Indymedia exclusive: Bristol's 1373 legal charter online

by Tony Gosling
on Thursday 01 Nov 2007

type: Announcement
topic: Local Government
region: Bristol
County of Bristol
Royal Charter
8th August 1373

EDWARD, by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, dukes, earls, barons, justices, sheriffs, reeves, bailiffs, ministers, and to all his other faithful subjects, Greeting.
KNOW that by charters of our ancestors, former kings of England, which we have confirmed with various clauses of concession, as well as by our charters, various liberties and immunities, as is more fully contained in the same, have been granted to our beloved burgesses of our own town of Bristol, their heirs and successors for ever. In their supplication, our beloved mayor and commonalty of the aforesaid town of Bristol truly assert that the same town is situated partly In the county of Gloucester and partly in the county of Somerset; and although the aforesaid town is thirty miles from the towns of Gloucester and Ilchester, where the county courts, assizes, juries and inquisitions for the two counties are held before our justices and our other ministers, and the road is deep, particularly in winter, and dangerous for travellers, even so the burgesses of the said town of Bristol are obliged to be present on the many occasions when the county courts, the assizes, juries and inquisi¬tions aforesaid are held, and this often prevents them from attending to the management of their shipping and merchandise, which is to the detriment of their estate and the clear impoverish¬ment of the same town.
BEING willing to improve conditions in the said town of Bristol, we have also taken into consideration the good behaviour of the said burgesses towards us, the good service they have rendered us in the past by their shipping and in other ways, and the sum of six hundred marks they have paid to us into our chamber, to provide more amply and abundantly for the convenience and quiet of the said burgesses, their heirs and suc¬cessors, and we will that no one be charged further by us for this.
WE, of our especial grace, and with the advice and assent of the learned men of our council who have assisted us, have granted and by this our charter have confirmed for us and our heirs to the said burgesses, their heirs and succes¬sors for ever, that the said town of Bristol with its suburbs and their precinct, as the boundaries now exist, henceforward shall be separated and exempt in every way from the said counties of Gloucester and Somerset, on land and by water; that it shall be a county in itself and be called the county of Bristol for ever; that the said burgesses, their heirs and successors for ever shall have, fully enjoy and use within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs of the same and their precinct, as the boundaries now exist, the liberties and immunities written below, namely:
EVERY mayor of the same town of Bristol for the time being, thereby and as soon as he has been elected, shall be our escheator and that of our heirs in the aforesaid town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct.
THE said burgesses and commonalty and their heirs and successors for ever shall have one sheriff in the same town, suburbs and precinct, elected and installed annually in the following way: every year the said burgesses and commonalty shall elect three men from their own number whose names they shall send annually for ever under the common seal of the said town of Bristol to our chancery and that of our heirs; from' these three we and our heirs, or our council and that of our heirs, shall elect one man annually for ever in our name and that of our heirs as sheriff of the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, and we shall appoint him by letters patent under our great seal for one year only, so that always the same escheator and sheriff shall answer to us and our heirs at our exchequer and that of our heirs aforesaid for the revenues arising from those offices; and that at no time in the future shall there be any other escheator or sheriff by any means in the said town, suburbs or precinct, unless chosen from amongst them¬selves, as set out above.
THE same sheriff and escheator of Bristol shall have the same power, jurisdiction, liberty and whatever else pertains to the offices of sheriff and escheator, within the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, as other sheriffs and escheators have elsewhere within our realm of England. The same sheriff of Bristol shall hold his county court there from month to month on a Monday, as other sheriffs in the same realm hold their county courts. Likewise the said mayor shall hold his court there and shall receive the profits from it for the use of the commonalty of the same town of Bristol for ever, as was the custom previously. No sheriff, escheator or other minister of the aforesaid counties shall enter that town, the suburbs or precinct aforesaid to perform any office within the same town, suburbs and precinct.
THE said sheriff and escheator of Bristol for the time being shall be able to make their payments and account every year for everything for which they are accountable pertaining to the offices of sheriff and escheator , before the treasurer and barons of our exchequer and that of our heirs, through attorneys of the sheriff and escheator appointed for this purpose by letters patent under the common seal of the same town of Bristol. The aforesaid attorneys shall be allowed to make payments and render account by the same treasurer and barons, according to the force and effect of the aforesaid letters, without the same sheriff or escheator or their successors having to leave the said town to account for anything that concerns their offices.
EVERY mayor of the said town of Bristol for the time ~ being shall take his oath for the offices of mayor and escheator immediately after his election, in the presence of his immediate living predecessor as mayor of the same town, in the Guildhall of the said town of Bristol, before the common¬alty of the same town, without in future being presented to or accepted by the constable of our castle of the said town of Bristol, as used to be the custom. When the sheriff of the same town of Bristol has been elected and installed as set out above, he shall likewise take his oath in the presence of the mayor of the said town of Bristol, by means of a writ of dedimus potestatem. We will that such a writ be granted without difficulty in our chancery and that of our heirs for the time being, so that they shall not have to take their oaths anywhere outside the aforesaid town, before any other person, in any other way at all, but always the name of the aforesaid escheator shall be certified every year under the common seal of the said town of Bristol at our exchequer and that of our heirs.
THE same mayor and sheriff of Bristol and their successors for ever shall have power, as often as they see it to be necessary, by virtue of writs issued by us and our heirs, as also by virtue of bills and complaints brought by our suit and that of our heirs, and also by suit of a party, according as the law attributes suit to a party, to investigate, hear and determine all kinds of evildoings, offences, disturbances of the peace, champerties, conspiracies, plots, ambidextries, extor¬tions, oppressions, counterfeitings and other misdemeanours whatsoever committed or to be committed within the aforesaid town, suburbs and precinct, and concerning victuallers, workers, labourers and crattsmen within the same town, suburbs and precinct. They shall have power to punish such offenders by fines, amercements and imprisonment and to execute duly the judge¬ments pronounced by them in these cases, reserving always for us and our heirs the said fines and amercements and other things due to us from the same. Estreats of these fines, amercements and other things due to us shall be delivered by the said mayor and sheriff under their seals to our exchequer and that of our heirs every year on the day after Michaelmas. Likewise the same mayor and sheriff of Bristol and their successors for ever shall have power to investigate all felonies committed or to be committed within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct; to arrest within the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct all those who shall have been indicted by inquisitions made for this purpose; and to commit them to our gaol or prison and that of our heirs in the same town of Bristol, there to remain until they shall be delivered by our justices and those of our heirs assigned and to be assigned for delivering the gaol of the said town of Bristol, in our court and that of our heirs in the same town of Bristol and not elsewhere. The mayor of the said town of Bristol for the time being shall be one of these justices, according to the law and custom of our said realm of England. The mayor and sheriff shall also have power to release those who may be granted bail. The said burgesses, their heirs and successors for ever shall have custody of the said gaol or prison and likewise they shall have infangthef and outfangthef. The mayor and sheriff of the same town of Bristol for the time being shall pronounce and execute judgement thereon. If any are caught for some felony with stolen goods on their persons within the aforesaid town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, and the case against them for the same felonies is then newly prosecuted, the said prisoners shall be brought before the said mayor and sheriff of the same town of Bristol according to the law and custom of our aforesaid realm.
THE sheriff and coroners of the said town of Bristol for the time being for ever shall have power to receive appeals about homicide and any other felonies com¬mitted or to be committed within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, to arrest the accused, and to commit them to the aforesaid gaol or prison, there to remain until they shall be delivered by the justices who have been or shall be assigned by us and our heirs for delivering the gaol of the said town of Bristol, in our court and that of our heirs in the same town of Bristol and not elsewhere, with the constant proviso that those caught and imprisoned in cases of infangthef and felony in¬volving the possession of stolen goods, where a new prosecution has been brought before the said mayor and sheriff of the town of Bristol, shall be delivered as above. The mayor of the said town of Bristol for the time being shall be one of these justices as set out above, according to the law and custom of our said realm.
WE have also granted and confirmed for us and our heirs to the aforesaid burgesses, their heirs and successors for ever that no burgess of the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, nor any other person shall sue or be sued before any judge outside the same town of Bristol in respect of any of their tenures within the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, or in respect of anything else done or to be done there; nor shall he be convicted in any cases concerning contracts, accounts, debts, covenants, offences or anything else by foreigners or any other than his fellow burgesses of the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct.
THE mayor and sheriff of the said town of Bristol for the time being shall have cognizance of all pleas and also assizes of novel disseisin and mort d' ancestor, and of certificates of persons arraigned or to be arraigned concerning any lands, tenements, rents and tenures within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct; they shall also have cognizance of all offences, covenants, debts, accounts, contracts, complaints and every other thing, however committed or arising within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, no matter what persons they affect. These shall be held, had and decided in form of law before the said mayor and sheriff of Bristol within the aforesaid town of Bristol in the Guildhall of the same town, for due execution as the same mayor and sheriff shall demand and then effect, whatever the estate of the demandant, plaintiff, tenant or defendant. By inspection of our charter made on our present grants, this cognizance shall be allowed and granted to the said mayor and sheriff of Bristol in their name and the name of the aforesaid burgesses, on the petition of the said mayor and sheriff or their attorneys before any of our justices or the justices of our heirs of one bench or another, or any other of our justices anywhere else in our courts or those of our heirs, where pleas happen to be heard, whether or not by writs issued by us or our heirs. No other writ issued by us or our heirs nor any warrant or mandate directed to our said justices or ministers is to be used, as set out above. The cognizance is to be held, had and decided by the aforesaid mayor and sheriff for due execution as shall be demanded and then effected, saving always that pleas that were accustomed to be held before our steward and other ministers in our court in the said town of Bristol called the Tolzey, shall in future be held there in the same court, before the steward and other ministers of us and our heirs. These or other ministers who shall receive the profits arising from the courts in the name of us and our heirs, as has been just and customary, shall answer to us and our heirs for the same profits. Thus neither the justices assigned by us and our heirs to hold assizes, juries, certificates or other inquisitions in the said counties of Gloucester and Somerset; nor the justices of us or our heirs of one bench or another; nor the justices of oyer and terminer, or for maintaining our peace, or for taking or making any other inquisitions appointed by us or our heirs; nor the sheriffs and escheators of the said counties of Gloucester and Somerset; nor any other justice or minister whatsoever appointed by us or our heirs shall have cognizance or jurisdiction over any tenures within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, or over contracts, covenants, accounts, debts, offences, pleas, complaints or any other matter done or to be done, arising now or in the future within the aforesaid town, suburbs and precinct. These justices shall not be assigned to the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, nor shall they intervene in anything, whatever the estate or condition of the demandant, tenant, plaintiff or defendant. The only exceptions shall be in cases which have been transferred due to a fault in law to the justices itinerant appointed by us and our heirs and to the justices assigned as set out above for delivering the gaol of the said town of Bristol; in cases of inquisitions and determinations concerning customs and subsidies of wool, hides and woolfells, and other customs and subsidies due to us and our heirs by cocket or else by grant of our faithful people and subjects to us and our heirs; and cases which belong in the said court of Tolzey. Hereafter the mayor and sheriff of the said town of Bristol for the time being for ever shall have power and jurisdiction to hear and determine all the aforesaid pleas and complaints as set out above, except those which have been transferred due to a fault in law to the justices itinerant appointed by us and our heirs and the justices assigned as set out above for delivering the gaol of the said town of Bristol; and also inquisitions and determinations concerning customs and sub¬sidies of wool, hides and woolfells, and other customs and subsidies due to us and our heirs by cocket or else by grant of our faithful people and subjects to us and our heirs; and cases which belong in the court of Tolzey.
FURTHER, we have granted and confirmed for us and our heirs to the said burgesses, their heirs and succes¬sors for ever that the said mayor of the town of Bristol for the time being shall have power to receive and record recog¬nizances of charters and any other documents concerning lands, tenements, rents and other tenures within the same town, suburbs and precinct, that have been made in full court in the Guildhall of the same town by any person, married women excepted. Such charters and documents as have been duly acknowledged and enrolled in the rolls of the Guildhall of the same town of Bristol shall be on record from that time for every¬one, as are charters and documents acknowledged and enrolled in our chancery or our other courts.
THE mayor and sheriff of the same town of Bristol for the time being shall have cognizance of any original writs, whether of covenant or some other kind betweeen parties, that have been obtained concerning any lands, tenements, rents and other tenures in the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, in order to levy a fine afterwards in our chancery or that of our heirs. Before them, in full court in the Guildhall of the said town of Bristol, a fine shall then be levied by force of any writ, observing the due course of law, for a reasonable sum of money to be paid by the parties to the use of us and our heirs, as is the custom, for licence to reach an agreement. Then, in the same place, the fine shall be fully executed, as happens with fines levied in our court. The said mayor and sheriff shall therefore cause their estreats on this account to be delivered by their attorneys under their seals to our exchequer and that of our heirs every year on the day after Michaelmas.
THE same mayor and sheriff and their successors for ever shall have power to receive probates of wills dealing with bequests of lands, tenements, rents and tenures within the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, within two years of the testator's death. Thus such wills and bequests, proclaimed in full court in the Guildhall of the said town of Bristol and enrolled in the rolls of the same court, shall be on record after such proclamation and enrolment, and from that time the same mayor and sheriff and their successors shall have power to execute the aforesaid bequests through their ministers in form of law or by due process by means of a writ of ex gravi querela brought before them at the prosecution and choice of whoever wishes to prosecute.
WE have also granted and confirmed for us and our heirs to the said burgesses, their heirs and successors for ever that all writs of us and our heirs, both original and judicial, and other precepts and mandates that concern us and our heirs as well as any other people, which in future shall issue from the chancery, exchequer and bench of us and our heirs, and also from the common bench and our other courts and those of our heirs, or under the seals of the justices itinerant, the justices of oyer and terminer or other justices appointed by us or our heirs, shall in future and for ever be directed to the sheriff, escheator and coroners of Bristol for the time being, jointly or individually as is convenient, and to no one else, according to the nature of the same writs, precepts and mandates, to be executed duly by the same sheriff, escheator and coroners of Bristol, as befits the office of sheriff, escheator and coroner. If the said town of Bristol with its suburbs and their precinct had not been separated from the aforesaid counties of Gloucester and, Somerset, or if the present liberties had not been granted to the aforesaid burgesses by us as above, these writs, precepts and mandates, concerning lands, tenements, rents, tenures, posses¬sions, goods and chattels in the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, and contracts, covenants, accounts, debts, offences or any other things done, to be done, arising now or in the future within the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, should have been directed to the sheriffs, escheators and coroners of the said counties of Gloucester and Somerset, jointly or individually.
FURTHER, we have granted for us and our heirs to the aforesaid burgesses, their heirs and, successors for ever that the said town of Bristol shall not be burdened with sending more than two men to our parliaments or those of our heirs, as was the custom. As knights of the county of Bristol and burgesses of the town and borough of Bristol, the two men shall be held to answer for the same county, town and borough in those parliaments.
I
F there are any difficulties or defects in any customs, usages or ordinances had and used or newly arising in the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, that have not yet been remedied, the same mayor and sheriff and their successors, with the assent of the commonalty of the aforesaid town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, shall be able to choose from time to time, in succession, forty of the better and more worthy men of the same town, suburbs and precinct. The mayor, sheriff and forty men for the time being shall have power, by their common consent, to ordain and establish in the cases set out above a sufficient remedy that will be reasonable and useful for the aforesaid commonalty and others who meet in the aforesaid town of Bristol.
TO provide for the necessities and profits of the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, the said mayor, sheriff and forty men, and their successors, shall be able by their common consent to assess tallages on the goods of all men of the aforesaid town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, according to their estate, as well on their rents as for their crafts and merchandise and otherwise as seems best; they shall be able to levy them without interference from us, our heirs or any justices or other ministers of us and our heirs. The revenue from this source shall remain in the custody of two worthy men the same town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, who shall be chosen for this by common consent. When necessary, this money shall be disbursed for the necessities and profits of the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct. These two men shall be accountable before the mayor of Bristol for the time being and others deputed for this purpose by the commonalty of the said town of Bristol.
IF in the future anyone from the said town of Bristol, the suburbs or precinct shall be rebellious, disobedient and unwilling to observe the ordinances of the said mayor and sheriff and the aforesaid forty men for the time being, and if any shall lead, guard, assist or maintain leaders of societies to cause debates and impediments which should give rise to discord between the commonalty of the said town of Bristol and the said mayor, sheriff and other ministers, who are responsible for keeping our peace and that of our heirs, and for the govern¬ment of the same town, whether by causing debates and discord over the election of mayor, sheriff or other minister of the said town, suburbs and precinct, or over the implementation of any ordinances which have been established and ordained or shall be ordained by common consent, as set out above, for the profit and necessity of the said town of Bristol, the suburbs and precinct, they shall immediately be punished by the mayor and sheriff of the said town of Bristol for the time being, as appropriate to the quantity and quality of the offence, according to the law and custom of our said realm of England.
WE have also granted for us and our heirs to the aforesaid burgesses, that in addition to the aforesaid liberties and immunities granted by us to the same burgesses, as already set out above, and notwithstanding our said grants or any things contained in the same, the said bur¬gesses, their heirs and successors for ever shall have all other liberties and immunities granted to them both by our ancestors and by us earlier, and all their other customs and all profits arising from them. They shall fully enjoy and use them as they and their ancestors have always until now been accustomed to have, use and enjoy the said other liberties, immunities and customs, together with the profits arising from the same, without let or impediment of us or our heirs, justices, escheators, sheriffs or other bailiffs or ministers whatsoever appointed by us or our heirs, from the time when the same other liberties and immunities had been thus granted to the same burgesses by our said ancestors or by us or else from time immemorial.
THEREFORE we will and firmly command for us and our heirs that the aforesaid burgesses, their heirs and successors shall have all and singular the liberties and immunities mentioned above, and shall fully enjoy and use each and every one of them in the form set out above.
WITNESSED by the venerable fathers William, Arch¬bishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, William, Bishop of Winchester, John, Bishop of Bath and Wells, William, Bishop of Worcester, Edmund, Earl of Cambridge, Edmund, Earl of March, John Knyvet, our Chancellor, Richard Lescrope, our Treasurer, William Latymer, our Chamberlain and others.
GIVEN by our hand at Woodstock on the eighth day of August, in the forty-seventh year of our reign over England, and the thirty-fourth year of our reign over France.
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