Calendar of Letter-Books of the City of London: C, 1291-1309. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1901.
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Letter-Book C may be said, roughly speaking, to cover the period extending from A. D. 1291 to A. D. 1309, a period covered jointly by the two previous Letter-Books. The year in which the record commences found King Edward I. in sore trouble. He had recently lost his wife, and this loss was quickly followed by the death of his mother, Eleanor, wife of Henry III., who for a time enjoyed the profits and emoluments arising from the Wardenship of London Bridge, to the great chagrin of the citizens, and proved herself the friend and benefactor of the Friars of the Penance, (fn. 1) and the enemy of the Jews. The expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, ascribed to her instigation-backed though it was by the will of the majority of the nation-had served to increase the King's difficulties, and had driven him to resort more than ever to the Lombard merchants for pecuniary assistance. Hence his unpopularity with the citizens, who loved not the foreigner in their midst, and hence "an accumulation of popular discontent which showed itself in the King's lifetime by opposition to his mercantile policy, and after his death supplied one of the most efficient means for the overthrow of his son." (fn. 2) The City was still "in the King's hand," having been in that unenviable position-governed by a Custos or Warden of the King's choosing in the place of a Mayor elected by the free will of the citizens-ever since the year 1285, and was destined to remain so for seven years more. Under such circumstances, it is small matter for surprise if the citizens kept a tight hold upon their pursestrings, and satisfied the King's demands, whether by way of loans, tallages, customs, or otherwise, grudgingly. The fine of 20,000 marks demanded from the City by his father as long ago as the year 1266 for the purchase of his pardon for trespasses committed, or "reputed" to have been committed, by the citizens during the Barons' war, (fn. 3) was paid by driblets to one or the other of the King's nominees, and a large portion of it remained unsatisfied as late as 1302. (fn. 4)
The King's difficulties were increased by war with France, forced upon him by the French King. Attacks and reprisals between the Cinque Ports and the Normans in 1293, followed by a war between the Gascons and the French, led to Edward's fiefs in France being declared forfeited to the French Crown, and he was compelled to prepare for war. These preparations were delayed by further trouble with Wales and Scotland. At length, in 1295, John le Bretun, the King's Warden of the City, announced to the assembled citizens the King's requirements, or rather commands, in accordance with which they agreed that three ships should sail in the King's service, together with other ships from the Cinque Ports, at the charge of the citizens. The term of service was limited to three weeks. The vessels are particularized as the ship of Newcastle, the ship of Richard de Chiggewelle and Adam de Fulham, and the ship of Alexander Pyk and Thomas de Bolonia. The funds necessary for the undertaking were to be raised by a tax of twopence in the pound on chattels and merchandise "according to the taxation of the sixth penny." The Warden himself advanced the City the sum of £40 on the personal security of the Aldermen and six of the inhabitants of each Ward. (fn. 5) At the close of the previous year special precautions had been taken for safeguarding the City, the Warden, Sheriffs, and Aldermen (among the last named being the Prior of Holy Trinity, Christchurch, of whom more later on) taking their turns to patrol the streets by night. (fn. 6)
Although the Cinque Port fleet, which had been taken in hand and to some extent organized by the King, succeeded in certain reprisals on the French coast, it could not save the south coast of England from being harried by French mariners, who effected a landing at Dover and burnt a great part of the town. The task of defending this coast devolved upon the King's son, Edward of Carnarvon, the King himself being busy reducing Scotland. In March, 1296, the King directed a writ of Privy Seal to the City from Holy Island (or Lindisfarne, lying off the coast of Northumberland), bidding the citizens to display the same ready obedience to his son as they would to himself. This was quickly followed by another writ from Berwick, informing the citizens that he had communicated his wishes at that juncture to John de Metingham, Ralph de Sandwich, and John le Bretun, and that their orders were to be implicitly obeyed and executed. (fn. 7)
In reply, the King was informed that forty horsemen, fully caparisoned, and fifty " arbalesters," or crossbow men, besides footmen (absque peditibus), had been dispatched for service under his son the Prince, for the space of four weeks. As for the City's own defence, to which allusion had been made in one of the writs, the authorities promised to see to it, more especially as the streets were at the time so much overrun with foreigners of doubtful character, of whose presence in the City they would gladly get quit, if only the King would give them leave to do so. (fn. 8) After this gentle rap at the King for his encouragement of foreigners, they concluded with an assurance of their willingness to render yet further assistance should circumstances at any time demand it.
This military contingent was not voted without some opposition. When the King's demands came up for consideration a proposal made by Ralph de Sandwich (then Warden or Constable of the Tower), John le Bretun, Warden of the City, (fn. 9) and the Aldermen, was at first opposed by John de Dowgate, Nicholas Pycot, and Geoffrey de Conduit, men of substance and repute in the City. (fn. 10) They were soon won over, however, and agreed to join the military force in person. The question, moreover, as to the number of men to be sent lay for some time in the balance. The day after the individuals just named had signified their readiness to join the force, the Aldermen and fifty-two leading citizens, whose names are set out in the Letter-Book, met together to consider the matter; and it was then decided that twenty horsemen should be sent for a service of four weeks, each horseman to receive the sum of twenty marks for his expenses during that time, and the money was to be raised by a tax on the inhabitants of each Ward to the extent of "a third part of the seventh penny granted to the lord the King." (fn. 11) Before, however, the City's answer to the King's writs was sent, more liberal counsel prevailed, and the number of the City's force was more than doubled. Edward, who acknowledged the City's reply from Roxburgh, expressed himself as gratified with the liberality of the citizens, and, referring to their complaint respecting the presence of foreigners in the City, told them that they might take any measures they thought proper for the safety of the City and the realm, provided they acted under the advice of John de Metingham, John le Bretun, and Ralph de Sandwich, and let the King know at once what had been done. (fn. 12)
Having exhausted his supplies in reducing Scotland, Edward found himself compelled to summon another Parliament in 1296 before setting out for the Continent. The writ was dated 26 August from Berwick, (fn. 13) and the Parliament was to meet at Bury St. Edmund on the morrow of All Souls [2 Nov.]. The writ and elections thereon as recorded in the Letter-Book (fn. 14) are of more than ordinary interest, inasmuch as, with the exception of London, no details of the election of any city or borough members of this period have come down to us. (fn. 15) The writ, we learn, was directed to the Warden and Sheriffs of the City on Wednesday before the Feast of St. Michael, and in pursuance of it Stephen Aschewy or Eswy and William de Hereford were elected by the whole body of Aldermen and four men from each Ward to represent the City, a sum of 20s. apiece being voted them for their expenses. On Monday after the Feast of St. Edward the King [13 Oct.] the commonalty appear to have been again called together, viz., six of the best and most discreet men from each Ward (and not four, as on the previous occasion), and by them the election was repeated and (apparently) confirmed; the commonalty answering for the persons so elected by sureties, viz., Richer le Mercer (otherwise known as Richer de Refham), Richard Poterel, John le Coffrer, and Gilbert de la March.
This double election is peculiar. Comparing it with borough elections, Dr. Stubbs remarks: (fn. 16) "Whether these two gatherings in the case of London correspond with the two processes which must have taken place in the election of borough members, it would be rash to determine. In the latter case it must be supposed that the members were nominated in the borough assembly, or that delegates were appointed in that assembly to elect them, and a return thereon made to the Sheriff before the election was made in the county court. The proceedings before the Sheriff seem to be the election or report of nomination by the citizens and burghers, the manucaption or production of two sureties for each of the elected persons, and the deliverance by act or letter of full powers to act on behalf of the community which elected them." Strictly speaking, no return appears to have been made to the writ in this case. There is no record here of any notification of the result of the election, by letter or commissio, being sent to the King as in other cases, as, for instance, the election of 1300. (fn. 17)
The outcome of the Parliament proved unsatisfactory (fn. 18) to the King, who found himself forced to resort to arbitrary measures. In April, 1297, he caused all the wool and woolfels of the country to be carried to the seaports for transportation, and in the following month a writ was directed to the "Sheriffs and Aldermen" of London (the City being still "in the King's hand"), bidding them elect some responsible person to go to Flanders with others appointed elsewhere for the same purpose, and there sell the wool and hides so seized and appropriated. Thereupon, John atte Gate was elected. (fn. 19) At length, in the following August, the King himself embarked for Flanders, leaving behind him his son Edward as regent.
No sooner was his back turned than the barons and the citizens united their forces to compel a removal of their grievances, and first of all, the unlawful seizure or "prise" of wool, and so successful were they that by the end of the month this particular grievance was abolished by Royal Proclamation, (fn. 20) and six weeks later the Prince conceded all demands.
During this critical time the City had been in a parlous state, and special steps had been taken for prevention of outrage and for the preservation of the peace. A Fair recently established in Soper Lane (now Queen Street, Cheapside), and known as the "Nane" (or Noon) Fair, (fn. 21) from its being held in the afternoon, was abolished, owing to its being the resort of thieves and cutpurses. This was in June. Towards the close of July, when the differences between the King and the barons were fast drawing to a head, the defence of the several gates of the City was allotted to the various wards. (fn. 22) On 21 September the Warden and Aldermen were summoned to appear before the Prince Regent at the palace of the Bishop of London, near St. Paul's, when certain instructions for safeguarding the City were delivered to Sir John de Banquelle and Sir Stephen Eswy, two Aldermen, and to Sir Henry le Galeys, who appears to have been present in some superior capacity. These instructions were to the effect that steps were to be taken for securing the City's gates, for discovering those of the inhabitants capable of bearing arms, and for securing the streets with barriers and chains where necessary, and especially in the vicinity of the Thames and the Black Friars. All vessels in the river were to be moored on the City's side, and the City walls were to be repaired. The two Aldermen just named were to see these instructions carried into effect, whilst Sir Henry le Galeys (as some one in superior authority) was to give the necessary orders and see that they were properly executed. (fn. 23) In consequence of these instructions fresh orders were given (3 Oct.) by John le Bretun, the Warden, and the Aldermen for safeguarding the river and City gates, the duty being allotted to the several wards. The Thames east of London Bridge was committed to Tower Ward and Billingsgate Ward, whilst that part of the river which lay to the west of the bridge was entrusted to the Wards of Vintry, Queenhithe, and Castle Baynard. The merchants of Almaine (not mentioned in the previous order for keeping the gates) were to take their share in guarding Bishopsgate. (fn. 24) At the end of November John le Bretun summoned a large assembly of Aldermen and citizens, and after a few preliminary remarks as to the duties imposed upon him by the Prince Regent and his Council-namely, that he should preserve the ancient liberties and customs of the City, and in every way bear himself as if he were Mayor instead of Warden, until further orders from the King, who was then in Flanders- proceeded to repeal certain orders made during the Mayoralty of Henry le Galeys [1281-2], which, however obnoxious they may have been to dishonest millers and bakers, were undoubtedly conducive to the public good. Botolph Wharf was at the same time restored to the City. (fn. 25)
In these concessions one may discern a symptom of a better relationship springing up between the King and the City. This proved to be the case. On the King's return to England in the following March (1298) the citizens voted him a sum of money, (fn. 26) and on the 9th April the Aldermen and a deputation of twelve commoners were summoned to Westminster to attend the King, who restored to the citizens the right of being governed by a Mayor of their own choice. No time was lost in electing to the Mayoralty chair Henry le Galeys, who had already served the City so well, and he was in due course presented to the King and admitted and sworn before the Barons of the Exchequer. (fn. 27) When the Feast of SS. Simon and Jude [28 Oct.]- the customary date of election of Mayor at this period-came round he was again elected, being admitted before Ralph de Sandwich, Warden of the Tower, in the absence of the Exchequer from London. (fn. 28)
The favour shown by Edward to foreign merchants, although springing out of necessity, (fn. 29) rather than from any special liking he entertained for them, was, nevertheless, distasteful to the London citizen. The foreign trader was never welcome in the City, although large bodies of them from various parts of the Continent obtained a foothold in London as early as the time of Ethelred II. [A. D. 979-1016]. The chief of these were the so-called "Emperor's men," or "merchants of the Hanse of Almaine," known at an earlier period under the name of "Easterlings." These, as well as a body of merchants from Cologne, obtained certain trading privileges (fn. 30) in the City at an early date, the two bodies having each its own Guildhall situate near Dowgate, where another body of merchants from Rouen had been in possession of a port or dock from the days of Edward the Confessor. (fn. 31)
Coming to later times, we find a considerable amount of freedom accorded to merchant strangers by order of Edward I. at the time when the City was in his hand They were not to be molested in any way, and might unload and warehouse their goods where they thought fit, so long as the King's estate was not allowed to suffer. The foreign merchant, moreover, if of good character, could claim admittance to the franchise; but this, again, only on condition that he be ready to bear his share of tallage and other charges made on the City. (fn. 32) On the other hand, no foreigner or stranger was allowed to keep hostel in the City, unless a freeman and able to produce good credentials. (fn. 33) This ordinance was frequently infringed, as witness the precepts to certain "Teutonic" merchants, or merchants of Almaine, and others in 1300, forbidding them in future to hold hostels for bed and board, and warning them to betake themselves to the hostels of freemen under pain of losing all their movables. (fn. 34)
The same year the King, who by this time must have been tolerably conversant with City customs, addressed a writ of certiorari to the Mayor and Sheriffs as to the reason why merchants of Bordeaux were not permitted to hire and inhabit hostels in the City, as had been their wont, and why they were called upon to pay twopence a cask of wine by way of pontage. The return made to this writ discloses the favour shown by the King to foreign merchants during the time the City remained in his hand. It was to the effect that neither merchants of Bordeaux nor any other foreign merchants whatsoever were wont to hire and inhabit hostels in London at a time when the City was in possession of its full franchise (as now it was, by the King's favour), nor to have other foreigners living in their house or entertained at their table. Nevertheless, they were permitted to hold cellars and warehouses for storing their wine and other merchandise for a term according to the custom. (fn. 35) This return was not enough for the King, who a few weeks later sought to be informed whether Bordeaux merchants were permitted to reside on the premises where they stored their merchandise, and for how long, &c. To this the City replied that no foreign merchants were allowed to reside on premises hired for storing merchandise, nor to receive others there, but they ought to reside in the houses of freemen, for a term of forty days and no more, so that they sell their wares within that time. (fn. 36) This limitation of his stay in the City was one of the greatest hardships that the foreigner and the stranger had to bear. The hardship was all the greater because the restriction was not always known to the merchant or trader until he had already resided some time in the City. Thus we find the plea of ignorance of any such custom of the City set up from time to time. (fn. 37) On one occasion the offenders appear to have been asked if they were in any way connected with the "Hanse" of Amiens, Corbie, and Nesle, and had to confess (no doubt with some reluctance) that they were in no way associated with it. Had it been otherwise, all might have been well with them, for in 1237 the merchants of that Hanse had succeeded in obtaining extensive trading privileges in the City, in return for a yearly ferm of 50 marks to be paid to the Sheriffs, and among these privileges was one which permitted any associate or companion (compaignoun) of the merchants to set up a hostel in the City for receiving his fellow-merchants, if he so desired, provided his stay did not exceed one whole year. (fn. 38) At the time we are now speaking of the Hanse was in bad plight, and unable to pay its ferm. Its trade with the City had on that account fallen off. In order to encourage them to come and traffic freely with the citizens, as of old, a proposal was made by Henry le Galeys (who had recently regained the Mayoralty chair) to remit to the merchants of the Hanse a portion of their arrears. (fn. 39) This indulgence apparently had but little effect, for the same Mayor is recorded as having distrained for the rent. Strange to say, he refused to hand the money over to the Sheriffs, as he ought to have done, and for this delinquency he was called to account before the Barons of the Exchequer. (fn. 40)
At a somewhat earlier date, viz., A. D. 1293-when the City was still in the King's hand-certain merchants of Provence, being questioned by the Warden and Aldermen as to the nature of their claim to traffic in the City, and whether they enjoyed any privilege of residence or exemption from custom granted them by the King, declared that Provençal traders enjoyed no such grant by the King, nor did they claim any extraordinary privileges by land or water, but only (like other foreigners) to sell by wholesale to the great ones (magnatibus) of the land and to freemen of the City, and not otherwise. (fn. 41) No one who was not a freeman was permitted to sell by retail. (fn. 42)
The reason why these Provençal merchants were called upon to declare explicitly their exact status in the City may possibly be found in the fact that the wine merchants of Gascony had recently succeeded, after long dissension with the civic authorities, in obtaining the permission of Parliament to carry on their trade in the City on the same terms as the merchants of Provence (Mercatores provinciales). (fn. 43) Having obtained a foothold in the City, these Gascon traders appear to have lived largely on credit, and the King found himself bound a few years later (1299) to discharge their debts to citizens for the necessaries of life. (fn. 44) The sum total of the indebtedness of these Gascons did not amount to much more than £1,000, and yet the King found it inconvenient to raise this comparatively small amount without applying to the City. This, no doubt, he did with less hesitation, seeing that he had so recently restored to the citizens their Mayor. The security offered was unexceptionable, being no less than the City's ferm, and all moneys that could possibly be demanded for the King's use by summons of the Exchequer.
One of the great evils resulting to the City of London and the kingdom at large from the influx of foreigners during Edward's reign was the depreciation of the coinage. Gold and silver were exported by them in large quantities, and the country became flooded with coin which was either clipped or counterfeit. We can trace through the pages of the LetterBook the attempts made to remedy the evil, which in 1298 had become so great that the acceptance of the current coin of the realm by the inhabitants of the City had to be insisted on by the Barons of the Exchequer. (fn. 45) Money-changers (chiefly foreigners) were forbidden to practise their usurious trade, such business being restricted to the King's Exchange at the Tower. (fn. 46)
The "merchants of Almaine," who have been already mentioned as enjoying exceptional privileges in the City, and whose chartered rights had been confirmed by Edward in 1281, (fn. 47) were discovered in 1299 to have so far abused their privileges as to avow goods that were not their own, and expose them for sale without submitting them to the view of the Sheriffs. By so doing they not only defrauded the King of his customs. but afforded opportunity for the importation and circulation of bad money, (fn. 48) in violation of a recent ordinance. This ordinance, or statute, (fn. 49) was passed in May of this year (1299), and prescribed the penalty of death for those discovered importing base money into the country. This extreme penalty, however, was not to be enforced before Midsummer Day next, in order that time might be given for making known the purport of the statute to merchants abroad. (fn. 50) There was reason in this. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand why the King should order the release of those who had been put under arrest a few months later by his own Commissioners for making a business of exporting sterling money and importing coins of inferior value known as "pollards" and "crocards," which they proceeded again to exchange for sterling for the purpose of sending abroad. (fn. 51) Nor can it be said that his attempt to stop the circulation of base money by an arbitrary order that "pollards" and "crocards" should no longer pass as of the value of a penny, but of a halfpenny, i. e., two for a "sterling,' (fn. 52) was economically a wise one, for it chiefly served to enhance the price of provisions. (fn. 53) Far wiser was the order which immediately followed, viz., that no attempt should be made to melt down and refine base money, but that it should all be brought to the King's Exchange at the Tower, and there exchanged. (fn. 54) On 28 January (1300) the Mayor and Sheriffs were for the second time ordered to see that "pollards" and "crocards" passed current at their reduced value. We have two instances before us of debtors attempting to discharge their liabilities in "pollards," one of them occurring shortly before the date of the order, and the other immediately after. (fn. 55) In the first case the creditors refused the money, which was handed to the Chamberlain provisionally; in the second, the tender by the debtors of "pollards" instead of "sterlings" was declared to be contrary to the "new statute" Every effort was made to enforce the order of 28 January, the Serjeants of the Wards being sworn to arrest any one refusing to accept two "pollards" for the penny sterling, (fn. 56) but to little effect; and shortly afterwards the use of "pollards," "crocards," and similar coins was absolutely forbidden. (fn. 57)
Although the foreign merchants were the chief transgressors in draining the country of gold, (fn. 58) they found favour with the King for having assented, as they did in 1303, to an increase of custom, in return for which he removed the restrictions hitherto placed on their sojourn in the City, and granted them other extensive liberties. (fn. 59) To get the merchant stranger, however, to grant him an increase of custom on wine, wool, and other commodities, was one thing, but to obtain the consent of the denizen trader to any such increase was another and more difficult matter for the King.
On 16 April (1303) he took the preliminary step of summoning representatives of every Italian trading company in the City to meet him at York, (fn. 60) and having obtained their consent to the New Custom, he issued writs on 7 May for the attendance of "two or three" citizens of London and representatives of forty-two other cities and boroughs at the same place. The proposal, being submitted to them, was unanimously rejected, the representatives declaring that they would only give assent to the ancient and usual customs. (fn. 61) One reason why the citizens of London refused assent may probably be found in a clause of the statute De Nova Custuma, which changed the method of weighing goods at the King's Beam, by introducing a measure of fairness between buyer and seller hitherto unknown. A custom had long prevailed in the City that when it came to weighing merchandise bought and sold the buyer should be allowed a "draft" or overplus to the extent of four pounds in every hundredweight. (fn. 62) This was now abolished by the King's order. Before weighing, the Beam (statera) was to be viewed by both buyer and seller; the arms of the balance were to be exactly even, and when in that position the weigher was to remove his hands from them. (fn. 63) To this provision the citizens offered a stout resistance, pleading the custom of the City in answer to a writ directed to them in October, 1305. To a second writ which speedily followed, commanding them to do as bidden or else appear before the King at Westminster, the return was short and to the point-viz., they would attend on the day named. (fn. 64) The result of the interview is not recorded in the Letter-Book.
Notwithstanding the prompt action of the City of London and other cities and boroughs in opposing the New Custom, serving, as it no doubt did, to check the King's scheme of providing himself with an additional revenue from denizens, he was determined to make the most of what had been so complacently granted by the foreigners. He appears, however, to have experienced some trouble, at least with the City, in the matter of appointing collectors of the new duties. He was willing that their appointment should be made by the citizens, but the latter showed no anxiety to proceed to any such election When a writ, dated from York 19 November (1303), arrived, bidding the Mayor and Aldermen to elect two collectors of the new duty on wool, woolfels, and skins, to be presented before the Barons of the Exchequer at York, the return made was to the effect that the writ had arrived so late that it could not be executed! More than this, it informed the King's Treasurer that his messenger had been placed under arrest for his negligence! (fn. 65) In the following February (1304) another writ for the appointment of collectors received a reply that the collectors of the custom had hitherto been appointed by the King and his Council, and the citizens had never appointed such officers. (fn. 66) On 1 April we find the King appointing Richer de Refham and Hugh Pourte, (fn. 67) who, if not collectors also of the old custom at the time, became collectors of both the old and the new custom shortly afterwards. On 27 June the civic authorities were warned by Walter (de) Langton, the King's Treasurer, to render the collectors every assistance in the exercise of their office. (fn. 68) The opposition of the English merchants to the New Custom continued without abatement. In 1309 (under a new king) the matter came before Parliament, when they were hopeful of victory. The proceedings ended, however, only in a suspension of the New Custom, (fn. 69) and it was not until two years later that the statute De Nova Custuma was declared illegal, and peace once more reigned.
An important and perhaps not the least interesting feature of the Letter-Book is the transcript of charters and other documents relating to the early history of the Priory of Holy Trinity (or Christchurch), Aldgate, and the "English Cnihtengild. They are entered (for the most part) towards the end of the book (fn. 70) by later and (possibly) different hands, but three of the documents are recorded in the earlier part of the volume. (fn. 71) To some there are marginal references to books marked "A" and "B" in the custody of the Prior, suggesting the possibility of the documents having been copied into the Letter-Book from original sources. However this may be, the handwriting may fairly be ascribed to the fifteenth century, or about the time when Thomas de Axebrigge (son of John de Cornubia), a Canon of Christchurch, compiled a cartulary of the Priory. This he did in 1425-being moved to set in order the title-deeds of the Priory by reason of its being at that time in reduced circumstances and forced to sell most of its property; and this cartulary now rests in the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow. It was consulted by Stow for his 'Survey,' who refers to it as "the book of the late house of the Holy Trinity." The compiler, like Stow, was cognizant of the City's Letter-Books, for he remarks that certain charters that he sets out are enrolled at the end of a "book of memoranda" in the Guildhall, "with the letter C."
It has been said, indeed, that the details given in the LetterBook were transcribed from the cartulary, (fn. 72) but of this I confess to entertaining considerable doubt. I have not consulted the cartulary itself, but only a modern transcript (fn. 73) of it preserved in the Guildhall Library; and a careful collation of the record in the Letter-Book with that of the transcript discovers so many discrepancies, that one is led to the belief that they were derived from separate and independent sources.
A letter from Dr. Tanner (afterwards Bishop of St. Asaph, and author of 'Notitia Monastica') to John Anstis (Garter King-of-Arms) in 1713, a copy of which is prefixed to the cartulary, shows that Axebrigge's work was at that time the property of the worthy herald, who appears to have lent it to Tanner, with the view, no doubt, of assisting him in the compilation of his 'Notitia.' (fn. 74) How it came into the possession of Anstis we are left to conjecture. In another letter addressed to him by Tanner seven years later (13 February, 1720) (fn. 75) the writer promises to return "the Trinity Book" in a week or ten days. Finding Stephen Batman's name on one of the leaves, he expresses surprise at its having escaped getting into the Library of Bennet College (now known as Corpus Christi College, Cambridge), inasmuch as Batman (who at one time was a minister at Newington Butts, co. Surrey) was a great book-collector, and, on his own confession, procured nearly 7,000 volumes for Archbishop Parker, who gave them to the College. The mention of Batman's name as appearing on one of the pages of the cartulary is curious, for (according to Dugdale) Tanner refers to two cartularies of Holy Trinity Priory, viz., the one (already set out in note supra, p. xvii) in the possession of John Anstis, and the other as having been at different times in the possession of Dr. "Bateman" and Thomas Astle, and as being at the time of writing in the Hunterian Museum. (fn. 76) No statement to this effect, however, appears in his schedule of authorities relating to the Priory in Tanner's 'Notitia' It is curious, too, that in his reference to the cartulary once in the possession of Anstis, Tanner makes no mention of it as being in the Hunterian Museum. More curious still is it that, if there be indeed two cartularies, and both passed through the hands of Dr. Batman, they should both have found their way to the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, instead of to the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. (fn. 77)
The story of the foundation of the English Cnihtengild and its subsequent absorption by the Priory of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, as set out in the Letter-Book (and printed infra in the original Latin and Anglo-Saxon), may here be briefly told. In the time of Cnut, or (according to Axebrigge's cartulary) in the earlier days of Edgar, there were thirteen "cnihts' or however (as Dr John Young, the Keeper of the Museum, kindly informs me), this also, like the former letter, was dated from Norwich, Tanner being at the time rector of Thorpe, near Norwich, whilst enjoying also a canonry of Ely military retainers such as the King loved, who had set their heart upon a plot of ground which had become derelict through excessive charges being made upon it. This they desired of the King, together with a further grant of a licence to form themselves into a gild. And here comes into the story a touch of romance. The King signified his readiness to grant both requests, but on condition that each of them should be victor in three separate combats, viz., one above ground, one underground, and one in water; and further, that on a day to be named they should be prepared to meet all comers with the lance in the field called East Smithfield. All these conditions, we are told, the cnihts fulfilled and came off victorious, and forthwith the King declared them a "Knytte-gild" and defined the limits of their manorial jurisdiction or soke.
Next we have on record a charter of Edward the Confessor, recorded, it must be allowed, in very indifferent Anglo-Saxon. The charter was granted some time between A. D. 1042 (the date of the Confessor's accession) and A. D. 1044, the date ascribed for the death of ælfward, Bishop of London (to whom the charter is addressed in conjunction with Wulfgar the Portreeve), and it confirmed to the gild all the franchises it enjoyed in the days of the Confessor's father (Ethelred), Cnut, and Edgar.
The late Mr. H. C. Coote, who examined and collated these documents, as entered in the City's 'Liber Dunthorn' as well as in the Letter-Book, for a paper he was preparing on 'The English Gild of Knights and their Socn (fn. 78) in the year 1879, was careful to warn the reader against placing too implicit a faith in the historical accuracy of the account of the rise of the gild as there given; one reason for exercising caution being the fact that "no English king before the Norman Conquest ever exercised the right of licensing a gild. Every gild was then perfectly legal without royal authority. It required no other formality than the consent of its members to form and constitute it."
The gild's possessions and franchises as enjoyed under Edward the Confessor were successively confirmed by charters of William I., William II., and Henry I. In the course of the reign of the last-mentioned king the members of the gild appear suddenly to have taken a religious turn, and the gild came to an end, or rather extinguished itself, in the following remarkable manner. Struck by the immense success and popularity of the Priory of Holy Trinity, recently founded and richly endowed with the soke of Aldgate and other possessions by Queen Matilda, (fn. 79) certain descendants "from the ancient race of noble English knights"-fifteen in number, whose names have been handed down to us-solemnly met together in the chapter-house of Christchurch, one day in the year 1125, and gave to that church (itself a portion of the Queen's gift) and the canons thereof the land and soke called the "Anglissh Cnithegild," situate outside Aldgate and extending down to the Thames. At the same time these fifteen benefactors as well as their predecessors were solemnly admitted by Norman the Prior as members of the confraternity and partakers of all its benefits. (fn. 80) Then followed the legal formality of the ancient "feoffment with livery of seisin in deed," which required that both parties should go to the property about to be conveyed, and that the feoffor should there deliver some portion of it, great or small, to the feoffee. After offering up the various charters-the title-deeds of the property-on the altar of Christchurch, the parties in this case proceeded to the church of St. Botolph without Aldgate, situate within the soke, and indeed the most distinguishing feature of the soke (et est, ut aiunt, capud ipsius terre), and by formal delivery of the church the benefactors made over the whole of their property to the Priory.
The names of some of the members of this self-sacrificing Cnihtengild deserve a passing notice. Ralph, son of Algod, who heads the list, also heads a list of a number of witnesses to certain proceedings which took place in 1137 touching encroachments made on the newly acquired property of the Priory by various Wardens of the Tower. (fn. 81) He also appears as an Alderman of the City, or (as Mr. Round prefers to put it) "in charge of one of the City wards," in the remarkable schedule of lands (or "terrier") belonging to St. Paul's (fn. 82) in the several wards of the City temp. Henry I., and, further, he is (in the opinion of Mr. Round, (fn. 83) who has given much study to these worthy citizens) the same Ralf, son of Algod, who appears as a Canon of St. Paul's in 1104 and 1132.
For the comparatively little that is known of Orgar "le Prude" or "the Proud" (Lat. Prudus) and the rest of the members of the Cnihtengild at the time of its voluntary extinction, we have again to call in the assistance of Mr. Round. "Orgar" is one of the commonest names found in the muniments of St. Paul's. Mr. Round enumerates seven distinct individuals bearing this name (one of them being Orgar, son of Dereman, who appears in this list), (fn. 84) and states that many more could doubtless be adduced. That Orgar le Prude was well born and held a prominent place in the gild may be gathered not only from his name appearing third in the list of these burgesses who claimed descent from the ancient and noble band of English cnihts, but from his having been selected by his fellows to go to the King in order to obtain his confirmation of the surrender of their soke to the Priory. He succeeded in his mission, for we read that the King sent his Sheriffs, viz., Aubrey de Vere and Roger, nephew of Hubert (the said Roger being identified by Mr. Round as father of the famous Gervase de Cornhill, Sheriff and Justiciar of London), to invest the church of Holy Trinity, on his behalf, with its new property. The fact that this emissary had a son-in-law named Ailwin has unfortunately led to the confusion of this son-in-law with Ailwin, the son of Leostan (or Leofstan) and grandson of another Orgar. This grandson and Robert his brother appear among the members of the Cnihtengild. A similar difficulty arises in the identification of those bearing the name of Leostan. One of the name, viz., Leostan the goldsmith (different from the Leostan just mentioned), and Wizo (or Witso) his son, were also members of the gild, Leostan himself being descended from a Witso; but there was more than one other Leostan (and notably Leofstan the Portreeve temp. Edward the Confessor), with whom he is liable to be confused. (fn. 85) Edward Upcornhill, who appears fourth on the list, has been identified by Mr. Round as father-in-law of the Gervase Fitz Roger, otherwise "de Cornhill," already mentioned, and as son of Edward de Southwark, who figures as one of the witnesses to the surrender of the gild's soke. (fn. 86) One name in the list that strikes us for its extraordinary quaintness is that of Osbert Drinchepyn, (fn. 87) a name that recalls to mind the custom (said to have been introduced by King Edgar for the purpose of preventing excessive drinking) of putting pins or pegs in tankards at certain distances, beyond which the drinker was not to go. According to "Cocker," (fn. 88) however, "pin-drinking," far from promoting moderation, occasioned much drunkenness, owing to the pegs being few and far between, "so a law was made that priests, monks, and friars should not drink to or at the pins." Perhaps one would not be far wrong in ascribing the origin of the modern expression (much used in India) of a "peg" for a drink to this ancient custom.
From what little knowledge we possess of these individual members of the Cnihtengild, we can only conclude that they were probably burgesses, and that they constituted an important land-owning fraternity in the City of London. Beyond this we cannot go. Their character differed somewhat from that of the original "cnihts," the founders of the "Cnihtengild," in the lack of the military element. "We may believe," writes Prof. Maitland, "that the burgensis of the tenth century very often was a cniht, a great man's cniht, and that if not a professional soldier (professional militancy was but beginning) he was kept in the borough for a military purpose, and was perhaps fed by the manor to which he belonged These knights formed gilds for religious and convivial purposes." (fn. 89) Seeing that all authorities agree that the "cniht" was a youth of some military training in the service of a patron and supporter, the question suggests itself, In whose retinue were these founders of the "Cnihtengild"? To this the late Mr. Coote would have probably replied that they were in the service and pay of the governing powers of the City, for he writes that "the gild in question was an association of soldiers formed for the special purpose of protecting the City of London against marauders and assailants." Again, "we must....... pronounce that the gild of the knights was an organized body, formed for the ordinary and daily defence of the City in times when the wealth of the citizens must have formed an unfailing attraction to the impressionable outside marauder." (fn. 90) In support of this conclusion he adduces (inter alia) the fact that it was to the Priory of Holy Trinity, Aldgate (as representing the ancient Cnihtengild), that the Mayor and the City's Castellain went in solemn procession in times of peril, and there consulted with representatives from the various wards as to measures to be taken for the City's defences. (fn. 91) There is, however, no real evidence that these "cnihts," either before or after the formation of their gild, were maintained by the City, (fn. 92) any more than there is evidence of their being part and parcel of the City's government, as some writers have supposed. (fn. 93) As a gild, the "cnihts," like other gilds, were probably governed by an Alderman, and, as possessors of a soke within the City's liberties, they may have sent an Alderman (as there is little doubt they had a right to do) to join in the City's councils with Aldermen of other sokes or wards, but we have no evidence of their having done so. It is only a surmise based on a subsequent historical fact, namely, that after the conveyance of the land and soke of the gild to the Priory of Holy Trinity, and the extinction of the gild itself, the Prior was (to use Stow's words) "for him and his successors admitted as one of the Aldermen of London, to govern the same land and soke," and the Prior for the time being continued to be ex officio Alderman of the City until the dissolution of the Priory in 1531. Again, the mere fact that some of the members of the gild at the time of the conveyance of its property and jurisdiction to the Priory were Aldermen of the City no more constituted that gild the governing body of the City than the presence of Aldermen upon the Court of Assistants of a Livery Company of to-day gives that company any peculiar authority in municipal affairs.
The charter of confirmation which Orgar le Prude succeeded in obtaining from Henry I. was of the most ample description. (fn. 94) It granted the Priory absolute independence of all churches; (fn. 95) confirmed the grant made by his queen to the Prior and Canons of the Gate of Aldgate with the soke pertaining thereto, together with certain rents in Exeter; and further confirmed the more recent grant of the soke of the Cnihtengild, together with its lands and liberties within the City and without. The Canons and their "men" were to enjoy their possessions free from all manner of exactions and services, and no tenant was to be called upon to plead in any court except the Court of the Canons, or before the King himself or his Justiciar.
The metes and bounds of the soke of Aldgate and of the Cnihtengild are set out in the Letter-Book, where references are made to two books, marked "A" and "B," in the custody of the Prior of Christchurch. (fn. 96) The soke of Aldgate is described as extending from the gate to the outer bar on the east; to the Thames on the south, and "so far into the water as a horseman entering the same could throw a lance"; and as far as a certain house once tenanted by William the priest and others towards Bishopsgate on the north. This soke, becoming united with the soke of the Cnihtengild, came to be known as the soke of the Port or Portsoken, and the right to an aldermanry, enjoyed (presumably) by the members of the gild by reason of their soke, passed with the soke to the Priory of Holy Trinity, and hence the Prior for the time being became (as just mentioned) ex officio Alderman of Portsoken Ward. (fn. 97)
No long time elapsed before the Priory had some trouble with its new acquisition. The greater part of the soke lay in East Smithfield, and a portion of it lay so near the Tower precincts that one Warden after another (including Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex) was tempted to make encroachments upon it. Matters rose to such a pitch that Norman the Prior took the opportunity of King Stephen being at Westminster in the year 1137 to complain of a recent encroachment. The culprit was summoned to appear, but when asked to show his title to the land in question pleaded possession and nothing more. Thereupon a jury consisting of twenty-one members (among them being Orgar le Prude, who by that time had taken the cowl) proceeded to the spot, accompanied by the Prior and his assessors on the one part, and Andrew Buchuinte ("Bucca Uncta," or Oily-mouth), a notable citizen, whom Mr. Round believes to have been at the time "Justiciar of London," and others on the other part; and, evidence having been taken and the site viewed, the whole land and the soke were adjudged to belong to Holy Trinity. (fn. 98) So far the Prior was successful. When, however, it came to dealing with an encroachment by so powerful and overbearing a man as the Earl of Essex, the monks had to abide the Earl's own time for the recovery of ground filched from them for the purpose of a vineyard. It came at last. The deed of restitution to the Church is recorded in the Letter-Book, (fn. 99) and, to judge from the appearance of a Templar and two medical men as witnesses, it was probably drawn up and executed when the Earl was lying on his deathbed in 1144. (fn. 100) The land thus illegally taken and tardily restored was subsequently confirmed to the Priory by King Stephen, (fn. 101) who further enriched it by a grant of lands in the manor of Braughing, co. Herts. (fn. 102)
Of miscellaneous matters of minor interest to be found in the Letter-Book may be noticed: (a) the proceedings in connexion with the first recorded election of Aldermen of the City, (fn. 103) which took place in June, 1293, when the City was "in the King's hand"; (b) the two occasions (viz., in 1304 and 1307) when the Mayor and Aldermen are represented as sitting as a Court of "Scawagers" or "Scavagers"; (fn. 104) the several elections of Mayors and Sheriffs between 1303 and 1307, all recorded together (fn. 105) -a circumstance which lessens the value of the Letter-Book as a contemporary authority; (c) the charges brought against Osbert le Laner and the municipal authorities respectively of unlawfully drawing the King's own Treasurer into a plea in the Husting and wrongfully tallaging the officers of the King's Exchange, to both of which charges, however, satisfactory answers appear to have been forthcoming; (fn. 106) (d) the arrest of the Mayor and Sheriffs by the Coroners of the City in 1301, pursuant to the King's writ, followed by an order to distrain on their goods, for an infringement of the chartered rights of the burgesses of Wallingford; (fn. 107) and, lastly, (e) the "verdict of the Aldermen of London" in the case of a burglary of the King's Treasury at Westminster committed in 1303, (fn. 108) giving particulars not elsewhere recorded.
R. R. S.
The Guildhall, London, February, 1901.