An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.
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Of the city in Henry the fifth's time.
Henry V. commonly called Henry of Monmouth, from the place of his birth, began his reign the 20th day of March, 1412, in whose first year the city was in great disorder, occasioned by the disputes between the Commons and the Mayor, and the 24 of his council, in relation to the election of mayors, sheriffs, and other officers of the corporation, and other powers, granted by the late charter, concerning the execution of which, they could by no means agree, so that they were continually harassing one another, till February, in the second year of this King, during which time, great part of the city had the misfortune to be burned down, by a sudden fire, which consumed all the convent of the preaching friars, and all that belonged to them, (fn. 1) with two friars of the house, and much of that part of the city, as appears from a petition made to the court, by the collectors of Wymer leet or ward, begging to be excused a certain sum of the King's taxes, which now could not be levied by reason of the houses being burned, which was agreed to, and this misfortune added to the great expenses they had been at in these contentions, which had much exhausted the city treasury, inclined all parties to treat of peace, which by the mediation of Sir Rob, Berney, Knt. John Lancaster, William Paston, and others, was happily completed, and the final agreement or new composition sealed, by the mayor, sheriffs, and commonalty, on Febr. the 14th, an abstract of which here follows:
"In the name of the Trinyte, Fader, Sone, and Holigost, thre Persones, and oon God in Mageste, principal and speciall avowe (fn. 2) of Norwiche cite and of all the commonaute, in the honour of whom, oure moder chirche is founded and halwed, on the day of Seynt Valentyn Martir, whan creatures thorough love of kynde, as it is seid, chosen her make, the secound yeer of Kyng Henry the vte. after the Conquest, in the tyme of John Biskelee mayr, Henry Rafman and Thomas Cok shirreves, be assent of the good commonalte of the cite of Norwich, the whiche cite be dissensions, traverses, variaunces, and discordes upon diverse articles of long tyme hangyng, the cite hath ben divided, dissoyled, and in poynt to ha be destroyed. Nowe at holi preyere and mediacion of Seynt Valentyn in whos day the cite chaasee be love to her make pees, unite, accorde, poore, and riche, to be oon in hert, love, and charite, nevermore fro this tyme forth to be dissevered, by the help and grace of the holi trynite, her speciall avowe, but standynge full unyd, and accorded in the articles undir writen, upon the tenure that folwith here aftir that is for to seyn in this forme," (fn. 3)
"The mayor shall be hereafter always chosen in the Gild-hall, on St. Philip and James's day." (fn. 4)
The old mayor and twenty-four, (fn. 5) are to be present, and all the common council, and each of the twenty-four absent is to forfeit 2s. and each of the common council 1s.
The recorder or deputy is to be assigned by the mayor or his lieutenant, to make a speech, and show the cause of their assembling, and then he, with the mayor, and twenty-four, to withdraw into the chamber, and then the speaker of the commons shall say,
"Sirres and frendes, for the love of Jesu Christ in procedyng of this election present, behave yow, and rewle yow, goodli, and honestli, and levith not for love, haate, ne drede, that ye chesen and nemelen two sufficiaunt persones for the office of meyr, suche as ben honourable, and profitable for the cite, of whiche iche of hem, hath ben meyr, or shirive of the citie, and of whiche, neythir hath ben meyr thre yers aforn."
And the speaker and six of the common council shall write down their names, and return them to the mayor, &c. in the chamber, after which notification made, the six common council shall deliver the bill to the common clerk, who shall keep it by oversight of the recorder and common speaker, to which three persons, the mayor alone, shall come in proper person, to a part of the same chamber, and to them shall secretly name, one of the two persons, which of them he will have for the office of mayor, and then every one of the twentyfour, shall do the like, and which of the two have the most voices shall be admitted for mayor the next year, "accomptyng the meyres voyce for two voyces if travers falle." (fn. 6)
And in like manner if traverse fall in the hall, that the common speaker cannot rightly tell who have the most voices, then he and the common council shall go and tell the mayor, who shall call together the 60 common council, or all that are there of them, into a room by themselves, and there shall traverse or try the variance, in the same form as hath been, and is now used in London, &c.; and after the election, the mayor, sheriffs, and twenty-four, shall come down to the commons in the hall, and take the bench, and sitting the mayor, the recorder, or deputy, named by the mayor, shall declare the person chosen, to the commons, and if the person be present, the mayor shall take him, and set him by his right hand.
The sheriffs shall be chosen on the day of the Nativity of our Lady, (fn. 7) thus, the mayor, sheriffs, the twenty-four, and the sixty persons of the common council, and all other citizens, shall freely come, as to the election of the mayor; and then the mayor and twenty-four of his council, with the sheriffs, shall go into the chamber, and by a majority choose one sheriff, "suche as thei will answer fore," and the mayors voice is to be two, in case as aforesaid. They shall then take the bench, and by the recorder or deputy, named by the mayor, shall declare to the commons the name of him they have chosen, and then the mayor shall command them, to go and choose, "a concetezyn dwellyng with in the cite," for the other sheriff, "suche one for whom thei will answer for, the yere than next suyng."
And the mayor, sheriffs, and twenty-four, shall leave them and go into a chamber, and the commons in the hall, shall proceed to the election, and when they have chosen by majority, shall by their common speaker relate to the mayor, sheriffs, and twenty-four, whom they have chosen, and if any variance fall among the commons, on their election of sheriff, it shall be tried by the 60 common council, as on a variance of the election of mayor is ordained. And he that is once sheriff and serves, shall never be chosen again.
"Sires, ye hau be poynt of chartr that ye shull yerly chesen xxiiij concitezens for the meris counseyll, and notwithstandin that it is acorded and consentid and be composicon made, the names of the xxiiijti shull be nemelid to yow at this day, that is to seyn vj sufficiaunt men for Conesford, if there ben so many sufficiaunt in the same warde, to be of the nombre of the xxiiij and if there be not so manye sufficiaunt, in the same warde, it shall be leffull to the warde to chese the nombre that lakkith there, in othir wardes atte large in the citee, of the sufficiaunts" and so 6 persons for each ward. "And thes xxiiijti thus chosen, shull stonde perpetualli in the cite of Norwich, as thei don in London, be ordinaunce made" except reasonable cause in any year be objected, and if so, the mayor may change such person, or put it in vote in the ward, whether the cause of change is reasonable, and if it be found so, then the ward to choose another. "And if it seme to the meyr whan the xxiiijd. ben thus chosen, that ony of them be not sufficient, that then shall the meyr have chalenge, and restreyne as the meyr of London hath, be ordinaunce in the cite of London."
The Monday next after Passion Sunday, the freemen and householders in Conesford ward shall meet at the Gild-hall, and choose twelve common council for that year, viz. in Conesford ward six, and in Berstreet six. And when chosen, their names shall be returned to the mayor, by four persons assigned by the whole ward, and then the mayor shall call the persons so chosen, and charge them to give good and true counsel to the best of their knowledge, for the profit of the city, and to be constant in appearing to give such counsel.
And so yearly, unless Lady day falls on the Monday after Passion Sunday, and then the first ward's election shall be holden on the work day next following, and these common council shall have the same power as the common council of London.
All ordinances and constitutions which the mayor and twenty-four think good, must be delivered to the common council by the recorder or deputy, and if they pass them, they are to be good and valid, but if they ask longer advice by their common speaker, the mayor must grant it, and they may go together and cousult about them, and either reject or pass them as they see fit.
The mayor is to hold a court once a week, and oftener if he thinks needful, and to hear and determine all manner of injuries, ignorances, negligence, &c. done by any officers under him, and to have all pleas of apprentices and servants, as the chief justice of peace in the city, pleas, and ransome of prisoners, pleas of debts, letters of payments, and all contracts made between merchant and merchant, or any other person beyond sea, and all other pleas and articles, which belong to the office of majoralty, saving the profit that of right belongs to the sheriffs office.
The recorder is to be sworn before the mayor and his council, in a common assembly, to give him good and true counsel, "in use and execution of governaunce, of common right of the common people, and the common good, shall not pay for any offence or negligence, done by the sheriffs in their office," the recorder shall not be judge of the sheriffs court and council, in any thing that may be hinderance to the mayor's court, contrary to their oath.
All pleas of rents, lands, tenements, inrolments, and recognisances, shall be before the mayor and sheriffs, in the mayor's court, reserving the sheriffs profit to them, and the fees, for the entry of the inrolments, to the mayor's clerk.
The mayor, or twenty-four, are to be clothed in suit after their estate, and all that have been mayors shall wear their clothes furred, and lined according to the estate and season of the year, and shall attend the mayor on principal days, in their best array, to Christ church, to assemblies, and other places in the city, and if the mayor rideth, all that have been mayors shall ride, in their cloaks, and the other peers, in livery of suit, under 20l. penalty, and no bondman shall be mayor or sheriff.
There shall be a common assembly always on Holy Cross Day, when the new elect shall name two persons to bear the sword, of which the assembly shall choose one to that office, and four persons for serjeants, and the assembly shall choose two, all which shall be officers for a year.
All the ordinances for time past shall be examined by the mayor, sheriffs, twenty-four, and sixty, and the good ones shall be confirmed, and the bad ones rejected by the assembly. At that assembly, the assembly shall choose the recorder, bellman, and dikkepere, (fn. 8) and then the mayor and twenty-four shall choose a common clerk, (fn. 9) a coroner, two clavers, (fn. 10) and eight constables, and the sixty common council shall choose a common speaker, one coroner, two clavers, and eight constables.
On St. Matthew's day (fn. 11) a yearly assembly shall be held, and the mayor and twenty-four, shall choose one chamberlain, one treasurer, two auditors, (fn. 12) that are not accountable of the common goods, and three commoners, to be of council with the chamberlain of the city, and the sixty common council shall choose one chamberlain, one treasurer, one common serjeant, two auditors, that are not accountable of the common goods, and three commoners to be of council with the chamberlains of the city, and they are to declare the city money, debts, &c. before they go off their offices.
Each craft (fn. 13) in the city shall choose yearly freely, and by themselves, two masters, and present them by bill to the mayor, all which, the Monday next after the mayor's riding, shall be charged to make search for that year, of all defaults in their craft, and present them to the mayor, upon conviction of which, half their fines shall go to the sheriffs, and half to their craft: and if the mayor find the masters faulty, he may discharge them, and if their craft do not name two more masters in eight days, the mayor may name them.
No foreigners that keep shop in Norwich shall take any more apprentices, till they buy their freedom, unless his own or wife's children. And no freeman shall take apprentices under seven years, nor without inrolling them in the chamber, within a year and a day, before the mayor, on forfeiture of his freedom, and every apprentice, when his time is out, shall be free, paying to the chamber a noble, and to the sheriffs a noble.
All manner of men now citizens shall be inrolled of what craft he is of, within a twelvemonth and a day, on forfeiture of his freedom, and all hereafter made free, shall be inrolled under some craft, and the masters of that craft coming to the chamber, shall express their consent, and the chamber shall have 20s. and the craft 40d. or more, according as he agrees with the chamberlains and their six counsel.
This agreement, it was hoped, was so full and plain, that all matters of debate would have been fully ended, but it turned up directly the contrary, for the commons exhibited articles to Sir Thomas Erpingham, Steward of the King's Household, against the mayor, sheriffs, and twenty-four, and insisted upon their answering them, which they did article by artiele, and sent them to Sir Thomas, who laid them before the King, and he like a wise prince foreseeing the bad consequence like to ensue, directed his writ to the mayor, sheriffs, and twenty-four, and to the commons of the city, informing them, that he had been acquainted with their variances and discords among themselves, concerning the Charter of his most beloved father, and being resolved as much as in him laid to preserve the peace of his realm, both in his presence and absence, for that reason he commanded, and peremptorily injoined them, that they should send up two persons to his privy council, with full authority to debate, conclude, and confirm, a final concord, according to the determination of his council, ordering that one should be chosen by the mayor, sheriffs, and twentyfour, and the other by the commons, who shall have full power under the common seal to settle all things: further requiring them with all haste to bring his father's charter with them, and to appear before himself and council, wheresoever he was in England, to have justice done them, and peace restored; this is dated at Westminster, Apr. 26, in the 5th year of his reign, and accordingly they chose two persons in common assembly, viz. Rob. Dunston for the mayor, sheriffs, and twenty-four, and Will. Marchall for the commons, giving them full power under seal, as they were commanded, with a return of the writ, which was dated the 12th of May following; and accordingly they went up, and every thing was settled by the King and council in June next, and in July, the King granted them
A new Charter, (fn. 14) dated at Portchestre, in which all former charters are confirmed and recited at large, and his father's in particular confirmed: the witnesses are Hen. (Chichley) Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry (Beaufort) Bishop of Winchester, the King's uncle and Chancellor, Tho. (Langley) Bishop of Durham, Thomas Duke of Clarence, John Duke of Bedford, Humfry Duke of Gloucester, the King's brothers, Tho. Duke of Exeter, his uncle, Edmund Earl of March, John Earl of Huntingdon, Rich. Earl Warren, and Thomas Earl of Salisbury, the King's cousins, Henry Fitz-Hugh, Treasurer, Walter Hungerford, Steward of the Household, and Master Henry Ware, Keeper of the Privy Seal: and to the former charters and liberties, he added the following ones, which are much the same as had been agreed upon among themselves in the new composition:
Whereas, in the former charter, there was no fixed time for the choosing the mayor and sheriffs, by reason of which great disputes had arisen among the citizens, the King, at their request, gave power to the citizens and commonalty to choose twenty-four of their fellow citizens aldermen, (fn. 15) and sixty other citizens for the common council of the city, which twenty-four shall be aldermen for life.
All the citizens dwelling in the city, (fn. 16) who will, may be present at the mayor's choice, which shall be held at the Gild-hall every May day, and the major part of them shall choose two citizens dwelling in the city, (fn. 17) out of the twenty-four aldermen, both which are either to have been mayors before, or to have served the office of sheriff of the said city, but are not to have been mayor for three years before such election, of which two, the major part of aldermen present shall choose one for mayor by vote, (fn. 18) and if there be equal votes or one person, then the mayor shall have the casting vote.
Two sheriffs shall be elected yearly on the day of the nativity of the Virgin Mary, by the mayor, aldermen, and other citizens of the said city, (fn. 19) one of which is to be chosen by the mayor and aldermen, and the other by the commons, (fn. 20) which two so elected shall continue in their office till St. Michael, next following their election, for a whole year.
The sixty common council shall be yearly elected out of the four wards; the mayor is yearly to warn all citizens, inhabitants, and housekeepers (fn. 21) in Conisford ward, to meet yearly at the Gild-hall on Easter Monday, and the major part of the citizens then present, shall elect twelve for the common council of that ward for that year.
And Wymer ward on the Wednesday, shall choose twenty (fn. 22) common council, and the ward beyond the water, or the northern ward, shall choose on Thursday twelve common council.
All which common-council men shall have such and as great power and authority in the city, as the common council of the city of London have and enjoy there. (fn. 23)
Twenty-four of the most substantial citizens dwelling in the city, (fn. 24) shall be chosen Aldermen, (fn. 25) and shall hold that state and degree for life, unless there be any reasonable cause (fn. 26) for removing them, whose names shall be read before the common council yearly, that every Easter Monday, six of them may be chosen before the mayor by the common council, for Conisford ward; on the Tuesday six for Mancroft ward; on the Wednesday six for Wimer ward; and on the Thursday six for the ward beyond the water.
And on the death or displacing any alderman, the mayor shall summon the ward to the Gild-hall, to choose another in his room, to serve as alderman for that ward, out of the most worthy and able citizens inhabiting in the city. (fn. 27)
They have also liberty by this charter, that if any laws, customs, and ordinances, heretofore made or used, be defective or difficult to be understood, or any things arise new, that want laws and ordinances to be made for, then the mayor and aldermen, and the major part of them, with the consent and approbation of the major part of the common council, have full power and may make any new remedy, agreeable to conscience and reason, for the common profit of the citizens, and other people going thither, which ordinances so made, they may put in execution by themselves and officers.
And in order to augment the grandeur of the city, there was a Charter granted to St. George's gild, or company, by which the ridings, or grand processions were regulated, and augmented, an account of will hereafter occur, under the history of that gild; so that the company of the gild, joined to the ancient crafts or companies of the city, upon all publick occasions made a very fine show.
These companies were then the same here, as they still are in the city of London, where each being incorporated by proper charters, still subsist, and even exceed their former grandeur; but these not having that advantage, were by degrees neglected after Henry the Eighth's time, and have been declining ever since, though some of the trades still continue a sort of fraternity, and choose wardens among themselves, to this day.
These crafts or companies used formerly, in every procession, to be all clothed in gowns and hoods of whatever colour their warden pleased; but they being now all to be regulated by the majority of the common council, who had the governance, rule, and clothing, of all the gilds, crafts, or companies: (fn. 28) it was ordered, that the chamberlains should appoint each gild and company the colour they should appear in, and that all crafts that will be clad shall be clad after the form of London, in liveries; and that craft or company the mayor is of shall go next the mayor in riding, and all of them shall attend him to the cathedral on Halowmas, Christmas, and Twelfth Day, and whenever else the mayor pleases; and every company shall hold the assemblies of their craft four times every year, and "Kepe the worship of their avowe, (fn. 29) in due place, and ride on their principal avowe's day, in livery and honoure." And thus the city was now peaceably settled, having greater authority, and its state fixed in a much grander manner than ever it had been before, being exactly the same as to its government and ordinances as the city of London then was, which was what this city from its first charter always aimed at.
In 1418, there was a sum raised in every ward, to bear the expenses of the city, for a great treat, furnishing out a grand procession, and making a present in money to the Duke of Bedford, then guardian of the realm, at his coming hither, on Trinity Sunday.
In 1419, Richard Purdaunce repaid 23s. 4d. to the city, of the money which had been raised against the King's coming, and was not then expended, by which it seems the King had visited this place before he went into France; and what makes me think so is, because I find he had borrowed 1000 marks of the city, and pledged his coronet for the payment, which was made this year, and it was taken out of the chest where it was deposited, in the priory of Norwich, and sent up to London, by William Grey, Robert Dunston, and Thomas Usher. (fn. 30)
In all appearance, this golden circle or coronet was the same he had on at the battle of Agincourt, for in Speed's Chronicle, fo. 644, we read, "In the maine battell all in compleat and bright shining armour, the King rode himselfe, his shield quarter'd with the royal atchieuments of England and France; upon his helmet he wore a coronet, the cyrcle whereof glittered with pearle, and stones of an unestimable price." And it might be by the advice of Sir Thomas Erpingham, who ranged this battle for him, led the way, and gave the signal, that he might do it, he being a Norfolk man, and a great favourer and benefactor to the city; and if it was this circle, it had a mark upon it, as valuable to every true hearted Englishman as the crown itself, for in this battle, "Duke Alenzon, a lusty French lord, pressed into the battalion where Kyng Henry fought, and incountring Humfrey Duke of Gloucester, the King's brother, both wounded and overthrew him, to whose rescue if Henry had not come, he had dyed more honourably then afterward he did: for King Henry be-striding him, delivered his said brother from dan ger, and wanne himself much honour by the deed. Alenzon then coped with King Henry in fight, and with his axe cut a part of his crowne, which blow was so surely laid on, that there-with his helmet was batter'd unto his brow, but the lion enraged, with re-doubled strength, stroke the French gallant unto the ground, and slew two of his men that seconded their master. The Duke thus downe, cried to the King, I am Alenzon, whom Henry sought to have saved, and so he had done, had not the deep ears of revenge stopt all sound of life, against him, that so had endangered their soveraigne Lord." And it is most probable, that this was laid in pledge in 1417, when the same author, fo. 648, tells us, that though the King had a subsidy and tenth granted him by his parliament, yet it was far too little to defray the charge of his French wars, and to furnish his army out for the next campaign, so "that he was forced to pawne his crowne unto Bishop Beaufort, his uncle, for a great sum of money, as he did certain jewels to the Lord Mayor of London, for ten thousand marks."
I have met with nothing more material concerning the government of this city, (fn. 31) during the reign of this great and victorious prince, who died Aug. 30, 1422, and being brought into England, was interred in Westminster abbey, where his tomb, though much defaced, may still be seen.
Mayors and Sheriffs.
Burgesses in Parliament.
4 Ditto, John Biskelee, Will. Appleyard. (fn. 32)