The city of Exeter: Royal charters and letters patent

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Report On the Records of the City of Exeter. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.

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Forty-eight documents (Nos. I-XLVIII). Copies of several of them are also to be found in other sections of this collection. e.g. Book 56.

The earlier among them are addressed to "The Burgesses (or the Citizens) of Exeter." The "Mayor" first appears in No. XII, Nov. 7, 1259, subsequent documents being usually though not uniformly addressed to "The Mayor, Bailiffs and Commonalty of Exeter."

These documents (all original) are kept in cardboard boxes in the Muniment Room. They are unbound and in an excellent state of preservation. Abstracts of all of them (except six) will be found in Oliver's History of Exeter (edition 1861), Appendix, pp. 278–304. These abstracts appear not to have been taken from the originals, but from "a MS. volume of Charter in the Office of the Town Clerk" (Oliver, p. 278). The volume referred to is not noticed in Mr. Stuart Moore's Calendar and seems to have been missing at the time of his visit. It has recently, however, been discovered and is now available for references. It contains copies of most of the Charters written in a late 16th century hand, together with copies of some other documents, the originals of which are not now to be found in the Muniment Room, e.g. No. 19 (f 225), July 24, 1337, i.e., a writ to the Mayor &c., notifying them to pay the fee farm rent of Exeter (20l. p. a.) to Edward Duke of Cornwall, (fn. 1) instead of to the King [see Oliver, p. 283, No. 21, and Transcripts, ad finem].

The document (No. I) in Oliver, p. 279, from Book of Transcrpts, cannot now be found. It is dated at London [s.a.]. and in it Henry II grants to the citizens of Exeter "omnes rectas consuetudines quas habuerunt in tempore Regis Henrici, avi mei, remotis omnibus pravis consuetudinibus post avum meum ibi elevatis. Et sciatis eos habere consuetudines London' ita libere, honorifice et juste sicut unquam melius habuerunt tempore avi mei. Teste Arn Ep. Lexov., Reg. Com. Cornub., et Toma Cancell," who are also witness to the three writs that follow, i.e. Nos. I, II, III in Stuart Moore's Calendar.

Several of these charters were sent to London under the charge of Richard Izacke in 1666 and duly returned, see Act Book, XI,f 44, where the documents so forwarded and returned are specified. Duplicates of several of them will be found among the Transcripts.

The following is an epitome of the contents of the collection in the order in which they appear in Stuart Moore's Calendar.

I, II, III.—Three writs, temp. Henry II, declaring the citizens of Exeter and their merchandize to be free from toll, lastage, passage and all other custom. [Printed in Oliver, p. 279, from Book of Transcritps, Nos. 38, 39, 40, ff. 273, 274, 275. See also Transcripts, 2004. Summarized in Freeman, p. 56.]

IV, V, VI. Rouen, March 24, 1190.—Richard I grants to the Burgesses of Exeter that shall be quit of toll, passage and pontage on land and on water in fairs and markets and of all secular service, citra et ultra mare. See also Transcript 2005 [with abstract in Oliver, p. 280], where it is wrongly dated March 29.

VII. Sept. 18, s.a.—Richard I declares that the citizens of Exeter and their merchandize are free of toll, passage, lastage and all other customs. See also Transcripts, 2005. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 280.]

VIII. Craneburne, s.a.—John Earl of Mortain (afterwards King John) grants to the citizens of Exeter all right customs which they had in the time of King Henry I, and states that they have the customs of the men of London.

IX. Saumur, June 15, 1200—King John repeats previous grant (No, VIII) and confirms grant of Richard I (No. VII). [Abstract in Oliver, 280.]

X. Westminster, March 24, 1237.—Henry III confirms No. IX and the grants of Henry II, Richard I and John mentioned therein. See Miscell. Rolls, 81; Transcripts, No. 2005. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 280.]

XI. Mere, May 25, 1259.—Richard King of the Romans, (fn. 2) grants to the citizens that they and their heirs shall hold the city of Exeter in fee-farm for ever, rendering the accustomed fee-farm. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 280.]

XII. London, Nov. 7, 1259.—Richard King of the Romans grants to the Mayor, bailiffs and citizens as in No. XI, specifying the fee-farn at 13l. 9s. yearly. See Misc. Rolls, 81. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 280.]

XIII. Westminster, Nov. 6, 1259.—Henry III confirms No. XII. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 281.]

XIV. Berkhampstead, June 18, 1286—Edmund son of Richard King of Aleman', Earl of Cornwall, confirms No. XII. [Oliver, p. 281.]

XV. Berkhamstead, June 17, 1286—Edmund Earl of Cornwall remits rancorem animi et indignaionem which he had coceived against the Mayor and citizens for certain trespasses committed before the Sunday next after the Octave of Trinity last past and at the instance of the noble ladies the daughters of King Edward I, respites 50 marks out of a sum of 250 marks which the citizens owe to him by their bond. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 282.]

XVI. Crake (i.e. Craike—Yorks), Aug. 22, 1292.—Edward I commits to the Mayor the custody of Sigillum ad recognitiones debitorum mercatorum in the city of Exeter. See also Transcripts, No. 2005 [See Oliver, p. 282; Cal. Pat. Rolls (1281–1292), p. 520; Lloyd Parry, Seals, 11.]

XVII. Easton, near Stamford, May 4, 1300.—Edward I confirms No. X and further grant that the citizens shall be free of murage and pavage. See also Transcripts, 2015, 2016. [See Oliver, p. 282; Cal. pat. Rolls, 28 Edward I, p. 512.]

XVIII. Westminster, Nov. 12, 1320.—Edward II confirms No. XVIII and further grant that all pleas concerning lands, tenements, trespasses, contracts &c., arising in the city or its suburbs shall be pleaded before the Mayor and Bailiffs; that the citizens shall not be put on juries, assizens &c. with foreigners, nor foreigners with them, and that they shall be free from murage, pavage, pickage, anchorage, strandage and segeage (or groundage). [See Misc. Rolls, 9; Transcripts, No. 2019; Oliver, p. 282.]

XIX. Eltham, March 1, 1329.—Edward III confirms Nos. XIII and XVIII. [See also Transcripts, No. 2022; Oliver, p. 282. For text see Reichel, pp. 41–55.]

XX. Eltham, Feb. 6, 1332.—Edward III recites No. XII and regrants the city to the citizens and their heirs and successors for ever, rendering 20l. yearly and bearing all burdens hitherto incumbent on the said fee farm. [Oliver, p. 282.]

XXI. Feb. 3, 1365.—Exemplification of a certificate from the Court of Exchequer of the entry in Domesday Book (fn. 3) relating to Exeter. Also a certified extract from the Placita Coronœ taken before Justices in Eyre at Exeter in 1281, finding the fee farm to be 39l. 18s., whereof 12l. 12s. 5d. was paid to the Trinity Priory in London and the rest to the Earl of Cornwall. Also in Transcripts, No. 2629. [See text in Izacke, 56; full abstract in Oliver, p. 284.]

XXII. Westminster, Dec. 5, 1378.—Richard II confirms No. XIX. [See Oliver, p. 284.] This confirmation was granted because according to an order of Parliament the citizens made a balinger for the King's navy. as witnessed by Thomas [Brantingham] Bishop of Exeter before the King's Council. See Cal. Pat. Richard II, i., 292; see also the Register of St. John's Hospital,f. 636.

XXIII.—Duplicate of No. XXII.

XXIV. Dec. 1, 1412.—Letters Patent of Henry IV, exemplifying the records of a proceeding in the Exchequer of 21 Edward III (1347–8) touching the fairs of Exeter &c. [Oliver, p. 284.]

XXV. Nov. 5, 1423.—Exemplification of Letters Patent of 14 Dec., 1414, [see Cal. Pat. Henry V., i., 283], confirming No. XXII.

XXVI.—Exemplification of a certificate of the Court of Exchequer stating that they find nothing in Domesday Book relating to the manor and fee of St. Sidwell. 11 Dec., 1429, —i.e. 8 Henry VI [not 8 Henry IV (i.e. 1406) as Oliver, p. 284, the entry from which it is copied being No. 13 in the MS. Book, f. 200].

XXVII. July 14, 1438.—Inspeximus and confirmation bt Henry VI reciting Letters Patent of 14 Dec., 1414. [See No. XXV.] [Oliver, p. 284.]

XXVIII.—Edward IV grants to the Mayor &c. bona et catalla vocat' manuopera, catalla felonum, fugitivorum utlegatorum necnon qualitercunque damnatorum seu convictorum, &c., also to hold feriam sive nundinas for two days on the Eve of St. Mary Magdalen. Westminster, July 1, 1463; not July 21st, as Izacke, 86. See Transcripts, No. 2042; Oliver, p. 285; Cal. Pat. 3 Ed. IV, p. 275.

XXIX. Westminster, Oct. 12, 1486.—Henry VII confirms Nos. XXVII and XXVIII. [See Oliver, p. 285.]

XXX. Greenwich, July 10, 1509.—Writ of Privy Seal directing the mode of electing the Mayor, Bailiffs, Sergeants and other officers of the city every year. [Attached to the writ is a slip of parchment bearing the names of the Mayor and 23 of the Common Council. Similarly in Book 51, f. 111, with the names of 22 of the Council, besides the Mayor, and in Book 53, f. 82 (24 names in all), in both of which it is dated July 10, 1509. The full text in English is printed in Izacke, 99, where it is wrongly dated 1498; see also Oliver, p. 285.]

XXXI. Feb. 26, 1510.—Henry VIII confirms No. XXIX. [See Oliver, p. 285.]

XXXII. Westminster, Feb. 16, 1535.—Henry VIII grants that the Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen shall be Justices of the Peace within the city and the liberties thereof. [See Oliver, p. 285.]

XXXIII. Westminster, Aug. 23, 1537.—Henry VIII confirms all previous charters and makes the City of Exeter a county per se, re et nomine. Also in Transcripts, No. 2045, 2046. [See Oliver, p. 286; for a draft proposal for this dated 28 Henry VIII, see D. 1430b.]

XXXIV. Westminster, Feb. 24, 1549.—Edward VI confirms Nos. XXXI and XXXIII. [Full text printed in Reynolds, p. 3a; also in Book 51, f. 114; Book 52, f. 143; see also Oliver, p. 286.]

XXXV. March 18, 1540.—Exemplification of a writ of certiorari to John Mason, clerk of the Parliament, for a copy of an Act of Parliament determining the bounds of the county of the city of Exeter passed in the Parliament begun Nov. 4, 1547, and continued by prorogation till March 14, 1548, (fn. 4) with rent roll (uncalendered), March 18, 1549. The text appears also in Book 51, ff. 123–5, where the date of the closing of the Parliament is wrongly given as March 24, instead of 14th as in the original document. See also Book 52, f. 62b; Jenkins, pp. 441–444; Reynolds, p. 3; Transcripts, No. 2053.

XXXVI. Westminster, Dec. 22, 1550.—Edward VI grants the manor of Exe Island in reward to the citizens for their loyalty in defending the city against the rebels. Also in Transcripts, Nos. 2054, 2055, 2056. [See Oliver, p. 286.]

XXXVII. Westminster, Feb. 21, 1561.—Queen Elizabeth grants that the city shall have the custody of the lands and goods of orphans. (fn. 5) [See Oliver, p. 287.]

XXXVIII. Westminster, Nov. 8, 1562.—Queen Elizabeth grants to the Mayor &c. the appointment of the 12 poor men in Bonevile's Almshouses in the Combe Rewe, (fn. 6) and of the four poor men of the foundation of the late Prior and Convent of the late Hospital of Saint John the Baptist within the Eastgate. [Printed in Izacke, 130. See also Transcripts, No. 2057; Oliver, p. 287.] In D 1527a (Nov., 1562) is a copy of a petition from the Mayor &c. praying for the issue of the Letters Patent concerning Bonville's Almshouses, with a copy of this Charter. There is another copy in Book 51, f. 140b, where it is "for the apoyntinge and nomynatynge of the poore yn the hospital in the Comeroye, called "in Rocke Lane" in the Table of Contents. Also in Book 52, f. 276b, where "and of the pensioners of the Hospital of St. John" has been added in a later hand. Both of these entries have also a memorandum as to Bonville's Almshouses. There is also a copy of the Charter in Book 56.

XXXIX.—Exemplification of a writ of certiorari to Francis Spelman, clerk of the Parliaments, and an Act of the Parliament held Jan. 12, 1563, confirming No. XXXVII. Also a Rent Roll, 3 May, 1563. [See Oliver, p: 287.]

XL. Aug. 6, 1564.—Ratification by William Hervye, Esquire, Clarencieux King-of-Arms, of the arms of the City of Exeter, with the addition of a crest and supporters, but no mention of any motto.

XLI. June 2, 1572.—Confirmation by Queen Elizabeth of the following document:—(a) Deed of purchase, July 16, 1547, of the manors of Plympton and Exminster and other possessions between Edward VI and Edward [Seymour] Duke of Somerset. (fn. 7) See also Transcripts, No. 2063. (b) Extract from a writ of Privy Seal (July 22, 1547) granting the manor of Topsham to the Duke of Somerset. (c)Exemplification (May 16, 1572) of an Act of the Parliament [that met by prorogation] on Nov. 4, 1549, reciting the attainder, submission and restitution of the Duke of Somerset (fn. 8) and assuring all his lands and possessions to him and his heirs. [See Transcripts. No. 2063.]

XLII. June 22, 1575.—Exemplification of a record of a proceeding in the Queen's Bench of Easter, 1575, in which the Mayor &c. claim cognizance of the plea setting forth their Charter No. XVIII, which is recited in full and allowed.

XLIII. June 27, 1610.—Exemplification of a decree of the Exchequer of Hillary Term, 1610, reciting No. XXIII. For a draft proposal for this see Deeds, No. 1430b.

XLIV. Feb. 16, 1611.—Exemplification of an Act passed in the Parliament [that met by prorogation on Feb. 9, 1610, Stat. iv., 1153] entitled: "An Acte for the contynuance and reparacion of a newe builte weare upon the River of Exe" [i.e. Stat. 7 Jac. I., printed in Stat. iv., 1173.] It refers to the destruction of the old wear called Callibere Weare (fn. 9) "about the feast of the birth of our Lord God last was 2 years," i.e. Christmas, 1608. See also Transcripts, No. 2075. For a memorandum concerning this event see L. 155, which shows that it happened on Sunday, Jan. 17, 1607 (i.e. 1608) "by reason of an extreame frost Wch. contynuued betwene 5 or 7 weekes," when "there came downe the river of Ex such heugs stacks of Isse Wch. had rested uppon our ware."

XLV. Westminster, Dec. 17, 1627.—Charles I grants a charter to the city. For abstract see Oliver, p. 287. For extracts see Lloyd Parry, pp. 11–14, with full Latin text in Oliver, pp. 289–304, and English translation in Jenkins, pp. 137–155.

XLVI. Oct. 22, 1684.—Charles II grants a charter of similar import to No. XLV [which had been surrendered]. For an abstract see Transcripts, Nos. 2045, 2046.

XLVII. June 28, 1721.—Exemplification of verdict in a suit for Town Customs, Exeter v. Bond.

XLVIII. April 25, 1770.—George III grants a charter for regulating the manner of holding the Session of the Peace in the City. Recites Nos. XXXIII and XLV. [Abstract in Oliver, p. 288.]

The three following sections, viz. (II) Commissions, Pardons &c., (III) Royal Letters and Warrants, and (IV) Letters and other Papers, appear to contain the most valuable material of the whole collection from the point of view of the historical student. They form a sort of running accompaniment to the general history of the country from the middle of the 14th century onwards. The distinction between the three sections, however, is somewhat arbitrary and several items that are really closely connected together are thereby separated and classified apart. In order to obtain a survey of the contents of this portion of the collection the more rational method would appear to be to disregard to some extent the grouping of the Calendar, even at the cost of losing the continuity of the running numbers, while preserving the main stream of the chronology throughout.


  • 1. * i.e. The Black Prince, to whom the grant had been made on March 17, 1337. See Transcripts, No. 2024, 2025; Charter Roll, 11 Edward III, No. 60, in Report on the Dignity of a Peer, v. 36. For a writ to the Mayor &c., dated Oct. 10, 1337, showing that the payments began on Sept. 28, 1337, see Cal. Close Rolls, Edward III (1337–1339), p. 198.
  • 2. * To whom the city and castle had been granted in 1231.
  • 3. * In Book 51, f. 53b, the entry is given thus: In libro de Domesdaye inter terras Regis in Com' Devon contint' (sic). In Civitate Exon habet Rex ccc. domos xv minus reddentes &c. In hac civitate sunt vastate xlviij demus pestquam Rex venit in Anglia. Hec civitas T.R.E. (i.e. tempore regis Edwardi) non geldabit nisi quando Londonia et Eboracum et Wynton geldabunt &c., as in Domesday Book, i, 100; do. Facsimile, Devonshire, p. 1; Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv., 162.
  • 4. * The Bill passed the Commons Feb. 15, 1548 (Commons Journal, i, 18), and was read in the House of Lords Feb. 16, 1548 (Lords Journal, i, 342).
  • 5. * The full text of Charter XXXVII, known as the Charter of the Orphans [Book 51, f. 129b; Book 52, f. 176b; Book 56; Hooker's List, No. 11] was printed by Hooker in 1575. See his "Orders Enacted for Orphans," pp. 23–31, together with Inspeximus and Confirmation, May 3, 1563. Ibid, p. 32.
  • 6. † Called "Combe Stret" in D. 837a; "Combe Strete" or "La Cumbe," Coll. Top., i, 376. See St. Nicholas Priory. For "Com roye" in Broad Clyst, see L. 379.
  • 7. ‡ From Pat. I Edward VI, pt. 6, mm. 20, 21; J. B. Rowe, Hist. of Plympton, p. 23.
  • 8. * For his pardon, Feb. 16, 1550, see Rymer, VI, iii, 179.
  • 9. † i.e. Calabeer Wear rebuilt in 1571, Act Book, iii, f. 3; Izacke, 133; Jenkins, 124. 2052