From the accession of Edward I. to the death of Edward III.
Prince Edward was at Sicily, on his return from Palestine, when he
received advice of the death of his father. He dispatched letters to the
mayor, sheriffs and commonalty of London, dated January 19, Anno Regni primo,
at Caples; in which, after reciting the many injuries done to his people by the
Flemish, he strictly injoined them not to permit any Fleming whatsoever to
come into, or stay in London. He likewise charged the magistrates, carefully
to preserve peace in the city till his return, which he promised should be with
all expedition; concluding, that as he had not the seal of the kingdom by him,
he had therefore inclosed these presents with the seal of the king of Sicily.
Teste me ipso, &c.
King Edward was received at London with the greatest demonstrations of
joy; but the spirit of dissension, which presently broke out amongst the citizens,
at the choice of their next mayor, grew so high, that there was no probability
of a compromise: the mob being determined to maintain their nomination of
Sir Walter Harvey, in opposition to the regular choice of Philip le Taylour.
Edward prudently named a custos of the city, till the citizens could be brought
to reason; and this convinced them of the danger of their intestine broils, which
exposed them to the regal interposition in their civil government. They therefore in a folkmote chose Sir Walter Harvey; though they were so well
convinced of his mal-practices next year as to degrade him. The new king,
immediately on his return, began to reform the civil administration of the kingdom; and one of the first objects of his attention was to regulate the sale of
provisions: laws were enacted against engrossing, forestalling, and frauds by
millers and bakers, which the mayor and sheriffs of London were ordered to see
duly enforced (fn. 1) .
In the third year of this reign, the juries of the several wards in the city, encouraged by the disposition shewn by the king to protect his subjects in general against
opprestion by equitable laws, presented to the justices in Eyre at the Tower, the
following complaints. The mayors and guardians of the city had, they said,
assumed a privilege of tallaging the city by their own authority, without the sanction
of the king's orders, or the consent of the community, by which means, they were
illegally loaded with heavy taxes. They added, that several aldermen, and others,
had obtained charters of exemption from the late king, so that the whole burden
of the taxes fell upon the middling sort and the poor, to their great oppression.
This year 1275, was founded the convent of Black Friars or preaching friars,
by Robert Kilwarby, archbishop of Canterbury, which was built with the stones
taken out of the ruins of the tower of Mountfitchet, and from a part of the city
wall, pulled down to make way for the building (fn. 2) . The king ordered the citizens
to build a new wall and a tower at the head of it for his reception; which wall
was to run from Ludgate westward behind the houses to Fleet Ditch, and southward thence to the Thames. Toward the execution of this work, he granted
them certain duties on merchandize for three years. He set out now on the
reduction of Wales; and for this expedition he raised fifty marks on every
knight's fee, and considerable sums from all his boroughs and cities by way of
loan; the city of London on this occasion advanced him no less than eight
thousand marks, equal to sixteen thousand pounds of modern money (fn. 3) .
The first ordinance of common council we find on record concerning the
regulation and appointment of markets in this city, was in the 5 Edw. I.
which ordained that no market should be kept on London Bridge (it is strange
there should be occasion for such a prohibition!) or elsewhere, except in places
appointed for that purpose; and that no person should go to buy wares in Southwark, that were to be bought in the city, on forfeiture of the goods so bought.
Edward, in 1281, being informed of the ruinous condition of London
Bridge, beside his letters patent for a general collection in all parts of the kingdom toward its repair, empowered the mayor to take a certain toll to enable
them to perform so necessary a work, as has been particularly related before.
The Hanseatic corporation of merchants, in consideration of divers privileges
granted to them by the city, had engaged to uphold, maintain, and defend
Bishopsgate; which in 1282, being much decayed, they were called upon to
fulfil their contract. This demand of the city being rejected, the company was
obliged, by the court of exchequer, to perform their covenant.
The citizens obtained this year, for a certain sum of money, a pardon for
whatever they had done to that time contrary to their charters; which letters
patent were directed to the mayor, aldermen, citizens and commonalty of London: and in the following year the king granted them certain customs for the
reparation and inclosure of the city, by letters patent, dated at Nettleham,
4 Feb. An. Reg. undecimo.
This winter after a great frost, the ice carried away five arches of London
Bridge, as was observed, p. 33.
In 1285, the great conduit in Cheapside was first built: and John
Peckham, archbishop of Canterbury, commanded the bishop of London to
destroy all the Jews synagogues in London. The city was now divided into
twenty-four wards, as appears by the Liber Albus; and each ward chose certain
of the inhabitants to be of council to the aldermen in all affairs of public
concern; which council-men were sworn into their office.
The consequence derived from traffic, and the privileges claimed by corporations, were so many innovations on the feudal frame of government, which
though they overturned it at last, were at first with great difficulty admitted.
The lord treasurer had summoned the mayor, aldermen and citizens of London,
to attend him in the Tower; but Gregory Rockesley, the mayor, refusing to
attend in that quality, laid aside his ensigns of mayoralty at Barking church,
and entered the Tower in his private character. The treasurer so highly resented
this behaviour, that he committed Rockesley and the rest to prison for contempt:
and the king not only justified the treasurer, but seized upon the city liberties,
discharged the mayor, and on one pretence or other the city was deprived of
regular mayors for twelve years after.
By this suspension of the corporation government, all kinds of licentiousness
got leave to go forward without controul, until the frequency of robberies and
murders produced a statute with the following regulations (fn. 4) : That no stranger
should wear any weapon, or be seen in the streets after the ringing of the coverfeu
bell at St. Martin's-le-grand: that all vintners and victuallers were not to keep
open their houses after the ringing of the said bell, upon the penalty of three
shillings and four pence for the first offence, to be gradually advanced to the
fourth, which was a fine of twenty shillings: that whereas it was customary for
profligates to learn the art of fencing, who were thereby emboldened to commit
the most unheard-of villainies, no such school should be kept in the city for the
future, upon the penalty of forty marks for every offence: and that all the
aldermen should make a thorough search in their several wards for the detecting
such offenders, in order to bring them to justice, and an exemplary punishment.
Most of the aforesaid villainies were said to be committed by foreigners, who
from all parts incessantly crouded hither; it was therefore ordered, that no person
not free of the city should be suffered to reside therein; and even many of those
that were, were obliged to give security for their good behaviour.
It was also enacted, that none but freemen should keep inns in the city; and
that none should act as brokers in London, but those who were admitted and
sworn by the mayor and aldermen (fn. 5) .
In the year 1289, 15 Edw. I. the court of exchequer was removed to the
hustings of London, where probably they audited the city accounts; at which
time the city was indebted to the king five hundred thirty-eight pounds six shillings
and eleven pence. A subsidy was this year granted for the repairs of London bridge.
In 1290, Edward, on his return from France, applied himself immediately
to redress the complaints made by his subjects against the usuries of the Jews;
who, as our historians express it, had eaten his people to the bones; and against
his justiciaries also, who, like another kind of Jews, had ruined them with
delays in their law-suits, and enriched themselves with wicked corruptions.
By a statute now passed, as is supposed, the Jews were forbidden to practise
usury (fn. 6) and all usurers were ordered to wear a badge, or else to depart the
kingdom. Nor was this the only act of power exercised against this people,
which Edward, perhaps by his late expedition to the holy land, seems to have
contracted a great antipathy to. The diminution and adulteration of the coin
became now a subject of great complaint; and some Jews are reported to have
been convicted of the crime. The national prejudice being thus strengthened by
the claims of the law, the Jews were seized all over England, and two hundred
and eighty were hanged in London only. Their goods were sold and confiscated,
and one half of the produce appropriated to be bestowed on such of them as
were disposed to become Christians. Few of them accepted this benevolent
offer at the hands of their persecutors; so that fifteen thousand are said to have
been banished after being stripped of their property: after this time not many
of that nation have been found in England (fn. 7) .
Ralph Sandwich, custos of the city, A. D. 1295, disputed with the prior of
St. Bartholomew's, concerning the profits arising from the fair of that name in
Smithfield; alleging, that as the city privileges were forfeited to the crown, all
the customs and benefits arising within the said city must belong to the king.
Edward, then at Durham, commanded that the matter should be decided by
his treasurer and barons: and when he was at Carlisle, on receiving complaint
that some of the clergy had been imprisoned in the Tun in Cornhill, which
was a place of confinement for lewd and disorderly persons; he by letter reminded
the magistrates, that by Magna Charta no clerk was to be imprisoned by a
layman, without his order, or breach of the peace. The citizens perhaps conceived that a clerk might deserve to be put in the Tun who did not break the
peace; however though they durst not infringe upon this exemption of the
clergy, nine of the principal citizens, to express their disgust, broke open the
Tun prison, and set the other prisoners at liberty. For this contempt the rioters
were condemned to imprisonment; and the city was amerced at twenty thousand marks: this sum, with the addition of three thousand marks more, obtained
a full restoration and confirmation of the city charters and privileges. The citizens
immediately chose Henry Walleys mayor, whose private affairs calling him into the
country, he constituted William de Breton and Galfred de Norton his representatives, to officiate during his absence. The principal articles, in the charter of confirmation, which was given soon after, will be found in the Appendix, N° XXI.
The year 1296, gave rise to that famous commercial association called the
Company of Merchant Adventurers of England; which is said to have sprung out
of the guild of mercers of London, and to have been the first who attempted a
woollen manufacture in England: but they did not assume the name of Merchant
Adventurers, until the reign of Henry VII (fn. 8) .
A. D. 1305, the brave Sir William Wallace, a Scottish knight, was brought a
prisoner to London, and though not a subject of England, condemned for high treason against king Edward; he suffered a cruel and ignominious death in Smithfield.
When the king conferred the order of knighthood on the prince of Wales, in
1306, the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of London, paid to his majesty two
thousand pounds toward the expence.
Henry III. had granted a charter to the town of Newcastle, by which the
inhabitants were impowered to dig coal; which is the first occasion on which
coals are mentioned in England (fn. 9) . Those professions which required large fires,
as dyers, brewers, &c. began now to use coal in London; of which the nobility and gentry complained to the king, as being a public nusance: this produced a severe proclamation against the use of sea coals, under certain penalties (fn. 10) .
But wood growing more scarce and dear, this prejudice soon gave way to utility.
In the year 1307, London continuing to abound with robbers, king Edward
directed his writ from Lanercost, in Scotland, to the mayor and sheriffs of London,
commanding them to observe the statute of Winchester, as to the apprehending of
felons. But the citizens, tenacious of their rights, returned the king an answer,
in which they told him the statute of Winchester could not interfere in their
jurisdiction, which they promised however to exert as need might require.
This year, just before the death of the king, the mayor, and all the aldermen
of London, for themselves and the whole community of the city, agreed to pay
the king two thousand marks for the vintisme, or twentieth of the goods of the
Bills of exchange appear to have been known in this reign, though not well
understood; for much money having been collected by the pope for tenths,
Edward laid his injunctions on the nuncio not to export either coin or bullion,
"but that the sums so raised shall be delivered to the merchants in England, to be
remitted to the pope by way of exchange (fn. 11) ".
The bishop of St. Andrews, at this time prisoner at Winchester, was allowed
one shilling daily for himself and servants: and not long after, in 1314, king
Robert Bruce's queen, also prisoner here, had twenty shillings weekly to maintain herself and family (fn. 12) .
When Edward the Second came to the throne, there being left unpaid of the
two thousand marks for the vintisme, the sum of 831. 11s. a writ of Fierifacias
was issued by the court of exchequer, to distrain the goods and chattels of the
whole community for the same. This was followed by another writ out of the
said court, for the aldermen, collectors of the tallage aforesaid, to appear in the
exchequer, and pass their accounts.
In 1311, the king being indebted to divers citizens to the amount of seven
hundred pounds, and also the sum of one thousand pounds to foreigners, for
necessaries for the royal houshold, the mayor and citizens undertook to pay the
debt, in consideration of the farm and other issues of the city, arising by aids,
tallages, &c. being made over for the payment.
The nation now began to experience the consequences of having a king
with weak faculties; which always exposes a people to the insolence of unworthy favourites, to evil government, and to the discontent and troubles generated
by these causes. Edward I. perceiving his son's attachment to Piers Gaveston,
a Gascon of insinuating manners, had banished him, and made the prince promise never to recal him. No sooner however was the old king dead, than
Gaveston was invited back, honoured with the earldom of Cornwal, and married to the young king's niece.
When Edward went over to France to espouse the princess Isabella; Gaveston
was left guardian of the realm, with very ample powers: but when the new
queen came over, she viewed the ascendancy Gaveston had over her husband
with an evil eye, and countenanced the disgusted nobles in their endeavours to
ruin him. The public commotions threatening rebellion, the king ordered the
mayor to take care of the city, and not suffer any person with horse or arms to
enter it, without his special permission. He also commissioned the barons of
the exchequer to examine by what right the sheriffs claimed certain farms, and
other dues, demanded for the king's use. The barons declared, that the citizens of London, for the time being, were sheriffs in fee of London and Middlesex; and enjoined the mayor, eight aldermen, and one citizen of London,
who were present on the behalf of the city, to transact certain affairs relating
to the office of sheriff, which tended to the king's service, as being then virtually
sheriffs of London and Middlesex, and representing those who were to be sheriffs
in time to come.
The king and his council, proposing to tax his several demesnes; under
which appellation the city of London was included; the mayor, aldermen,
and sheriffs of the city, were interrogated by the privy-council, sitting at
White Friars, in Fleet-street, if they would fine for their tallage, or, like
others, raise the money by a poll-tax, and a general assessment on their
estates? They returned for answer, that the king might tax his demesnes at pleasure, but, as such, the city of London could not be taxed, for by their antient
rights and liberties, confirmed by divers charters, especially that of Magna Charta,
they were free; and, in lieu of all services, paid the king a certain annual sum for
the fee-farm of their city. The king persisting in his demand, the mayor, &c.
were so intimidated, that they offered a loan of one thousand pounds, on condition that the king would, by his letters patent, take care that no tallage
might be assessed before the next parliament. To this he assented; and the
money was paid, as appears by a receipt in the chamber of London.
We find upon the same record a brief directed to the assessors of the county
of Oxon, forbidding them to cess the citizens of London, among the inhabitants of Henly, to the tallage.
Provisions of all sorts being excessive dear, in the year 1314, the parliament
then sitting at London, settled the prices of divers sorts, according to the following table:
|The best grass-fed ox alive, at
|The best grain-fed ox, at
|The best cow, at
|The best hog of two years old, at
|The best shorn mutton, at
|The best goose, at
|The best capon, at
|The best hen
|The best chickens, two for
|The best young pigeons, three for
|Twenty eggs, at
These limitations in regard to price were found to have a bad tendency, by
preventing necessaries being brought into the city; they were therefore abrogated next year. Indeed, though it is often wished for in our times, it does
not appear possible, to fix or limit the price of provisions by any law or magistracy, without doing more harm than good. If the laws against forestalling
and engrossing were but duly enforced, the price of necessaries will always be
regulated by the quantity and the demand; the only circumstances by which
prices can, or ought to be governed.
The election of sheriffs being frequently disturbed by popular tumults, Edward issued a proclamation, forbidding all who were not summoned to those
elections, to intrude or interfere in them.
The citizens of London having neglected their proposed application to the
parliament to prevent their being tallaged, and the king's affairs reducing him
to great straits for money, he appointed commissioners to tax the city: but
by lending government the sum of six hundred marks more, the tallage was
We are told of a great famine in the year 1316, when wheat is said to
have risen to ten shillings the bushel; and the poor to have been driven to
shocking extremities; though by a favourable harvest following, corn is said
to have fell to ten-pence. As the great price wheat sold for on such exigencies, proves that agriculture was then in a wretched state; so the vast disparity
in price between plenty and scarcity, shews that wheat was not then a necessary of life, but a delicacy which the poor knew little of. When Edward himself lay upon straw (fn. 13) , the husbandman could hardly be supposed to thresh the
grain from it for his own table.
A mud wall had been erected by Henry III. without the Tower, and within the city wall, and this year the citizens took upon themselves to pull it
down as an injurious encroachment: for which indiscretion they were, in
1317, obliged to pay to the king a fine of one thousand marks. The freeholders of London were at this time, however, empowered to recover their
rents by a writ of gavelet, and in default thereof the lands in demesne. The
city magistrates had now found the way to secure the countenance of the court,
and to employ it in oppressing their fellow-citizens: the mayor, when he suited
their purpose, was continued at pleasure; the citizens were taxed at discretion,
while the magistrates spared themselves in the assessments. The citizens not
able to procure redress from the judges itinerant in the Tower, obtained, in
1318, the royal sanction to a set of constitutions for the more regular government of the city, by the annual election of mayor and aldermen, &c. to which
the magistrates were obliged to conform; and which were afterward taken into
the city charter by Richard II. as will appear in due time. (See Appendix,
The Scots having made great inroads in the north of England, the king issued writs for a parliament to meet him at York three weeks after Michaelmas this year, to assist him at this exigency. The sheriffs of London received
a writ for the election of two citizens to represent the city, but the return
mentions three, to whom or two of them full parliamentary powers were given.
In this parliament, London was directed to furnish two hundred men toward
the army raised against the Scots; and, as this was five times the number required of any other city, we have thereby a comparative estimate of its consequence at this particular time.
Complaint was made before the barons of the Exchequer by the pope's nuncio, that on Midsummer-day, during vespers, or evening prayers, four or five
hundred of the populace, armed, repaired to St. Paul's church, and there in
sulted a certain Lombard, and others in his company. The mayor and aldermen were ordered to attend the treasurer, barons, and council upon that affair; by whom they were strictly enjoined to enquire into that riot, and to punish the ringleaders; which was done accordingly: but this affair, and the
continual broils between the freemen and magistrates, which do not appear to
have subsided by the late articles of agreement, had in all probability drawn
upon the city the usual fines and forfeiture of their charters, had not the king's
affairs required the affections and aid of the citizens.
The barons had put Gaveston to death, and, by that violent act, had gratified their resentment against an insolent minion, without obtaining any security
against future evil advisers; for nature had not qualified Edward to see objects
in a true light, or even to profit by the disgusts of his subjects. To Gaveston,
young Hugh le Despencer succeeded in his favour, who, with his father, acquired such an ascendancy over the king, that the barons again had recourse to
arms. The parliament met at London, A. D. 1321; to which, for the purpose of impeaching the Spencers, the nobility came attended by great numbers of armed men; which together composed a considerable army; and took
up their quarters in the suburbs of the city. Such dangerous neighbours obliged
the city to take the utmost precaution for its own safety; for which purpose,
the mayor appointed a guard of a thousand citizens, compleatly armed, to be
posted at the gates, and other places, night and day. Two aldermen, attended
by proper officers, patrolled the streets by night, to keep the watch strictly to
their duty; the gates were ordered to be shut at nine at night, and not to be
opened till seven in the morning. But the king, not being in a condition to
oppose the power of the enraged barons, they took possession of London, and
obliged him to pass an act of parliament, for the perpetual banishment of the
Spencers, the father and son.
Edward had now so far lost the respect of his subjects, that the queen, not
long after on a journey into Kent, was denied a night's lodging at the castle
of Leeds, by the lord Badlesmere; and some of her retinue, perhaps for resenting this gross affront, were killed. To revenge this indignity, which no
one justified, the king assembled some forces, chiefly Londoners, and reduced
the castle: and in return for their assistance, Edward granted London a charter, declaring this voluntary aid should not be drawn into a precedent for obliging the citizens to carry on war without the city. See Appendix, No. XXIII.
As the citizens at this time bestowed two thousand marks on the king toward
his war with Scotland, it was, in all likelihood, the purchase-money for this
privilege of exemption.
Edward's success in this instance, and having some forces ready when the
barons were all quiet, gave him courage to recall the Spencers, and retort the
violence by which he was obliged to banish them. He seized the castles of
many of the barons, and secured their persons; reduced and put to death the
earl of Lancaster, a chief of the disaffected party, with some others; among
whom was the unpolite lord Badlesmere abovementioned: and intoxicated with
his success, and instigated by the insolence and rapacity of young Spencer, he,
on some pretext, seized the city liberties, and extorted two thousand marks
more for the redemption of them.
The queen no less disgusted than the rest of the nation with the restoration
of the Spencers, went to France in 1325, with her son young Edward, to solicit aid, and collect the English fugitives together, to expel them. She engaged her brother with the earl of Hainault to assist her; and it was on this
journey she first commenced her criminal intimacy with Roger Mortimer, and
entered into his conspiracies, not only against the favourites, but also against
her husband. Among other preparations against these impending storms, the
king, contrary to his lately granted charter of exemption, required the city of
London to equip and maintain him 100 men at arms, to march wherever
his service required. This they highly resented soon after, to Edward's no
small disadvantage: for, upon the queen's landing, when he demanded a supply of men and money of the city, the citizens, after some deliberation, returned for
answer; "That they would at all times revere their sovereign lord the king,
the queen, and the prince their son, the indubitable heir of the crown, and
shut their gates against, and to the utmost of their power resist, all foreigners
and traitors." But added, "that they were not willing to march out to
fight, unless, according to their antient privileges, they could return home
the same day before sun-set." Finding, by this reply, how little reliance
he could have on the city, Edward gave immediate orders for storing the Tower
of London with military provisions; and committed the custody of the city to
Walter Stapleton, bishop of Exeter. He then set out from London to raise
an army in the western parts of England, for the defence of himself and his
The queen, in the mean while, made earnest application to the mayor and
citizens for their assistance, in what she represented as the common cause. The
magistrates returned no answer to her letters; and the populace, doubtful of
the part they intended to act, seized the mayor, compelled him to swear obedience to their orders; and then ran to the bishop of Exeter's palace, burnt
down the gates, and not meeting with the bishop, plundered it of all the valuable effects they could find. The unfortunate bishop, intending to take sanctuary in St. Paul's cathedral, was met at the door, dragged into Cheapside,
and there killed, with two of his domestics, and their bodies buried in the rubbish of a tower the bishop had been building near the river. Their resentment
toward the bishop arose from some former transactions of his, unfavourable to
their corporation rights, in his office as high treasurer. They then possessed
themselves of the Tower, discharged the prisoners, and all the king's officers;
appointing others under John of Eltham, the king's second son, whom they
constituted guardian of the city and kingdom. The like spirit diffused itself
throughout the nation, to the terror of the few who still adhered to the king: for
Baldock the chancellor, to whom many of the national evils were imputed,
was seized at Hereford, brought up to London, and lodged in the bishop's prison. This prison, however, not being thought secure enough, the populace
dragged him from thence toward Newgate, but they treated him so unmercifully by the way, that he soon after died in great misery.
The strength of the whole kingdom having thus deserted the king, he was
at last seized by the earl of Leicester, and confined in the castle of Kenelworth.
The two Spencers being taken, were put to death without the formality of a
trial; and the queen, with her son, were chearfully received in London. She
summoned a parliament at Westminster, January 13, 1327, which voted the
deposition of the king for incapacity; and he was accordingly forced to resign
the crown to his son.
Edward III. when established on the throne, returned the assistance given
by the citizens of London to his advancement, by the valuable charter to be
found in the Appendix, No. XXIV. He also conferred the bailywick of
Southwark on the city, by the charter numbered XXV. for the reasons mentioned in it; that village being then a refuge for thieves and other disturbers
of the public peace. The late troubles, however, had encouraged a licentious
disposition in the populace, which was not easily restrained, when affairs tended
toward a settlement. For, next year, 1328, a dangerous insurrection happened
in London, of the tradesmen who dealt in provisions; (but on what account
does not appear;) who, together with others, committed many outrages.
The king sent two several orders to the mayor, to put a stop to these
excesses; which was at length effected, and the rioters were tried by the
mayor in virtue of the power conferred on him by the late charter.
The king in the year 1329, exhibited a solemn tournament, for the entertainment of the French ambassadors. It was held in Cheapside, between
Wood-street and Queen-street; the street being covered with sand to prevent
the horses slipping. Across the street, was erected a stately scaffold, resembling a tower, whereon the queen and chief ladies of the court fat to behold
the performance; which broke down, without any farther damage than frightening the ladies. This year we find an order from the king, addressed to the
mayor, to prevent the adulteration of wines by tavern-keepers.
In order to suppress frays in the streets by evil minded persons, which were
still complained of, a proclamation was published by special command of the
king, strictly enjoining, that no person whatsoever presume to wear any coat of
plate, or other weapon, in the city of London, or town of Westminster, or the
suburbs thereof, on pain of forfeiting all his possessions. A like order was
renewed three years after.
By the great rains which fell in the Spring of the year 1335, an excessive dearth
ensued, and provisions of all sorts became so very scarce in London, that it occasioned the king to reprimand the mayor and sheriffs sharply, for not having a
greater regard to the welfare of the city, by making a proper provision against a
time of scarcity. He strictly commanded the mayor, the aldermen and commonalty, to regulate the prices of all sorts of provisions, according to the prime
cost, to prevent the citizens from being imposed upon for the future. (fn. 14) He likewise directed them to reform all abuses in respect to measures and weights; and
to quiet the apprehensions of the citizens who were jealous of the encouragement
given to foreigners, he soon after granted them a third charter of confirmation
of their immunities, in which it was declared that the privileges allowed to
merchant strangers should nowise affect these rights nor the general liberties
secured by the Great Charter. See Appendix No. XXVI.
We learn farther that in the year 1339 the mayor of London for the time
being enjoyed a contribution of 50 marks yearly toward the support of the
mayoralty, from the foreign merchants trading in and about London. (fn. 15)
Edward reduced himself to great difficulties in asserting his ill-judged claim
of succession to the crown of France: and the parliament had granted him a
large subsidy to support his pretensions. But, present money being wanted, the
city of London, at the king's desire, advanced him twenty thousand marks,
upon the credit of that part of the aid to be raised upon the citizens. Mr. Maitland observes that this is the the first assessment that he could find published: as
such it will shew the reader the comparative riches of the several wards at that
time; and may assist him in extending his comparisons to different times. It is
therefore given in the note. (fn. 16)
Before the king went abroad, he granted the mayor, &c. a commission for the
conservation of peace during his absence; and it was not long before they had
occasioned to put it in force. A quarrel between the fishmongers and skinners
companies produced a riot and skirmish; which the magistrates endeavoured to
suppress, and seized some of the offenders. But Thomas Haunsart and John
le Brewere two of the ringleaders rescued them, used the mayor ill, and
wounded one of his officers. These desperate fellows were however apprehended,
tried and condemned at Guildhall, and executed in Cheapside: the king so well
approved this well-timed exertion of authority, that he granted the magistrates
a patent of indemnification for their conduct.
Notwithstanding Edward's great preparations against France, he had the
mortification to find his allies desert his cause, and without effecting any thing
he was forced to make a truce with Philip, and return home, embarrassed by his
foreign debts. The ill humour he contracted abroad he sought to indulge at
home; he commissioned his itinerant judges to make strict scrutiny into the
management of the collectors of his taxes all over the kingdom. The citizens
of London ever tenacious of their corporation privileges, would neither suffer
the judges to sit in the city to make their inquisition, nor would they obey the
summons to attend them in the Tower. They were so turbulent on the occasion, that the judges could not proceed in the city business: the king was
enraged, until the disturbance was represented as springing from no worse cause
than the fears of the lower part of the citizens of having their liberties
encroached on: he displaced the mayor Andrew Aubrey, however, and imprisoned him. (fn. 17)
In the year 1342, the Londoners obtained a general confirmation of the
charters of Henry III. concerning the mayoralty and sheriffs of London and
Middlesex; and likewise of the articles for the better government of the city in
king Edward IId's reign, with a concluding clause, which reads thus in English: "Moreover, we, being willing to shew more abundant favour to the
citizens of the city aforesaid, have granted to them, for us and for our heirs,
and by this our charter have confirmed, that, although they or their predecessors, citizens of the city aforesaid, have not hitherto fully used, upon
any emergent occasion, any of the liberties, acquittals, articles, or free
customs, contained in the said charter and letters; yet the same citizens, and
their heirs and successors, citizens of that city, may henceforth fully enjoy
those liberties, acquittals, articles, and free customs, and any of them,
for ever." (fn. 18)
As Edward still pursued his favourite project of disputing the crown of France
with Philip, the prince in possession; he still found himself in want of money,
and under difficulties how to raise it. One scheme was to oblige every citizen of
London possessed of 40l. per ann. to take on him the order of knighthood conformable to a statute, 1 Edw. II. But this scheme failed because the prudent citizens
then held knighthood in as light estimation as the king did: the one would bestow it for money, and the others made use of every evasion to avoid the exchange.
In the year 1345, the election of the mayor of London was established on a
more regular plan, and vested in the mayor and aldermen for the time being,
together with such of the discreet citizens as should be personally summoned.
Every alderman absent at the day of election, without allowance, was subjected
to a fine of 20l. and every mayor elect, who refused to serve the office, forfeited
100 marks. The office was rendered obligatory, because few chose to serve
the offices of the corporation, on account of some new ordinances established
prejudicial to their franchises confirmed by Magna Charta, as, that matters
done in London should be tried by persons of foreign counties. This grievance
they petitioned against in 1348; but with what success at that time does not
A great pestilence which first appeared in the northern parts of Asia, now
spread over Europe, and sensibly thinned the inhabitants of every country it
invaded. At length it reached London, where the common cemeteries were
not capacious enough to receive the vast number of bodies; so that several welldisposed persons were induced to purchase ground to supply that defect.
Amongst the rest Ralph Stratford, bishop of London, bought a piece of ground
called No-Man's-Land, which he inclosed with a brick wall, and dedicated to
the burial of the dead. Adjoining to this was a place called Spittle-Croft, the
property of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, containing thirteen acres and a rod of
ground, which was purchased for the same use of burying the dead by Sir Walter
Manny; and was long remembered by an inscription fixed on a stone cross upon
the premises. See the Note. (fn. 19)
On this burial ground the Charter-House now stands. There was also another
piece of ground purchased at the east end of the city, just without the wall, by
one John Corey, a clergyman, for the same use; on which spot was afterward,
in this same reign, founded the abbey of St. Mary of Grace, for Cistertian
monks: it is now covered by the victualling-office, and adjoining houses. It
was asserted that not one in ten escaped this calamity; and that not less than
100,000 persons died in the whole.
Notwithstanding this sad misfortune, the city soon recovered itself, and
advanced greatly in its prosperity; as will appear by a charter it obtained in the
year 1354 granting the privilege of having gold or silver maces carried before
the chief magistrate. See Appendix No. XXVII. Trifling as this distinction
may appear, it becomes important, where we find that all other cities and towns
in the kingdom were, by a royal precept, expressly commanded not to use
maces of any other metal than copper. It was on this occasion probably that
the chief magistrate began to be called Lord Mayor, as corresponding with the
increase of dignity added to his public appearance. Both parties being now in
good humour, the city made the king a substantial return for the mace, by
raising at the corporation expence, five-and-twenty men at arms, and five
hundred archers, all in one livery; which gallant company they sent to his
army then acting against France.
The citizens of London had never seen a more glorious sight than was exhibited May 24 1357, when Edward, the gallant prince of Wales, who had
taken John king of France prisoner at the battle of Poictiers, conducted his royal
captive to London. They landed at Southwark, where they were received by
a rich cavalcade of citizens, who attended them to the city. King John in royal
apparel, was mounted on a stately white courser, while the young conqueror,
who treated him with the utmost respect, rode by his side on a little black
palfry. At the foot of London-Bridge the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, and the
several companies received them in their formalities, with stately pageants; and
the streets, through which the procession passed, were decorated in the most
splendid manner, with a display of all the riches of the citizens; but in a more
especial manner they gloried in their martial furniture. The concourse of
people on this occasion was so prodigiously great, that the cavalcade held from
three in the morning till noon.
This truly noble young hero is generally known by the name of the Black
prince, from the colour of his armour; by which, as well as from the above
mentioned instance of modesty, it should seem, that he by no means affected
pomp or finery. His virtues are celebrated by all historians who mention him,
and, to the great misfortune of the nation, he died before his father, in the forty
sixth year of his age.
This event is however anticipated. To return therefore to the regular course
of the history; the citizens at this joyful season took occasion to revive the
affair of foreign pleas. The steward of the royal houshold used frequently to
oblige the citizens to plead before him out of the city, from which they now
again petitioned the king to relieve them; and they received a favourable answer,
by which their suit was granted.
In the year 1360 the French invaded Sussex, with an army of twenty thousand men, where they committed many cruelties, in sacking and burning of
towns. These depredations were soon retorted; for the city of London, and
other ports of the kingdom, fitted out a potent fleet of one hundred and sixty
sail, whereon were embarked fourteen thousand men; who sailing to the coast
of France, landed where they pleased, and ravaged the coast at pleasure.
The plague making its appearance in France in 1361, the king to guard
against the contagion spreading in London, ordered that all cattle for the use
of the city should be slaughtered either at Stratford on one side the town,
or at Knightsbridge on the other side; to keep the air free from filthy and
putrid smells. This regulation was certainly wholesome; but the close
dwellings of which the city then consisted, were always fit receptacles for contagious disorders: the plague accordingly came over, and in two days destroyed
In the year 1363 Henry Pycard an eminent citizen who had served the office
of mayor, some few years before, had the singular honour of entertaining four
kings, the prince of Wales, and many of the nobility, at his table at one time:
they were the kings of England, Scotland, France, and Cyprus: and it is no
less extraordinary that a citizen of London should at such an early season of commerce be able to furnish a feast for such illustrious guests, than that he should
have such guests to entertain.
The following ordinance was made 39 Edw. III. to ascertain what things a
tenant in London might not move at his leaving the house he had rented in the
city or its liberties: and as it still remains in force, tenants will do well to remember it for their own sakes.
"It is ordained, that if any person hire a tenement, house, or houses, in
the city of London, or in the suburbs of the said city, to hold the same for
the term of life, or of years, or only from year to year, or from quarter to
quarter; if the said tenant shall make, or cause to be made, any pentyses or
other easements in the said tenement, house, or houses, fixed with nails of
iron or wooden pegs to the premises, or to the soil thereof; it shall not be
lawful for such tenant to remove such pentyses or easements at the end of the
term, or at any other time to destroy them; but they shall always remain to
the landlord of the said premises, as a parcel thereof." (fn. 20) This was by the
Lord-Mayor and aldermen confirmed and asserted to be agreeable to old custom,
as appeared by antient records.
The English archers were famous all over Europe; but the citizens neglecting archery for unprofitable sports, the king wrote to the sheriffs on that subject, concluding with this injunction that they should "cause publick proclama"tion to be made, that every one of the said city, strong in body, at leisure
times on holidays, use in their recreations bows and arrows, or pellets, or
bolts, and learn and exercise the art of shooting; forbidding all and singular
on our behalf, that they do not after any manner apply themselves to the
throwing of stones, wood, iron, hand-ball, foot-ball, bandy-ball, cambuck,
or cock-fighting, nor such other like vain plays, which have no profit in
them, or concern themselves therein, under pain of imprisonment. Witness the king at Westminster, the twelfth day of June."
In the year 1369 a return of the plague destroyed great numbers of inhabitants; and in 1371 the parliament having granted the king a considerable
subsidy for his French war, the mayor and certain aldermen advanced four
thousand six hundred and one pounds three shillings and four-pence, upon the
credit of that aid.
It was long before the prejudices entertained by the English against foreigners,
suffered them to see that they were amply repaid for any encouragement
given to them, by the arts and manufactures introduced by them. The
citizens of London thought themselves particularly injured by some private
grants from the crown to foreigners in 1337; and in 1368 we find that the king
granted licence and protection to three clock-makers from Delft, to come
and practise their occupation in England; which is the first mention of clocks in
this country. The populace stimulated probably by envy at the advantages, superior
skill and industry procured to foreigners here, insulted them so much, that
Edward in 1369, wrote to the mayor and sheriffs, telling them very sensibly,
"That he is informed the people of that city were daily offering injuries
and insults to the merchants and others of Flanders and Lombardy living
in and resorting to London; although the said foreigners came thither
under his protection and the faith of his proclamation, for the public
good and advantage of the kingdom. As they have therefore an undoubted
"claim to be protected from all manner of wrongs, he commands the said
mayor and sheriff to make proclamation in their city and suburbs, that
none of what degree soever do presume to offer any sort of injury, either
to the persons or goods of the said foreigners, under the severest penalties (fn. 21) ."
The discontent of the citizens however, influenced them to present a petition
to the king in 1372, complaining in general terms only of the loss of their
The parliament breaking up soon after, no answer was given until the following year, when they received this reply, — "Let them particularly shew
"the breach of any liberty, and they shall be answered." On this, another
petition was drawn up and presented, which is recited in the 6th charter
of Edward III. (fn. 22)
Several good regulations were published by the mayor in 1374, to check
the extortions of usurers; which proved so effectual, that the king and parliament enjoined the rest of the nation to adopt them.
Some doubts having arisen as to the construction of words in the charter of
Edward II. Appendix, No. XXII. relating to the annual election of aldermen;
the king, by a charter in 1376, see Appendix, No. XXVIII. expressly declares,
That aldermen shall be elected annually, and that they shall not be re-elected.
He also granted another charter, see Appendix, No. XXIX. relative to the
privileges of merchant strangers, in answer to the petitions mentioned above.
The citizens emboldened by the king's readiness to gratify them, now sought
to obtain a parliamentary confirmation of the last charter; which shews how
zealously they pursued the point of discouraging foreigners: this however the
king evaded by the answer, "The king will be farther informed." They met
with another repulse in their attempt to get the appointment of the coroner into
their own hands, to which Edward replied, "The king will not depart from
"his antient rights." Nor had they any better success when they petitioned for a
confirmation of the right of punishing all misdemeanors in Southwark; and
that command should be given, that the marshal do not intermeddle with that
part of Southwark which is guildable; for his majesty answered, "The king
"cannot do it, without doing wrong to others."
The citizens seem to have endeavoured to preserve good humour on both sides,
notwithstanding those checks. For the unfortunate death of the prince of Wales
just before, having cast a gloom over the whole nation, the citizens projected a
masque to divert prince Richard, his mother the princess of Wales, the nobility
and their attendants, at Kennington. For which purpose, on the Sunday before
Candlemas, one hundred and thirty-two citizens on horseback in masquerade,
attended by a band of music, and a vast number of flambeaux, marched from
Newgate through the city and borough of Southwark, to the prince's residence
aforesaid; where they were most sumptuously entertained at supper, and had
the honour of dancing with the prince and nobility.
The English, who had never proved themselves the most dutiful sons the
church of Rome could boast, began, even at this early period, to discover the
seeds of that happy spirit of religious inquiry, which at length enabled Henry
VIII. to set the pope at defiance, and his successors to reform the national
church. John Wickliffe, a secular priest, had made many disciples to opinions
that could not but alarm the clergy, by their novelty, and tendency to weaken
clerical influence over men's minds. He asserted the scripture to be the only rule
of faith, that the church was subordinate to the state: he denied the doctrine
of the real presence, the supremacy of the church of Rome, the merit of
monastic vows; and was a strong predestinarian. A bull was procured from
pope Gregory XI. for apprehending Wickliffe and examining his doctrines;
and he was cited accordingly to appear before the bishop of London's court at
St. Paul's church. Among Wickcliffe's disciples were two who proved of great
service to him in this dilemma; these were John duke of Lancaster, the
king's son, and lord Piercy, marshal of England. These powerful persons
attended him in the bishop's court, and bad him sit down during his examination; which the bishop resented as an insult to his authority. High words
arose, and the clamour of the people present occasioned the court to break up
before its time; however Wickliffe was prohibited from defending or publishing
the doctrines contained in the charge exhibited against him.
The populace took part with their bishop against Lancaster and Piercy in this
quarrel, and were farther inflamed by the marshal having imprisoned a citizen
in his prison in Southwark, without the limits of the city. They broke open
the Marshalsea prison, carried off the prisoner, sought for Piercy, but not finding him they plundered his house; and running to the duke of Lancaster's
palace at the Savoy, would have demolished that also, had not the bishop interposed and pacified them. The duke being president of the parliament, in revenge,
made a motion for depriving the city of its mayor and privileges: but the
mayor and commonalty, perceiving a cloud gathering, resolved if possible to
prevent the approaching storm. They sent a deputation of principal citizens
to excuse themselves to the king with respect to the late insurrection, sincerely
declaring, that they exerted themselves to the utmost in suppressing it, though
without success; and represented the great uneasiness of the commonalty of the
city, on being informed that their liberties were to be taken from them by
parliament. The king then told them, that it had never entered into his thoughts
to infringe their liberties, but, on the contrary, rather to enlarge them, desiring
them not to be uneasy in that respect, but to return and keep the city in peace.
Here the commotion would probably have ended, had not the resentment of
some persons against the duke of Lancaster shewn itself in lampoons which were
stuck up in various parts of the city. This so provoked the duke, that he prevailed on the bishop of Bangor, on the refusal of the bishop of London, to
excommunicate all those who should injure his reputation. When the parliament was dissolved, he persuaded the king to dismiss Adam Staple, the mayor,
and several of the aldermen, from their offices; and others, by the king's writ,
were appointed in their places.