A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
THE KING'S GOVERNMENT IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Administrative Geography, p. 1. The Sheriff, p. 5. The Coroner before 1307, p. 14. The Escheator before 1275, p. 15. The Eyre, p. 16. Early Assizes and Gaol Deliveries, p. 18. The Sheriff and his subordinates after 1307, p. 20. The Coroner after 1307, p. 24. The Escheator after 1283, p. 29. The Keepers and Justices of the Peace, p. 31. Assizes and Gaol Deliveries in the later Middle Ages, p. 37. Trailbaston and the General Commission of Oyer and Terminer, p. 40.
The justices and ministers who exercised the king's authority in medieval Wiltshire worked within a boundary which differed somewhat from that which now encompasses the county. (fn. 1) Could we have beaten those bounds on the eve of the first Reform Act we should still have found ourselves confronted by these differences. (fn. 2) The Gloucestershire parishes of Kemble, Poole Keynes, Somerford Keynes, and Poulton (an island parish) were then in Wiltshire as they had been since Domesday. The church and parsonage of Minety with a little land adjacent belonged to Wiltshire but most of the parish was in Gloucestershire. The Berkshire parishes of Buscot and Coleshill claimed severally small parts of Inglesham. According to a Wiltshire jury of 1267 some land in Fresden (now in Highworth) lay in Berkshire. (fn. 3) Chilton Foliat, Hungerford, and Shalbourne were already divided between the two counties in 1086. Wiltshire now wholly engulfs the first and last and Berkshire the second. The division of the two Tidworths between Hampshire and Berkshire is also as old as Domesday. It suggests an early uncertainty of boundary. The two Deans had been similarly divided for as long. It was a Wiltshire and not a Hampshire jury that reported upon tenures in West Tytherley in 1255. (fn. 4) Bramshaw, West Wellow, Whits bury, Melchet Park, Plaitford, Damerham, Martin, Toyd Farm, and Allenford were all Wiltshire and not Hampshire territory. Tollard Royal was partly in Dorset. Stourton and Maiden Bradley were partly in Somerset and Kilmington wholly so. Finally, Gloucestershire had not yet consumed Ashley and Long Newnton.
All the enumerated parishes lie on or very near the borders, but there were two distant areas that belonged to Wiltshire. Kingswood near Wootton-under-Edge, in the Gloucestershire hundred of Berkeley, was reckoned part of Chippenham hundred. More distant still was a group of scattered Wiltshire lands lying east of Reading. These were the township or 'liberty' of (Broad) Hinton in Hurst, Sheepbridge, and Farley Hill in Swallowfield, Didenham in Shinfield, and a part of Wokingham. They lay locally in the Berkshire hundreds of Charlton and Sonning, Hinton and Farley Hill at least were still considered to be part of Berkshire at least until 1166–7. (fn. 5) In 1238, however, a part of Wokingham was reckoned as belonging to Wiltshire (fn. 6) and in 1239–40 Sheepbridge, Farley and Hinton, and Didenham. (fn. 7) By 1249 Sheepbridge (fn. 8) and by 1316 Hinton (fn. 9) were regarded as parts of Amesbury hundred to which they thenceforth belonged.
In 1297 the justices of assize in Wiltshire sat at 'La Beche', probably Beaches in Wokingham. (fn. 10) In 1318 a Wiltshire and not a Berkshire jury found that Ashndge park had been broken. (fn. 11) Ashridge (or Hertoke) became the administrative centre of this complex which by 1400 had been organized as a hundred. By the late 15th century a court with view of frankpledge was held within the hundred to which the townships round about owed their suit. (fn. 12) But though Amesbury hundred court was displaced in favour of this tribunal the allegiance to Wiltshire was retained. (fn. 13)
These anomalies, as they now seem, arose naturally enough in an age in which administrative areas were determined more by tenurial allegiances than by practical convenience, and in the case of both the Kingswood and the Ashridge enclaves there seem to be tenurial explanations. Kingswood to take that first, is not mentioned in Domesday Book, either under Gloucestershire or Wiltshire. Roger de Berkeley, however, then held in Chippenham a hide less half a virgate. This tenement had been parcel of the royal demesne and had in King Edward's time been withdrawn by the Sheriff of Wiltshire. It has been suggested that the tenement is to be identified with Kingswood (fn. 14) and that it had been detached from Wootton-under-Edge. If so the transfer of Kingswood from Gloucestershire to Wiltshire is very ancient. In 1188–9 the monks of Kingswood owed suit to Dunlow hundred. (fn. 15) It was, however, under a Gloucestershire and not a Wiltshire rubric that in 1166 Roger de Berkeley III had declared the tenure of Kingswood. (fn. 16) It is not indeed until 1363 that there is a tolerably clear indication that the place, or at least the land around it, lay in Wiltshire. (fn. 17) The lands that later formed the hundred of Ashridge had in the 12th and early 13th centuries belonged to the Longespées. They were then both lords of Amesbury hundred and hereditary sheriffs of Wiltshire. The transference of jurisdiction over these places, which were little more than appurtenant woodland, to their own hundred and county court would have been a natural step. (fn. 18)
The date at which a part of Minety was taken into Wiltshire and the reasons for that appropriation have not been determined. Cirencester Abbey was lord of the manor and some at least of its temporalities in Minety were in 1291 rated among the assessments for Salisbury diocese. (fn. 19) At the same time Minety's annexation to Cirencester is reported among the Worcester diocese assessments. (fn. 20) It has not been found in the 1334 Wiltshire assessments to the fifteenth and tenth. In Spelman's Villare Anglicum (1656) the place is said to be in Wiltshire. Rudder however states that the greater part of the parish was in Gloucestershire. (fn. 21)
Demographic factors also contributed towards uncertainty and change in boundaries. All along the eastern, southern, and western edges of the county lay woodland, cleared late and only gradually populated and brought within the normal system of county government. Minety, Kingswood, and Ashridge were also wooded areas, while on the north-east the marshes of the Cole discouraged settlement.
The forty or so hundreds into which Wiltshire was divided when the Geld Rolls were drawn up (fn. 22) did not remain unchanged either in number or configuration. 'Scipe' is not heard of again; it is thought to have been merged in Highworth. (fn. 23) Thorngrove and Dunlow sank into the hundred of Chippenham: (fn. 24) Thorngrove vanished after 1227; (fn. 25) Dunlow appeared at the eyre of 1194 (fn. 26) but not at that of 1249 or later ones. These losses, however, are balanced by some gains. Malmesbury hundred, which may be equated with the eponymous borough, appears eo nomine in 1227; (fn. 27) Knoyle, a detached part of Downton hundred, in 1249; (fn. 28) North Damerham was first separated from Chippenham hundred in 1261–4 and the separation made final about 1319. (fn. 29) Thus in 1316 there were still as many as 39 hundreds. (fn. 30) Subsequently, however, the number declined. Hundreds were grouped in twos or threes and sometimes the old names were lost or changed. This process of grouping was well-nigh inevitable, for the number of estates and persons securing exemption from suit of shires and hundreds steadily increased in the 13th century, and without such amalgamations the business of the hundred court, for lack of suitors, could hardly have been transacted.
The practice of alienating hundreds, begun before the Conquest, (fn. 31) was greatly extended during the wars between Stephen and Maud, and only ceased in the late 13th century. By 1275 the Crown retained only a third of the hundreds in the county. Of the others, half belonged to ecclesiastical and half to lay lords. Naturally enough it was lordship that dictated the pattern of grouping and amalgamation. Thus Chedglow and Startley, both belonging to Malmesbury Abbey, sank into Malmesbury hundred, Knoyle, the property of the bishops of Winchester, into Downton, Cricklade and Staple into Highworth. Rowborough split into two: that part which belonged to the bishops of Salisbury joined with Cannings to form Potterne and Cannings; the king's portion joined with Studfold and Swanborough. (fn. 32) North Damerham was a grouping of Glastonbury manors in north Wiltshire, and was named after Damerham hundred, in the south which that abbey owned. (fn. 33)
Groupings of royal hundreds had begun at least as early as 1236–7. Branch and Dole, Cawdon and Cadworth, Swanborough, King's Rowborough and Studfold, and probably Thornhill, Blackgrove and Kingsbridge were permanently combined from that year. (fn. 34) Frustfield was combined with Cawdon and Cadworth in 1236–8 but by 1245–6 had been separated from them. (fn. 35) It had been reunited under a common bailiff in 1255 (fn. 36) but was separated again in 1281 (fn. 37) and remained separate. In 1255 Dunworth was administratively united with Branch and Dole (fn. 38) but had split off again by 1281. (fn. 39) Suitors sometimes found such unions inconvenient: in 1275 the men of Thornhill complained of their union with Blackgrove and Kingsbridge; (fn. 40) the men of Studfold objected to attending Swanborough court, (fn. 41) the men of Swanborough that of Studfold. (fn. 42)
The boroughs, free manors, and free townships, which claimed or exercised a judicial or fiscal immunity at one time or another, are outside the scope of the present inquiry. Mention must, however, be made in passing of the towns of Devizes and Marlborough, for here stood two important royal castles and their keepers exercised, at least until the 13th century was closing, an authority as great as the sheriff's though over a more restricted area. These keepers like the sheriff were royal nominees but did not admit the sheriff as their master. Thus in 1199 the sheriff said that he could not collect a fine from two malefactors because they dwelt at Devizes in the bailiwick of Thomas de Sandford, keeper of the castle, whither the sheriff 'could not stretch out his hand'. (fn. 43) In 1275 the constable had return of writs, (fn. 44) though in 1255 this privilege appears to have belonged to the burgesses. (fn. 45) By 1253 certain manors, Rowde no doubt in particular, had become attached to the precinct of the castle. (fn. 46) The constable of Marlborough, as steward of the queen, (fn. 47) was equally privileged. In 1255 he likewise had return of writs and answered at the Exchequer for the revenues of Marlborough barton and the circumjacent hundred of Selkley. (fn. 48)
The government of a region, whether a kingdom or a county, can be studied historically from two distinct angles. We may consider the functions of government one by one and observe how they were discharged in successive periods of short duration. Or we may take the main functionaries or organs of government in turn and consider the development of each of them over an extended period of time. The first method is the more satisfactory, but is infinitely more laborious and is perhaps hardly practicable in a field so little examined as the government of an English county. It has therefore been discarded on the present occasion in favour of the second, though an attempt has been made to take advantage of the alternative method by breaking the chronological narrative. These breaches sometimes correspond with significant changes and sometimes do not.
The organs of county government roughly divide themselves into two: the permanent and local, and the transient and national. The shrievalty, the coronership, the escheatry, and the commission of the peace are the leading examples of the first type, the eyre, and the other commissions of itinerant justices of the second. But this division is not rigid. The practice prevailing in the earlier 12th century of concentrating groups of counties in the hands of baronial sheriffs mars the uniformity of the first class; the use of local gentry upon commissions of oyer and terminer and of gaol delivery that of the second.
In the history of 12th- and 13th-century county government interest naturally centres upon the sheriff. Walter of Salisbury, son of Edward, succeeded his father as sheriff of Wiltshire in the earlier part of Henry I's reign. (fn. 49) He did not hold the office for life, for by 1110 the king had replaced him by William de Pont 1'Arche. (fn. 50) By 1125, however, if not in the previous year, the shrievalty had returned to Edward's line, for William his grandson was then sheriff. (fn. 51)
The appointment of Pont 1'Arche in 1110 and of Warin, claimed as an Exchequer official, in 1128–9 (fn. 52) illustrates Henry I's known preference for curial rather than baronial sheriffs. The employment, however, of such persons of whom there was an insufficient supply, resulted, as is well known, in the concentration of counties in the hands of a restricted number of officers. Thus in 1110 Wiltshire was linked with Hampshire (fn. 53) and in 1128–9 with Dorset and Somerset. (fn. 54) But there are no known later instances of unions of which Wiltshire formed a part, though in some other parts of England such unions long prevailed.
Little is known of the sheriff and almost nothing of the Wiltshire sheriff in Stephen's reign. The royal and imperial contestants used the county as a battleground, and its revenues were in consequence depleted by a fourth. (fn. 55) William of Salisbury, Edward's grandson, held Salisbury for the empress and was described as its preceptor et municeps. (fn. 56) This suggests that he was constable of the castle—an office often combined with the shrievalty in later times.
It was in this desolate period that the earldoms were revived, partly as a reward for services, partly in the interests of public order. The earldom of Wiltshire or Salisbury was among the revivals and was bestowed between 1142 and 1147 on Patrick, William of Salisbury's brother. (fn. 57) By 1152 Patrick was also sheriff and accounted at the Exchequer until 1160. (fn. 58) In 1157–8 he was granted the third penny, (fn. 59) from which he and his descendants long continued to profit. (fn. 60) Perhaps the facts are that during part of Stephen's reign no Wiltshire sheriff was appointed; that when the shrievalty was restored it was annexed to the earldom; that, in order to substitute a salary for spoils, payment of the third penny was resumed; and that as conditions grew more tranquil shrievalty and earldom were again separated.
Be this as it may, Patrick certainly lost the shrievalty well before his death. His successor (1160–2) was Richard the clerk. (fn. 61) It is possible, but cannot be proved, that he was the same as Richard of Wiltshire or Wilton, who accounted from 1163 until 1179, and who is known otherwise as an itinerant justice in Devon (1173) and in his own county (1174). (fn. 62) As sheriff his term was of respectable length, and evidently undisfigured by venality, for he was one of the few sheriffs to survive the Inquest of 1170. (fn. 63) His successor, who served for seven years, was a Mauduit—one of a family long to be associated with the county (see below).
The closing years of Henry II's reign are marked by a somewhat unexpected reversion to the methods of the past. Hugh Bardolf (1187–9), a royal justice, was followed in the shrievalty by William, Earl of Salisbury (d. 1196), who paid 60 marks in 1190. (fn. 64) After a year's interval he was reappointed on paying the same sum (fn. 65) and escaped the dismissal to which so many sheriffs were subjected when Richard returned from his crusade in 1194. (fn. 66) His escape was perhaps due to the fact that once again he contracted to pay for his office, this time at the rate of 40 marks. (fn. 67) The other sheriffs of Richard's reign were royal officials with administrative experience in Wiltshire and elsewhere. Robert de Tregoze (1191) became bailiff of the Cotentin; (fn. 68) Stephen de Turnham (1197–9) (fn. 69) crusaded with Richard and was a justice in eyre under both Richard and John. There is some reason to suppose that Tregoze was a local man with territorial interests in the county.In 1199 begins the long association of the Longespees with the Wiltshire sheriffdom. William Longespee, a natural son of Henry II, married in her early youth Ela, daughter of William, Earl of Salisbury, and became earl jure uxoris in 1198. On his death in 1226 he had held the office in more than twenty years. (fn. 70) His relict succeeded him as sheriff and did not relinquish her post and its profits until she took the veil at Lacock in 1236. Thus Wiltshire was not among the 21 counties committed to Peter des Rivaux in 1232. (fn. 71) The dominion of the Longespees, however, was not unbroken. Robert de Vieuxpont accounted in 1203 and 1210. In January 1204 James of Potterne was appointed ut custos, but did not serve for long. (fn. 72) In July 1207 Geoffrey de Neville was appointed ut custos, (fn. 73) but at Michaelmas William Brewer accounted. William de Neville accounted from Christmas 1209 for a short term. In 1213 Longespee was reappointed ut custos. (fn. 74) On his death he was succeeded, ut custos, by Simon de Hales. (fn. 75) In 1228 and 1229 John of Monmouth, a Marcher lord with many Wiltshire fees, accounted.
Vieuxpont, Geoffrey de Neville, Brewer, and Monmouth (fn. 76) were all powerful lieutenants of King John, Longespee's peers in rank. Hales (fn. 77) and Potterne (fn. 78) were royal officials of lesser station, presumably put in to tide over a temporary emergency. Thus between John's accession and Ela's veiling the government of Wiltshire was entrusted mainly to officers of high rank. Most of them—all indeed except Vieuxpont—are known to have had some territorial interest in the county, though not always of substantial proportions. Potterne of course was a local man, though one of the king's justices as well.
Although, as has been shown, their shrievalty was not hereditary, the Longespées plainly looked upon the county as their own. Indeed in 1207–8 William Longespée (I) advanced the claim to hold it in fee. The claim was heard in the king's court, but the jury found that William and Ela held only de ballio regum and that the king was seised of both county and castle. (fn. 79) It is perhaps significant that in the same year William lost the shrievalty and that when he was reappointed in 1213 it was ut custos. Nevertheless when he died his relict succeeded him after the briefest interval and five years later her tenure was given increased permanency by a change in the terms of the grant from pleasure to good behaviour. (fn. 80) She is said, however, to have waived all right when the county was committed to her. (fn. 81) Longespée was intimate with King John who perhaps felt that his restoration to Wiltshire was essential when the civil war began. His subsequent rebellion was of short duration, and his faithful service to Henry III and kinship with the king must have contributed to his long tenure of the shrievalty.
In 1237 William Longespée (II) renewed his father's claim to the castle and the shire. (fn. 82) To the royal reply that the claim was disposed of in 1207–8, William rejoined that the inquest was held when Ela was a minor. He produced a charter of the king's grandfather confirming the county to William Earl of Salisbury, with all his land: it did not, however, say whether he held the county in fee or as an office. The process begun in 1237 concluded with the judgement that William had no claim save as of grace.
It was several years before the lawsuit ended. Longespée was promised 60 marks yearly out of the county revenues until judgement was given. In 1242 Henry III promised that he would cause judgement to be given, and that if it went against William he should have 40 marks yearly out of the county as well as the 60 granted until judgement. (fn. 83) The next year he was granted the 60 marks until other provision was made for him and his heirs in wards, marriages, and escheats. (fn. 84) It seems that in policy if not in law there was some ground for paying compensation, and in 1247 Longespée assured the pope that he had lost the earldom not through the king's whim or displeasure but only by legal process. (fn. 85)
There was an echo of the dispute in 1341, when an inquest was held in the county court to discover whether the earls of Salisbury had theretofore been seised of the castle and town of Old Salisbury and the office of sheriff of the county, and in what circumstances these had passed to the king. (fn. 86) The jury found that Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, and after him William and Ela, and through her William Longespée the younger were seised thereof; and that in the younger Longespée's time, on account of disputes with Henry III, and especially on account of his leaving the realm without the king's licence, the king caused the castle, town, and office to be taken into his hand and had retained them. (fn. 87) It may well be that the immediate cause of this suit begun in 1237 was as is here suggested.
It is an interesting feature of the period under examination that men graduated to the shrievalty after serving the Crown locally in other capacities. Robert Mauduit (sheriff 1179–87) was being used in local government in 1174–5 (fn. 88). In 1175–6 he began to keep Salisbury castle which he held throughout his shrievalty. (fn. 89) In 1176–7 he is found viewing the works at Clarendon and doing other business for the king. (fn. 90) Robert de Tregoze was made keeper of Salisbury castle in 1189–90, (fn. 91) the year before he became sheriff. He kept it for three years and resumed custody once again in 1197–9. (fn. 92) In 1189–90 he kept the king's houses at Clarendon and in the following two years executed those functions through a constable. (fn. 93)
As will be shown elsewhere the custody of Salisbury castle seems to have been rewarded by the occupation of an estate in the city. (fn. 94) Besides this, however, from 1175–6 Mauduit held Warminster with the hundred, as it is said, per regem. (fn. 95) By 1191–2 he had been succeeded by Tregoze during pleasure. (fn. 96) Tregoze lost Warminster in 1194–5 when Hugh de Bosco was holding it with Robert Mauduit's heir. (fn. 97) From 1203–4 it was in the hands of Thomas Mauduit. (fn. 98) The question arises whether the royal estate of Warminster was bestowed on Robert Mauduit by Henry II in return for his services as a local official or whether he was already established as one of the local gentry and drawn into local government in consequence. It is here tentatively assumed that the former was the case and that the long-standing interests of the Mauduit family in Wiltshire were established through office-holding. It is likewise suggested that the Tregoze family began to build up their Wiltshire fees when Robert de Tregoze first came into the service of the Crown in the county. (fn. 99) Presumably Tregoze had no feudal connexion with Warminster and was in possession only as the temporary guardian of Thomas Mauduit.
Until 1191–2 the Pipe Rolls imply that the Wiltshire sheriffs accounted at the Exchequer in person. Whether this was so in fact or whether it is only that at this time deputation was first expressed cannot be established. The first deputy sheriff named is Thomas, son of the Earl of Salisbury, who represented his father for the fiscal year 1193. In 1199 Henry de Berners proferred twice. (fn. 100) He was the first local man to do so and many followed him. The names of Bonet, FitzAucher, Crevequer, Pavely, and Plucknet, which occur between 1202 and 1235, show that this was so, for all had or were to have a tenurial connexion with Wiltshire. Of these five, two are of particular interest. FitzAucher was a justice with many administrative duties in Essex. John Bonet seems to have been a friend or retainer of the Salisburys, (fn. 101) but he deputized also for Potterne and Brewer and so may have been something of a professional under-sheriff.
These men did not always appear at the Exchequer under the same title. Thus in 1199 Berners is called sheriff, (fn. 102) though to us he would seem to have been undersheriff, and in 1218 Henry FitzAucher is called both sheriff and under-sheriff in the same roll. (fn. 103) Both were deputies to the Longespées, whose shrievalty was doubtless largely titular, and the clerks of the Exchequer must have given the full title to those who effectively bore the burden. The eminence of the Longespées probably also accounted for the fact that a man of the standing of FitzAucher was willing to serve as a subordinate and that John of Monmouth (sheriff 1228, 1229, under-sheriff 1231) consented to step from the greater office to the less.
The names of some minor officers of the sheriff's establishment have come down to us. In 1194 the sheriff had at least three clerks—Adam, Richard, and Thomas—who collected the king's debts. (fn. 104) In 1199 Adam is called the sheriff's deputy. (fn. 105) In 1218 and 1219 the under-sheriffs were represented at the Exchequer by their clerks. (fn. 106) No doubt they were the receivers of later days.
Besides the clerks, Serjeants of the sheriff or of the hundred are mentioned in the eyre roll of 1194. One of these was Lawrence, serjeant of or in the hundreds of Startley (fn. 107) and Chedglow (fn. 108) and the manor of Malmesbury (fn. 109)—an interesting anticipation of the administrative union of those areas which was ultimately effected. (fn. 110) The other was Richard, serjeant of Frustfield hundred. (fn. 111) He was possibly the same as Richard Compaign', the sheriff's serjeant in Westbury hundred (fn. 112) and a tax gatherer in Rowborough. (fn. 113)
The day-to-day business of the sheriff of Wiltshire, whether fiscal, administrative, judicial, or military, cannot here be traced. It cannot have differed markedly from the work of sheriffs in other counties. The farm, as fixed in 9 Henry II (and probably before), was £542 9s. 10d., (fn. 114) almost exactly the same as Berkshire's (fn. 115) and £63 12s. 9d. less than Hampshire's. (fn. 116)
Wiltshire grew out of Wilton, (fn. 117) where sat the county court every fourth Tuesday (fn. 118) throughout the Middle Ages, and where at least as late as 1249 the sheriff was established. (fn. 119) But it is clear that the proximity of Salisbury, first the Old and then the New, had the effect of drawing official business away from Wilton. Moreover it was common for the sheriffs of Wiltshire and earls of Salisbury—often, as we know, the same persons —to hold Salisbury castle with the sheriffdom or earldom. (fn. 120) This is indeed implicit in the whole history of Salisbury from the time of Domesday, but in the late 12th century becomes explicit in the wording of official documents. Thus in 1194 (fn. 121) and 1199 (fn. 122) the purchase price for the county expressly included the town and castle, and when in 1226 the king committed Wiltshire to Simon de Hales he directed Ela in the same instrument to deliver the castle to him. (fn. 123) This intimate connexion between shire and castle must have had the incidental effect of providing the sheriff with a place of business.
In 1159 the sheriff was allowed for money spent upon a gaol. This is the earliest reference to such an allowance in the Pipe Roll for any county. A gaol at Salisbury is first expressly mentioned in 1165–6, when repairs to it were executed, no doubt in compliance with the Assize of Clarendon. (fn. 124) At the same time a gaol, not again mentioned, was built at Malmesbury. (fn. 125) In 1196–7 (fn. 126) and subsequently the gaol at Salisbury is referred to in terms which suggest, not unexpectedly, that it was something apart from the castle, and it is clear that in 1198–9 at all events castle and gaol were in separate custody. (fn. 127) There is a passing allusion to Marlborough gaol in 1194. (fn. 128) Devizes castle had served as a state prison since the 12th century, Robert of Normandy (fn. 129) and Hubert de Burgh (fn. 130) being its most notorious captives, but it was rarely used in early days for common felons.
Ela's withdrawal from the world happens to coincide almost exactly with the wholesale displacement of sheriffs and the introduction of stricter methods of accounting which marked the years 1236–7. (fn. 131) In addition to the farm an increment was now collected. It amounted to £100. (fn. 132) Berkshire's increment was 100 marks (fn. 133) and Hampshire's £60, (fn. 134) so Wiltshire was now rated above the former county and on about the same level as the latter. The increment is one of the outward signs of the sheriff's altered status; long before he had lost his higher judicial powers, he was now to lose his profits as well. The office therefore, though it provided some perquisites, was unlikely now to tempt a magnate, and with rare exceptions was occupied henceforth by a knight or gentleman of Wiltshire. For the next twenty years Robert of Huxham, Nicholas of Haversham, Nicholas de Lushill, William de Tinhead, and John de Vernon succeeded one another, and all of them had a territorial or at least a nominal connexion with the county. Thus Huxham held land in Alton Barnes, (fn. 135) Haversham in Compton Chamberlayne and Barford, (fn. 136) Lushill in the place from which he took his name, (fn. 137) and Vernon in Ridge. (fn. 138) A little more is known of Vernon than of some of his colleagues. He reached the sheriffdom after serving successively as coroner, keeper of the king's Wiltshire forests and escheator, (fn. 139) and he was the reputed founder of Longleat Priory. (fn. 140)
The reform movement, which the Provisions of Oxford (1258) precipitated, had as one consequence the re-organization of the sheriff's office. Henceforth sheriffs were to be loyal and experienced persons, of the rank of vavassor, with a territorial interest in their counties; and each was to hold office, ut custos, for one year only, and to receive an allowance for expenses. Such methods, it was thought, would eliminate royal servants who would consider the king's interest to the exclusion of all others, or self-seeking royal favourites, and, with them, oppression and venality. (fn. 141) The coming autumn saw a wholesale replacement of sheriffs, but, in August, well before this occurred, four knights were chosen in each county to inquire into local trespasses and bring their inquisition to Westminster. (fn. 142) The four Wiltshire knights were Henry Husee, Godfrey de Scudamore, William Husee of Kington, and Richard of Zeals. (fn. 143) Of these Scudamore, a member of an old Wiltshire family, was chosen sheriff in the Michaelmas Parliament, (fn. 144) and received an allowance of £20 a year. (fn. 145) He did not take over from Vernon, however, until Christmas, (fn. 146) and by the following Michaelmas Vernon was back in office. (fn. 147) From the standpoint of Vernon's character this is not without interest. The sheriffs of 1259–60 and 1260–1 were no longer royal nominees holding during pleasure as farmers, but were approved by a group of barons or by the barons of the Exchequer after election in the county court. (fn. 148) That Vernon should have come back suggests that he was as acceptable to the knights of the shire as he had been to the king. Indeed we know already that for twenty years the Wiltshire sheriff had been of the same type as the sheriffs desiderated at the Oxford Parliament.
By 1261, however, Vernon must have appeared a 'collaborationist' in Henry's eyes and he was replaced in July of that year in common with most of his colleagues throughout England, when the quasi-democratic system of shrieval appointment was destroyed. (fn. 149) Ralph Russell was then granted Wiltshire during pleasure. (fn. 150) He had held a fee in Wiltshire since 1227, (fn. 151) but his main interests were in Somerset, (fn. 152) and he was a household knight of the Abbot of Glastonbury. (fn. 153) He kept Wiltshire until 1264. (fn. 154) In 1261 baronial sheriffs were appointed in opposition to the king's nominees but the sheriff of Wiltshire was not among them, (fn. 155) perhaps because the knights of the shire recognized in Russell one of themselves. Russell was succeeded by Ralph de Aungers; so throughout the baronial opposition and the civil war Wiltshire was always in the hands of local men.
A few days after the meeting of the Oxford Parliament, in 1258, some twenty of the king's castles were transferred to new keepers. (fn. 156) Salisbury, which since Ela's departure had usually been held by the sheriffs in succession, (fn. 157) was among them. It was entrusted to Robert Walerand, the most active steward of the household and one of the royalists in the Council of Fifteen. (fn. 158) He held it until May 1260, and it was then transferred for fourteen months to Matthew de Columbers, a local squire (fn. 159) and possibly under-sheriff. (fn. 160) In July 1261 it was delivered, with the county, to Russell. (fn. 161) His wife was in residence in December 1261 but a separate constable was in charge. (fn. 162) Russell seems to have kept the nominal custody until he ceased to be sheriff. (fn. 163) Thereafter the castle was twice again committed to keepers who were not sheriffs, but after 1267 it seems to have been held, as a rule, by sheriffs or under-sheriffs. (fn. 164)
Under varying conditions Devizes castle had been in the hands of John du Plessis, Earl of Warwick since 1234. (fn. 165) The custody was not changed in 1258, but remained with Warwick until his death in 1263, when after a brief interval Henry gave it to Philip Basset the justiciar. (fn. 166) When Basset was forced out of that office he lost the castle with it to Hugh le Despenser, (fn. 167) but Hugh was killed at Evesham and the castle returned to Basset. (fn. 168) The castles of Marlborough and Ludgershall had long been part of Queen Eleanor's dowry, and had been in the administrative charge of Robert de Mucegros from 1235 (fn. 169) until his death in 1254. After a brief interval they were entrusted to Stephen Fromond in 1255. (fn. 170) He likewise was not removed in 1258 but retained the castles until 1261 when Walerand succeeded him. (fn. 171) Walerand kept them until September 1264 when, after the battle of Lewes, they were transferred to Henry Sturmy and Robert de Lisle in succession. (fn. 172)
Russell, who was one of Henry III's supporters, garrisoned Salisbury castle for the king in or shortly before June 1263. (fn. 173) In the autumn he reported that the 'rebels' were on the point of seizing it and that the people of the neighbourhood were disaffected. (fn. 174) The castle, however, was apparently not attacked, perhaps because Walerand, who in February 1264 had recently been in the castle once again, had filled it with his troops. (fn. 175) In April the people of Wiltshire were directed to support the sheriff in his renewed efforts to garrison the castle. (fn. 176) The garrison of Salisbury was among those which, after Lewes, were ordered to remain in their castles and not to disturb the peace. (fn. 177) In December, when Bristol was handed over to Montfort, Salisbury remained with the king and was appointed a place of refuge for the Bristol garrison. (fn. 178) The evidence, such as it is, suggests that throughout the baronial opposition the royal castles in Wiltshire were normally in the charge of the king's supporters. In general the county seems to have sided with the king. In the three hundreds for which inquests survive there were only three declared 'rebels' in 1265. (fn. 179) No doubt the local territorial interests of Basset helped to keep the people faithful, while the long-continued occupation of Devizes castle by du Plessis was at once a cause and a consequence of that fidelity.
The settlement reached after Evesham did not bring instant tranquillity and strenuous efforts were needed to achieve internal pacification. By Easter 1266 Henry de Montfort, of Farleigh Hungerford (Som.), a royal administrator, was acting as sheriff (fn. 180) and on 28 April Salisbury castle was committed to him. (fn. 181) On the same day he was appointed keeper of the peace in Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire. (fn. 182) Evidently his judicial duties were heavy, for on 30 May the castle was given back to Robert of Glastonbury (fn. 183) who had but just delivered it over, and Walerand and Richard de Mucegros, the second a son of the former keeper of Marlborough and Ludgershall, were associated with him as keepers of the peace. (fn. 184) Their commission was of wider scope but of shorter duration.
The next sheriff after Henry de Montfort was a stranger, (fn. 185) but he lasted for six months only. William le Dun (Mich. 1267–Feb. 1270) (fn. 186) followed him. Dun was a local man: in 1289 some lands in West Harnham were settled upon his relict, (fn. 187) and a person of his name was declared an idiot in 1311. (fn. 188) The next two sheriffs, Stephen de Edworth and Walter de Stirchley, were once again strangers—officials of the central government and the former a steward of the royal household. (fn. 189) Stirchley, the butt of the juries in 1275, was replaced at Michaelmas 1274—a time of wholesale dismissals (fn. 190)—by Hildebrand of London. (fn. 191) Hildebrand was the only sheriff in England, apart from sheriffs in fee, to escape removal in 1278, when the shrievalties were purged of 'foreigners'. (fn. 192) His family had long been settled in Wiltshire, (fn. 193) and no doubt his native blood saved him; he evidently died in office in 1281. (fn. 194) Of the nine sheriffs of Wiltshire who accounted at the Exchequer between the death of Hildebrand and the end of the reign, all but three, and possibly all but two, had a local connexion. The exceptions were John of Newburgh (1299–1301), John of Hartridge (1301–4), and Henry of Cobham (1304–5). The first of these was associated with Dorset and was knight of the shire for that county in 1307. (fn. 195) Hartridge was a gentleman of Berkshire. (fn. 196) It is not quite clear whether Cobham was the first Baron Cobham (d. 1339) or his uncle. (fn. 197) In either case the connexion is with Kent, though the elder had a park at Chisbury. Evidently the popular, and ultimately triumphant, demand for local men as sheriffs had practically been met in Wiltshire by 1307.
The sheriff kept his court at Wilton. In 1280 there was some agitation to move it to Devizes or Marlborough on the ground that these towns were on royal demesne, and that the Crown would ultimately profit by the influx of new settlers which would result from the removal of the court thither. It was urged in opposition that the removal would cause the king's town, castle and gaol of Old Salisbury to decay, (fn. 198) and the conservatives won the day.
There is not a great deal to be gathered about the Wiltshire sheriff's staff during this period. Only two persons are expressly called under-sheriffs. One of these, Henry de Shottesbrook, who was deputy to Stephen de Edworth (1270–2), was charged with many offences at the time of the Ragman Quest. (fn. 199) Amongst the all too familiar accusations of oppression a charge of a less usual kind stands out against him, for on various occasions he changed the venue of a hundred court: (fn. 200) he constrained the men of Swanborough hundred to meet in the hundred of Studfold, (fn. 201) and the men of Dunworth to meet at Rockley. (fn. 202) In fusing Swanborough and Studfold he seems only to have been playing his part in a sensible administrative reform, but it was hard upon the men of Dunworth to be forced to travel across the Plain, the Vale of Pewsey and the Marlborough Downs.
Shottesbrook was once called keeper of Salisbury castle. (fn. 203) In July 1261 Matthew de Columbers had surrendered that castle, with the county, to a newly appointed sheriff. (fn. 204) Eighteen months before he had accounted at the Exchequer in the sheriff's place. (fn. 205) These facts taken together suggest, though not conclusively, that he was in fact undersheriff, and, further, that it was sometimes deemed wise to link the under-sheriff's office with the constableship of the castle.
The names of at least five Wiltshire sheriff's clerks have survived from these days. Mainly they occur as accountants at the Exchequer (fn. 206) or wardrobe. (fn. 207) John de Upton appeared at Michaelmas 1261, Easter 1266, and Michaelmas 1267, so he at least was plainly a more or less permanent official, and not the personal nominee of an individual sheriff. It is interesting to find that one Richard, Vernon's clerk, took an inquisition in 1257–8. (fn. 208) Adam de Codford, another of Vernon's subordinates, was charged in 1268 with wrongful imprisonment and false accusation (fn. 209)—a solitary instance in Wiltshire of a charge of corruption being brought against a sheriff's clerk.
Lists of bailiffs, both of hundreds and of liberties, are appended to the rolls of the inquest of 1255 (fn. 210) and the eyres of 1281 and 1289. (fn. 211) We find also one reference to a sheriff's serviens, John of Cambridge, who in or before 1250 took an unlawful distress in the lands of Cirencester Abbey. (fn. 212)
It was one of the sheriff's duties to commit to the county gaol persons suspected of the more serious offences, unless they were inhabitants of liberties whose lords had prisons. Throughout the period the principal gaol remained in Salisbury castle, but at times other castles were pressed into service: Ludgershall between 1259–60 (fn. 213) and 1268, (fn. 214) Marlborough between 1238 (fn. 215) and 1305. (fn. 216) In 1265 there was even a prison, presumably a private one, at Mildenhall. (fn. 217) Devizes castle was being used between 1219 and 1242 (fn. 218) for the temporary detention of approvers and in 1283 (fn. 219) and 1288 (fn. 220) it harboured poachers. The Bishop of Salisbury and the burgesses of Wilton had prisons of their own. The bishop's prison first comes to notice in 1247; (fn. 221) the other is mentioned on sundry occasions between 1249 (fn. 222) and 1280. (fn. 223) It is not, of course, to be imagined that the sheriff had much to do with prisoners lodged outside Salisbury. Three Salisbury gaolers are known by name: William le Champiun who had held office in fee some time before 1249, (fn. 224) Lawrence who was killed by an escaped convict in or before 1268, (fn. 225) and Walter Comyn, who in 1280 beat a woman before the prison door. (fn. 226)
The coroner before 1307
The appointment of coroners throughout England was first made universal in 1194. In broadest terms the coroner's duty was to keep crown pleas, but that phrase is neither self-explanatory nor exhaustive. More specifically, coroners were required to attend at a gaol or in the county court and there take and record appeals, including the appeals of approvers. They took abjurations of the realm. They had, as now, to inquire into sudden deaths, to appraise and record the property of those indicted of felony upon their inquisitions and to value deodands. From the end of Henry III's reign they were normally present, though only in response to express orders, when inquisitions upon writs de odio et atia were taken, and on many other occasions they acted, when directed, as the sheriff's assistants or deputies.
The first Wiltshire coroners whose names survive are Hugh le Druce and Robert de Huxham, who were nominated by the Crown in 1223; (fn. 227) they were not elected, as one would have expected, in the county court. Between that time and 1304 we have the names of 35 other persons who probably if not certainly held the office. In 1268 and 1289 three were serving together, in 1281 four. (fn. 228) Nearly all these coroners are easily identifiable as knights or gentlemen of the county. Three rose to be sheriffs. Huxham passed directly to that office in 1237; (fn. 229) Vernon lost his coronership on becoming keeper of the king's forest in Wiltshire in 1250 (fn. 230) and was appointed sheriff in 1255; (fn. 231) Richard de Combe was successively coroner (fn. 232) and sheriff in 1289. In three instances there are signs that the coronership was looked upon as hereditary or at least as the perquisite of certain families—a tendency which has also been noticed in the next century. (fn. 233) Richard Pypard who took office some time after 1256 was dead before 1268, but in the latter year Roger Pypard was coroner in his place. (fn. 234) Hugh, Robert, William, and Stephen Druce all held the office in the 13th century, (fn. 235) and Stephen, amoved in 1297, (fn. 236) is declared to have been William's son. (fn. 237) John of Langford was coroner ante 1275; (fn. 238) W. de Langeford ante 1304; (fn. 239) another John of Langford in 1325–6. (fn. 240)
Only ten coroners in this period are named in writs de coronatore eligendo. The alleged grounds for a new election are death thrice, (fn. 241) sickness once, (fn. 242) blindness and old age once, (fn. 243) amoval at the eyre once, (fn. 244) and non-residence once. (fn. 245) In two other instances promotion to another office can be proved (fn. 246) or inferred. (fn. 247) This leaves 25 coroners who were apparently replaced without motion from the Chancery, though the writs may of course have escaped enrolment. There are no true instances in this period of coroners continuing to act after the writ had issued, (fn. 248) though once it was issued twice. (fn. 249)
It would be interesting if we could detect the existence at this time of embryonic coroners' districts. The only evidence comes from the presentments of the jurors of Chippenham foreign hundred in the eyre of 1281. (fn. 250) We know that between 1268 and 1281 seven coroners held office, (fn. 251) but only four of them acted in this hundred and never more than two in the same regnal year. Between 1277 and 1281 Richard Cotel was the only coroner to hold inquests here. Much of the coroner's work was urgent and if a coroner was not fairly close to the scene of a fatality it is unlikely that he would have been called upon.
While the proper function of the coroner was to keep crown pleas, we find the Wiltshire coroner of the 13th century occasionally holding tenurial inquisitions after the deaths of tenants in chief. Stephen de Melleford took such inquisitions in 1258 (fn. 252) and Geoffrey de Morley in 1275. (fn. 253) On the first of these occasions an escheator should have been available.
The escheator before 1275
The year 1232 saw the establishment of a nation-wide network of county escheatries or sub-escheatries, (fn. 254) subordinated at first to a single national escheator and after 1234 to two. Reynold of Calne and William Gerebert were appointed to the local office in Wiltshire. (fn. 255) Both seem to have been local men. It is of interest that in 1235 they were made collectors of a feudal aid, (fn. 256) an assignment for which their duties as escheators would have equipped them very well.
Perhaps these county escheatries did not last long. In Wiltshire at any rate the sheriff was handling the escheats again in 1243. (fn. 257) In 1246 a new system began, when Henry of Wingham, then a king's clerk but eventually chancellor, was appointed to act in each county with a local colleague. (fn. 258) Wingham was made escheator south of Trent shortly after this, (fn. 259) but retained his local office. (fn. 260) Similarly John le Moyne appointed to the same national office in 1268 (fn. 261) was called sub-escheator in Wiltshire in 1269 (fn. 262) and in 1274 the escheator south of Trent took a Wiltshire inquisition. (fn. 263) Thus it seems that until 1275, when the escheats throughout England were recommitted to sheriffs, a national and a local escheator acted jointly in Wiltshire. To the purely local Wiltshire escheators there are many references. In the inquiries of 1275 no fewer than ten are mentioned, though they can hardly have held office together. They were mainly men of the same stamp as the sheriffs and coroners. Indeed two escheators subsequently became sheriff (fn. 264) and one a coroner. (fn. 265) There are also hints of a tendency towards hereditary office, if William of Calne, who was escheator between 1256 (fn. 266) and 1263, (fn. 267) may be taken as a descendant of Reynold.
The escheator was usually sole president of his jury of inquest. In 1262, however, he acted on one occasion with the sheriff and a coroner, (fn. 268) and in 1263 with the sheriff alone. (fn. 269) These perhaps were not ordinary inquisitions post mortem, though they are certainly concerned with tenures. In 1272 the escheator was joined with 'other trustworthy men' in taking an inquisition. (fn. 270) In 1274 four inquisitions, all after the death of the same tenant in chief, were taken before a Wiltshire sub-escheator and the clerk of the escheator south of Trent. (fn. 271) An inquisition was once (1275) taken without an escheator being present at all; a coroner was the presiding officer. (fn. 272)
In 1265 there were appointed in each county two persons to inquire with the sheriff into 'rebels" lands. (fn. 273) In Wiltshire one of these was William of Calne, the escheator, (fn. 274) though whether he was commissioned qua escheator or because his experience fitted him for the post can hardly be established.
There is nothing to suggest that the escheators or sub-escheators divided the county into districts. In 1270 Cotel ranged from Castle Combe in the north-east to West Dean in the south-west. In 1272 Eustace de la Hull took inquisitions at Hartham (in Corsham) and at Alvediston in the far south. An escheator's work was not urgent and he could travel over the county at leisure.
Under the Norman kings justice in civil and criminal actions was done mostly in the local courts, in the seignorial courts of lords, and in the courts of the hundred and shire, the last presided over by the sheriff or by a specially appointed county justice. (fn. 275) Henry I made use of visitations by his trusted servants mainly for criminal matters but there is no evidence that such visitations were regular. So in the one surviving Pipe Roll from his reign we find that some years before 1130 Ralph Basset had held pleas for (though not necessarily in) Wiltshire and that subsequently 'pleas of robbers' had been held. (fn. 276) For 1130 itself, however, the sheriff accounted for murder fines from six hundreds and these had been imposed by local not visitatorial courts. (fn. 277) The same pattern is apparent for the earlier Pipe Rolls of Henry II. Probably in 1154 Henry of Essex, the constable, had held pleas for many counties including Wiltshire (fn. 278) but for some years thereafter all the revenue from criminal justice seems to have arisen from proceedings in local courts. (fn. 279)
In 1166 Henry II promulgated the Assize of Clarendon, directed against murderers, robbers, and thieves who on indictment by hundred juries were to be tried by ordeal. (fn. 280) But it is still far from certain that the criminal actions classified as pleas of the crown were thenceforward reserved for trial by visitation of royal justices, instead of being determined by the sheriff. The revenue arising from the next visitation in Wiltshire, conducted by Reynold de Warenne and John Cusin about 1170, seems to have arisen from a little civil litigation by the new possessory assize of novel disseisin and from the trial of indicted felons rather than from a general visitation for all crown pleas. (fn. 281) Moreover when, in 1170, a searching inquiry was ordered into the conduct of sheriffs and other local officials, the holding of crown pleas is not mentioned as a possible offence. It can be argued that it was after this Inquest, in those counties which had received a sheriff who was a trusted and experienced royal servant, that the practice arose of leaving the trial of common pleas to visitatorial courts. The preliminary stages of such pleas were carried out before local officers and in local courts; before the serjeant or bailiff of the hundred and the sheriff in the hundred or county courts, or, if the deed had been committed in an exempt liberty, before its court or officials. The appellor, appellees or other accused, finders of corpses or treasure, witnesses, neighbours, and the like were then gaoled, bailed, or attached, as appropriate, to appear before the king's justices when next they came to the county.
Revenue arising from both civil and criminal pleas heard in the course of judicial visitations of Wiltshire are entered on the Pipe Rolls for 1175, (fn. 282) 1176, (fn. 283) 1178, (fn. 284) 1180, (fn. 285) 1182, (fn. 286) 1185, (fn. 287) 1186, (fn. 288) 1188, (fn. 289) 1189, (fn. 290) 1191, (fn. 291) and 1193. (fn. 292) There are grounds for the belief that not all these visitations were equally extensive in scope, that is to say that in some instances the justices, while holding all crown pleas, may have entertained only such civil pleas grounded on royal writs as concerned tenements below a certain value. On the Pipe Roll for 1195 are recorded the issues of an eyre (fn. 293) known to have taken place in the autumn of 1194, which, although less noteworthy from a fiscal standpoint than those of 1189 and 1193, is memorable because its roll survives. It is the earliest such record now preserved and has long been in print. (fn. 294) Apparently the justices in this eyre were not concerned with the trial of felons indicted under the code established by the Assizes of Clarendon and Northampton. In the following year, however, another eyre was held which seems to have been devoted almost wholly to that business, (fn. 295) and from 1195 there are the eyres in which justices hear all pleas or writs appointed to come before them and all pleas of the crown which were undetermined in or which had arisen since the last eyre. These crown pleas were or should have been kept by the newly appointed coroners. (fn. 296)
Eyres of the fullest description, which during the 13th century became known as eyres for the common pleas, ad omnia placita, were held for Wiltshire in 1198 and 1202. Such visitations were abandoned by King John from 1208 and only revived again in 1218 with the re-establishment of order after the close of the civil war. Although Wiltshire was then included in the programme and included again when that visitation was completed in 1221, no eyre was in fact held in the county until 1227. Thenceforth eyres were held in Wiltshire in 1236, 1241, 1249, 1256, 1268, 1281, and 1289. An eyre was also appointed to be held in 1263 but was reduced to a mere session for the civil pleas of the circuit owing to the threat of civil war. Records survive from only five of these eyres. (fn. 297)
The justices always sat first in the county court at Wilton. In 1236 they were directed to go to Marlborough afterwards, and in 1249, 1256, 1268, 1281, and 1289 they are known to have sat there. In 1249, 1268, 1281, and 1289 they are known to have sat at New Salisbury as well. (fn. 298) In 1289 one of the justices and the Abbot of Battle's steward sat at Bromham to hold a special eyre for the abbot's liberty under the abbey's charter of 1220. The Marlborough session of 1236 was designed for pleas, presumably both civil and criminal, arising in the 'manors' of Marlborough and Ludgershall. So far as crown pleas are concerned, the Marlborough session of 1281 was confined to the borough and barton of Marlborough, Ludgershall and Cadworth hundred, that of 1289 to the borough and barton of Marlborough and Ludgershall. At the Salisbury sessions of 1281 crown pleas of the city and Branch hundred, at that of 1289 crown pleas of Old and New Salisbury were brought before the justices. The civil business disposed of by the justices sitting in other Wiltshire towns than Wilton was not confined to pleas relating to those towns. (fn. 299)
Early assizes and gaol deliveries
It was said above that some judicial visitations under Henry II appear to have been restricted in their scope, the justices who held them being concerned only with taking possessory assizes, trying those indicted under the Assizes of Clarendon and Northampton, and delivering gaols. After 1194 this belief becomes a certainty; issues for such sessions in Wiltshire appear, for example, on the Pipe Rolls of 1196, (fn. 300) 1206, (fn. 301) 1207 (fn. 302), and 1210. (fn. 303) From the beginning of Henry Ill's reign, when commissions for all kinds of judicial visitation begin to be enrolled in Chancery, visitations of the restricted kind in question seem to have been made under general commissions for taking outstanding possessory assizes and delivering gaols. The last occasion when such commissions were used for the country as a whole was in 1225, and in Wiltshire the senior judge of the Bench (Pateshull) and four knights of the county sat at Wilton in September. (fn. 304)
After the normal machinery of government had been re-established about 1217, and apparently in pursuance of article 18 of Magna Carta, it became customary to commission four local knights (fn. 305) to take possessory assizes arraigned by suitors. During the period 1220 to 1238, 40 such commissions have been noticed for Wiltshire. (fn. 306) The commissioners were invariably local men, who may easily be recognized as holding or as having held local office. Until 1225 the place at which these 'four justices' were appointed to sit was always Wilton. In 1226 the appointed place was once Malmesbury and once Marlborough; in 1231 it was twice Devizes, once Wilton, and once Salisbury castle; after 1235 it varied greatly, but was most commonly Devizes and Wilton.
Gaols were similarly delivered by four local knights, often the same men as were being commissioned for assizes. The first such commission for the delivery of Old Salisbury gaol dates from November 1236, (fn. 307) sixteen years later than the earliest known examples of this type of commission. (fn. 308) Perhaps so long as the Longespees were at the castle, they appointed their own justices to deliver the gaol. The 'four justices' of 1236, who were also appointed to try a petty assize at Devizes in the following August, (fn. 309) were Reynold of Calne, Hamon of Beckhampton, Richard de Haselden, and William of Durnford. The first had already been an assize commissioner on many occasions and was escheator in 1232. Beckhampton had been an assize commissioner in 1225 and 1229 and a coroner in 1232, and Haselden still held that office in 1236. Similar commissions to four knights were issued in 1237, 1242, 1244, 1246, and 1247, that for 1242 being for the delivery of the gaol at Marlborough; (fn. 310) and such commissions continued to be issued throughout the reign of Henry III.
While the 'four knights' took most of the possessory assizes between 1220 and 1240, some commissions were also issued to justices of the central courts. The usual plan was to commission either two in association or a single justice with power to choose his colleagues locally. In the autumn of 1232 and the spring of 1233, for example, Wiltshire assizes were to be brought before William de Ralegh, a justice of the Bench. (fn. 311) From about 1242 such commissioners practically ousted the 'four knights', but knights and gentlemen continued to be associated with the professional lawyers as their chosen colleagues. There were as yet no fixed circuits, for the justices were usually commissioned for counties in which they held lands or benefices or through which they would pass on the way to Westminster after visiting their lay or spiritual possessions. Assizes were normally taken in vacation at places agreeable to suitors, jurors and justices.
Many such assize sessions were held in Wiltshire during the last 30 years of Henry III's reign—too many indeed for close analysis. A few examples may, however, be given. Between 1250 and 1257 the great Bracton, whose main sphere of activity was Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, (fn. 312) visited Wiltshire at least three times. He was at Chapmanslade (in Westbury) in April 1252 (fn. 313) and at Marlborough in June (fn. 314) and October (fn. 315)1254. When at Chapmanslade he sat with the sheriff. On his first visit to Marlborough he sat with two persons, one of whom was Alexander of Cheverell, an escheator in 1250 (fn. 316) and perhaps still in office. On his second visit he sat with Nicholas de Barbeflet, keeper of Savernake forest. (fn. 317) Nicholas de Turri, a justice coram rege, who held the Glastonbury rectory of Grittleton, sat at Chippenham in 1258 with the Abbot of Stanley and in 1262 with Wiltshire knights. (fn. 318) He sat again at Stanton St. Quintin in 1263 with the Abbot of Malmesbury and the Prior of Hullavington. (fn. 319) Martin de Littlebury, a justice of the Bench, who held a Salisbury canonry, sat at Old and New Salisbury on many occasions in 1267–8 and 1272. (fn. 320) Adam de Grenville, late keeper of Selwood forest, all of whose rolls are preserved for the period 1267–72, (fn. 321) visited the county at least once in each of those years. He met suitors at various places, among them Bradford, Devizes, Malmesbury, Salisbury, Trowbridge, Warminster, and Westbury—once even at the 'leaden cross' in Colerne.
The sheriff and his subordinates after 1307
In the later Middle Ages the sheriffs throughout England lost ground to the keepers and justices of the peace and to bodies of special commissioners. Their duties, however, remained important, if not attractive. The office of sheriff was supposed to be an annual one after 1340. (fn. 322) This requirement was certainly not complied with in Wiltshire. Between 1341 and 1360 there were only eleven separate appointments, two of which were ineffective. In the century after 1360 eight sheriffs served for more than a year, even without reckoning one or two instances where a man ran over that term by a few months only. Henry Sturmy served six years (1360–6), Walter de Haywode five (1366– 71), the others for shorter periods. Sir John Salesbury was appointed in 1385 for life but his tenure of office lasted only two and a half years. It was not in fact until 1463, the year of Sir Roger Tocotes's appointment, that the office became lastingly annual. (fn. 323)
A second and even a third term as sheriff was by no means uncommon. In 14th-century Wiltshire there were some fifteen examples of this phenomenon. In the first 30 years of the 16th century reappointments were even commoner, for eleven of the sheriffs of that generation held office more than once. Whether these reappointments imply that the office was popular, or, on the other hand, that it was difficult to find suitable occupants, is a question hard to answer.
The sheriff's judicial functions remained of consequence at least until 1461 when he lost the right to arrest and to levy amercements. Of those functions there is not much evidence in Wiltshire; rolls or books of tourns exist only for 1439, (fn. 324) 1502, (fn. 325) and 1511. (fn. 326) Nevertheless, from the late 13th century he held his tourns regularly in all the royal hundreds and in all those private hundreds into which he had entry. Hocktide (April and May) and Martinmas (October and November) were, with rare exceptions, the seasons for these half-yearly visitations, in the course of which royal and private hundreds were visited indiscriminately in any order that convenience dictated. (fn. 327) At the courts of 1439 misdemeanours and nuisances were presented, cases of close-breach and cattle-theft were heard. The county court of course continued to sit. While there is no formal record of its proceedings a roll of amercements levied in 1450–1 survives. (fn. 328)
Apart from collecting the farm, the sheriff had a multitude of administrative duties. Responsibility for maintaining Salisbury castle long remained one of them. Between 1308 (fn. 329) and 1371 (fn. 330) orders were repeatedly issued to him to repair the castle, its houses and mills. In 1339 (fn. 331) and 1360 (fn. 332) he had to arrange for it to be garrisoned. In the 15th century the castle ceased to be of importance either for defence or as a residence and a specially appointed gaoler took effective charge of its surviving inmates. Another special duty of the sheriff of Wiltshire was the oversight of Clarendon palace and park. Orders for the repair of buildings are not infrequent between 1319 (fn. 333) and 1358 (fn. 334) and expenditure upon the park, the beasts and the park-keeper's house continues until 1361. (fn. 335) Clarendon remained in use in the following century, but whether the sheriff had any special responsibility for it is uncertain. Many miscellaneous functions also fell to the sheriff. Some he shared with his fellow sheriffs, such as requisitioning provisions (1312), (fn. 336) inquiring into the state of the coinage (1320), (fn. 337) or purveying bacons (1355) (fn. 338) or bows and arrows (1359, 1371, 1418). (fn. 339) Some were peculiar to himself. Thus in 1351 he had to muster labourers to enclose Queen Isabel's park at Fasterne. (fn. 340) It is perhaps indicative of the decline in his administrative responsibilities that when further works had to be done at Fasterne in 1362 and 1363, the hiring of labourers was put into the hands of commissioners. (fn. 341)
From the end of the 13th to the beginning of the 16th century there were but two Wiltshire gaols in regular use—at Old and at New Salisbury. Devizes castle was indeed occupied not only by state prisoners but sometimes by venison trespassers (fn. 342) and even by suspect felons. (fn. 343) For the present purpose, however, it may be ignored. The gaol at New Salisbury was ordered to be delivered as early as 1278–9 (fn. 344) and seems to have been in pretty constant use (not merely for the citizens of Salisbury) (fn. 345) until 1410 when it is for the last time named in a gaol delivery roll. (fn. 346) In 1400 it was in the city Guildhall, (fn. 347) and may well have been there for close on a century. We must assume that it was the same as the bishop's prison, which continues to be mentioned until 1456. (fn. 348) In 1421 we begin to hear of the gaol of Fisherton Anger, just beyond the Avon which formed the city boundary, and the record expressly declares that it was in the sheriff's custody. (fn. 349) In 1487 its keeping, with the constableship of Salisbury castle, was granted to Sir Thomas Melbourne. (fn. 350) His successor, appointed in 1492, received the gaol alone. (fn. 351) References to the gaol in Old Salisbury castle continue, however, until 1508, when it was, it would seem, delivered for the last time. (fn. 352) In 1512 justices begin to be commissioned to deliver Fisherton Anger gaol (fn. 353) and afterwards whenever the Wiltshire common gaol is mentioned it is localized at Fisherton. Salisbury castle cannot in any event have afforded any security after 1514, for in that year it was granted as building materials to Thomas Compton. (fn. 354) The best conclusion that can at present be drawn is that from 1421 to 1492 there were gaols both at Old Salisbury and at Fisherton but that by 1508 at the latest Fisherton had entirely superseded Old Salisbury.
In the earlier 14th century, as we must suppose, the sheriff was the constable of Salisbury castle and the keeper of the prisoners within it. From 1382, however, the Crown began to fill these joint offices by a succession of royal servants, some of them comparatively humble, appointed for life. (fn. 355) This arrangement continued until 1492 when Henry Uvedale, a sewer of the chamber, was made keeper of the county gaol alone. (fn. 356) In 1447 an attempt was made to separate the custodies of castle and gaol after the death of the then constable, John Chitterne, by granting the castle, then in decay, to John Stourton and recommitting the prisoners to the sheriff. (fn. 357) This separation was not realized, and Chitterne's actual successor, John Nayler, (fn. 358) though not named as keeper of the gaol, was so acting in 1459. (fn. 359) The keepers customarily enjoyed £5 a year out of the issues of Wiltshire. (fn. 360)
These constables and keepers exercised, latterly by the very terms of their patents, a power of deputation. One of these under-constables, John Holmes, is something more than a name. When the King's Bench came to Salisbury in 1384 (fn. 361) he was presented not only for several escapes but for refusing to receive a suspect thief. He pleaded in excuse that he employed John Gunnyld to keep the castle gate and do other things that belonged to the constable's office; that the reeve and men of the hundred who brought the thief summoned Gunnyld outside the castle gate to receive their charge; but that Gunnyld perceiving the thief to be fortem et malivolum felonieque repletum asked his captors to bring him within the castle where he would receive him gratis. This the reeve and his companions refused to do, so the thief escaped to the church of St. Thomas in the city below. Holmes was also charged with shackling four of his prisoners and keeping them in the stocks on 14 December 1383, so that each died from exposure to the cold. It is not possible to establish the truth of these allegations. Holmes was released on bail and in the end pleaded a pardon, which he secured in 1399, of all felonies, except murder and rape, committed since the preceding January. (fn. 362) This in itself suggests that he was a somewhat disreputable character. In 1397 he pleaded guilty to the charge of refusing to receive, without a fee of 3s., a man from Wilton (in Grafton) who had been brought to the castle in 1391. The tithingman of Wexcombe, who brought the felon, declined to pay the fee and left his prisoner bound hand and foot outside the castle gate. Naturally he escaped. (fn. 363) In 1392, shortly after this offence for which he made fine in 40s., Holmes had been replaced by Richard Bokyngham, who was also found to have suffered sundry prisoners to escape and furthermore to have consorted with a forger. (fn. 364)
We may suppose that in the 14th century there was a small community of prison officers and other shire officials in and about Salisbury castle. When in June 1394 a weaver of Chitterne, indicted before two coroners, stood mute, a jury of twelve ministri gaole et alii vicini was at once empanelled and found that he suffered from no infirmity but had that day spoken with some of the ministri. (fn. 365) The names of the jurors, which are given in the roll, perhaps furnish the earliest directory of the minor county officials of Wiltshire. John Cole, a coroner, is indeed the only one who can be so identified, but one of the others, John Wolf, was a bailiff of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 366)
That the sheriff continued to enjoy the assistance of an under-sheriff and sundry clerks there can be no doubt. Their names and actions, however, are hard to trace. John of Cannings was under-sheriff before 1359 when a commission was set up to inquire into his iniquities. (fn. 367) He had been a hundred bailiff and in 1352 a deputy of the justices of labourers in the hundred of Highworth and Cricklade. (fn. 368) In 1335 Gilbert of Yatesbury, parson of Rowde, was acting as sheriff's clerk when he was killed by a group of malefactors who broke out of Salisbury gaol. (fn. 369) William More, who had been bailiff to John Moigne when sheriff in 1394–5, was prosecuted in Chancery for the alleged detention from the Exchequer of a relief paid by Edward Cerne upon his lands in Dray cote. (fn. 370) John Stone was receiver of the king's writs in Thomas Bonham's time (1395–6). (fn. 371)
Between 1328 and 1422 we have the names of eight men who held the office of bailiff errant. (fn. 372) Whether there was more than one such officer at a time cannot certainly be said, but between 1361 and 1399 it is possible to trace the descent of the office from holder to holder and during that period there is no evidence of more officers than one. The first two Wiltshire bailiffs errant were local men appointed during pleasure; upon one of them responsibility to the sheriff was specifically enjoined. (fn. 373) After 1361 the offices were granted for life to the king's servants, for here as in the case of the constables of Salisbury castle, the king found local offices a useful means of rewarding personal service.
The names of the bailiffs of the various royal hundreds are less easily recovered. The triple hundred of Rowborough, Swanborough, and Studfold is, however, an exception. This very large hundred, or group of hundreds, worth in 1291–2 roughly three times as much as any of the other twelve hundreds into which the sheriff had ingress, (fn. 374) could obviously be made a source of profit to its bailiff or bedel. Accordingly we find it treated from quite early times as an object of royal patronage. In 1270, after it had been established that the men of the hundreds commonly gave the bedel of grace 20s. yearly, (fn. 375) Henry III took the office out of the sheriff's hands and gave it to John of Cannings, a yeoman of the butlery, to hold at a quit rent. (fn. 376) By 1331 John de Roches was holding the office on a seven-year tenure, (fn. 377) which by 1334 had been converted into a life grant. (fn. 378) In 1381 it was granted to John Ansell of Lavington, (fn. 379) who at the session of the King's Bench at Salisbury in 1384 was charged with extortion on various counts, on all of which he was acquitted. (fn. 380) In 1386 he was replaced by William Bayford, a king's serjeant, in the mistaken belief that he was dead, (fn. 381) but was restored to office in 1389. (fn. 382)
Before such bailiffs and stewards, whether of royal hundreds or of private hundreds or liberties, many suspects were indicted to stand their trial before the justices of gaol delivery. In the thirties of the 14th century offenders were also being indicted before the constables of hundreds, sometimes called constables of the peace. It has been suggested that constables acting in this capacity may have taken over the functions of keepers and under-keepers of the peace (fn. 383)—such men for example as Nicholas Cope and John Smart, under-keepers of the peace in 'Bradelegh' in 1309 or thereabouts, (fn. 384) or John de Hampcote and John de Scures, keepers of the peace of the Winchester temporalities, in 1334. (fn. 385) Of the early 14th-century constables themselves, whose quasi-judicial activities in other counties are no novelty, (fn. 386) there are nine Wiltshire instances, all coming from the thirties. Two acted in the Bishop of Salisbury's liberty of New Salisbury, (fn. 387) two in the Abbot of Glastonbury's hundred of Damerham, (fn. 388) and three in the Abbess of Wilton's hundred of Chalke. (fn. 389) Nor had their usefulness in this direction been exhausted by the sixties, for in the royal hundred of Cadworth (fn. 390) and the private hundred of Kinwardstone constables (fn. 391) were still so acting.
The coroner after 1307
We have the names of some 120 persons who between 1303 and 1449 either exercised the office of coroner in Wiltshire or had been elected to it. Twenty-three of these, and perhaps more, were borough coroners and two were the coroners of liberties. (fn. 392) Only four of the Wiltshire boroughs had coroners of their own—New Salisbury, Wilton, Marlborough, and Devizes—and in each one of them, except Devizes, two persons normally held the office together. There were already coroners in Salisbury and Marlborough by 1249, (fn. 393) but at Wilton and Devizes the earliest occurrences noted date from 1346 (fn. 394) and 1382–3 (fn. 395) respectively. Devizes secured its coroner by charter of 1381, (fn. 396) the other boroughs apparently exercising the franchise of election by prescription. Strictly speaking it is only with the county coroners that we are here concerned. In issuing its writs de coronatore eligendo, however, the Chancery does not seem to have distinguished between the coroners of county and borough; all were the king's coroners. It may therefore be that some of those who have, in default of evidence to the contrary, been classed as county coroners, in fact operated within a more restricted area. There is also an instance of a borough coroner acting outside his bailiwick, for in 1361 Robert Sireman, then coroner in Wilton, took an inquest at Salisbury castle. (fn. 397)
Writs de coronatore eligendo are of course an indifferent source for collecting coroners' names; they are not letters of appointment but authorities for replacement. Those whom they declare to have died or to have been removed, though elected, may never have acted. Besides this not all coroners secured a mention in such writs after their death or amoval; nor were all writs enrolled. Twenty county coroners, five borough coroners, and a franchise coroner, all known to have been active, escaped such mention and their names come from the beginning and end of the period alike. (fn. 398) It is only when we have evidence independent of the writs that we may be tolerably certain that a particular person was active as a coroner. Such evidence exists in respect of only 50 per cent. of the names that have been collected.
The writs therefore must be used cautiously. They are not, however, to be ignored. For the chosen period writs de coronatore eligendo were issued for the replacement of 108 persons, whether in the county or in a borough. In some instances more than one name is comprised in a single writ. Moreover there are fifteen coroners after whose death or amoval two writs, not always assigning the same cause, were issued and in two instances such writs were issued thrice. The reasons for this will be later examined; at present we are but analysing the assigned causes. In 12 cases no cause is assigned at all. In 35 the cause was death. Of the causes of amoval 26 were specified as insufficient qualification—a vague phrase which may comprise more specific causes; 17 were due to age and infirmity, 7 to pressure of other business (including the king's own), and 4 to a lack of sufficient lands in the county. Two men were simply described as unfit, I was blind, 1 living in the uttermost border of Wiltshire (fn. 399) and 1 in Berkshire, (fn. 400) and 1 was both insufficiently qualified and too busy. William Lilborne was amoved in or before 1319 because he was negligent and allowed corpses to stink (fetare) before he would do his office upon them. (fn. 401)
It is fairly certain that not all these causes were genuine ones. Thus William Besyles was declared in a writ of 1405 to have been amoved for infirmity and in another writ of ten years later to have been too busy elsewhere to do his work in Wiltshire. (fn. 402) If both writs are meant to apply to the same person, one or other of the causes must have been inaccurately stated. An equally striking instance comes from 1348 when in the months of June and July two separate writs were issued for the replacement of John of Wraxall. In the first he was said to have no qualifying lands in Wiltshire; in the second to be infirm. (fn. 403) These discrepancies are to be attributed either to incompetence in the Chancery or to an inflexible determination to remove an unpleasing coroner: if he could not be shifted for one reason, another must be tried. Or perhaps sometimes the Crown was genuinely misinformed.
Nevertheless, even making allowance for these apparent inconsistencies, the causes assigned are worth studying. They suggest that the Crown kept watch upon the qualifications and efficiency of coroners. Perhaps indeed this watchfulness was rather fitful. Thus between 1320 and 1329 writs were issued in respect of 10 coroners; 1 of these writs (fn. 404) declared that no fewer than 3 persons elected were insufficiently qualified—a cause alleged also on two other occasions. In the decade 1350–9 (fn. 405) 11 replacements were ordered, and in that from 1390 to 1399 the same number. On the other hand there were only 7 replacements in the two decades between 1430 and 1449. Various causes might be assigned for the greater frequency of writs in the first three periods than in the fourth. Death from epidemics, however, does not seem to have been one of them, for replacements attributable to death are only 2 and 3 in the first and second respectively; in the third there was none. When we are confronted with such vague phrases as 'insufficiently qualified' or 'unfit' it is hard to know whether the true causes of amoval were administrative or what we should now call political, but the phrasing of some of the writs suggests that the promotion of efficiency or a desire to comply with the law could genuinely move the Crown. Moreover the grounds for amoval sometimes ring true. Nicholas Bonham, an active county coroner from at least 1362, (fn. 406) was replaced before 1377 because too much occupied with the king's other business. (fn. 407) In fact, he had been a knight of the shire since 1366, and was made a justice of the peace in the year in which the writ was issued. (fn. 408) In 1375 he had been made a commissioner to inquire into the sale of unsealed cloths. (fn. 409) Sir John Lilborne, whose replacement was ordered in 1393, (fn. 410) had been placed on the commission of the peace in 1389, (fn. 411) and was named in several subsequent ones. (fn. 412) William Baly's replacement was ordered in 1406 on the same ground; (fn. 413) he had been elected a parliamentary representative of Salisbury in that year. (fn. 414) Richard Spencer in 1397 and Richard Gater in 1431 were replaced because they were mayors of Salisbury, (fn. 415) allegations which other records confirm. (fn. 416)
The extent of local obedience to central precept varied a good deal. In 26 cases coroners who are known to have acted before their amoval never did so afterwards. We know, however, of three coroners who ignored the writs. Peter Testwood had been amoved for insufficiency before March 1338. (fn. 417) Nevertheless his roll covering the period 1340–1 survives. (fn. 418) Roger Stourton was in office in 1378–9. (fn. 419) If we may believe the words of the writ he had been amoved—for what reason is uncertain—by November 1387. (fn. 420) He was, however, still at work in 1390, 1391, 1393, and 1394. (fn. 421) In June 1396 another writ was issued declaring him to have been amoved because of infirmity. (fn. 422) Thomas Cricklade, like Peter Testwood, first comes to notice in a writ (1419) in which he was declared to be insufficiently qualified. (fn. 423) Another writ was issued in identical terms in 1421. (fn. 424) He was, however, still in office between the years 1423 and 1427. (fn. 425) Besides these three there are ten cases or so of coroners, or reputed coroners, whose names are known only from the writs, in respect of whom writs were issued more than once. On some occasions the reason may have been that an insufficient coroner established his sufficiency after his removal and was reinstated. This was clearly true of Adam of Poulshot. By March 1310 he had been amoved for unfitness, (fn. 426) but by April 1313 the writ had been superseded as the king had learned that he was then fit and sufficient. (fn. 427) Ralph le Long of Coulston provides a curious example of the same procedure. In 1329 he was twice amoved for unfitness and twice reinstated. (fn. 428) Such causes, however, cannot explain why writs in identical terms had to be issued in 1320 and 1332 for the appointment of a successor to Nicholas Heved, who is said to have died in or before the earlier year, (fn. 429) nor why John Wythorne, declared insufficient in a writ of 1424, should have had to be similarly stigmatized in one of 1428. (fn. 430) After the death of John Porter, a Devizes coroner, writs had to be issued three times. (fn. 431) Either the local court ignored the king's directions or the Chancery issued writs negligently.
Owing to the imperfection of the records it is hard to know how many Wiltshire county coroners held office at the same time. According to theory there should have been four in each county. (fn. 432) It seems, however, that six, if not seven, were in office together when the King's Bench came to Salisbury in 1384. (fn. 433) At any rate there were six coroners, not being coroners of a borough or liberty and not described as 'late' a coroner, whose rolls were then presented. There was also a seventh who presented no roll but who (like three of his colleagues who did so) was fined for extortion. While these seven may have coexisted, it does not follow that they were all concurrently active. The rolls of four of the six coroners who presented rolls still survive. (fn. 434) One of them, that of Peter Testwood, is dated 1340–1, which suggests that its owner had been inactive for 43 years. On the other hand the roll of the King's Bench was presumably made up outside Wiltshire by people ignorant of local conditions who may have allowed the word nuper to drop out of the record in certain instances. Moreover Testwood may have kept a succession of rolls of which a single early example survives.
While the coroners in 1384 seem to have been unconventionally numerous, the number actually working twenty years before was perhaps below the number which either custom or convenience demanded. The Wiltshire gaol delivery roll of 1366–72 (fn. 435) mentions fourteen cases in which persons were indicted or appealed before a coroner for offences none of which can have been committed before June 1364. Six of these indictments or appeals were before Nicholas Bonham and eight before Robert Blake. John Keevil began his roll in 1368–9, (fn. 436) but no one indicted before him came on this occasion before the justices on circuit. There is no positive evidence that any other county coroner was active at this time. John of Harnham was indeed at work until March 1365. (fn. 437) but was perhaps already in decline, for he is said to have died before December 1367. (fn. 438) If a similar analysis of gaol delivery rolls for other periods is made the same impression that the effective coroners were below the theoretical strength is received. In the rolls for 1331–5 (fn. 439) all the indictments on coroners' inquisitions had come up from three coroners, Peter Doygnel, Nicholas de Rolleston, and Robert Russell, although there is a single reference to Peter de la Hoese who took the deposition of an approver in 1333. A similar picture is presented by the gaol delivery rolls of 1388–98; (fn. 440) John Cole, Thomas Gore and Roger Stourton seem to have been the effective coroners. There is a single reference only to John Walrond who was exercising his office in June 1388, but by February 1391 had been amoved. (fn. 441) One final example may be taken. At the gaol deliveries of 1424–9 (fn. 442) there were only six indictments upon coroners' inquisitions and all but one of these were taken before Thomas Cricklade. It seems therefore permissible to conclude that though coroners may always have numbered four and sometimes exceeded that number, it was rare for as many as four to be active together at any time within the period. It is true that in 1449 four coroners certified an outlawry into Chancery but this was a piece of formal business. (fn. 443)
Judging from the account rendered by coroners past and present when the King's Bench sat at Salisbury in 1384, coroners now worked roughly by districts. (fn. 444) Peter Testwood (roll 1340–1) had collected deodands and the forfeited chattels of felons only from townships in the north-east of the county, in an area, in fact, of which the extreme points were Crudwell, Buryhill (in Purton), Bainton (in Edington), and Trowbridge. Similar evidence suggests that William de Whyteclyve (roll 1341–8) worked only in the south-west of the county in an area stretching from Melksham to Ludwell (in Donhead St. Mary) and from Urchfont to Stourton, though he seems to have made excursions to Salisbury and Downton. John Everard (roll 1341–54) worked mainly in the villages lying in the valleys of the Bourne, Avon, Till, Wylye, and Nadder. His area extended from Manningford Bohun to Downton and from West Wellow to Mere. He acted once as far away as Westwood. It was an area not too inconveniently covered from his home at Stratford-sub-Castle. (fn. 445) John Ansell (roll 1377–9), bedel of Swanborough, Rowborough, and Studfold hundreds, was active in the region of his bedelry alone, (fn. 446) and John Keevil (roll 1368–78) was mainly active in an area of which Market Lavington formed the most southerly and easterly points, Studley (in Calne) the most northerly, and Wingfield the most westerly. John Cole (ante 1380–4) worked in a roughly circular tract of land with Salisbury as its centre; (fn. 447) Brigmerston bounded it on the north, Winterslow on the east, Martin (now in Hants) on the south and Chicklade on the west. While this analysis shows that a coroner specialized in a particular area it may be doubted whether he rigidly confined his work to it. If the places in which those three near contemporaries, Testwood, Whyteclyve, and Everard, made their collections are plotted on a map one may be seen 'trespassing' into the area of the other. A study of their rolls confirms the impression. (fn. 448)
In the 14th century the Wiltshire coroner still retained some administrative functions, for between 1330 and 1360 a coroner was four times required to view dilapidations or works at Salisbury castle. (fn. 449)
Of the dozens of county coroners in this period no more than six sat as knights of the shire in Parliament, (fn. 450) only nine (fn. 451) sat on the commission of the peace, only four became sheriffs (fn. 452) and only two are expressly styled knights in writs de coronatore eligendo. (fn. 453) There are many undistinguished names in the list, particularly after the middle of the 14th century. But not a few coroners played a part at the lower levels of administration, especially as stewards of liberties and bailiffs of hundreds. Thus Adam of Poulshot, under-sheriff in 1307–8, was subsequently a coroner. (fn. 454) Robert le Bore, amoved from a coronership in 1322 for infirmity, (fn. 455) was steward of Warminster before March 1317 and apparently still steward in the thirties. (fn. 456) Walter Hungerford amoved in 1341 and 1346, (fn. 457) and Robert Russell, a coroner in 1334, (fn. 458) were both stewards of the Bishop of Salisbury's liberty about 1330; (fn. 459) Thomas Gore, coroner from 1378–9 until at least 1390, (fn. 460) was steward of the Abbess of Romsey before January 1360, (fn. 461) of the Prior of Farleigh in 1365 and 1367 (fn. 462) and of Dame Elizabeth Audley in 1394. (fn. 463) John Ansell, coroner in 1377–9, (fn. 464) was appointed to the bedelry of Rowborough, Swanborough, and Studfold hundreds in 1381. (fn. 465) Though amoved from his coronership for infirmity in 1397 (fn. 466) he seems to have been Lord Lovell's steward at Elcombe (in Wroughton) in 1400 or 1401. (fn. 467) Geoffrey of Warminster, a Salisbury city coroner in 1332, was Roger Bavent's steward in Stapleford at about the same time. (fn. 468)
Several county coroners sat in Parliament for borough constituencies. There are two apparent instances of this in the early 14th century, a third occurs in the thirties of that century and a fourth in the seventies. (fn. 469) These were presumably resident 'burgesses' in the strict sense, who did not scruple to exercise county office outside their boroughs. Between the nineties and the mid-15th century there were at least six other county coroners who represented Wiltshire boroughs in Parliament, and two of them sat for more than one borough constituency. (fn. 470) It is known that by the 15th century these constituencies were proving attractive to local lawyers, and this, together with the fact that two 15th-century coroners and perhaps a third were clerks of the peace, (fn. 471) suggests that the office at this time was one which lawyers liked to hold. Perhaps this had long been so, for some of the stewards of liberties, who had been associated with the coronership in earlier generations, must have been men of law.
The escheator after 1283
In 1283 the king's escheats were removed from the hands of the sheriffs and entrusted once again to two escheators, who were represented in the counties by deputies. The names of five of the Wiltshire sub-escheators have been noticed. (fn. 472) On two occasions they acted in conjunction with a king's clerk. (fn. 473)
In 1323 the two escheatries were replaced by eight, each consisting of a group of counties. Wiltshire was associated with Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire. The arrangement lasted until the accession of Edward III when the two grand escheatries were restored. (fn. 474) It might have been thought that the escheators would have taken custody of and managed the lands of the Contrariants who in 1322 forfeited their property for their adherence to Thomas of Lancaster. These lands, however, were entrusted instead to specially appointed keepers. The Wiltshire keeper was Robert of Hungerford, formerly one of Lancaster's bailiffs, (fn. 475) who was appointed in 1322 to keep these lands not only in Wiltshire, but in London and Middlesex, Berkshire, and Hampshire as well. (fn. 476) In 1324 he was apparently reappointed as keeper in Hampshire and Wiltshire only; (fn. 477) certainly in that year he lost Berkshire. (fn. 478) He was discharged of his surviving functions in 1327 when the lands of the Lancastrian party were restored in return for aid against the Despensers. (fn. 479)
In 1332 the group system of county escheatries was revived. (fn. 480) During the interval between 1327 and 1332 the escheatry south of Trent had been in the hands of Robert Seliman, and he it was who became escheator in the Wiltshire group in 1332. (fn. 481) He is of some interest in our story, because he was himself a Wiltshireman—a knight of the shire in 1326–7 and 1337, (fn. 482) a keeper of the peace between 1327 and 1344. (fn. 483)
In 1335–6 the group escheatries once again gave place to the grand escheatries, which lasted until 1341. (fn. 484) These grand escheators no doubt always employed their local agents, and the name of one of these who was serving in Wiltshire in 1341 has been preserved. (fn. 485) In 1341 a system of single county escheatries was established and lasted until 1355. In this period in Wiltshire the same man always held the shrievalty and the escheatorship with the reservation that Robert Russell, who was replaced as escheator in October 1350, remained sheriff until October 1351. The single-county escheatries in their turn were superseded by a new group system in 1357, when Wiltshire was reunited with Berkshire, Hampshire, and Oxfordshire. In 1377 Berkshire and Oxfordshire were dropped, and thenceforth, except in 1400 and 1403–4 when they were separated, Hampshire and Wiltshire formed a united escheatry until in the 17th century the escheator's office lapsed. (fn. 486)
By the early-15th century the practice had begun of entrusting the conduct of inquisitions post mortem to two or more commissioners. Thus in December 1408 John Daveys (fn. 487) and John Fray were instructed to inquire after the death of Sir John Tucket; in February 1409 Thomas Bonham and John Bernard likewise inquired after that of Sir Hugh Berwick; (fn. 488) and in the following May a similar commission directed to six persons, of whom only three acted, (fn. 489) was issued after the death of William Wroughton. (fn. 490) Other tenurial inquiries, not strictly of the nature of inquisitions post mortem, were entrusted to commissioners at this time. In 1410 Sir William Sturmy and two other persons were directed to ascertain the lands that John Dun held in Wiltshire in Richard II's time with the circumstances of and the sequel to that tenant's expulsion. (fn. 491) In 1418 four persons, three of them justices of the peace, were to find out what Wiltshire lands Sir John Oldcastle held jure uxoris at his forfeiture (fn. 492)—an inquiry which might more naturally have been made by the escheator virtute officii. In 1421 four persons were associated with the sheriff and escheator in an effort to establish whether a statement made in an inquisition after the death of Thomas, Earl of Arundel was accurate. (fn. 493)
That the escheators were not invariably wholly efficient guardians of the king's rights seems evident from the middle of the 14th century. In 1349 a king's clerk was ordered to extend the lands of the king's wards in eight western counties, of which Wiltshire was one. (fn. 494) Twice in 1365 commissioners of concealed lands in Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire were appointed. (fn. 495) In 1422 another such commission, addressed to the sheriffs and escheators in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Wiltshire and to three other persons, was issued. (fn. 496) These commissions were comparable in intention to the inquiries into concealments which characterize Henry VII's reign. (fn. 497) No such inquiries seem to have been conducted in Wiltshire in that reign, but in his successor's time there is record of at least two, one in 1515 concerned with concealed wardships and marriages (fn. 498) and the other in 1521 with concealed lands. (fn. 499) In each instance the work was done by a board of five.
The last few years of our period saw the appointment of the earliest feodaries, the escheators' successors in administering escheats and forfeitures, wardships and marriages. The first was Gregory Morgan appointed to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire in 1513. (fn. 500) Between 1511 and 1513 he was on the Wiltshire commission of the peace. (fn. 501) In 1514 John Ringwood is said to have been appointed feodary (fn. 502) in Hampshire and Wiltshire during pleasure, but he is also numbered among the escheators and is perhaps called feodary in error. In 1519 Robert Larder was appointed during pleasure feodary and receiver of crown lands in Wiltshire. (fn. 503)
The keepers and justices of the peace
In Montfort's time the practice was beginning of associating keepers of the peace with the sheriff as a means of preserving public order in the counties. These early experiments had an important future before them. In 1277 the sheriff of Wiltshire, in common with the sheriffs of 28 other counties, was enjoined to swear all the men of Wiltshire to arms and to arrest malefactors, and a 'good man' was to be elected in the shire court to see that the peace was kept. (fn. 504) Thus was the old police system, of which the sheriff was the pinnacle, linked with a newer method of choosing knights with an express interest in preserving public order. In 1285 the Statute of Winchester made explicit provision for keeping the peace, and two years later knights were deputed to enforce its articles, since the justices of assize, designed for such enforcement, could not or would not attend to the business. (fn. 505) The two Wiltshire knights were Peter de la Stane and Peter de Scudamore, both Wiltshiremen but neither a sheriff. They are, so far as is known, the first keepers of the peace in Wiltshire. They were to receive presentments, but, like succeeding keepers, had no power to hear and determine. Further commissioners of the peace were not appointed in Wiltshire until 1307.
Both in 1277 and 1307 the appointments were designed to last only for a period of crisis, in the first case while the king was occupied with the Welsh war, in the second while he was overseas. When the next commission was issued, however, early in 1308, no limit was imposed or excuse advanced, for the keepers were to hold office during pleasure. Between 1307 and 1320 there were in all seven such commissions in Wiltshire. The sheriff was a member of the first two of them—an indication that his judicial authority and police powers still had meaning. Of the other five commissions two consisted of two and three of three persons, all of the locality. (fn. 506) In 1310 the keepers were ordered to execute their office more diligently and warned that an inquiry into their conduct would be instigated. (fn. 507)
In 1327 the appointment of keepers of the peace in each county is first enjoined by Statute, and from that time those officers may be regarded as a permanent feature of county government. But the extent of their powers varied greatly from time to time as the commission was enlarged or modified in response to legal theory or political events. Of all the changes none is more significant than the addition of the power to determine felonies and trespasses. This was first granted in 1329, and, after repeated withdrawals and restorations, became normal from 1350 except in the periods 1364–8 and 1382–9. Whenever this power was enjoyed the keepers were not merely keepers but justices. Apart from the maintenance of the peace the justices were given in 1350 and 1351 authority over those workmen who broke the labour laws, an authority subsequently transferred temporarily to separate justices of labourers, and finally restored to the iustices of the peace in 1368. Moreover at sundry times in the earlier 14th century they were also nominated as commissioners of array. The commission varied as much in size and composition as it did in scope. Confined at first to small groups of local gentry, it came to include the justices of assize and great magnates, both spiritual and lay. (fn. 508)
None of this is peculiar to Wiltshire and the temptation to trace the stages in the commission as they affected that county must be resisted. It will suffice to make a few remarks about the personnel of the Wiltshire commissions and about the places at which the justices sat. The actual work of the Wiltshire justices cannot in any case be conveniently studied for only one Wiltshire peace roll survives. (fn. 509)
Between 1327 and 1530 some 130 commissions were issued for Wiltshire. The number of commissioners steadily mounted, partly of course in response to Statute. In 1327 two justices were appointed, (fn. 510) and in 1364 (fn. 511) five. By 1368 (fn. 512) the Wiltshire commission numbered six, apart from the justices of assize, thus attaining the statutory limit that was to be imposed in 1388. In 1427 the commission numbered twelve, (fn. 513) in 1478 seventeen (fn. 514) and in 1529 thirty-five. (fn. 515) But these or any other figures based upon enrolled commissions may not be entirely complete; for in three instances justices sat who had never been commissioned: John Whittokesmead was paid for three sessions in 1447 and 1448 (fn. 516) but was not commissioned until 1450; (fn. 517) William Stafford who sat once in 1448 (fn. 518) and Philip Baynard who sat once in 1519–20 (fn. 519) seem never to have been commissioned at all.
Knights of the shire and other local notabilities were chronologically the first class of persons to be appointed justices and to the end they formed (as they still form) the core of each commission. There can have been no Wiltshire family in these centuries of any note who had not a member sitting on a commission at one time or another. He who knows Wiltshire well notices with a certain measure of excitement how family after family, as it rises to gentility, takes its place upon the bench. The first Paveley came in 1327, (fn. 520) the first Sturmy in 1345, (fn. 521) the first Roche in 1350, (fn. 522) the first Drew in 1362, (fn. 523) the first de la Mare in 1367, (fn. 524) the first Bonham in 1377, (fn. 525) the first Stourton in 1382, (fn. 526) the first Lovell in 1386, (fn. 527) the first Gawayn in 1386, (fn. 528) the first Lilborne in 1389, (fn. 529) the first Baynton in 1396, (fn. 530) the first Beauchamp in 1410, (fn. 531) the first Long in 1423, (fn. 532) the first Darrell in 1432, (fn. 533) the first Seymour in 1438, (fn. 534) the first Willoughby in 1453, (fn. 535) the first Ludlow in 1515, (fn. 536) and the first Ernley in 1526. (fn. 537) A Hungerford first sat in 1332 (fn. 538) and in 1529 there were still justices of that name. (fn. 539)
The second class in point of time were professional judges, who, in Wiltshire, began to be regularly commissioned in 1368 (fn. 540) and are found continuously thereafter. Experiment with such appointments had been made in 1340, (fn. 541) 1351, and 1354. (fn. 542) Spiritual magnates, a third class, are included somewhat later. The Bishop of Salisbury was first commissioned in 1382. (fn. 543) In 1422 he and the Bishop of Winchester were ordered to summon the keepers of the peace and other notables in Wiltshire and Dorset and with them make ordinance for keeping the peace. (fn. 544) The upshot seems to have been the inclusion of the bishops in the Wiltshire commission. From 1424 (fn. 545) every Bishop of Salisbury except Woodville (1482–4) and Campeggio (1524–34), was placed on the commission, though there were sometimes short intervals between the death or translation of one bishop and the appointment of his successor as a justice. Cardinal Beaufort, as Bishop of Winchester, also began to sit in 1424. (fn. 546) From that time he sat on six out of fourteen possible commissions. Waynflete, though ascending the episcopal throne in 1447, did not begin to be commissioned until 1458. (fn. 547) Thenceforth he appeared in each commission except the two that were issued just before his death. Courtenay (1487–92) and Langton (1493–1501) were never included; Fox (1501–28) always.
John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury, a Wiltshireman by birth, was added in 1447 (fn. 548) and sat until his death. Morton (1486–1500) sat throughout his archiepiscopate, and he was succeeded by Dean (1501–3) who had sat as Bishop of Salisbury before his translation. No other Archbishop of Canterbury was included, but Wolsey, as Archbishop of York, was named in the commissions of 1523, 1526, and 1529. (fn. 549)
The only head of a religious community to become a Wiltshire justice was the Abbot of Malmesbury, added in 1382, (fn. 550) but not again included until 1463. (fn. 551) From that year until 1501 the abbots of that house were included in all but 6 of the 33 commissions issued, and were again included in 1512, 1513, 1526, and 1529. (fn. 552)
It was ordained in 1361 that the commission of the peace in each county should consist not only of three or four of the meultz vauez of the county but of a seigneur. Whatever this may have meant lay magnates did not begin to form a constant element in the Wiltshire commission until 1380 when there were added to the commission Edmund of Langley, then Earl of Cambridge and later Duke of York, and William Montague, Earl of Salisbury (d. 1397). (fn. 553) Though some of the great lords subsequently appointed were princes of the blood (fn. 554) and may have been included on that account, many if not most of them had a territorial interest in Wiltshire.
One would gladly know whether any of these eminent personages played any part in the ordinary business of the justices. As they were all above the rank of banneret they were not entitled to the wages payable after 1388 out of the amercements levied at the sessions, and their attendances, if any, do not therefore impress themselves upon the Pipe Rolls. There are, however, two references (fn. 555) to indictments before 'William de Montague and his fellows' as though that earl were the chairman of a bench. Be this as it may, most of the business was done by knights and gentlemen of Wiltshire and not by the magnates or the judges. Of the commission of December 1382, which numbered 13, it has been considered that only 5 were working justices. (fn. 556) Travelling a few years on we come across a document which gives full details of the names of those justices who were paid for sitting and the times of their sessions. (fn. 557) Between July 1390 and March 1393 13 sessions were held, one of 6, one of 5, one of 4, two of 3, six of 2, and two of 1 day's duration. One session was attended by 5 justices, 3 were attended by 4, 3 by 3, and 5 by 2. At the beginning of the period the full commission numbered 8, (fn. 558) at the end 10, (fn. 559) and the only justices who never sat were the 2 judges of the circuit and 2 peers. Sir Thomas Hungerford attended 10 sessions and Sir Ralph Cheyne nine. Two more lists of attendances may be examined. Between 27 September 1428 and 29 May 1431 sessions were held on 21 days. (fn. 560) Out of a commission of 12 (fn. 561) only 6 justices attended. Of these Robert Long appeared on 18 days, William Westbury on 17 and John Westbury on fifteen. To take yet another example, between 13 September 1457 and 30 May 1458 there were sessions on 4 days. (fn. 562) Out of a bench which numbered 21 in 1457 and 23 in 1458, (fn. 563) only 8 justices attended, John Whittokesmead and John Benger making 4 appearances each. The two groups of 15th-century figures unfortunately do not tell us expressly how many justices sat together. If, however, we may trust the testimony of only three documents the number in the earlier 15th century was usually three. Finally, it will be profitable to examine the state of the sessions in the early 16th century. Between October 1519 and July 1520 the justices sat four times. John Skilling attended each session, John Bonham 3 sessions, and 3 other justices 1 session each. (fn. 564) This was out of a commission of 27, 5 members of which were lords spiritual or temporal. (fn. 565)
When a man was brought before the justices of gaol delivery on an indictment before justices of the peace the record normally declares that the indictment was made before a particular justice 'and his fellows'. It may perhaps be assumed that this named justice was the senior justice at that sessions. The 'named' justice associated with all such indictments between 1364 (fn. 566) and 1373–4 (fn. 567) was Robert de la Mare. He was the first justice mentioned in the commissions of 1364 (fn. 568) and 1367 (fn. 569) and the second in the commission of 1368, (fn. 570) the last one in which he is included. The case of William, Earl of Salisbury, who seems similarly to have presided, has already been referred to. (fn. 571) As time goes on and the commissions become increasingly weighted with 'notables' these first named justices are by no means the senior members of the commissions, yet it is they rather than their seniors who are mentioned in connexion with indictments. Although between 1401 and 1427 (fn. 572) the total number of separate justices commissioned must have numbered at least 38, only nine of them are mentioned in this presidential capacity. Presumably justice was falling more and more into the hands of a few busy country gentlemen. It is curious to find that on 19 July 1406 suspects were indicted at New Salisbury before both John Gawayn 'and his fellows' and Thomas Bonham 'and his fellows', as though two courts were sitting at the same place on the same day. (fn. 573)
Quarter sessions date traditionally from the Statute of 1362 which laid it down that the four yearly meetings should occur in the octave of Epiphany, in the second week of mid-Lent, between Pentecost and Midsummer, and in the octave of Michaelmas. The dates had not become regular in Wiltshire either in 1383–4 or in 1391–3. We are well informed about the latter period, for the payments to the justices are set out session by session. (fn. 574) Thus the schedule shows that in 1390 meetings occurred on 23 and 24 July and 17 September and in 1393 on 17 and 18 January, while in 1392 there were no fewer than seven sessions, all concentrated between June and December. The sessions ended on 21 June were adjourned until 16 September. Perhaps some of these were extraordinary sessions, convened in face of a crisis; for it is known that somewhat before July 1391 the men of Salisbury had risen against the Wiltshire justices and formed unlawful assemblies. (fn. 575) By a Statute of 1414 the dates of the sessions were changed to the weeks following the Epiphany, the Close of Easter, the Translation of St. Thomas the Martyr (7 July), and Michaelmas, but the statutory terms still do not seem to have been invariably observed, for sessions are known to have occurred on 23 July 1422, (fn. 576) 24 February 1424, (fn. 577) and 21 December 1434. (fn. 578)
To the places of the sessions considerable interest attaches, for Wiltshire was, and is, one of those counties with a plurality of quarter sessions towns. The rigid modern sequence (fn. 579)—Devizes at Hilary and thereafter Salisbury, Warminster, and Marlborough —had not yet been established. Devizes, Warminster, and Marlborough were, however, already quarter sessions towns in 1383 and in and after 1384 New Salisbury seems to have replaced Wilton, at which in that and the preceding year sessions had been held. (fn. 580) The justices are known to have met also at Trowbridge in 1392, (fn. 581) at Bradford in 1392 (fn. 582) and 1434, (fn. 583) at Westbury in 1393, (fn. 584) and at Malmesbury in 1392 (fn. 585) and 1455. (fn. 586)
The names of the Wiltshire clerks of the peace are known in almost unbroken succession from July 1390 when Richard Collingbourne is found in office. (fn. 587) Collingbourne represented Marlborough in the Parliament of 1402 (fn. 588) and was escheator in 1403. (fn. 589) He was last paid in 1413 and in the same year had been succeeded by John Lambard. (fn. 590) Lambard was presumably one of that family who had once had territorial interests in the Wylye valley. (fn. 591) He represented Wilton in the Parliament of 1413, (fn. 592) and before 1416 (when he was dead) had been a county coroner (fn. 593) and a verderer in Grovely. (fn. 594) Richard Harden (1417–20) (fn. 595) was succeeded by John Giles (1425–44), (fn. 596) who represented Wiltshire boroughs in no fewer than seven Parliaments. (fn. 597) He was probably one of those for whose soul a chantry was founded in Calne church in 1446. (fn. 598) The career of John Uffenham or Laurence (1445–58) (fn. 599) is hard to trace because he had a son of the same name (fn. 600) who seems to have engaged in similar activities. It is, however, reasonably certain that the elder John represented Wilton in five Parliaments between 1441–2 and 1450, (fn. 601) was a county coroner in 1449, (fn. 602) was 'of Heytesbury' between 1451 (fn. 603) and 1453–4 (fn. 604) and 'of Downton' in 1458 (fn. 605) and 1462, (fn. 606) and died in the parish of St. Edmund, Salisbury in 1480–2, (fn. 607) where his wife or daughter-in-law also died in 1489–90. (fn. 608)
Towards the close of the period under review the clerkship was mainly in the hands of three members of the Chaffin family, John (1461–80), (fn. 609) Thomas (1486–1513), (fn. 610) and Leonard (1523–6). (fn. 611) The first of these may have represented New Salisbury in the Parliament of 1472–5; if so he was a Salisbury man. (fn. 612) In between the Chaffins came John Hampton (1481–3) (fn. 613) and Charles Bulkley (1516–20), (fn. 614) both of whom rose to be county justices. (fn. 615) Hampton represented New Salisbury, where he seems to have lived, in four Parliaments between 1483 and 1495 and was a county coroner in 1486. (fn. 616) Bulkley was one of the Bulkleys of Burgate in Fordingbridge (Hants), (fn. 617) but he lived in Salisbury (fn. 618) and practised there as a lawyer. He sat on many commissions (fn. 619) and occupied the shrievalty in 1545–6. (fn. 620)
To the justices specially appointed to execute the Ordinance, and subsequently the Statute, of Labourers in Wiltshire a few words must be devoted. Between 1349, the date of the Ordinance, and 1359 there were five commissions appointing such justices, apart from supplementary instruments adding the names of associates. (fn. 621) The first, issued on 15 March 1351, was also a commission of the peace; by the others justices of labourers pure and simple were nominated. Shareshull, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, sat on the commissions of 1351 and 1353, and on the first of them was accompanied by John de Stouford, a justice of the Common Pleas. The remaining three commissions (July 1354, December 1355, and February 1357) consisted entirely of Wiltshiremen, who of course were strongly represented on the earlier ones as well. It is curious to find that the commission of 1354 did not supersede that of 1353; at any rate suspects were summoned to appear before Shareshull 'and his fellows' in November 1354 and throughout 1355, although he was not included in the commission of July 1354. (fn. 622)
We are fortunate in possessing some evidence of the way in which the justices did their work in Wiltshire. A roll of proceedings taken in the northern parts of the county in 1352 under the commission of 1351 has been preserved. (fn. 623) Suspected defaulters came before the justices' 'deputies' appointed for the several hundreds. In one instance a hundred constable sat with the 'deputies'. (fn. 624) The 'deputies' did not always sit in their own hundreds, for the Kinwardstone, Kingsbridge, and Bradford 'deputies' held their inquiries at Devizes, and so, it seems, did those for Melksham hundred. On the other hand the Malmesbury hundred 'deputies' seem to have sat at Malmesbury and those of Calne hundred at Calne. (fn. 625) There is also a roll of proceedings, this time apparently for the whole county, taken between 1354 and 1356 under the commission of 1354. (fn. 626) Here again the presentments did not come before the justices themselves but before their 'deputies', one of whom, William of Chiseldon, a 'deputy' for Kingsbridge, had served in that capacity under the commission of 1351. (fn. 627) So far as is known, these two Wiltshire rolls furnish the only evidence of the work of 'deputies' in any part of England. 'Deputies' were unpopular and their use was eventually forbidden. (fn. 628) This was no doubt because they were men of the wrong stamp; no Wiltshire 'deputy' was ever chosen to be sheriff, keeper of the peace or coroner. The employment of 'deputies' did not prevent the justices from acting in person at the same time. At all events many persons were summoned to appear before Shareshull 'and his fellows' in November 1354 at Salisbury and in July and November 1355 at Devizes, and before Thomas Seymour 'and his fellows', the commissioners of the preceding December, at Salisbury in May 1355. (fn. 629)
The three commissioners appointed in 1357 were concerned as much to try offenders against the Statute of Weights and Measures as delinquent labourers. They also have left a roll, (fn. 630) and are known to have sat in person at Devizes and New Salisbury.
Assizes and gaol deliveries in the later middle ages
The death of Henry III caused the visitation of the eyre then in progress to be adjourned, and another was not begun until 1278. Meanwhile to provide for the regular taking of civil pleas panels of commissioners were appointed for groups of counties. Thus in 1273 Henry de Montfort and Henry de Wolaventon were appointed justices of assize in Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, and Wiltshire, (fn. 631) and next year Montfort and Stephen Heym received a like commission to hear pleas in eleven counties of which Wiltshire was one. (fn. 632) Nor were these justices confined to civil pleas, for they were once directed to inquire into the circumstances of a death. (fn. 633)
In the first twenty years of Edward I's reign the assize circuits were evolved in much the form which they retained for the rest of the Middle Ages. Thus in every commission but one between 1274 and 1291, of which the record survives, Wiltshire is joined with Somerset and Dorset, and in all but two with Devonshire, while in the earlier part of that period Hampshire is also an invariable concomitant. (fn. 634) Moreover, sessions occur with fair regularity. The records show one session in 1274, two in each of the years from 1275 to 1277 and in 1280, 1284, (fn. 635) and 1289, three in 1278, 1283, and 1285, and four in 1282 and 1291. There is indeed no evidence of a session in 1279, 1281, or 1286–9, but it is more reasonable to assume that the records are defective than that no sessions occurred. The Statute of Westminster II (1285) provided for thrice-yearly sessions and no more, but this ideal, re-emphasized in a statute of 1330, (fn. 636) was often unfulfilled, both in Wiltshire and elsewhere. The series of rolls that includes Wiltshire sessions runs without significant gaps from 1285 to 1430. (fn. 637) At the close of the 13th century the justices often sat three or four times a year, but their sessions tended in the first generation of the next century to be reduced in frequency. Between 1321 and 1340 we have record of but 28 sessions or fewer than two a year on the average, though in 1337 there were three. In the first 30 years of the 15th century there were normally two sessions a year, but by this time the possessory assizes were in practice no longer arraigned. (fn. 638)
Between 1274 and 1291 sessions still took place in obscure villages like West Dean (1282) or 'Chalk' (1283), but they were held preponderantly at Salisbury—two at the old city, seven at the new and five at 'Salisbury'. Of the other towns of the county Devizes was four times the meeting place, Mere thrice, Wilton twice, and Chippenham, Cricklade, and Marlborough once. There was one session (1282) at Sheepbridge near Wokingham (fn. 639) and four sessions at Charlton near Hungerford, just outside the county.
Of the 86 recorded sessions between 1292 and 1340, 67 were held at New Salisbury, 1 at Old Salisbury (July 1310), (fn. 640) 2 at 'Salisbury', 8 at Wilton (the last in February 1331), (fn. 641) 2 at Marlborough (November 1296, July 1297), (fn. 642) 1 each at Beaches in Wokingham (fn. 643) and at Charlton by Hungerford (June 1297), (fn. 644) one at Downton (January 1301), (fn. 645) and 3 at 'La Grave' near Wokingham (December 1310, January 1318, May 1320). (fn. 646) None of these places is, of course, to be looked upon as an assize town in anything like the modern sense; for in each case, apart perhaps from Wilton, some special reason for holding the assize may be inferred. In fact, unlike its neighbour Somerset, medieval Wiltshire was a county of a single assize town. That town was New Salisbury, where, so far as we know, sessions were always held after 1399. A Statute of 1382 (fn. 647) had required the justices of assize and gaol delivery thenceforth to hold their sessions in the principal town of every county, where the shire court was held. In Wiltshire this limitation was contradictory, for while New Salisbury was the 'principal town', the county court was held at Wilton. Evidently the justices of assize took the wise course of preferring the greater place, though gaol deliveries continued to be held at Old Salisbury until the 15th century. (fn. 648)
The arrangements made in the early years of Edward I's reign for delivering the Wiltshire gaols were not unlike those that prevailed in the forties. Between 1272 and 1280, thirty-two gaol delivery commissions were enrolled, two of which were special ones. (fn. 649) Twenty of these were addressed to four justices, eleven to two, and one to a single justice. With comparatively rare exceptions (fn. 650) the justices were local men, several of them easily identifiable, like their predecessors, as the holders of local office. Thus in 1275 Salisbury gaol was delivered by one man who was also an escheator and three men who held the office of coroner. (fn. 651) Some commissions may not have been executed, but there is positive evidence from the surviving records of the justices themselves that deliveries were frequent. (fn. 652) Between 1275 and 1280 there were no fewer than twelve, three of which occurred in 1276. It has not been considered necessary to analyse the commissions in the next decade and the constitution of only four panels is otherwise known. The first of these (1283) consisted of two professional judges, only one of whom appears to have sat, and a layman; (fn. 653) the second (1289) consisted entirely of laymen; (fn. 654) the third and fourth (1289), which were special commissions, each consisted of three laymen and a professional. (fn. 655) Wiltshire gaols were of course also delivered by the eyres of 1281 and 1289. (fn. 656) Of the deliveries made or ordered to be made between 1275 and 1289 four affected the gaol at Marlborough (1275–6, 1276–7, 1277–8, 1279–80), one New Salisbury (1278–9), one Wilton (1280), (fn. 657) and the rest Old Salisbury.
In 1293 a new system of gaol delivery begins: a couple of professional justices went on circuit to deliver the gaols over a wide area. In 1299 this obligation to try prisoners was formally cast upon the justices of assize by Statute. (fn. 658) By 1310 we can see that the Western Circuit had already emerged, for three justices had by then been appointed to take assizes and deliver gaols in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall, and Devon. (fn. 659) The arrangements varied somewhat from time to time. The assize and gaol delivery justices were not invariably the same. They worked under separate commissions, and sometimes one body would be larger than the other. But it was normal for the two commissions to share at least one justice. Once on the Western Circuit a justice tended to remain there for some years. No doubt each circuit built up a small organization in London. At any rate by about 1380 the Western Circuit had its own clerk, Simon of Lichfield, who kept the rolls in his office in the Old Temple. (fn. 660)
The records of proceedings at Wiltshire gaol deliveries appear to be continuous for the periods 1328–35, 1359–75, 1389–1402, and 1416–29. (fn. 661) Analysing these four periods in turn we find that in the first of them there were no deliveries in 1330 and 1333. There were two deliveries in 1332 and 1335. Otherwise there was one a year. In the second period the gaols were not delivered in 1362 and 1370. Otherwise there were six years in which there were two deliveries and nine years in which there was one. In the third period there is no record of a delivery in 1399. Otherwise the gaols were delivered twice in each of six years, and once in each of seven years. In the fourth period there were no deliveries in 1418, 1419, and 1421. Otherwise there were two deliveries in each of six years and one in each of five years. Thus taking the four periods together it seems that practice was almost equally divided between two-year and one-year deliveries, and that only once, in the early 15th century, was more than a year allowed to elapse between one delivery and the next.
While these visits by professional judges were the regular means of delivering the gaols there are signs that the government did not rely upon them exclusively. Thus round about 1373 Robert de la Mare, a justice of the peace in the county, is found delivering Old Salisbury gaol in company with his 'fellows', (fn. 662) and about 1376 Michael Skilling and William de Houghton, the first a Wiltshire, the second a Hampshire justice, are found acting in the same fashion. (fn. 663) It was perhaps to give additional force to such arrangements, which had been created ad hoc to meet emergencies, that the Statute of 1393–4 was passed, empowering two justices in each county, if men of law, to deliver the gaols of suspects who had lain in prison over long. (fn. 664) As the Statute itself points out, long imprisonments were dangerous to the State, for prisoners might thus procure favourable inquests or escape entirely. It is probably an illustration of these dangers that in 1421, when there was no delivery in Wiltshire by professional justices, a special commission consisting of local gentry had to be appointed to inquire into escapes from county prisons. (fn. 665) But prison breach was not confined to Wiltshire, for next year the justices of assize on three circuits (including the western) were directed to make similar inquiries. (fn. 666)
After the third decade of the 15th century the rolls of the justices of assize and of gaol delivery have not been preserved as a series. There is therefore no means of settling the actual frequency and character of the sessions. Commissions, however, continued to be enrolled and were presumably executed. (fn. 667) From the evidence of the commissions alone it may be concluded that the justices of assize and gaol delivery were normally judges of the central courts and that, as in earlier times, they worked on interlocking though distinct commissions. The habits of the chancery draftsmen, however, were peculiar. Between 1486 and 1508 there were 22 gaol delivery commissions covering Wiltshire but only two assize commissions. Between 1509 and 1516 there were nine of each type; between 1517 and 1520 there were ten commissions, of which only one was of gaol delivery; and between 1521 and 1530 there were eleven gaol delivery and six assize commissions. These variations may not of course have much significance and some of the commissions may have escaped enrolment. On the face of it, however, the implication is that criminal business was more considerable than civil.
Local knights and squires, who, as has been seen, had sometimes been used in the later 14th century as commissioners of gaol delivery, continued to be commissioned in the fifteenth. Between 1435 and 1452 there were at least five commissions, of which one or more than one layman was a member. (fn. 668) Four of these were special commissions. The practice was continued under the first two Tudors. While judges and Serjeants of course continued to go on circuit, groups of local worthies, with or without the afforcement of legal talent, were commissioned as well. Thus the commission of June 1530 consisted of 2 judges and 6 Wiltshire gentlemen, 3 of whom bore the well-known local names of Hussey, Bonham, and Styleman. (fn. 669) This is a mixed bench, but the commission of October 1512 consisted of 7 Wiltshiremen, none of whom was a professional justice. (fn. 670) Between 1495 and 1530 there were 8 such commissions out of a total of 40. Naturally the commissioners did not act for a circuit but for a single gaol. Five of the commissions were issued in or were being executed in October, (fn. 671) an abnormal season for such sittings, which suggests that the justices sat to disperse some temporary or unexpected congestion in the prison.
As has been shown (fn. 672) there were from the late 13th to the early 15th century two gaols in the county—at Old and New Salisbury—that fell to be regularly delivered. From the beginning of the 16th century the gaol at Fisherton Anger, perhaps of earlier origin, seems to have replaced Old Salisbury, and to have become the only county gaol. Old Salisbury gaol was invariably delivered at the old city until 1335. (fn. 673) Of the 82 recorded deliveries between 1345 and 1507, 12 took place at the old city and 57 at the new. In the remaining 13 cases the place of delivery is unknown. The last delivery at Old Salisbury was in July 1414. (fn. 674)
Trailbaston and the general commission of oyer and terminer
In June 1294 the imminence of war with France caused the adjournment of both circuits of the eyre visitation then in progress, of which the Wiltshire eyre of 1289 had formed a part. They were never resummoned and the year 1294 therefore marks the end of the eyre as an integral part of the fabric of judicial administration. Some of the functions of the eyre could be or were being done in other ways, others had been or were being abandoned. Some general control over public order had, however, still to be exercised, and in particular the habitual criminal had to be kept in check. No less needful was it to keep under review the conduct of local officials of all degrees. In 1294 there was no machinery to perform these functions besides the eyre. The invention of the general commission of oyer and terminer, known both popularly and officially as trailbaston, was one means of providing such machinery, the development of the office of keeper of the peace was the other.
The first trailbaston in 1305 was the culmination of a series of local inquiries into serious outbreaks of disorder during the French and Scottish wars of Edward I. (fn. 675) In April (fn. 676) and December (fn. 677) 1293 two 'vagabond' commissions were issued in each case to a magnate and a justice. In the following February (fn. 678) a second magnate was added to the December commission. Wiltshire was also included in commissions issued in 1298 (fn. 679) to inquire into the conduct of royal officials, but nothing is known of any proceedings in the county. In October and November 1304 (fn. 680) two more commissions to inquire into breaches of the peace were issued, this time assigning four justices to Wiltshire. Authority to determine indictments was not given, and in the following March (fn. 681) instructions were given to replevy those captured and awaiting trial, so great was their number. The commission of April 1305 (fn. 682) appointing trailbaston justices throughout the country was based on an ordinance of the February Parliament. (fn. 683) Justices in five circuits were to hear and determine all felonies and trespasses since 1297, when the king went to Flanders. In the western circuit William Martin and four others were appointed. Sessions were held in Wiltshire in May, June, and July 1305, and in September and October 1306; and the justices dealt with a formidable number of indictments and complaints. (fn. 684) They also delivered the goals of Old Salisbury, New Salisbury, and Marlborough. A second trailbaston commission to all circuits was issued in February 1307, (fn. 685) giving even wider powers; but owing to the king's death the justices did not reach Wiltshire.
Serious disorder following Edward II's departure to Scotland in 1314 was the occasion of the next trailbaston visitation. In June (fn. 686) four justices were assigned to hear and determine all offences committed since the king's departure in a group of counties including Wiltshire. Particularly they were to determine indictments taken by keepers of the peace appointed earlier in the same month (fn. 687) and to supervise the proceedings of the keepers. No record survives for Wiltshire, but the justices were probably still acting in 1316 when on the death of Robert FitzPayn, the senior justice, John de Beauchamp was appointed in his place. (fn. 688) In October 1314, after the constitutional crisis leading to the removal of the chancellor, treasurer, and many lesser officials, justices were appointed to inquire into the conduct of royal officials since the beginning of the reign. (fn. 689) Such inquiries into administrative abuses were henceforth an essential part of trailbaston proceedings; and authority to proceed in such matters was in later hearings usually included in a commission to the same justices. In 1317 and 1318 a more limited inquiry into the misconduct of officials took place, (fn. 690) but in November 1320, (fn. 691) following a petition by the commons, trailbaston commissions were issued throughout the country. In Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, and Gloucestershire Henry Spigurnel, a king's bench justice, was appointed with three others to try all felonies and trespasses since 1312. They were to deal with those impeding the course of justice, and by a separate commission of December (fn. 692) they were to deal with complaints against oppressive officials. By May 1321 the commissions were superseded. (fn. 693) Nothing is known of any proceedings which may have taken place in the county under the commissions issued in June 1326. (fn. 694) Four justices were appointed, but on 2 October, the day of Edward II's flight from London, the commissions were superseded. (fn. 695)
The first trailbaston commission of the reign of Edward III followed the statute of Northampton (fn. 696) in 1328 by which such procedure was again given statutory authority. In a limited series of inquiries in that year five justices headed by Hugh de Courtenay were appointed in Wiltshire. (fn. 697) More extensive inquiries covering most of the country followed in 1331, (fn. 698) but the appointment of keepers of the counties in March 1332 (fn. 699) seems to have eclipsed the earlier commissions. In 1336 a visitation of Wiltshire under William de Shareshull (fn. 700) led to extensive hearings of which a record survives. (fn. 701) The crisis of 1340–1 was the occasion for what appears to be the last use of trailbaston on a national scale. In Wiltshire the proceedings under Robert Parvyng, commissioned in February 1341 (fn. 702) to hear any offences since 1307, were renewed in 1343. (fn. 703) By statute of 1344 (fn. 704) these inquiries were stopped.
General commissions of oyer and terminer in varying forms continued to issue as a device to deal with local disorders in particular counties, while in 1359 and 1360 commissions to the steward of the household and others appear to be in the nature of a trailbaston in all parts of the realm. (fn. 705) In 1361, however, it was ordained by statute that all such general inquiries should cease. (fn. 706) By this time the keepers of the peace had developed into justices with power to determine indictments, although this was temporarily withdrawn for short periods in the next few years. From the 1320s or thereabouts the King's Bench had on occasion assumed trailbaston powers by hearing all criminal pleas in the particular counties in which it was sitting. To Wiltshire it came but once, at Easter 1384, when it sat at New Salisbury in the presence of the king himself. (fn. 707) The indictments and presentments of this session are the same in kind as those of earlier trailbaston sessions. (fn. 708)
The history of general commissions of oyer and terminer from the end of the 14th century has yet to be determined. Examples of such commissions, however, occur in Wiltshire in the 15th century. The commission of 1422 addressed to William Cheyne, a justice, and to four laymen, is probably of that character, for the commissioners were to hear and determine treasons, felonies, and trespasses in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire. (fn. 709) A comparable commission was appointed in 1462 to hear and determine treasons, insurrections, felonies, and conspiracies in Wiltshire, Somerset, and Dorset. (fn. 710) The commissioners numbered nineteen, with a quorum of two. They sat on 28 and 29 May and 21 July 1462 to hear an assortment of humdrum cases of forcible entry, theft, and rape. The only case of interest to come before them was that of a Tisbury tailor who in the preceding year had conspired with others at Wilton to procure the restoration of Henry VI. (fn. 711) By a similar special commission sitting at New Salisbury on 21 May 1468 Sir Thomas Hungerford of Rowden and Henry Courtenay of East Mill (in Fordingbridge, Hants) were attainted of high treason and executed. The commission was a mixed one consisting of magnates, judges, local gentlemen, and the Mayor of Salisbury. (fn. 712) Outwardly these commissions appear to be distinguished from those of an earlier day by the greater reliance which was now placed upon the 'lay' justice. This distinction, however, is specious; at any rate the three justices of the quorum in 1462 (Ayshton, Moyle, and Choke) were all professionals.
Nothing more clearly demonstrates the medieval fusion of law and administration, as we should now express it, than the commission of oyer and terminer. Indeed long after we have entered the modern world administrative problems tended to be settled by legal process and solutions to take the form of judicial decisions. In more modern times the justices of the peace with their two-fold duty formed this link. In the Middle Ages the utility of those justices for non-judicial purposes had hardly been perceived, but men of the same class, indeed often the same men acting under separate instructions, conducted the administrative business of the shire as need arose. Such were the commissioners of array and the justices of weights and measures whose story not merely in Wiltshire but throughout England awaits its narrator. Such too are many special commissioners with narrower, if not less interesting, functions. Thus in 1327 the Prior of Ivy Church and another person were directed to search for swans removed to places along the Avon between Salisbury and Christchurch, and cause them to be returned to the keeper of Clarendon manor and forest, (fn. 713) and on three subsequent occasions, the last in 1345, somewhat similar instructions had to be sent to other commissioners. (fn. 714) Between 1343 and 1351 three separate groups of overseers were appointed under the Statute of Westminster II, to supervise salmon fishing in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and adjacent counties. (fn. 715) In 1374 four persons were directed to establish the responsibility for repairing a defective highway between Devizes and 'Neckenvill' in Cannings hundred (fn. 716) and in 1377 a group of seven investigated combinations of peasants who had been seeking the advantages of freer tenure by claiming to hold in ancient demesne. (fn. 717) Today we should entrust such functions to an existing authority, in the Middle Ages such an authority had to be specially constituted.