Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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HISTORY OF GRANTS AND CHARTERS.
NEWCASTLE, after having been the scite of a distinguished Roman station under the appellation of Pons Ælii, became a royal villa, and one of the residences of the Northumbrian kings, and is styled by Bede, "Ad Murum, regia villa inlustris." It appears afterwards to have been held under the name of "Monkchester," or "Mountcaster," of the king, as parcel of Northumberland, by the earls of the county. But, on the erection of the New Castle, or the enlargement of the old one, soon after the Norman Conquest, the town was converted into a royal borough, and was demised to its own burgesses at a certain fee-farm rent. It being an important frontier fortress, King William II. according to Hardyng, gave the burgesses—
King Henry I. granted laws, customs, and privileges, to this infant community. (fn. 1) Henry II. also granted the burgesses an exemption from all imposts for goods which they could ascertain to be their own, in any part of his dominions. (fn. 2)
The ancient fee-farm rent of Newcastle was £50, which King John, in 1201, raised to £60, and charged the burgesses of that town with the payment of certain eschaets to the yearly value of 110s. 6d. In the same year, he fined the burgesses 100 marks and two palfreys, for the confirmation of the liberties granted them by King Henry II. They also presented King John with 40 marks and two palfreys, probably as a welcome on his arrival at Newcastle. In the following year, the burgesses paid the king a further sum of 20 marks, for confirming their privilege of buying and selling English dyed cloth.
King John granted a charter, dated at Stockton, February 5, 1214, to the burgesses, by the title of the good men of Newcastle upon Tyne and their heirs; by which he raised the fee-farm of that town to £100 per annum, remitting to them the payment of the eschaet rents of 110 shillings and six-pence, to be divided proportionably amongst those who had lost their property by the enlargement of the fortifications, and sinking the fosse of the castle. He exempted them at the same time from being answerable for any of their property to the sheriff of Northumberland, or the constable of the castle, empowering them as before to pay their rent by their own hand: and reserved to himself the rents, prizes, and assizes of the port of the town and the liberty of the city of London.
This king, by another charter dated at Durham, January 28, 1217, granted and confirmed, for their faithful services, to his burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne, and to their heirs for ever, the privilege that none of them should be distrained out of that town for the payment of any debt for which he was not chief debtor or surety—that none of them should be tried by duel—that they should be allowed to traverse in pleas of the crown, according to the ancient custom of the city of Winchester—that none of them should be judged of misericordia money, but according to the old law of Winchester—that they should hold justly their lands, tenures, recognizances, and debts from whomsoever owing—that their lands and tenures within that town should be held rightly to them according to the custom of Winchester, and that pleas should be held in Newcastle concerning debts and recognizances lent and made there. The king farther granted, for the improvement of the town, that all the burgesses should be exempt from the payment of yeresgyne and scotale (fn. 3) —that no sheriff or bailiff should make any scotale in that place—that those customs which had been unjustly levied in the time of war, should be altogether annulled—that every person from whatever place, whether foreigners or others, that resorted to Newcastle upon Tyne with merchandise, should be permitted to stay there, and depart from thence in the king's peace, after payment of such established customs as had become due. This charter confirmed also all other liberties and free customs granted before by the king's ancestors. He also granted the burgesses a yearly fair, and, in 1223, imposed upon them a talliage (or tax) of 120 marks.
By a charter dated July 2, 1235, King Henry III. granted and confirmed to the burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne that town, with all its appurtenances, at the annual fee-farm of £100, reserving to himself all the rents (customs), prises (duties on wines), and assises arising from the port of Tyne, as had been done by King John in his charter of February 5, 1214. In the same year, the burgesses presented to the king 100 marks, for the special privilege that no Jew should reside amongst them. In 1239, he gave liberty to the burgesses to dig coals and stones in the Castle-field and Firth near the town; and which grant was afterwards extended to all the coals and stones in the Firth. The king, in 1251, ordained that to the four bailiffs of the town a mayor should be added; (fn. 4) and, by a charter of the same year, granted the burgesses the perpetual right of choosing their own coroners. In 1260, a royal mandate was issued, forbidding the bishop of Durham or his officers to cite the burgesses of Newcastle, accused of fornication and adultery, out of their own borough. (fn. 5) Mention occurs in 1265 of an impression of the Seal of the corporation of Newcastle upon Tyne, upon green wax; (fn. 6) but there is the representation of a still older seal, preserved in the Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of Antiquarians of London. (See figure in the margin.) Among the records of the court of chancery, preserved in the Tower of London, there is a patent, granted this year by Henry III. for collecting and levying murage during seven years for the town of Newcastle upon Tyne. Another licence for collecting murage was given in 1272.
King Edward I. in 1275, issued a commission to enquire into the custom of Newcastle, by which every burgess might bequeath his tenements; and also an inquisition concerning divers trespasses and articles relating to the town. The king, in 1276, granted the burgesses the privilege to bequeath their lands and tenements to whom they pleased, and that they should not be impleaded out of the town. In 1280, the murage of the town was let to farm; (fn. 7) and, in the following year, there was an enquiry into the state of the town. In 1284, the liberty of the burgesses of Newcastle to hold plea for land in the town was allowed. In 1293, the king took the town, as a royal manor, into his own hands; but, in the following year, he pardoned the burgesses for deceiving him respecting the sum of £1600, which they unjustly alleged he owed them. He also granted an exemplification and confirmation of the charters granted to Newcastle upon Tyne in the 18th and 36th years of the reign of king Henry III. At York, December 20, 1298, the king granted to the burgesses of Newcastle the lands and tenements in Pampedon, in the manor of Byker, to be united to the town of Newcastle, for its increase, improvement, and security.
Edward II. in 1309, granted his patent to levy and collect murage at Newcastle for three years, "in aid of enclosing the same town," at the end of which term "the custom shall utterly cease and be extinguished." (fn. 8) This king, in 1311, ordered a discount to be made out of the fee-farm rent of the town, until the sum of £633, 6s. 8d. which had been lent him by the burgesses, was repaid. In the following year, mention is made of the custom of acknowledging fines in the Guildhall of Newcastle, between the four benches of the court. (fn. 9) The king sent a letter of thanks, dated December 18, 1315, to the mayor, bailiffs, and good men of Newcastle, for their loyalty and valour in defending the town. He also wrote to the king of France and the Duke of Britany, on their behalf, that they might be allowed to purchase corn and other provisions in their respective dominions, without any exaction but the old and accustomed prises. He likewise granted, in the following year, that no purveyances should be made in the town of Newcastle.
The same king, by a charter, dated at York, November 12, 1318, confirmed the former one, of the 17th year of the reign of King John, to the town of Newcastle upon Tyne, with all its customs, notwithstanding the non-use of them. He granted also, that the burgesses of that town should be free of toll, murage, and pannage, for all their merchandises, as well in the cinque-ports, as in every other sea-port of his dominions: that they should have trials amongst themselves by their fellow-burgesses, unless in matters that concerned the king, or the community of the town;—that none should take lodging, or be quartered within the walls of that town by assize or livery of the marshal, against the will of the burgesses, unless when the king should be there, on the coming of his army, or of soldiers sent to those parts, or of the justices itinerant to the common pleas of the county of Northumberland, when, by the king's marshal, or the marshal of the armies or justices, and under the inspection of the mayor and bailiffs, inns were to be provided for the free quartering of those per sons to whom such allowance was due. By this charter also, the king extended the duration of the fair at Lammas, granted by King John for two days only, i. e. the vigil and day of St. Peter ad vincula, to twenty-eight days, if such increase of duration should not be found prejudicial to the neighbouring fairs.
Edward III. in the first year of his reign, granted to the burgesses of Newcastle, "in aid of enclosing the town, certain customs on saleable articles coming to the said town unto the end of seven years." (fn. 10) And, in the following year, the king, in consequence of the great losses they had sustained by the frequent incursions of the Scots, remitted to them all debts and arrears owing to him or his progenitors. This king also made the mayor escheator within the limits of the town; confirmed several byelaws agreed upon at a full guild, held at St. Mary's Hospital, in Westgate, relative to the government of the town; exempted the town from the jurisdiction of the Admiral, Constable, and Marshal of England, and from the Earl Warden of the Marches; confirmed the former franchises, the right of the herbage and royalty of "the Castle Feld and Castel More;" granted royal licence for the acquisition of certain lands; issued an ordinance concerning the manner of choosing the mayor and other officers; and a patent about the measuring of coals. (fn. 11)
Richard II. in 1378, confirmed the ordinances made by the commonalty of Newcastle upon Tyne, at the Hospital of St. Mary, in 1342, with their former charters and privileges. (fn. 12) In 1385, he issued a decree against the bishop of Durham, for invading the liberties and privileges of the mayor and community of Newcastle. By a royal patent, dated 1391, a licence was given for a sword to be borne before the mayor of Newcastle; and, in 1394, the king conceded certain pieces of ground to the burgesses, for the convenience of making highways and bridges.
Henry IV. renewed the franchises of the town, and, in 1400, by a charter, granted that Newcastle upon Tyne, with the suburbs and precincts thereof, according to the ancient limits then belonging to the county of Northumberland, should be separated from thence, and be a county of itself, with the title of the county of the town of Newcastle upon Tyne; and that the burgesses thereof, instead of bailiffs as formerly, should have a sheriff to be chosen annually, by twenty-four of the most reputable of that number: this sheriff so chosen to be sworn before the mayor of the town for the time being, have his name sent up every year to chancery, and be answerable to the exchequer for the annual profits of his office; to have the same power as other she riffs of counties had, and the privilege of holding a county court on one Wednesday in every month; and to reckon before the barons of the exchequer, by his sufficient attorneys deputed for that purpose by letters patent under the common seal of that town—that none of the burgesses should plead or be impleaded without that town concerning any tenements or tenures within the same, its suburbs, or the precinct thereof, or concerning any offences, or other matters arising there, but that the mayor and sheriff should have cognizance of all pleas in the Guildhall of the town. That the said burgesses and their heirs should be exempt from serving on juries without the town; that they should have power to choose six aldermen, who, with the mayor, should be justices of peace, and that the mayor and sheriff should continue to hold the annual courts heretofore held by the mayor and bailiffs.
In the same year, the king pardoned the loyal burgesses of Newcastle their share of a subsidy of one-fifteenth and one-tenth that had just been granted by the parliament. In 1403, he granted them all fines, redemptions, amerciaments, issues, and forfeitures, for the support, emendation, and reparation of the walls and bridges of the town; (fn. 13) and also released to them all escapes of felons, fines, issues, and amerciaments, with all kinds of tenths, fifteenths, &c. on account of their losses by war and sudden inundations, and the great expenses occasioned by keeping several ships well victualled and armed at sea, and in supporting a nightly watch by an hundred men on the walls. (fn. 14)
Henry VI. in 1423, made a grant to the mayor, sheriff, and commonalty of Newcastle, of certain customs to be taken of every ship in the port of that town; (fn. 15) and in 1433, in consequence of the great distress that existed in the town, he remitted to the inhabitants all kinds of taxes, talliage, tenths, and fifteenths, which had been granted him by the last parliament. In 1441, the king confirmed the charters and liberties of the town; and, in 1444, granted to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne and their heirs, that that town should be free from the jurisdiction of the Constable, Marshal, and Admiral of England, and from that of the Warden of the Marches; and that all processes should be served there by their own officers.
Edward IV. gave the burgesses of Newcastle a charter for the election of a mayor, and granted that no burgess of Newcastle should answer at the Marches, except by the king's special command. (fn. 16) In 1463, there was a grant from the crown of the manor of Byker in fee to the town of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Henry VII. in 1485, confirmed the liberties of the burgesses of Newcastle; and, in 1489, granted the manor of Byker in Northumberland, during the minority of Henry, Earl of that county, to the mayor and commonalty of Newcastle upon Tyne. In the following year, the king made a grant to the town of the fair called St. Luke's. In 1495, there was an order issued to Newcastle upon Tyne, with other cities and towns, to keep a standard for weights and measures.
Henry VIII. in 1510, granted an exemplification of divers charters to the town of Newcastle upon Tyne. In consequence of the great dissensions amongst the burgesses, a decree was issued from the Star Chamber, dated May 2, 1516, whereby it was ordered, that none of the crafts of "coliers, shoomakers, boochers, weevers, smithes, dawbers, porters, keilmen, slaters, tylers, millers, cooks, spurriers, barbours, wrights, furbishers, boiers, fletchers, gloovers, cowpers, girdlers, challon wevers, masons, sadleres, shipwrights, and wallers," should be admitted into the crafts of mercers, drapers, or spicers, unless they first renounced their own crafts, and paid fines as follow: No person worth less than ten pounds to be admitted at all; those worth above ten pounds, and less than forty, to pay ten shillings; those worth the value of forty pounds and above, and under an hundred marks, to pay twenty shillings; and those worth an hundred marks or above, to pay one pound six shillings and eightpence. All which fines were to go to the use of the commonalty, and be valued by persons on their oaths before the mayor, aldermen, and recorder.
It was further ordered by this decree, that, on the ancient day of election, each of the twelve crafts should present two of their body, which twenty-four, after having been sworn, were to elect four, who had been mayors, aldermen, or sheriffs of the town, who were to choose eight to themselves, which twelve were to elect other twelve; which twenty-four were to choose a mayor, six aldermen, a recorder, a sheriff, eight chamberlains, two coroners, a sword-bearer, a common clerk, and eight serjeants at mace.
This decree further ordered, that none should be admitted free burgesses of Newcastle, who had lived less than a year in that town, nor any gentleman's or lord's servant, unless he had served seven years apprenticeship: and that every person admitted to his freedom, should be sworn not to be retained, or wear any livery, or token of, or with any lord, gentleman, or other person, who was not free of that town.
The decree further enjoined, that twenty-four auditors should be chosen by the twelve crafts to inspect the yearly accounts of the town, without any reward; and that the above orders should be observed on pain of imprisonment without bail or mainprize, concluding with the king's pardon to that town for all former contempts and grievances. (fn. 17)
Edward VI. in 1548, granted a charter of exemplification and confirmation of divers former charters to the town of Newcastle upon Tyne. In the same year, the ballast shores and part of Byker were annexed to the town by a private act of parliament.
Queen Mary, in 1554, granted a charter of inspeximus and confirmation of former charters to the burgesses of Newcastle; and, in the 3d and 4th Philip and Mary, there was a grant of various liberties to the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of that town. In 1557, the privy council confirmed the decree of the Star Chamber in 1516, for the better government of Newcastle upon Tyne, added some regulations for the election of officers, and increased the number of aldermen from six to ten. (fn. 18)
Queen Elizabeth, in 1561, exemplified and confirmed several former grants. In 1582, the mayor and burgesses petitioned the queen that the great arrear of twopence per chaldron, which was granted 9 Henry V. c. 10, as custom by the parliament, and which had been neglected to be paid unto the crown for so many years that they were unable to pay the same; they therefore beseeched those arrears might be forgiven, by reason of their inability; and to grant them a charter to incorporate a new fraternity or brotherhood, to be called Free Hoastmen, for the selling and vending of all coals to shipping; and in consideration thereof, they would pay to her majesty, and her successors, twelve-pence for every chalder exported from thenceforth to the free people of this nation. (fn. 19) Her majesty granted a charter to this effect, containing a clause that all coals should be sold to masters of ships at a certain price.
By another charter, which the queen granted to the burgesses in 1589, she incorporated them by the name of the mayor and burgesses of the town of Newcastle upon Tyne, in the county of the same, confirming to them the said town, with all its members and appurtenances, and the liberties they formerly had, as well by charter as by prescription, at £100 fee-farm, payable at Michaelmas in every year, with power to the said mayor and burgesses, or the greater part of them, to make ordi nances and bye-laws for their better government, enjoining the obedience of them under pain of fine and imprisonment: this charter also gave them power to make perambulation, set boundaries, and remove encroachments on the limits of the town, the extent of which by land and by water was to remain as before. It further comprised a pardon of purchase made without licence, and power to retain what had formerly been purchased; and gave them the same authority and liberty in the Castle, which was still parcel of the county of Northumberland, as in the other parts of the town. This charter further granted an exemption from the jurisdiction of the admiralty, with an admiralty court of its own, to be held in that town every Monday before the recorder and aldermen, or three of them, whereof the mayor or recorder to be one, making them also justices of the peace for the admiralty, and for conservation of the river within the port, with a serjeant at mace to execute the process. It empowered the mayor also to make a judge, and other officers of the admiralty; granting also cognizance of admiral pleas, and concerning wrecks and the coroner with authority to take recognizances for admiral causes and fines and issues with the power to levy them. Also chattels waived, deodands, goods of felons de se, and all that belongs to the admiralty, prohibiting at the same time the lord of the admiralty from intermeddling with them. Lastly, this charter gave them authority to hold gaol delivery, and all that belongs to the coroner's office, with power to erect gallows, and to purchase, notwithstanding the statute of mortmain. This charter was confirmed in 1594.
Queen Elizabeth, on March 22, 1600, granted the burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne a new charter, called, by way of eminence, The Great Charter, as constituting the basis of their liberties and privileges (see page 23). By this charter, the queen granted the town of Newcastle upon Tyne to the burgesses, with all their former liberties, at the ancient fee-farm of £100 per annum. It is therein ordered, that the mayor and sheriff and ten aldermen, with twenty-four burgesses then resident, elected within five days after the election of the mayor by the twenty-four electors, should be the common council of the town, and that this common council, whereof the mayor and six aldermen were to be seven, or the mayor, and the major part of the burgesses, should make laws for the government of the inhabitants, for the regulation of markets and fairs, and of those who should resort to them, and should grant leases, fine, imprison and amerce and levy, and retain the amercements. That, on every Monday next after Michaelmas, two of each of the twelve mysteries should choose four, i.e. the then mayor, and three that had been aldermen; that these four should elect seven other aldermen, and the sheriff, in all twelve; which twelve should choose other twelve, and that these twenty-four should elect the mayor, sheriff, two coroners, a clerk of the chamber, eight chamberlains, a sword-bearer, eight serjeants at mace, and a recorder. That, upon the death of any of these above annually elected officers, another should be elected within twenty-nine days; and that, on the removal of any of the ten aldermen, the said electors should choose another within twenty days. That all the officers should be sworn; that any one refusing the mayoralty, or office of alderman, should pay 200 marks, and 100 for refusing to serve the office of sheriff, and be committed if they refused to pay the fines. That, on the death or removal of any person whose office is eligible, the electors should choose others within twenty days, and that the mayor should have the casting voice where the suffrages were equal. That, on the death or removal of a mayor or sheriff, the oldest alderman and sheriff peer should supply their places; and that, during the absence of those newly elected, the above old ones should supply their places. This charter further enjoined, that the mayor should hold his court every Monday, and the sheriff his on every Wednesday and Friday, except on Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, and on holidays, with power to hold pleas, with cognizance thereof, and to commit to Newgate as before, and to punish officers, or others, offending in the court.
By this charter, the mayor, aldermen, and recorder, were constituted justices of the peace and gaol delivery; it empowered the mayor and burgesses to tax for the public use, and levy as before, and granted a licence to the lessees to assign the grand lease to them. It further granted pardon of forfeitures upon the statute 9 Henry V. the 21st Henry VIII, and 1st of this queen, giving power to the Hostmen to load at any place within the port of Tyne, notwithstanding the statute 21st Henry VIII. with an injunction to load and unload as near to Newcastle as they might, on pain of forfeiting £5 for every time they did to the contrary. It granted also that statutemerchant should be taken before the mayor and burgesses, or mayor and common council, or the major part of them, whereof the mayor and six aldermen were to be seven: and exempted the mayor and burgesses from payment of toll, confirming the grant of all toll and custom, &c. which they had before, to be levied by their officers; as also the forfeiture of goods foreign bought and foreign sold. This charter ordered also, that burgesses might be admitted by the mayor and burgesses, or the common council, whereof the mayor and six aldermen were to be seven, and concluded with the incorporation of the Grammar-school, and of the fraternity of Hostmen.
The president and council in the north issued a decree, dated York, December 21, 1603, respecting the election of officers, and enjoined that the 24 auditors should be allowed 13s. 4d. per diem; that the mayor and recorder should be of the quorum in the gaol delivery; and that every free burgess should be admitted an Hostman, on payment of 53s. 4d. and a freeman's son or apprentice for paying 33s, and that the charters should be renewed accordingly.
James I. granted a Charter, dated March 31, 1604, to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne, which confirmed the mode of electing officers as by the decree dated at York, December 21, 1603, with this difference, that the by-trades, now increased one in number, should send fifteen persons, who were to choose twelve burgesses as by that decree. This charter further enjoined, that every act, ordinance, or constitution, which had been made or agreed upon in guild, either by the mayor and burgesses, assembled to make up any writings, &c. concerning the possessions of the said mayor and burgesses, unless the same were by the assent and consent, and in the presence of the mayor and the rest of the common council, or the greater part of them, whereof the mayor and six aldermen were to be seven; and that the mayor, recorder, and aldermen, five or more of them, might hold gaol deliveries for the said town, and have full power to erect a gallows within the town and liberties to hang felons, murderers, and other malefactors; and also to take and arrest malefactors within the town and county aforesaid, to be kept there till they should be delivered by due process of law. This charter finally established the immunities of the corporation.
In 1629, a quo warranto was brought in the Court of King's Bench, against the mayor and burgesses of the town of Newcastle upon Tyne, to shew by what warrant they held, used, and enjoyed the liberties, privileges, and franchises which they claimed; but on view of writings, records, and other ancient books of the town, the court adjudged to them all that they claimed.
Charles II. in 1664, granted a charter of inspeximus, confirming preceding charters, and ordering that the king should approve of the recorder and town-clerk, and that the mayor, recorder, aldermen, town-clerk, and burgesses, should take the oaths of obedience and supremacy. In 1684, it was signified to the corporation of Newcastle, that the king expected a surrender of their charter, which was to be renewed on condition that the mayor, recorder, sheriff, and town-clerk might be always in the king's power to appoint or confirm. The charter of confirmation, granted in consequence of this surrender, reached Newcastle on February 13, in the following year, two days after proclaiming James II.
James II. on December 15, 1685, issued a mandate, in obedience to which the common council of Newcastle was removed, and a new council elected. In consequence of another royal mandate, dated May 31, 1687, Sir William Creagh, Knight, was admitted to the freedom of the town. By a third mandate, dated December 24, in the same year, the mayor, six aldermen, the sheriff, deputy recorder, and fifteen of the common council, were displaced, and others of the king's choice were appointed in their stead. A flattering address to the king being read to the common council on January 16, 1688, was rejected by a majority of that body. On February 11, a writ of quo warranto was served upon the mayor; and, on the 8th of March, a surrender of the charter of that town was sealed under the common seal, and signed by Sir William Creagh, mayor, eight aldermen, the sheriff, and fourteen of the common council. King James II. seems to have granted a new charter to the corporation of Newcastle previous to his abdication, but which was cancelled by the order of council and proclamation dated the 17th of October following, which declared that all charters made since the year 1679 were void. Since the Revolution, the constitution of the corporation has remained unaltered.