
Buckingham arrived, perhaps to learn the reason of the delay, and the
mayor bethought him of this indiscretion. "To my lord of Buckingham,"
lodging at the "Angel," he sent to ask whether "any hurt might grow to
the city" because of the neglect of the commission, and to ensure the
duke's goodwill, sent thirty loaves, two pike, two tench, some capons,
a peacock, and a peahen to his lodging.

A letter which he received from the King about this time hardly tended,
it may be thought, to reassure John Wyldegrys.[269] "For asmuche," the
King wrote, "as credible reporte is made vn to us howe diuers of th'
inhabitantes of oure cite of Coventre haue, sithe the tyme of oure
departyng from thens, vsed and had right vnfittyng langage ayenst
oure estate and personne, and in favouring of oure supersticious[270]
traitours, and rebelles, nowe late in oure parlement there attaincted,
wherby grete comocions and murmur ben like to folowe, to the
grete distourbance of oure feithfull, true subgettes, onlesse that
punisshement and remede for the redresse therof the rather be had, we
therfor ... charge you diligently t' enquer and make serche among the
seid inhabitants of suche vnfittyng langage as is aboue seid, and do
theym to be emprysoned and punisshed accordyng to their demerits, and
in example of other of semblable condicion, as ye desyre to do that
shall plaise vs."[271]

John Wyldegrys probably executed this commission with all the alacrity
of fear, and we hear that in the following October the Duke of York
had a strange commission to sit in judgment on various offenders in
Coventry "to punish them by the fawtes to the kyng's lawys." But the
duke, who was on his way home from Ireland, could not afford to tarry,
having weightier business on hand, namely, the laying claim to the
throne of England, and the drawing up of a genealogy to lay before
parliament, showing that his claim to the throne was based on rightful
inheritance. Since the battle of Northampton (July 10, 1460), the King
had been in the hands of the Yorkist lords, Salisbury and Warwick.[272]
At this battle, too, Henry lost Buckingham, the most powerful man at
the time in Warwickshire, and a pillar of the Lancastrian cause. After
his death, maybe, the men of Coventry felt more free to choose what
side they would, and the plunder wherein Margaret's host indulged after
Wakefield (December 14) and S. Alban's (February 17, 1461) completed
their alienation from the Lancastrian party. The Yorkists had now
the upper hand in the city. After the battle of S. Alban's £100 was
collected throughout the wards for men to go to London with "the earl
of March,"[273] who, since his father's death at Wakefield, had become
the hope of the Yorkist cause. On the day after his coronation (March
5) Edward IV. dispatched a letter to the mayor and his brethren full of
thanks for the citizens' loyalty to his cause, praying for their "good
continuance in the same," and praising their "good and substantial
rule." He thus assured the support of the people of the place, and
on the terrible field of Towton, where "the dead hindered the living
from coming to close quarters," the men of Coventry fought under the
standard of the Black Ram in the Yorkist ranks. The _Leet Book_ tells
us that £80 was collected throughout the wards for the 100 men "which
went with oure soverayn liege lord kyng Edward the IIIIthe to the
felde yn the north."[274]

Many of the towns took part with Edward in this famous battle, for
order and good government seemed more likely to follow from the Yorkist
than the Lancastrian rule. Each town went to the field under their
ancient ensign. As a contemporary ballad has it:--

 "The wolf came fro Worcester, ful sure he thought to byte,
 The dragon came fro Gloucester, he bent his tayle to smyte;
 The griffin cam fro Leycester, flying in as tyte,
 The George cam fro Nottingham, with spere for to fyte."[275]

The citizens certainly continued to deserve the King's favour. They
presented him with £100 and a cup to his "welcome to his cite of
Coventre from the felde yn the North,"[276] and decorated the city
with pageants and goodly shows in his honour, the smiths' craft
providing the character of Samson, who no doubt gave in appropriate
verses the promise to use his great strength in defending the King's
just claim "to his newly-acquired sovereignty."[277] In that year
also all men dwelling in the city were sworn to King Edward to be
"his true lege men." In later times the King learnt to distrust this
ancient Lancastrian refuge, but for the present there was nothing but
amity between himself and the citizens. So vivid was the remembrance
of the plundering of Margaret's army, that the old loyalty towards
the Lancastrians turned to rancour. And the same spring, on the
King-maker's coming--the first important mention of him in the city
annals--£40 was collected to be given to him for the payment of forty
men that went to the north to resist "kyng Herry and quene Marget
_that were_, and alle other with theym accompanyed, as Scottes and
Frenchemen, of theyre entre yn to this lande." The mere whisper of a
foreign alliance and invasion was sufficient to damn the Lancastrian
cause, for Lord Rous, with other refugees, aided by the Scots, were
making trouble on the Border. The men returned on July 29, for the
north was pacified, men believed, the Scots having rebellions, stirred
up by King Edward, to look to nearer home.


[Footnote 234: _Leet Book_, 112.]

[Footnote 235: Ramsay, _Lanc. and York_, ii. 169.]

[Footnote 236: Dugdale, _Warw._, ii. 1,011.]

[Footnote 237: _Leet Book_, 244. A _jack_ was a tunic of stuffed
leather; a _sallet_, a helmet; and a _habergeon_, a short coat of mail.
A unique sallet of the time of the Wars of the Roses, traditionally
known as the Black Prince's helmet, is in S. Mary's Hall.]

[Footnote 238: _Leet Book_, 253.]

[Footnote 239: _Ib._, 256-60.]

[Footnote 240: _Ib._, 257.]

[Footnote 241: _Ib._, 260.]

[Footnote 242: _Leet Book_, 263.]

[Footnote 243: MS. Coïalte: this contraction will be henceforth written
in full. I deviate from the MS. in putting capital letters to proper
names, and in writing these in full wherever contractions occur. I have
also substituted small letters for capitals whenever the latter would
cause confusion to the modern reader.]

[Footnote 244: Outer.]

[Footnote 245: Thomas Littleton, of famous memory, whom Coke made
familiar to all. This official was the exponent of the law in the
mayor's court.]

[Footnote 246: Ramsay, _op. cit._, ii. 147.]

[Footnote 247: _Leet Book_, 264-5.]

[Footnote 248: _Leet Book_, 264-5.]

[Footnote 249: _Leet Book_, 265-6. The city and the adjoining hamlets
were joined together as a county. The mayor, according to the charter,
was made steward and marshal of the king's household.]

[Footnote 250: There were great preparations for the civil strife
during this year (Ramsay, ii. 169). The prince of Wales was invested
with the appanage of Cornwall in 1455 (_Ib._, ii. 219). The Coventry
men henceforth owned him as their lord and protector.]

[Footnote 251: _Leet Book_, 283.]

[Footnote 252: Ramsay, ii. 199.]

[Footnote 253: _Leet Book_, 285.]

[Footnote 254: _Ib._, 292.]

[Footnote 255: _Leet Book_, 287; first printed in Sharp, _Antiq._, pp.

[Footnote 256: _Leet Book_, 292.]

[Footnote 257: Beheaded on Gosford Green, 1469.]

[Footnote 258: York and Warwick swore to keep the peace (Ramsay, ii,

[Footnote 259: _Paston Letters_ (ed. Gairdner), i. 408.]

[Footnote 260: _Leet Book_, 297.]

[Footnote 261: The Archbishop of York, the Bishops of Winchester,
London, Lincoln, Norwich, Exeter, Worcester, Chester, Hereford, and
Salisbury; the Abbots of Glastonbury, Bury S. Edmunds, Gloucester,
Malmesbury, Cirencester; Lawrence Booth, privy seal; the Dukes of
Exeter, Buckingham, Somerset; the Earls of Shrewsbury, treasurer,
Stafford, Northumberland, Arundel and Devonshire; the Lord of S John's,
the Lords Roos, Suydeley, steward of the Household, Stanley, Beauchamp,
Berners, Grey de Ruthyn, Lovell, Wells, Willoughby, and Dudley, were

[Footnote 262: _Leet Book_, 298.]

[Footnote 263: _Ib._, 299.]

[Footnote 264: _Leet Book_, 300.]

[Footnote 265: Fine white bread; _panis dominicus_, lord's bread.]

[Footnote 266: Fat.]

[Footnote 267: Rous, _Hist. Reg. Angliæ_ (Hearne), 120.]

[Footnote 268: _Leet Book_, 308.]

[Footnote 269: _Ib._, 309.]

[Footnote 270: Query?]

[Footnote 271: _Leet Book_, 309.]

[Footnote 272: Henry was at Coventry when he heard of the landing of
the Yorkist lords Salisbury and Warwick on June 23 (Holinshed, iii.

[Footnote 273: Afterwards Edward IV. (_Leet Book_, 313).]

[Footnote 274: _Ib._, 315.]

[Footnote 275: Thompson, _Leicester_, 88.]

[Footnote 276: _Leet Book_, 316.]

[Footnote 277: Sharp, _Mysteries_, 152.]


_The Last Struggle of York and Lancaster--the Tudors and Stuarts_

The men of Coventry settled down under the rule of Edward IV.; and if
the clash of arms was heard in the north--for Margaret would not tamely
submit to lose her son's inheritance--it did not disturb the Midlands.
Henry VI., the weak, mad, saintly King, lay in the Tower of London, and
men thought the Yorkist firmly seated on his throne. The wars and party
troubles had, however, much disorganized the city finances, and it is
probably from this time that we must date the backwardness of the city
in paying their ferm to the exchequer; and though the vigorous measures
of the leet may have kept temporary order for those within and without
the ruling body, yet the embarrassments of the corporation were not
past. An attack on the franchises,[278] made, so it would appear from
some words the steward of Cheylesmore let fall, at the instigation of
some of the malcontents within the city in 1464, was the cause of much
trouble and fear to the townsfolk. The arrest of one Hikman, a dyer,
a craft always at daggers drawn with the corporation, in Cheylesmore
Park, was the occasion of the trouble. At the instance of the officials
of the royal manor,[279] Edward IV. called in question the right of
the city officers to make arrests within the manorial territory. The
matter was decided in the city's favour after many journeys and much
suffering of the law's delays.


Edward treated the Coventry folk graciously enough, paying them several
visits at this time[280]; but another figure had begun to loom large
in English politics, and Warwick, the King-maker, now exercised even
more power in the Midlands than had been enjoyed by the Lancastrian
Buckingham. In 1464 the earl first appears as meddling in the internal
affairs of Coventry. A quarrel arose between a certain William Bedon
and William Huet about a debt--it may have been a party affair between
the weavers and tailors--and appeal was made to Edward IV. The matter,
the King declared, was "screpulus and doubtefull," and directed that
the litigants should abide by the arbitration of certain citizens, or
that the mayor, in the event of their inability to decide upon the case
before Michaelmas, should step in and dispose of the matter.

Accordingly at the appointed time, when the arbitrators failed to
agree, the mayor took the matter into his own hands, and decreed that
Huet should ask Bedon's forgiveness for his behaviour towards him,
giving also 40s. "for amends." "Which laude and decree," the _Leet
Book_ says, "the seid William Huet yn neyther braunche wold not obey,
but utterly refusyd," using "right vnfyttyng, inordinate and ceducious
langage sownyng to the derogacion of the kynges lawes and of his peace,
yn right evyll example, for the which the seid mair, vmper,[281] be the
advyse of his seid brethern, comyttid hym to warde," the King giving
him "right good and special thank" for his action in this behalf.
Tiptoft, it appears, who was then in the city, kept Edward informed
of the progress of the business. But the affair soon assumed serious
proportions, and the King wrote to inform the mayor that if any others
vexed their neighbours by any "imaginacions, sclaundours or feyned
accusacions hereafter," or made any "conventicles," they were to be
repressed; the officer requiring all the king's liege men in the city
to aid him in the work "at thair peril."[282]

But peace was not to be restored by these means, for the city
authorities had still to reckon with Huet, who lay in prison. By
the "meane of his frendes," the account goes on, he "labored vnto
my lord of Warrewyk for favor and ease to be had yn the seid decree
at my lordes instaunce, so that to ouer gret rebuke ne charge were
not don to the seid William yn makyng therof. And theruppon the seid
mair, allethough after his dimeretys, well and indifferently be hym
vnderstondon, he were worthy to have made as lowly submission as
cowde be thought therfore, and to have boron to the utmost of his
godes besides that, and rightwesnes without mercy shold have ben
don therin; but at the seid instaunce leying rightwesnes apart and
folowyng mercy," the mayor "made his laude and decree thus: that the
seid William Huet shuld be of good seying and behavyng fro that tyme
fourth, and that he shuld yeve the seid William Bedon 10 marcs in
amendes towards his costes. And so he did, which amounted not to the
thryd peny that he had made hym to spende; and yette further at my
seid lordes instaunce"--here the mayor, sadly confused and harassed
by the divergence of the paths of "mercy" and "righteousness," takes
up the account in his own person--"my worshipfull Brethren and I so
effectuelly entreted the seid William Bedon, that he yave the seid Huet
agayn V nobles of the seid X marcs." Then Huet, being further bound
over to keep the peace, was "set at his large," or released.

Owing to these repeated attacks, as well as to the unsettled state of
the kingdom, things had not prospered with the Coventry corporation.
They were in 1468 £800 in arrear of their annual ferm of £50. The
sheriff was ordered to seize the goods of the mayor and men of the
place as distress. He could find no more than 106s. worth of goods,
and these "remained on his hands for lack of buyers," "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,"[283] a rather amusing betrayal of the helplessness of
the central government. But the Trinity and Corpus Christi guilds
were bodies possessed of great wealth, though upon their funds the
exchequer had no claim, thanks to the astuteness of the corporation
in thus disposing of its possessions. But no doubt the resources both
of guilds and townsmen were failing, even as those of the monastery,
for in 1466 the prior was £550 in arrears to the Crown for the rent
of the Earl's-half; his tenants in the city must therefore have been
backward in paying the rent due to the priory treasury. And to add to
the general confusion in 1469 the commonalty rose crying that they were
defrauded of their lawful share of the Lammas lands. More serious than
all, when civil war again broke loose and Edward and Warwick measured
swords together, the men of Coventry chose the losing side, nor did a
too late repentance avail to save them from the terrible humiliation of
a temporary forfeiture of their franchises.

Meanwhile matters were going from bad to worse in the government of
England. The great earl was becoming rapidly estranged from his young
kinsman, Edward, whom he had helped to place on the throne. Jealousy
of the Queen's relations, and the decay of his own influence in the
royal councils, were rapidly converting Warwick into a secret enemy of
the ruling house. Edward[284] was in favour of a Burgundian alliance;
the King-maker, on the contrary, pressed forward the claims of France
to the friendship of England, and when the King treated the French
ambassadors with scant courtesy, his too powerful subject entered into
intrigues with Louis XI. on his own behalf. He had some thoughts of
placing on the throne his future son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence; and
Calais, where the earl and the King's brother were staying, became in
1469 a perfect hot-bed of conspiracy.

How far Warwick carried with him the general sentiment of English folk
is rather doubtful, but so great was his territorial influence that he
was a highly dangerous enemy. Besides, there were various elements of
disaffection abroad in the land. The Lancastrians had still some hold
on the hearts of those living in the north and west, while others who
had expected an era of peace and perfection under Yorkist rule were
naturally disappointed at the small results of Edward's government.
Though there seems to have been no very distinct notion of what the
people wanted, one thing was clear, they wanted a change, and the
country was filled with the old tokens of unrest and discontent.
Bad times seem rather unaccountably to have befallen the people of
Coventry; the city was deeply in debt, and on that account the citizens
were probably more willing to lend an ear to Warwick's emissaries.
It is possible that foreign trade relations may have more to do than
we are at present aware with town politics. The great merchants of
the Staple, who were heads of the powerful civic families, and who
possessed the monopoly of trade in wool, would welcome the alliance
with Burgundy, and a ready export of the raw material to Flanders;
while the bulk of the townsfolk, cloth workers and artisans, were glad
that the wool should be kept in England and be converted into cloth
by home manufacture. For that reason Warwick and his anti-Burgundian
policy may have been popular in cloth-working towns such as Coventry
then was.

We follow with difficulty the record of obscure risings which marked
the beginning of a fresh struggle. Two movements agitated the north in
the early part of the year 1469. One seems to have been a Lancastrian
outbreak; the other, under Robin of Redesdale, was undoubtedly fomented
by Warwick. The men of Coventry found themselves as usual drawn into
the strife. They were compelled to pay, and send fifty men to York
against the rebels,[285] who joined their forces together, and finally
turned southwards under Sir John Coniers towards the Midlands. For some
time Edward appeared unconscious of the danger that threatened him, and
during June he went quietly on a progress through the eastern counties.
At last there came a rude awakening. On July 1,[286] he wrote from
Fotheringay, bidding the mayor take and commit to ward any person using
seditious language among the King's liege people to the intent to "stor
and incens theym to rumor and comocion"; and later letters were urgent
in their appeals for dispatch of men. Meanwhile the extent of Warwick's
plotting stood revealed. On July 12 came tidings from this arch
conspirator, who, far from being the haughty noble of the conventional
type, was, as his latest biographer[287] tells us, very affable in his
bearing and an ardent seeker after the commonalty's good will. Warwick
had very probably gained a strong party among the populace at Coventry,
and in addition to the letter destined for the mayor, the messenger
bore a duplicate addressed to his master's "servonds and welwyllers"
within the city.[288] "Ryght trusty and well belovyd frende," the earl
wrote to the mayor, William Saunders, "I grete you well. Forsomuche as
hyt hath pleasyd the kings gode grace to sende at this tyme for hys
lords and other hys subgetts to atende on hys hygnes northwards, and
that both the rihgt hye and myghty prince, my lord the duke of Clarens,
and I be fully purposid, after the solempnizacion of the maryage by
Godds grace in short tyme to be hadde bitwene my sayd lord and my
dohgter, to a wayte on the same, and to drawe vn to our sayd soveren
lordes hyghnes, therfor desire and pray you that ye woll in the meene
tyme geve knowlache to all suche felisshipp as ye mowe make [toward
theym] to arredy theym in the best wyse they can, and that bothe ye
and they defensibly arrayd be redy apon a days warnyng to accompany my
sayd lord and me toward the sayd highnes, as my specyall trust ys in
yowe; yevyng credens to this berer in that he shall open vnto you on
my behalve, and ore Lord have you in hys keping. Writon at London the
xxviii day of Juyn." The marriage thus referred to was solemnised some
ten days or more after the date of the missive--July 11, Clarence and
Archbishop Neville having secretly stolen over to Calais, where Warwick
was then posted, to take part in the ceremony; and the next day the
King-maker and his following landed on the coast of Kent.

[Illustration: COOK STREET, GATE]

The letter[289] as it stands conveys but scanty indications of the real
state of affairs, but no doubt the citizens read between the lines, and
in "giving credence to the bearer" heard as much as the earl wished of
his plans for the overthrow of the Queen's relations and the recovery
of the Neville influence. Whether they understood that Clarence,
Warwick's son-in-law, was to occupy his brother Edward's place, and be
raised to the throne, is another matter. Nevertheless they must have
been somewhat bewildered by Warwick's change of front. Lancaster they
knew, and York they knew, but they might with all justice ask, "Who are
ye?" of the King-maker.

Once more, as in Margaret's time, Coventry, with its command of
the north-western road, became a centre of operations. News now
came thick and fast. Coniers' army of Yorkshiremen, supplied with a
later manifesto and petition of grievances promulgated by Warwick,
and the royal troops under Herbert and Stafford of Southwick, were
converging towards Banbury. On Maudlin day (July 22) Coventry was
hastily fortified, certain of the principal citizens overlooking the
equipment of soldiers and the strengthening of the gates with cannon.
On the 26th July the battle of Edgcote was fought near Banbury, ending
in the discomfiture of Herbert and the royalist troops. For just when
victory seemed assured, a rabble of Northampton men, led by one John
Clapham, bearing the banner of the White Bear, and shouting "a Warwick!
a Warwick!" appeared over the hillside in the rear of Lord Herbert's
men, and they, thinking the Earl himself was come, broke and fled.
"Lord Herbert," the _Leet Book_ says, "was taken in fight by Banbury
with Robin of Redesdale" on the vigil of S. James, and was brought
to Northampton, and there beheaded, and Lord Richard Herbert, with
others.[290] Some days afterwards Edward was captured at Honiley or
Olney, near Kenilworth, and brought by Archbishop Neville to Coventry,
there to meet the Archbishop's "brother of Warwick."[291] He was
detained in the city as a prisoner until August 9. But even then his
humiliation was not complete. Three days later, when the King was
certainly no further removed from the city than Warwick, the father and
brother of Edward's Queen, Lord Rivers and his son, John Woodville,
who had been captured by rioters at Chepstow, fell into Warwick's
hands, and were beheaded on Gosford Green by his order.[292] The _Leet
Book_ also records the executions of Lord Stafford of Southwick at
Bridgewater, and again that of Sir Humphrey Neville, a Lancastrian,
and Charles, his brother, who had risen in rebellion in September,
in the "north coasts," and that of the bailiff of Durham at the same
time ("et ballivus de Duram eodem tempore"). It was on the occasion of
this northern or Lancastrian rising that the Nevilles found themselves
forced to release Edward; for the unpopular ministers having been
brought to justice, there was a feeling abroad that the King should be
set free.

So far Warwick's revolt had been successful, but it did not wholly
gratify his ambition. No doubt he felt that the King was hopelessly
alienated, and, whenever powerful enough, would free himself from the
influence of the house of Neville. Fresh troubles broke out, this time
in Lincolnshire, in February 1470. Warwick's agents so worked on the
fears of the people that they rose in great numbers, and converted
a local dispute into a rising of some magnitude. A royal missive,
bearing date February 9, arrived at Coventry late in the evening, and
in accordance with the commission, money was collected throughout the
wards for men to go to Grantham by March 12.[293] The King's letter
was imperative; there were rebels abroad, it said, "and many assemble
for the retaining of the said enemies ... so that if their malice be
not ... withstanden, it might grow to the great jeopardy of us and to
the destruction of all true subjects." Edward defeated the rebels at
Empingham, near Stamford, on 12th March, and so sudden was their flight
that the battle received the name of _Lose-coat Field_. Meanwhile
the ringleaders, mainly belonging to the Welles family, were brought
in; but before execution they showed that Clarence and Warwick were
seriously implicated in their designs. Edward, whose suspicions were
thoroughly aroused, sent to the duke and earl at Coventry, bidding them
disband their levies, for they were followed by a great number of men,
and join him without delay; but they would not, merely sending excuses
and promises.[294] And perhaps it was then that Clarence, being in
need of money, left in pledge a "coronall," garnished with "rubies,
diamonds, and sapphires," in return for a loan of 300 marks from the
citizens.[295] Finally Warwick and the King's brother, after trying
the disposition of men's minds towards their cause in the northern
parts, turned southwards, whither Edward followed them; but they had
already taken ship at Dartmouth when the King reached Exeter. Edward
passed through Coventry on his way southwards, and forty men went
with the King on April 5 to the south coasts, taking the great sum of
12d.[296] a day for payment. For the citizens of Coventry--provident
men--afforded help to either party, hoping surely to have their reward
whichever side might prevail in the end. They admitted Clarence and
Edward, and furnished the former with money and the latter with men.
This shows either that they took a dispassionate view of these dynastic
and political struggles in which they had no concern, or that they
were more deeply involved in them than we imagine, but parties being
so evenly balanced in the city, the presence or near neighbourhood of
a leader of either party was sufficient for the time being to turn the
scale in his favour.

The two conspirators sailed for Calais, but there the merchants of
the Staple were heart and soul for Edward and the Burgundian alliance,
and the garrison, being in their pay, closed the harbour against them.
So they put into the Seine, and Warwick, abandoning his old project
of dethroning Edward to make room for Clarence, prepared to take up a
more definite policy, and made overtures to the Lancastrians. It is
difficult to imagine how Queen Margaret could bring herself to forgive
the man who had wrought so much evil to her and hers. But Louis XI.,
King of France, who knew that if the Yorkists continued to reign they
would strengthen Burgundy, his great foe, acted as peacemaker, and the
compact between Lancaster and Neville was sealed by the betrothal of
Warwick's daughter to the Prince of Wales. When the King-maker and the
Lancastrian lords landed at Plymouth in September, they caught Edward
unawares in the north, and they replied to his summons, ordering them
to appear at court, "humbly and measurably accompanyed," by proclaiming
Henry VI. King of England. The army in the north declared for King
Henry; for the moment the game was up; Edward IV. fled to Lynn, and
took ship for the Low Countries.


The Coventry _Leet Book_ thus summarizes the year's events:[297] "In
the Lenton when William Stafford was mayor ... the Lord Wellys[298]
were byhedyd. The duke of Clarance and the yrle of Warw[ick] w[ent]
o[ut] of the londe, and went to the kynge off Franse, and there were
gretly cheryshyd, and there was a m[arriage] m[ade] by twix prinse
Edward and a dohgter of the sayd yrle of Warwic. And in the monthe
of Sept[ember] the sayd duke and yrle with the yrle of Oxynford,
the yrle off Pembroke,[299] brother to kyng Harry, the bastard
ffawkynbruge[300] comyn a londe at Ex--.[301] They ther drewe to hem
muche pepull, or they com to Coventry, they wer xxx thowsand. [Ky]ng
Edward laye at Notynham, and sende for lordes and all other men, but
ther com so lytell pep[ull] to hym that he was not abyll to made a
fylde a gaynes hem, and then he with the yrle [R]evers, the lorde
Hastyng,[302] the lord Haward, and the lorde Say went to Lynne, and
ther goten hem shippes, and sayledon to the duke of Borgoyne,[303] the
whiche duke hade weddyd kyng Edwards syster, the lady Margete. And
then the duke of Clarans, the yrle off Warwic, the yrle of Oxynford,
the yrle of Shroysbere, the lord Stanley, [and] the bysshoppe of
Yorke[304] went to the towre at London, and set out of prison kyng
Harre the Syxt, the wyche hade be ix yer and a halfe and mor[305] as
a prisonere, and brohgt hym to the bysshoppes palys at Powlys[306] in
London, and made hym there to take on hym to be kyng as he was afore
tyme. And then was the yrle of Wyrseter[307] behedyt at London....
The quene that was wyfe to kyng Edward, with hyr moder, the duches of
Bedford,[308] toke seynt wary[309] at Westmynster, and ther the quene
was lyght of a son that was crystonyd Edward."

So the year that had seen such astonishing events now drew to a close.
England saw one king displaced by a powerful subject after a bloodless
struggle, and another, weak, possibly imbecile, and long a neglected
prisoner, restored to his former state; a queen driven to take
sanctuary for fear of her husband's enemies, and the birth of a Prince
of Wales, the history of whose short unhappy life accords well with the
inauspicious season of his coming into the world. Though Englishmen
passively accepted these changes, Warwick's position was still one of
great difficulty; the King's weakness, Margaret's delay in France,
and last the unstable temper of "false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,"
all combined to make the firm establishment of the restored dynasty a
matter involving risk on every hand.

John Bette counted the beginning of his mayoralty in January, 1471,
according to the regnal year of Henry VI., and the townspeople
doubtless considered that the rule of the Yorkists was a thing of the
past.[310] Perhaps the craftsmen party were pleased with the reversal
of policy which followed on the reaccession of the Lancastrian King.
The French King held Warwick to an agreement to make war with Burgundy.
And war with Burgundy meant interruption in the Flemish wool trade, and
a plentiful supply of wool for the home market. In the following March,
forty men, now waged at 6d. a day, were commissioned to go for two
months to Flanders. But the Flemings, by their support of the fugitive
King, Edward IV., carried the war into the enemy's country. On March
14, 1471, Edward landed at Ravenspur, to claim--so he averred--the
duchy of York, his ancestral inheritance. Slipping past Montagu,
who had been set to guard the north road, he pressed on towards the
Midlands. Followers presently flocked to his standard, and on March 29,
coming from Leicester, he offered battle beneath the walls of Coventry.
Warwick, who lay within the city, waiting for fresh levies, had not
troops sufficient to accept the challenge, and suffered Edward to pass
on, and cut off his communications with London.

The citizens of Coventry must have long remembered this terrible
season, "the Lenton next afore Barnet ffeld," and the hurried and
almost unintelligible writing of the _Leet Book_, with the frequent and
probably intentional mutilation of its pages, bespeak the agitation and
confusion which filled men's thoughts. There could be no temporizing
now the great earl was within their gates, no making overtures to the
returning Yorkists, who, now that there was no army barring the way
to the capital, found their position greatly increased in strength.
The townsfolk lent Warwick 100 marks,[311] and during that period of
terrible anxiety, wherein the earl was waiting for the levies under
Montagu from the north, Oxford from the east, and Clarence from the
south-west, they sent "riders into the country" to bring back tidings,
and having fortified their city, kept a strict watch.[312] The levies
under Clarence never came to the earl's aid, for meeting Edward on
the road between Warwick and Banbury, the duke deserted the cause of
his father-in-law, and was "right lovingly reconciled" to Edward.
Afterwards Clarence, stung perhaps with remorse at his desertion,
sent unto the earl "to require him to take some good way with king
Edward[313] ... the earle (after he had patientlie heard the duke's
message) he seemed greatlie to abhorre his unfaithfull dealing.... To
the messengers (as some write) he gave none other answer but this: that
he had rather be like himselfe than like a false and perjured duke; and
that he was fullie determined never to leave warre till he had either
lost his owne life or utterlie subdued his enimies."

Strengthened by Clarence's levies, the King again returned to offer
battle on April 5 before the gates of Coventry, but as Warwick still
refused, he drew off down the Watling Street towards London. The
citizens of Coventry continued faithful to Warwick, and when he left
for the capital to stake his all on a battle with Edward, twenty
horsemen and twenty foot from the city set forth with him on the
eventful march, and fought at Barnet Field. But when the battle was
over the terror-stricken townsmen would fain--in Clarence's words--have
"made so good a way with king Edward," and did all that in them lay to
appease the conqueror. Margaret of Anjou and her son had landed two
days after the battle. Prince Edward no doubt expected aid from the
Lancastrian stronghold, and sent a proclamation from Chard, where he
then was, to Coventry. But the townsfolk knew that the day was with the
Yorkist King.

The Leet Book records the receipt of "a letter fro Edward, the son
of Harry the VIte, the xxv day of Aprile, that was wryton at Cherd
the xviii day of Aprile _the whyche was sent to Kyng Edward and the
messenger therewith to Abyndon_."[314] But they were not allowed
to make their peace after this easy fashion. In May Edward came to
Coventry, deprived the mayor, John Bette, of the civic sword, and
confiscated the liberties of the city, which were only redeemed by
a payment of 500 marks.[315] The citizens owed even this grace to
Clarence's mediation. They received a charter of pardon "for the hevy
greffe that our soveraign lord beer to the citee ... ffor the tyme that
Richard, late Erle of Warwyke, with oder to hym then acompanyed, kept
the citee in defence agenst his Royall highnes in the Lenton next afore
Barnett ffeld."[316] Clarence's mediation and the king's pardon cost
the citizens a further sacrifice. Edward brought his influence to bear
upon them for the release of the jewel, which the duke's necessities
had induced him to leave in pledge, in return for the loan of 300
marks. This "coronall," the deed declares, "had been utterly forfeit
for two years past," as the duke had not discharged the debt. But as
Clarence had "laboured to be good lord" unto the citizens, the mayor
agreed to remit a portion of the money owing, and to deliver up the
jewel "for the singular pleasure and good grace of our sovereign lord,
king Edward."[317]

The reconciliation being accomplished, the citizens were eager to show
their entire loyalty to King Edward, and accordingly granted a most
splendid reception--equal to that given to Margaret eighteen years
before--to the four-year-old prince of Wales on his visit to Coventry
(April 1474) for S. George's feast. The mayor and divers of the
commonalty, arrayed in green and blue, met the prince with the gift of
100 marks in a gilt "cuppe" upon which was a "kerchief of plesaunce."
At the Bablake gate stood a pageant, with figures of Richard II. and
many nobles thereupon. The character of King Richard II. in allusion
to the York genealogy, saluted the child, "of the right lyne of royall
blode" with a verse of greeting. There were further pageants "with
mynstralcy of harpe and dowsemeris" (dulcimers); and at the Broadgate
stood S. Edward (who had done duty on a previous occasion) with
"mynstralcy of harpe & lute," and more verses with allusions to the
prince's father's "imperial right," wherefrom he "had been excluded by
full furious intent," by way of welcome.

What wonderful memories these local poets possessed! Their verses show
how the old friendship of the city to Lancaster had wholly escaped
their remembrance! When the little prince rode in his "chare" down to
the Cheaping, he beheld three prophets at the Cross, and above were
"Childer of Issarell" (the Innocents) casting down flowers and cakes,
and four pipes running wine. The three kings of Colen (Cologne) were
also pressed into the service; but the great feature of the show was
the pageant of S. George upon the conduit of the Cheaping, the saint
being represented armed, "and a kynges daughter knelyng a fore hym with
a lambe, and the father & the moder beyng in a toure a boven, beholdyng
Seint George savyng their daughter from the dragon."

 "O myghty God, our all socour celestiall,
 Wich this royme hast geven to dower,
 To thi moder, and to me, George, proteccion perpetuall,
 Hit to defende from enimies ffere and nere,
 And as this mayden defended was here,
 Bi thy grace from this Dragon devour,
 So, Lorde, preserve this noble prynce and ever be his socour."[318]

A truly splendid reception for such a young child, who, we will
hope, appreciated the "kerchief of plesaunce," if the drift of the
political allusions was above his understanding. True to his policy of
ingratiating himself with the burghers and moneyed classes, the King
allowed his little son to stand godfather to the mayor's child on this
occasion. Nevertheless Edward was not content with mere compliments or
protestations of loyalty from the lips of actors, but made this visit
of his son an opportunity for strengthening his political position.
The mayor and his brethren were called upon to cause the commons of
the city to swear an oath of allegiance to the Prince of Wales.[319]
After this the King and Elizabeth Woodville were all graciousness to
the citizens. The Queen in September of that year sent twelve bucks
from Fakenham Forest as a present to the mayor, his brethren and
their wives.[320] She also praised their "sadde polit[y], guydyng and
diligence" in appeasing an affray, and thanked them warmly for their
duties ... "by you largely shewed vnto vs and to our derrest son the
prince; and in like wyse to all oure childern ther in sundry wises
heretofore, and namely vnto our right dere son, the Duc of York, in
this time of our absens."[321] Four years later, Edward sent the prince
of Wales with his court to Cheylesmore, where the child sojourned for
some time, and was admitted a member of the Trinity and Corpus Christi

But the fair words of royalty often bore a most unwelcome meaning, and
the yoke of the Yorkists was not light. Edward, in 1474, applied to
"his feythful subgetts" in the city of their "benevolence" to aid him
with a substantial sum of money for various undertakings incident to
a war with France.[323] The king found "benevolences" or forced loans
more convenient than subsidies granted by parliament, and in the wars
a treaty better served his purpose than a battle, when the French king
was willing to pay for peace. The frequent interference of the Prince
of Wales's council in city disputes at first ruffled the tempers of the
great folk at Coventry not a little. "We, your humble and true servants
here," the corporation wrote to the Prince of Wales in 1480, "know of
no variance ... here but that we among ourselves, be the grace of God
shall amicably and righteously settle." But all thoughts of resistance
had been abandoned, when the next year a commotion, raised by the
common folk at the enclosure of the Lammas pastures, put the franchises
in danger of confiscation a second time, and the corporation earnestly
entreated the Prince of Wales by intercession to avert his father's

Richard III., in his brief reign, did all that in him lay to conciliate
the Coventry folk; in 1485 he kept Whitsuntide at Kenilworth,[324] and
paid a visit to the city to witness the Corpus Christi pageants, but we
hear of no joyous welcome given him by the citizens. Perhaps--though
there was little sentiment in contemporary politics--they could not
lightly forget the faces of the two little boys, who had visited
the city during their father's lifetime, and had since mysteriously
disappeared, men knew not by what means, in the Tower of London. In
an interesting letter written probably in the previous year, the King
charges the authorities of this thoroughfare city to provide horses for
the royal messengers.

"Forasmoche," he says, "as we have appointed and ordeined certain of
our servants to lye in diverse places and townes betwix us and the
west parties of this our royaume for the hasty conveiaunce of tydings
and of all other things for us necessarie to have knowledge of, we
therefore wol and desire and also charge you that, if any of oure seid
servants comyng by you shal nede any horses for thair hasty spede to
or from us, ye wil see them shortly for to be provided therof for
thair redy money. And also if it fortune any of them to travell from
you by nyght that than ye will see that they may have guydes and that
they shalbe suffisauntly rewarded for thair labors. And that ye faile
not to doo your effectual diligence herein as we trust you, and as we
may undrestande the redynesse and good will that ye have to please
us."[325] There is an undertone of threat underlying these last few
words, shewing maybe something of the anxiety the King felt concerning
the loyalty of the citizens. But the inhabitants were decidedly worth
conciliating, and Richard wrote very cordially in the last year of his
reign praising the "sadness and circumspect wisdoms" of the mayor and
his brethren in allaying debate, and acknowledging their "auctorite
to provide, make and establisshe ordenaunces and rules ... for the
vniversall wele and pollitique guiding of" the said city.[326]

It seems that this cordiality was wasted on the men of Coventry, so
gladly did they welcome King Richard's rival, the victor of Bosworth,
when he took up his lodging at the Bull, in Smithford Street, after the
battle.[327] The wardens' accounts record payments made "for brede, ale
and wyn and other vitailes that was hadde to Maister Onleys, he then
beyng mair, at the comyng of Kyng Henre," the most expensive items of
the account being "i pype claret wyn iii li., i pype redde wyn iii
li.," with "xx motons," "ii oxen," and 7 "stockfishes," the price of
which made a total of £4, 13s. 6d. It is true that the citizens, with
their old supreme indifference to political party, also supplied bread
and ale "to the feld of Kyng Richard,"[328] and one of their number
fought, we know not on which side, at Bosworth, for the accounts record
that 2s. 6d. was paid by the Corpus Christi guild "towards the hurt
that Thomas Maideford had in the fylde." Two years after Henry kept S.
George's feast at Coventry, and also, like his predecessor, saw on S.
Peter's day later on in the year (June 29) a performance of the famous
mystery plays.

A great council was held at this time in the city, and the Archbishop
of Canterbury and other bishops read in the minster the papal
bulls, affirming Henry's right of succession, and threatening with
excommunication all such as should rebel against him.[329] The King was
still at Coventry when he heard that the Earl of Lincoln, a Yorkist,
with help from Burgundy, had landed in Lancashire to support the claim
of Lambert Simnel, whom historians call "the organ-maker's son," but
who gave himself out to be the son of the duke of Clarence. After the
defeat of the rebels at Stoke, near Newark, Simnel, as all the world
knows, became a scullion in the royal kitchen. The annals record that
another pretender, Thomas Harrington, who also called himself the son
of Clarence, was beheaded in this year "on the cunduit by the Bull,"
and was buried at the Grey Friars'.[330] At the King's second visit at
S. Peter's-tide he lodged with Robert Onley, who had been mayor when
the battle of Bosworth was fought, and conferred on him the honour of
knighthood.[331] After Simnel's rising had been crushed, the good folk
no doubt expected to enjoy an era of peace, and in the following year
the churchwardens of S. Michael's, and other well-disposed people, "for
joy brought to S. Michael's a great bell, and called it Jesus Bell."

Lollardry had never died out, and it flamed up anew when the land was
at peace. In 1485 Foxe records that various people of Coventry were
"troubled for religion," and compelled to recant, though not without
injunction to penance.[332] The annals tell us they bore faggots about
the city on the market day, the dread of fire being no doubt more
convincing to the suspected heretics than the bishop's logic. But
in the next generation both men and women had strength to endure to
the end. In 1511 Bishop Blythe held a "Court of Heresy" at Maxstoke,
but the accused saved themselves by abjuration, and went through
the form of bearing faggots throughout the city. All were not thus
to be delivered, however, and a persistent heretic, Joan Ward, who
had performed this penance, was handed over to the secular arm to be
burned. Seven suffered in the Little Park at Coventry this year (1512),
say the city annals (differing in date from that given by Foxe in his
account of the "Seven Godly Martyrs burnt at Coventry"), but one, who
was not staunch enough for martyrdom, recanted, and did penance "on a
pipe head," holding a faggot on his shoulder while his comrades were

Henry's frequent appeals for money must have somewhat lessened the
goodwill the Coventry men bore him for his frequent visits[334] and
complimentary membership of the city guilds. It was in 1500 that he and
his Queen became a brother and sister of the Trinity fraternity.

Echoes reach us of the wars he undertook, which after vast
preparations and much ingathering of money, usually ended in a truce
or peace. We hear of the depredations of the King of Scots, who in
1496 broke the truce, crossed the border, and after doing all "the
harme and crueltee to men, woman, and children ... that he coulde to
th'uttermuch of his power," returned in great haste over Tweed, a
crossing which occupied him but six or seven hours, whereas in coming
over the river two whole days had been taken up.[335] The insult was to
be avenged, and two of the most expert men of the city were summoned
to meet at a great council to confer upon this matter. The conference
naturally ended in a demand for a loan. Henry had in Richard Empson,
who succeeded Boteler in the recorder's office, a servant well able
to aid him in extorting money from his loyal Coventry subjects. No
doubt the citizens were most unwilling to part with their substance.
One Richard Smith, by an appeal to the King's "ffader of Derby," the
husband of Lady Margaret, and by his "importune and dissimuled sute,"
managed to gain an abatement of the sum he had originally agreed on,
so that others of the city who knew of Smith's wealth were "greatly
discouraged" at the inequality of the assessment. Empson was to
proceed, said King Henry, as he thought fit, an injunction which may
be construed to mean that he was to get all the money he could out of
Richard Smith for the King's use.[336]

Yet the citizens prospered no doubt under Henry's firm and sagacious
rule, and when they recorded his death chronicler-fashion in the _Leet
Book_, it is with some appearance of regret. In "this year," the
account begins, "dyed king Henry the VIIth, the xxii day of April,
... at Rychemount ... and was brought to London in to Pollys[337] with
many nobles of the realme and grete nombre of torches, and a grete
nombre of peple both on horsbak and a fote. And after iii dayes beying
in Pollys he was brought to Westmynster, and ther he lieth and his
quene Elizabeth with him in a newe chapell, which he causid to be made
in his lyffe, on whoos saule Jhesu have mercy. And his son kyng Henry
the VIIIth was crownyd the same yere at Westmynster the Sonday next
after Midsomer day."[338]

If the father had chastised the men of Coventry with whips, the son was
to chastise them with scorpions. Loans and subsidies were the order of
the day, for the great treasure gathered together by Henry VII. was
quickly dissipated by his successor. In 1524 a hundred and ninety-four
persons advanced to Henry a hundred and fifty pounds eleven shillings
by way of loan,[339] and this is only a single example of what was then
a very common arrangement. But the citizens could ill bear the pressure
of increased taxation. For some time their prosperity had been waning,
for foreign competition had begun to tell upon the English cloth
manufacture.[340] Discontent and divisions were rife among them as in
the preceding century. During years of dearth the common lands had been
ploughed up, and when the dearth was over--when, "thanks be now to
almighty God," as the _Leet Book_ says, "corn is comen to good plente
and to easy and reasonable price," the ploughing was still continued,
and the cattle of the common folk deprived of pasture.

In 1525 the citizens rose, after their old practice, to resist the
enclosure of the common lands. On "Ill Lammas Day," say the annals,
"... the commons of Coventre rose and pulled down the gates and hedges
of the grounds inclosed, and they that were in the cittie shutt the
Newgate against the chamberlain and their company. The mayor was
almost smothered in the throng; he held with the commons, for which he
was carried as prisoner to London; he was put out of his office and
Mr. John Humphrey served out his year." A special commission under
the Marquis of Dorset was appointed to try the rioters. Thirty-seven
prisoners were sent to Warwick and Kenilworth Castles, and seven to
the Marshalsea.[341] Some suffered at the pillory, others after long
imprisonment were pardoned by the King on the occasion of the Pope's
jubilee.[342] But the rulers of the city were highly unpopular, and
frequent "slanders" were proclaimed against them.[343]

The annals record the discovery of the wildest schemes, which sprang,
no doubt, from the misery of the people. In 1523 two men, Pratt and
Sloth, were arrested in Coventry on the charge of treason. They
confessed that their purpose was to kill the mayor and his brethren,
rob S. Mary's Hall, where the common chest was kept, and take
Kenilworth Castle. They were taken to London for judgment, but executed
at Coventry, and their remains figured on the city gates.[344] The
next year a further scheme came to light. This time the King's subsidy
was the object at which the plunderers aimed; it was to be stolen from
the collectors on the highway to London; the conspirators proposed
to seize Kenilworth Castle and to fight there for their lives. These
men, Phillips, a schoolmaster, Pickering, clerk of the King's larder,
and Anthony Manville, gentleman, were hanged, drawn and quartered at

The "King's Proceedings" of 1536 undoubtedly intensified the misery of
the citizens. The monastery was dissolved by the royal commissioners;
the cathedral church defaced and its roof pulled off, and the lead,
worth £647, stacked within the desecrated building;[346] the house
of the Franciscans razed "because the poor people lay so sore upon
it;[347] and all monastic property seized into the King's hand."
Dugdale, quoting Hales' letter to the Protector Somerset, attributes to
the dissolution the state of decay and misery into which the city had
fallen in the third year of Edward VI. "There were not at that time,"
the letter runs, "more than 3,000 inhabitants, whereas within memory
there had been 15,000."[348] It is very doubtful whether the high
figure is correct, and certainly the population never sank to so low
as 3,000. In a petition coming from the people of Coventry in 1548 it
is stated that there were "to the number of eleven to twelve thousand
housling people"[349] within the city. But it was the sweeping and
iniquitous act of confiscation, known as the suppression of the guilds
and chantries, rather than the dissolution of the monasteries, which
brought the citizens to the verge of ruin. So extensive was the house
property belonging to the guilds, and so intimately were these bodies
connected with the corporation, that this calamity involved the city
finances in the most terrible confusion. Having no property from which
to draw the money for the annual fee-ferm of £50, one or two persons,
the citizens declared to the Earl of Warwick, were yearly ruined by
the tax levied for its payment.[350] The poorer class--of late years
greatly increased in numbers--were deprived of the guild charities, the
children of a schoolmaster[351] and the less wealthy craftsmen of all
hope of provision for old age and an honourable burial after death.
The burgesses of Lynn and Coventry protested against the confiscation.
There were but two churches in the city, the latter declared, "wherein
God's service is done, whereof the one, that is to say, the church of
Corpus Christi, was specially maintained of the revenues of such guild
lands as had been given heretofore by divers persons to that use....
If therefore now by the act the same land should pass from them, it
should be a manifest cause of the utter desolation of the city." For
the people, the petitioners declared, "when the churches were no longer
supported, nor God's service done therein, and the other uses and
employments of those lands omitted, should be of force constrained to
abandon the city and seek new dwelling places."[352] This energetic
protest was not without its effect. The citizens were permitted to
purchase back the guild lands for the sum of £1315, 1s. 8d., a very
large amount in those days,[353] which, in spite of their poverty, they
were enabled to gather together.

Once more in Mary's reign, January 31, 1554, when Coventry closed
its gates against Lady Jane Grey's father, the Duke of Suffolk, the
city became of strategic importance. The city failed to rise, and the
Protestant cause in the midlands was for the moment lost. May be the
citizens regretted their inertia in the years that followed when in
1556 Laurence Saunders and Robert Glover, martyrs, were led out to die
in the Little Park. Of Glover, it is said that he remained "lumpish,"
being dull of spirit, and fearing that the Lord had withdrawn His
favour from him. But a change overtook him on his way to the stake, so
that he clapped his hands with joy, "seeming rather to be risen from
some deadly danger to liberty and life, than as one passing out of the
world by any pains of death."


By this time a royal visit had ceased to be a political event, it
became merely an occasion for splendour, or an act of courtesy.
Elizabeth visited the city in 1565, being lodged at Mr Hales' at the
Whitefriars, and was greeted with much courtier-like compliment by the
recorder, but the reception given to her has none of the significance
which attaches to the welcome, say, of Margaret of Anjou. Little
remains of Whitefriars save the east wing of the cloister with its
fine groined roof of the fifteenth century; but an oriel window on
the western side is still called after Queen Elizabeth, Coventry saw
the great Queen's rival a few years later, when in 1569, in order to
be out of reach of her confederates in the north, Mary Queen of Scots
was hurriedly conveyed from Tutbury to the city, and placed under a
strong guard. She was confined first in the "Bull Inn," and then in S.
Mary's Hall. Some years later this Queen's grand-daughter, another of
the fascinating, luckless Stuarts, was hurried in November 1605 from
Combe Abbey to Coventry, out of reach of the plotters of the Gunpowder
Treason. This was Elizabeth, later the "winter Queen" of Bohemia. She
was lodged for the nonce with Mr Hopkins of Palace Yard.

[Illustration Queen Mary's Chamber]

The old town house of the Hopkins' family still stands in Earl Street,
having undergone perhaps more vicissitudes than any other well-known
house in Coventry. Once a coaching-inn, known as the "Golden Horse,"
and a ladies' school, kept by one Miss Sheldrake, it was originally
the home of the Hopkins' family, who first appear in Coventry
history in the late fifteenth century. Its best-known member, when
sheriff of Coventry, suffered much by reason of his openly expressed
Protestantism, and fled to Basle in Queen Mary's reign. In this house
James II. held his court in 1687, and here were also lodged Princess
Anne and George of Denmark. It is a beautiful old seventeenth-century
quadrangle with fine exterior lead-work, containing in its upper
storey, a stone chimney-piece of classic type, disfigured by a coat of
paint, while its banqueting-chamber with its finely panelled plaster
ceiling presents a veritable image of decay. The tombs of the family
with their busts and togas, 'mid all the panoply of classic memorial
and woe, appear in the Cappers' chapel of S. Michael's church.

The chief feature of the Stuart period is the strengthening of the
Puritan feeling among the citizens. Either owing to the influence of
the Presbyterian Cartwright, who, during his tenure of the mastership
of Leycester's hospital at Warwick, established his system of church
discipline among the clergy of the county, or from some hereditary
instinct, which had led them to embrace Lollardism under the
Lancastrians, and furnish martyrs for the faggot under the Tudors, the
men of Coventry grew more Puritan year by year. They greatly vexed
the soul of King James in 1611 by refusing to kneel in receiving the
Sacrament, a circumstance the English Solomon never forgot, and ten
years later he refused to grant a new charter to the city until he was
certified by the bishop that the orders of the Church were complied
with.[354] Nor did a lawsuit, which the Prince of Wales carried on
for many years with the corporation about the rent due to him from
the monastery lands as lord of Cheylesmore, improve the understanding
between the people and the Stuart kings. When, however, the famous
writ of ship-money was first issued in 1635, it was not against the
principle, but rather against the unfair assessment of the local tax,
that the men of Coventry murmured. The city, they complained, was no
longer prosperous, nor was it able to pay a sum so disproportionate to
that levied on the remainder of the county. Many were the journeys the
diligent town clerk, Humphrey Burton, undertook ere he could get the
tax lightened for the citizens.[355]

[Illustration: PALACE YARD]

But no readjustment of the assessment of this unpopular tax could win
over the hearts of the Coventry men to King Charles. And when in August
1642, a few days before the royal standard was unfurled at Nottingham,
Charles appeared before the walls and summoned the people of Coventry
to admit him, they refused to allow him to enter the city.[356] This
circumstance rankled sore in the King's mind, and it seems that the
feeling was shared by his son, for when Charles II. came into his own
again, he ordered that the walls of the city where his father had
suffered this check should be demolished. The work of destruction,
which was begun by the Earl of Northampton on July 22, 1662, occupied
nearly 500 men for three weeks and three days,[357] and when it was
over the history of Coventry as a fortification comes to a close.
Moreover, the title of the bishopric was now transposed, running
henceforth not Coventry and Lichfield but Lichfield and Coventry.

King James II., who tampered here as everywhere with the civic
constitution in favour of the Tories, his supporters, paid the city
a peaceful visit in 1687, was lodged in Palace Yard, and touched for
the evil in S. Michael's church, on which occasion "the very galleries
crackt again," the throng was so great.[358] This closes the list
of notable royal visits to Coventry, and the interest shifts to the
varying fortunes of the citizens. Although, as compared with London,
provincial towns ceased to be great centres of trade, Coventry never
gave itself wholly up to stagnation and decay, but always kept alive
some sort of manufacturing activity. At first the settlement of
Huguenot exiles gave an impulse to the silk industry, and for nearly
two centuries the weaving of silk and ribbons was the main employment
of the citizens. In the eighteenth century the manufacture of watches
was introduced,[359] but it has been reserved for our own day to see
the city again put on that busy, eager, thriving look which must have
distinguished it under the later Plantagenets. The cycle manufacture
has won back for the city some of the prosperity it once enjoyed. But
nothing can bring back the pomp and grandeur and the semi-independence
of mediæval times; neither can the modern builder lend it any of the
consistent beauty of the architecture of the Middle Ages. Still, unlike
Abingdon, Winchester, or S. Alban's, it is a town with a present to
work in, as well as a past on which to look back. As for the future,
who can tell?


[Footnote 278: _Leet Book_, 322.]

[Footnote 279: They declared that Cheylesmore was "seyntwary," _i.e._
sanctuary. On the evils of rival jurisdictions, and the consequent
escape of offenders fleeing from town justice, see Green, i. 311.]

[Footnote 280: _Leet Book_, 326.]

[Footnote 281: _i.e._ umpire.]

[Footnote 282: _Leet Book_, 331.]

[Footnote 283: Madox, _Firma Burgi_, 217.]

[Footnote 284: The King was at Coventry at Christmas 1467, doubtless to
keep an eye on Warwick's movements (Ramsay, ii. 327).]

[Footnote 285: _Leet Book_, 343. The mayor, William Saunders, dyer,
gave £5 to the collection of money for the soldiers, so that poor
people might be spared (_Ib._, 344). Either owing to the fact that the
cause was unpopular, or that the people were weary of war, soldiers
could not be had under 10d. a day. The air at this time was filled with
rumours; one John Baldwin, cordwainer, of Dartmouth, had been committed
to ward within the city for delivering treasonable letters in England,
though he did it out "of innocence and simpleness," being unaware of
their contents (_Ib._, 340).]

[Footnote 286: The first commission of array, dated Stamford, July 5,
urged the citizens to send 100 archers against the rebels. The second
(Newark, July 10) bade them hasten their preparations and make no
risings or assemblies (_Ib._, 341, 343).]

[Footnote 287: See Oman, _Warwick the King-maker_.]

[Footnote 288: _Leet Book_, 342.]

[Footnote 289: A manifesto, issued July 12, calling upon all "true
subjects to join Warwick in presenting certain articles of petition to
the king" (_v._ Ramsay, ii. 337), is not mentioned in the _Leet Book_.
The citizens of Coventry did not, it seems, join Warwick, they sent men
to Edward (_Leet Book_, 345-6).]

[Footnote 290: _Leet Book_, 346.]

[Footnote 291: Ramsay, ii. 343; Oman, _Warwick_, 189. Oman says Olney
in Northamptonshire.]

[Footnote 292: "Item XIIo die Augusti eodem anno dominus le revers
(Lord Rivers), tune thesaurarius Anglie, fuit decollatus apud Gosford
grene, et dominus Johannes Wodvyle, filius ejus, similiter" (_Leet
Book_, 346).]

[Footnote 293: _Leet Book_, 354.]

[Footnote 294: Ramsay, ii. 350.]

[Footnote 295: Corp. MS.; see below, p. 152.]

[Footnote 296: _Leet Book_, 355. Troops went from Coventry to support
Edward in 1469 and 1470. On both these occasions the men took 12d.
a day. But the next year, when the Lancastrians were ruling and a
war with Burgundy was in prospect, only 6d. a day was given to the
soldiers. Was the Lancastrian cause and war with Burgundy popular then?]

[Footnote 297: The square brackets enclose words which are missing in
the MS. The records were hastily written at the time, and are much
mutilated (_Leet Book_, 358).]

[Footnote 298: Welles, leader of the revolt in Lincolnshire.]

[Footnote 299: Jasper Tudor, half-brother to Henry VI.]

[Footnote 300: Thomas Neville, natural son of Lord Fauconberg.]

[Footnote 301: Query? They landed at Dartmouth and Plymouth.]

[Footnote 302: Hastings.]

[Footnote 303: Burgundy.]

[Footnote 304: Archbishop Neville.]

[Footnote 305: Not quite correct. Henry VI. was taken by the Yorkists,
July 1465. Hence he had only been in prison five years.]

[Footnote 306: S. Paul's.]

[Footnote 307: Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, the "Butcher," beheaded
October 18, at Tower Hill.]

[Footnote 308: Widow, first of the Duke of Bedford, and then of Lord

[Footnote 309: Sanctuary.]

[Footnote 310: _Leet Book_, 362.]

[Footnote 311: _Ib._, 364.]

[Footnote 312: _Leet Book_, 366. 33s. was paid to gunners, to "riders
in the country and watchmen."]

[Footnote 313: Holinshed, iii. 682.]

[Footnote 314: _Leet Book_, 367.]

[Footnote 315: Dugdale, i. 143. In the _Leet Book_ (370-1) there is the
record of a collection evidently made for this fine.]

[Footnote 316: _Leet Book_, 381.]

[Footnote 317: Corp. MS. (Not in Mr. J.C. Jeaffreson's catalogue.) See
also _Leet Book_, 381.]

[Footnote 318: _Leet Book_, 393. It must be remembered that S. George,
according to legend, was born at Coventry. See _Seven Champions_. S.
George's day is April 23. All the characters of the pageant are taken
from the shearmen and tailors' play. See below, chap. xv.]

[Footnote 319: _Leet Book_, 393.]

[Footnote 320: _Ib._, 405.]

[Footnote 321: _Ib._, 407.]

[Footnote 322: Harl. MS. 6,388 f. 23.]

[Footnote 323: _Leet Book_, 409 _sqq._]

[Footnote 324: Ramsay, ii. 535.]

[Footnote 325: Corp. MS. A. 79, i. 8. Written from Burton Monastery,
April 2.]

[Footnote 326: _Leet Book_, 523-4.]

[Footnote 327: Fretton, _Mayors of Coventry_, 12. They presented him
with £100 and a cup.]

[Footnote 328: _Leet Book_, 530-2. It is not quite certain that the
words are to be understood as implying that the citizens fed Richard's

[Footnote 329: Gardiner, _Henry VII._, 53.]

[Footnote 330: Harl. MS. 6,388, f. 24.]

[Footnote 331: _Ib._]

[Footnote 332: Foxe, _Martyrs_ (1823), xxxix.]

[Footnote 333: Harl. MS. 6,388, f. 28. The more probable date is 1519
or 1520. In 1521, the next year, one Robert Silkeb was taken and burnt
for not believing in transubstantiation (_Ib._).]

[Footnote 334: He twice visited the city to see the Corpus Christi
plays (Sharp, _Mysteries_, 5).]

[Footnote 335: Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 17.]

[Footnote 336: Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 20.]

[Footnote 337: S. Paul's.]

[Footnote 338: _Leet Book_, 625-6.]

[Footnote 339: Corp. MS. B. 60.]

[Footnote 340: In Henry VIII.'s reign the woollen manufacture of
Norwich was at a low ebb; the principal cause of this was the
manufacture abroad, which led to the export of the raw material to
Flanders (Burnley, _Hist. of Wool and Wool Combing_, 66-7).]

[Footnote 341: Harl. MS. 6,388, f. 30.]

[Footnote 342: Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 27.]

[Footnote 343: _Ib._, f. 28.]

[Footnote 344: Harl. MS. 6,388, f. 29_a._]

[Footnote 345: _Ib._]

[Footnote 346: Gasquet, _Monasteries_, ii. 427.]

[Footnote 347: _Ib._ ii., 265.]

[Footnote 348: Dugdale, _Warw._ i. 146.]

[Footnote 349: Harl. MS. 6,195, f. 7.]

[Footnote 350: Vol. of correspondence, Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 63.]

[Footnote 351: The schoolmaster's salary was discharged by the Trinity

[Footnote 352: Harl. MS. 6,195, f. 7. See also Ashley, pt. ii. 148. The
church referred to is the now demolished one dedicated to S. Nicholas,
which was supported by the Corpus Christi guild.]

[Footnote 353: Corp. MS. B. 75.]

[Footnote 354: Sharp, _Antiq._, 18.]

[Footnote 355: Burton on Ship Money, Corp. MS. A. 35.]

[Footnote 356: Poole, _Coventry_, 75.]

[Footnote 357: Poole, 80.]

[Footnote 358: Sharp, _Antiq._, 22.]

[Footnote 359: Poole, 359-363.]


_The Lammas Lands_

We have passed the period wherein the men of Coventry rebelled against
their overlord the prior; in the late fourteenth century we enter upon
one marked by internal strife. The law passed under Edward II.,[360]
forbidding victuallers to hold any municipal office was frequently
evaded, and in many towns the great power of this class was a source
of endless trouble. Excitements in the guild-hall when the men, whose
wages were fixed at statute rate, found they would not avail to buy
them proper food, the shouting of angry crowds when the chamberlains at
their Lammas ride refused to pull down fences to admit the freemen's
sheep and cattle as they had done in times past, must have warned
the mayor and his brethren to give heed to their ways. Murmurings
were heard at an early date. In 1370 the customs laid on food for the
purpose of raising money for murage provoked a rising. In 1387 the
townsfolk "cast their loaves at the mayor's head, because the bakers
kept not the assize",[361] neither did the mayor punish them according
to his office, and again and again we hear of risings owing to that
fruitful cause of trouble, the enclosure of the common lands.[362]

[Illustration: Swanswell Gate]

Perhaps the townsmen were more sensitive with regard to the Lammas
lands than on any other point. From time immemorial they had possessed
certain rights over the common and Lammas pastures, which heretofore
surrounded the city. There was still a great belt of these, about
2300 acres in extent in 1835, the commons, no doubt, representing the
ancient manorial waste--Godiva's wood, two miles long and the same
broad--and the Lammas and Michaelmas pastures, the manorial fields
of meadow and arable, which were only free after the hay and corn
harvest had been carried in. Thus, while there was on the common lands
pasture for the cattle the whole year through, the citizens merely
shared with various tenants or freeholders the use of Lammas and
Michaelmas grounds, driving their cattle on them at certain seasons
of the year, namely from Lammas (August 1) or Michaelmas (September
29) to Candlemas (February 2); during the remainder of the year the
fields were in private hands. The extent of the common pastures was
well known, but the peculiar tenure of the Lammas lands made it a more
difficult matter to determine the exact area of pasture, held six
months "in commonalty," and six "in severalty." From time to time angry
disputes arose concerning the boundaries and extent of these lands,
and a series of enclosures, whereof there was such bitter complaint
in Warwickshire in the sixteenth century, did much to diminish the
broad belt of pasture which once engirt the city. Various questions
were, however, set at rest by a settlement in 1860, whereby half of
the Lammas pasture was made over to the various freeholders who had
half-yearly rights over them, and the remaining portion, held in trust
for the freemen, was converted into common land for the whole year
through. To this day there still remain tracts of breezy and often
gorse-grown common at Hearsall, Stivichall, Whitley, Stoke, and Gosford
Green. These and the small triangular patch, once known as Grey Friars'
Green, form considerable relics of the freemen's pastures. Held, as
the common report went, by the commonalty, "afore that any mayor or
bailiff was,"[363] in other words before the incorporation of the
city--these lands could not be alienated from the burghers' use without
their consent.[364] The pastures were, however, frequently enclosed,
openly for municipal purposes,[365] secretly for private gain. In the
latter case there was naturally no word of consulting the burghers, and
although in the former the community gave their consent to the measure,
formally summoned by the mayor, the whole system of enclosures was so
unpopular that it bred riots and endless discontent.

The whole question can be better surveyed by examining the careers of
William Bristowe and Laurence Saunders in so far as they touch the
little commonwealth of the city.

Close by Whitley Bridge is a piece of meadow called Alderford
Piece,[366] which is still held by the owners of Whitley Abbey,
although they have no other land on the Coventry side of the river
Sherborne. Concerning this and sundry other meadows[367] a bitter feud
was waged in Coventry during the fifteenth century between the family
of Bristowe on the one hand, and the mayor, bailiffs, and community of
the city on the other. The account of the struggle, which reveals some
of the most interesting personalities in Coventry history, shows how
tenacious were the memories of the commonalty where the extent of the
Lammas lands was concerned, and how fierce their resentment when these
suffered diminution by encroachment.

There are doubts whether William Bristowe, of Whitley, came of gentle
blood, though he spoke of his manor in those parts, and wrote himself
"gentilman" with the best. His father, John Bristowe, had gained
his livelihood in the city as a draper, and growing in wealth and
influence, became mayor in 1428,[368] and later justice of the peace
and master of the Trinity guild. But he left an ill name behind him,
and his acts of encroachment were fruitful of many troubles both to him
and his descendants.

Thinking maybe to improve his position and step into the ranks of the
country gentry, John purchased an estate at Whitley, a mile or two
south of the city gates. Then began those enclosures of the common
pastures which were hereafter to be remembered against him. Forty
years later the tale of his doings were related by the oldest of his
fellow-townsmen.[369] After "the said John Bristowe had boron office
within the cite of Couentre, thynkyng that the common people of the
seid cite neither durst nor wolde contrarie his doyng ... [he] let
sowe with corne dyuers landes and buttes lying in the seid comyn
grounde of Couentre fastby Whitley Crosse." But the encroachment did
not go unnoticed, nor was the transgressor allowed to have his will.
Whereupon, the aged citizens continued glad to remember the stalwart
resistance made by a bygone generation, ... "the seid people of
Couentre put the hierdlym[370] of bestes of Couentre into the saide
corne and eton hit up as corne sowen on their owen common grounde."
Nevertheless John did not amend his ways, being assured his good
friends, the mayor and corporation, would wink at his misdeeds. But
"inordynatly be the fauor of dyuers then officers of the cite of
Couentre, dyuers tymes, [he] let inclose parte of the forseid common
grounde be diuers parcels, with hegges and dykes, and then aftur dyuers
tymes let heire[371] and sowe dyuers of the same closes be hym so
wrongfully inclosed, entendyng euer azeyns all good consiens for his
singler avayle[372] to approwe hym[373] of parte of the seid common
grounde, so that be suche coutynuance hit myght be called his owne
lande, wher in trouthe he had neuer right, title, nor other possession

But this was not the least of John Bristowe's encroachments. He laid
claim to share with the freemen of Coventry the rights of pasture
on the side of Whitley brook nearest to the city, a claim no lord
of Whitley had heretofore advanced. But he met with a second check.
"Whiche wrong, when the people of Couentre understode hit, they
pynned[374] the bestes of the seid John Bristowe at Couentre. Wheruppon
the same John made amendes for the seid wrong, and never aftur wolde
suffer his cattel occupying at Whitley to passe ouer the seid broke
toward Couentre be his will." But after his death, when his son William
entered into the inheritance, either the relaxation of the citizens'
vigilance or the warm friendliness of men in high places enabled the
new lord of Whitley to drive his tenants' cattle across the brook, the
natural boundary between the pasturage of the folk of the hamlet of
Whitley and the city of Coventry. Moreover the meadows between Baron's
Field and Whitley brook were kept several. The citizens did not,
however, forget these encroachments, though, for many years, custom
sanctioned the double wrong.

The fruit of these evil dealings was seen in the year 1469; a troubled
one for Coventry. The mayor, William Saunders, a dyer, one of a craft
which had often been, and was again often to be, at variance with the
corporation, seems to have had leanings towards the popular side. Wars
and rumours of wars brought some distress upon the city, and the mayor
gave £5 "in relesynge of pore men that shuld have bor her part" towards
defraying the cost "for fifty men to go to York to the king against
Robin of Redesdale," for Warwick's party were rising in rebellion, and
the soldiers, weary of war, demanded the unheard of sum of 10d. a day
as payment. Financial difficulties also beset the corporation. The
ferm, as we have seen, had in the previous year fallen greatly into
arrears; but the trouble concerning the Lammas lands was to dwarf by
comparison all the rest.

It was at this time that William Bristowe by his own deed brought
down upon himself the anger of the corporation. From a house in the
West Orchard he built a wall, which was found to encroach "by a foot
or more" upon the common river; wherefore "it was taken up again."
Indignant at this usage, Bristowe brought an action for trespass in
the county court against the mayor and community. This was an unwise
step on his part, for the corporation at once "remembered," the _Leet
Book_[375] says with unconscious irony, "that he was suffered to
overlay the common betwixt Whitley and Coventry, and had no common
there." In other words, Bristowe had continued to tread in his father's
footsteps. They resolved forthwith that this should not be suffered
to continue. On the eve of S. Andrew, before Sir John Nedam, knight
and justice, they demanded what evidence Bristowe could put forth in
support of his claim; and heard the testimony of "agyt" men concerning
the impounding of his father's cattle in former days when they had been
found in the Coventry pastures. While matters were in debate the other
encroachment of this family was brought forward. Men told one another
how John Bristowe had, by "dyking and hedging," enclosed "divers
parcels" of the common pasture by the water at Whitley, and how the
father and son had kept these meadows several ever since.


For once corporation and "commonalty" were of one mind as regards the
question of the Lammas lands. It was resolved that John Bristowe's work
should be undone. So on the Monday after S. Andrew's day the mayor and
divers citizens--such is the account of the affair Bristowe gave in his
petition to Edward IV. in the following year[376]--"stered, provokyd
and comaundyd mony and dyuers rotys personys ... to the number of vc
(500) personys and mooe ... [who] in manere of warre arrayed, that
is for to say [with] byllys, launcegayes, jakkys, salettys, bowes,
arrowes, and with mottokys and spadeys, sholles and axes," with evil
intent came to Bristowe's fields. Here they went to work, and "caste
down his gatys and his dyches, cutte down his hegeys and his trees ...
and mony grete okeys beyng growyng in the hegeys and dycheys of the
age of c years and more," carrying away wood, clay and gravel, and
"riotously" destroying two "swaneys ereyrs" (nests). The trespassers
would even have pulled down the petitioner's mills had not one of
his servants induced them to desist by meeting them with a certain
money "by way of a fine." And afterwards, Bristowe continued, with a
touch of bitterness at this last indignity, "William Pere, oon of the
aldermen of the same cite, by the commaundment of the seid late mayre
and Richard Braytoft, browght with hym the wayteys of the same cite to
the seid riotours in reresyng[377] of their seid rioteys, and like as
the[y] hade doon a grete conquest or victori, ... made theym pype and
synge before the said riotours all the weye ... to the seid cite, which
ys by space of a myle largele or more." And that day, the petition
goes on yet more bitterly, "these men were in the tavern setting,
avauntyng and reresyng of their gret riotes, saying that if your seid
besecher[378] sueyd any persone ... for that cause by the course of
your laweys, that they wold slee[379] hym." In this manner, with
tossing of tankards and playing of pipes, the meadows and arable lands
at Whitley were thrown open to the community at S. Andrew's tide in the
year of grace 1469.

William Saunders, the mayor, found the commonalty apt pupils in
learning to resent old encroachments; but the pupils soon grew too
strong for the master's hand. A fresh trouble arose after Bristowe's
claims had been disposed of. The Prior's Waste was held by the
convent, but the community was possessed of a somewhat doubtful title
to the pasturage of the same. On S. Nicholas' day the people broke
out into open riot, threw down hedges round about the Waste and those
of other gardens belonging to the convent. The prior professed to be
"greatly aggrieved," and proposed to "trouble" the city no doubt with
a lawsuit.[380] But the mayor, perceiving perhaps that the matter was
one of great difficulty, entreated him to come to terms, and finally
granted him as compensation the Waste and a piece of land without the
New Gate "to be kept several for evermore," These enclosures were the
beginning of troubles. A body of 216 men had approved of this measure,
but they were, very likely, selected with a special view to obtaining
this approval, as the names of sixty-five of them can be identified
with those of past or future municipal officers. At least the common
people did not approve of the step. They refused to relinquish their
ancient rights over the Prior's Waste and the close by the New Gate,
though the leet forbade them to break open the meadows reserved for the
prior's use.[381]

But Bristowe did not tamely endure to be cut off from his supposed
inheritance. The following year he appealed to the privy council to
redress his wrongs; and Saunders, the late mayor, Pere, and another
citizen who had been prominent in the affair of the preceding year,
were summoned before the council to answer for the matters laid to
their charge.

The late mayor and his assistants scornfully denied the bulk of
Bristowe's accusation. Whitley, they averred, was no "manor," and
claims such as its present owner put forward had been formerly unknown.
They gently ridiculed the complaint of the damage wrought among the
"gret okes," whereof none, they declared, were more than twenty years
old, the value of the whole timber being but 6s. 8d.; but they were
fain to admit the felling of twelve _small_ trees, as well as of
breaking hedges, and carrying away sundry loads of clay and gravel. But
it was not on Bristowe's land, they declared, that these trespasses
had been done. The land he asserted to be part of his inheritance was
in reality the property of the community, and in the time of Lawrence
Cook (he had succeeded Bristowe's father in the mayoralty in 1429) the
corporation had held these meadows in the community's name. And this
possession dated back to the days before the city's incorporation. "The
commonalty of the same city, afore that any mayor or baliff was, were
seized thereof in their demesne as of fee, time that no man's mind is
to the contrary."

Bristowe's second statement, or "replicacion," and Saunders'
"rejoinder," were a mere tissue of mutual contradiction, and the
King deputed the Prior of Maxstoke, Sir Richard Byngham, and Thomas
Littleton, to inquire into the business, and "make a return under their
conclusions respecting the same, in the quindene of S. Michael next
coming."[382] What the end of these worthy persons' inquisition was we
have no means of knowing. The matter, however, dragged on, with various
appeals to justice, until April 1472.

In that year the corporation made a great effort to end the dispute.
A large gathering--"these," says the _Leet Book_, giving about 120
names,[383] "and of other many moo"--assembled in S. Mary's Hall at
the mayor's bidding; and being asked "how they wold be demened in that
behalf," answered and said, "they wode abyde with the mair and his
bredern to the utmost of herr goodes" in the matter; "and as the mair
and his cownsaill did in the mater [would] agree thereto." Fortified by
this support, the mayor and his council proceeded to seek for means of
closing the quarrel by arbitration. On the Wednesday in Whitsunweek the
two sheriffs offered to treat on Bristowe's behalf, their labour being
undertaken, they confessed, "thorow the speceal meanes and lamentable
instaunce of the wyffe of the seid William Bristowe."[384] The mayor
and council, "in order that it might not be said that they had refused
a reasonable offer," ordered that bills, "endented and ensealed,"
should be made, setting forth the matter at variance, both parties
agreeing to abide by the decision of John Catesby, sergeant-at-law,
and William Cumberford. Moreover, a representative of the mayor and
community was to be chosen to ride to London and lay the matter before
the arbitrators.[385]

As there were, of course, no deeds existing testifying to the rights of
the community in this case, measures were taken to prepare documents.
"And on the Monday next after the blessed Trinity Sunday"[386] the
common lands were viewed by certain great men of the neighbourhood,
the Abbots of Kenilworth, Combe, Stoneley, and Merevale, Sir Simon
Mountford of Coleshill, Sir Robert Strelley, and William Hugford of
Emscote. These, then, had an "examination" of certain of the oldest men
of the city. "The whyche old men all and everych of them by himself
deposed and swar openly uppon a boke" that the land in question was
"common to the commonalty."[387] There was then a "letter testimonial"
made to this effect, to which all the worshipful men and these great
folk affixed their seals.

The thirty old men--their ages ranged from forty years "and more" to
fourscore[388]--were much impressed with the solemnity of the occasion.
"In alsmoche," their "letter testimonial" runs, "as for oure gret
ages be liklyhode wee may not long abyde in this erthely lyfe, and we
knowe verely that hit is medefull to our soweles to witnesse thynges
that be true and in oure knowlech, callyng to our remembraunce the
unlawefull and wilfull troble whiche William Bristowe dothe azeyns the
maire and commonalte of Couentre, claymyng the common ground that lieth
betwyxt Baronsfelde[389] withoute the Newe Yate under the kynges park,
stretchyng to Whitleybroke, called Shirburne," they affirmed that his
claim was contrary to old custom, and "open wrong." They told also the
tale of John Bristowe's offences in enclosing and sending his cattle
upon the pastures.

"And sithen the deth of the seid John Bristowe ... the same William
Bristowe, willyng be his power to contynue the forseid wrong done be
his seid ffadir, wrongfully put into the same closez, and the forseid
other common grounde residue, dyuers bestes of his ffermors of Whitley,
seying presumptuously that he and his tennantez of Whitley wolden
haue comyn for their bestes at Whitley withoute nombre" in all places
upon the said common ground. Whereas this land, on the contrary, had
formerly been occupied by the commonalty of Coventry "yearly" at their
pleasure to make their "shutynges, rennynges, daunsynges, bowelyng
aleyes, and other their disportez as in their owne ground. And these
matiers," the record concludes, "be us also declared ben iuste and
true, so help us God at the day of Dome."

No records remain to tell us what was the ultimate decision at which
the arbitrators, Catesby and Cumberford, arrived. In the July of the
next year another set of arbitrators were at work, either party of
litigants being bound in an obligation of 100 marks to abide by their
decision. According to this verdict Bristowe was allowed to retain
possession of the enclosed parts, but the mayor and community were
to have "common for beasts from Lammas to Candlemas in the said land
if it were fallow, and if it be sown as soon as the corn is carried
away," while Bristowe and his heirs were allowed to common with the
inhabitants of Coventry on the lands between his estate and the

It is very probable that the good folk of the city were ill-pleased
with this decision, which was of the nature of a compromise; for
although they were allowed, as of old, the use of the fields during
the autumn and winter months, yet they must, according to the terms of
the arbitration, admit Bristowe's cattle to a share in their pastures.
And the large flocks, which he kept together with those of the prior,
and another grazier, devoured, they said to one another, the pasture
which of right belonged to their geldings and cattle. It appears that
attempts had been made to break up the Prior's Waste and the close by
the New Gate, for the leet fixed the penalty of those who should offend
in this manner at forty shillings.[391] Men of long memories must have
pointed out to the anxious crowds at Lammas these encroachments on the
land of the community. "The people come at the opening and overseeing
of the common," runs an order of leet for the year 1474, "in excess
number and unruly to full ill example." And it was ordained that on
this day none should accompany the chamberlains, when they rode out
into the fields about the city to throw open the common lands, but
those to whom permission had been previously given.[392]

But those whose minds dwelt on these abuses of encroachment and
surcharging with others permitted by the corporation found a spokesman
and chief of their party in the dyer, Laurence Saunders. To judge from
the position of Laurence and his friends, the heads of this party were
men of good standing in the town and well-to-do. They could count among
their number brethren of the guild, and men "of substance" sufficient
to admit of their filling the lower municipal offices, the warden's
post or the chamberlain's. These men had grievances other than the
surcharging or enclosing of the common pasture--questions to which
Laurence's formal petitions are wholly devoted: their trade was shorn
of its profits. In complaints coming from Laurence's followers, we
are told that the rulers of the city "picked away the thrift" of the
"commonalty"; and reference is made to certain unpopular acts of leet
touching the citizens, not only as sharers of the common pasture, but
also as makers, buyers, and sellers--in short, as craftsmen.

William Saunders, the father of Laurence, had been mayor in the year
the Prior's Waste was enclosed. He must have been a wealthy citizen
to rise to the mayor's degree. Since 1434 the family had lived in
Spon Street,[393] a convenient neighbourhood for those of the dyer's
occupation, as the river flowed near. If he had been of a submissive
temper, in all likelihood Laurence would have risen to high places, as
his father had done. Owing perhaps to William Saunders's influence,
early in life the son once gave his adherence to the municipality,
in so far as, when the question of enclosing the Waste was brought
forward, his name appears among the two hundred and sixteen who
consented to the measures which, on looking back eleven years later,
he unreservedly condemned. It was in 1480 that he was chosen to fill
the post of chamberlain or treasurer, and probably from that time, as
a member of both the guilds, or as a late municipal officer, he was
on the roll of those liable to be summoned by the mayor to attend the
council.[394] The chamberlainship was an irksome post. The officers
were overseers of the common pasture, and took fines from the owners
of strayed cattle. They received the murage dues, which were devoted
to repairing the walls and city buildings, giving in an account of the
outlay at the end of the year. The murage money was continually running
short about this time, as the prior could not be induced to pay his
share, and the chamberlains were frequently called upon to make up the

The corporation quickly found they had reason to repent of their
choice. Laurence was a "masterful" man; "where he is subject and
servant he would subdue us all if he might get assistance," the mayor
complains in a letter written this year to the Prince of Wales. The
_Leet Book_ gives a specimen of the new officer's insubordination.[396]
It appears that labourers had been set to quarry for stone required for
repairing the town wall. At the end of the week the two chamberlains,
Saunders and his fellow, William Hede, refused, contrary to custom, to
give them their wages, Laurence saying "presumptously" to the mayor
that "those that set them awork shuld pay for him." The two officers
were there and then committed to prison, where they lay for a week. In
the end the petitions of their friends obtained a release. Both were,
however, bound in £40 to abide by the decision of the mayor and council
as to their punishment. The mayor and council fixed upon a fine of £10,
and of this they afterwards gave back £6 to the two chamberlains, a
piece of liberality which shows that the town rulers knew their cause
was weak, or thought it impolitic to push Saunders to extremities while
such a strong feeling in his favour existed throughout the city.

Matters did not improve as time went on. The _Leet Book_ relates how
Laurence, in spite of the forbearance shown towards him, was "wilfully
disposed" against both the mayor and "common people," distraining their
cattle and taking "excess" fines for the pound. When summoned before
the mayor to "see direction," according to custom, he "many times
grudged so to do, and in manner at all times disdained to be led by the
said mayor." Finally, on September 20, having obtained licence to leave
the city on the plea of business at Southampton, he turned his horse's
head in the direction of Ludlow and rode thither, bearing in his hands
a petition addressed to the Prince of Wales, who, as Duke of Cornwall,
was the lord and special protector of the city. The prince, a child of
ten years old, kept his court at Ludlow Castle, at that time under the
guardianship of his uncle, the Earl Rivers.


It is very evident that this account of the first falling-out between
the chamberlains and the corporation does not go to the root of the
matter. Laurence's conduct is more explicable when we turn to the
version he gives of the affair in the "Petition of the chamberlains
and citizens of Coventry,"[397] for in this document, which he
tendered to the prince's council, his finger can be distinctly traced.
According to this petition, there were two grievances under which the
community then laboured. In the first place the prior, the recorder,
Bristowe, and others, withheld from them half of the common lands;
in the second, a favoured few "maintained" by the recorder and the
mayor, "surcharged" the pasture with what number of sheep they chose,
while the common folk of the city were not allowed to go beyond their
"stint," the number laid down by the authorities. In a city where there
was much clothmaking, and wool greatly in request, there was naturally
a good deal of scope for the grazier, and no doubt the men of this
calling had come to an understanding with the municipality. The
chamberlains' duty, however, was perfectly clear. They were enjoined by
an order of leet, passed only nine years before, to drive the flocks
of those who surcharged the commons to the pound, and take distress
from the owners until they should pay the customary fine.[398] This
order they accordingly fulfilled, but whether they really asked for
what the municipal version calls an "excess" fine there is no means of
discovering. But the mayor desired that they should be ruled by his
likings and accordingly tried the persuasion of a week's imprisonment.
Finding that after their release the chamberlains still persisted in
this course, he again and again delivered up the sheep and remitted
the fine. Whenever this was done the officers sustained the loss of
several shillings, for the charge for every score was fourpence, and
there is mention of nine and ten score, and even of 300 sheep driven
into the pound. It would seem that in all these matters the mayor
was but the tool of the recorder, Harry Boteler, or Butler, who had
succeeded to the recordership in 1456, in the room of Thomas Littleton,
of famous memory. It was Boteler who, according to the petition, kept
Saunders and Hede in prison over the day of the Easter leet, and "wolde
in no wyse suffre" them "to speke a worde for the said comown." He,
too, urged on them the signing of the recognisance in £40 "to obbeye
the meirs commandements" about the pinfold charges, although the
chamberlains "grudged" to do so, "in so moche as they were solemply
sworen to the contrarie." And from this bond he would not release them,
he cried a month later, "for the best pece of scarlet in England." As
for the prior's sheep, though four hundred of them were grazing on the
common, "contrarie to old custom," the recorder would not suffer them
to be pinned, because the prior, forsooth, was "lord of the soil." And
when the chamberlains asked that the closes which the prior kept in
severalty might be thrown open at Lammas, it was Boteler who refused,
alleging the "composition" made between the prior and the community "in
the time of William Saunders beying meir."[399]

"Wher it ought to be comen as all the body of the city knowen; in that
the forseid Laurens, on of the said Chamberleins, grugged (grudged)
insomoche as the seid mair, decessed, was his fadir and myght not
answer for hymself, but said 'that he trusted in God to see hit comen

Then the recorder burst forth:

"That he wold make the seid Chamberlein to curse the tyme that ever he
sigh hym and wolde make him to wepe water with his yen,[400] and for
to be revenged vppon hym he saide he wolde ryde to complayne vppon him
unto our soveraign lorde the Kyng."

The petition ends with a list of the fields enclosed by the prior, the
Trinity guild, and others of the city.

It is clear from the recorder's speech that there was expectation of
battle toward, and Boteler had no mind to give quarter. Meanwhile
Laurence, by his appeal to the prince's council, had stolen a march
upon his enemies. A letter, dated September 30, 1480, required that
some discreet persons of the city council should ride to Ludlow,
bearing a copy of the chamberlain's oath, in order that the prince's
council might compose "a variance between certain people of the city
about a common pasture." This letter revealed to the corporation the
chamberlain's secret mission. "We, your humble and true servants here,"
the mayor and his brethren wrote in reply, "know no variance betwixt
any person here for any common pasture but that we among ourselves,
by the grace of God, shall amicably and righteously settle." They
begged that Saunders' words might not be "printed in the prince's
remembrance," and hoped to have license to punish this troublesome
citizen, inasmuch as he would raise up "commotions among the people,"
and by this means discourage "other misruled to presumptuously attempt
such things herafter." As the prince still insisted that the suit
should be heard at Ludlow, eighteen "worshipful" men, chosen by the
common council, set forth on the journey. Among them were numbered the
recorder, lately recovered from sickness; the master of the Trinity
Guild; John Boteler, town clerk, presumably a son of the recorder;
and William Hede, the chamberlain, Laurence's fair-weather friend,
who had betimes humbly submitted to the corporation. The wardens, to
whom the paying of extraordinary expenses fell, went with the party
to pay for the cost of the journey. There was a goodly following
of servants, bringing up the number to forty-four persons in all,
for the worshipful folk travelled luxuriously, and to secure their
comfort a cook and a harbinger were of the company. The cost of the
journey--amounting to £15, 11s. 11d.--was afterwards, by decree of
the mayor and council, discharged by Laurence Saunders. There is
nothing related of the proceedings of the case, save that the decision
was against Laurence. The _Leet Book_ says, as openly was proved,
he intended no "reformacion, ... but feyned matiers to th' entent
to have be venged for the due punysshement yeven to him for his
obstinacy."[401] So he came home to receive "correction," and in his
company there came a gentleman of the prince's council to see that he
fulfilled all the commands laid upon him. There was nothing for it
now but to bow before the storm. In the presence of the mayor, the
council, and divers "commons" assembled in S. Mary's Hall, Laurence, it
is said, knelt down and besought the mayor's forgiveness, acknowledging
his wrong-doing. He was then committed to ward. After a little time
his friends' intercession prevailed, and he was allowed to leave the
prison, being bound in £500 to appear at the next quarter sessions. The
bond, too--for the corporation were little inclined to allow further
complaints to royalty--was to be renewed "till content wer' had" of his
"sadde demeasnyng."

But though Saunders had been effectually silenced, the strife he had
kindled raged on. Bristowe and the prior, whose transgressions in the
matter of surcharging were revealed in Laurence's complaint, were
both ready to pour forth counter-claims and accusations against the
corporation in the hearing of the prince's council, at the time when
Saunders' case was still under discussion. Prior Deram being advised
to present his grievances in writing to the mayor and his brethren,
tendered, on November 16, 1480, an exhaustive list of them,[402] which
list the corporation hardly received in a befittingly serious spirit.

Although in the prior's complaint the matter of surcharging is kept
somewhat in the background, there can be little doubt that here the
real grievance lay. The mayor and his friends had been perhaps very
lenient to the convent in this particular until Laurence's petition to
the prince had aroused their scruples, and they may have been forced to
revive old regulations concerning the "stint." When the prior argued
that as "lord of the soil" he was not "admeasurable," but able to drive
on to the pasture what number of cattle he chose, the mayor and his
brethren feigned blank ignorance. They did not know, they declared,
that the prior was "lord of the soil,"[403] but were of opinion that
his action would be "disseizin of the common."[404] They even tried
to shield Laurence Saunders when the prior alleged that his "slanders"
were a source of great annoyance to the convent. He had been examined,
they affirmed, and declared he never "noised" such lands as were held
by the monks to be common, but those he had believed were so according
to "the black book of the city"; but if Laurence had offended, they
continued, he would be pleased to abide by what the mayor and prior
chose to command him.

There was another memory that rankled with the monks--the tumult on
S. Nicholas' day, 1469, and the subsequent action of William Saunders
to prevent the prior from "troubling" the city with a lawsuit. His
gardens, Deram indignantly reminded them, and his woods at Whitmoor,
had been broken into at that date; and he was not allowed to sue the
misdoers at law. Again he was met by a front of stolid ignorance. The
mayor and community remembered no such breaking, or any hindrance to
the prior's suit, which he was at liberty to pursue. Grievances Deram
had to pour forth in plenty. The town wall was built on his land, he
complained, though his payment of £10 for murage, of pure good will,
for repairing the town wall outside his ground entitled him to some
consideration in this matter. The folk of the city gave him hourly
torment. They broke down his underwood, birches, holly, and hawthorn
in Whitmoor Park, and carried them away; they trod under foot his
grass and his corn, damaged his hedges "at their shooting called
roving, to his hurt a hundred shillings"; they washed in Swanswell
pool, and fished in his ponds "by night and by day," and made his
orchard and several grounds a sporting place with shooting and other
games, and when "they been challenged by his sergeants they gyven
hem short langage, seying that they will have hit their sportyng
place." The churchwardens lopped off the boughs of the trees in S.
Michael's churchyard, and all manner of filth was deposited in the
convent ground, "so that the prior may not have his carriage through
his orchard"; while by reason of the refuse swept into the river his
mill was "letted to go," and himself and his brethren sorely hurt
and discomfited by the stench. At divers times the prior had put up
bills against the offenders "in certen sessions, but," he concluded
resentfully, "thei ben so supported within this citie and the enquestes
so favourable to hem that no reformacion nor punysshement hath ben don."

The mayor and community[405] assured the prior in return that they were
most anxious to maintain a friendly understanding with the convent.
The authorities of the city, they said, "maken dayly als gret diligens
as they can to knowe the stoppers of the seid common ryver, and when
eny be perceyved, they ben punysshed after their deserve." As to the
breaking of the underwood, every year masters of the crafts, by the
command of the mayor, enjoined the members to refrain from this "in
eschewyng the doughtfull censures of the Church," and also temporal
punishment. But the prior was reminded how "the people of every gret
cite as London ... yerely in somer doon harme to divers lords and
gentyles hauyng wods and groves nygh to such citees ... and yit the
lords and gentils suffren sych dedes ofte tymes of their goode will."
And if the town wall ran on the prior's land--as it did on other
freehold within the city--the convent owed their security to these
fortifications, and ought of right to contribute to their erection and
repair, "because their lyffeloode within this citie, and their proper
Churche may rest in surte be measne of the seid murage." The lopping
of trees in the churchyard they laid to the charge of the vicar; while
as for the fish in Swanswell pool, they profited by the washing there,
and thereby grew "the fatter!" Let the prior, the mayor continued, send
in the names of the shooters, trespassers, and the like, and bring
an action against them; and take proceedings against the casters of
refuse--for they were his own tenants--in his own court leet.

The prior fumed at the audacity of this reply, and still more at the
delay in returning it, for more than six weeks had elapsed since his
bill of complaint had been issued. His rejoinder[406] was drawn up in
two days, a briefer space. The mayor had besought him (not without
hypocrisy, to Deram's mind) "that he would be as good to the common
weal as his predecessors had been," so that "love ... betwixt" him and
the city might "continue and dayly better increce"; but he distrusted
these professions of peace. "And whereas," he said, "the meire and his
brethren prayen hertly to the prior and his convent lovyngly to accept
their answeres made to their compleynts, thei think it is (in them) no
lovyng desire." "His greves," he reminded them, had been presented in
writing "the xvi day of November last past ... to the which the iide
day of Januar next followyng" they had returned answer: "by the which
I and my bredern," the good man went on, lapsing into the first person
in the heat and hurry of his sentences, "thinke is no thyng accordyng
for reformacion, but delayes; wherefore I and they desyre and prey
you to have us excused of further communicacion.... For we trust to
God in [that] our compleynts ben no feyned matiers, but such as shall
be proved be credible proves in writyng." "And for your answeres," he
added with a touch of irony, "ye have taken longe leysar to conceyve,
suasyous-like (persuasive) as it appereth," they would have none of it,
"but we trust to haue oder remedye wher trowthe shalbe knowen."

How strangely this dispute sounds in our ears, with its childish
display of offended dignity on one side, and half-soothing,
half-taunting tone on the other! But the petulant old prior did not
long add to the difficulties of the corporation. When John Boteler,
the untiring steward, went to London in the following Lent to find out
what course the convent meant to pursue with regard to the suit at law
between them and the city, he learnt that the enemy was dead.[407] But
though the article about surcharging and the minor questions sank into
insignificance the dispute about the murage continued for many years,
the convent still refusing to pay the tax. At last, in 1498, the matter
was set at rest by the bishop's arbitration, the prior paying the
annual tax, upon condition that he should in future be made privy to
the chamberlains' accounts, in so far as they related to murage.[408]

But though the prior was dead, and Laurence for the moment quiet, the
troubles and litigations in which the corporation was involved were by
no means past. On Lammas day, 1481, Bristowe, contrary to the tenor of
previous arbitration, refused to allow the chamberlains to enter and
throw open his field at Whitley, threatening, if they did so, to sue
them for trespass. Immediately the recorder, town-clerk, and others
rode to Worcester to lay the matter before the prince's council.[409]
There it was decided that until the prince could appear to adjust
the rival claims neither party should enjoy the use of this meadow.
Two experts came[410] by order of the prince's council to examine
documents, but Bristowe's were not ready, and after a repetition of
the old practice of consulting the oldest inhabitants, the decision was
postponed. But the common people could not afford to wait the law's
delays. After the departure of the lords of the prince's council, says
the _Leet Book_, "divers evell disposed persons in gret nombre of their
frowardnesse went to the seid grounde and ther cast down heggs and
dikes." Harry Boteler, the recorder, always active when trouble came,
went out and bade them "leave off their frowardness." All went back to
their work save one, John Tyler, who gave the recorder "froward and
unfitting language," and was committed to prison. A riot took place on
the Trinity guild feast day, the Decollation of S. John the Baptist,
the rioters rang the common bell, and made an attempt to rescue Tyler.
Until, the writer of the _Leet Book_ says with evident relief, "loued
(praised) be God, the meir and dyvers of his brethern came among them
and sessed them," Tyler being delivered to the citizens under surety
for that time.[411]

The news of the riot was not long in reaching the ears of the King. He
wrote in great wrath, straitly charging the mayor and his brethren,
as they would avoid "his high displesur" and "entende to enjoye the
fraunches and liberties of the seid cite," to show no favour to the
rioters, and to inform "our derrest son," the prince, of the whole
proceeding. The mayor and his brethren were in an extremity of terror,
remembering the King's high actions and the confiscation of ten years
back after Barnet Field. They sent a letter to the prince at Woodstock
by the hand of their steward, beseeching him to be a "gracious mean"
for them with his royal father, promising speedily to punish the
offenders already "endited for riot and trespass." Meanwhile, they laid
the cause of the riot at the door of the real offender. "The common
peopull her in gret noumbre," they alleged, "thynken that all the
defalt is caused be William Bristowe," who had not kept his promise
made to the lords of the prince's council with regard to the meadow,
nor removed "the bestes of estraunge persones occupeyng in his name
the seid common."[412] Of Bristowe and his lengthy suit they were well
weary. "The people understondon," the mayor writes hopelessly, "that be
his longe defferyngs, cautels, vexacions and troubles, he wold never
have conclucion, but find measne of trouble and vexacion to hurt and
disheryte the pore commons her of their rightfull common," which he
will do, except the prince aid.

Edward IV. was not altogether satisfied with this humble submission.
He complained of conventicles that were not suppressed, and evil-doers
unpunished, "diuers of yowe in maner supposyng them to be supported
and fauored be persones hauying rule in our seid cite."[413] Two of
the rioters were ordered to be sent to the King at Woodstock, to be
delivered up to Lord Rivers for imprisonment at Ludlow.[414] One of
the two was immediately arrested; another "withdrew himself," but
afterwards, as it seems, of his own free will, went off to Ludlow to
share the imprisonment of his companion. They were released on the
following Easter, and returned to the city.

But this rising had at least the effect of precipitating matters with
regard to Bristowe. He appears to have desired the whole affair to be
settled according to common law; but as the community had no evidence
to support their claims, save the testimony of the aged men of the
place, they were most anxious to have the affair arranged "according to
composition."[415] For five weeks the master of the Trinity guild and
John Boteler, the steward,[416] lingered in London about the business,
and even undertook a journey to Southampton, where the King, being
informed of Bristowe's "wilfulness," seems to have inclined favourably
towards the cause of the citizens. In the August of the following
year their stubborn antagonist gave way and consented to abide by the
arbitration of the Prince of Wales. Boteler accordingly hurried off
to Ludlow, and a final decision was arrived at in favour, we suppose,
of the community; but although such ample details concerning this
thirteen-year old dispute are laid before us, nothing is said of the
final result.

But although this matter was decided, nothing was done with regard to
the other enclosures, and Laurence Saunders became unquiet. He drew up
a second list of the meadows that were withheld from the community,
and laid it before the mayor and council.[417] It is noteworthy that
"Mr" Onley, a member of one of the oldest merchant families within the
city, figures in the list as the holder of a "field called Ashmore."
The council condescended to explain how and when the enclosures had
been made. The _Leet Book_ says "they made him privy to the evidence
of the city in that behalf." But when Laurence desired a copy of
these records to show to "certain people of the city"--old men of
his party, no doubt, whose memories reached to bygone times--it was
indignantly refused him. The mayor and council would never stoop so low
as to furnish all chance comers with the means of cavilling at their
proceedings! Then Laurence Saunders burst forth into "untoward" speech,
asking to be released from his bond (the £500?), and showing he would
not "otherwise be ruled than after his own will." The matter was shown
to the lords of the prince's council, then tarrying in Coventry. By
their advice Laurence was committed to the "porter's ward" the Saturday
before All-Hallows'; and when, after a week had passed, and he was
released "at the great instance" of his friends, it was not without an
admonition. The lords told him this was the second time "he had ben in
warde for his disobeysaunce and for commocions made among the pepull;
they bad hym be war, for yf he cam the IIIde tyme in warde for such
matiers, hit shulde cost hym his hedde." The warning was not without
its effect. Laurence, for the second time, made a full submission, and
also signed a "statute merchant," this time in £200, undertaking that
he would be "of good bearing to the mayor and his successors ... for
ever"; and four craftsmen, who dwelt near him in Spon Street,[418] were
responsible for his conduct in half this sum. Of the fine of £10, which
they exacted from him, half was in course of time to be given back, if
his submissive temper showed signs of lasting. It might well be thought
he would not again question the high ways of the corporation, for by so
doing he might involve his friends in ruin.[419]

For twelve years there is no record that Saunders ever troubled the
peace of men in high places. During this interval death removed his
great enemy, the old recorder; and royal favour--for Henry VII. was
ever prudent in such matters--gained the vacant post for Richard
Empson. In 1484, three years before his death, Boteler was overtaken
by a great disgrace. He magnified his own office at the mayor's
expense;[420] and, as a punishment, the Forty-eight--with Laurence for
the first time on record sitting among the number--decreed that on
all public occasions he should not immediately follow the mayor, but
should give precedence to the master of the Trinity guild.[421] It may
be that this blow broke the old man's proud spirit. He became "of so
gret febulness" that the men of the city, fearing that "any casualte of
disease by God's visitation [might] come unto him," began to take into
consideration the claims of possible recorders. Boteler, however, kept
the post until his death, when the King, hearing how "it had pleased
our blessed Creatur to calle late from this vncertain and transorite
lif unto his great and inestimable mercy"[422] the old recorder, wrote
to inquire concerning the candidates for the vacant post.

There are signs that about this time Laurence was looked upon with more
favour by those in power.[423] In 1494, however, a change of policy,
owing perhaps to the influence of the mayor, a grocer, named Robert
Green, caused him to take up his old position. In those days the matter
of enclosures was but one among many sources of trouble. In the first
place, in that same year, the corporation, perhaps suddenly roused to
the doings of the various crafts, thought that they had enjoyed in the
past few years more liberty than they were disposed to allow. They
turned their attention to the pewterers' and tanners' fellowships.[424]
Complaint being made concerning "discevable" pewterers' ware, the leet
ordained,--that all such as "maken and medle metailles within this
cite, as vessels of brasse, peauter and laten," should sell true goods,
"medled be due proporcion," and to such merchants as had served an
apprenticeship to the craft. Furthermore, the master of the fellowship
received orders to seize any faulty vessels and bring them before the
mayor and council; the maker, in the event of the charge being proved,
was condemned to forfeit the sum of twenty shillings. Then the tanners
felt the effects of the energy of the leet. Certain of the craft were
wont to buy raw hides "in grete," with the intention, no doubt of
selling them at a profit. This practice the court forbade, under pain
of a forty-shilling fine, to be taken from buyer and seller alike.
The irritation these ordinances called forth among certain members
of these fellowships can be illustrated from the records of the leet
held the following year. It was then enacted that John Duddesbury,
a tanner,[425] and John Smith, a pewterer, for their repeated
ill-behaviour to "men of worship," were to be put "under surety from
session to session,"[426] until their submissive behaviour should
content the justices of the peace.

A highly unpopular measure was the work of the mayor himself. This
ordinance looks simple enough, but there is possibly a deeper meaning
underlying it. Before his indentures were made, every apprentice
was ordered to pay twelve pence towards the common funds, have his
name entered in a book prepared for the purpose by the town clerk,
and "swear to the franchises" of the city.[427] The apprentices'
friends might feel aggrieved at this new exaction; it is less easy
to understand why the masters were inclined to resist the measure.
That they were so inclined is shown by an order made some six months
afterwards to the effect that those who still received apprentices
contrary to the ordinance, and continued stubborn, were to be
committed to ward and _find surety that they would in future obey all
ordinances of leet_.[428] The corporation had some motive in binding
the apprentices by a solemn oath and enrolling them in this methodical
fashion; they evidently wished to keep a tight hold on them for some
particular purpose. For a hundred years Coventry had been celebrated
for clothmaking, and the sellers of cloth had been the richest men in
the city, and members of their fellowship more frequently in office
than those of any other occupation.[429] It was important that the
merchants and drapers--and of these the corporation was chiefly
composed--should be able to keep the _makers_ of cloth, weavers and
fullers, well under control; and in attempting this, quarrels may well
have arisen. The merchants, thinking they would again arise, determined
to weaken the master-makers of cloth by keeping this tight hold over
the apprentices, and making them responsible to the corporation.

Certain practices, in all probability lately revived under this mayor
or his successor, were particularly detested by the citizens concerned
in clothmaking. Coventry was a great centre for the weaver's industry.
For a long time past, in accordance with orders of leet, cloth had been
sold on market days in the "Drapery," in S. Michael's churchyard, a
house of which the Trinity guild had been possessed for the last 130
years.[430] There was a second selling place, the porch of S. Michael's
church, which lay a few yards from the Drapery door. This had been
in all probability the traditional sale ground for cloth before the
Drapery was fixed on and passed into the possession of the guild. In
the church porch the payment of stallage might be avoided, and it may
be the makers did not fear for their workmanship the strict supervision
of the craft of drapers. In 1455 the sale of cloth in the porch was
forbidden by the leet;[431] yet no doubt, in spite of pains and
penalties, the weavers or makers still drove their bargains, whenever
it was possible, outside the walls of the Drapery. But the municipality
resolved that the orders of leet should no longer be set at nought;
cloth must henceforward be sold in the Drapery,[432] and not elsewhere.

There was also a fixed place for the weighing and sale of wool, called
the Wool-hall, adjoining the Drapery, and likewise the property of the
guild.[433] The trade in wool was, no doubt, chiefly in the hands of
the wealthy merchants, many of whom were "of the Staple of Calais."
The wardens also overlooked the weighing, and took from the owners
certain dues "for the profit of the town."[434] These dues must have
increased the price of wool, so that the weavers or clothmakers--or
whatever body of men purchased the wool for manufacture in the first
instance[435]--suffered by reason of such a regulation, and poor
householders who bought the wool to weave for their own use were in
like case. The enforcement of this order[436] and the consequent
collection of dues were bitterly resented, and the citizens, reminded
of the traditional "toll freedom" of their market, cried that the city
that had been free was now in bondage.

 "Dame goode Eve[437] made hit fre,
 & now the custom for wol & the draperie."

But before Green's year of mayoralty was past, the corporation found
that they would still have to reckon with Laurence Saunders. It was
on Lammas day, 1494, in the presence--so the mayor and council were
"credibly informed"--of forty persons, that he spoke these words:
"Sirs, her me! we shall never have our rights till we have striken
of the heads of III or IIII of thes Churles heds that rulen us, and
if thereafter hit be asked who did that dede, hit shalbe seid, me
and they, and they and me." "He shuld constreyn," Laurence went on,
"William Boteler to drive his Cart laden with Ots into the Croschepyng,
and ther to unlade the seid cart." Now, William Boteler was probably
either a forestaller and regrater, who intercepted, in defiance of
all manner of ordinances to the contrary, the grain intended to be
sold openly in the market, or he had encroached upon the common land.
Laurence, it appears, fulfilled his threat, and cried out to the crowd
assembled in the Cross Cheaping or market place: "Come, Sirs, and take
the corn who so wyll, as your owne."[438] The whole proceeding utterly
scandalised the mayor and his worshipful brethren. On the "Wednesday
after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross" they committed Laurence to
prison, and fixed his fine at £40. For months he lay there, while two
friends, whose names were Alexander Horsley and Robert Barlow,[439]
were surety for the payment of this great sum. But this amount meant
ruin, and drove Laurence's party to fury. The mayor and council had
treated a fellow-citizen no better than one of those hated Scots. And
this was not enough. They also bound over this sower of strife "to
good bearing," and the next year, whether for the sake of old offences
or for the commission of new ones, wiped out his name from among the
number of the rulers of the city. Laurence Saunders was "discharged,"
the order ran, "from the mayor's council, the common council, and all
other councils ... taken and kept within this city for the welfare of
the same," and forbidden under the penalty of £40 ever to ride out with
the chamberlains on Lammas day.[440]

It was an old custom in Coventry to nail up all announcements, which
for obvious reasons no crier would consent to proclaim, on the church
door, where all might read them. It was in this manner that friar
John Bredon, on the occasion of a dispute between his order and the
monks, some forty years back, appealed to the citizens to throw off the
dominion of the prior, as "the thraldom of Pharaoh." So within eight
days after Lammas, 1495, some unknown rhymester of the "commonalty"
nailed up some verses of his making on the north door of S. Michael's
church; forgetting in them neither the oppressive acts which had been
lately passed nor the punishment visited on Laurence for the tumult of
the preceding year.[441]

 "Be it knowen & understand,
 This Cite shuld be free & nowe is bonde,
 Dame goode Eve made hit free,
 & now the custome for woll & the draperie.
 Also hit is made that no prentes shalbe
 But xiii penyes pay shuld he;
 That act did Robert Grene,
 Therfor he had many a Curse, I wene.
 And nowe a nother rule ye do make
 That none shall ride at Lammas but they that ye take
 When our ale is Tunned
 ye shall have drynk to your cake."

The final lines recall the heavy fine to be paid by Saunders:--

 "Ye have put on man like a Scot to raunsome,
 That wol be remembered when ye have all forgoten 'Caviat.'"[442]

It may be that, in the face of this wrathful discontent--it was just
at this time that the ill-behaviour of John Smith and John Duddesbury
to "men of worship" caused the offenders to be watched so closely--the
corporation felt some anxiety. At least they thought it prudent to
relieve Laurence of the payment of half of the fine they had laid
upon him. Of the remaining sum half was paid by the sureties, but £10
was yet due, and in 1496 Saunders appealed to the King. The fruit of
his solicitings was a privy seal, addressed to the mayor and sheriffs
asking them in charity to take £10 and remit the rest of the fine,
as Laurence was now old and fallen into poverty.[443] There was
one sentence in the letter very little to the recipients' liking.
The King ordered the mayor "to do right" in a variance concerning a
common pasture which Laurence had informed his grace to be in the
city; "where," as the "men of worship" declared with righteous anger,
"no such variance was." It would be folly indeed to smooth the lot of
Laurence Saunders or release his friends from their bond. So the great
culprit having paid £10 and his sureties a like sum, matters must be
set right at Court, and the appeals of Laurence and his party made of
no effect. So a "writing of the great and many offences of the said
Laurence" was sent to Master Richard Empson, who was then in London, to
be laid before the King. The mayor and his fellows awaited meanwhile
the issue of the recorder's mediation.

Laurence Saunders, too, had his hopes of Court. "As for Mr Recorder,"
he said confidently a little later, "I have reckoned with him before
the King, and he shall be easy enough." Meanwhile Lammas time was
approaching, and he looked for some great movement against the
corporation, which that season should bring forth. So he went into the
house of the mayor, John Dove, and said: "Master mair, I advise yewe
to loke wisely on your self, for on Lammasse day ye shall her other
tythyngs, & ffor many of these catifes that loke so hy nowe shall be
brought lower; and ye knowe wele amongist yowe ye have of myn x li: of
money, which I dought not I shall have ayen on Lamasse day, or elles
III or IIII of the best of yowe shall smart. Therfor I advise yowe, ber
upright the swerd at your perill, for ye shall knowe mor shortly."

That allusion to the mayor's sword carried a sting. A century ago,
Richard II. had ordered it to be borne _behind_ John Deister, the
mayor, rather than before him as the custom was, "_because he did not
do justice_." It may be John Dove was secretly afraid. Had he done
justice continually? What if the King should visit Laurence with his
favour now? Though this man made so light of the mayor's dignity, he
was not punished; but all waited for the news from London.

On July 20 Laurence determined to justify his position by putting in
his petition of grievances for the third time. He laid before the mayor
a list of the enclosed common lands, drawn up from inquiries made among
old men of the city the year of his chamberlainship. He asked that the
bill might be read aloud in open court, for the sessions of the peace
were then proceeding. John Dove was not prepared to do this. It was not
a matter to be determined in that court, and besides, he understood
that it required no haste. Saunders might come and have his answer on
the morrow by nine of the clock. On hearing this the old taunt sprang
to Laurence's lips, "Maister meir," he said aloud in the assembly,
"hold upright your swerde"; and after expressing his hope of "reckoning
with Mr Recorder," he left John Dove to recover his dignity.

As far as we can tell, Saunders' hour of triumph never came, for there
was no rising at Lammas; but soon after the scandal at the sessions
came a letter from the King, giving the mayor and council full
permission to deal with the rebel "after the good and laudable custom
of the city." This permission must have afforded them untold relief.
As Laurence refused to give any pledge as to his future conduct, they
committed him to prison. But he never rested, nor did his friends give
up the battle. They interceded at Court, this time with Thomas Savage,
the Bishop of Rochester,[444] and it seemed that their intercession
was likely to bear fruit, for letters arrived to the effect that
Laurence should be set free to plead his cause before the King at
Woodstock. But the mayor and council would not let him go, for he
offered, to their thinking, insufficient surety, letting fall also many
seditious words, which are recorded in the Book of Council, and saying,
"he wold fynd no other what so ever fell theruppon." Wherefore, the
_Leet Book_ says, he remained in prison.


Two "seditious bills"--one nailed on the minster door on S. Anne's
Day--show how strained the situation was becoming. If ever, during
a century and a half, the rule of the Coventry guilds had been as
thoroughly detested as now, the feeling had never been put in words
that have come down to us with such unmistakable force. Of these
attacks, the second has a much loftier tone. After a passing reference
to Laurence, lying in prison--

 "You have hunted the hare,
 You hold him in a snare"--

there come, in the first set of verses, a warning to all the great folk
that have forgotten to rule justly:--

 "Ye that be of myght,
 Se that ye do right,
 Thynk on your othe;
 For wher that ye do wrong,
 Ye shall mend hit among,
 Though ye be never so loth."

The poet and his friends--he says in the second set of verses--show
outward respect to their rulers, but their minds are full of

 "This cyte is bond thad shuld be fre,
 The right is holden fro the Cominalte;
 Our Comiens that at lamas open shuld be cast
 They be closed in & hegged full fast,

 And he that speketh for our right is in the hall,[445]
 And that is shame for yewe & for us all;
 You can not denygh hit but he is your brother;
 & to bothe Gilds he hath paid as moch as another."

As for the "commonalty," they have no more to lose, the verse goes on
to say:--

 "For eny favour or frenship the comins with yowe fynde,
 But pyke awey our thryfte & make us all blynde;
 And ever ye have nede to the Cominalte,
 Such favour as ye shewe us, such shall ye see.
 We may speke feir & bid you goode morowe,
 But luff with our herts shull ye hav non.
 Cherish the Cominalte & se that they have ther right,
 For drede of a worse chaunce be day or be nyght,
 The best of you all litell worth shuld be,
 And ye had not help of the Cominalte."[446]

Matters remained for some time at a standstill; then at last, early in
November, Laurence's "labour and busy suit" brought two privy seals,
containing full directions, to Coventry.[447] The mayor was required
to release the prisoner after taking surety in £100, so that he might
appear before the King and council and state his case; while two or
three of the mayor's brethren sufficiently instructed in the matters
to be laid to his charge were to bear him company. At a meeting of the
council on November 14, certain citizens, among whom was John Boteler
the steward, were appointed to ride to London. There, joined by the
recorder and others of the city, who no doubt had already entered on
various negotiations connected with this suit, they were to lay an
account of Laurence's "demeasner" before the King. Another privy seal
had been received, addressed to four friends[448] of Laurence, who
were summoned to London "to th' entent that they shuld testyfie with
hym in such matier as he wold allege for his greves." And now the
business went quickly forward. "Accordyng which appoyntement the day
was kept at London," says the _Leet Book_, "befor the Kyngs Counceill
in the Sterr Chambre, the Friday next after Seynt Martyn day, and ther
continied dayly vnto the Tewesday next befor the fest of Seynt Andrew
... at which day befor my lords of Caunterbury, London and Rochestre,
the chief Justice Mr ffyneux, and many other lords, the hole matier
was hard at large, both the compleynt of the seid Laurence, the answer
therunto, the replicacion of the seid Laurence, and the rejoynder
theruppon, with the disposicions of the witnesse, and proves of the
seid Laurence, wheruppon the seid Laurence was ther and then comyt vnto
the Flete, ther to abyde unto the tyme the kyngs pleasur was knowen."

So Laurence Saunders vanished into the Fleet, while Boteler and the
rest returned in triumph to Coventry. The corporation remained clearly
masters of the field. In a privy seal,[449] received by the mayor and
sheriffs the next December, Laurence's complaints were pronounced
"feined and contrived," and himself a "seducioux" man, who had "of his
great presumpcion and obstinacie not seldom but often tymes disobeyed
the liefell ... precepts of you the said mair ... to the right evil and
pernicioux example of other, therby embolded and encouraged to offende
in like wise." But the King willed that the laudable and prosperous
governance of the city should not "surceasse or be sette aparte by the
sinistre or crafty meanes of any privat personne," and so the folk
of the city were commanded "for the _pretense of any right herafter
by thaim ... to bee claymed_" to make no conspiracies and unlawful

As for the details of the trial, of them we know nothing.[450] Boteler
kept the complaint and the answer, the replication and the rejoinder,
in papers, "whereof the tenor," says the _Leet Book_, "her ensuen ..."
but just at this place occurs an unlucky break. The careful and zealous
town clerk was called away, no doubt, at that moment on business of the
first importance; there are no further entries made; so there can be
nothing told of the trial in the Star Chamber that Martinmas and of the
long agony of Laurence Saunders.


[Footnote 360: Ashley, _Econ. Hist._ i. pt. ii. 53. The act was
repealed in 1511-12. In 1522 an order of leet was passed in Coventry to
the effect that the mayor should warn any baker, who had offended twice
against the assize, not to bake any more in the city unless he could
find surety that his fault should not be repeated, and further, no
victualler or butcher was allowed henceforth to be on the jury of leet
(_Leet Book_, 682).]

[Footnote 361: The loaf varied in weight, but not in price, with the
price of corn (Green, ii. 35).]

[Footnote 362: Harl. MS. 6,388 _passim_. It is difficult to determine
the date of these risings, so great is the variation between the
different lists of mayors; and so often do Coventry historians antedate
events, owing to the confusion between the old and new styles. It is
noticeable that the mayor in 1381 was Thomas Kele, one of the founders
of the Trinity guild.]

[Footnote 363: Corp. MS. F. 3. It is here said that the mayor,
bailiffs, and commonalty "was seized in their demesne as of fee" of
the common lands in right of the community. There was much uncertainty
among the lawyers of that time as to the entity possessing rights over
the common lands.]

[Footnote 364: Cicely de Montalt, in her grant to the prior of the
manorial "waste" attached to the Earl's-half, reserves for all cottiers
their reasonable pasture (Harl. MS. 6,388, f. 2). Walter de Coventre
bequeathed to his fellow-townsmen and their heirs for ever his rights
of pasture for all the cattle in all his lands (_Ib._).]

[Footnote 365: To pay for the expenses of the fee-ferm, etc. On
enclosures to pay for pageants, see below.]

[Footnote 366: I am indebted for the identification of this piece of
land to Mr Beard, late town clerk of Coventry.]

[Footnote 367: The land in question stretched from Whitley brook to
Baron's Field, which was enclosed in 1845 as a cemetery.]

[Footnote 368: _Leet Book_, 113.]

[Footnote 369: Corp. MS. F. 4.]

[Footnote 370: An obscure word.]

[Footnote 371: Ear = plough.]

[Footnote 372: Individual profit.]

[Footnote 373: Get possession of.]

[Footnote 374: Put in the pound.]

[Footnote 375: _Leet Book_, 349.]

[Footnote 376: Corp. MS. F. 3.]

[Footnote 377: _i.e._ rehearsing.]

[Footnote 378: _i.e._ petitioner.]

[Footnote 379: _i.e._ slay.]

[Footnote 380: _Leet Book_, 350.]

[Footnote 381: _Leet Book_, 375.]

[Footnote 382: Corp. MS. F. 3.]

[Footnote 383: _Leet Book_, 376 _sqq._]

[Footnote 384: _Ib._, 378.]

[Footnote 385: _Leet Book_, 379-80.]

[Footnote 386: _Ib._, 380.]

[Footnote 387: Corp. MS. F. 4.]

[Footnote 388: See Green, _Town Life_, ii. 315, for a similar case at
Southampton. Here one "ancient" man was aged 104 years and more.]

[Footnote 389: Baron's Field is now part of the old cemetery.]

[Footnote 390: Corp. MS. C. 204. The varieties in the nomenclature of
the various fields makes it difficult to pronounce decidedly whether
Bristowe gained all he desired according to this arbitration.]

[Footnote 391: _Leet Book_, 375.]

[Footnote 392: Bristowe's case was again under discussion in 1475, see
Corp. MS. D. 2. This time a verdict, given not by a Coventry jury, but
by a jury of twenty-four knights from the vicinage of the city, was
favourable to Bristowe, and acquitted him of the charge of assault,
etc., brought against him by the corporation.]

[Footnote 393: _Leet Book_, 156.]

[Footnote 394: Laurence was a member of the "council of Forty-eight,"
_Leet Book_, 521, and a member of both guilds (Sharp, _Antiq._, 235;
_Leet Book_, 578). In 1495 Saunders was discharged from all attendance
at the mayor's council, the common council, and all other councils to
be taken within the city (_Ib._, 564). The common council is first
mentioned in 1477. Probably the "Forty-eight" and the common council
were identical. The "mayor's council" consisted apparently of such of
the "Forty-eight" as he cared to summon. There is no evidence that
these councillors were elected by wards.]

[Footnote 395: The prior, in 1498, is said to have refused to pay it
for twenty years (_Leet Book_, 592).]

[Footnote 396: _Ib._, 430 _sqq._]

[Footnote 397: _Leet Book_, 436 _sqq._]

[Footnote 398: _Leet Book_, 348. "Cattle surcharging the common to be
driven to the pound and distress taken." And yet this very year the
corporation declared to the prior that the citizens always had driven
their cattle "without number" on the commons.]

[Footnote 399: _Leet Book_, 439. The meadows in question were the
Prior's Waste and the close by the New Gate. See above, p. 176.]

[Footnote 400: _i.e._ "eyes."]

[Footnote 401: _Leet Book_, 441.]

[Footnote 402: _Leet Book_, 443 _sqq._]

[Footnote 403: Mayor's reply, _Leet Book_, 457.]

[Footnote 404: In the lord's outwoods, moors, and heaths, which were
never under the plough, "he should not be stinted, for the soil is his"
(Rogers, _Six Cent._ 90). It is extremely doubtful whether the common
lands of Coventry should be included in this category; many of them had
been "under the plough."]

[Footnote 405: _Leet Book_, 454.]

[Footnote 406: _Leet Book_, 470.]

[Footnote 407: _Leet Book_, 474.]

[Footnote 408: Corp. MS. C 209.]

[Footnote 409: _Leet Book_, 490.]

[Footnote 410: Fineux, one of the prince's council, was deputed to
examine the title deeds on behalf of the town, and Catesby on behalf of

[Footnote 411: _Leet Book_, 492.]

[Footnote 412: Bristowe seems to have allowed his tenants of Whitley to
share in his privilege of intercommoning with the people of Coventry.
See above, p. 174.]

[Footnote 413: _Leet Book_, 497.]

[Footnote 414: _Ib._, 496.]

[Footnote 415: Disputes concerning the common lands were usually
settled by arbitration, and not before the judges of the King's bench,
possibly because the "communitas" had no power to sue in law courts as
a legal person (Green, _Town Life_, ii. 239).]

[Footnote 416: Boteler filled the post of steward as well as that of
town clerk.]

[Footnote 417: _Leet Book_, 510-11.]

[Footnote 418: _Leet Book_, 483.]

[Footnote 419: It is noticeable that immediately after this the leet
gave orders that some of the fields granted to the prior, _i.e._ the
field by the New Gate, should be had again "in a perpetual ferm" of the

[Footnote 420: He said "he had as much power as the mayor, and could
arrest him at sessions sitting on the bench" (_Leet Book_, 520).]

[Footnote 421: Unless he would submit to this condition and to take an
oath at Candlemas--as the mayor did--he was to be dismissed. Boteler
chose to submit.]

[Footnote 422: _Leet Book_, 537.]

[Footnote 423: The records are very meagre about this time. The fact
that Laurence was a member of the Forty-eight is an indication that the
corporation were well disposed towards him. The fact that the very same
mayor who occasioned Boteler's disgrace enforced certain acts of leet
against the bakers is also a proof that there was a change of policy in
his time at least (_ib._, 518-9).]

[Footnote 424: _Leet Book_, 554, 557.]

[Footnote 425: Corp. MS. A. 6. Corpus Christi guild accounts.]

[Footnote 426: _Leet Book_, 569. This order was re-enacted in 1497;
_Ib._, 585. No tanner or butcher was "to make conspiracy ... contrary
to this ordinance." Duddesbury had been a member of the Twenty-four,
and was mayor in 1505.]

[Footnote 427: _Leet Book_, 553-4.]

[Footnote 428: _Ib._, 559. The continuation of this order shows how
restive the people were becoming under the recent regulations, a like
surety was to be taken from any one who would not obey orders of leet
and be reformed by the mayor and council.]

[Footnote 429: Lists of all the living craftsmen who had held office
were compiled in 1449: 16 drapers, 13 mercers, 7 dyers, 2 wire-drawers,
2 whittawers, and 2 weavers are mentioned (_ib._, 246-52).]

[Footnote 430: Drapery granted to the Trinity gild 1365-9 (Sharp, 131).]

[Footnote 431: _Leet Book_, 281.]

[Footnote 432: These words are almost identical with a gloss, written
in the margin of one ordinance passed in 1495. For the profits arising
from the Nottingham Drapery, see _Nottingham Rec._, iii. 62.]

[Footnote 433: Corp. MS. B. 75.]

[Footnote 434: _Leet Book_, 193. This order was passed in 1440.]

[Footnote 435: In Coventry the wool buyers appear to have been the
clothmakers. The dyers in 1415, who were "great makers of cloth," took
"the flower of the woad" for their own use (_Rot. Parl._, iv. 75). In
1435 we hear of the clothmakers employing combers to card wool (_Leet
Book_, 182), and in 1512 we find that a searcher examined the wool to
see that it was free from filth for the clothier (_ib._, 636).]

[Footnote 436: There are no _new_ ordinances relating to the weighing
of wool at this time. Most likely the ordinance of 1440 (see above) was
often evaded, and it was resolved that a stricter supervision should be

[Footnote 437: _i.e._ Godiva.]

[Footnote 438: _Leet Book_, 556-7. Laurence afterwards committed
William Boteler to ward for breach of regulations of leet doubtless,
but "without authority."]

[Footnote 439: For Robert Barlow, see Corpus Christi guild accounts,
Corp. MS. A. 6, f. 5.]

[Footnote 440: _Leet Book_, 564.]

[Footnote 441: _Leet Book_, 567. One of the pieces of "civic poetry"
quoted by Sharp, 235.]

[Footnote 442: Sharp, _Antiq._, 235.]

[Footnote 443: _Leet Book_, 574; Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 14. The poverty
from which Laurence suffered now had probably not afflicted him earlier
in his career.]

[Footnote 444: It is noticeable that this bishop sympathized with the
unruly people of York. See Miss Sellers, "The City of York in the
Sixteenth Century" in _Eng. Hist. Rev._, ix. 275.]

[Footnote 445: _i.e._ in prison.]

[Footnote 446: _Leet Book_, 578. The MS. has _co'iens_ and _co'ialte_
throughout. Both sets printed in Sharp, pp. 235-6.]

[Footnote 447: _Leet Book_, 578.]

[Footnote 448: One of these, William Huet, probably a tailor or
shereman, was one of the nine score wealthy men. In 1464, he--or one
bearing this name--had been in trouble with the corporation (_v._
_ante_, p. 138). "Norfolk," the name of one other, was a regular
_weaver's_ name in Coventry.]

[Footnote 449: Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 19.]

[Footnote 450: I am afraid that there is nothing further to be learned
of Saunders. Professor S.R. Gardiner was so good as to make inquiries
at the Record Office whether there were any Star Chamber records
bearing upon his case, but none belonging to this period are in


_The Companies of the Crafts_

The men of Coventry, a city which, in later mediæval times, stood
fourth among the wealthy towns of England,[451] gained a livelihood
by the buying and selling of wool and the making of cloth.[452] As
early as 1398 the traffic in the frieze of Coventry[453] extended
beyond the modest limits of the city itself. In that year two hundred
pounds' worth, the export of one merchant, lay in the port of distant
Stralsund, on the Baltic Coast,[454] and in London and other places the
cloth was in great request during the fifteenth and early sixteenth

The men of mediæval Coventry naturally attached great importance to
the maintenance and extension of the cloth trade in view of the wealth
it brought. Special buildings were set apart for the staple traffic of
the city. The Drapery and the Wool-hall, both in Bayley Lane, under the
shadow of S. Michael's Church, were the recognised selling places for
the raw and finished material; and a small illicit market went on in
the porch of the church itself.[455] Hard by stood the Searching-house,
a place devoted to the examination of all the cloth made by the city
workpeople. Two weavers and two fullers, specially appointed for the
purpose, overlooked the handiwork of their fellow-craftsmen; while
six drapers were appointed to superintend these weavers and fullers,
so as to guard against any exhibition of partiality or slackness in
the execution of the task. If the material were sufficiently fulled
and well woven, the city seal was attached to it in token of its
genuine quality; but the searchers were straitly charged to warrant
no piece that fell short of the standard excellence, and bad wares
were returned to the owner to make therewith as good a bargain as he

[Illustration: TRINITY LANE]

An order of leet passed in 1518 gives very precise directions for the
searching process.


"Hit is to be had in mynde that for a trueth of Clothmakyng to be had
in this cite as foloeth, if it myght be folowed, and the execucion of
the same to be don schortly, or els the cite wolbe so fer past that
it wolbe past remedie to be recouered to eny welth or prosperite, hit
is thought hit were good to have ij wevers & ij walkers sworn to make
true serche of the wevers doyng & also of the walkers & to present the
trueth; and also to be chosen vj drapers to be maisters, & ouerseers
of the doyng of the serchers, that if some of them cannot a lesour to
be at the serchyng at the dayes of the serchers, yet some of these vj
maisters schall euer be ther. And by cause it were to great a besynes
for the serchers to go to every mannes howse, hit is enacted at this
lete to haue a howse of the gilde,[457] or of some other mannes nyghe
the drapery doore, to be ordeyned well with perches to drawe ouer the
clothes when they be thykked, and also weightes & ballaunce to wey the
cloth, and when it cometh frome the walkers, the walkers to bryng it to
the serchyng house, and to serche it, & to se it ouer a perche, and if
it be good cloth as it owght to be in brede & lengh, that the cite may
have a preise by hit & no sklaunder, then to sett upon hit the Olyvaunt
in lede,[458] and of the bak of the seall the lengh of the cloth, by
the which men shall perceyve and see it is true Coventre cloth, ffor
of suerte ther is in London & other places that sell false & untrewe
made cloth, & name hit Couentre cloth, the which is a gret slaunder to
the cite than it deserveth by a gret partie. And if there be eny man
that hath eny cloth brought to the serchyng house, what degre so ever
he be of, if it be not able for the worschip of the cite to be let
passe, let hym pay for the serche & lett hym do his best with hit, but
set not the Olyvaunt upon it.

"And this serche to be made also this fourme,[459] that is to sey ij
days in the weke, Tewesday & Saturday, and ij of the serchers to be
ther from viij of the clok to a xi, and frome on to iiij of the clok;
and a sealer to be ordeyned & sworne to stryke the cloth and seale hit,
and wrete hit, and fynde leed, & to have a peny for his labour; and the
sealles to be put in a cofre with ij keys, the master of the vj drapers
to have the on, and the serchers the other, and for the serche of every
cloth to the serchers to have j d. and it is to be thought every good
man schal be gladde of that payment."

The person who consistently reaped the greatest benefit from this
activity was the draper, the merchant of cloth. Within the city his
fellowship ranked next to that of the mercers, or merchants proper, who
traded in wool as members of the Staple of Calais, or trafficked in
wine and wax, which they brought in barges from Bristol.[460] None but
the well-to-do could enter into the ranks of the drapers' craft.[461]
Some of its more fortunate brethren were able to purchase estates and
take rank among the county gentry. Thus John Bristowe, draper, sometime
mayor and justice of the peace in Coventry, became possessed of land
at Whitley; and his son William spoke of his "manor" in those parts,
and frequently described himself as a "gentleman." And John, grandson
of Julian Nethermill, a city dignitary of the same craft, held lands
in Exhall, and had his arms blazoned among those of the great county
folk.[462] Many members of this fellowship have left a name showing
the great power for good or ill that they possessed within the city.
There was John Bristowe, mayor in the early fifteenth century, who, as
the oldest inhabitants declared, "after he had boron office within the
cite of Couentre thynkyng that the common people of the seid cite durst
nor wolde contrarie his doyng, claymed unlawfully" to have certain
rights over the common pasture. John Haddon, another draper-mayor,
has left a better reputation; it was he who came to the rescue of the
poverty-stricken clothiers of the city in 1518,[463] and by a timely
loan enabled them to continue work. While John Bond, who, as his
epitaph declares, gave "divers lands and tenements for the maintenance
of ten poore men, as long as the world shall endure," is yet remembered
as the founder of the Bablake hospital.

The near connection between these great cloth merchants and the
corporation is one of the most striking features of municipal life in
Coventry during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The marks of the
drapers' influence in civic affairs are continually before our eyes. It
was in a draper's mayoralty that ordinances were first made respecting
the searching of cloth.[464] And when the system of overlooking was
perfected in 1518, a few years later, it was to six men of this craft,
that the task of superintending the searchers' investigations was
assigned. Just as, about a hundred years before that time, when an
unsuccessful attempt was made by the town rulers to exercise complete
control over the dyers' craft, it was suggested that two drapers as
well as two dyers, in either case nominees of the corporation, should
keep watch over the dyers' movements, and "present" them for any "fault
or confederacy" at the court of the mayor.[465]

Measures framed by this body in the interest of any particular craft
or class were doubtless found oppressive by those who had no lot or
part in their enactment. Thus while the yea or nay of the fullers had
little weight in municipal councils, the wealth of the drapers gave
them a control over the local trade to an extent which we can hardly
realise. The reason of this supremacy is not far to seek. The mercers
and drapers in their character of wealthy men usually occupied the
principal official posts in the city.[466] No one, unless he were
possessed of a certain amount of wealth, could rise to a high place in
the corporation. Men were ranked according to the amount of property
in their possession, and to speak of a citizen as "of the degree of a
mayor" or "bailiff," conveyed as definite an idea as the assertion that
"So-and-so has a fortune of £20,000 or £30,000," would convey to our
minds at the present date.

This body of wealthy merchants, in whose hands was vested all control
over the city trade, could and did make and unmake regulations of
the deepest significance to the various crafts. By an ordinance of
the city leet they could completely alter the conditions regulating
the work of salesmen or artificers, as they had an absolute control
over all workers, since by the craft system all who practised the
same calling were compelled to obey the same regulations. Nominally
the regulations were drawn up by the crafts. In reality, as certain
members of the corporation overlooked them, amending and annulling at
their pleasure, this power of the crafts was held at the will of the
municipal rulers.[467] And the corporation did not let their power lie
idle. In the interests of the general public they forced the crafts to
embody in their rules the ordinances framed by the court leet. Thus the
cloth-workers were compelled to bring the cloth they had woven to be
measured and examined by the searcher,[468] the fullers to adopt the
custom of using a special mark whereby the work of every individual
craftsman could be recognised and known,[469] the dyers to abstain from
using a certain French dye of inferior consistency,[470] and, much
against the wills of this community, to admit another member into their
craft.[471] It was not only as regards the working of their cloth,
but in all other matters the crafts had to bow before the will of the
corporation. Appeals to courts spiritual to punish for oath-breach
any who disobeyed the ordinances of the fellowship were looked coldly
on by the municipal rulers, and the practice suppressed. In 1518 the
mysteries were compelled to make the mayor the arbiter of all cases
of dispute between offenders and the wardens of their respective
fellowships. If anyone committed a fault against the fellowship, he
must be asked to pay a "reasonable" penalty, and "if he deny and will
not pay ... according to the ordinance ... within three or four days,
let the master ask it of him again ... and if he deny it eftsoons and
will not pay it, let the master of the craft and three or four honest
men of the craft come to master mayor and show unto him the dealing of
that person." Whereupon the mayor and justices, should he refuse to
pay double the original sum to the craft, were bound to commit him to
ward until he promised obedience. The offender on his release was to
make submission to the master entreating him to be "good master" to him
during his year of office, and "his good lover" in time to come.[472]

We may follow in detail the dealings of the corporation with several
of the crafts. The fullers seem to have combined with the tailors
to form the guild of the Nativity some time in the reign of Richard
II., but were prevented from acting under the terms of their charter.
In the eighteenth year of the reign of Henry VI. the royal licence
was renewed.[473] But the guild was a singularly ineffective body,
holding little if any property, and soon after, possibly at municipal
instigation, the two crafts who formed it were separated, though the
tailors obtained a third renewal of their licence in the twenty-eighth
year of Henry VIII. The dyers appear to have been more stubborn.
Early in the reign of Henry V. they combined together to increase
the price of dyeing of cloth by one-half, and to have the flower of
the woad for their own use.[474] In 1475 they attempted, perhaps, to
renew their old combinations of sixty years back; and five years later
Laurence Saunders, a member of their calling, became the leader of the
opposition which prevailed during the close of the century within the
city.[475] In 1496 all the thunders of the leet ordinances launched
against those who, of their "froward wills," refused to contribute to
the furnishing of the pageants played on Corpus Christi day, failed to
make the dyers join with the other crafts in paying their share.[476]
When the municipality desired to thrust a new member into their craft,
the dyers forbade the journeymen to work for him, and it was only by
circumventing their tactics that the town rulers could compel the
admission of the new candidate into their ranks.

Not only the workers in cloth, but all the fraternities were forced
to bow to the corporation's will. In 1436 the attention of the leet
was drawn to certain malpractices which had arisen among the workers
in iron. A bill, drawn up no doubt by some member of the ruling class
and presented by him to the court, shows the full extent of the evil
and suggests certain measures of reform. Certain workers in iron, we
are told, by employing labourers of the four allied crafts of smiths,
brakemen, girdlers, and card-wiredrawers, had acquired entire control
over the trade, and were able to pass off ill-wrought iron upon their
customers. It was suggested that labourers of but two occupations
should be employed by one master instead of those of four occupations
as had been the custom hitherto.

"Be hit known to you," the bill runs, "but yif certen ordenaunses
of craftes withe in this cite ... be takon good hede to, hit is
like myche of the kynges pepull, and in speciall poor chapmen and
clothemakers, in tyme comeng shullen be gretely hyndered, and as hit
may be supposed the principall cause is like to be amonges hem that han
all the craft in her own hondes, that is to sey, smythiers, brakemen,
gurdelmen, and card-wire drawers, for he that hathe all thes craftes
may, offendying his conscience, do myche harme." A negligent smith,
the bill continues, might heat the iron by "onkynd hetes," so that
it became unfit for future use. "Never the later for his own eese he
will com to his brakemon and sey to hym: 'Here is a ston of rough iron
the whiche must be tendurly cherysshet.'" When the brakeman has done
his task, the metal comes to be sold for making fish hooks. "And when
hit is made in hokes and shulde serve the ffissher to take fisshe,
when hit comythe to distresse then for febulnes hit all-to brekithe,
and thus is the ffisher foule disseyved and to him grete harme." And
if the iron be used for making girdles, the master passes it to the
girdleman with these words: "'Lo, here is a stryng or ij (two) that
hathe ben misgouerned atte herthe, my brakemon hathe don his dever;
I prey the, do now thyne.' And so he dothe as his maister biddethe
hym." Or it may be passed on to the cardmaker, who finds that it
"crachithe and farithe foule; so the cardmaker is right hevy therof,
but neverthelater he sethe be cause hit is cutte he must nedes helpe
hym self in eschueing his losse, [so] he makithe cardes[477] ther of
as well as he may, and when the cardes ben solde to the clothemaker
and shuldon be ocupied, anon the tethe brekon and fallon out, so the
clothemaker is foule disseyved. Wherefore, sirs," is the conclusion of
the bill, "atte reverens of God in fortheryng of the kynges true lege
peapull, and in eschueng of all disseytes, weithe (weigh) this mater
wysely, and ther as ye see disseyte is like to be, therto settithe
remedy be your wyse discressions." For, as the petitioner suggested, if
the two crafts of smiths and brakemen, and these only, were united on
the one hand, and the two crafts of girdlers and card-wiredrawers, and
these only, on the other, "then hit were to suppose that ther shuld not
so myche disseyvabull wire be wrought and sold as ther is." For if the
crafts were severed in this manner, it was argued, then the girdlers
and cardmakers would buy their wire from the smiths, and look well to
their bargain. "And if the card-wiredrawer," the petitioner proceeds,
"were ones or thies disseyved withe ontrewe wire, he wolde be warre,
and then wold he sey vnto the smythier, that he bought that wire of:
'Sir, I hadde of you late badde wire, sir, amend your honde, or in
feithe I will no more bye of you.' And then the smythier, lest he lost
his custemers, wold make true goode; and then withe the grase of godd
(God) the craft shuld amend and the kinges peapull not disseyved with
eontrewe goode."[478]

The mayor, we learn, on this important occasion sent round to all the
worthy men of the leet to take their advice upon the matter. Either
the corporation sought an occasion of humbling the workers in iron,
or the common sense expressed in this bill was irresistible; for the
leet fell in with the arrangement of severing the crafts. A number of
master smiths agreed to employ only journeymen of this occupation and
brakemen, while the cardmakers on the other hand undertook to find
occupation for girdlers and cardmakers only. Furthermore, the leet
decreed that their two last-named crafts should by "no colour ne sotell
imagynacion 'sell or buy' no cardwyre ne mystermannes wyre, the whiche
may be hynderying or grevying to the kinges lege pepull 'under pain of

The craftspeople, however, occasionally resented municipal
interference, and endeavoured by all means within their power to get
the control of the industry in which they were engaged into their own
hands. Any temporary weakness or disorganisation on the part of the
corporation was taken advantage of by these fraternities. It was in
1456, when the finances of the city were in some disorder, owing to the
expense of entertaining the Court and the active support given by the
city to the Lancastrian cause, that the craftspeople took occasion to
sue in spiritual courts offenders who had broken the rules observed by
members of fellowships.

"Discord daily falleth in this city among the people of divers
crafts"--such are the words of an order of leet passed in
1457--"because that divers masters of crafts sue in spiritual courts
divers people of their crafts, affirming they have broken their oaths
made in breaking divers their rules and ordinances, which rules
ofttimes be unreasonable, and the punishment of the said masters over
excess, which, if it continue, by likelihood would cause much people to
void out of the city." The masters were thenceforth forbidden to bring
"any manner suit, cause or quarrel in any court spiritual against any
person of their craft," until "the mayor for the time being have heard
the matter and variance ... and have licensed the suit to be had."[479]
But though defeated in this scheme, the crafts doubtless did not
give up the battle. The dyers' attempt in 1475 to form confederacies
happened in a time of great division within the town respecting the
enclosure of the common pasture. And the same disputes agitated the
community twenty-one years later, when a member of the party of
discontented craftsmen nailed up inflammatory verses on the church
door, taunting the corporation with injustice and inveighing against
the rules they had made for the buying of wool and selling of cloth.

[Illustration: NEW STREET]

And indeed it may have been well that persons high in authority curbed
the self-seeking spirit of the crafts. These bodies, formed early in
the thirteenth century for mutual help and preservation, had since
degenerated into close corporations eager to exclude competition at
any price.[480] Fettered as they were by ordinances fixing price,
hours of labour and the like, there was so little free play allowed
the craftsman in the management of his business, that the difficulty
of acquiring wealth must have been great. Each company of craftsmen
practically monopolised all the traffic or business connected with
their special calling in the district in which they lived, and were
bound to take good heed that the numbers of those who formed their
body should not be greatly increased, lest the individual profits
should be reduced. They were resolved at all hazards to guard against
competition. The trade of the town might support ten tanners for
instance, but the admission of an eleventh or twelfth into the craft
might endanger the older members' prosperity. Thus, in 1424, the
weaver showed a distinct dislike to allowing their members to take
any number of apprentices,[481] who were potential masters of the
craft; and the cappers who in the fifteenth century had risen to be a
very important body, allowed each master to take but two apprentices
only, and when one departed before his serving-time of seven years was
accomplished, the master was forbidden to take another in his place,
without licence from the keepers of the craft, until the allotted
time should be past.[482] The corporation, however, wished to break
down this exclusiveness, and in 1524 declared that any member of
what craft soever might receive what number of apprentices he would
"notwithstanding any ordinance to the contrary."[483] Some twenty
years later, finding perhaps that this sweeping measure aroused too
much opposition, the leet tried to thrust a modified form of it on the
cappers.[484] Twice within a few months [1544-5] they decreed that any
master of the fellowship might take an extra apprentice when one of
them had served five and a half of the allotted seven years and they
repeated the order after a few years' space.[485]

The craftspeople had another method for keeping would-be members out
of their ranks. They demanded on admission such fines as could only
be paid by the well-to-do. And it was owing to their jealousy that
precautions were taken to ensure the payment of these admission fines.
Trouble came about, we are told, because new members departed from the
town just when the fine was due, a year after setting up their shop.
They were henceforth to be compelled to pay half their fine at setting
up, and to put in two sufficient sureties that the second half should
be paid at the end of the first year.[486]

It was part of the policy of the town rulers to recognise the
apprentice's possible future citizenship, and withdraw him somewhat
from his master's authority. The lad was therefore forced by the
ordinance of 1494[487] to take the oath "to the franchises," and bring
his twelve pennies to the steward for the town use when his term of
service began. We see from the list of those who took the oath in
1495 that the apprentice lived in his master's house, serving him
usually--though not invariably--for seven years' space. He earned a
nominal sum, perhaps a shilling, or even 4d., the first six years, and
a larger one, perhaps 10s. or 13s. 4d., during the seventh. Thus the
son of John Preston, of Stafford, "gentleman," who was apprenticed to a
grocer, earned 12d. a year, the wages of his last year of service--the
ninth--being unfixed; while another lad, learning the same trade,
received 13s. 4d. as his last year's earnings. The son of a Durham
"husbandman" took from his master, a hat-maker, 4d. a year for six
years, and 6s. 8d. during the seventh. The crafts seem to have made it
their business to see that the boys were properly cared for. If any
one of them complained that his master did not give him sufficient
"finding," _i.e._ food and raiment, the offender was to receive
first an "admonition," and on the repetition of the offence to pay a
reasonable fine; if matters did not mend, the lad was to be removed
and placed elsewhere.[488] The master exercised a superintendence over
the apprentice's moral well-being. In an early indenture of the time
of Richard II. the lad promises to haunt neither taverns nor houses of
ill-fame, nor hold illicit intercourse with any of the women of the

No doubt the number of apprentices was limited partly in order to
prevent any one master from engrossing more than what was deemed his
fair share of trade and profits. The craftspeople were very sensitive
on this point. Thus, in 1424, quarrels arose between a certain John
Grinder on the one side and his fellow-members of his craft of weavers
on the other. The fact that Grinder wove linen as well as cloth, and
had two sets of looms for the purpose,[490] had aroused the jealousy
of the other weavers of the city. It may be remarked that this weaver
was a man wise in his generation. He gained his cause and made his
fortune, and filled the post of bailiff some time before 1449, being
apparently the only man of his calling during the second quarter of
the fifteenth century who ever occupied a high municipal office. Many
precautions were taken to prevent undue rivalry between brethren of
the same fellowship. It was usual among the artisan crafts for the
member to report the closing of a bargain to the master or keeper of
his fraternity.[491] And no other member of the calling could come
between the contracting parties until the work was finished.[492] But
among the more powerful craftsmen means were often taken to defraud
their brethren of the poorer sort. By collusion between butchers and
tanners the latter were able to buy raw hides "in grete," or wholesale,
with the intention, no doubt, of reselling them at a profit to others
of the craft, a practice the corporation forbade under a penalty of
forty shillings, to be taken from buyer and seller alike.[493] When
any excessive profit was to be made, the public, then as now, was fair
game. In Coventry, as elsewhere, ale-wives gave short measure, and used
an unsealed cup. The clothmakers stretched out broadcloth to the "high
displeasure of God and deceit of the wearers" to a length the material
could ill bear. Of all these matters the corporation took cognizance,
inflicting fines, punishing by the pillory, or in extreme cases by loss
of the freedom of the city.

[Illustration: BUTCHER ROW]

There was one point, however, on which all employers were agreed,
and that was on the advisability of checking unions and combinations
among their workmen for the purpose of obtaining better wages. The
journeymen's, or, as they were called, "yeomen's" guilds, which seem to
have been fairly universal at the close of the fourteenth and during
the fifteenth century, appear in Coventry with great frequency and
persistence. Three several times the corporation obtained patents
against the formation of guilds other than those already existing in
the city.[494] The patent for the suppression of the first of these
combinations that comes before our notice, the fraternity of S. Anne,
is addressed to the mayor and bailiffs, in 1406, and relates how it had
come to the ears of the government that a certain number of youths,
serving men of the tailors and other artificers working by the day
called journeymen, gathered together in the priory, or the houses of
the friars, and formed a fraternity called the fraternity of S. Anne,
to the end that each might maintain the other in their quarrels. This
action was likely, in the opinion of those in authority, to breed
dissensions in the city, do great harm to the societies founded of
old time, namely, the Trinity and Corpus Christi guilds, and hence
bring final destruction upon the townsfolk. The meetings were declared
unlawful, and all who persisted in assembling to hold them after the
patent had been openly proclaimed were to be arrested, and their names
certified to the King, who would have them punished according to their
deserts.[495] But, in spite of this warning, the journeymen did not
give up the conflict, for the fraternity had again to be crushed in the
first year of Henry V.,[496] only to reappear in 1425 under the title
of the guild of S. George.

Connected with this last movement was the discontent which affected the
journeymen weavers in the year 1424. Indeed it is possible that the
whole company of journeymen within the city were at that time making
demand for higher pay. The weavers had a bond of union in a common
fund which they apparently appropriated to the furnishing of altar or
processional lights, a pretext possibly like that of the journeymen
saddlers in London in the time of Richard II., who, under "colour of
sanctity" and religious meetings, "sought only to raise wages greatly
in excess."[497] The movement among the Coventry weavers assumed all
the forms of a modern strike. The men not only refused to serve at
the usual wages, but hindered others from filling their place. The
corporation took the matter in hand, and the question was finally
settled by arbitration. The men were forbidden to hinder any of their
fellows from working for their masters as they had done aforetime, and
a regular rate of wages was established, whereby the journeymen took a
third of the sum paid to their employers for the weaving of each piece
of cloth, while the masters were ordered to exact threepence and no
more from their workmen as a fine for each "contumacy," being, however,
forbidden, under colour of this rule, to oppress their servants.[498]

Nearly a hundred years later we find that the fraternities of
journeymen were still in existence, albeit jealously watched by the
masters of the crafts. In 1518 all initiative was taken from them.
"No journeymen of what occupation or craft soever," runs the order of
leet, shall "make or use any _cave_ or bylaw, or assembly, or meetings
at any place by their summoner without license of the mayor and the
master of their[499] occupation" upon pain of 20s. at the first fault;
at the second the offender's "body to prison," there to remain until
the master and six honest persons of his occupation would speak for
him.[500] At the same time the workers' fraternities were ordered to
bring in the rules already made for the mayor's inspection. But the
attempts on their part to form closer unions in order to facilitate
concerted action still continued, and in 1527 we find the dyers'
serving men assembling together for the apparently pacific purpose of
attending marriages, betrothals, and burials, as if "they had been a
craft or fellowship." These meetings served most likely as a cloak to
more serious proceedings, and they were forbidden by the leet.[501] Nor
was the movement entirely confined to the workers of the crafts; it
spread among those outside the guild organization. In 1518 the daubers
and rough masons were forbidden to form a fellowship of themselves, but
were henceforth to be common labourers, "and to take such wages as are
limited by statute."[502]

In other matters we may see the discontented attitude of the workfolk.
Thus the journeymen cappers objected to the lengthening of the hours
of their working day, which in 1496 had been fixed to last from six
till six, but which by 1520 was further increased by two hours in the
summer-time, thus lasting from five in the morning to seven in the
evening.[503] Six years later it was enacted that, unless they kept
these hours, it was permitted to any master to "abridge their wages
according to their time of absence." Any rivalry in trade between
masters and men was crushed whenever the masters' power availed to
do so. Thus in 1496 the journeymen cappers carried on a contraband
trade, and scorning to be content with the permission to "scour and
fresh old bonnets" for that purpose, made new caps for sale; nor
did the imposition of a fine of twenty pence at every default avail
to check their activity. Therefore according to the rules of 1520,
members of the craft were forbidden to give any work to those who
knitted the journeymen's caps, or to the spinners who span for them,
thus indirectly checking this illicit competition. In other ways the
journeyman was made to feel the weight of the master's hand. Among the
carpenters none could be set to work unless he had served for seven
years as apprentice to the handicraft;[504] and a journeyman capper
was compelled to certify the cause of leaving his late master to the
satisfaction of the masters of the craft.[505]

These are some points connected with the life of mediæval craftsmen.
Although so much has been written on the economical, social, and
religious aspects of the subject, we are still very ignorant as to the
actual workings of the craft system. Modern industry seems to have
entirely passed through, and, as it were, forgotten this immature phase
of its existence. The companies in Coventry which were able to survive
the shock of the suppression of the guilds and chantries under Edward
VI., and have lasted to our own day--the mercers, drapers, cappers,
fullers, clothiers, and worsted weavers--possess none of the powers or
organization of their predecessors, and are mere survivals of a bygone
time, "the shadows of a great name."


[Footnote 451: Rogers, _Six Cent._, 116.]

[Footnote 452: In early times there was a special place in the market
assigned to the sale of cloth. See _undated_ deed Corp. MS. C. 40.]

[Footnote 453: _Rot. Parl._, iii. 437.]

[Footnote 454: _Literæ Cantuarienses_ (Rolls Series, 85), iii. 81.]

[Footnote 455: See above, p. 202.]

[Footnote 456: _Leet Book_, 657.]

[Footnote 457: _i.e._ the Trinity guild.]

[Footnote 458: The elephant, _i.e._ the city seal, which bears the
device of an elephant and castle.]

[Footnote 459: This system did not by any means insure good
workmanship. It was noted in the middle of the century that when the
make of cloth deteriorated, the clothmaking towns still set the seal
upon the material, "and so abased the credit of their predecessors to
their singuler luker" (Lamond, _Common Weal_, 77).]

[Footnote 460: _Rot. Parl._, v. 569. There is a petition concerning the
hindrance of the navigation of the river Severn; Coventry, among other
towns, is spoken of as being injured thereby.]

[Footnote 461: The mercers' and drapers' apprentices were compelled to
pay the admission fines on the sealing of their indentures, whereas
in other fraternities these were not demanded until the period of
apprenticeship was past (_Leet Book_, 655).]

[Footnote 462: _Warw. Antiq. Mag._, pt. vi. 110.]

[Footnote 463: _Leet Book_, 658.]

[Footnote 464: _Leet Book_, 639.]

[Footnote 465: _Rot. Parl._, iv. 75. I am indebted for the explanation
of the significance of this petition to parliament against the dyers to
Mrs J.R. Green.]

[Footnote 466: The terms "degree of a mayor--of a bailiff" were used in
assessing fines. In the year 1449 a list of the craftsfolk of the city
enables us to find out to what calling the members of the corporation
belonged (_Leet Book_, 246 _sqq._)]

[Footnote 467: _Leet Book._ The mayor, recorder, and bailiffs were to
take eight or twelve of the general council of the city, and to summon
before them the wardens of the crafts with their ordinances, and these
"poyntes that byn lawfull, good and honest for the cite be alowyd hem
and all other throw[n]asid [_sic_], and had for none." And this order
was in substance repeated many times.]

[Footnote 468: _Leet Book_, 657.]

[Footnote 469: This rule was embodied in the fullers' rules. See _Book
of the Fullers_ (in possession of the fullers' company at Coventry), f.

[Footnote 470: _Leet Book_, 698.]

[Footnote 471: _Ib._, 697-8.]

[Footnote 472: _Leet Book_, 654. A part of the proceeds of the craft
fines frequently went to the repair of the town wall in the early
fifteenth century. Among the cappers fines for breach of regulations
went "half to the mayor and half to the craft" (_ib._, 573.)]

[Footnote 473: Corp. MS. B. 46; B. 63.]

[Footnote 474: The corporation proposed in a petition to parliament
that the twenty-four who elected the mayor should choose two drapers
and two dyers to overlook the craft, and "present" them for any "fault
or confederacy." See above p. 217.]

[Footnote 475: In spite of the provision for overlooking regulations,
says an order of leet for the year 1475, "divers craftsmen of this
city now late have made divers conventicles and ordinances unlawfully
against the common public of this city. And amongst others the
craftsmen of dyers' craft have made an unlawful ordinance, that is
to say that none of them should colour nor dye but under a certain
form amongst themselves ordained upon certain pains ... ordained by
surety of writing and oaths unlawful in that behalf. It is therefore
ordained by this leet ... the said unlawful and hurtful ordinances
made by the said dyers and all other unlawful ... ordinance made in
every other craft ... and the unlawful oaths and writings made for
the same be utterly void, quashed and annulled." None were in future,
the order continues, to be bound by these rules, and masters suing
others of their fellowship for not obeying them were to be fined £10.
The largeness of the sum, and the fact that precautions were taken to
have this order proclaimed once a year, "so that craftsmen might have
knowledge" of the penalties incurred by any breach of the same, prove
that the corporation was thoroughly alarmed and determined to suppress
the movement (_Leet Book_, 418).]

[Footnote 476: _Leet Book_, 558.]

[Footnote 477: _i.e._ combs for combing wool.]

[Footnote 478: _Leet Book_, 181-2.]

[Footnote 479: _Leet Book_, 303. In 1515 the crafts were commanded to
give in their books so that the fines might be moderated at the mayor's
discretion. A refusal to give in the books of regulations was to be
visited by a fine of 100s. New rules were also to be enregistered in
the mayor's book, and a 20s. fine taken from any craft for every month
that a rule had been observed without the mayor's knowledge and licence
(_ib._, 645-6).]

[Footnote 480: Green, _Town Life_, ii. 100.]

[Footnote 481: _Leet Book_, 92.]

[Footnote 482: _Ib._, 573. In a later version of the rule (_Ib._) this
matter is worked out in detail. Each apprentice put in surety in £5
to perform his covenant. If the lad broke it, it was only by handing
over the £5 to the craft that the master could immediately take an
apprentice in his place.]

[Footnote 483: _Leet Book_, 687.]

[Footnote 484: _Ib._, 774, 778.]

[Footnote 485: _Ib._, 792. The masters of crafts exercised a particular
form of oppression in forcing apprentices to take oaths on entering
their service (_cf._ "the unlawful oaths of the dyers") perhaps
to the effect that they would not set up in business after their
apprenticeship was over. The craft masters were forbidden by leet to
cause others to take an oath on "any point of their occupation" under
penalty of a fine of 100s. "without any pardon" (_Ib._ 654).]

[Footnote 486: _Leet Book_, 690-1 (1525). The fines for admission
varied with the different crafts. The cappers took from strangers 26s.
8d. and 13s. 4d. from town apprentices--payments extending over four
years, but nevertheless so high as to prevent the poorer class from
entering the craft in question. In 1518 the leet determined to overcome
the crafts' exclusiveness. Fines were then fixed for apprentices at 6s.
8d., payable at setting up shop, and for strangers at 10s., of which
5s. was paid at the end of the first year, and 5s. at the end of the
second year after starting business (_Ib._, 574, 655). The mercers' and
drapers' apprentices paid the fine at the sealing of their indentures.]

[Footnote 487: _Ib._, 553-4. For the discontent this act called forth
see p. 201.]

[Footnote 488: _Leet Book_, 671. Such was the rule among the cappers.]

[Footnote 489: Corp. MS. F. 2.]

[Footnote 490: _Leet Book_, 92-3.]

[Footnote 491: The member was "to warn" the master, who was to warn the
other members of the fellowship (_Carpenters' Accounts_, Corp. MS. A.

[Footnote 492: Under penalty of 6s. 8d.]

[Footnote 493: _Leet Book_, 557.]

[Footnote 494: Corp. MS. B. 35 (18th Nov. 8 Hen. IV. 1406); B. 38 (8th
Mar. 1 Hen. V. 1414); B. 47 (25th Jan. 19 Hen. VI. 1441).]

[Footnote 495: Corp. MS. B. 40 (22nd Nov. 8 Hen. IV. 1406).]

[Footnote 496: Corp. MS. B. 41 (8th Mar. 1 Hen. V. 1414). These last
two deeds are misdated--though with a query--in Mr Jeaffreson's
catalogue. A comparison of the dates of the patents of general
prohibition with those for a particular suppression will show that they
were executed in one instance on the same day, in another instance
within an interval of four days.]

[Footnote 497: Ryley, _Memorials_, 543.]

[Footnote 498: _Leet Book_, 94.]

[Footnote 499: MS. his.]

[Footnote 500: _Leet Book_, 656.]

[Footnote 501: _Leet Book_, 694.]

[Footnote 502: _Ib._, 653.]

[Footnote 503: _Ib._, 673. The winter hours were also increased. The
workmen came at 6 a.m. and left at 7 p.m.]

[Footnote 504: _Carpenters' Accounts_ (Corp. MS. A. 4).]

[Footnote 505: _Leet Book_, 574.]


_Daily Life in the Town--the Merchants and the Market_

At the "beating of the bell called daybell," the townsfolk rose and
began their daily work. Country people, wayfarers and chapmen, bearing
their burdens of merchandise, saw the city in the morning light, with
its ring of walls and upstanding posterns and gates over-topped by
six tall spires, lying in the midst of fields and far-reaching common
grounds in a slight dip in the plain. Entering the newly-opened gates,
they were at once inside the narrow paved[506] streets, bounded on
either side with black and white timbered houses, for travellers from
the Warwick side did not make their entrance by spacious Hertford
Street,[507] but by the Grey Friars' and Warwick Lanes, then part of
the main thoroughfare of the city. Passing up the hill, they found that
the street on a line with these--the Broadgate--belied its name, being
but a very narrow thoroughfare, bounded on the left hand by a block of
houses, whereof the removal in 1820[508] has caused moderns to think
that the open space on the crown of the hill is very rightly named.

Soon after daybreak the streets were alive with the noise and press
of a busy throng. It is true there were many impediments to traffic.
Cattle[509] and ducks wandered hither and thither; fishmongers' stalls
stood in the middle of the streets, greatly to the hindrance of the
passers-by, whether horsemen or pedestrians;[510] while inn signs[511]
had perforce to be limited in length, lest they should strike the heads
of unwary riders in the by-lanes of the city. But the mediæval trader
was well inured to inconvenience. Neither did noise distract him,
though taverners and cooks standing at the door offered good things
hot from the oven to passers-by, each seeking to cry louder than his
neighbour; while in the open places the crier proclaimed the terms of
a recent charter, or newly-made ordinance of leet or council;[512]
and overhead the church bells pealed forth, calling folk to their
prayers, to the market, or, in case of a brawl or riot, to a common


Long before curfew the countryman had gone home to his village in the
Arden country or by the London road to Dunsmoor Heath; while the
traveller in his inn and the townsman under his own roof were soon
abed. What light there was in the deserted streets on winter evenings
came from the lamps which hung over the door of every hostelry and
every substantial citizen's house, until nine o'clock,[514] after which
time the city gates were closed,[515] and none were abroad save thieves
and watchmen. Indeed, the very fact of being out after dark was in
itself presumptive evidence of some dishonest purpose on the part of
the belated wayfarer. At any suspicious sight or sound the watch were
on the alert, and prepared to arrest the wanderer; should the prisoner
escape and take to flight, they would instantly give chase, and fill
the dark and empty streets with the echoes of their pursuit. A hue and
cry would be raised, doors open, and householders pour forth to aid the
watch. If the unlucky fugitive were captured, he would be committed to
ward in all haste.[516]

What a crowd of different types of men must have jostled against one
another in the noisy throng! Craftsmen, attired in the livery proper
to their calling, a custom whereof we have this day a relic in the
butcher's blouse; merchants from foreign parts, or natives fresh from a
sea voyage; mayor and aldermen clad maybe in festal scarlet; the crier
and sergeants in the livery of the city; men-at-arms, the retainers
of some great lord, bearing the badge of the Earls of Warwick, or the
Stafford knot; Benedictines, clad in white cassock and black gown
and hood; Franciscans, with their brown habit and knotted girdle;
Carmelites from Whitefriars in white frock and brown scapulary;
Carthusians from the Charter-house, with white cassock and hood;
chantry and parish priests--all these, laymen and clerics, warriors and
traders, met, passed, and gave greeting in the streets.

Strange figures might be seen in the streets or the road neighbouring
the city, such as the hermits, whose dwellings--the one by Bablake
church,[517] the other at Gosford Green--stood at either end of the
highway leading through Coventry. Times had changed; it was now
customary for hermits to build by the highway, and no longer withdraw
into solitary places, and spend their lives in prayer and meditation.
They rather preferred to dwell in "boroughs among brewers," seeking
society and good cheer. Nor did the pilgrims, who might be seen
flocking to the shrine of S. Osburg[518] or to the image of Our Lady in
the Lady Tower on the London Road hard by the Whitefriars' to pay their
devotions, invariably set about their task in a religious spirit. Many
who travelled to the far-famed shrines of S. Thomas of Canterbury, S.
Edmund of Bury, S. Cuthbert of Durham, or to "Our Lady" of Walsingham,
to the Roods of Chester and Bronholme, or the Holy Blood of Hales,
looked on their journey as a holiday jaunt rather than as an act of
devotion. The author of _Piers Plowman_ thought little spiritual good
came from this gadabout religion. The Lollards were wont to condemn
pilgrimages, and one John Blomstone of Coventry, a heretic, examined
in 1485 declared:--

"That it was foolishness to go on a pilgrimage to the image of Our Lady
of Doncaster, Walsingham, or the Tower of Coventry, for a man might as
well worship by the fireside in the kitchen as in the aforesaid places,
and as well might a man worship the Blessed Virgin when he seeth his
mother or sister, as in visiting the images, because they be no more
but dead stocks and stones."

[Illustration: Whitefriar's Lane]

Interesting, too, are several persons occurring in Coventry history,
whose occupations were hardly so legitimate as those of pilgrim or
hermit. We have had a glance at the ruinous house where John de
Nottingham, the necromancer, by means of his waxen effigies wrought
such terrible evil to one of the prior's servants, and revenged the
wrongs of the Coventry men. We would fain know more of John French,
the alchemist, who appears in the _Leet Book_,[519] only to disappear
directly from its pages. We learn in 1477 that he intended, "be his
labor, to practise a true and profitable conclusion in the cunnyng of
transmutacion of meteals to" the "profyte and pleasur" of the King's
grace, and was, so Edward IV. charged the mayor, never to "be letted,
troubled, or vexed of his seid labor and practise, to th' entent that
he at his good liberte may shewe vnto vs, and such as be by vs therfor
appointed, the cler effect of his said conclusion." There can be little
doubt that the citizens looked askance at John French, and whispered
that he dabbled in black magic and had dealings with the Prince of
Darkness. We know not how many years the alchemist spent in his
fruitless labours; or if he imparted his views on the subject of the
"transmutation of metals" to the citizens, or ever journeyed to London
to pour a tale of hope deferred into the ears of the disappointed King.


There were many sights in a mediæval city to remind us that men seldom
cared to cloak their brutality in those days. The stocks, where
offenders were held by their feet, the pillory, where they were held
by the head and hands, stood conspicuous, probably in neighbourhood
of the guild-hall. A pillory, a favourite place for the chastisement
of fraudulent bakers, may yet be seen in Coleshill, and stocks stand
yet on many a village green.[520] Here the great punishment lay in
the shame of exposure: the criminal stood for hours unable to move,
a pitiful target for the derision of the multitude. The like penance
was imposed on those who suffered at the cucking-stool, followed by
ducking in water, a highly disagreeable incident in the punishment.
The prisoners in the gaol looked out into the highway, and perhaps
held conversation with their friends as they passed. Now and then a
craftsman might be seen among the debtors pursuing his calling, for
it was not thought expedient to bring a man to utter destitution by
depriving him of the means of livelihood during imprisonment; and
those who chose might cobble shoes or work at the loom during those
monotonous days. Hard by the busy worker might stand a felon, traitor,
or murderer, his mind full of gloomy thoughts of his coming end.[521]
The gallows, naturally reared on high where all men might see them
and their ghastly burden, were probably in sight of the prison; and
rich and poor crowded to see a condemned man drawn in a tumbril, or
executioner's cart, to the gallows, or a woman exposed to open shame.
"It is ordained," an order of leet ran, "that William Rowett, capper,
and his paramour be carried and led through the town in a car, in
example of punishment of sin, and that all other that be proved in the
same sin from this time forward shall have the same pain."[522] But
these were only a few among many unpleasant sights that would attract
the notice of a passing stranger. Heads of traitors stuck on the top
of long poles often adorned the gates. Part of the body of Jack Cade
was sent down in 1450, no doubt to breed terror into all disloyal
beholders, and in 1470 the head of one Chapman[523] was set up on the
Bablake gate; while that of Sir Henry Mountford, an adherent of Perkin
Warbeck, shared the same fate in 1496.[524] Gosford Green was the Tower
Hill, and the Little Park the Smithfield of Coventry. At the former
place Lord Rivers and his son suffered death under Warwick in 1469;
while the latter saw the burning of many martyrs, including the famous
Marian victim, Laurence Saunders.

Many were the efforts made to keep the place clean and wholesome to
live in; but frequent appearances of the plague show that they met
with but partial success. At the awful visitation known as the Black
Death there remained not "the tenth person alive," we are told, to
bury the dead;[525] while in 1479 the plague is said (without doubt
exaggeratively) to have carried off 3300 of the inhabitants.[526]
Filth of every kind was deposited in the Cross Cheaping under the
magnificent cross itself, much incommoding the folk who thronged to the
market-place, "to the danger," the leet jury complained, "of infection
of the plague," and by sweeping the pavement there dust was raised,
which did "deface and corrupt" the said cross.[527] In that half of the
city wherein the prior held sway the people put all the refuse of their
houses just outside the Cook Street gate, with the result that when the
country people did not come to carry it away to manure their fields,
the lord prior could not "have his carriage through his orchard."[528]

According to orders of leet, however, a better system should have
prevailed. The sergeants collected every quarter a penny from each
citizen dwelling in a house with a hall door, and a halfpenny from
every shop, to provide a cart which carried away the filth from the
streets.[529] Moreover all the citizens were enjoined to clean that
portion of the pavement which lay in front of their dwellings every
saint's day under payment of a fine of 12d. This order was hardly a
popular one, and the sergeants were continually taking distress from
those who would not pay the quarterly cart-rate, or raising fines
for the omission of the festal cleaning. For the good folk evaded
all sanitary regulations whenever they might do so with impunity. As
for those misdoers who threw filth into the common river, to inquire
concerning them was a hopeless task.[530] This was, as the mayor and
corporation owned to prior Deram when he loudly complained thereof, one
of the worst evils of the city. Coventry seems, however, never to have
fallen into such an evil plight as Hythe did in the fifteenth century.
Here, owing to the abominable habit of casting refuse into the streets,
to say nothing of blocking them with all imaginable obstructions,[531]
they were more like evil-smelling swamps than highways fit for traffic.

Measures, somewhat primitive in character,[532] were taken to guard
against an outbreak of fire, which so frequently wasted mediæval
cities, where the plaster and timber of the houses, with their
projecting storeys almost touching one another across the narrow
streets, afforded excellent fuel for the flames. A stone house was
a rarity, and in the fifteenth century bricks were as yet not in
general use. The leet forbade the building of wooden chimneys or the
roofing of houses with straw in lieu of tiles.[533] Moreover late
mayors and other officers with "commoners of thrift," were forced to
provide leather buckets, "such as the aldermen think sufficient" to
hold the water wherewith to quench the flames. In order to prevent the
supply of water--brought in a leaden pipe from a spring without the
city[534]--from being exhausted, a lavish use of it was not permitted.
The conduits, whereof there was one in Cross Cheaping, and another,
called the Bull, probably by the Bablake Gate,[535] were kept locked
during the night, and brewers were forbidden to take water thence for
their brewing, or any one to wash linen and clothes therein.[536] The
practice whereby individuals, by means of a grant sealed with the
common seal, obtained a licence to take water continually from the
conduit for their private use, was looked on most unfavourably, and
finally forbidden by the leet.[537] No doubt the people who wished to
obtain this permission were the wealthy brewers and victuallers who
were answerable for so many disturbances in Coventry.

For here as elsewhere this important class of townsfolk made great
profit out of the "pence of the poor," in spite of law and ordinance.
One of the great problems facing mediæval legislators and local
authorities was the task of ensuring the natural price of provisions.
"No police of the Middle Ages," says Thorold Rogers, "would allow a
producer of the necessaries of life to fix his charges by the needs
of the individual, or, in economical language, to allow supplies to
be absolutely interpreted by demand. The law did not fix the price of
the raw material, wheat or barley. It allowed this to be determined by
scarcity or plenty--interpreted, not by the individual's needs, but by
the range of the whole market. But it fixed the value of the labour
which must be expended on wheat and barley in order to make them into
bread and ale."[538] The central government ordained what weight of
bread was to be sold for a certain sum, and what price should be given
for a gallon of ale; and the enforcing of the law was the business of
the local authority. The local rulers themselves fixed the price of
other provisions--fish, meat, poultry, and wine--allowing for profits
according to a certain scale on their resale by victuallers.[539]
Stringent rules were laid down against the enhancement of price by
"forestalling and regratery," that is intercepting merchandise on the
way to market and selling it at an increased price. For example, native
fishmongers, it was feared, would lay in wait for travelling salesmen
bringing in "panyers" of salt fish, and, after buying the same, would
ask a higher price for it before the next fasting day. So to guard
against this contingency, strangers selling fish were forbidden to be
"osted or inned" in the house of a native brother of the craft, but to
pass the night at inns at the mayor's "limitation," and after "making
relation" to him of the kind of fish they brought, to sell the same
openly in the common market-place.[540] A multitude of regulations were
also made to ensure the good quality of provisions, the mayor examined
all fish brought by foreign fishmongers, whilst ale-tasters, appointed
by the bailiff, summoned by each brewer to taste his new beer, received
"a gallon of the best ale" at the detection of any default. In
addition to all these expedients for regulating price and quality, the
statute-book provided for the giving of a just quantity to the buyer at
the conclusion of every bargain. On each opening day of a new mayoralty
all shopkeepers and victuallers delivered up their weights and measures
for the mayor's inspection, and after comparison with the standard
model, kept in the town chest, they were sealed if found correct, or,
if faulty destroyed.

On his entry into office, the mayor's "crye" or proclamation informed
all and sundry of these regulations, and of the perils consequent on
their infringement.

Here we learn the price of "coket" bread[541] and horse-bread at
that time; how white wine of Rochelle was to be sold at 6d. a gallon,
Malvoisey at 16d., and "no derer upon the peyn of xx_s._ at every
trespas," and that on Oseney, Algarbe and Bastarde the "mayor and his
peres" would set a price when any occasion of selling offered.[542]
The "crye" tells us what penalties were laid on those who made use
of fraudulent measures, "coppes and bollys" unsealed,[543] and how
informers were stimulated by the promise that whosoever gave notice to
the mayor of this abuse should "have iiii_d._ for his travayll and a
galon of the best ale" and also what hard punishments were meted out to
those who practised forestalling and regratery.[544]

But in spite of all these regulations the task of curtailing profits
seemed a hopeless one, and again and again the worthy men of the leet
confess that the law remains a dead letter through the frauds of the
victuallers. These, we are told, holding their heads high, refused to
sell their wares at the "limited" price, "and in maner destitucion the
seid cite of wyne and vitayle" to the manifest hurt of the inhabitants
and of all people "confluent to the same." While, when the mayor
insisted that the bakers should obey the orders of leet regulating
their trade, the whole craft "struck" with the greatest unanimity, and
leaving the city "destitute of bread," took sanctuary at Bagington, a
village about four miles distant. Night, however, brought counsel, and
they submitted next day to the mayor, paying for their lawlessness a
fine of £10.[545] As for the brewers in the sixteenth century, they
found their calling so lucrative that others were thereby encouraged
to forsake their occupations and take up this profitable trade. At
that time, said the worthy men of the leet in 1544, "divers of the
said brewers nothing regarding the displeasure of God, the danger of
the laws of the realm nor the love and charity which they ought to
bear to their neighbours nor the commonwealth of this city, for their
own private lucre ... do ... regrate and forestall barley coming into
this city to be sold," and sell ale at excessive and unreasonable

Regulations, however, affected this powerful and wealthy class but
little, and in listening to the ever-renewed complaints against them we
begin to realize the universal detestation in which they are held in
the Middle Ages. Mediæval imagination, with its love of the grotesque,
delighted to picture the unhappy end of those who bade defiance to the
laws of God and man. How hardly shall an alewife, thought the Ludlow
artist, "enter the kingdom of Heaven," and in carving the _miserere_ of
the parish church he shadowed forth her fate. "A demon is bearing away
the deceitful one; she carries nothing about her but her gay head-dress
and her false measure; he is going to throw her into hell-mouth, while
another demon is reading her offences as entered in his roll, and
another is playing on the bag-pipes by way of welcome."[547] A pleasant
man was that Ludlow artist,--one, we may fancy, who abhorred cheating,
and dearly loved his glass.

Ordinances of leet were frequently passed upon the order to be
maintained upon a market day, for there was but scanty room for traffic
in the Cross Cheaping, even though the carts can have been no wider
than trollies, taking up but "the brede of a yard" in passing by.
Stalls and boards were a great encumbrance. "No fishmonger," runs an
order of leet, "(can) have his board standing forth at large in the
street for to let cart, horse or man, but that there be a reasonable
space left ... between their houses and their boards."[548] Round
about the market-place were clustered the dwellings of provision
merchants and the lesser craftsmen. Ironmonger Row, Butcher Row or the
Poultry, Cook Street, and the Spicer-Stoke[549] tell by their names
the calling of those who lived or chiefly trafficked there;[550] while
the drapers made their homes hard by the Drapery, in Bayley Lane and
Earl Street.[551] On market days this neighbourhood was crowded with
the overflow of stall-holders and salesmen; the poulterers standing
before the Priory gates, and round about the Bull-ring "usque finem de
le Litel Bochery,"[552] while the fishmongers and leather sellers had
stalls within the Cheaping itself.[553] Other stalls were placed in the
procession way in S. Michael's churchyard, and the sellers of cloth had
an illicit market in the church porch opposite the Drapery door, until
it was made forbidden ground by a leet ordinance. For all merchants
and chapmen resorting to the city on the Friday were forced by this
authority to sell all their mercery, cloth, and linen inside the
Drapery;[554] and all sellers of wool to have their merchandise weighed
at the Wool-hall hard by, and pay a fee for the weighing thereof at the
"Beam" or public weighing machine.

Equally stringent were the orders of leet, which curtailed the
privileges of the "foreyn," who came to buy or sell within the city.
He was not allowed to purchase corn in the market until mid-day,
three hours after the townsfolk had been admitted to make their
bargains.[555] A certain time of sale was assigned him,[556] and very
frequently his goods were examined by the mayor ere he could dispose
of them in the market. If his trade competed in any serious degree
with that of the city craftsmen, there was no end to the restrictions
wherewith he was hampered. Urged by a spirit of local monopoly, the
authorities regulated the trade in hides and tallow in favour of
the dealers of the city, though on the butchers' assertion that the
country tanners would give a better price for the hides than their
town brethren, the rules were somewhat relaxed. No chandler, however,
was permitted to sell more than twelve pounds of candles out of the
city[557] to one purchaser.

The frequent enactment of these and similar regulations in the early
sixteenth century shows the terror with which the townsfolk looked on
the spread of industry in country districts. Owing to the conversion of
arable land to pasture for sheep farming, agricultural labourers had
been thrown out of work; many therefore were employed in handicrafts
in their own houses and their competition was thought to seriously
threaten the prosperity of their town neighbours.[558]

At the Corpus Christi fair all was bustle and activity in Coventry, and
the mayor had doubtless much ado to settle all the disputes arising
from differences of currency or hard driving of bargains at the
pypowders court, for all the world of the neighbourhood came to lay
in stores for the year, and merchants from far and near to sell their
wares. Eight weeks a year of a farmer's life is said to have been spent
more or less at fairs and markets,[559] and undoubtedly a merchant
employed a far longer period in travel to and from these centres of
trade. Our forefathers were not altogether such simple stay-at-homes as
we love to picture, but, rather, experienced travellers, and in those
days travelling meant experience, and was not as it is now--at least
in civilized countries--a method for getting from place to place which
puts no tax on the body, and the least possible on the mind of the
traveller. All manner of men and of merchandise[560] were to be seen at
the fair. Irish traders brought druggets from Drogheda; coarse cloth
came from the west country;[561] Frenchmen brought dyes for cloth;
Bristol traders wine from Guienne and Spain; country gentlemen and
local graziers bales of wool for export or home manufacture.

It is true that in spite of its popularity, the Corpus Christi fair
never equalled the S. Giles' fair at Winchester, the centre of trade
between the southern counties and France, or that of Stourbridge,
near Cambridge, the great mart for horses, and the centre of commerce
between the eastern counties and Flanders. To many, however, the fair
at Coventry, the centre of traffic on the great road to the north-west,
was the chief event of the whole year. The local makers displayed to
the utmost advantage the bales of Coventry cloth, and the blue thread,
to which the skill of the native dyers gave the colour which was the
envy of the whole country. This merchandise could be bought openly by
the strangers, who jostled against one another before the stalls in
the Drapery. But many transactions, which the dealers hoped would not
come to light, must have taken place unnoticed in the busy crowd. The
prior of Sulby, in terror of the rapacity of Henry VIII., sold his
cross-staff to the wife of a London goldsmith at Coventry fair one
Corpus Christi day, just as the monks of Stoneley--provident men--about
this time disposed of a silver censer, and other things "worth £14 or
thereabouts," to Master John Calans, goldsmith, of Coventry.[562] Maybe
the spare scholar might there be seen, as at the fair of S. Frideswide,
at Oxford, counting the few coins his purse contained to find out
if they would avail to purchase a book he coveted greatly. While in
Elizabeth's days Puritan purchasers, who found the "Martin Marprelate"
tracts edifying reading, could obtain these locally printed attacks on
the episcopate from some discreet salesmen.[563] But the bulk of the
buyers were local folk: farmers on the look-out for a good horse, or
intent on replenishing the stock of sheep-dressing, and their wives
keenly enjoying a bargain over some pewter vessels, or article of
"mercery," a gay belt or kerchief for the daughters at home.

More important transactions than these frequently took place, and
not at fair time only but throughout the year, as the records of
the mayor's court of Statute Merchant clearly show. The amount of
the various purchases was, when viewed from a mediæval standpoint,
very large; a "gentilman" of Attleborough, for instance, in 1415,
acknowledges that he is bound to certain Hinckley folk and others "in
ducentis libris" (£200 sterling), while a Dublin merchant, Dodenhall,
without doubt a connection and kinsman of the Coventry mayors of that
name, owed in 1394 a fellow-merchant of the latter place £210, money
which he did pay before distress was levied upon him. The following,
however, would be a more usual example of recognition of debt: "On
the eighteenth day of the month of February, in the third year of
King Henry the Fifth after the Conquest, at Coventry, William Lyberd,
hosier, of Coventry, acknowledges that he is bound ("recognoscit se
teneri") to Thomas Dawe of Coventry, passenger, in sixteen pounds
sterling, payable at Coventry at the feast of S. Michael the Archangel
next ensuing."[564]

When all the bargaining was over, when the debt had been duly paid, or
the amount enrolled at the mayor's court, men thought of other things.
The "commons" of Coventry could discuss the everlasting "Lammas"
question with the Nottingham men, while those who took more interest in
national politics whispered to one another complaints against abuses
in Church and State. They hinted darkly at the cause of the death
of the "good" Duke Humphrey, condemned the malice of the Yorkists,
the scandals of the archdeacon's court, or lifting their eyes to the
defaced monastery and cathedral, spoke of the high-handed character of
the "King's Proceedings."[565]

The nightly sojourn at inns was a great feature of the wayfaring
merchant's life, for it was only in sparsely-peopled districts that
monasteries afforded hospitality to the travelling trader.[566]
"Strangers and baggers of corn between Yorkshire, Lancashire, Kendal,
and Westmoreland and the bishopric," the people of the north declared
at the dissolution, "were greatly helped both horse and man by the
said abbeys; for never was in these parts denied either horse-meat
or man's meat, so that the people were greatly refreshed by the said
abbeys, where now they have no such succour."[567] But the majority of
wayfarers sought shelter either at inns or at _herbergeors'_ houses,
for the private citizens, even the richer merchants, frequently
increased their gains by the entertainment of travellers. The public
inns were often the scene of gambling and intrigue, and unwary guests,
who had not the wherewithal to discharge the heavy bills they had been
induced to contract, frequently found their baggage seized to several
times the amount of the debt. "The greater barons and knights were
in the custom of taking up their lodgings with herbergeors, rather
than going to the public hostels; and thus a sort of relationship was
formed between particular nobles or kings and particular burghers, on
the strength of which the latter adopted the arms of their habitual
lodgers as their signs."[568] It might still be possible to learn
the story of the connection between certain noble houses and the
inhabitants of a given district by means of inn-sign heraldry; while
from the same source we could gather a hint of popular political
feeling at a later date. The jubilant cavalier would swing his sign of
the _Royal Oak_ at the Restoration, and the staunch adherent of the
"Great Commoner" flaunt his _Old King of Prussia_ in the next century,
just as surely as the mediæval inn-keeper decorated his sign with the
_White Hart_, _White Boar_, or _Bear and Baculus_, in honour of his
patrons Richard II., Richard III., or the Earl of Warwick. Famous old
inns in Coventry were the _Crown_, in "platea vocata Brodeyatys" hard
by the Langley's inn, the _Cardinal's Hat_, in Earl Street.[569] The
_Peacock_, still existing in the last century, was in the Broad Gate,
but the locality of the _Angel_, where Stafford, Duke of Buckingham,
lodged, is unknown. One authority speaks also of the _White Rose_, of
late years the _Roebuck_, still standing in Little Park Street, where
the Yorkists held rendezvous, and the _Red Rose_ in Much Park Street,
a meeting-place for Lancastrians.[570] The herbergeors frequently
received distinguished guests. Henry VII., after a triumphal entry into
Leicester on his way from Bosworth field, came to Coventry, and took
up his lodging in the house of Robert Onley, the mayor, at the Bull,
in Smithfield Street, a visit he repeated in two years' time, when he
conferred on his host the honour of knighthood.[571]

The Coventry merchants, like their fellows in other towns, had
plentiful dealings with the outside world. The Botoners, whom tradition
credits with the building of S. Michael's spire and chancel, held
intercourse, it seems, with the men of Bristol, for they married a
daughter of their house to a native of those parts, and she became
the mother of the chronicler, William Worcester.[572] As the traders
of a later generation, the Botoners, most likely, conveyed their wine
and wax in vessels towed up the River Severn, a journey beset with
difficulties, as the towing-path was overgrown with brushwood, and
private landowners and corporate towns on the river bank demanded tolls
from the passers-by.[573] The Bristol men, too, were not averse from
straining a point in the matter of tolls, and in spite of the grants of
freedom the Coventry men possessed, demanded "cayage" from them,[574]
when their goods were upon the landing stage. Many times did Adam and
William Botoner serve in the mayor's office, and their donations to the
church, to town guilds, murage funds, and the like are numberless. As
for the great tower of S. Michael's steeple that the brothers built,
tradition credits them with spending £100 every year for twenty-one
years upon the work.[575] In the early part of the fifteenth century
the family entered the ranks of the country landowners by the purchase
of an estate at Withybrook. Not only at Bristol, but at Southampton,
the chief port of the south, where French dyes were sold, did Coventry
men carry on a great part of their trade. And William Horseley, mayor
in 1483 and member of the dyers' craft, brought about an agreement
between the men of this port and his fellow-citizens in 1456, whereby
mutual freedom of tolls was secured.[576]

But the trading enterprise of these inland-dwelling townsfolk was
not confined to their native country merely. Another family, the
Onleys, whereof one John Onley, the founder, was mayor of the Calais
Staple,[577] had dealings with merchants beyond the sea. This foreign
intercourse was often beset with danger to life and limb. John Onley,
son of the above, was apprenticed to one Thomas Aleyn, a London
mercer. When travelling to Bruges in 1413, where the chief staple for
cloth then was, on his master's errand, this apprentice fell into the
hands of a goldsmith of that place, who, because he could not obtain
redress for the treatment he and his goods had received from an English
"roberdesman" in the neighbourhood of Dover, kidnapped and kept John
Onley as hostage. At last the good folk of Bruges, fearing the anger of
the English, forced him to let the apprentice go.[578] Our sympathies
are divided between the innocent lad and the outraged goldsmith, for
in the wilder parts of England "roberdesmen" were a veritable scourge
to the foreign trader. Did not Henry III. hang more than sixty of the
brigands of Alton, who had plundered certain merchants of Brabant,
though the whole county of Hants conspired to ensure the acquittal
of the accused?[579] Occasionally the highwaymen also attacked
English folk. In the days of the third Edward, there was a pretty
gang, composed chiefly of "gentlemen born," who beneath the shelter
of Cannock Chase did much harm to the merchants of Lichfield, and
apportioned what spoil they took "to each according to his rank."[580]

But foreigners were quick at reprisal when debts were owing to them, or
any injury had been done by English merchants. And the proud traders
of Lübeck and Bergen, members of the Hanseatic League, who warred with
and dictated to kings, were especially sensitive in this respect.
This may be seen by the fate which befell Laurence Cook, afterwards
twice mayor of Coventry, in the days of his apprenticeship to William
Bedforth, and Thomas Walton, servant to John Cross, another local
merchant, who aided in the erection of S. Mary's Hall. For in 1398, as
they lay in the ship of one Thomas Herman, of Boston, in the port of
Stralsund, certain allies of the League, who had some grudge against
the English traders, fell upon the apprentices, beat and wounded them
_minus juste_, taking moreover from the ship 240 dozen pieces of
cloth of divers colours, Bedforth's property, valued at £200; "much
merchandise" belonging to Cross, worth half the sum, and other pieces
of cloth, exported by a third Coventry merchant, valued at £50.[581]
Such incidents as these were not uncommon in the lives of mediæval
merchants, and for the making of a successful trader it was necessary
that a man should have a dash of the warrior and a great deal of the
adventurer in his composition. Trained by exposure to such perils by
land and sea as nowadays only explorers undergo, it is little wonder
that they proved themselves keen, energetic, and resourceful in their
civic life.

The servant of one Mr Wheatley had a happier adventure than Laurence
Cook when in the sixteenth century he undertook a journey to Spain.
For, wishing to purchase steel gads, he bought a chest at a fair,
and lo! when it was opened it was found to contain ingots of silver,
treasure brought perhaps from over the Spanish main. The servant, not
knowing of whom he bought them, Mr Wheatley--honest man--kept them
for a time, but as no inquiry was ever made, he gave the profits,
amounting with contributions from the city to £96 a year, to the
maintenance of twenty-one boys at a school at Bablake, an institution
which exists and thrives even to this day. This benefactor, the "Dick
Whittington" of Coventry, is a person of whom we would gladly learn
more. The real Sir Richard, "thrice Lord Mayor of London," was, as
historians tells us, not the poor friendless wanderer of legend, but
the hopeful son of a well-to-do family of the country gentry, and was
apprenticed to a wealthy London merchant by his kinsfolk after the
orthodox fashion.[582] But as yet no historian has deemed it necessary
to investigate Mr Wheatley's early career, and we still believe that
he came to Coventry as a nameless adventurer, "a poor boy in a white
coat," as Dugdale says. He died a bachelor, and bequeathed his fortune
to charity.[583]

[Illustration: OLD BABLAKE SCHOOL]

But Mr Wheatley was not the only benefactor the city knew. Wealthy
merchants were generous givers, and the education of youth and
provision for the sick and needy were not matters held to be solely
within the Church's province. The names of Richard Whittington and John
Carpenter[584] of London, and of Cannynges of Bristol, deserve ever to
be held in remembrance, and there are hundreds of other half-forgotten
donors entitled to an equal fame. Thomas Bond, merchant of the Staple,
founded at Bablake a hospital for ten men "and one woman to look after
them," the candidates to be chosen on a general day of the Trinity
guild, and, as bedesmen of this omnipotent fraternity, to repeat
three times a day Our Lady's Psalter for the brethren of the guild.
Both Bond's almshouse and that erected by William Ford, merchant, and
William Pisford, at Greyfriars, still remain, and are among the few
perfect specimens of domestic architecture of the sixteenth century
that we possess. The latter, first enriched by Ford's will in 1509,
contained six men and their wives, the nominees of the Trinity guild,
each couple receiving 7-1/2d. a week for their maintenance.[585]

[Illustration: FORD'S HOSPITAL]

But it was not the welfare of the aged alone which absorbed the charity
of these merchants. To John Haddon, draper, is due the honour of
initiating the system of granting loans to young freemen to aid them
in beginning commercial life. By his will (1518) he bequeathed £100 to
be distributed among men of the drapers' fellowship--poor clothmakers
the _Leet Book_ calls them--in loans of £5 each, to enable them to buy
wool or cloth, for the cloth trade at that time was undergoing a period
of great depression in Coventry, and £100 to be similarly divided in
£4 loans among young freemen of all occupations; all loans, free of
interest, to be repaid at the end of first year.[586] His example
had numerous imitators;[587] but undoubtedly the gifts of Sir Thomas
White, mayor of London and founder of S. John's College, Oxford,
whom Mary knighted for his loyalty at the time of Wyatt's rebellion,
surpassed the rest. At the time of their greatest need, in 1543, he
lent the corporation £1400, wherewith they purchased certain lands and
tenements confiscated at the Reformation, and they agreed to distribute
£40 arising from the rents of the tenements in loans to apprentices
of the city for nine years' use.[588] From some cause or other,
probably by reason of his great and numerous acts of benevolence, and
the backwardness of the corporation in paying a promised annuity, Sir
Thomas fell into poverty in his later years, and seems to have been
utterly cast down by the thought that his wife would be left without
provision. "Whereas I have gently written unto you heretofore," he
writes in 1566 to the mayor and corporation, "to let my wife have her
annuity of £46 for part of her jointure, I require you as you shall
answer before God at the day of judgment that you lett my wife have £24
assured to her during her life." Two days after another letter betrays
his unbearable anxiety on this subject. If the mayor and corporation
are not able to perform the undertaking with regard to the jointure, "I
shall even," he says desperately, "cast my colledge for ever ... so am
I utterly shamed in this world and the world to come."[589] Happily for
the cause of "true religion and sound learning," the college was not
abandoned, and we will hope the Coventry folk fulfilled their contract.

Long before the Reformation and Mr Wheatley's gift the sons of the
Coventry burghers attended school, for it is an error to suppose that
the education of the laity began with the grammar schools founded
by Edward VI. Indeed these foundations were but the "fresh and very
inadequate supply of that which had been so suddenly and disastrously
extinguished"[590] at the Reformation. Nor was the occupation of
teaching confined to the monasteries. The trading-class in or before
the fifteenth century threw themselves heartily into the work of
providing schools for the coming generations. In most cases the support
of these institutions was committed to the leading local guild. In
London alone nine grammar schools were set up in the reign of Henry
VI.,[591] and in many other places the bounty of some well-to-do bishop
or merchant enriched country towns with the endowment of a grammar
school. At Coventry there was, it is true, a school at the priory for
the "children of the aumbry,"[592] but it appears that there were other
"teachers of grammar" in the city, whose well-being was a source of
anxiety to the leet, and to these, perhaps, the citizens preferred
to send their children to be instructed in the Latin tongue. In 1426
it was enacted by leet that "John Barton shall come to the city of
Coventry, if he will, to keep a grammar school there."[593] Barton,
however, if he came at all, probably soon made way for a successor,
for in 1429 we find an order of leet to the effect that "Mayster
John Pynshard, skolemayster of grammer, shall have the place that he
dwellethe inne for xls. (40s.) be yere, whyles that he dwellethe in
hit, and holdyth gramer skole hym self ther inne."[594] The prior
appears to have looked upon these teachers as the rivals of the
conventual schoolmasters, but the corporation did their best to soothe
his jealousy, and in 1439 the mayor and six of the council, at the
request of the leet, went to the prior to "commune" with him concerning
this matter, "wylling hym to occupye a skole of gramer, yffe he lyke
to teche hys brederen and childerun off the aumbry, and that he wolnot
gruche ne move the contrari, but that every man of this cite be at
hys fre chosse (choice) to sette his chylde to skole at what techer
of gramer that he likyth, as reson askyth."[595] No doubt the town
school continued to prosper, for we find at the time of the suppression
of the chantries of 1543 that the Trinity guild paid £6, 13s. 4d. as
a yearly salary to the schoolmaster. All this general activity in
education goes to prove that the men of the later Middle Ages were not
the illiterate boors historians have loved to imagine. The knowledge of
reading, writing and Latin, or, as they called it, grammar, was surely
very widely diffused, when not only a multitude of scribes, but farm
bailiffs could make, audit and balance accounts in that language.[596]

Not only were the citizens called on to support by their charity
almshouses and schools, and to furnish loans for youthful enterprise,
but the poor made a constant demand on their bounty, and in the
sixteenth century poverty was greatly on the increase. The town rulers
were confronted with a problem which, then and subsequently, has been
found incapable of solution--the problem of the "unemployed." In the
reign of Henry VIII. a terrible influx of vagabonds from the country
set in, well-nigh driving the local rulers to distraction. Here we
first gain some glimpses of a surplus population of shiftless,
landless, moneyless folk, driven by the decay of tillage to seek
work in the towns. These families, together with the whole labouring
class, were later reduced to unspeakable poverty by the debasement of
the coinage and depreciation of silver, circumstances which, while
affecting wages but little, greatly increased the price of food. This
difficulty was at first unfamiliar to men's minds. Society had been
hitherto somewhat stationary. Individuals lived and worked where their
fathers had lived and worked before them, or at least remained in
a town where they had been able by a seven years' appenticeship or
by purchase to obtain civic rights. But townspeople were jealous of
granting freedom to any but the well-to-do, who would be able to share
the burden of taxation, and the wanderer, who by quitting home had
dropped out of the framework of local society, became one of a herd of
vagabonds liable to be punished according to the utmost rigour of the

The town rulers did not attempt to solve this question, they shelved
it. This wretched population was perpetually ordered to "pass on."
"And those bygge beggers," says an order of leet passed in 1518, "that
wilnot worke well to gete their levyng, but lye in the felds and breke
hedges and stele mannys fruyte ... let theym be banysshed the town,
or els punysshe theym so without favor, that they shalbe wery to byde
therin."[597] And again and again aldermen were exhorted to cause
"lusty beggars and vagabonds" to "voyde out of their ward" upon pain
of imprisonment.[598] Only such impotent and needy beggars as were
licensed, and had the city seal, the sign of the elephant, on their
bags, were allowed to remain and demand charity.[599] But the worthy
men of the leet did not refuse to aid those who suffered undeservedly
from the acutest misery. "If any by infirmity or multitude of children
be not able by his labour to sustain his family," the aldermen were
ordered to provide for their sustenance out of the town chest.


[Footnote 506: Rough stones were used for paving (Riley, _Liber Albus_,
xliv.). The _Chamberlain's Accounts_ (Corp. MS. A. 7) contain frequent
allusions to paving: "Item, paid for paving within the Bablake gate,
iii_s._" "Item, ii lods pebuls for the same, xviii_d._"]

[Footnote 507: Built 1812 (Poole, _Coventry_, 345).]

[Footnote 508: Poole, 345.]

[Footnote 509: "Daily hurt" comes from having goats at large (_Leet
Book_, 361). In London only the swine of S. Antony's hospital were
allowed to be at large in the streets, and "chiens gentilz," _i.e._
dogs belonging to the gentry (Riley, _Liber Albus_, xlii.).]

[Footnote 510: _Leet Book_, 306.]

[Footnote 511: In London the length of inn-signs was limited to seven
feet (_Liber Albus_, lxv.). Signs were also affixed to shops to attract
the eye; of this custom the barber's pole is a relic. Merchandise was
usually kept in cellars partly underground beneath the solar or front
dwelling-room. In great thoroughfares goods were displayed in covered
sheds projecting in front of the dwelling-place (Turner, _Dom. Arch._
i. 96; iv. 34). Shops were usually open rooms on the ground floor, with
wide windows closed with shutters (_Liber Albus_, xxxviii.).]

[Footnote 512: _Leet Book_, 272, 100.]

[Footnote 513: We hear of the "daybell" rung probably at dawn, and the
curfew rung by the clerks of S. Michael's and Trinity churches (_Ib._,
338). A "larum bell" was rung on the occasion of the quarrel between
Somerset's servants and the watch (_Paston Letters_, i. 408). Probably
there was a recognised "change" in the ringing for each of the various
summonses. The ringing of changes is said to have been peculiar to this
country. Bells, before they were hung up, were baptized and anointed
with holy oil, blessed and exorcised. Their uses were expressed in the
Latin lines:

 "Laudo Deum verum--plebem voco--congrego clerum
 Defunctos ploro--pestum fugo--festa decoro."

 (Strutt, _Sports and Pastimes_, 291, 292.)]

[Footnote 514: _Leet Book_, 234.]

[Footnote 515: In 1450 the chamberlains requested that four men should
be appointed out of each ward to guard the gates, and these four were
to choose one man to keep the keys and close them every night at nine
(_ib._, 254).]

[Footnote 516: Jusserand, _Wayfaring Life_, 169.]

[Footnote 517: Sharp, _Antiq._ 131. In 1362 licence was given to a
recluse, Robert de Worthin, to inhabit a dwelling adjoining the church.]

[Footnote 518: Miracles were worked at S. Osburg's shrine, and her
birthday was a local holiday. Palmer Lane and the Pilgrim's Rest
preserve in their names token of ancient customs. For the wooden image
of our Lady of the Tower see Fretton, _Memorials of the Whitefriars'
Monastery_, Harris, _Troughton Sketched_, 6.]

[Footnote 519: _Leet Book_, 422.]

[Footnote 520: There is a specimen at Berkswell, near Coventry, and at

[Footnote 521: _Leet Book_, 643. The prisoners paid the gaoler 1d. a
week for their lodging when they had their own bed, 3d. a week if the
gaoler provided them with one; over and above, debtors paid the gaoler
5d. for fee, if the debt for which they were liable exceeded 40d.]

[Footnote 522: _Ib._, 192. See also for punishment of immorality,
_Ib._, 219]

[Footnote 523: Harl. MS. 6388, f. 22. The other lists have Eliphane. I
have no doubt that the right reading is Clapham. This man was an ally
of Warwick, and led the rabble of Northampton to the battle of Edgecote
in 1469. He was beheaded next year.]

[Footnote 524: _Ib._, f. 25.]

[Footnote 525: Harl. MS. 6388, f. 8. A slight exaggeration, no doubt.]

[Footnote 526: _Ib._, f 23.]

[Footnote 527: _Leet Book_, 775.]

[Footnote 528: _Ib._, 447]

[Footnote 529: _Ib._, f. 11. The filth and street sweepings were
ordered to be carried "beyond the stake set in the dyke beyond the
Friars' Gate," or to pits without the gates (_ib._, 30).]

[Footnote 530: _Leet Book_, 455. The worthy men of the leet besought
the mayor that there might be certain citizens appointed to have
oversight of the river, each in their several district, and that the
rules for cleaning it should be duly kept (_ib._, 108).]

[Footnote 531: Such as timber frames for houses, trunks of trees, etc.
(Green, ii. 29, 30).]

[Footnote 532: In London the bedels of each ward had a hook to tear
down burning houses (Riley, _Liber Albus_, xxxiv.).]

[Footnote 533: _Leet Book_, 389.]

[Footnote 534: The spring was called Cunduit Head (Corp. MS. C. 227).]

[Footnote 535: There is still a yard called Cunduit Yard close to
Bablake church.]

[Footnote 536: _Leet Book_, 208, 338.]

[Footnote 537: _Ib._, 157.]

[Footnote 538: Rogers, _Six Cent._ 140.]

[Footnote 539: Green, _Town Life_, ii. 36. Profits on wine were in some
cases 2d., in others 4d. a gallon.]

[Footnote 540: _Leet Book_, 33.]

[Footnote 541: _Leet Book_, 23. The three most common kinds of bread
were _wastel_,--bread of the finest quality; _coket_ (seconds); and
_simnel_, twice-baked bread, used in Lent (Green, ii. 35).]

[Footnote 542: _Leet Book_, 24.]

[Footnote 543: _Ib._, 25.]

[Footnote 544: _Ib._]

[Footnote 545: _Ib._, 518-9.]

[Footnote 546: _Leet Book_, 771.]

[Footnote 547: Wright, _Domestic Manners_, 337.]

[Footnote 548: _Leet Book_, 306. Probably carts made for town use were
always narrow; see illustration in Wright's _Domestic Manners_, 344.
Compare the trollies made for the "Rows" at Yarmouth.]

[Footnote 549: The old name for the thoroughfare between Trinity church
and Butcher Row. A spicer is equivalent to the modern grocer.]

[Footnote 550: Cf. Milk Street, Fish Street and S. Margaret Pattens in
the city of London; Bridlesmith Gate and Fletcher Gate (fletcher = an
arrow maker) in Nottingham. See on this subject Mr Addy's _Evolution of
the House_. It was customary for the members of each calling to live
close together.]

[Footnote 551: Poole, 396.]

[Footnote 552: _Leet Book_, 233]

[Footnote 553: _Ib._, 798.]

[Footnote 554: See Corp. MS. B. 75 for description of the Trinity guild
lands, of which the Drapery was a parcel. The annual rent payable to
the Trinity guild of a half bay in the Great Drapery was 6s. 8d. (C.

[Footnote 555: _Leet Book_, 666. All people dwelling outside the town
liberties were called "foreign."]

[Footnote 556: For regulations concerning "foreign" bakers, _ib._, 717,

[Footnote 557: _Leet Book_, 646.]

[Footnote 558: Rogers, _Six Cent._, 340.]

[Footnote 559: Rogers, _op. cit._ 152. In Leicester there were no pleas
held when the great merchants were absent at fairs (Green, ii. 25).]

[Footnote 560: Merchants from Dublin, Drogheda, London, and
Kingston-on-Hull, were members of the Corpus Christi guild; so were
many local country gentlemen and yeomen.]

[Footnote 561: Devon and Ireland supplied coarse cloth sold in the
Drapery (Burton MS. f. 98-103).]

[Footnote 562: Gasquet, _Monasteries_, ii. 285. This took place shortly
before the dissolution.]

[Footnote 563: The "Marprelate" printing press was for some time
at Coventry (Morley, _Sketch of Literature_, 431). Rogers thinks
unlicensed books were sold at fairs. "I cannot conceive how the
writings of such an author as Prynne could have been disposed of except
at the places which were at once so open and so secret" (_Six Cent._,

[Footnote 564: Corp. MS. E. 6. This court was kept in accordance with
the Statute of Merchants of 1283. A merchant had the power of bringing
a debtor before the mayor, when the debtor bound himself to pay the
debt by a certain day; if he failed to do so, the mayor caused all his
movables to be seized to the amount of the debt and sold. If, however,
he had no movables within the mayor's jurisdiction, application was
made to the chancellor, who caused a writ to be sent to the sheriff
within whose county the debtor had movables, ordering these to be
seized. If the debtor had no movables, he was detained in prison until
terms were made, the creditor meanwhile providing him with bread and
water, the cost of which was added to the amount of the debt (Ashley,
_Econ. Hist._ pt. I. 204).]

[Footnote 565: Rogers thinks that rebellions were often planned at fair

[Footnote 566: Rogers _Six Cent._ 136-7; Ashley, _Econ. Hist._ pt. I.

[Footnote 567: Gasquet, _Monasteries_, ii. 96. It seems that the amount
of assistance rendered to wayfarers by monasteries has been much

[Footnote 568: Wright, _Domestic Manners_, 333-4. Larwood and Hotten
assign another reason for this practice. Great men's town houses
were frequently let during their absences from home (_History of
Signboards_, 4).]

[Footnote 569: Corp. MS. C. 202; _Leet Book_, 386.]

[Footnote 570: Fretton, _Mayors of Coventry_, 10.]

[Footnote 571: _Ib._, 12; Poole 403.]

[Footnote 572: _Paston Letters_ (ed. Gairdner), I. cxiii. Worcester
often preferred to call himself by his mother's maiden name.]

[Footnote 573: _Rot. Parl._, v. 569.]

[Footnote 574: _Leet Book_, 550.]

[Footnote 575: Sharp, _Antiq._, 61. It seems an incredible sum, and the
statement should be received with caution.]

[Footnote 576: _Leet Book_, 302.]

[Footnote 577: Harl. MS. 6388, f. 13. Onley is said to have been the
first Englishman born in Calais after it was taken by Edward III.; his
father was a standard-bearer in the English army.]

[Footnote 578: _Proceedings Privy Council_, i. 355.]

[Footnote 579: Rogers, _Six Cent._, 99.]

[Footnote 580: _Archæological Journal_, iv. 69.]

[Footnote 581: Sheppard, _Litteræ Cantuarienses_ (Rolls Series, 85),
iii. 81.]

[Footnote 582: Besant and Rice, _Sir Richard Whittington_.]

[Footnote 583: Dugdale, i. 194.]

[Footnote 584: The City of London school was founded on Carpenter's

[Footnote 585: Poole, 292-301.]

[Footnote 586: _Leet Book_, 658; Fretton, _Mayors_, 14.]

[Footnote 587: Thomas White, alderman and vintner, of Coventry, Henry
Over, and others.]

[Footnote 588: Poole, 303]

[Footnote 589: Corp. MS. A. 79, f. 63.]

[Footnote 590: Rogers, _Six Cent._, 165. Leach in his _Schools of the
Reformation_ gives this theory substantial support.]

[Footnote 591: Green, ii. 13-16. The drapers had a school at
Shrewsbury, the merchant-tailors in London. The guild of S. Laurence
of Ashburton had charge of the grammar school, founded by Bishop
Stapeledon in 1314. Other schools--as far as we know--not immediately
connected with guilds were at Hull, Rotherham, Ewelme, Canterbury,
Reading, Appleby, Preston, Liverpool, Cambridge.]

[Footnote 592: _Leet Book_, 190; _Vict. Coun. Hist. Warw._ ii., 318.]

[Footnote 593: _Ib._, 101.]

[Footnote 594: _Leet Book_, 118.]

[Footnote 595: _Ib._, 190.]

[Footnote 596: Rogers, _Six Cent._, 165; _Agric. and Prices_, iv. 502.
Even artizans could draw up accounts.]

[Footnote 597: _Leet Book_, 658.]

[Footnote 598: _Ib._, 652.]

[Footnote 599: _Ib._, 677. "A token of ther bagge of the signe of the


 _Daily Life in the Town (continued)--Religion and Amusements of the

High above market-place and churchyard, above booth and stall, and the
life and movement of a busy crowd, rose a forest of magnificent spires,
three from the cathedral and one from either parish church. And after
the day's chaffer many a busy trader would turn aside and enter the
long aisles to listen to the chanting of vespers or tell his beads
before the image of his patron saint.

In these days of tempered enthusiasm and lukewarm local interest we
can hardly realise what a source of joy and pride these churches were
to the townsfolk. Self-denial had enabled them to raise these goodly
buildings, which they gave of their best to beautify. The painters,
masons, carpenters, and carvers of the city did the work; the red
sandstone, which, alas! so soon crumbles and decays, came from the
local quarries; and though the grand outline of S. Michael's may be
due to some bishop of the thirteenth century,[600] the design of the
building, with which we are now familiar, came from the brain of a
local architect--some parish priest, perhaps, or master mason of the
city. For the churches of Trinity and S. Michael's were practically
built anew from their foundations, neither perhaps by one family
of merchants, but by the whole body of parishioners in the hey-day
of the city's wealth,[601] while the small collegiate church of S.
John the Baptist was raised by the Trinity guild. All these show the
influence of the new "Perpendicular" style; but S. Michael's more than
the rest is a triumph of the amazing lightness and technical skill so
characteristic of the architecture of the fifteenth century--a style
which, though lacking the strength and mystery of the earlier Gothic of
the thirteenth century, has yet a certain majesty of its own.

Having once built the churches, the townsfolk made provision for
continual prayer and supplication to be held therein. With a touching
belief in the efficacy of prayer, even vicarious, and a business-like
intention of making the best of both worlds, these worthy men devoted
large sums to the support of chantry priests, who, while their
patrons were engaged in secular business, prayed for the souls of
the faithful departed and for living members of the town guilds and
brotherhoods.[602] In the lady chapels of S. Michael's the priests of
the Trinity guild chanted daily the "Antiphones of the Virgin" and the
psalm _De Profundis_ on behalf of the founders of the fraternity.[603]
Similarly a priest said mass at the altar of Our Blessed Lady in
Trinity church "for the good estate of King Richard and Anne his Queen,
the whole realm of England, and all those by whom this altar is
sustained ... and for their souls after death," remembering especially
his patrons, the brethren of the Corpus Christi guild.[604] The dyers'
and drapers' priests had their appointed task, so had the chaplains of
S. John the Baptist's and S. Nicholas' churches, while the bedesmen,
as their name implies, in the almshouse offered daily prayers for the
welfare of the members of the Trinity guild.


But the good folk were not content with offering their supplications by
proxy. Although much of the spiritual fervour of the thirteenth century
died away in the later Middle Ages, the townsfolk were methodical and
regular in their religious observance and attended church with due
decorum on Sunday and holy-days. In the pews sat the city officers and
their wives each in their degree, the various craftsmen occupying no
doubt the special chapels called after their names, and the apprentices
and servants sitting or standing "in the alleys."[605] The walls of
the churches were bright with fresco, where even the most ignorant
could learn the stories taken from the lives of the saints or from Holy
Writ; it is only within living memory that the smoke has blackened a
rediscovered representation of the Last Judgment above the chancel
arch of Trinity church. And when the worshippers lifted their eyes
to the window-glow they beheld amid the company of the saints scenes
taken from local legend, the old compact for the freedom of the market
between Leofric and Godiva, the blazoning of the arms of founders
and benefactors, and the insignia of trade and craft.[606] For the
mediæval artist saw no firm line sundering the things of religion from
the affairs of daily life, and the people did not care to keep their
civic patriotism and inspirations solely for the guild-hall. In the
aisles and chapels lay the most honoured of the city dead; Bond and
Haddon were laid among their fellow drapers, and the tomb of Ralph
Swyllington, recorder, may yet be seen on the mercers' side in S.
Michael's church.


The craft companies paid an annual rent for the chapels within
their keeping, whither they repaired at least once a year to keep
the festival of their patron saint and present their offerings.
Thus each of the cappers subscribed twelve pence a year towards the
maintenance of the furniture in S. Thomas's chapel in S. Michael's,
and presented a penny as an offering on the feast of the translation
of the saint.[607] In these chapels, where the glory of goldsmiths'
and artist's work testified to the munificence of the craftsfolk, dead
members of the brotherhood were occasionally buried, and their _obits_
or anniversaries kept.

It was a common practice to bequeath house property to provide funds
for the continual commemoration of the testator's death and prayers for
his soul's peace. Thus in 1492 Richard Clyff, late parson of S. George,
London, bequeathed to the church of Holy Trinity, Coventry, a tenement
in Well Street "to the entent ... that the Wardeyns of the same Church,
for the tyme beinge yerely, for evermore, observe and kepe within the
same Church, in the vigyll of Saynt Alphege, placebo, and dirige over
nyght, by ii well-dysposyd prestys, there to be said devoutly without
note; and on the morowe after, ayther of the same prestys to say messe
of Requiem for the soules of John Cliff, and Margarete hys wyff, hys
ffader and moder, hys own Soule, all hys ffrendys Saulys, and all
Crystyan Saulys." Other features of the obit were the distribution of
alms to the poor, and the feast which followed the service. Thus on the
day whereon Robert Burnell's obit was kept 4s. was given to the poor,
and 3s. 10d. expended in bread and ale.[608]

When a craftsman died, the whole company of his brethren were present
at his burial, which, if he were a noteworthy citizen, would take
place with much solemnity at the Greyfriars' or one of the parish
churches.[609] Funeral masses were invariably said in the cathedral,
the offerings remaining to the use of S. Mary's minster and convent;
the candles also that had burnt about the coffins[610] were left in
the cathedral after the dead had been borne away to their graves.
Whether the people of Coventry disliked this practice we cannot tell,
but it brought the convent into collision with the Greyfriars, who, as
an active and popular body within the town, were rather disposed to
call the authority of the monks in question. The matter of the funeral
candles and offerings touched the former very nearly, for their chapel
was a favourite burial place; and in 1446 Friar John Bredon threw down
his glove. We would fain know if brother John were a mere busybody or a
born reformer; perhaps he belongs rather to the latter than the former
class, as he also appears, it seems, as a champion of the poorer folk
against the deceiving victuallers.[611] Be this as it may, he was a man
of great influence with the citizens, and, together with the prior, had
helped on a former occasion to still the religious excitement which
had followed on the preaching of Grace, the hermit. The enmity between
the friars and the convent was at last the cause of his overthrow.
Concerning this matter of the candles, the friar was so moved to
bitterness that he openly preached and affirmed "in the parish churches
of this same citee ... that alle maner offerynges owen to be yeven
alonely to theyme that mynistren the Sacraments to the parisshens," and
bade the people give these candles to the parish churches; "permytting
my selfe," he says, "to defende theyme that so did." Moreover, the
friar declared "that in Englond was not so bonde a Citee as this Citee
of Coventry is, in keping and observyng the said custome"; and in
bills which he set up on the church doors he "promysed to delyver the
pepull of this same Citee from the thraldom of Pharao." The prior of S.
Mary was not to be daunted by this audacious front, and petitioned the
King against Friar Bredon. In due time sentence was pronounced, and a
form of recantation arrived prescribed by parliament. In presence of
the Forty-eight[612] the friar was compelled to admit that the custom
he had inveighed against "is a custom commendable, and so owyng to be
kept and observed to encrese of mede, by pleasure made to Almighty God,
who graunte to you and me to lif in this world aftir juste lawes and
lawful customs vertuously, soo that we may deserve to rejoyse (enjoy)
hevenly recompense everlastyngly."[613] After which recantation he was
banished the city.

The citizens were as thorough and systematic in their pastimes as in
their prayers, and all sorts of amusements of a vigorous character,
wherein they gladly indulged, were rarely discouraged by the
corporation. The practice of archery was looked on as part of every
man's necessary training, and crafts were ordered to keep butts in good
repair, so that all members of their fellowships could keep their hands
well in use.[614] Bull-baiting, a favourite sport, gave its name to the
Bull-ring hard by Trinity church;[615] but the traces of "le cokfyting
place"[616] and of the bowling-green near the Charter-house[617] have
been lost.


Bear-baiting was highly popular likewise, and frequent gifts to Sir
Fulk Greville's bearward[618] form a feature in the chamberlains'
accounts in the early days of Elizabeth. Like all the great Queen's
subjects the men of Coventry delighted in theatrical representations,
and now that the local religious drama was dead, their appreciation
of the strolling players' art caused constant inroads to be made
on the public purse. The wardens were frequently called upon for
payments, such as "to the Earle of Darbyes players v_s._," "to the lord
Chamberlain's players x_s._,"[619] items which accord ill with the
payments for sermons at this time.[620] In the end the sermons gained
the day, and it would be hard to find in the Midlands--save Banbury--a
more staunchly Puritan town than Coventry under the Stuarts.

In the sixteenth century the corporation appear to have become
disquieted at the reckless lives and illicit amusements of those over
whom they ruled. A new era was about to dawn, wherein mediæval barriers
would be broken down; and it seems as if the discreet and worthy
burghers were afraid of the lawlessness and unrest which had entered
into the spirit of society, and which in itself was the sign of coming
change. Orders directed against gaming,[621] or intercourse, especially
on the part of apprentices, with women of evil fame had always been a
feature of the regulations passed by the leet; but as time goes on the
mention of "unlawful games" becomes more and more frequent. As early
as 1510 the aldermen of the several wards were charged to make search
"for all them that keep misrule," who on being discovered were to be
committed to ward, or, if they persisted in their evil ways, to be
banished the city.[622] In 1516 this command was followed up by a fresh
ordinance enjoining them to make inquiry for vagabonds, "as well women
as men," suspected alehouses, "blynde ynnes," unlawful games, and the
like.[623] But the evil appeared to increase as the century advanced,
and in 1548 a complaint of leet reveals a state of things which has
quite a modern look, so little change has human nature and human
habit undergone these three hundred and fifty years. Many, we learn,
passed their time drinking in taverns, and "playnge at the cardes and
tables,[624] and spende all that they can gett prodigally upon theym
selfes to the highe displeasure of God and theyre owne ympovershyng,
whereas," the worthy men of the leet were of opinion, "if it were
spente at home in theyre owne houses theyre wiffes and childerne shulde
have part therof."[625] It was forthwith decreed that any of these
prodigals, whether "labourer, journeyman, or apprentice," if discovered
resorting to any alehouse on a work day should be imprisoned for a day
and night.

In those days, as in our own time, the lower classes had the keenest
appreciation of all that appertained to sport, and the loafer loved to
roam the country lanes with a dog at his heels. Long time since the
prior had complained how the citizens hunted and hawked in his warren,
and in the sixteenth century the corporation were hard put to it to
keep this passion within the bounds prescribed by the statutes of the
realm. People, we hear in the eighteenth year of Henry VIII., who did
not possess the necessary qualification, a 40s. freehold, presumed
to keep birds and dogs, whereby idleness "is greatly encreased";
henceforward they were forbidden to keep hawk, hound, greyhound, or
ferret, or to presume to hunt with the same under a heavy penalty.[626]

Other practices in which the citizens indulged were looked upon with an
unfavourable eye by the rulers of the town, brawling being expressly
forbidden. No one was allowed to carry defensive weapons through the
streets, and hosts were charged to bid their stranger guests leave
their swords behind them, when they had occasion to leave the hostels
wherein they had taken lodging.[627] The penalty for smiting "with
a knife drawyn" was half a mark, unless the smiter were "himself
defendant." "No man of craft," another order runs, "bear no bills,
nor gysarnes, nor great staves," upon pain of forfeiture of the same
weapons. Those who were driving cattle to market could, however, carry
a small staff in their hands.[628] These orders did not suffice by any
means to abolish brawls, and sometimes lords, knights and squires, the
"mighty" men of the country round, fought out their ancient family
quarrels among the dwellings of the burgher folk;[629] at others the
citizens had their own grievances to urge against one or other of
these mighty men, and drew sword upon him and his retainers. In these
cases there would be, most likely, death or shedding of blood, while
in disputes arising among the citizens themselves merely blows and
beatings would be given on either side, but with such violence that
combatants were afterwards often spoken of as "in despair of their
lives" from the injuries they had received.

Troubles of this kind were a feature of the times when the gentry
flocked into the city to see the far-famed Corpus Christi shows, or
to be near the Court, for Henry VI. and his Queen tarried frequently
at Coventry. On Corpus Christi even in the year 1448 Sir Humphrey
Stafford and his son Richard were attacked in the Broadgate[630] after
nightfall, as they came from Lady Shrewsbury's[631] lodging, by Sir
Robert Harcourt and his men. Richard was slain and his father wounded
in the darkness and confusion, while two of the Harcourt faction died
also in the fray. All this took place, says John Northwood, writing
to Viscount Beaumont, "as men say, in a Paternoster while." It was a
terrible business; Northwood, evidently striving to be exact, could
hardly describe how it happened. The two chief enemies, he says, "fell
in handes togyder, and Sir Robert smot hym (Sir Humphrey) a grette
stroke on the hed with hys sord, and Richard with hys dagger hastely
went toward hym, and as he stombled on of Harcourts men smot hym in the
bak with a knyfe, men wotte not ho hytt was reddely; hys fader hard
noys and rode toward hem and hys men ronne before hym thyderward, and
in the goyng downe of hys hors, on, he wotte not ho,[632] be hynd hym
smot hym on the hede with a nege tole,[633] men know not with us with
what wepone, that he fell downe and hys son fell downe be fore hym as
goode as dede." And the whole affray--characteristically enough--was
"be cawse of an old debate that was betwene heme for takyng of a
dystres as hyt is told." The law was not always prompt in bringing
gentlefolk to account, and Sir Robert Harcourt at that time escaped
justice, only to be overtaken by revenge, however, twenty-two years
later, when he died at the hands of the Staffords.[634]

Among the citizens also certain feasts and merry-makings ministered
occasion for riots and quarrels. Such were the Lammas feasts, whereon
the chamberlains, with a tumultuous following, opened out the common
pasture lands that encircled the city. Such again were the three great
processional nights, the vigils of Corpus Christi, of S. John the
Baptist (Midsummer eve) and S. Peter. "The people come at Lammas," runs
an order of Leet, "in excess number and unruly, to ill ensample"; and
it was laid down that only a few from each ward, who had been appointed
by the corporation, should accompany the chamberlains on their annual
ride. Moreover, "great debate and manslaughter and other perils and
sins" fell out on Midsummer eve and S. Peter's night, because so "great
a multitude" was gathered together at that season within the city,
"that it lieth in no man's power ... for to please them all";[635] and
the Church tried to interfere in the interests of peace, but without
success. Occasionally the good folk of the place fell to blows, it
would seem, on ordinary working days, without having their presence
at a merry-making to urge in extenuation of their fault. Thus in 1444
the corvesars, or tanners of leather, fell out about some obscure
point or other with the weavers, and so hotly did the quarrel rage
between them, and so frequent the exchange of deadly blows, that Thomas
Burdeux, weaver, was said to be in "despair of his life" by reason of
the sore beating he had received. The quarrel was allayed, according to
the wisdom of the mayor and his discreet council, by the drinking of
a certain amount of ale among the fellowship of both crafts at their
joint expense.[636]

But few pleasures appealed to the mediæval citizen so strongly as that
of dining well; and besides these peace-promoting drinkings there were
many occasions whereon members of guilds and crafts met together to
feast and do their best to justify the reputation, which still clings
to city folk and aldermen, of loving good cheer. The meals of the
Middle Ages were long and heavy. The highly-flavoured cookery, with
its strange mixture of meat and sweets--fowls stuffed with currants
was a favourite dish--would appear barbarous to modern epicures; but
such as it was, vast preparations and much money were lavished upon it.
The members of each craft fellowship met once a year to hold a feast,
while the brethren of the Trinity guild celebrated the Assumption and
S. Peter's Eve by a banquet and probably also the festival of the
Decollation of S. John. The Corpus Christi had a "Lenton" dinner, a
"goose" dinner in August, and a "venison" one in October,[637] and
in 1492 they spent £26, 0s. 4d. on their feasts, a sum only 13s. less
than the annual stipend due to the five priests supported by the
guild.[638] But the record of common feasting is not yet exhausted. The
members of the Corpus Christi fraternity met together at a breakfast
on the morning of the festival of the Body of Christ, and all the
crafts supped on cakes and ale on the great processional nights. One
dozen spiced cakes, three dozen white cakes, "a seysterne" and a half
of ale with "comfets," and a pound of "marmalet" were ordered for the
carpenters' merry-making on Midsummer eve, 1534.[639] Nor were the
journeymen forgotten on these joyous evenings; they partook of plainer
fare--bread and ale--at their master's expense.

On Midsummer and S. Peter's eves the townsfolk gave themselves up to
mirth and jollity, decorating banqueting-halls, streets, and houses
with birchen boughs and all manner of greenery.[640] This custom
was, Stowe tells us, also observed in London, where every man's door
was "shadowed with Greene Birch, long Fennel, S. John's wort, Orpin,
white Lilies, and such like, garnished with Garlands of beautifull
flowers, and had also Lamps of glasse with Oyle burning in them all
the night."[641] But lamps were not the only means of illumination on
those joyous nights. "On the Vigils of Festivall dayes and on the same
Festivall dayes in the Evenings," continues the London chronicler,
"after the Sun-setting, there were usually made Bone-fires in the
streets, every man bestowing wood or labour towards them. The wealthier
sort also before their doores, neere to the said Bone-fires, would
set out Tables on the vigils, furnished with sweete bread and good
drinke, and on the Festivall days with meats and drinkes plentifully,
whereunto they would invite their neighbours and passengers also to
sit, and be merry with them in great familiarity, praysing God for his
benefits bestowed on them. These were called Bone-fires, as well of
amity amongst neighbours, that being before at controversie, were there
by the labour of others reconciled, and made of bitter enemies loving

It is good to dwell on this scene of frank gaiety and open-handed
hospitality, the pleasantest, to my thinking, that has come to us from
mediæval times. The dusk lighted by the flicker of the bonfires, the
flower-wreathed houses, the merry groups, the hand-clasp in token of
reconciliation, what a picturesque glimpse we have here of common union
and common joy to which our fêtes and holidays nowadays can afford no

But the chief glory of these festal nights was the setting forth of the
armed watch.[643] This was not such an imposing spectacle in Coventry
as in London, where the route extended, says Stowe, "to 3200 Taylors
yards of assize." The procession way was lighted by 700 cressets, and
the marching watch numbered 2000 men. Yet the Coventry folk made great
preparation for their humbler show, which was undertaken, so said the
drapers' craft with pardonable pride, "to the lawde and prayse of God
and the worship of this city." All the craft fellowships met together
to consult as to ways and means some days beforehand, "at the mayor's
commandment," and dire penalties were laid on those who should refuse
to attend on Midsummer night when the chief master sent his "clerk or
sumoner" to warn them.[644] When all was ready for the procession, the
worthy folk rode forth, two by two, each man in the livery proper to
his calling, the least important brotherhood going first, the others
following, each in their degree, until the train of fellowships closed
with the mercers, the senior craft.[645] The journeymen, perhaps on
foot, followed their masters, and the chief folk of the corporation
rode conspicuous in their scarlet cloaks, each one having an attendant
torchbearer.[646] But the chief glory of the procession was the sight
of the watch riding in shining armour, and bearing battle-axes, swords
and guns. Thus the dyers sent forth two clad in complete white armour,
and four in brigandines, the drapers four "in almayne revetts," while
the smiths among others hired four, and the butchers made provision
for six armed men.[647] Moreover, a crowd of minstrels and hirelings
bearing cressets, torches, spears gay with pennons and bells,[648]
streamers whereon were depicted the arms of the various crafts,[649]
and mirth-provoking figures of giants and giantesses,[650] caused the
streets to fill with colour, light, music, and laughter. The citizens
in the dusk of those June evenings beheld a right gallant show. There
was the sound of minstrelsy, broken by a sudden discharge of guns,[651]
with the murmur of many voices and the tramp of many feet, and between
the rows of densely packed crowd the torchlights glinted on the bright
advancing line of the armed watch, or glowed on the stately figures
of my masters the mayor, sheriffs and aldermen, arrayed in scarlet,
bringing up maybe the rear of the train. In this manner did the good
folk of Coventry celebrate the vigils of S. John the Baptist and S.
Peter, according to the ancient custom of the city, until the changes
of the sixteenth century, or the growth of Puritan feeling, or poverty,
or a combination of all these, caused the observance to be laid aside.
The riding on S. Peter's eve was discontinued after 1549,[652] though
Midsummer eve was still celebrated by a procession for some years after
that date.

On the morning of the Corpus Christi festival, before the Mystery Plays
were acted, another procession of the crafts, more strictly religious
in character than those we have described, also took place. Following
the train of companies of traders and artificers came the members or
priests of the Trinity guild bearing the Host, the various religious
bodies of the city probably walking behind the Sacrament. The Corpus
Christi guild provided gorgeous vessels, wherein the consecrated
elements were placed, and four burgesses hired by the fraternity
carried a canopy of costly material over the same, while the effect of
the religious ceremonial was heightened by banner and crucifix coming
from the treasuries of the guilds. A pageant setting forth scenes in
the life of the Virgin, the Annunciation, which, on account of its
mystical meaning, was highly appropriate to the occasion, and the
Assumption also figured in the train, and the records of the Corpus
Christi guild show the payments made to the persons who represented S.
Gabriel bearing the lily,[653] the Virgin with a crown of great price
upon her head, the twelve apostles, including S. Thomas of India,
eight virgins, S. Margaret and S. Catherine. And the smiths caused the
actor who was to represent Herod in their pageant to ride on horseback
in a gorgeously painted coat in the procession. After this portion
of the festival was over, the craftsfolk set forth the famous plays
or pageants, whereof the fame filled Coventry from time to time with
royal and noble visitors, and all the good folk of the surrounding
country. Henry V. in 1416, Margaret of Anjou in 1457, Richard III. in
1485, Henry VII. in 1487, and again with his Queen, Elizabeth of York,
in 1493,[654] witnessed these shows, which in the fifteenth and early
sixteenth centuries were at the height of their popularity.

Among the everyday people who came at this season in crowds to
Coventry, merchants combined business with religious edification,
since the fair followed hard on the plays,[655] with others the latter
counted most. "If you believe not me," says a preacher in the _Hundred
Merry Tales_, at the conclusion of his sermon on the Creed, "then for
a more surety and sufficient authority, go your way to Coventry and
there ye shall see them all played in Corpus Christi play."[656] We
may take it that the dramatic illusion was notably sustained in these
plays, and that they "fortified the unlearned in their faith." The men
of this midland city had a passion for acting; they performed on every
occasion; such adepts were they at their art that we hear of their
playing at Court in 1530, at Bristol and Abingdon in 1570, and four
times in Leicester between 1564 and 1571-2.[657] In this manner did
Warwickshire folk prepare for Shakespeare's coming. The soil on which
the Elizabethan drama grew with such luxuriance, had been tilled for
well-nigh two hundred years by nameless actors, who set forth on local
stages the tragedy, which for simple dignity, has no peer among the
tragedies of the world.

The famous Corpus Christi pageants were not of lay but of clerical
origin. The church was the earliest theatre; clerks the first actors;
and the earliest plays grew out of the dramatic rendering of parts
of the Easter and Christmas services--a colloquy between those
representing the angel at the sepulchre and the women bearing precious
ointment,[658] or the singing by a choirboy "in the similitude of an
angel" perched "in excelso"--aloft--of glad tidings to personators of
the shepherds of Bethlehem,[659] or the successive utterance of clerks
in the character of Isaiah, Habakkuk and other prophets of appropriate
testimony to the coming of Christ. From such simple, liturgical sources
there developed first in clerical, then in lay, hands, a religious
drama which ultimately covered the whole field of Christian history
from the Creation to the Day of Doom. In view of the near connection
between the Coventry monks and the Lichfield canons, it is of great
interest to note that the _Peregrini_--the appearance of Christ to the
travellers at Emmaus--an early development of the Easter cycle, and the
_Pastores_, or the Christmas Shepherds' play, were regularly performed
at Lichfield under Bishop Hugh of Nonant.[660] Of other plays, called
_Miracula_ or Miracles, whereof the source was not the liturgy, but
rather the life of a saint, there is frequent mention; such an one in
honour of S. Catherine was performed before 1119 at a monastic school
at Dunstable on the road between London and Coventry. Nearly 400 years
later a "miracle" on the same subject was seen in the "Little Park"
just outside the walls of the midland city.

As the liturgical plays grew long and elaborate they ceased to be
included in the church service; and gradually it came about that the
churchyard, since it would admit of more spectators than the church,
was deemed a more fitting place for their representation, as at
Beverley, where about 1220 a crowd assembled to witness a play on the
Resurrection.[661] Thence, so greatly did the laity love these shows,
they passed to convenient greens and highways, somewhat to the scandal
of rigider moralists, who held that, though clerks might act in church
plays, it was a "sight of sin" for them to hold these performances in a
more secular neighbourhood. It was probably in response to this feeling
that the regular clergy--save on occasions the friars--gradually
withdrew from out door plays, and that lay performers, controlled by
the growing and wealthy craft-guilds, practically replaced clerks. The
vulgar tongue ousted Latin, and plays proper to Easter and Christmas,
linked together into one whole religious story, were acted on the great
processional feasts, when daylight is longest, Corpus Christi or,
less frequently, Whitsuntide. The process, still somewhat obscure to
us, whereby the performances passed under secular control, would seem
to be complete in the fourteenth century. Local tradition places the
earliest representation at Chester in 1328, while we have more certain
knowledge of them at Beverley in 1377, York in 1378 and Coventry in
1392. What part, if any, was played by the professional entertainers,
wandering "mimes," minstrels and jugglers in the gradual secularization
of the plays we know not, neither is there definite information about
the earliest dramatic authors, save that tradition points to Ralph
Higden of _Polychronicon_ fame as author of the Chester cycle. Plays,
however, were so frequently revised and expanded by local folks, clerks
and laymen, that they sometimes became, like the Coventry craft-plays,
affairs of metrical patchwork. The last redaction these special dramas
underwent was at the hands of Robert Croo, a jack-of-all-trades
theatrical, by whom they were "neuly translate" or "neuly correcte" in


Each Coventry craft was required by the authorities to contribute
towards the setting forth of a pageant at the festival. The more
important fraternities--such as the mercers and drapers--were able
to bear the expenses of furnishing stage scenery, paying actors, and
providing suitable accessories without any aid from bodies outside
their ranks. But among the lesser crafts it was usual for two, three,
four, or more to band together in order to lessen the individual
burden,[663] while in all cases the journeymen probably contributed
towards the expenses of their masters' pageant.[664] The task of
adjusting these payments according to the means of the various inferior
craft companies, was a delicate one, and often brought trouble upon
the corporation. None of them cared to undertake the expenses and
responsibility involved in the provision of a play. The smiths in 1428
petitioned the leet to be released from the burden;[665] the dyers in
1494 could not be induced to take the load upon their shoulders;[666]
while for many years the skinners, fishmongers, cappers, corvesars,
butchers, and others contrived to evade payment towards the support of
a pageant, until a complaint arose from some of the contributory crafts
that they were over-burdened with charges consequent thereon.

This primary difficulty being overcome, the crafts took no little pains
to make the representations as perfect as possible. They provided the
dresses and stage furniture from their own funds, each company having
a pageant-house[667] usually in Mill Lane, now Cox Street, wherein
these properties were stored. They paid the composer of the piece,
if need were, or the copyist; the actors also, who were maybe lower
craftsfolk, had a fixed hire, with "bread and ale" at rehearsals,
and between the repetition of the performance on the festival day in
different quarters of the town. All were required by order of leet to
play "well and sufficiently," "lest any impediment should arise" in the
performance, under pain of 20s. to the town wall,[668] and in order
that they might be perfect in their several parts, there were usually
two, or in the case of a new play no less than five, rehearsals before
the festival,[669] some of these taking place in the presence of the
assembled fellowship, while the "keeper of the play book" attended, no
doubt in the capacity of prompter.


 36 Gosford St]


 91 Gosford St]

The common word for these craft-plays is pageants, a word of uncertain
origin, which is also applied to the vehicle or movable stage whereon
the acting took place. These pageants[670] were divided into two parts;
the actors dressed--and no doubt waited also, when their presence was
not required on the stage--in the under part, where they were concealed
by hanging cloths; the play was set forth on the upper part, which
was open to the view, and furnished with suitable scenery, and the
floor strewn with rushes. Journeymen and other hirelings dragged the
pageants from place to place, the play being repeated at convenient
points within the city, beginning with Gosford Street. The second and
third stations appear to have been at the end of Much Park Street, most
likely the corner of Jordan Well, and at the New Gate respectively. Dr
Craig thinks that there were ten stations, which would accord well with
the number of pageants and of wards within the city, though I cannot
think that each of the plays was performed ten times over. Flesh is
weak, and it is difficult to see how either actors or spectators could
have borne the strain.[671] Moreover even the long light days of May
or June would hardly have sufficed for such a stupendous task: when it
was once essayed, all the pageants being first played before Richard
Wood's door to pleasure Queen Margaret, in 1457, daylight failed,
and the performance of "Doomsday" was perforce abandoned. Indeed
it seems that this particular play, which naturally concluded the
series, was but thrice acted, since the drapers regularly order three
"worldys"--for which in 1556 they paid Croo two shillings--one to be
destroyed, it appears, in each performance.[672]


No doubt this mobility of the theatre, and the simultaneous acting of
various pageants at different stations was necessitated by the lack
of an open space within the city sufficient to contain the throng
of spectators. The acting of single plays, not belonging to the
traditional cycle, such as the play of S. Catherine acted in 1491, or
that of S. Crytyan or Christian, "magnus ludus vocatus seynt Xpeans
pley,"[673] performed at Whitsuntide in 1505, took place in the Little
Park where space was ample. That a regular open-air amphitheatre was
constructed--such as the _plân an guare_ which survives at S. Just in
Cornwall, is improbable; the Park-Hollows, where later Lollard and
Marian martyrs suffered death, would maybe serve aptly for the purpose.
Such an indelible impression did S. Christian's play make on those that
beheld it, that years later when divers neighbours and friends were
asked to give proof of Walter Smith's age--it was the Walter Smith
who was after strangled by means of Dorothy, his faithless wife--they
recalled that his baptism took place the year S. Christian's play was
played in the Little Park.

There was possibly a convenient station close to the Greyfriars'
church, where Henry VII. and his Queen viewed the plays in 1493. This
is the explanation, whereat Dr Craig[674] has arrived after a careful
sifting of the evidence, of the cryptic saying of some of the annalists
that the King and Queen saw the plays acted _by the Greyfriars_. "In
his Mayoralty," says one version, "K.H. 7 came to see the plays acted
by the _Grey Friers_ and much commended them"; another version, quoted
by Dr Craig, varies the reading to "_at_ the greyfriers," the probably
correct interpretation.[675] The only other reference to the grey
friars' acting comes from Dugdale, who goes further in attributing a
particular manuscript to this particular house. The plays were "acted,"
he says, "with mighty state and reverence by the Friers of this House";
and further "I have been told," he continues, "by some old people,
who in their younger years were eye-witnesses of these _Pageants_
so acted, that the yearly confluence of people to see that shew was
extraordinary great, and yeilded no small advantage to this City."[676]
Here Homer distinctly nods. Dugdale does not seem to have heard of the
craft plays, whereof the regular representation did not cease until
1580,[677] twenty-five years before his birth, and thirty-five years
before his entry into Coventry grammar school, but it was clearly
to these pageants that the old people aforesaid referred, since any
hypothetical acting on the part of the friars must have ceased in 1538
with the suppression of their house, sixty-seven years before Dugdale's
birth and seventy-seven years before the beginning of his scholastic
life at Coventry.

It is also on the slenderest grounds that the historian of Warwickshire
attributes the fifteenth century MS. of the _Ludus Coventriæ_ to the
Franciscans of that city. The first possessor of the manuscript was
one Robert Hegge of Durham, after whose death in 1629 it appears to
have passed into Cotton's possession and is still included in the great
Cottonian collection in the British Museum.[678] Cotton's librarian,
Richard James, described the MS. on the fly-leaf as scenes from the
New Testament,[679] acted by monks or mendicant friars, adding that
the book is commonly known as the Coventry plays or Corpus Christi
plays.[680] A later librarian in 1696 omitted the Coventry attribution,
but still alluded to the plays as represented by mendicant friars.

Here the matter must rest. Probably the last word has still to be said
on the subject. Scholars are not agreed on the _locale_ of the _Ludus
Coventriæ_ which have been assigned to districts as far removed as
the northeast midlands and Wiltshire, or to their actors, who have
been represented as strolling players, or even Coventry friars "on
tour."[681] We might be disposed to accept--with caution--the view,
evidently based on some tradition or other, that these plays were acted
by friars,[682] but the objection to identifying these friars with the
Coventry Franciscans, acting at any rate in Coventry, is that the city
was furnished already with well-authenticated craftsmen-acted plays of
great renown, whereof some examples are now left, and that it would be
impossible for two sets of plays and actors to command attention at the
feast of Corpus Christi. Nor is there evidence, so far as I am aware,
to connect any of the Coventry religious with the stationary plays
acted on occasions at Whitsuntide.[683]

We touch surer ground when we come to examine the craft-plays,
whereof we have abundance of evidence. Unlike those of Chester, York
and Wakefield, the Coventry plays were few in number, having been
fused together, and, it seems, formed a series illustrating the life
of Christ, closing with His second coming on the Day of Judgment.
The absence of Old Testament scenes would be a rare feature, and
the point has been disputed,[684] but so few of the pageants remain
unidentified, and such striking scenes in the life of Christ have no
play assigned to them, that there hardly seems room for scenes drawn
from the Old Testament. The procession of prophets[685]--_Processus
Prophetarum_--the nucleus whence the Old Testament cycle spread,
is likewise very undeveloped in Coventry. None of the prophets are
individualized in the plays that have come down to us, except Isaiah,
who appears as prologue to the tailors' and sheremen's play of the
_Nativity_; others appear as rather "defuce" commentators--to use
their own word--further on in the action, and again as prologue to the
weavers' play of the _Purification_.[686] It is impossible to construct
the whole series of the Coventry plays, for, save two pageants--that
of the sheremen and tailors, and that of the weavers--all are missing,
and in some cases the very titles of the plays cannot be recovered. The
first pageant set forth was probably that of the guild of the Nativity,
the company of tailors and sheremen, representing the _Annunciation,
Joseph's Trouble_, _the Journey to Bethlehem_, _the Birth of Christ_,
_the Angels and the Shepherds_, _the Offering of the Magi_, _the Flight
into Egypt_, _and the Murder of the Innocents_. The weavers' pageant,
wherein was set forth the _Presentation of Christ in the Temple_, and
_Christ and the Doctors_, would follow as a matter of course. The
titles of four pageants--those of the mercers, tanners, whittawers,
and girdlers--are lost, though Dr Craig has made the shrewd guess
that the subject of the first was the _Assumption_.[687] The story of
_Christ's Trial and Crucifixion_ was the theme of the smiths' show, the
_Burial_ or the "taking down of God from the Cross" was played by the
pinners and needlers, the _Harrowing of Hell_ and the _Resurrection_
was enacted on the stage furnished by the cardmakers, later cappers,
and this, with the drapers' _Doomsday_, closes the list of the plays
that are known to us. It will thus be seen that the inferior clothing
crafts represented the Christmas cycle, and the workers in iron,
smiths, pinners, cardmakers, the Passion-Resurrection one, so that we
may suppose that the subject of the girdlers' pageant, since they were
workers in iron, would be a subject nearly connected with this latter
group--possibly the "Maundy" and _the Agony in the Garden_.

The shearmen and tailors' pageant of the _Nativity_ and the weavers'
_Presentation in the Temple_, both plays whereof the text has been
preserved, were discovered by the antiquary, Thomas Sharp, and printed
early in the last century, a fortunate circumstance, since the former
with all Sharp's collection perished in the fire at Birmingham in
1879. One manuscript alone remains, now in the possession of the broad
weavers and clothiers, a small volume of seventeen leaves, one missing,
bound in ancient boards and leather, with end-papers of Holbeinesque
wood-cuts. The whole--save two songs at the end--is in the handwriting
of Robert Croo, by whom it was "newly translate" in 1534.

Both these plays are written in many metres, and obviously show the
workmanship of many hands. Rhythm and versification often betray the
'prentice; indeed on the whole it is but clumsy writing; and yet here
and there that wonderful instrument, the English language, gives out
its music though it be stricken with an unsure and careless hand.
Isaiah's prologue, the scenes between Simeon and Anna,[688]--even the
lines of that sublime braggart, Herod, have a hint of that wonderful
quality to which English verse attained when Spenser wrote it. The
kernel of the story is told in rough, simple quatrains; here and
there--particularly in the comic parts--a rollicking stanza, derived
apparently from one employed in the Chester cycle, breaks in; while
some portions of the piece have been so worked over that the verse
defies metrical analysis.[689]

There is no comedy connected with the shepherds' scenes in the Coventry
Christmas plays, such as occurs in the Towneley (Wakefield) cycle,
where the sheep-stealing episode is the work of a master-hand. Nor is
the presentation of their gifts to the Child as charming as the "bob of
cherries" passage in the northern dramatist's verses, still the scene
is full of the tender feeling, which it never fails to draw forth.

"I have nothing," says the first shepherd to Mary,--

 "I haue nothyng to present with thi chylde
   But my pype; hold, hold, take yt in thy hond;
   Where-in moche pleysure that I haue fond;
 And now, to oonowre thy gloreose byrthe,
 Thow schallt yt haue to make the myrthe.

 II. Pastor. Now, hayle be thow, chyld, and thy dame!
   For in a pore loggyn here art thow leyde,
 Soo the angell seyde and tolde vs thy name;
   Holde, take thow here my hat on thy hedde!
   And now off won thyng thow art well sped,
 For weddur thow hast noo nede to complayne,
 For wynd, ne sun, hayle, snoo and rayne.

 III. Pastor. Hayle be thou, Lorde ouer watur and landis!
   For thy cumyng all we ma make myrthe
 Have here my myttens to pytt on thi hondis.
   Other treysure have I non to present the with."

A pipe, a hat, a pair of mittens! How homely it sounds! In the _York
Plays_ the Child receives a broach with a tin bell, two cob-nuts on a
string, and a horn spoon that can hold forty pease!

In the Nativity scene Joseph warms the Child at the breath of the
beasts in the manger.

 Mare. A! Josoff, husebond, my chyld waxith cold,
     And we haue noo fyre to warme hym with_.

 Josoff. Now in my narmys I schall hym fold,
     Kyng of all kyngis be fyld and be fryth;
 He myght haue had bettur, and hym-selfe wold,
     Then the breythyng of these bestis to warme hym with.
 Mare. Now, Josoff, my husbond, fet heddur my chyld,
     The Maker off man and hy Kyng of blys.

 Josoff. That schalbe done anon, Mare soo myld,
     For the brethyng of these bestis hath warmyd [hym] well, i-wys.

The comic element in the preserved plays is represented by Joseph, a
weariful old husband, and natural grumbler, who becomes exceedingly
fretful when bidden by Mary to find some doves for the Purification
offering at the Temple.

"Swette Josoff," says Mary, "fuffyll ye owre Lordis hestes."

"Why," says her husband ruefully,

 "Why _and_ woldist th[o]u haue me to hunt bridis nestis?
 I pray the hartely, dame, leve thosse jestis
     And talke of thatt wol be.

 For, dame, woll I neuer vast my wyttis,
 To wayte or pry where the wodkoce syttis;
 Nor to jubbard among the merle pyttis,
   For thatt wasse neyuer my gyse.
 Now am I wold and ma not well goo:
 A small twyge wold me ouerthroo;
 And yche[690] were wons lyggyd aloo,
   Full yll then schulde I ryse."[691]

Finding the task inevitable, he murmurs that "the weakest go ever to
the wall," and appeals for sympathy to the audience, particularly to
the husbands of young and headstrong wives in the traditional manner
beloved by mediæval play-goers,

 "How sey ye all this company
 Thatt be weddid asse well asse I?
   I wene that ye suffer moche woo;
 For he that weddyth a yonge thyng
 Must fullfyll all hir byddyng,
 Or els make his handis wryng,
 Or watur his iis when he wold syng;
   And thatt all you do know."[692]

Finally he subsides helplessly upon a "lond" or furrow, till the angel
appears and thrusts the birds into his hands. No mention is made to
Mary of the miraculous interposition when Joseph has hurried home,
pluming himself upon the capture.

 "I am full glade I haue them fond.
 Am nott I a good husbonde?"

says the saint with glee. It is a delicious scene, and its writer was a
comedian of no mean order.

Herod was the popular favourite of the Christmas play cycle, for the
predecessors of Shakespeare's groundlings loved to have their ears
split by his noisy arrogance. He "ragis in the pagond and in the strete
also," according to a stage direction, and it is possible that his
buffoonery was tinged with the memory of the wild frolic of the ancient
Christmas festivals, the feast of the Ass and the feast of Fools.[693]

"It out-herods Herod," says Shakespeare, the professional player, in
scorn of the amateur of the old régime. But the rant Herod utters is
gorgeous rant.

How the children shuddered when he wielded his "bright brond" or
terrible sword, and how his great voice rang out through the streets
when he cried:--

 "For I am evyn he thatt made bothe hevin and hell,
 And of my myghte power holdith up this world rownd.
 Magog and Madroke, bothe them did I confounde."

What megalomania! "Magog and Madroke," are undeniably fearsome names
and suit well with Herod's vizor, his falchion and towering crest.

"I am the cawse," he cries out,--

 "I am the cawse of this grett lyght and thunder;
   Ytt ys throgh my fure that the[694] soche noyse dothe make.
 My feyrefull contenance the clowdis so doth incumbur
   That oftymis for drede therof the verre yerth doth quake.
   Loke, when I with males this bryght brond doth schake,
 All the whole world from the north to the sowthe
 I ma them dystroie with won worde of my mowthe!

        *       *       *       *       *

 Behold my contenance and my colur,
   Bryghtur then the sun in the meddis of the dey.
 Where can you haue a more grettur succur
   Then to behold my person that ys soo gaye?
   My fawcun and my fassion, with my gorgis araye,--
 He thatt had the grace all-wey ther-on to thynke,
 Lyve the[694] myght all-wey with-owt othur meyte or drynke."[695]

There was another Herod in the smiths' play of the Passion, which has
not survived, but he was outshone by Pilate, who received 4s. for
his hire from the same company, whereas his fellow, the personator
of Herod, received but 3s. 8d.; the former, too, drank wine in the
intervals between the proformances, while the minor players were
refreshed with mere ale for the nonce. Both these above named were
rampant characters, Pilate always possessing the organ of Stentor. He
appears again in the cappers' play of the Resurrection, and evidently
became very terrific, laying about him with his club or mall when
the soldiers brought news that Christ had risen from the dead. Years
after in 1790 when even the tradition of the pageants was almost
forgotten, Sharp, the antiquary, found Pilate's mall in an old chest
in the cappers' chapel in S. Michael's church.[696] It was made of
leather and stuffed with wool, and had evidently served as the head
of a staff. Pilate's "balls," also made of leather, and possibly the
forerunners of the fool's bauble, also ministered occasion for noise
and laughter. Both Herod, Pilate, and the demons had vizors or masks,
hence the smiths' entry, "paid to Wattis for dressyng of the devells
hede viii_d_."[697] The devil--sometimes in the plural--appears in at
least three Coventry plays, the _Trial_, where no doubt he whispered
the dream to "Dame Procula," Pilate's wife, as he did at York,[698] the
_Harrowing of Hell, and Doomsday_. In the last two pageants there would
be much by-play with Hell-mouth and the souls in the infernal place.
I cannot tell in which particular piece the devil, whom John Heywood,
interlude-writer, claimed as an "old acquaintance," was an actor, but
it undoubtedly was in one of them, since in his _Foure P.P._ Heywood

 "Oft in the play of Corpus Christi,
 He had played the deuyll at Coventry."

Among the cappers' list of actors there is one which has about it a
certain Miltonic grandeur; it is the "Mother of Death."[699] It is to
be regretted that _Doomsday_ has not survived, for the names of the
persons represented are very suggestive; two demons, two spirits were
among them, two "worms of conscience," three black--or damned--souls,
and three white--or saved--souls, and a Pharisee.[700] The details
of the stage property and payments abound in _naïf_ and grotesque
allusions. Thus we learn that a "new hook" for hanging Judas was
purchased at the cost of 6d.;[701] and one Fawston received 4d. for
"coc croyng," presumably "to startle the penitent Peter."[702] Adam's
spade, "Eve's distaff," and the "apple tree,"[703]

                                 "the fruit
 Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
 Brought Death into the world and all our woe,"

are part of the stage furnishing of the _Harrowing of Hell_, since
therein Christ drew out from limbo our first parents. Everything about
these pageants must have been terrifying especially to sensitive or
guilty consciences. A hireling was paid fourpence "for kepyng of
fier at hell mothe"[704]from the drapers. This craft also purchased
a "baryll," whereof the rolling might imitate the sound of the
"yerthequake" on the Judgment Day.[705]

There is a good deal of information about the dresses of the actors
in the pageants. Annas and Caiaphas wore "mitres,"[706] Christ and
Peter wigs of a gold colour.[707] The tormentors who took part in the
scourging had jackets of "blake bokeram" ... with nayles and dysse
(dice) upon them.[708] It was the custom for actors to paint their
faces.[709] In _Doomsday_ the "saved souls" were clothed in white
leather, while those damned were made hideous by blackened faces,
and--it seems--a parti-coloured dress of black and yellow, the yellow
being so combined as to represent flame.[710] It sounds crude but
effective; and effective also, no doubt, was the blare of trumpets when
the four angels of the judgment standing on their "pulpits" or raised
platform called on the dead to appear before the judgment-seat.

No doubt the artist who painted the blackened and all but invisible
fresco of the judgment day over the chancel arch of Trinity church,
saw in his mind's eye as he painted Christ seated on the rainbow, with
saints and angels, lost and saved souls to His left and right, the rude
and realistic representation enacted on the drapers' pageant at Corpus

Another procession took place on S. George's day,[711] but there is
no evidence that any play was acted on this occasion. S. George,
however, had a legendary connection with Coventry; and he appears in
two occasional pageants, the welcome to Prince Edward in 1474 and
that to Prince Arthur in 1498; in the former case with elaborate
stage setting, so that there may have been a play in his honour.
Another dragon-slayer, S. Margaret, walked in the Corpus Christi
procession,[712] and it is possible she may have had a part in the
play, as also the other six champions of Christendom, who greeted Queen
Margaret in 1457, but here all is conjecture. S. George's long dramatic
life in the Mummers' Christmas play in Warwickshire has, of course,
only ceased in our time.

Other occasional pageants, noted in the annals, afford us glimpses of
tantalising brevity of dramatic shows and gorgeous preparations for the
reception of royalty. Thirteen years after Arthur's visit, the prince's
brother, King Henry VIII., and Queen Catharine, who must have entered
on the eastern side of the city, found at Jordon Well three pageants,
embellished with the "nine orders of angels," to greet them. There
were others, with "divers beautiful damsels," and "goodly stage play"
upon them, but we have no record of the verses composed in the King's
honour.[713] While the mercers' pageant stood gallantly trimmed at the
Cross Cheaping in 1526 to welcome the Princess Mary. This was before
the divorce question had become the talk of Europe, and the daughter
of Catherine of Arragon was still held in high honour; so that the
citizens made great preparations for her coming, even taking down the
heads and quarters of traitors from the gates lest they should annoy
the lady's sight.[714]

Fifty years later another sovereign witnessed a memorable performance
of the Coventry men. On Hox Tuesday--the Tuesday after the second
Sunday after Easter--certain folk-games were held to commemorate,
so the historians of the sixteenth century declared, the defeat of
the Danes in the eleventh.[715] These games, "invented"--so say the
annals--in 1416, fell into disuse soon after the Reformation, but were
revived on the occasion of Elizabeth's visit to Kenilworth in 1575. At
that time certain "good harted men of Couentree," led on by Captain
Cox, alecunner and mason, presented the "olld storiall sheaw" before
the Queen, "whereat," Laneham tells us in his delightful letter, quoted
in Gascoigne's _Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth Castle_, "her Maiestie
laught well," while the players "wear the iocunder ... becauz her
highnes had giuen them too buckes and fiue marke in mony to make mery
togyther." The play consisted in a sham fight between the English and
the Danish "launsknights," but whether accompanied by folk-rymes or no
we cannot tell. "Eeuen at the first entree," says Laneham, who greatly
enjoyed the fun, "the meeting waxt sumwhat warm.... A valiant captain
of great prowez az fiers az a fox assauting a gooz, waz so hardy to
give the first stroke: then get they grisly togyther: that great waz
the activitee that day too be seen thear a both sidez: ton[716] very
eager for purchaz of pray, toother[717] utterly stoout for redemption
of libertie: thus, quarrell enflamed fury a both sidez. Twise the Danes
had ye better, but at the last conflict, beaten down, ouercom, and
many led captiue for triumph by our English weemen." The last detail
was no doubt well liked by her majesty, who was certainly proving that
she shared in the mettle of these women of long ago, and who could
laugh well--that great royal Tudor laugh--at the rude performances of
her subjects.

Music was always a great feature of these pageants and processions.
"Mynstralcy of harp and lute," or of "small pypis," or that of "orgon
pleyinge," formed a part of the greeting which came to Prince Edward
from the stages whereon S. Edward, the prophets, or "the iii Kyngs of
Colen" or "seint George" were shadowed forth. There were four chosen
minstrels or city waits, and it may be remembered how on one occasion
the mayor and aldermen sent for these and bade them go before the
throng making their way from Whitley to the city, "which is by the
space of a mile largely or more," and pipe and play as they went,
"like as the people had done a great conquest or victory." The waits
played also on less stirring occasions than the opening of Bristow's
meadows, being greatly in request at the banquets of the guilds and
crafts,[718] and much sought after in all the country round. They wore
silver chains and badges charged with the arms of the city,[719] and
besides occasional fees given for their performance during feasts, they
received a regular "quarteredge," that is to say, a penny from every
citizen having "a hallplace," and a halfpenny from every one dwelling
in a cottage four times a year for their maintenance.[720]

The citizens themselves delighted in music; some must have been
practised singers, as the representation of the Corpus Christi pageants
was diversified by songs. One of these, a lullaby from the tailors' and
sheremen's play, is so pretty that it will well bear quotation.

 "Lully, lulla, thow littell tine child,
 By by, lully lullay, thow littell tyne child,
       By by lully lullay.
 O sisters too, how may we do
 For to preserve this day
 This pore yongling, for whom we do singe,
 By by lully lullay?

 Herod, the king, in his raging
 Chargid he hath this day
 His men of might in his owne sight
 All yonge children to slay.

 That wo is me, pore child, for thee,
 And ever morne and may
 For thi parting nether say nor singe
 By by, lully lullay."

The provision of these games, pageants and processions must have
entailed great cost and labour, yet every member of the various
fellowships helped to support them, and bore as well his part in the
common labours and duties involved in his citizenship. Every one was
compelled to obey the mayor's summons under penalty of a fine, whether
called upon to come to the leet, or the council, or to help in the
common labour of the town. In 1451, when wars were threatening, the
call went round for all to come and aid in the work of cleansing the
town ditch.[721] The summons went twice round the town according to the
watch, we are told, in "right great charge and in special" to the poor
folk, who had to leave their other occupations in consequence, besides
paying their quota towards the taxes, which were necessarily heavy
at that time. And the council hearing thereof ordered that £12, 10s.
should be collected from "thrifty" men to pay for the work, and the
poor people spared, save that labourers earning 4d. a day were to pay
1d. or 2d. towards the required sum. In addition to their labour in the
common defence, all citizens were required to make one of the company
of watchmen when their turn came round, or to find a substitute.
Fifteen men usually kept the nightly watch, but in times of disturbance
their number was increased; thus in 1450 it was enacted that "forty men
of decent, good and honest communication and strong in body ... shall
nightly watch and guard the city from the ninth hour until the beating
of the bell called daybell,"[722] and the light enabled all to see
thief or enemy approach.

Neither were the citizens permitted to shirk the common military
duties. At the "view of arms" all the freemen appeared in military
accoutrement as suited their degree, and the threat of a siege turned
artisans into soldiers and aldermen and councillors "for savegard of
the cite" into captains of the wards and guardians of the gates. In
1469--the year of the battle of Edgcote--the city was changed into a
very arsensal and barracks, so lively were the military preparations
going forward at that time. The city accounts show the heavy charges
which the distribution of arms and armour entailed upon the public

"Item," says the _Leet Book_, "delyvered to Robert Onley on Maudelyn
day a serpentyne ... for the Newe yate and a honde gunne with a pyke
in the ynde and a fowler." To John Hadley for Bishop Gate "i staffe
gunne." "Item delyvered to William Saunders, meyr, ii staffe gunnes
and a grett gunne with iii chamburs, iii jacks and xxiv arowys." "Item
... to John Wyldgris i gunne with iii chamburs." There also follows
the mention of the distribution of jacks and arrows to the various
captains,[723] until possibly the supplies ran short, and the last
obtained but "i newe jacke and a olde." In the "Lenton" of 1471 the
scene was repeated. Guns and pelettes were again delivered to the
captains for the gates, and money was hastily collected throughout the
wards for the company of soldiers who followed my lord of Warwick to
Barnet Field, whereby the citizens incurred King Edward's enmity and
great displeasure.

The provision of soldiers according to the terms of the commissions
of array, so common in civil warfare, were a heavy tax on municipal
resources. When the city officers were ordered by the King's commission
to send the local forces to join the royal army, the corporation
had to "reteyn" their contingent, provide their dresses, badges
and equipment, appoint a captain, and collect money, according to
assessment, throughout the wards for their pay. At the beginning of the
civil war all went merrily enough, and the citizens threw themselves
with right good will into the equipment of the soldiers who were to
have gone to St Alban's. But in a few years the artizans, called from
their homes and business, were heartily weary of the continual strife,
and clamoured for 12d. a day in payment. The hiring of recruits must
have become a more difficult matter as time went on, though, like the
clinching of all bargains in the Middle Ages, it was accompanied by
plentiful drinking. The _Leet Book_ records the following items in
July 1470, after Edward IV. had summoned a company of archers to a
rendezvous at Nottingham: "dedit ad le sowders ad bibendum xvid.," ...
"a gallon wyne vid.," ... "pro ale to the sowders vi_d._"[724] But even
after the Wars of the Roses were over we have a sorry picture of the
numerous inconveniences attending the hiring of troops. In February
1481, Edward IV. sent commissioners to find out what money or what
number of men the burghers would provide in the event of an invasion
of Scotland in the summer. After various discussions, commandings and
countermandings, it was finally agreed that sixty men should be waged
for the royal service for a quarter of a year at a cost of £148, 6s.
6d.; recruits were found and arrows and salets distributed amongst
them. More, however, was to be wrung from the reluctant burghers; £40
was collected from 180 of the "most sufficient" men of the town to
provide horses and jackets for the soldiery.[725] But sixty archers
were not deemed a sufficient contingent by the Court; and when in
the following June Lord Rivers came to know if the number could be
increased, the mayor called a "Hall" of divers out of every ward to
know what the common will was in this matter, and it was finally
ordained that the citizens should equip and pay forty additional men,
bringing up the number to 100. As all the recruits could not be drawn
from the ranks of the townsfolk, the worthy men enlisted the service
of strangers, and these had to be kept together, housed and fed, at
great trouble and cost[726] until the time for departure. In the end,
however, the levy was countermanded, and the troops thus laboriously
collected were merely dispersed;[727] a statement of facts the town
clerk may be pardoned for recording in a murmuring and discontented

But however onerous these duties may have been, the Coventry men were
loyally proud of their city and citizenship. Albeit a traveller, the
mediæval merchant loved, as he loved nothing else on earth, the small
stretch of land enclosed by the walls of his native town. He or his
ancestors had won and maintained at great cost the city's liberties,
and he and they spared no pains to make it beautiful. Historians are
wont to despise the English burgher of the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries, by reason of his insignificance and poverty, and his
neglect of the highest forms of art, and pointedly contrast his small
achievements with those of the merchant princes of Italy, or the
proud and daring members of the Hanseatic League. It is true he was a
commonplace person, living in what was for his country a commonplace
age; nevertheless his doings are worthy of remembrance. If the English
townsfolk never produced a Van Eyck or a Da Vinci, a Peter Fischer or a
Donatello, they patronised all the local forms of art they knew. They
had the same great delight in the common possession of a beautiful
object as the people of the Italian republics. Though they lacked
wealth to build themselves tall and stately houses like their brethren
on the Continent, the English burghers could raise tall steeples,
build vast churches, adorn their common halls, and rear exquisite
crosses in the market place. The fifteenth century glass in S. Mary's
Hall, Coventry, still attests the skill of John Thornton, a native
of the city, and one of the first acts of the council of Forty-eight
was to decree that a cross should be set up in the Cheaping, which
was done, though at a cost of £50.[728] In Coventry, as elsewhere,
the rich merchants and craftsmen set carvers to carve the miserere
seats--enjoying the grim humour these sometimes display, a quality
which crops up everywhere in the fifteenth century, even now and
then in legal documents--and bade the engraver commemorate the dead
by tracing their effigies on brass, or the mason by fashioning their
portraits in stone.

Neither should we regard as contemptible the Englishman's achievements
in trade and travel. The Merchant Adventurers, in the teeth of the
opposition of the Staplers and the Hanseatic League, first by piracy
and chance trading and then by organised and chartered commerce,
filled the North Sea with their ships, founded settlements at Bergen
and Antwerp, and on the ruins of their rivals built up one of the most
successful trading companies of northern Europe. English merchants
carried from Crete or Lisbon the precious stores of eastern wine and
spices, and brought their bales of wool to the port of Pisa to supply
the makers of Florentine cloth, or to the ports of Normandy to supply
the looms of northern France.[729]

But it is not for his patronage of art or for his enterprise in foreign
trade that the English burgher is chiefly noteworthy, but rather
for his "politic guiding" of the cities in which he lived. Pirates,
perhaps, on the Narrow Seas, he and his fellows were at home, for the
most part, law-abiding men. A certain innate conservatism, a truly
British love of appeal to custom and precedent, marks their rule,
and, although the populace was frequently unquiet and discontented,
the result was, on the whole, happy and successful. If the dangers of
foreign commerce made them hardy and fearless, their political and
civic life, with its manifold responsibilities, taught them a prudence
and worldly wisdom, which appears in all their transactions. Never
were men who paid such heed to the Gospel precept, "Be ye wise as
serpents." Liable to be deserted or oppressed by the King, thwarted
by the open violence or secret maintenance of some great noble or the
factiousness of some fellow-burgher, their self-reliance turned these
necessities to "glorious gain." It is true that we meet with little
heroism, and few distinct types of character. The men of this class
can boast of no individuals who can be rightly considered as important
historical figures. Like the great Gothic architects, these men, who
built up such a flourishing and successful society, have been chary of
leaving their names to us. Now and then, however, a bit of grimy and
neglected parchment reveals a striking history. We see the clothes
they wore and hear the words they said. The quarrel resounds once more
in the guild-hall. The stern recorder testifies against the supposed
factiousness of Laurence Saunders; and the aged men, lifting up their
hands, swear to the ancient extent of the common pasture. These are
not heroic or world-known scenes, but they represent the life of the
citizens of an old-time city, men whose labours are not entirely


[Footnote 600: Perhaps to Bishop Patteshull, who died 1238. Beresford,
_Diocesan Hist. Lichfield_, 127.]

[Footnote 601: In 1391 the prior agreed to pay an annual pension of
100s. for eight years and to provide six trees if the parishioners
would rebuild the chancel of Trinity church at their own charge,
providing the materials and paying for workmanship (Sharp, _Antiq._,

[Footnote 602: Besides parochial chaplains there were six chantry
priests at S. Michael's in 1522; two at Trinity; a warden and seven
secular priests at Bablake; and, at the Reformation, according to one
account, fourteen or fifteen chaplains at S. Nicholas' church (_ib._,
5, 72, 129, 132).]

[Footnote 603: _Ib._, 25.]

[Footnote 604: Sharp, 81.]

[Footnote 605: Green, i. 154.]

[Footnote 606: The scissors of the shearmen may yet be seen in a
clear-story window in S. Michael's.]

[Footnote 607: Sharp, _Antiq._, 30. The girdelers paid 3s. for their
chapel to the churchwardens (_ib._, 33). The company of the cappers is
still in existence; and one day in every year the members repair to the
parvise adjoining the chapel and eat bread and butter and drink wine

[Footnote 608: Sharp, _Antiq._, 92.]

[Footnote 609: The drapers, mercers, dyers, cardmakers, and saddlers
(later the cappers), smiths, and girdlers had chapels in S. Michael's
church; the butchers, dyers, and tanners in Trinity. The fullers held
the chapel of S. George on the Gosford Gate. Some of the inferior
crafts, viz. the pinners, tilers, and coopers, had their annual mass
and drinking at Whitefriars.]

[Footnote 610: This matter of the candles seems to have roused
dissensions at an early date. In 1282 the corpse of a woman to be
buried in the friars' cemetery at Dunstable was first conveyed to the
priory church there for the funeral mass. The monks boasted that out of
eight candles they only gave two to the Franciscans, keeping all the
rest for themselves (_Cornh. Mag._, vi. 835.)]

[Footnote 611: The MS. annals note that in 1438 "Friar Bredon got the
old strike again" (Harl. MS. 6388, f. 18).]

[Footnote 612: _Leet Book_, 228.]

[Footnote 613: Leland, _Collectanea_, v. 304; Sharp, _Antiq._, 207.]

[Footnote 614: _Leet Book_, 338. The old archery ground is commemorated
in "the Butts," now a street, but once outside the walls. A "butt" is
properly a mound on which the target is set up. In Edward IV's reign
butts were ordered to be made in every township, and the inhabitants
were to shoot on all feast days under pain of 1/2d. at every omission
(Strutt, _Sports and Pastimes_, 57).]

[Footnote 615: Chamberlains to make a ring for the "baiting of bulls as
heretofore" (_Leet Book_, 83).]

[Footnote 616: No one to shoot arrows in "le cokfyting place" (_ib._,

[Footnote 617: _Ib._, 656.]

[Footnote 618: _Chamberlains' and Wardens' Accounts_ (Corp. MS. A. 7b,
f. 2). "Paid to Sir ffoulke Grevile Bearewarde iii_s._ iiii_d._"]

[Footnote 619: Corp. MS. A. 7_b_, ff. 2, 8.]

[Footnote 620: "Paid for 3 sermons of Mr Butler's and ringing to them
35s. 3d." (_ib._, f. 1).]

[Footnote 621: _Leet Book_, 271.]

[Footnote 622: _Ib._, 629.]

[Footnote 623: _Ib._, 652. "Blind inns" were secret taverns, where, of
course, all sorts of irregular proceedings went on.]

[Footnote 624: _i.e._ Draughts.]

[Footnote 625: _Leet Book_, 786.]

[Footnote 626: _Ib._, 690.]

[Footnote 627: _Leet Book_, 28.]

[Footnote 628: _Ib._, 28.]

[Footnote 629: See below, the Harcourt and Stafford quarrel.]

[Footnote 630: Sharp, _Mysteries_, 169.]

[Footnote 631: Wife of the famous Talbot.]

[Footnote 632: _i.e._ Who.]

[Footnote 633: _i.e._ Edge tool.]

[Footnote 634: _Paston Letters_, i. 73.]

[Footnote 635: Sharp, _Mysteries_, 180.]

[Footnote 636: _Leet Book_, 204.]

[Footnote 637: Corp. MS. A. 6. _Corpus Christi Guild Accounts_, ff. 54,
56, 80.]

[Footnote 638: Corp. MS. A. 6. _Corpus Christi Guild Accounts_, f. 43.]

[Footnote 639: The smiths spent money recklessly at this season until
1472, when it was ordained that the master of the craft should be
allowed 5s. on Midsummer, and 3s. 6d. on S. Peter's eve, "and not a
penny more," wherewith to provide supper (Sharp, _Mysteries_, 183).]

[Footnote 640: _Ib._, 179.]

[Footnote 641: _Ib._, 176.]

[Footnote 642: See quotation from Stowe in Sharp, _Mysteries_, 175.]

[Footnote 643: This was a universal custom, but there were special
local feasts. For instance, at Canterbury, on the eve of the
Translation of S. Thomas, a watch was kept. At Chester, Shrove Tuesday
was a day for general merry-making (Green, i. 149).]

[Footnote 644: Among the dyers, the penalty was 13s. 4d.(Sharp, _op.
cit._, 183).]

[Footnote 645: _Ib._, 160.]

[Footnote 646: _Ib._, 184.]

[Footnote 647: _Ib._, 193-4.]

[Footnote 648: _Ib._, 194.]

[Footnote 649: _Ib._, 196.]

[Footnote 650: The cappers paid 9d. for canvas to make a new skirt for
the giant, and "for mendyng of hys head and arme, xvi_d_." (_ib._,
201). The dyers also furnished a pageant wherein a hart and a herdsman
blowing a horn figured. Perhaps this was a cause why they had been so
long allowed to escape from providing a pageant on Corpus Christi day.
See above, p. 220.]

[Footnote 651: Sharp, 193. Drapers' Accounts, 1555, "payd to xviij
gonnarys lxii_s_. iiij_d_.; payd for xijli of gonepother, xij_s_.

[Footnote 652: Sharp, _Mysteries_, 184.]

[Footnote 653: "To gabriell for beryng the lilly iiij_d_." (_ib._,

[Footnote 654: The frequent mistakes in chronology made by all writers
who depend on Sharp or the printed versions of the Annals for dates of
these visits make it important to insist on them.]

[Footnote 655: The Shrewsbury mercers' guild imposed a fine on such of
its members who missed the local procession through absence at Coventry
fair. Chambers, _Mediæval Stage_, ii. 110.]

[Footnote 656: C. Mery Talys, lvi. (quoted Chambers, ii. 358).]

[Footnote 657: Chambers, _op. cit._, ii. 362. Bateson, _Leicester_,
III. 111, 120, 127, 137.]

[Footnote 658: For this and the singing of the _Quem quæritis_, "whom
seek ye?" we have a "stage direction" in the _Regularis Concordia_ of
S. Ethelwold as early as Edgar's reign (959-79). See Chambers, ii. App.

[Footnote 659: _Ib._, ii. 41.]

[Footnote 660: Bishop, 1188-1198. See Chambers, _op. cit._, ii. 36.
_Cf._ the matter of the "castel of Emaus" in the cappers' play at
Coventry, Sharp, 48.]

[Footnote 661: _Furnivall misc._, 206-7.]

[Footnote 662: See Hardin Craig, _Two Coventry Corpus Christi Plays_,
Early English Text Society, to which I am much indebted. The older work
on this subject is Sharp's _Dissertation on the Dramatic Mysteries_.
Chambers' _Mediæval Stage_ is very rich in Coventry material.]

[Footnote 663: See _Leet Book_, 205, for the case of the cardmakers,
saddlers, painters and masons.]

[Footnote 664: _Ib._, 94, The case of the weavers' journeymen, who paid
4d. a piece, is the only one on record.]

[Footnote 665: Sharp, 8.]

[Footnote 666: _Ib._, 9, 10. There is no record that the dyers ever
contributed to the Mystery Plays. In 1539 the Mayor of Coventry told
Cromwell that the poor commons were at such expense with their plays
and pageants that they fared the worse all the year after. Chambers,
_op. cit._, ii. 358.]

[Footnote 667: Mr Chambers' surmise that the common lands were enclosed
to build pageant-houses on is untenable. The rents derived from the
enclosed lands was devoted to the upkeep of the pageants.]

[Footnote 668: Sharp, _op. cit._, 9.]

[Footnote 669: _Ib._, 20.]

[Footnote 670: See illustrations in _Furnivall Misc._ taken from MS.
Bodl. 264 ff. 54_b_, 76_a_. These pageants do indeed look like a
glorified Punch and Judy show, as Mr Chambers has said.]

[Footnote 671: It is difficult to say what they may not have endured.
At Skinnerswell in 1411, a play lasted for seven days! There were
twelve to sixteen stations at York; but the York plays were far shorter
than the Coventry ones.]

[Footnote 672: Sharp, _op. cit._, 73.]

[Footnote 673: By the kindness of the editor of the _Victoria County
History_, I am permitted to include this note from an unprinted MS.,
Inq. p.m. 19 H. 8, 46-45 (_P.R._O.) proof of age of Walter Smith of
Coventry. It is important as furnishing proof that S. Christian is the
right reading instead of S. Catherine, which Dr Craig would substitute.
For S. Christianus, bishop of Auxerre in the ninth century, and S.
Christiana, virgin, of Jermunde in Flanders, who flourished in the
eighth century, see Smith and Wall, _Dict. Chr. Biog._ Miss Toulmin
Smith, thinks that S. Christina and S. Christiana were distinct
persons. There was a play in honour of the former at Bethersden in
Kent. _York Plays_, lxv.]

[Footnote 674: Craig, _op. cit._ xxi.-ii.]

[Footnote 675: See Chambers, ii., 419-20.]

[Footnote 676: Dugdale, _op. cit._, i. 183.]

[Footnote 677: They may have been performed as late as 1591.]

[Footnote 678: Cott. Vesp D., viii. ed. by Halliwell Phillips.]

[Footnote 679: An error, since Old Testament scenes are also included.]

[Footnote 680: "Vulgo dicitur hic liber Ludus Coventriæ, sive ludus
Corporis Christi."]

[Footnote 681: See Chambers, _op. cit._, ii. 416-22; Gayley, _Plays of
Our Forefathers_, 135-9, 325-7; Shelling, _Eliz. Drama_, 20-1; Leach in
_Furnivall Misc._, 232-3.]

[Footnote 682: See _Camb. Lit. Hist._ v. 13 for the York friar, who
described himself as a "professor of pageantry."]

[Footnote 683: Mr Chambers suggests that, as the crafts admittedly
altered and revised their plays, the _Ludus Coventriæ_ may be a
discarded version.]

[Footnote 684: Leach in _Furnivall Misc._, 232.]

[Footnote 685: Craig, xviii.]

[Footnote 686: On the _Prophetae_, see Chambers, ii. 52, 70; Craig,

[Footnote 687: Craig, xvi. This certainly was the subject of a play;
see payment to S. Thomas of India above, p. 287.]

[Footnote 688: Particularly in the fragment of--probably--an earlier
version, see Craig, _op. cit._, 119-122.]

[Footnote 689: See Craig, _op. cit._, xxiv.-v.]

[Footnote 690: Yche = I. And I were laid low. Jubbard = jeopard.]

[Footnote 691: Craig, 47.]

[Footnote 692: Craig, 48.]

[Footnote 693: See on this point and on Balaam's ass, Chambers, _op.
cit._, ii. 57.]

[Footnote 694: _i.e._ they.]

[Footnote 695: Craig, 18.]

[Footnote 696: Sharp, 51.]

[Footnote 697: _Ib._, 31.]

[Footnote 698: York Plays, 277.]

[Footnote 699: Sharp, 47.]

[Footnote 700: _Ib._, 66-7.]

[Footnote 701: _Ib._, 37.]

[Footnote 702: Sharp, 36.]

[Footnote 703: Craig, 94, 97.]

[Footnote 704: Sharp, 73.]

[Footnote 705: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 706: _Ib._, 55.]

[Footnote 707: _Ib._, 26.]

[Footnote 708: _Ib._, 33.]

[Footnote 709: Craig, 90.]

[Footnote 710: Sharp, 70, 71.]

[Footnote 711: _Leet Book_, 589.]

[Footnote 712: Sharp, 166. For the riding of the George at Norwich,
Leicester, Stratford, and elsewhere, _v._ Chambers, i. 221-3. Plays in
honour of S. George were performed at Lydd, New Romney, Bassingbourne
(_ib._, ii. 132).]

[Footnote 713: Harl. MS. 6388, f. 26 _dorso_.]

[Footnote 714: Sharp, _op. cit._, 158.]

[Footnote 715: Rous (_Hist. Regum Angliæ_, 105-6) ascribes it to the
rejoicings on the death of Hardicanute. On Hock-tide, see Chambers, i.

[Footnote 716: The one.]

[Footnote 717: The other.]

[Footnote 718: The carpenters in 1464 paid 8d. to the minstrels at the
feast (Sharp, 213); the dyers paid 2d. (_ib._, 214).]

[Footnote 719: _Ib._, 209]

[Footnote 720: _Ib._, 207.]

[Footnote 721: _Leet Book_, 258.]

[Footnote 722: _Leet Book_, 253.]

[Footnote 723: _Ib._, 345.]

[Footnote 724: _Leet Book_, 357.]

[Footnote 725: _Leet Book_, 476-481.]

[Footnote 726: 6d. a week was collected from all the citizens of the
mayor's rank, and 4d. and 2d. from those of the sheriff's and warden's
rank respectively to pay for the soldiers' board.]

[Footnote 727: _Leet Book_, 488.]

[Footnote 728: _Leet Book_, 57, 68.]

[Footnote 729: Green, i. 90-120.]


_Old Coventry at the Present Day_

Coventry is well worth a whole day's visit, though the day may be an
easy one, as the principal buildings lie very near together, and _are
practically always open_, so that no time need be wasted ringing up
this or that caretaker or running after the sacristan. Either the
powers that be have little leisure to think of tourists, or they must
be men of singular enlightenment, for I know of no place which can be
seen so freely and cheaply, where lingering over a charming effect,
a boss, inscription or painted window may be done with such pleasure
because interruption is so rare.[730] The tourist will show his wisdom
by not going too far afield in his sight-seeing; the three churches and
S. Mary's Hall will, with a passing look at many a picturesque narrow
street, carved gable, or interesting relic of old Coventry, furnish him
with some hours' occupation. Those, of course, who possess indomitable
physical and mental energy may ascend S. Michael's spire for the view's
sake, or brave a walk through the somewhat dreary environs of Coventry
to the historic but commonplace-looking strip of land known as Gosford
Green.[731] Or, if they are proof against the depressing influence of
the workhouse--for into this building the remains of the Carmelite
monastery have been incorporated--may follow the line of Much Park
Street to Whitefriars, and there see the fine monastic cloister, with
its fifteenth-century groining, which now serves as the paupers'

Castle and monastery have been destroyed in Coventry, and, after all,
nobles and monks had very little to do with the making of the city,
which, in 1381, was the fifth, and about seventy years later the
fourth, among the cities of the kingdom. A fortunate junction of high
roads, and the enterprise of the inhabitants, accounts for the great
riches and large population during those seventy years. _And mark
that the most noteworthy buildings were raised within this period_:
the churches of S. Michael, and the Holy Trinity, and S. Mary's Hall.
S. John's church is a little earlier in date. During this period the
people of Coventry were possessed with a magnificent frenzy, such
as shames our modern efforts, for building and making their city
beautiful. That is to say, within a little over two generations the
inhabitants of a town of what we should call nowadays contemptible
smallness, for it contained at first a population of only about 7000,
and later certainly no more than 10,000 souls, raised two parish
churches of unusual size, and a fine town hall. One of these churches
is indeed the largest in the kingdom, and possesses a spire almost
unrivalled in height and beauty. They also kept their fortifications in
good repair during this period, and raised--to speak of inconsiderable
trifles--a market cross, which has unfortunately perished, besides
lending to all the buildings their bounty was making or had made,
all the riches of suitable adornment that the carpenter's, carver's,
painter's, glazier's, weaver's and goldsmith's art could devise. Much
has perished in the destruction of the cathedral, the friars' and
other chapels, the cross, a parish church, a guild-hall, and many
unremembered buildings; but enough remains to show that we owe a
great debt to those dear, dead folk who knew so many things we have
forgotten and loved so many things we have ceased to care for, and
above all, knew what to do with stone and glass and metal, and loved
their handiwork, for it was good.

Women have always been to the fore in Coventry; the names rise of S.
Osburg, Godiva, Isabella, Margaret of Anjou, of the virgin sisters
Botoner, who built the spire, and of Joan Ward, the first Coventry
Lollard martyr. Women of the city, too, helped to keep out Charles I.
Here Sarah Kemble (Mrs Siddons) was married and Miss Ellen Terry born.
It is fitting that the chief literary interest of Coventry should
centre in a woman's name. George Eliot went to school at a house in
the south-west end of Warwick Row, 1832-5. Coventry is said to be the
original of Middlemarch, and S. Mary's Hall is described in the trial
scene in _Adam Bede_.

In coming from the station down Warwick Row, as you pass the angle
of Greyfriars' Green, look at the modern statue of Sir Thomas White,
merchant, Lord Mayor of London in 1555, founder of S. John's College,
Oxford, and benefactor of the city of Coventry. Other famous folk
connected with the city were Laurence Saunders, the Marian martyr, who
was led out to die in the park to the right of Christ church, the spire
of which is close before you, while John Marston, satirist, writer of
plays, friend and foe of Ben Jonson, was born here. Perhaps some day
our cousins from over the Atlantic may raise a tribute to the memory
of John Davenport, Puritan, of this city, who, after a troubled career
as pastor in the city of London, fled to Amsterdam; and finally, in
1637, at the invitation of John Cotton, departed for New England,
where he lived as pastor of Newhaven for very many years; and, after
much controversy concerning baptism, and writing of books, departed
this life at Boston on March 13, 1670. Others may feel more interest
in his brother or kinsman, Christopher, a convert to Romanism, and
hence the religious antipodes of the aforesaid John. After a sojourn
at Douay, this Franciscan friar became chaplain to Queen Henrietta
Maria, and subsequently to her daughter-in-law, Catherine of Braganza,
wife of Charles II. He died in 1680, and was buried at the Savoy
Chapel, London. Being suspected of designs for promoting the union of
the English and Roman Churches, it was one of the indictments against
Archbishop Laud that he held frequent converse with Christopher
Davenport. Other notable folk have at one time or another lived within
the city. Sir William Dugdale, Garter King-at-Arms under Charles II.,
author of the _Monasticon_ and the _Antiquities of Warwickshire_,
"maestro" and "autore" of all such as love the lore of the famous
shire of Warwick, received his education at the Free Grammar School.
While Humphrey Wanley, to whose skill and knowledge the British Museum
owes--not the gift--but the collection and arrangement of the Harleian
manuscripts, while he held the post of librarian under Harley, Earl of
Oxford, in Queen Anne's time, was son of a vicar of Trinity church, one
Nathaniel Wanley, whose book _Wonders of the Little World_, was greatly
loved by Browning.

Full in front is the view of the "three tall spires." The nearest,
that of Christ church,[733] is all that remains of the far-famed
chapel of the Greyfriars, wherein so many local notables and members
of noble families lay buried. The church having been demolished at the
suppression of the monasteries under Henry VIII., the steeple remained
a solitary landmark until 1830, when the body of a new church was
added. This is an uninteresting structure, and not worth a visit.

We are now inside the compass of the ancient wall, and those who wish
to keep up old illusions, and enter the city by the ancient road,
should turn up Warwick Lane, alongside of the Grapes' Inn, avoiding
modern Hertford Street, and so along Grey Friars' Lane to High Street
and the main thoroughfare of the city. A little below the junction of
the Warwick and Grey Friars' Lanes stands Ford's Hospital, a beautiful
black and white timbered house with carved gables such as artists
love. The windows are of nine lights, divided into threes, with
window-headings of fine tracery. In a room over the porch called the
chapel are oddments of stained glass. Some of the seventeen old women
who are housed there, and daily bless, or should bless, the memory of
Master Ford and Master Pisford, merchants, may often be seen sitting
in the little inner quadrangular court. Worthy Master Pisford, by his
will, dated 1517, made provision for six old men and their wives,
"being nigh unto the age of threescore years and above, and such as
were of good name and fame, and had been of good honesty and kept
household within the said city, and were decayed and come to poverty
and great need." Nowadays, however, it is only old women who profit by
their benevolence.

On reaching High Street, which is part of the great north-west road,
and the old coaching way between London and Holyhead, it is best to go
right on down Pepper Lane, which immediately faces you, until you come
to S. Michael's churchyard. This broad open space was, and is still,
the centre of the life of the town. Here stood the cathedral and the
two great parish churches, the house containing the cloth market, and
the guild-hall, where the rulers of the city assembled to take council
together. Possibly while the churches, as we know them now, and S.
Mary's Hall were yet unbuilt, the common assembly of city folk met
together here to hold courts, and decide on questions touching the
common weal. Now the cathedral and drapery are gone, but the church
spire still stands fronting the spectator, and a few paces will bring
him where, behind the projection of a small black and white cottage,
stands the red and crumbling entrance porch of S. Mary's Hall.

Tradition, which we can never afford to disregard, says that S.
Michael's Church--spire, tower, chancel, and nave--was built by the
Botoners, a great merchant family, further affirming that a brass plate
was found in the church, with the following lines engraved upon it:--

 "William and Adam built the tower,
 Ann and Mary built the spire,
 William and Adam built the church,
 Ann and Mary built the quire."

Undoubtedly the Botoners were wealthy and generous folk, but whether
this little quatrain is founded on fact or no, we have no means of

The famous nine-storied steeple, consisting of tower, octagon and
spire, whereof the tower, begun in 1371, occupied twenty-one years
in building, is 300 feet high or thereabouts, but gains a fictitious
appearance of greater height in that it springs immediately from
the ground. The architect had a marvellously happy thought when he
added the flying buttresses, which connect the pinnacles of the main
tower with the octagon above it, converting a mere tall spire into a
"star-ypointing" thing of lightness and beauty.[734] The stone figures
in the niches are modern; the ancient ones, worth inspection though
worn past identification, have been placed in the crypt, to which
entrance is gained on the north side of the church. It is perhaps the
finest specimen of the florid Perpendicular spire in England. The
decoration is concentrated in the storeys easily seen, _i.e._ the upper
ones of the tower, gradually dying away as the eye travels upwards.
The steeple recently underwent restoration under Mr Oldrid Scott, and
whatever was gained in stability by the process, much was lost with
the look of old age which vanished with the crumbling surface of the
ancient stone.

Before entering the church by the south door notice the rare round
trefoil-headed arch of the south porch, earliest portion of the church,
a few steps beyond, opposite the door of S. Mary's Hall. What first
strikes the spectator on entering is the great size of the building, a
fact mainly owing to the simplicity of the ground plan, no space being
lost in transepts, and to the absence of any partition or arch between
nave and chancel, so that from the west end there is an uninterrupted
view of the entire church. From this spaciousness and simplicity
comes a grandeur which mere size could never wholly give. The style
of architecture--of the kind called "Perpendicular"--shows that the
fabric belongs to the end of the fourteenth and the first half of the
fifteenth century, the choir being older than the nave, which dates
from 1434 to 1450. It has been suggested that the building was just
complete when Henry VI. paid his visit to the church in 1451.

The width of the arches and slightness of the pillars display the
technical skill of the architects of this period, who, by a just
distribution of weight, etc., contrived to raise churches of maximum
size at a minimum expense of material and labour. It is a church where
a large congregation may be comfortably housed, but it has the great
defect of the later style of Gothic building,--all sense of mystery
and aspiration, with which the lofty roof and high-pointed arch of the
earlier periods impress the beholder, are wholly absent.

On looking up from the west end, a curious break in the line of the
roof at the junction of nave and chancel is very apparent. The choir
inclines to the north, and in so doing furnishes an architectural
problem difficult of solution.[735] It is curious that the tower,
which is not central with the nave, is in line with the choir.

The lantern at the west end has been opened out since the recent
restoration, and the sight of the beautiful groining of the roof is
not one that should be missed. The nave has six bays; and in the
clear-story windows of both nave and chancel the mullions are carried
down until they meet the line of the arch; in the chancel the scheme is
more decorative, and over the central arch of the three bays the window
is a four-light one.

The step between nave and chancel is of oak and may have been the
ancient sill of the rood-screen.[736]

The church is somewhat poor in detail, having suffered from the zeal of
reformers, and from the ignorance and carelessness of "Bumbledom" in
the succeeding centuries. At the Reformation there came down a fellow
with a "counterfeit commission," and for "avoiding of superstition"
tore up all the memorial brasses on the tombs, so that those that are
left date from Elizabethan times--or later--and are of small interest.
In a "restoration" of 1851 there was a regular "double twilight" among
the tombs, which were taken up from their original resting-places,
and deposited wherever the restorer thought fit. Amongst those thus
displaced, and now standing at the west end of the north aisle, was
the alabaster tomb of Julines Nethermyl, a worthy draper of the city,
whose family entered the ranks of the squirearchy of Warwickshire, and
bore arms like gentlefolk. In the front of the tomb is a bas-relief of
Julines and his wife, with their five sons and five daughters, and the
following inscription:--

"Hic jacit Julianus Nethermyl, pannarius, quondam Maior hujus
civitatis, qui obiit xi die mensis Aprilis anno domini MDXXXIX., et
Johanna, uxor ejus, quorum animabus propitietur Deus. Amen."[737]

The various crafts or trading companies had special chapels allotted
to their use before the Reformation; the dyers, the present baptistery;
the cappers, one adjoining the south aisle, while in a little
parvise over the south porch, they still meet once a year, transact
the company's business, eat, drink, and spread upon the table the
venerable velvet cloth, once a pall, an interesting relic, albeit
torn and faded, of the days when the making of cloth caps was one of
the main industries of the city. The smiths and girdlers had chapels
off the north aisle; and the drapers and mercers the space at the
east end of the north and south aisles respectively. It was from its
place among its fellows in the drapers' chapel that Nethermyl's tomb
was brought, and many others stand behind a railing in the Mercers'
Chapel in the south aisle. Here is a much defaced early Renaissance
erection, traditionally known as "Wayd's tomb," and a most interesting
relic of a city officer in the memorial to Dame Elizabeth Swillington
and her two husbands, one of whom, Ralph Swillington, was sometime
recorder of the city. Round the tomb is the legend: "Orate pro anima
Elizabethe Swyllington, vidue, nuper uxoris Radulphi Swillyngton,
Attornati Generalis Domini Regis Henrici octavi, Recordatoris Civitatis
Coventrensis; quondam uxoris Thome Essex, armigeri; que quidem
Elizabeth obiit anno domini millessimo CCCCC--."[738] The worthy
attorney-general and recorder lies on the side nearest the spectator;
the squire, Master Thomas Essex, in armour, on the side farthest off;
Dame Elizabeth, wearing a pedimental head-dress, her hands raised in
supplication, in the middle. The dame, the date of whose death is
unknown, as the tomb was erected in her lifetime, lived at Stivichall,
near Coventry, and gave £140 for the support of the poor and repair
of roads in the neighbourhood of the city. Master Swyllington, who
was made recorder in 1515, doubtless discharged his duties with all
faithfulness, but I know of no memorable event in which he figures
during his tenure of office.

All the pre-Reformation brasses save the one commemorating Thomas Bond
are gone. One in the west end on the north aisle shows Maria Hinton
(1594) and four swaddled babes. She was the wife of that Archdeacon
of Coventry and Vicar of S. Michael's who had such a troublesome
correspondence with James I. about non-kneeling communicants. Another
in the south aisle shows the figure of Ann Sewell (1609) kneeling in
prayer. The inscription runs:--

 "Her zealous care to serve her God
 Her constant love to husband deare,
 Her harmless harte to everie one,
 Doth live, although her corps lie here.
 God graunte us all, while glass doth run
 To live in Christ as she has done."

"Ann Sewell, ye wife of William Sewell, of this cytty, vintner,
departed this life ye 20th of December, 1609, of the age of 46 yeares.
An humble follower of her Saviour Christ, and a worthy stirrer up of
others to all holy virtues."

The Sewell family, which gave two mayors to Coventry, have a great many
American descendants.

On the wall near the south porch is a brass to Gervase Scrope (1705),
who describes himself "as an old toss'd Tennis Ball."

In the Cappers' Chapel by the south porch are the Hopkins' tombs; and
in the Dyers' Chapel is a monument to female friendship commemorating
Dame Bridgman and Mrs Eliza Samwell. Above "Wayd's" tomb in the
Mercers' Chapel is a monument to Lady Sheffington (1637), whose husband
is described as a "true moaneing turtle."

In the Drapers' or Lady Chapel, which is divided from the north aisle
by an oak screen, we are continually reminded of the powerful Trinity
guild, as well as the drapers' company, whose priests said daily
service here. This part of the church was chosen as a burial place for
the chief members of the latter society. In a brass plate let into the
north wall of the chapel you may see the memorial inscription to the
most notable of these:--"Here lyeth Mr Thomas Bond, draper, sometime
mayor of this cittie, and founder of the Hospitall of Bablake, who gave
divers lands and tenements for the maintenance of ten poore men so long
as the world shall endure, and a woman look to them, with many other
good guifts; and died the xviii day of March, in the yeare of our Lord
God MDVI."

Bond's Hospital still stands by S. John the Baptist's church. May it
endure--as the epitaph has it--as long as the world itself.

The dark oak roof of the chapel is ancient, and in some cases angels
carrying shields are figured on the corbels. The first of these, at the
east end of the north wall, bears, however, the Agnus Dei, a reference
to S. John the Baptist, one of the patrons of the guild; the next a
pelican "in her piety," _i.e._ feeding her young from her own breast, a
symbol of Christ.

The Communion-table is of seventeenth-century work; there are curious
poppy-heads in this chapel; and on the other side of the screen, which
is made up of ancient fragments, is an old oak chest showing that
favourite Coventry subject, the Coronation of the Virgin, with swans,
Tudor roses and grotesques.

The miserere seats are worth inspection, though the carving is somewhat
rough. They seem to fall into three classes, illustrating:--

1. _The labours of life._

2. _The saints of the guild._

3. _The certainty of death, and judgment to come_, illustrated by the
favourite mediæval series, the _Dance of Death_.

They may be taken in the following order, beginning with the north

_First series._--Labours of life.

1. A man thrashing; a man bat-fowling (agriculture and hunting).

2. Shepherd piping (pastoral life).

_Second series._--Saints of the guild.

3. (_Defaced._) Decapitation of a martyr, perhaps S. John the Baptist.

4. (_Defaced._) The Assumption of the Virgin.

_Third series._--Dance of Death.

5. A burial scene. Two men are laying the body, wrapped in a winding
sheet, in an open grave; a priest, holding a torch in his hand, and two
attendants stand near; mattock and spade are beside the grave.[739]
On either side of the central carving Death is represented leading a
mortal--in this case the pope--by the hand.

6. A man is being stripped of his shirt, symbolical perhaps of the fact
that in dying we must relinquish all worldly possessions. A cripple,
whom by the irony of fate Death has spared, watches the process of
unclothing. The side subject has been cut off, but Death's companion is
a bishop; see the outline of his mitre.

7. A death-bed scene; the sick person is in bed, his friends surround

8. The tree of Jesse. "The Word was made flesh."

9. The Last Judgment.

10. Grotesque.

11. The chaining of Satan.


13. Grotesque.


The church terminates in a five-sided apse, with five large, slightly
pointed windows. The modern coloured glass of the three central ones
is a miracle of ugliness, but the two outer ones are composed of
fragments of ancient stained glass, out of which it is impossible,
however, to distinguish any connected group. Figures of the cherubim
standing on wheels are scattered about the various lights, still in
fair preservation. Other fragments show the Apocalyptic Lamb, the kiss
of Judas, and the description of the Trinity beginning, "Pater est
Deus," etc.[740] In the clear-story windows may also be seen more of
these beautiful, but sadly fragmentary remnants of ancient glass. In
one of these on the south side, the scissors, which were the mark of
the tailors' and sheremen's company, are conspicuous.

The chancel roof is lower than the nave, and the two levels are
connected by a cove on which was once a fresco of the Archangel
overcoming Satan,[740] fragments of which are preserved though not _in

Painted on the beam above the cove which spans the nave between the
rood piers are traces of an old Latin hymn on the nine orders of angels
(a facsimile will be found in the vestry):

 "Archangeli presunt ciuitatibus.
 Potestates presunt demonibus.
 Dominaciones presunt spiritibus angelicis.
 Cherubyn habent omnem scienciam.
 Principalitates presunt bonis hominibus.
 Virtutes faciunt mirabilia.
 Seraphyn ardent in armore dei.
 Troni eorum est judicare.
 Angeli sunt nuncii domini."

Opposite the south porch of S. Michael's is the entrance to S. Mary's
hall, the banqueting room and meeting-place of the guild of the Holy
Trinity, S. Mary, S. John Baptist and S. Catherine, and the centre for
the transaction of all municipal business. The great north window, of
which the mullions bear trace of a recent restoration, is visible from
the street, and from an opening in the front to the hall, long since
blocked up, it was customary to proclaim the acts of leet passed by
the fathers of the city to the crowd below. Built as it was for the
honour and glory of this guild, whose members were the chief folk of
the city, the building is full of detail reminding us of the patron
saints of this fraternity. We shall see this more clearly later, when
we come to examine the tapestry which hangs in the Hall itself. In the
meantime note that the porch, which gives entrance to the court-yard,
bears on its keystone a carving, representing the Coronation of the
Virgin, and from one of the stones, whence the inward arch springs, is
a sculpture of the Annunciation, now almost unrecognisable, save that
on the inner side the feathers of S. Gabriel's wings are to be clearly
made out. To the right of the court-yard, underneath the great Hall, is
the entrance to the crypt, two beautifully proportioned chambers with
plain groined roof, probably once a storehouse, now a receptacle for
lumber. In the end chamber or "tavern" is a fine carving of a lion. On
the western side are the cupboard-like openings in the wall, intended,
Sharp thinks, to receive the deeds and valuable property belonging to
members of the guild.

On the south side of the court-yard is the fourteenth-century kitchen,
full of memories of the great feasts which were once cooked there, and
whence dishes were borne smoking hot up the stairs to the Hall above.
Now the modern cooking appliances stand out in all their incongruity.
Here is the old whipping-post, and in the roof is an ancient louvre
or smoke-vent. In the window stands a statue which came from the now
demolished cross. It probably represents Henry VI. The arches on the
north side bear rudely sculptured figures of angels, each holding
a shield on which is a merchant's mark, bearing the initials J.P.,
_i.e._ John Percy (living 1392), a benefactor of the guild.[741] On
the ground floor is the new muniment room. (For admission apply to
the hall-keeper.) When inside the pretty little modern Gothic
chamber, ask the hall-keeper to point out Ranulf's charter, and notice
the beautiful twelfth-century writing, which you can contrast with
the more fanciful hand of the great charter of Edward III. The _Leet
Book_, from which so much contained in this history has been obtained,
stands on one of the bookshelves which line part of the room. The
_Letter-Book_ is usually open at Elizabeth's letter, 1569, referring
to the safe-keeping of Mary, Queen of Scots. The municipal scales,
engraved with the "Elephant," the city arms, are also visible in an
inner compartment of this chamber.


If the council is not sitting, the hall-keeper will also show the
much restored Mayoress's Parlour, on the upper floor. Here stands the
mediæval chair of state, used on great occasions, probably by the mayor
and the master of the guild. Only half remains of this magnificent
relic. No doubt the side where the guild-master took his seat was sawn
off, cast aside as useless on the suppression of this "superstitious"
society at the Reformation. The chair bears on one side a figure of the
Madonna, "the arms of Coventry surmount the back on the one side, and
on the other (which was the centre in its complete state) are two lions
rampant supporting a crown."[742] Several portraits line the room,
those of John Hales, founder of the Free Grammar School, of Christopher
Davenport, mayor of the city, and Sir Thomas White, are of great local
interest; others are of Elizabeth, Charles I., and James I., but
undoubtedly the most artistic is a curious portrait of Queen Mary, said
to be by Zucchero or Antonio More.

As the Great Hall[743] served as a banqueting-hall for the Trinity
guild, a flight of steps at the south end communicates directly with
the kitchen. At the north end was a daïs, where the principal guests
took their seats.

The room was also used for municipal purposes, particularly when the
town rulers found it necessary to convoke a large assembly of their
fellow-citizens. Many a stormy scene has this beautiful room witnessed.
Here it was--or in an earlier hall--that the common folk, enraged
at the bad quality of bread, threw loaves at the mayor's head when
he neglected to punish the frauds of the victuallers. Here Laurence
Saunders defied or submitted to the dictates of the corporation, and
the citizens met together promising to uphold the mayor and council in
their attack on William Bristowe, who had encroached upon the Lammas
lands. Here the mayor was elected and courts held. But when the council
met, they chose a smaller room communicating with the Great Hall, for
privacy's sake.

The armour is a most interesting collection. A great many pieces are
Elizabethan, but the "Black Prince's helmet" is a unique sallet of
the period of the Wars of the Roses. The right way to study the Hall
is to mount the little flight of steps at the southern end, and,
sitting in the Minstrel Gallery, behind the array of civic armour,
examine the glorious fifteenth-century window at your leisure. A few
years back the glass was in utter confusion, having been carelessly
replaced after re-leading, and the respective heads, bodies and legs of
the magnanimous conquerors and kings therein commemorated were sadly
astray, their anatomy being rendered thereby most perplexing. This
has, however, been judiciously remedied, and we can now clearly see
in the nine compartments--as the artist, possibly William Thornton,
or a pupil of his, designed--the figures of the Emperor Constantine,
King Arthur, William I., Richard I., Henry III., Edward III., Henry
IV., Henry V., and Henry VI., the last occupying the place of honour
in the central light. Above are the arms of various nobles and cities,
among others the "elephant and castle" of this city, the three "garbs,"
wheat-sheaves of Chester, and the sable eagle of Earl Leofric, the
city's earliest benefactor.

The dark oak roof belongs also to the fifteenth century, and is worth,
even at the cost of some strain to the muscles of the neck, a careful
study. At the centre of each beam are whole-length figures of angels,
ten in number, of whom eight are playing on various instruments. The
first, close to the great north window, has a violin-like instrument,
the second a harp, the third a flute, the fourth a flute, but of a
peculiarly flat shape, the fifth a violin, the sixth a curved tube,
the seventh a tabor, the eighth a curved tube, while the ninth and
tenth have no wings or instruments at all; possibly they represent the
"morning stars singing for joy."

Under the great north window hangs a piece of tapestry, dating, so
say experts, from the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is of
Flemish design, and was woven, possibly in England, with the intention
of filling the place it now occupies. Faded in colour, often blurred
in outline, the tapestry still remains a glorious memorial to the
love of beauty and artistic workmanship and corporate pride of the
great guild. It is divided into six compartments, and represents a
king, queen, and their Court adoring the Virgin, the Trinity, and
divers saints in glory; being undoubtedly designed to commemorate
the admission of a king and queen into the ranks of the Trinity
guild--an event which did actually occur in 1500 in the case of Henry
VII. and Elizabeth of York. Among the company of saints the place of
honour is given to those who were the chosen patrons of the guild.
Unfortunately the tapestry has not come down to us in the condition
in which it left the makers' hands. The figure of Justice holding
the scales is obviously out of harmony with the whole design. There
is no doubt that the personification of the Trinity, God the Father
on the throne holding Christ extended upon the Cross, with the Dove,
once occupied this space. The Hebrew letters of the word Jehovah
found above the cross still remain, but the reformers, who could not
endure the representation of this mystery, cut out the rest.[744]
Round the present incongruous figure of Justice kneel angels bearing
the instruments of the Passion, the nails, the sponge of hyssop, the
crown of thorns, the scourge, pillar and spear. The Assumption of
the Virgin in the lower central compartment reminded the guildsmen
of their earliest patroness, whose festival was one of their chief
days of assembly. The Virgin's feet rest on the crescent moon, which
is supported by an angel. The apostles kneel round in attitudes of
adoration. On either side of the lower tier a king kneels in prayer, on
the right a queen, traditionally identified with Henry VI. and Margaret
of Anjou; this attribution has not gone unchallenged; and it is at
least possible that the contemporary king and queen, Henry VII. and
Elizabeth of York, may be intended; the heraldic roses in the border
are, however, Lancastrian and not Tudor. The King kneels at a table
whereon lie a crown and missal; he wears a jewelled cap. None of his
followers can be identified save the kneeling cardinal, who probably
is intended for Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester (or Cardinal Morton),
and the standing figure behind the King, who may be the "good Duke
Humphrey" (or Henry, Prince of Wales). The Queen kneels opposite. None
of her ladies can be identified. The Queen has a head-dress embroidered
with pear-pearls, upon which is a crown of fleur-de-lys, her dress is
yellow, and the sleeves lined with ermine. Of the three ladies who
kneel behind her the third is obviously a child.[745]

In the upper left-hand division is a group of male, on the right-hand
a group of female, saints respectively led by the patrons of the
guild, S. John the Baptist and S. Catherine. The former are the less
interesting company; they consist of S. John the Baptist bearing the
book and _Agnus Dei_; the next is probably S. Thomas, holding a lance.
There follow S. Paul with a sword; S. Adrian, patron of brewers,
standing on a lion, and holding a sword and an anvil, instrument of
his martyrdom; S. Peter with the key; S. George holding a banner, but,
oddly enough, with no dragon at his feet; S. Andrew with a transverse
cross; S. Bartholomew with a knife; S. Simon with a saw; and S.
Thaddeus with a halberd. In the opposite division stands an array of
saints in charming Tudor dress; S. Catherine with her wheel; S. Barbara
with the tower; S. Dorothea with the basket of roses; S. Mary Magdalene
with the vase of ointment; S. Margaret, name-saint of the queen who
kneels in the compartment beneath, with a queer, flabby, spotted
demon curling round her body; S. Agnes with a delightful little lamb,
which she holds by a string. Then follows an abbess, concerning whose
identity there has been much discussion. She is arrayed in a monastic
habit, bears a crozier, and has three white mice about her person, one
on either shoulder, and another springing in the air above. This is S.
Gertrude of Nivelles in Flanders,[746] patroness of travellers, and
maybe also of the locality where the tapestry was designed. Noted far
and wide for hospitality in her lifetime, the saint did not cease her
ministrations to wayfarers after death. The journey to Paradise is a
long one, occupying three days, so that the popular fancy said that
the souls slept with S. Gertrude on the first night, with S. Gabriel
on the second, and the third they rested in Paradise. "The saint
therefore became," says Mr Baring Gould, "the patroness and protector
of departed souls. Next because popular Teutonic superstition regarded
rats and mice as symbols of souls, S. Gertrude is represented in art
as attended by one of these animals. Then, by a strange transition
when the significance of the symbol was lost, she was supposed to be a
protectress against rats and mice, and water from the crypt at Nivelles
was distributed for the purpose of driving away these vermin." It may
be noted that the two nuns in the compartment of ladies attending
upon the queen, wear the same habit as S. Gertrude. The next saint of
the company is usually identified with S. Anne, but on what grounds
I am unable to discover. She bears a long staff (or taper) in her
hand. Now the saint likely to be associated with S. Gertrude would
be her godchild, S. Gudule, patroness of the cathedral of Brussels.
Her appropriate symbol is, however, a lantern. But the artist is not
very careful about these, and possibly may have substituted the taper.
In this case the demon hovering over S. Apollonia, who follows next,
bearing her pincers, really belongs to S. Gudule, and is a reminiscence
of the saint's nocturnal difficulties in keeping her lantern alight, so
persistently did the evil spirit blow it out.


After examining the tapestry there is little to detain you. The
oriel window contains some fragments of old glass; on the floor are
some ancient tiles; small figures from the ancient cross also stand
in the recess. The inscriptions about the Hall are reproductions of
Elizabethan black letter which once adorned the ancient wainscotting.
A brass commemorating the lease of Cheylesmore Park, granted to the
citizens by the Duke of Northumberland in the reign of Edward VI., is
fixed in the wall close to the entrance to the Mayoress's Parlour. It
is dated 1568. As for the terrible windows, filled with glass in 1826
in imitation of the old work which had been destroyed in an affray
concerning a contested election of 1780, known as the "bludgeon fight,"
let us not speak of them. At the south end of the hall is (right) the
Prince's Chamber, leading to the ancient stone-groined treasury in
the tower, and containing fragments of carving, one a figure of S.
George and the Dragon from S. George's chapel at Gosford gate, and
(left) the Council-Chamber, which has been recently wainscotted with
Jacobean carving brought from a house in Earl Street. There is a fine
Jacobean fireplace, an old chair, and an Elizabethan drawing-table in
the room. At the back of the minstrel-gallery is the Armoury, where
lies, in neglect and dust, a large picture, "The Baccanali," by Luca
Giordano; and at the back of the armoury is Queen Mary's Chamber, the
traditional place of confinement of the Scottish Queen in 1569.

Crossing the churchyard, you arrive at Trinity Church whereof the
spire was rebuilt in the seventeenth century. The exterior, which has
been frequently recased, suffers somewhat from the neighbourhood of S.
Michael's, but the interior is of earlier and more finely proportioned
architecture than its giant neighbour. Rebuilt at the close of the
fourteenth century on the site of a parish church, which existed at
least as far back as the reign of Henry III., this building is also
full of problems, and is in some respects most interesting of all the
churches of Coventry. The jambs of blocked windows at various levels
are fruitful of speculations on the original appearance of the church,
and a piscina high up on the wall of south transept proclaims the
former existence of an upper chapel, with a floor level over a vaulted
passage, which was done away with for probably quite insufficient
reasons in 1834. The church, which was served by twelve parochial and
two chantry priests before the Reformation, contained fifteen altars;
while in the Lady-chapel a priest held services, taking a stipend from
the Corpus Christi guild.


The earliest part of the church is the thirteenth-century north porch
with its groined roof, and a beautiful double doorway, now blocked up,
leading from the porch to S. Thomas's chapel. West of the porch, in
the Archdeacon's chapel, is another blocked window, a fine example of
the Decorated type. The nave is of the first half of the fourteenth
century, and was built before the chancel. The fresco of the Last
Judgment, which could once be discerned above the chancel arch, is now
obliterated. As in S. Michael's the mullions of the fifteenth-century
clear-story windows are continued to the top of the arches of the
nave, forming a series of stone panels. Marler's-chapel, leading out of
the north chancel-aisle, is the latest part of the structure, belonging
to the sixteenth century. The stone pulpit dates from about 1470. The
lectern, which is also antique, aroused the suspicions of the Puritans,
and in 1654 there was some talk of selling it, a transaction which was
happily not accomplished, though the "eagle" at S. Michael's, the gift
of William Botoner, had been sold at so much the pound a few years

Scarcely a vestige now remains of the ancient stained glass which once
made the church beautiful. Its disappearance was owing not perhaps so
much to Puritan zeal, as to the deliberate action of the authorities in
the last century. From 1774 to 1787 the masons of Coventry must have
revelled in the work of mutilating the window traceries, and the old
glass after being taken down was never put back. The old sexton told
the antiquary, Sharp, particulars of the famous window, wherein Leofric
and Godiva were represented, the former holding a charter with the

 "I, Luriche, for love of thee
 Doe make Coventre Tol-free."

But this was removed in 1779; but a few last fragments of glass are
now in the window of the Archdeacon's chapel. A small figure is
seen holding a spray of leaves and part of a horse; there are also
architectural fragments in the stained glass that appear in Stukeley's
drawing of the Godiva window, but they are very insignificant and

In this same chapel is a brass to John Whitehead (1597) and his two
wives in Elizabethan costume, and a monument in Philemon Holland
(1636), once master of the grammar school, translator of Camden's
_Britannia_. The font is of the fifteenth century. Close to the west
door is a fine Elizabethan alms-box.

To the north of Trinity churchyard are the Cathedral ruins. Little more
than the bases of a few fine pillars are left of the once splendid
minster, dedicated to S. Mary, S. Peter, S. Osburg, and All Saints.
From the gates of Trinity church you pass the top of the picturesque
Butcher Row, and, if time does not fail you, may turn down Cross
Cheaping--alas that the cross should be no longer there!--till you come
to the Old Grammar School, at the corner of Hales Street. This was the
ancient home of the Hospitallers, who tended the infirm and sick, but
was converted after the Reformation into a free grammar school. It is
now a parish room; but round the walls of the ancient chapel of the
Hospitallers are the old stalls they once occupied, cut and hacked by
many generations of schoolboys. The east window is a fine specimen of
nearly flamboyant tracery. Here Dugdale received his education; also
the Davenports and a great many more who have never risen to fame in
the world. Mr Tovey, father of Milton's Cambridge tutor, and Philemon
Holland, the "translator-general of his age," were masters here.

On returning up the Broadgate to the cross roads give a glance at the
authentic "Peeping Tom" looking out of a window in the top storey of
the King's Head Inn. It is a full-length wooden statue of a man in
armour, with helmet, greaves, and sandals; the arms are cut off at the
elbows. What the statue anciently represented is, I believe, unknown.

The turning to the right, Smithford Street, leads to S. John's
Church, another building raised to the glory of God and the guild
of the Holy Trinity, S. Mary, S. John Baptist, and S. Catherine.
Nothing of the present church, built, it may be remembered, in some
sort to commemorate the king's victory at Sluys, is earlier than
1357, for the first church, begun in 1345 and consecrated in 1350,
disappeared before the more ambitious plans of a later time. Prayers
were said therein for Isabella's "dear lord Edward," at whose tomb
at Gloucester Cathedral so many pilgrims paid their devotions, to the
no small gain of the ecclesiastics of that place. The new church at
Bablake owed its south aisle--still called after his name--to William
Walscheman and Christiana his wife, which Walscheman is described as
"valet" (vadlettus) to Queen Isabell, and had of her gift control
over the Drapery, where vent was made of "foreign" cloth brought to
be sold within the city. The south (Walscheman's) aisle and the north
clear-story are the oldest portions of the now existing building, the
south clear-story, which is of different pattern, is not earlier than
the fifteenth century, though it contrasts very favourably with the
scheme employed both at Trinity and S. Michael's.[747] Off the north
chancel-aisle was a hermitage, whereof traces have been found on the
site of the present vestry. The church is small, the nave being but of
three bays' length, but it is lofty and of fine proportion. The modern
screen, however, strikes an inharmonious note.

Oblong as to ground-plan, though, curiously enough, never quite
rectangular, the building, when seen from outside, is cruciform as to
clear-story, and from the crossing springs a high fortress-like lantern
tower with turrets or bartizans at the angles of the battlements.
The east and west windows are restorations, and indeed the many
vicissitudes this church has undergone, and its low situation, have
frequently exposed it to two evils--restorations and floods. Granted
to the corporation after the suppression of the guilds and chantries
in 1548, the church was used as a kind of religious lecture-hall in
1608 and for some years later; and in 1648 as quarters for the Scots
prisoners taken at Preston. The fabric was described as in a state of
sad neglect in 1734, when it was linked to a parish for the first time
in its history.


Close by the church and forming the view of all views to be dwelt on
in the city, stand two picturesque black and white timbered houses,
one given by John Bond for an almshouse for aged and decayed folk
recommended by the Trinity guild, and the other the Bablake school
raised by the benevolence of Mr Wheatley in the sixteenth century.
Bond's Hospital, which contains some good seventeenth-century
furniture, has been restored; but by preternatural good luck Wheatley's
School escaped that devastating touch. The hall contains roof timbers
possibly older than the bulk of the building, and an ancient staircase;
and the room to the left on the ground floor has a fine Jacobean
mantelpiece which came from Sir Orlando Bridgman's house in Little Park
Street. There is an open gallery both on the ground floor and the upper

The sight of these houses, grandly planned and strongly built,
with lovely gables where barge-board and finial are marvels of the
house-carver's art, is a fitting close to a day in Coventry. Let us
hope that no restorer, modern builder, well-meaning or enterprising
commercial man will ever rob us of the loveliness of Bond's Hospital
and Wheatley's School at Bablake.



[Footnote 730: This is a condition of things tourists ought to be
thankful for; it is unhappily rare. S. Michael's closes at 5 o'clock
in summer, 4 o'clock in winter; the other churches at 4 all the year
round. The sight-seer ought to have an opera glass.]

[Footnote 731: See p. 102.]

[Footnote 732: See p. 164.]

[Footnote 733: See p. 297.]

[Footnote 734: Contrast the outline of Trinity spire--work of the
seventeenth century. See Bond, _Eng. Architecture_, p. 633.]

[Footnote 735: Woodhouse, _Churches of Coventry_, 44.]

[Footnote 736: Woodhouse, 45.]

[Footnote 737: Poole, 150.]

[Footnote 738: Poole, 142.]

[Footnote 739: Poole, 145.]

[Footnote 740: Brooks, S. Michael's Church.]

[Footnote 741: Memorials of the visit of the British Archæological
Institute in 1864. The kitchen is part of the original building, and
belongs to the middle of the fourteenth century.]

[Footnote 742: Sharp.]

[Footnote 743: The architecture of the Great Hall shows it was raised
after 1392, when the union of the guilds took place.]

[Footnote 744: Sharp, _Antiq._ 221.]

[Footnote 745: Miss Howard (_Englishwoman_, Jan., 48, 1911) identifies
the feminine group with Elizabeth's daughters and sisters and
mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort.]

[Footnote 746: Sharp, _op. cit._, 222.]

[Footnote 747: Woodhouse, _Churches of Coventry_.]



 Abingdon, monastery at, 16;
   letter sent to, 152

 Actors, Coventry, 288

 Aelfgar, 23

 Alchemist, an, 240

 Aldermen, 77;
   appointment of, proposed, 115;
   police duties of, 267, 279

 Aldgyth, 23

 Ale-tasters, 247

 Ale-wives, 228, 249

 Almshouse, 263

 "Angel" inn, 131

 Annals, or mayor-lists, unreliability of, 106 (and note)

 Annunciation, 82;
   pageant of, 287, 299

 Apprentices, swear to franchises, 200-1, 226;
   morals of, 227, 279;
   number of, limited, 225;
   on setting up shop, pay fine, 226 and note;
   treatment of, 227

 Archery, 278

 Armour, provided by citizens 114-115;
   delivered to captains, 311-2

 Arms, view of, 311

 Arthur, Prince of Wales, 307

 Assize of ale, 246;
   of bread, 51, 71, 98, 246, 248

 Assumption, 82;
   pageant of, 287, 299

 Audley, Lord, 130


 Bablake, church of St John the Baptist at, _see_ Churches, Hospital;
   gate at, 8

 Baginton, 102, 248

 Bagot, Sir William, 102

 Bailiffs, duties of, 88;
   _see also_ Sheriffs

 Bakers, offend against assize of bread, 98;
   take sanctuary at Baginton, 248;
   rules of, 251 (note).

 Ball, John, taken at Coventry, 97;
   discourse of, 98

 Banbury, 144, 151;
   Puritanism at, 279

 Barnet Field, 151, 152

 Baron's Field, 179

 Bath, Roman town, 15

 Battle, trial by, 53

 Beam, wool weighed at the, 250

 Bear-baiting, 278

 Bearward, 88, 278

 Beaumont, Lord, 120, 128

 Bedford, Duke of, 110;
   Duchess of, 111, 149

 Bedon, William, quarrels with Huet, 137

 Belfry, symbol of independence, 74 (note).

 Bell, church, 158, 234 and note;
   daybell, rung at dawn, 234;
   "larum" bell, 126 (note)

 Benedictines, house of, at Coventry, 16, 24;
   life among the, 27-8;
   habit of, 238;
   _see also_ Coventry, Monks, Priors, Priory

 "Benevolences," 155

 Beverley, plays at, 290

 Bishopric of Coventry, title of, 167

 Bishops of Coventry, _see_ Coventry

 Black Death, 13, 244

 Blood, Holy, of Hales, 238

 Bloreheath, battle of, 130

 Blue thread, special colour used in dyeing, 252

 Bolingbroke, Henry, 9, 101, 102

 Bond, John, 216;
   _see also_ Almshouse

 Bonfires on S. John's Eve, 285

 Books sold at fairs, 253

 Bordars, 37 (note)

 Boston, ship of, 259

 Bosworth Field, battle of, 157, 256

 Boteler, Henry, _see_ Recorders

 Botoner, family of, trade with Bristol, 256;
   build S. Michael's steeple, 257;
   purchase estate, _ibid._

 ---- Adam, 257

 Botoner, William, 257

 Brakemen, workers in iron, 221-3

 Brass, memorial, to Sir William Bagot, 102

 Braytoft, Richard, 176

 Breauté, Faulkes de, 95-6

 Bredon, Friar John, opposes the hermit's preaching, 107;
   attacks monks, 276-8;
   nails bills on the church door, 277

 Brethren, of the mayor, _see_ Mayor's Council

 Brewers, forbidden to take water from conduits, 246;
   forestall barley, 249;
   trade of, lucrative, 248

 Bridgman, Sir Orlando, house of, 6

 Bristol, cannon brought from, 115;
   trade with, 215, 252, 256;
   toll demanded at, 257

 Bristowe, John, draper, 172, 216;
   encroaches on common lands at Whitley, 172-3, 180;
   drives cattle on Coventry pastures, 173

 ---- William, of Whitley, 172, 174;
   offends the corporation, 174-5;
   the mayor and citizens break into his closes, 175-6, 177-8;
   appeals to the privy council, 177;
   suit between, and the community about the ownership of enclosed
   lands, 178-80;
   keeps meadows, several, 194;
   further suit, 196-7;
   _see also_ Whitley

 Broadgate, 73

 Bruges, staple for cloth at, 258

 Buckingham, Duchess of, 128

 ---- Duke of, Humphrey Stafford, quarrels with Coventry men, 113;
   retainers and badge of, 113, 238;
   attends Henry VI., 119, 128;
   assists Duke of York to escape, 126;
   visits Coventry, 131;
   dies at Northampton, 132

 Bull-baiting, 278

 Bull-ring, poulterers stand near the, 250

 Burgage, free, 46

 Burgundy, wool trade with, 140, 150

 Bury S. Edmund's, monastery at, 16;
   men of, get concessions from the abbot, 66


 Cade, Jack, 114;
   quarters of, exposed on town gates, 243

 Caen, abbeys at, 16

 Calais, 143, 146;
   _see also_ Staple

 Caludon Castle, 102

 Cannock Chase, robbers at, 258

 Canterbury, Archbishop of, 210;
   Arundel, 103, 104

 Cantilupe, Fulk de, 34

 Cappers, 225;
   company of, survives, 232;
   fines for admission to freedom of craft, 226 (note);
   treatment of apprentices among, 227 (note);
   _see also_ Apprentices, Chapel, Journeymen, Pageants

 Caps, making of, by journeymen forbidden, 232

 Cardmakers, bill concerning abuses of the, 222;
   _see also_ Journeymen

 Card-wiredrawers, _see_ Cardmakers

 Carmelites, habit of, 238

 Carpenter, John, of London, 263

 Carpenters, apprentices of, 232;
   feasts of, 284, 309 (note)

 Carthusians, house of, at Coventry, 100;
   habit of, 238;
   _see also_ Charter-house

 Cartwright, Presbyterian, at Warwick, 165

 Castle, of Coventry, 40

 Catesby, John, 178, 180

 Catherine of France, Queen, 107

 Chamberlain, duties of, 88, 187;
   _see also_ Saunders, Laurence

 Chapel Fields, 41

 Chapel of S. George on the Gosford Gate, 83, 275 (note)

 ---- of S. James and S. Christopher, 8

 ---- of S. Mary Magdalene, at Spon, 41

 Chapels of the crafts in the parish churches, 274, 275 (note)

 Chard, 152

 Charity of the merchants, 259, 263;
   of the corporation, 268

 Charles I. is refused entrance to Coventry, 6, 166

 ---- II. orders the walls to be dismantled, 7, 166

 Charter, Ranulf's, 47-9, 61, 62;
   confirmation of, 59;
   privileges granted by, 69, 70, 74, 121;
   probably purchased by Guilds, 80;
   of 1621, 75;
   to prior, 59, 60

 Charter-house, 6, 100, 278;
   _see also_ Carthusians

 Chester, bishop's seat transferred from, 30;
   canons of, 32;
   S. Werburgh's at, 18 (note);
   Earls of, 38;
   Hugh rebels against Henry II., 40-1;
   builds lazar-house, 41;
   Hugh Lupus, 39;
   Ranulf Blonvil's career, 42;
   gives charter to burghers, 47;
   Ranulf Gernons, his career, 39-40;
   Ranulf Meschines, 39;
   plays at, 290;
   written by Higden, 291

 Cheylesmore, officers of, 135-6;
   becomes royal manor, 96;
   Earl of Chester's dwelling at, 44, 95 (note), 101;
   Princes of Wales at, 154

 Chimneys, wooden, 245.

 Churches, of Coventry, 269-78

 ---- S. John the Baptist's, 8, 82, 270;
   priests of, 120

 ---- S. Michael's, bell brought to, 158;
   chapels of crafts in, 274;
   door of, verses nailed to, 204, 208, 277;
   priests of guilds employed in, 82-3, 270 (note);
   royal visits to, 120, 167;
   sale of cloth in porch of, 202

 ---- S. Nicholas, supported by Corpus Christi guild, 163 (note);
   chaplains of, 270 (note)

 ---- Holy Trinity, 269-70;
   fresco in, 273, 306;
   priests employed in, 83, 270 (note)

 Churchyard, S. Michael's, 49, 250

 Clapham, 144, 243 (note)

 Clarence, Duke of, conspires with Warwick, 142, 143;
   pledges jewel, 146;
   deserts Warwick, 151;
   mediates with Edward IV. for Coventry men, 152

 Cloth of Coventry, 212-5;
   drapers, merchants of, 215;
   dyers, makers of, 203 (note), 220;
   Florentine, 315;
   makers of, 203 (note);
   manufacture of, 61;
   sale of, 202, 212;
   sealing of, 214-5;
   weaving of, how paid, 230;
   _see also_ Drapery, Frieze

 Clothiers, company of, survives, 232

 Clothmakers, _see_ Cloth

 Cock-fighting, 278

 "Cofantreo," 16 (note)

 Coket, bread, 248 and note

 Colchester, 15

 Coleshill, 128, 129;
   pillory at, 240

 Combe, abbot of, 179

 Commission of array, 312-3

 Common Council, 204

 Common labour, 310

 Common lands, enclosures of, 170-3;
   part of, held by Trinity guild, 91-2;
   old men testify to the extent of, 179-80;
   ploughed up, 160;
   technical possessors of, 171 (note);
   _see also_ Enclosures, Lammas lands, Prior's Waste, Saunders, Laurence,
   Stint, Surcharging

 Common seal, 92

 Competition, rules against, 225;
   of outsiders, 251

 Compurgation, 51 (note)

 Conduits, 1, 246

 Coniers, Sir John, 141

 Cook, Laurence, 109, 258

 Cookery in Middle Ages, 283

 Coopers, feast of, at Whitefriars, 275 (note)

 Coroner, 59

 Corpus Christi, eve of, 282;
   procession on feast of, 287-8, _see also_ Pageants

 Corpus Christi guild, _see_ Guild

 Corrody, 63 (note)

 Corvesars, 283

 Council, great, held at Coventry, 126, 127;
   _see also_ Mayor's Council, Prince of Wales

 Court, of the royal household, 101;
   of statute merchant, 253-4 and note;
   spiritual, for trial of craftsmen, 218;
   _see also_ Leet, Portmanmote

 Coventry, bishops of, Blythe, 158;
   Durdent, 32, 40;
   Limesey, 30;
   Nunant, expels monks from Priory, 30-2;
   la Pucelle, 33;
   elections of the, 32-5;
   burgesses of, protest against confiscation of guilds' lands, 162;
   cathedral of, 18, 25;
   derivation of, 11;
   _see also_ Charters, Mayors, Recorders

 ---- send to, 3

 ---- bells, flower name, 3

 Cox Street, or Mill Lane, pageant houses in, 12, 293

 Crafts, combinations of, suppressed, 220 (note);
   companies of, now existing, 232;
   members of, tried in spiritual courts, 218;
   feasts of, 284;
   fines paid by, 219;
   fines paid on admission to freedom of, 226
   and note; power of corporation over, 217-23;
   rules of, overlooked, 218 (note);
   _see also_ Apprentices, Cappers, Dyers, etc., Pageants

 Cucking stool, 240


 Danes, 15, 308

 Dartmouth, 141 (note)

 Daubers and rough masons forbidden to form a fellowship, 231

 Daventry, 6

 Despensers, plot to kill by witchcraft, 64

 Dieulacres, 42

 Dissolution of the monasteries, 161-2

 Domesday Survey, Coventry in, 37 and note;
   Prior's-half not in, _ibid._

 Doomsday, pageant of, 129, 295, 305, 306

 Drama, liturgical, _see_ Pageants

 Drapers, apprentices of, 226 (note);
   chapel of, 275 (note);
   influence of, 75, 216;
   overlook searchers of cloth, 217;
   survival of company of, 232

 Drapery, cloth sold in, 202, 212, 250 and note;
   and Trinity guild, 82;
   drapers live near, 250

 Drayton, Michael, 1, 14

 Drogheda, 252 and note

 Dublin, 252 (note), 254

 Dugdale, Sir William, attributes the _Ludus Coventriæ_ to the Grey
 Friars, 297

 Dunstable, 56, 276 (note);
   play at, 290

 Dunster, 22

 Dye, French, 218, 257

 Dyers, men of, ride in armed watch, 286;
   chapel of, 275 (note);
   raise price of dyeing cloth, 220 and note;
   combinations of, 217, 220 and note;
   payment of, to minstrels, 309 (note);
   petition against abuses of, 217, 220 (note);
   treatment of, by corporation, 220-1;
   _see also_ Journeymen, Saunders


 Eadric Streona, 15

 Earl's-half of Coventry, 7, 38, 57;
   becomes a royal manor, 67;
   _see also_ Prior's-half

 Edgcote, battle of, 144, 243 (note)

 Edward I., 61

 ---- II. borrows from citizens, 61;
   supports prior, 62;
   plot to kill by witchcraft, 64

 ---- III., 68

 ---- IV. and jurisdiction, 135-136;
   citizens embrace cause of, 132-3;
   citizens give welcome to, 153;
   confiscates franchises, 152;
   plots of Warwick against, 143, 145;
   a prisoner in Coventry, 144;
   war between, and Warwick, 150-1

 Edward V. as Prince of Wales, appeal to, by Saunders, 184;
   arbitrates in Bristowe's case, 197;
   born, 149;
   corporation entreats mediation of, 155;
   member of guilds, 154;
   oath of allegiance taken to, _ibid._;
   reception of, 153-4

 Edward the Confessor, charter of, 16-17

 Election of officials, 75

 Elephant, city arms, 214

 Eliot, George, 3, 4, 7

 Elizabeth, Queen, visits Coventry, 14, 164;
   sees Hox Tuesday play, 308-9

 ---- Queen of Bohemia, 165

 ---- Woodville, 149, 154

 ---- of York, 160, 296

 Empson, Richard, _see_ Recorders

 Enclosures, award of 1860, 170-1;
   commons break into, 160;
   petition to parliament concerning, 131;
   list of, presented by Saunders, 188, 197;
   of Prior's Waste, 176-7;
   _see also_ Common Lands

 Ethelnoth, 18

 Exeter, 146;
   Vespasion at, 14


 Fair, grant of, 54;
   of Coventry, 251-2, 288 (note);
   of Stourbridge and Winchester, 252

 Fee-ferm, 74, 162;
   in arrears, 138;
   paid by Trinity guild to prior, 91

 Fineux, Chief-Justice, 210

 Fire, protection against, 245

 Fishmongers, 247, 249

 Fleet prison, 210

 Folk-lore, 3-4

 Ford, William, founds almshouse, 263

 Forestalling, 247, 248, 249

 Fortification of Coventry, 114-5

 Forty-eight, Council of, 92-4;
   _see also_ Mayor's Council

 Foss Way, 24

 Fotheringay, 141

 Fresco, at Charter-house, 100;
   in Trinity Church, 306-7

 Friars, Grey, 55;
   church of, 4, 296;
   habit of, 238;
   Isabella protects the, 97;
   supposed actors in pageants, 4, 296-8;
   _see also_ Bredon, _Ludus Coventriæ_

 Frieze of Coventry, 212

 Fullbrook, castle of, 110, 111

 Fullers, craft of, 201, 232;
   guild of, 219;
   adopt special mark, 218;
   two appointed searchers, 214


 Gaming, 279-80

 Gaol, 240

 Gates, closed at nine o'clock, 237

 Girdlers, 221-3;
   chapel of, 274 (note)

 Gloucester, city of, 133

 ---- Duke of, Humphrey, 113;
   loan demanded by, 109;
   present made to, 110-11

 Glover, Robert, martyr, 163

 Godiva, buried at Coventry, 17;
   family of, 23;
   founds and endows Priory, 16;
   estate of, 37 and note;
   employs goldsmiths, 17-18;
   procession, 19-20;
   legend of ride of, 18-23;
   and horse-toll, 18;
   and "black lady," 22;
   and "Peeping Tom," 22-3

 Gosford Green, 171;
   proposed duel at, 11, 102;
   executions at, 144;
   hermitage at, 238

 ---- Street, and pageants, 12

 Grace, John, disturbance caused by preaching of, 107

 Grauntpee, William, suit of, with prior, 63

 Greville, Sir Fulk, 278

 Grey, Walter de, 34, 35

 Guild of S. Anne, founded by journeymen, suppressed, 83, 229

 ---- of S. Catherine, united with Trinity, 82

 ---- of Corpus Christi, 80, 83;
   chapel of, 83;
   feasts of, 283-4;
   master of, and mayoralty, 77;
   and Corpus Christi procession, 287;
   and S. Nicholas church, 163 and note;
   Prince Edward, member of, 154

 ---- of S. George, founded by journeymen, suppressed, 83, 229

 ---- of S. John the Baptist, founded and builds Bablake church, 82;
   united with Trinity guild, _ibid._

 ---- merchant of S. Mary, founded, 80;
   and S. Mary's Hall, 81-2;
   masters of and the mayoralty, 80 and note;
   reasons for foundation of, 80 (note);
   priests of, 83;
   union with Trinity guild, 82

 Guild merchant of Priory tenants, 59, 60

 ---- of the Nativity of fullers and tailors, 83, 219-20;
   pageant of, 299

 ---- of Holy Trinity, 80, 83;
   and Bablake church, 82;
   and the Drapery, _ibid._;
   and Corpus Christi injured by formation of other guilds, 83;
   master of, 77, 85, 87;
   encloses commons to pay ferm to prior, 78, 91;
   feasts of, 283;
   and procession, 287;
   pays schoolmaster, 266;
   union of, with other guilds, 82 and note

 Guilds, rise of, 79-80;
   suppression of fresh, 83;
   suppression of, and chantries, 162-3

 Guy of Warwick, 12, 24 (note)

 Guy's Cliff, 131


 Haddon, John, loans of, 216

 Hales, John, 162

 Hanseatic League, 258

 Harcourt, Sir Richard, brawls in Coventry, 281-2

 "Harrowing of Hell," _see_ Pageants

 Hawking, 280

 Hearsall Common, 8, 171

 Hell-mouth, 305

 Henry II., 40, 49

 ---- III., 57

 ---- IV., 104;
   _see also_ Bolingbroke

 ---- V., loan to, 104;
   as Prince of Wales and Justice Gascoigne, 105;
   and Mayor Hornby, 106;
   visits Coventry, 107, 288

 ---- VI., 114;
   visits Coventry, 116-21, 125, 126, 127;
   grants charter, 121;
   letter of, 131-2;
   men of Coventry turn against, 132;
   _see also_ Church, Margaret of Anjou

 ---- VII., 159-60, 198;
   at Coventry, 156, 157, 288, 296;
   appeals for loan, 158-9

 ---- VIII., at Coventry, 307

 Herbergeors, 255

 Herbert, Lord, 144

 Hereford, Nicholas, 100

 Heresy, court of, 158

 Hermits, in Coventry, 238

 Herod, King, _see_ Pageants

 Heywood, John, _see_ Pageants

 Hinckley, 254

 Holy cake, 87

 Hopkins' family, 165

 Hostry, monastic, 25-6

 Hospital of S. John the Baptist, 26-7

 Hox-Tuesday play, 3-4, 308-9

 Huet, William, appeals to King-maker, 137

 Huguenot silk weavers, 167

 Hull, 252 (note), 265 (note)

 "Hundred Merry Tales," 288


 Iklynton collar left in pledge, 104

 Immorality, punishment of, 243

 Indenture tripartite, 71-2

 Inns, 255-6;
   blind, 279

 Iron, workers in, abuses of, 221-3

 Isabella, Queen, Earl's-half manor of, 43, 67;
   feud between and the prior, 67-70, 71-2;
   protects the Grey Friars, 97;
   and Bablake church, 82;
   grants charter of liberties, 74


 James I., 166

 James II., 165.167

 Jews in Coventry, 55

 John, King, 31;
   forces his candidate on the chapter, 33-5

 Jordan Well, 13

 Joseph, character in pageants, 302

 Journeymen, cappers and cap-making, 231;
   working hours of, _ibid._;
   workers in iron, 223;
   dyers, 231;
   guilds of, 80, 83, 228-31;
   _see also_ Guilds;
   suppers of, 284;
   tailors, 83, 229;
   weavers, 229-30;
   and pageants, 292 (note), 294

 Justices of Peace, 76


 Kenilworth, Abbot of, 179;
   castle of, 96, 123;
   prisoners kept in, 161;
   royal visits to, 127, 129, 308


 Lady Tower, 8

 Lammas day, 160, 181

 Lammas lands, 170, 171;
   _see also_ Common Lands, Enclosures

 Landor, Walter Savage, 18

 Laneham's letter, 308-9

 Leet Book, 76

 Leet, court of, or view of Frankpledge, 51 (note), 77;
   jury of, 77, 90;
   orders of, 87;
   petitions to, 90, 221-3

 Leicester, 116, 133, 150;
   bailiff of, 38;
   men of, rebel against Henry II., 41

 Leofric, buried at Coventry, 17;
   founds and endows the Priory, 16;
   husband of Godiva, 23;
   _see also_ Godiva

 Leprosy, 41

 Lichfield, title of bishopric of, 167;
   canons of, and Coventry monks, 32-5;
   play performed at, 289

 Lincoln, customs of, 47;
   burgesses of, 48

 Livery and maintenance, Henry VI. warns Coventry men against, 121

 Loans to royal persons, 104, 109, 110, 146, 159

 Lollard martyrs, 158

 Lollardry, 3, 98-100, 108, 158

 London, 42;
   inn-signs in, 234 (note);
   streets in, 250 (note);
   precautions against fire in, 245 (note);
   S. John's Eve, in, 284-5;
   schools in, 263 (note), 265 (note);
   sympathy of men of, with Coventry men, 64 (note);
   body of Twenty-four in, 90;
   Tower of, 38

 Ludlow, castle of, 184, 188, 189, 196;
   _misericord_ in church at, 249

 _Ludus Coventriæ_, _see_ Pageants

 Lullaby, 310

 Lutterworth, 98

 Lynn, 148;
   burgesses and guilds of, 162


 Mace, 128

 Maintenance, 127

 Mareshall, Robert le, informer, 63-4

 Margaret of Anjou, Coventry men turn against, 132;
   Coventry called "secret harbour" of, 112;
   reception of, 125-6;
   visits Coventry, 127-8;
   sees pageants, 129, 288;
   is reconciled to Warwick, 147;
   lands after Battle of Barnet, 151

 Marisco, Richard de, 34

 Market, held in Prior's-half, 58, 62-3, 71;
   regulations concerning, 249-51;
   toll-free, except for horses, 18

 Marlborough, 49 (note)

 Marmion, of Tamworth, 39-40

 "Marprelate, Martin," 253 and note

 Marshal of the royal household, 101

 Mary, Queen of Scots, 164

 Martyrs, 5, 158, 163

 Masons, fellowship of, 231

 Matilda, Queen of Henry I., called Godiva, 23

 Maxstoke, 113, 158

 Mayor, arbiter in cases of craft disputes, 219;
   cap of, 89;
   supports malcontents, 161;
   duties of, 88;
   fee of, 89;
   attends mass, 86;
   overlooks craft rules, 218

 Mayor's Council, of Forty-Eight, 90, 92-4;
   tyranny of, 94;
   Saunders expelled from, 204;
   of Twenty-Four, 90

 Mayors of Coventry:
   Bette, John, deprived of civic sword, 152;
   Cook, Laurence, 177;
   Deister, John, and the sword, 101, 207;
   Dove, John, 207;
   Green, Robert, 199, 205;
   Onley, Sir Robert, and Henry VII., 156, 157;
   Saunders, William, 142, 174;
   opens Bristowe's fields, 175, 177;
   Stoke, Richard, 6;
   Strong, John, 94;
   Wyldegrys, John, 131, 132

 Melton, 47

 Mempric, founder of Oxford, 15

 Mercers, craft of, apprentices to, 216 (note);
   chapel of, 275 (note);
   company of, survives, 232;
   influence of, 75, 216

 Merchant Adventurers, 314

 Merchants, attend council of Edward I., 61;
   families of, 256-9;
   manage municipal affairs, 74 and note, 216

 Merevale, Abbot of, 179

 Military duties of citizens, 311-3

 Minstrels, 309

 Miracle plays, _see_ Pageants

 "Moll of Coventry," 3

 Monks, of Coventry, receive charters, 16-17, 38;
   dispute with bishops, 30-2;
   with canons, 32-5;
   with Coventry men, 58, 59, 60, 62-3, 67-72, 190-4;
   with Friar Bredon, 276-8;
   with Isabella, 67-72;
   as landlords, 36

 Montalt or Mohaut, Roger de, 58-9, 95 (note)

 Montfort, Simon de, 96

 "Mother of Death," 305;
   _see also_ Pageants


 Neville, Sir Humphrey, 145

 Newgate, and Charles I., 6;
   wall, begun it, _ibid._

 "Nine Conquerors," 125

 Northampton, 130, 131;
   battle of, 132;
   Earl of, 166

 Norwich, 75 (note);
   court-leet of, 50 (note)

 Nottingham, 34, 250 (note);
   receives customs after pattern of Coventry, 48 (note)

 ---- John de, necromancer, 63-4


 "Obits," 275

 Onley, family of, 257 (note), 258

 ---- 144 and note

 Ordeal, trial by, 53

 Oven, feudal lord's, 46

 Oxford, 15;
   S. Frideswide's fair at, 253


 Pageants, Corpus Christi, 287-307;
   acted 1392 in Coventry, 290;
   absence of Old Testament scenes in, 299;
   payment of actors in, by crafts, 293;
   dress of actors in, 306;
   of cardmakers, later cappers, 300, 305, 306;
   characters of Herod, Pilate and the devil in, 287, 303-5;
   minor characters in, 305-6;
   crafts evade contributions to, 292;
   _Ludus Coventriæ_ probably unconnected with Coventry cycle of, 297-8;
   "Doomsday" or drapers', 129, 295, 300, 305, 306;
   liturgical drama and, 289;
   of girdlers, 300;
   "Harrowing of Hell," _see_ Cardmakers;
   Heywood's allusions to, 305;
   of mercers, 299, 307;
   and miracle plays, 289-90;
   pageant houses, 293;
   of pinners and needlers, 299-300;
   "Nativity" or sheremen's and tailors', 299-302;
   of smiths, 299, 300, 304;
   royal spectators of, 288;
   stage properties of, 305-6;
   stations where acted, 294-5;
   titles of, 299-300;
   vehicles used for, 293-4;
   "Presentation in Temple" or weavers', 292 (note), 299, 300, 302;
   for reception of royalty, Arthur, Prince of Wales, 307;
   Edward, Prince of Wales, 152-4;
   Henry VIII., 307;
   Margaret of Anjou, 124-6;
   Princess Mary, 307

 Pakeman, Simon, prior's bailiff, 68

 Palace Yard, 165

 Park, Little, 5, 107;
   martyrs burnt in, 6, 158;
   plays played in, 290, 296

 Parliament "Unlearned," 102-3;
   "Diabolical," 131

 "Pastores," 289;
   _see also_ Pageants

 Peasant revolt, 97

 "Peeping Tom," _see_ Godiva

 "Peregrini," 289;
   _see also_ Pageants

 Pewterers, 200

 Pilate, _see_ Pageants

 Pilgrims, 238-9

 Pinners, feast of, 275 (note)

 Pisford, William, 263

 Plague, 244

 Players, strolling, 279;
   of Coventry, 288

 Play, S. Christian's, 296 and note

 Plays, stationary, acted in the Little Park, 296

 Poddycroft, common land, 92

 Polesworth, 15;
   S. Edith of, 40

 Population of Coventry, 162

 Portmanmote, court of, 48, 49-51

 Poulterers, 250

 Preston, 47 (note)

 Prince of Wales, lord of the Earl's-half, 43, 167;
   Council of, 184;
   _see also_ Edward V., Henry V.

 Prince's Chamber, title of Coventry, 73

 Prior, quarrel between Isabella and the men of Coventry, 67-72

 Priors of Coventry: Brightwalton, William of, purchased Earl's-half, 58;
   Deram, 190-4;
   Geoffry, 29;
   Irreys, Henry, 62;
   plot to kill by witchcraft, 63-4

 Prior's-half of Coventry, 37, 57;
   Trinity Church serves for parish of, 7, 37

 Prior's Waste, 176

 Priory, 39;
   remains of, 25-6, 74;
   Henry VI. lodged at, 119-20;
   shrine at, 8

 Procession at Corpus Christi, 287-8;
   on Midsummer and S. Peter's Eves, 284-7;
   of royalty, 120, 128

 _Processus Prophetarum_, 289, 299


 Reading, 16

 Recorders of Coventry: Boteler, Henry, 121, 187;
   death of, 198;
   disgrace of, 199;
   opposes Saunders, 188;
   quells tumult, 195;
   Empson, Richard, 159, 198, 206, 207;
   Littleton, Thomas, 119, 121;
   Swillington, Ralph, 274

 Regratery, _see_ Forestalling

 Richard I., 33

 ---- II., 102;
   forbids duel, 11, 101-2;
   lays foundation-stone of Carthusian chapel, 6, 100

 ---- III., 155-6;
   sees pageants, 288

 Rivers, Earl, 148;
   guardian of the Prince of Wales, 184

 ---- Lord, 126, 129;
  beheaded on Gosford Green, 11, 144

 Robin of Redesdale, 140, 144

 Rochester, Bishop of, Thomas Savage, 207

 Roger of Wendover, 18, 19

 Rood, of Bronholme, of Chester, 238

 Rous, John, antiquary, 131


 Saddlers, journeymen, of London, 230

 S. Albans, 16;
   battles of, 122, 132;
   men of, 46, 56

 S. Augustine of Hippo, 18

 S. Catharine, chapel of, 82;
   character of, 287;
   play of, 296;
   _see also_ Guilds

 S. George, Coventry birthplace of, 4, 154 (note);
   chapel of, 12, 275 (note);
   character of, in pageants, 153-4;
   riding of, 307;
   mummers's play of, _ibid._;
   _see also_ Guild

 S. John the Baptist's Eve, 284, 285-6

 S. Margaret, 125, 287

 S. Mary's Hall, 74, 161, 178, 190;
   guild-hall of, 81-2;
   tapestry in, 82;
   window in, 314

 S. Nicholas Hall, 1

 S. Osburg, 15;
   pool of, 7-8;
   shrine of, 8, 238

 S. Paul's Cathedral, 160

 S. Thomas' or cappers' chapel in S. Michael's, 274

 S. Thomas of India, 287

 Samson, character of, welcomes Edward IV., 133

 Sanctuary, right of, 95

 Sanitation, 244-5

 Saunders, Laurence, dyer, made chamberlain, 182;
   champion of malcontents, 181, 204;
   complains of abuses, 184-8, 197-8, 316;
   imprisoned, 190, 204, 210;
   member of the Forty-Eight, 199 (note);
   seditious speeches of, 203;
   trials of, 189, 210

 ---- Laurence, martyr, 5, 163

 Schoolmaster and school, 25, 264-6

 Severn, river, 257

 Shakespeare, 105

 Sharpe, Jack, rising under, 109

 Shepey, Jordan, mayor, 12

 Sherbourne river, regulations concerning, 87

 Sheremen, _see_ Tailors

 Sheriffs, 254 (note);
   county court of 52-3;
   Henry VI. promises to make, 121

 Ship-money, 166

 Shipton, Mother, prophecy of, 7

 Shops, 62 (note), 234 (note)

 Shrewsbury, Countess of, 129;
   _see also_ Talbot

 Shrines, of saints, 238-9

 Silk industry, 167

 Simnel bread, 248 (note)

 Sluys, battle of, 8

 Smith, Walter, age of, 296

 Smiths, craft of, 286;
   abuses of, 221-3;
   chapel of, 275 (note);
   journeymen of, 223;
   _see also_ Pageants

 Soap, making of, 61 and note

 Somerset, Duke of, retainers of, and city watch, 126-7

 Somerset, Duke of, Protector, 162

 Southampton, 257

 Sowe, Richard, killed by witchcraft, 64

 Spain, 252

 Spicer-stoke, 250

 Stafford, Sir Humphrey, brawl between and the Harcourts, 281-2

 Stamford, 141 (note)

 Staple of Calais, 147;
   John Onley of Coventry, mayor of, 257;
   monopoly of wool trade, 140, 215

 Star Chamber, 210, 211 (note)

 Stephen, King, 40

 Steward; _see_ Town Clerk

 Stivichall, 4, 40;
   common at, 171

 Stocks, 240

 Stoke, common at, 171

 Stoneleigh, Abbot of, 179;
   church of, 4;
   monks of, 283

 Stourbridge, fair at, 252

 Stowe, antiquary, of London, 284

 Stralsund, 259

 Strike of journeymen, 230

 Swanswell Pool, 24 (note), 191, 193

 Swine of S. Anthony's Hospital, 234 (note)

 Sulby, Prior of, 253

 Surcharging of common lands, 187-8

 Swynderby, William, 98-9


 Tables, draughts, 280

 Tailors, journeymen of, 83, 229;
   guild and fullers, 219-20;
   _see also_ Pageants

 Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, 3, 110

 Tamworth, 40

 Tanners, title of pageant of, lost, 299;
   regulations concerning, 200

 Tapestry, 82

 Tewkesbury, 35

 Thomas, monk of Coventry, 31-2, 34

 Thornton, John, window of, 314

 Tilers, 275 (note)

 Toll, 17, 257;
   Coventry free from, 18, 19, 71;
   at Southampton, 257

 Town clerk and steward, Boteler, John, 189, 194, 197, 211

 Towton, battle of, 133

 "Trial and Crucifixion of Christ," _see_ Pageants

 Tree, traditional, near Smithford Bridge, 9


 Vagabonds, sturdy, 266-7

 Vespasian, visit of, to Exeter, 14

 Victuallers, 169 and note, 246-9


 Wakefield, battle of, 133;
   cycle of plays at, 301

 Walkers, _see_ Fullers

 Walls of city, begun, 6;
   dismantled, 6-7, 166-7

 Walter of Coventry, 28 (note)

 Ward, Joan, martyr, 158

 Wardens, 88, 202

 Wards of the city, meeting of men of, 91 (note), 92

 Warwick, 151, 161;
   Leycester Hospital at, 165

 ---- Earl of, Richard Beauchamp, 109, 110

 ---- Earl of, Richard Neville, the King-maker, 149;
   appeal made to by Huet, 138;
   plans to raise Clarence to throne, 139-40;
   foments rebellion, 140-1, 144, 145-8;
   letter from, to Coventry mayor, 141-3;
   marriage of daughters of, 143, 147;
   Edward IV. prisoner of, 144;
   refused to give battle at Coventry, 150

 Wastel bread, 248 (note)

 Watch, 237, 311;
   fray between Somerset's retainers, 126-7

 Weavers, craft of, 201, 202;
   apprentices of, 225;
   journeymen of, 229-30;
   searchers of cloth, 212-3;
   _see also_ Pageant

 Westminster, Abbey of, 149;
   Abbot of, 29

 Wheatley, founder of Bablake School, 259-60

 White, Sir Thomas, 264

 Whitley, common at, 171-2;
   Bristowe, encloses land at, 175;
   meadows at, thrown open, 175-6;
   suit concerning meadows at, 177-80, 194-5, 196-7

 Whittington, Sir Richard, 263

 Wickliffe, 98, 100

 William I., 16, 29, 38

 Winchester, 15;
   fair at, 252;
   men of, receive customs after pattern of Coventry, 48 (note)

 Woodville, John, 9, 144-5

 Wool, 140, 184, 215, 224

 ---- hall, 202, 212, 250

 Worcester, Tiptoft, Earl of, 149


 York, 15;
   men of, 207 (note);
   plays performed at, 290

 ---- Archbishop of, 143, 149

 ---- Richard, Duke of, 119, 123, 126

 "York Plays," 301, 305



 America and Coventry men. John Davenport, 319;
   the Sewell family, 326


 Bablake School, founded by Wheatley, 344-5;
   staircase in, 345

 Bond's Hospital at Bablake, 344, 345

 Botoner, family of, 319, 322

 Bridgman, Sir Orlando, mantelpiece from the house of, at Bablake
 School, 345

 Butcher Row, 342


 Cathedral, ruins of, 342

 Church of Christ, or of the Greyfriars, 320

 Church of S. John the Baptist at Bablake, 342-4;
   clear-story in, 343;
   ground-plan of, _ibid._;
   history of, 343-4;
   Isabella and, 343;
   Scots prisoners in, _ibid._;
   Walscheman's aisle, _ibid._

 Church of S. Michael, 322-9;
   apse, 328;
   architecture, 323;
   brasses, memorial, 326, 327;
   communion table, 327;
   cove, 329;
   "Dance of Death," 327-8;
   drapers' chapel, 326-8;
   lantern, 324;
   Latin hymn on beam, 329;
   misericordes, 327-8;
   steeple, 322;
   tombs--Dame Bridgman's, 326;
   Nethermyl's, 324;
   Swyllington's, 325;
   Wayd's, _ibid._; windows, 328-9

 Church of the Holy Trinity, 339-342;
   alms-box, 341;
   brass to John Whitehead, _ibid._;
   font, 341;
   fresco, 340;
   Godiva window, 341;
   lectern, _ibid._;
   monument of Philemon Holland, _ibid._;
   porch, 339;
   pulpit, 341


 Davenport, Christopher, Franciscan, 320,

 ---- John, Puritan, 319

 Dugdale, Sir William, 320


 Eliot, George, 319;
   describes S. Mary's Hall in "Adam Bede," _ibid._

 Elizabeth of York, 335, 336


 Ford's or Greyfriars' Hospital, 321


 Godiva, 319;
   window commemorating, 341


 Henry VI., 323;
   statue of, 330;
   portrait in tapestry, 336;
   in window, 334

 Henry VII., 335, 336


 Margaret of Anjou, 336

 Marston, John, dramatist, 319

 Mary, Queen of Scots, chamber of, 339;
   _see also_ S. Mary's Hall


 "Peeping Tom," 342

 Pisford, William, 321

 Population of Coventry, 318


 Saints, _see_ S. Mary's Hall, tapestry.

 S. Mary's Hall, 329-39;
   armour, 334;
   chair of state, 333;
   charters, _ibid._;
   crypt, 330;
   kitchen, _ibid._;
   Mary, Queen of Scots, letter concerning, in Muniment Room, 333;
   Mayoress's parlour, _ibid._;
   Minstrel Gallery, 339;
   Muniment Room, 332-3;
   portraits, 333;
   roof, 335;
   S. Gertrude of Nivelles, 338;
   tapestry, 335-8;
   whipping-post, 330;
   window, 334-5

 S. Osburg, 319

 Saunders, Laurence, martyr, 319

 School, Free Grammar, 342;
   Dugdale educated at, 320;
   Philemon, Holland, and Tovey, masters at, 342

 Siddons, Sarah, 319


 Terry, Miss Ellen, 319


 Wanley, Humphrey, 320

 ---- Nathaniel, 320

 Ward, Joan, martyr, 319

 Wheatley, Bablake School founded by, 344-5;
   mantel piece in, 345;
   staircase in, _ibid._

 White, Sir Thomas, statue of, 319

 Whitefriars, 318

 Women in Coventry history, 319

[Transcribers note: Original spelling has been retained]

_The Mediæval Town Series_

 *ASSISI. By Lina Duff Gordon.

 +BRUGES. By Ernest Gilliat-Smith.

 +BRUSSELS. By Ernest Gilliat-Smith.

 +CAIRO. By Stanley Lane-Poole.

 +CAMBRIDGE. By the Rt. Rev. C. W. Stubbs, D.D.

 +CHARTRES. By Cecil Headlam, M.A.


 [_3rd Edition._

 +DUBLIN. By D.A. Chart, M.A.

 +EDINBURGH. By Oliphant Smeaton, M.A.

 +FERRARA. By Ella Noyes.

 +FLORENCE. By Edmund G. Gardner.

 +LONDON. By Henry B. Wheatley.

 +MILAN. By Ella Noyes.

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 *NUREMBERG. By Cecil Headlam, M.A.

 +OXFORD. By Cecil Headlam, M.A.

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 *PERUGIA. By M. Symonds and Lina Duff Gordon.

 +PISA. By Janet Ross.

 *PRAGUE. By Count Lützow.

 +ROME. By Norwood Young.

 +ROUEN. By Theodore A. Cook.

 +SEVILLE. By Walter M. Gallichan.

 +SIENA. By Edmund G. Gardner.

 *TOLEDO. By Hannah Lynch.

 +VENICE. By Thomas Okey.

 +VERONA. By Alethea Wiel.

 _The price of these marked_ (*) _is 3s. 6d. net in cloth, 4s. 6d. net
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