Canterbury: The city as county

Pages 14-28

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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The city as county

After which, king Edward IV. (fn. 1) in his first year, confirmed all the above-mentioned charters by inspeximus, reciting especially those of king Henry VI. at full length; and then, He considering that the city of Canterbury being one of the antientest cities of the realm, set in the best place for the prospect of strangers, the metropolitan see of it, in which church the blessed martyr, St. Thomas, and his cousin Edward, late prince of Wales, lay buried; and the fidelity and laudable service, wisdom, industry, and courage of the mayor and citizens of Canterbury, to him and his progenitors, kings of England, especially to himself of late, to their no small charge and jeopardy; therefore for these and many other causes, he granted and confirmed to them all former charters, liberties, and customs, especially those of king Henry IV. and VI. to hold to them and their successors for ever. Moreover, hearing of the grievous and lamentable complaint of the then mayor and citizens, that this city and the inhabitants of it were fallen into great poverty, as well by the great and chargeable payment of the fee farm from it of sixty pounds, as by their great and chargeable costs and expences in resisting his enemies invading the realm in those parts near it, and other necessary charges happening to the city; and that the fewness of the inhabitants in it were so much impoverished and wasted, that they must leave the city, though God forbid it, clearly depopulated, except they were graciously succoured; which he, of his abundant grace, being willing to do, and to further this city, released and remitted to the mayor and citizens 16l. 13s. 8d. of the said see farm, yearly for ever; and that they should have allowance yearly, at the exchequer, for the remaining 43l. 6s. 8d. to be paid yearly, viz. thirty pounds thereof to the heirs of William Cundy, son of John Cundy, and twenty marcs to the six brothers and sisters of Herbaldown, to them severally granted and confirmed of old time by his progenitors.

And he further granted to them, in help of the said payment of 43l. 6s. 8d. all fines, issues, and amerciaments at their sessions, held from time to time, and likewise authority to the citizens to levy fines before mayor of the city. And for the greater tranquility, profit, and increase of the citizens, he of his better grace, granted and confirmed to the mayor and citizens, that in future, the city, with the suburbs without Northgate, and the suburbs without Riding-gate, Burgate, Newingate, Quiningate, Worgate, and Westgate, of the city; and that parcel, hamlet, or village of Winecheap, with other suburbs; and all the precinct of the city, suburbs, and parcel aforesaid, which were of the liberties, and within the liberty of the city at that time, or of old time had been. (The hamlet of Staplegate within the city, parcel of the village of Westgate without the city, then of the fee of the archbishop, and the castle of Canterbury, always excepted.) Which city and suburbs, parcel and precinct, except before excepted, were then in the county of Kent, but should in future be one whole county by itself corporate, in deed and name, and distinct, and utterly separate from the said county of Kent, and should be named and called the county of the city of Canterbury, for ever. (fn. 2)

And he also granted that the bailiff of the city should be sheriff of it, and take the oath of sheriff accordingly; that the mayor should certify such nomination under his seal into chancery; the sheriff should hold monthly courts on a Thursday; that all writs should be directed to him, and he should have the retrun thereof as such, and should make up his account before the barons of the exchequer yearly. The coroner should have jurisdiction over the county of the city; none dwelling within the city should be compellable to be a collector or assessor of any tax or subsidy but within the city, and that upon shewing the charter in any court, they should allow thereof, &c. And he granted that the mayor should be escheator, and to take the oath before the mayor, his predecessor, and two of the aldermen at the least; and that the mayor and commonalty should have in help towards the said payment of 43l. 6s. 8d. all the issues and profits of the above office; and likewise the goods of all felons, fugitives, outlawries, &c. without any count-whatsoever, the lands then being in the king's hands, and so coming in future always excepted; and further, that the sheriff dying or removing, the mayor, with the advice of the aldermen, should make a new choice. To which charter were witnesses, Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and legate of the apostolic see, and many others. It is dated on August 2d, in the year before mentioned, and indorsed on the back, by the same king and of the date aforesaid, by authority of parliament, and for 10l. paid in the hanaper. (fn. 3)

After which, king Henry VII. in his 13th year, and king Henry VIII. in his 3d year, confirmed all the charters, liberties and privileges of the city; and the former king granted to it his letters patent, in his 13th year, usually stiled Novæ Ordinationes, for the better government of it, (fn. 3) made to the mayor and citizens, upon their humble petition to the king, on account of the frequent controversies and contentions within the city, among the indwellers of the city upon the election of a mayor and other officers of it, and many other enormities of long time used within it, by which many inconveniences had arisen and were likely to arise, if good and due remedy was not in time provided and established; and being willing to provide such due remedy for the speedy reformation of these evils, and the better administration of justice within the city, he ordained and established certain ordinances, institutions, and rules, to be observed within it in future; and in the first place, that instead of a mayor and six aldermen, there should be ever after, a mayor and twelve aldermen; and that every one of the said twelve aldermen, and none other, should be eligible to be chosen mayor; and whereas before there had been used to be thirty six persons of the common council, he ordained that there should be but twenty-four of the common council in future, being freemen of the city; and for the peaceable and quiet election of mayor, the mayor and aldermen should in future nominate at the usual place, two of the said aldermen, to be put in election for that office, and that the common council and other citizens and freemen of the same city there being, should chuse one of those two aldermen to be mayor for the year ensuing; and if any alderman should die or depart from his office, the vacancy should be filled up by the mayor and other aldermen remaining; and in like manner the vacancy of a common councilman should be filled up by those of the same body remaining; that all fines, issues, profits, &c. should be received by the chamberlain and applied to the open profit and use of the city; that the mayor should have yearly out of the chamber of the city, for the sustentation of his office of mayoralty, twenty pounds and no more; and that the chamberlain should yearly acquit and discharge the mayor and sheriff, and the city itself of the payment of the see farm, and of all other charges to the city, mayor, or sheriff for the city, by any manner of means happening; except that the mayor should bear and support the costs and charges in meat and drink for the common clerk, the sergeants to the maces, and the keepers of the prisons of the city, and for every of them.

And he further decreed and ordained, what should be the custom of the court as to sureties, pledges, &c. and that the election of officers, viz. of chamberlain, common clerk, attornies, commonly called common pleaders, serjeants at mace, keepers of the gaol, and tollingers, should be made by the mayor, aldermen, and common council, and that they should be sworn and continue in their respective offices, so that without some reasonable cause they should not be put away; and that the chamberlain should yearly make account before the mayor, aldermen, and common council, or such auditors, as should be deputed by them. After which an act passed anno 34 and 35 of Henry VIII for a confirmation of all liberties, granted by the king or any of his progenitors to the mayor and aldermen of Canterbury, which, nevertheless, the king might resume upon cause. King Edward VI. in his 2d year, and queen Eliz. in her first year, confirmed all former charters, privileges, and liberties to this city; during the latter reign it became so populous and flourishing, that soon after the accession of James I. the mayor and citizens petitioned the king, that on that, as well as on other accounts, he would be pleased to grant them a new charter, with a confirmation and extention of their freedom and liberties; on which, in his 6th year, he was graciously pleased to grant them a new charter, (fn. 4) in which he fully confirmed all their former liberties and privileges; and he further made new, erected, and created them into one body corporate and politic, by the name of the mayor and commonalty of the city of Canterbury, which should remain a free city of itself; and that they should have power to purchase lands and tenements of any sort whatsoever and wheresoever to them and their successors for ever. That all acts and deeds of the city should be done in the name of the mayor and commonalty. That they should have a common seal, which they might break, change, and new make at their pleasure. That there should be one citizen, nominated mayor, (fn. 5) and twelve citizens, aldermen of the city, one of whom should in due course be chosen chamberlain, who should administer the oath to those admitted to the liberties of the city, as before used; and that there should be twenty-four citizens named the common council of it, out of whom the sheriff should be chosen, as before accustomed, which aldermen and common councilmen should be aiding and assisting to the mayor in all matters and business at all times. That the nomination and swearing in of the mayor should be on the days and times, and at the places before used, and the nomination, election and swearing in of the aldermen, chamberlain, sheriff, coroner, twenty four common councilmen, town clerk, and all other officers and ministers of the city, should be from time to time made before the mayor, at the usual times and places; provided, that no alien should bear office in the city, and that the mayor, when out of office, should be one of the aldermen in room of him elected to succeed him. And he ordained, that on the vacancy of an alderman, the mayor should propose to the aldermen then present, one of the common council to be an alderman, who should for such election have the majority of voices of such aldermen, and if he should not have such majority, that then the senior alderman in precedence then present should propose another such person for their choice, to have such majority, and so on, until some one such should be nominated by such majority, to be alderman of the city; and that on the vacancy of a common councilman, the sheriff, the recorder if present, or the senior common-councilman then present, should in turn propose to the rest of the common council then present, one other citizen or freeman, to be elected such common-councilman by the majority of voices, in like manner as on the vacancy of an alderman as above-mentioned, and at the usual times and places. And that the mayor and aldermen, of which the mayor should be always one, should make laws, decrees, statutes, &c. for the public good and common profit of the city, and should have power to enforce them by imprisonment, fines, and amerciaments, or by both, on the breakers of them; which fines and amerciaments should belong to the mayor and commonalty and their successors, provided that such laws, &c. were not repugnant to those of the realm. And that the mayor, aldermen, sheriff, chamberlain, &c. of the city, should hold and enjoy respectively, in their several offices, places and wards, view of frankpledge and all belonging to it, and all other exemptions and releasements, as they had before used and enjoyed; and that every citizen should have and enjoy his antient privilege and custom, as had been before time lawfully used and accustomed; that the mayor and aldermen, of which the mayor should be one, should have power to elect a recorder, (fn. 6) who should be sworn in before the mayor, and should hold his office during pleasure; and he further granted, that the mayor, the recorder, and all such aldermen as had served the office of mayor, should be justices of the peace, and conservators and keepers of it; and that they, or any four or more of them, whereof the mayor and recorder to be two, should hold the quarter session, and make a general gaol delivery, and that the recorder and aldermen so acting as justices, should take an oath for the due execution of such offices before the mayor for the time being. And whereas by the charter granted by king Henry VI. in his 26th year, the mayor and aldermen had power to assess and tax the goods, &c. of the inhabitants of this city for the necessities and profits of it, the king confirmed the same power, so that the mayor be always one, and that they might levy the same by distress; and he further granted, that no stranger should keep a shop, or sell any goods whatsoever by retail within the city, unless it be in the times of fairs or markets holden in it, without the licence of the majority of the mayor and aldermen, of which the mayor to be one, in writing under their seal, under pain of such penalties and forfeitures as they, by the statutes of the realm, might inflict and impose; and that no citizen should be compelled to appear on any juries, before any court holden without the city, cases of high treason alone excepted; and that the mayor and town clerk might take recognizances for debts, &c. and that the mayor and aldermen, of which the mayor should always be one, might elect a townclerk, (fn. 7) who should hold his office during pleasure, and might be removed by them accordingly; and that the mayor and commonalty should have power to purchase lands and tenements, not holden in chief, or by knight's service, to the clear amount of forty pounds yearly, beyond reprises, the statute of mortmain, &c. not withstanding; and that any one might sell the same to them from time to time; and that the mayor should appoint and have within the city a swordbearer, who should be attendant on him, and carry or bear before him, one sword or blade covered, every where within it, and the liberties and precincts of the same. And he granted and confirmed to the mayor and commonalty, and their successors, all their lands, tenements, liberties, franchises, wastes, void places, waters, ways, commodities, &c. and hereditaments whatsoever, which they had used or enjoyed at any time by inheritance, or by any letters patent or charters whatsoever, or by any right, title, or custom, use or presumption, although the same or any of them had been forseited, or lest, or had been evilly used, or not used, or discontinued, to hold by the like services and tenures as heretosore; and yielding and paying to him, his heirs and successors, such see farms, rents, and services, as they had been accustomed and ought to be paid for the same; and he further confirmed to them all liberties, jurisdictions, &c. and that they should hold and enjoy all the same, without molestation, or interruption, within this city, the liberties and precincts of the same.

Provided always, that this his present grant or confirmation should not in any wise extend to the palace of the archbishop of Canterbury, or to the hamlet of Staplegate, or to the scite and precinct of the cathedral and metropolitical church of Christ, in Canterbury, nor to any other place whatsoever, being without the liberties of the city of Canterbury, or give place to, or any way be extended to the prejudice or diminution of any right or title of any liberties, franchises, exemptions, or jurisdictions of the archbishop, or his successors, or the archbishopric, or of his hon. chancellor Edward, lord Wotton, his lieutenant of the county of Kent, the city of Canterbury, and the county of the same, or of the lieutenant of him, his heirs, and successors, within the county of Kent, the city of Canterbury, and the county of the same, for the time being, or of the dean and chapter of the cathedral and metropolitical church of Chirst, in Canterbury, or of the late dissolved monastery of St. Augustine, near Canterbury, or of his cinque ports, any thing contained in these presents to the contrary notwithstanding.

And he granted, that the mayor and commonalty should have these his letters patent, under his great seal of England, in due form, without fine or see to him in his hanaper, or otherwise, &c. In witness whereof, he had caused his letters to be made patent; witness himself at Asheridge, the 8th day of September, in the year of his reign of England, &c. the 6th, and of Scotland the 42d (fn. 8)

Signed, Cartwright, and underneath,
Taxat: finis pro Confirmacoe prior: Libtat ad xv lib.

The above charter of king James I. continued in force for the government of this city till the 36th year of king Charles II.'s reign, anno 1684, two years before which, that king had issued his proclamation for the resumption into his hands of all corporation charters throughout the kingdom; in consequence of which many were surrendered, and others were taken away, under various pretences. The mayor and commonalty not making such a surrender as was acceptable to the king were served with a quo warranto, as appears by an entry in the burghmote book of a meeting held on Dec. 11, 1683, of the mayor, aldermen, and common councilmen, to consult what return they should make to it, which it seems they did not then determine on; but that in another meeting, held in January 1684, being intimidated, they declared both their inability and unwillingness to contest the quo warranto brought against the city. And in April following, at another meeting, a more ample surrender of the franchises and liberties of the city to the king's use, was sealed by an order of burghmote for that purpose; and in the August following the charter of James I. was also surrendered by the mayor, ex officio, with the consent of the majority of the court of burghmote. On the 8th of Nov. following, being the 36th year of the same reign, anno 1684, king Charles II. granted the city his charter, in which the chief alterations seem to have been the grant of a fair on March 1, yearly, in the field called Le Dane John Field, or in some other convenient place within the liberties, for the buying and selling of cattle, with a court of pye powder to it; the liberty of chursing a mayor, aldermen. and common council, or any other officer dwelling in any privileged place, within or near the liberties or precincts of the city; for the recorder to chuse a deputy, to remain during his pleasure, and then, what it appears this new charter was chiefly granted for, a proviso, that the king and his successors, at his and their pleasure, might remove the mayor, recorder, sheriff, town clerk, and any of the aldermen, or common council from their offices, by any order under the seal of the privy council, as often as he or they should think fit; and that then, in convenient time, others should be chosen and appointed in their room, according to the tenor of this charter; in which William Rooke, esq. was nominated mayor, and several of the aldermen and common councilmen, and other officers belonging to the corporation, were removed and others nominated in it; (fn. 9) they being severally displaced, as having opposed his measures.

This charter was received at Canterbury on Nov. 12th, that year, with much apparent solemnity and demonstration of joy; and being read at the courthall, the mayor and aldermen named in it were sworn, with the usual ceremonies on such occasions. (fn. 10) But upon the death of king Charles II. which happened on Feb. 6th, following, 1685, king James II. in his 2d year, anno 1687, caused this charter likewise to be surrendered up to him, and by his royal proclamation and orders made in council, he removed Henry Lee, esq. from the office of mayor, and several of the aldermen, and appointed John Kingsford to be mayor, who acquitted himself so much to the king's satisfaction, that he was, at his nomination, continued in the office for the next year. But the king finding the danger he was in from such arbitrary proceedings, in the month of October following issued a proclamation, by which he restored all those corporations which had had new charters granted to them, since the year 1679, to their former charters preceding that time, and to all their liberties, free customs, &c. By virtue of which the charter of king James I. was restored to this city, and the citizens elected Mr. Henry Gibbs, to the office of mayor for the remainder of the year; and the aldermen and common council took their places as they stood at the time of the surrender, and according to their former elections, and according to the tenor of that charter, by which and the charters preceding it, this city has continued to be governed to the present time. (fn. 11)

In Trinity term, in the 8th year of king George III. (fn. 12) the mayor and commonalty of the city of Canterbury made a claim in the court of exchequer, of their liberties, immunities, and franchises, granted to them by charter, in the proceedings of which, it is recited as follows:—And William de Grey, esq. attorney-general of the said lord the king, that now is, who for the same lord, the now king, prosecuteth in this behalf, present here in court, in the same day, in his own proper person and by the barons here, being asked and demanded, whether he would say any thing for the same lord, the now king, in the premises; having seen and inspected the aforesaid claim of the said mayor and commonalty, and having also seen and inspected, as well the inrolment of the said charter of the aforesaid late Henry IV. late king of England, made to the aforesaid mayor and commonalty, concerning the liberties aforesaid and the inrolment of the charters of the aforesaid king Henry VI. late king of England, granted to the said mayor and commonalty; and also the inrolment of the charter of the aforesaid Edward IV. made to the said mayor and commonalty, concerning the donations, grants, liberties, franchises, privileges, immunities, customs, confirmations, and acquittances aforesaid; and also the inrolments of the letters patent of the late king Henry VII. king of England, whereby he granted to the said mayor and commonalty, all issues, fines, amerciaments, and other profits arising within the said city; and also the inrolment of the charter of king James I. late king of England, concerning the authorities and liberties therein contained, and in the court here to them allowed.— Therefore the same attorney general doth not deny, but confesseth the claim of the aforesaid mayor and commonalty, to be in all things true, in manner and form as the aforesaid mayor and commonalty, in their claim have alledged and claimed. WM. DE GREY.

Inspeximus of charters, viz.

1 Henry IV.
26 Henry VI.
31 Henry VI.
1 Edw. IV.
13 Henry VII.
6 Jac. I.

The record then recites the usual forms of recital in the court of exchequer on such claims; after which in concludes thus:

Therefore the same attorney-general doth not deny, but consesseth the claim of the aforesaid mayor and commonalty to be in all things true, in manner and form as the same mayor and commonalty in their claim aforesaid have alledged and claimed; and the premises having been seen by the barons, and mature deliberation had thereupon among them, it is considered by the same barons, that all the aforesaid liberties, granted to them by virtue of the aforesaid charters and letters patent, be adjudged and allowed to the aforesaid mayor and commonalty, and their successors, by virtue of the premises.


  • 1. The translation of the charter 1st Edward IV. now in use is a very bad one.
  • 2. At the time of the survey of Domesday, this place, like Rochester and many other towns, was accounted a hundred of it self, by the name of the hundred of Canterbury, and it probably contiuned so till this charter of king Edw. IV. made it a county of itself, exclusive from the jurisdiction of the county of Kent, in which it was before comprehended; but although the hamlet of Staplegate within the city, parcel of the ville of Westgate, without the city and the castle of Canterbury only were excepted from this new county, yet the archbishop's palace, the ville of Christ-church, and other religious foundations claimed likewise an exemption from it; all which are mentioned in the succeeding charters and in the further part of this history.
  • 3. This and the two following charters are likewise in the city chest. In the 6th year of king Henry VII. the mayor and commonalty of the city of Canterbury, made claim of cognizance of an indictment for felony committed within their liberties, before the judge of assize and gaol delivery of the king's castle of Canterbury, Thomas Davers by name; upon which the judge ordered their indictment to be amended, and instead of the felony being averred to have been committed within the liberties of the city, viz. in the parish of Northgate, for it to run thus, and that the felony was made in Westgate-street, in the county of Kent, for that the said selon was there taken cum manu opere, and was accordingly so arrested.
  • 4. This charter was drawn by Sir H. Hobart, the attorney general. and with the former preceding charters is in the city chest.
  • 5. Thomas Paramore, then mayor, was continued so by this charter.
  • 6. Sir John Boys was the first legis peritus, who was stiled recorder of the city in the city's charters.
  • 7. Robert Railton, then town clerk, was appointed town clerk in the charter.
  • 8. The expences of obtaining this charter were to the city, 369l. 7s. 8d.
  • 9. Thomas, earl of Thanet, was nominated recorder; Sir Authony Aucher, knt. and bart. Sir William Honywood, bart. the aforesaid William Rooke, Henry Lee, William Kingsley, esqrs. John Eliot, M. D. Joseph Roberts, esq. Thomas Endfield, gent. and others therein named, were appointed aldermen; Sir Paul Barrett, sergeant-at-law; Herbert Randolph, jun. esq. Leonard Lovelace, gent. and others therein mentioned, common councilmen; and the above-mentioned Leonard Lovelace, town-clerk and coroner.
  • 10. In an entry made concerning the bringing down of this charter, it is said that on the day above-mentioned, the charter was met upon Boughton-hill, about five miles from Canterbury, (being brought down by Col. Rooke, who succeeded as mayor) by between 5 and 600 horsemen and 40 coaches of the principal gentry of the country, and the most eminent persons of the corporation, and so conducted to the Westgate of the city, where they were received by six companies of foot, who made a guard for them to the town-hall; and after the charter had been read, and the mayor and aldermen sworn, the mayor entertained the whole company with a collation in the afternoon; and all manner of demonstrations were shewed of a dutiful and loyal acknowledgment of the king's most gracious favour to the city.
  • 11. The charter of king Charles II. when surrendered was no longer acted under, or considered as one of the city's charters.
  • 12. His present Majesty king George III. in the 6th year of his reign granted to the mayor, aldermen, and commonalty, and their successors, liberty of a market, toll-free, within the city, to be held on Wednesday in every week for ever, for the buying and selling of hops, wholesale and retail, in bags, pockets, or otherwise. This charter is likewise in the city chest.