Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.
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XIX. SERCHE MADE AT THE VIGIL OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW.
1. This fair (fn. 1) was instituted by a grant of Henry II. to the Priory for three days,—"the eve, the day, and the morrow,"—to which the Clothiers of England and the Drapers of London resorted. It was proclaimed (fn. 2) by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen on Bartholomew's Eve, in the afternoon, at the great gate going into the Cloth Fair, and then commenced, lasting, by sufferance, 14 days.
The search after those who, as foreigners, infringed the rights of the Company was exercised from a very early period. Entries of money spent for meat and drink, "sur le serche faitz par les gardeins," occur in 7 Henry VI. (fn. 3) Thus,—
"Paie as dyvers foitz sur lez serchez del Mistier et autres hommes pour warnyng de dyvers foreins overantz en musset, 6s. 8d."
And in 13 Henry VI.,—
"Espendu (fn. 4) divers foitz en viaunde et boire sur lez gardeins pour le serche et gaderyng dez revenuz, xxs."
Again, in 14 Henry VI.,—
"Spent in mete and drynke (fn. 5) whan the Meister went to serche, sur luy et lez gardeins et le serjaunt, et autres, iij daies, xxjs. Item, Paie a Holgrave Serjaunt, pour son labour delserche, xld." (fn. 6)
2. The right of search was specifically granted by the Company's 4th Charter, and its exercise over the traders of St. Bartholomew is shown in an entry which also embraces the expenses of obtaining the Charter. Thus (1443–4),—
22 Henry VI., William Auntrus, Master. (fn. 7) —"Thise been the paiementz and costz made by the Meistre and Wardeins upon dyvers men for the serche of Barthilmew faire. First spended in mete and drinke and horsmete to Dogmansfeld and home, and fro London to the kynge's hous for a letter fro the kyng, and a nother tyme to Penycoke's place, xxiiijs. Item, paid to Lowthe's clerk for writyng of the charter and certein writtes, vjs. viijd. Item, paid to Gedeney, under secretarye for devysyng and writyng of a letter fro the kyng to the Meir of London, vjs. viijd. Item, paid to Lowthe of the Chauncerie for his labour, dyvers tymes rydyng fro Dogmansfeeld to London and to the kynge's hous and other places for our mater, xls. Item, paid to men of our crafte and other that wer in Newgate, vjs. viijd. Item, spended in horshire, horsmete to Eltham, and bothire dyvers tymes to Westminster for that matter, ijs. vjd. Item, espended in dyvers tymes at dyners and sopers upon Lowthe, Gedeney, and other men of lawe for the serche forseid, xxxvijs. Item, paid to Lakyn and Wolston, men of lawe, for seyng of our charter, vjs. viijd. Item, spended in horshire and horsmete whan Jeorge rode to Shene and fet Thomas Davy and the clerk another tyme, ijs. iiijd.=vjli. xijs. jd."
3. In its continuance it appears to have been a convivial meeting, for the next entry is:—
23 Henry VI. (fn. 8) —"In expensis for the Wardens, the clerks and bedill, with other drynkynges, in the serchyng tyme and aboute gaderyng yn of the money for prentises, and at other tymes with consell and suche other necessary and nedful for the craft, xxxvs. ijd."
4. The search made in 1567 is noticed in the Court Records, thus:—
"Serche made in the Vigill of St. Bartylmewe th' Appostle Ano 1567 et anno Regni Reg: Elizabeth: nono, in the Ffayre kepte wthin the Pcyncte of Greate St. Bartylmewes and Smythfielde in London, by the Right Worshipfull Wm. Sylierde, Robert Hulson, William Heton and Arthure Dawbney, Wardens of the Right Worshipfull Companye and ffelisshippe of March'nnttayllors of the Ffraternitie of St. John Baptyste in the Citye of London, and of others the Righte Worshipfull of the sayde Companye (that is to saye) ffrancys Pope, John Sperck, Willm. Hodgson and Thomas Wylford, in the presens of Thomas Underhill, S'geant at Mace to the Lorde Mayo', and also com[m]on hunte of the sayde Citie, and of the Clerck and Bedyll of the sayde Company among all the Ffreemen of there sayde Company beinge in occupiers in the sayde Ffayre, and kepinge Bothes and usinge any measures as yeards or ells wthin the sayde Ffayre, to see that they occupye none but suche as were good and lawfull, whereby the Queen's people thither resortyng to buye shoulde not be by any of suche dyssaved: And the names of the sayde Ffreemen of this Mysterie then keepinge Bouthes at the sayde Ffayre were these whose names are hereunder fellowith wrytten viz.:—
[12th August 1567.]
5. In 1609, this right was apparently questioned by the Drapers, and settled by reference to the Company's records, thus:—
"Whereas information is given to this Court of great wrong offred unto or Company by the Wardens of the Company of Drapers, in searching one of the Brothers of our Company in Bartholomew fayer last, and their Clarck also offering that our Company had not any right or authority to make any search in the same fayer. It is therefore ordred that the Clarck of this Company shall resorte to the Drapers Hall at their nexte Courte of Assistants with this message, 'To understand whether they did mistayke him that they serched, not knowing that he was a Marchaunttailor or whether the Drapers will justify the doing thereof, to th'end that such further order maye be therein taken as shalbe thought fitt for the preserving and mayntayning of the right that this Companie have to theire Searche and which they have quietly enjoyed sithence the seven and twentieth yeare of King Henry the Sixt, being above one hundred and threescore yeres past. And many yeres before that time, as by the Recorde of this Company, wherein is mencioned a long sute betweene the Drapers and this Company about the same question of Search, and a sentence passed for this Company as in one of the Company's Register Books being marked with the letter B, Fol. 62, may at large appeare.'" (fn. 9) —[28th August, 1609.]
6. Preceding the search in later years the Wardens usually dined together, as this record shows:—"Whereas it hath alwayes ben accustomed for the newe Wardens and the olde to meete on Bartholomew Eve, and to dyne togeather at the charge of the two Rentor Wardens, and after to make their search in Bartholomew ffayer, and forasmuch as this yeare both the Renter Wardens wilbe absent, the one not yeat taken his oathe being as farr as Yorke, and the other in Ireland about the Cittie affaires. It is therefore at this Courte ordered and agreed that three of the Wardens which served the last year, ioyned with Mr. Boothby, present Warden, and the fower Wardens that were in the place the yeare before shall meete for the said search, and the dynner to be provided by the Comon Clarke at the Hall, and the money to be paied for the present out of the stocke of this howse, and required agayne of the two Renter Wardens when they come to take their several place and charge."—[9th August 1613.] (fn. 10)
7. The search was made annually until the proclamation of Bartholomew Fair was discontinued in 1854.