The city of St Albans: The borough

A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.

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'The city of St Albans: The borough', in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2, ed. William Page( London, 1908), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'The city of St Albans: The borough', in A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2. Edited by William Page( London, 1908), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"The city of St Albans: The borough". A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2. Ed. William Page(London, 1908), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.


We learn from the Domesday Book (1086) that there were in the town of St. Albans four Frenchmen (francigeni) and sixteen villeins, with thirteen bordars and forty-six burgesses who held ½ hide of land. In comparison with other towns of a similar standing St. Albans may be said to have been at this time small, but as the abbey flourished during the twelfth and the first half of the thirteenth century, so the town increased in prosperity till we find in the time of Henry III it ranked with what were then some of the larger boroughs, and was frequently called upon with them to supply the royal household and army with provisions. (fn. 1) We find also at the same time that the merchants of the town trafficked largely in all parts of the kingdom, and to some extent in France. (fn. 2) In 1202 the men of St. Albans were so independent of the abbot that they paid 2 marks direct to King John to have the right to buy and sell dyed cloth as they used to do in the time of Henry II. (fn. 3) Thus the abbey and the town seem to have furthered the interests of each other down to the abbacy of Roger Norton (1260–91), when, possibly on account of the straitened circumstances of the monastery, (fn. 4) or possibly as the result of the aggressiveness of the townspeople, there commenced that series of disputes which continued till the fifteenth century, when the gild system to a certain extent altered the form of the town organization. These disputes created two distinct interests in the town, as was in like manner the case in almost every mesne borough, namely, the interest of the abbot as lord and that of the townspeople. King Henry II (1154–89) confirmed to the abbot 'the town of St. Albans with the market place and every liberty a borough ought to have.' (fn. 5)

At first the only court of the borough was held on St. Margaret's Day, apparently by the abbot's reeve, the chief officer of the town, and only took cognizance of the assize of bread and ale, the assize of measures, and such-like matters, beingprobably only the view of frankpledge for the borough. (fn. 6) For the trial of all crimes, pleas, and plaints the townspeople had to go to the Hundred Court of the Abbot's Liberty, (fn. 7) which was held before the steward of the liberty under the great ash tree in the courtyard of the abbey. (fn. 8) It was the desire of all boroughs to obtain an independent judiciary, and by a charter dated 7 January, 1253, King Henry III granted to the good men (probi homines) of St. Albans that they from thenceforth should not plead or be impleaded by writ of attaint (fn. 9) of any tenement in the town, and that such writ should not run there in like manner as it did not in other boroughs of the kingdom. (fn. 10)

No sooner was this charter obtained than the abbots tried to make it of none effect, and, whether on account of it or for other reasons, the constitution of the town was shortly afterwards changed. (fn. 11) The reeve between 1270 and 1284 (fn. 12) gave place to the bailiff, an officer whose existence seems to imply a more complete system of town jurisdiction. (fn. 13) At St. Albans it probably meant the establishing of a court leet of the borough organized as a hundred court, independent of the court of the liberty, with its bailiff appointed by the abbot, its constables from each of the four wards and their chief pledges. This is implied by an entry under 1276 in the Gesta Abbatum Sancti Albani, (fn. 14) setting out that the townsmen should not be drawn from thenceforth to the hundred court unless they wished to sue there, or if their plea was one which could not be determined in the court leet of the abbot. The borough court appears to have been abolished by Abbot John de Marinis early in the fourteenth century and not reinstated till 1327. (fn. 15) It then lasted for some time, and was finally discontinued, it would seem, after the rebellion of 1381.

The bailiff, although usually a townsman, was the officer of the abbot, and did not represent the interests of the town, but was constantly at variance with it. (fn. 16) His duties in the sixteenth century were to collect all fines and amercements levied at the court leet of the borough, which was held twice yearly at the Moot Hall by the steward of the liberty; to take charge of all waifs, estrays, felons' goods, deodands, and to see that the orders of the abbot and his courts were carried out in the town. (fn. 17) Of the other officers of the abbot in the town we have the clerk of the market, the porter of the prison, to whom Abbot Richard Wallingford (1326–35) added a constable of the peace with two chief pledges for each ward. (fn. 18)

With regard to the organization of the town, we have noticed that at the time of the Domesday Survey there were forty-six burgesses and other persons of lower degree, which latter probably came under the general heading of commonalty, the old title of the community of townsmen being the Burgesses and Commonalty or good men of the town of St. Albans. (fn. 19) There can be little doubt that the Domesday burgesses were the predecessors of those who, during the disputes with the abbot, claimed the right to grind their corn where they pleased by reason of their condition or by reason of their tenure, (fn. 20) and it was apparently these burgesses who, during the earlier part of the fourteenth century, elected the two representatives from the town to Parliament. (fn. 21)

Without entering fully into the history of the disputes between the abbots of St. Albans and their tenants, which can be more fully treated in the special articles on the political and economic history of the county, it may be well to refer very briefly to the matter here, in so far as it relates particularly to St. Albans.

The first we hear of any difference between the townsmen and the abbot is a complaint before the justices in eyre in 1262, that the steward of the abbot had put the freemen of the town to take an oath without the special licence of the king, and drew them to a foreign hundred court, compelling them to answer there against the customs and liberties of the town. (fn. 22) In 1274 the townsmen made a general resistance to the claim of the abbot that they should full their coarse cloth and grind their corn at his mills. (fn. 23) At the time a considerable tumult was caused in the town, and the people appealed to Queen Eleanor, who happened then to be visiting the abbey. The questions, however, were, in 1275, decided before the king's justices against the townsmen, who made a compulsory submission to the abbot. (fn. 24) The dissatisfaction smouldered on till the flame again burst forth in the disturbances of 1313–4, when the townspeople insisted on having hand-mills in their own houses, and once more the judges decided against them. (fn. 25) In 1316 they obtained a confirmation from the crown of their charter of 1253, and at the close of the reign of Edward II, when the royal authority was weakened by reason of the disturbed condition of the country, the opportunity of the townsmen occurred. A third time they put forward their claims and violence was committed on both sides. The townspeople in 1326 set out their demands in certain articles, by the principal of which they claimed to be free burgesses and to be represented in Parliament. (fn. 26) Abbot Hugh Eversden attempted to evade these articles by trying to postpone the question. The townspeople, who saw the disadvantage of delay, besieged the abbey, and would not desist from the attack until the king ordered the sheriff to go with an armed force for the relief of the abbey. (fn. 27) The townspeople then proposed a conference in St. Paul's Cathedral, and petitioned Parliament, (fn. 28) bringing influence to bear with King Edward III, to issue a writ to the abbot of St. Albans, dated 8 February, 1327, forbidding him to interfere with their liberties. The meeting was held in St. Paul's on 23 February, representatives were selected from both sides, and three peers were appointed by the king. After long discussion, particularly as to the interpretation of the word burgus in the grant by Henry II to the abbot, the matter was referred to the King's Council, and a little later certain indentures of agreement were entered into whereby it was arranged that the bounds of the borough should be perambulated by twentyfour sworn burgesses, that the inhabitants should be burgesses of the town and should elect two representatives to Parliament, that the burgesses should have a separate court but should attend the hundred court of the abbot when impleaded by writ, and the bailiff of the borough should make executions within the town, the bailiff of the hundred doing so only when the borough bailiff made default. It was provided that the indentures should prejudice neither party upon the question of grinding at the abbot's mill. The deed was only sealed by the monks after pressure had been brought to bear by the crown. (fn. 29)

The succeeding abbot, Richard Wallingford, appears to have made careful preparations for upsetting this agreement, saving what money he could so that when the opportunity occurred there should be no impediment on this head. He was not long in finding a favourable opportunity to carry out his designs. One of the principal townsmen was accused of adultery, and was summoned to appear at the abbey. In the service of the summons, the abbot's marshal killed the townsman, whereupon the people rose and slew the marshal, and indicted his attendants, and later the abbot himself and one of the monks, of the death of the townsman. (fn. 30) Upon the proceedings which followed the abbot raised the whole question of the town liberties, and in 1331 he made great provision of wine and victuals at the cell of Hertford for the justices and magnates of the county, (fn. 31) who were to sit there to try the case. After a lengthy hearing the townspeople were convicted of conspiracy, and the abbot seizing the further opportunity, again indicted many of the townsmen for withholding suit at his mills. The townspeople became alarmed at the course events were taking, and offered to submit themselves to the abbot's conditions, which were as follows, viz., that they should deliver up their deed of liberties, their seal and common chest, 'ne ultra foret eis spes aliquando communitatis habendae,' (fn. 32) that for a composition of £48 a year they should be permitted to grind their own barley, that they should pay damages to the abbot, and should give surety for their good behaviour. (fn. 33) Thus, in 1332, the townspeople were reduced again to a state of servitude. The ill-feeling did not die out, for in 1341 we find presentment upon presentment before the king's justices against the abbot and his authority. (fn. 34) And again on 11 February, 1353, the townsmen obtained a second confirmation from the crown of their charter of 1253, upon which they placed so much reliance. In Trinity term 1358, however, a plea touching a tenement in St. Albans was brought into the Court of Chancery, when this charter was pleaded, and the question was argued that the charter was expressly contrary to the common law of the kingdom, whereupon it was considered that it should be revoked, annulled, and cancelled; the charter, and the two confirmations, were therefore vacated. (fn. 35)

There was not wanting much persuasion, therefore, to induce the townspeople to join in the rising of 1381 under Wat Tyler. In the confusion of that time the townsmen obtained temporarily a charter of liberties from the abbot, in which there was granted to them certain rights of common of pasture, fishing, and hunting, the right to use their hand-mills, and that the bailiff of the liberty should not interfere in the town. The whole question, however, of the insurrection of 1381, which covers a much wider area than St. Albans, will be found fully treated in the articles on the Political and Economic History of the county.

Throughout all these disputes we can see that the townsmen had a communal organization separate from that of the abbot's court leet. We have mention of their common chest as early as 1274, and it is stated that they levied money for the support of the community. (fn. 36) From this community there seems to have been a representative body, usually of twelve of their number, who are described as the majores, and who spoke and were bound for themselves and the whole of the commonalty. (fn. 37) In 1331 the abbot is said to have indicted 'omnesmajores cum tota communitate.' (fn. 38) The majores, it would seem, were chosen from the burgesses, but whether they were the same as the twelve sworn men (jurati) and duodena of the town, who are frequently referred to in the Gesta Abbatum, or whether these latter were merely the jury of the court leet, it is difficult to decide. We may say with confidence that during the latter part of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century there was a strong French influence at the abbey of St. Albans, while at the same time there was a close connexion between the city of London and the town of St. Albans. (fn. 39) Keeping this in view, we can perhaps see in the town organization at St. Albans evidences in a modified form of the 'commune,' the sworn confederacy adopted in London about 1191, and modelled upon the similar organization so frequently used in the north of France, and particularly at Rouen. (fn. 40) Excepting the office of mayor, we have all the essentials for the commune, which may be described as an association or conspiracy 'formed by the inhabitants of a town that desired to obtain its independence.' (fn. 41) Instead of the body of twenty-four, as at London, which Mr. Round thinks became the Common Council, (fn. 42) we have the twelve majores before mentioned, who in the short-lived independence of the town of St. Albans, begun in 1327, appear, it would seem, as the consilia communia. (fn. 43)

In 1337 we find that the townsmen confederated and bound themselves by oath to obtain certain liberties from the abbot, (fn. 44) following, as it is said, the example of London and confederating with the citizens of that city. (fn. 45)

The proceedings, however, before the justices of trailbaston in 1331 can leave no doubt as to the nature of the town organization. The record of the verdict of the inquisition states that Peter la Condyt and one hundred and sixty others on Sunday after the feast of the Purification, 1327, together with the whole commonalty of the town, 'confederated themselves together and were bound by oath that each of them would maintain prosecute and defend any quarrel of another of them either just or unjust,' whenever one of the community should commence or defend a quarrel, 'although on that account they should sustain peril of death or any other damage or death itself.' In order further to maintain that confederation they ordained that there should be a common chest and collectors of money to be raised towards the said object who, it is said, extorted money from divers men of the neighbourhood. Moveover, it was brought to the charge of the townsmen, that they besieged the abbot and monks until by force and fear the abbot granted them certain liberties belonging to his church, to wit, that they should be free burgesses and have twelve of themselves, whereas they were accustomed to be joined with the foreigners of the liberty of the abbot except in the eyre of the justices and the return of writs of the king and the custody of the assize of bread and ale broken. (fn. 46) Again, in the account of the insurrection of 1381, it is said that Richard de Wallingford, 'the greatest of the villeins of St. Albans,' called upon the abbot to answer to the commons (communibus), and that the insurgents of St. Albans so gloried in the name of the commonalty (communitatis) that they thought no name more honourable, and according to their idea there should henceforth be no lord but the king and the commons. (fn. 47) We have here the very essence of the commune, (fn. 48) and having mastered this fact it is much easier to understand the recurrent disputes between the abbot and the townsmen which commenced during the latter part of the thirteenth century and continued into the fifteenth century.

Another connexion with the commune at St. Albans was the clock tower, corresponding to the beffroi, to which the members of the French commune looked as the symbol and pledge of their independence, which so far as the existing structure is concerned was not acquired by the townsmen of St. Albans till some seventy years after the surrender of their charter; yet, whether a successor to an older building, or an exchange for rights in the abbey church tower, it was probably a symbol to which the townsmen clung when all other emblems of their independence were taken from them.

There appears to be no evidence of a gild merchant at St. Albans, and considering that the inhabitants looked to London, (fn. 49) where it is known there was no gild merchant, for their type of communal organization, it is not surprising that such a gild did not exist.

In 1377 at the instigation of the abbot, a new fraternity, called the gild of St. Alban, was founded in the town. By the religious side of this gild, the members, who had their services at the altar of St. Mary at the pillar in the nave of the abbey church, were bound to be present in their liveries when the relics of St. Alban were carried in procession out of the monastery. (fn. 50) It would seem, however, probable that this gild, which was composed of men and women of the upper and middle classes, was more than a religious fraternity, for we are told it was dissolved on account of its complicity with (fn. 51) those who revolted against the abbot's authority, probably at the time of the rebellion of 1381. Again a gild was founded in honour of the Holy Trinity at the altar of the Holy Trinity in the north transept of the abbey church, and numbered about two hundred men and women of the middle class, while the wealthier townsmen joined the gild of St. John the Baptist in St. Peter's Church. Both these fraternities, however, shared the fate of the gild of St. Alban and for the same reason.

It was probably upon the dissolution of these gilds that the fraternity of All Saints, otherwise called the Charnel Brotherhood, was founded for the purpose of maintaining two chaplains, one to serve in the parochial chapel of St. Andrew and the other in the parish church of St. Peter, where the gild had a separate chapel, the remains of which may still be seen at the south-west corner of the boundary wall of the churchyard. This gild was a wealthy body, and at the time of its dissolution in 1548 had lands and houses to the yearly value (fn. 52) of £23 2s. 2d., for that time a considerable sum. It would seem possible that this gild had some executive powers in the management of the affairs of the town, as we find it had its meetings at the Moot Hall (fn. 53) belonging to the abbot, where the abbot's courts leet were held. It is interesting to note that in 1403 the land on which the existing Clock Tower was then about to be built was conveyed to Geoffrey Fylynden, the warden of the parochial chapel of St. Andrew, and probably the chaplain of this gild, (fn. 54) John Roland, clerk, and six others, who were prominent townsmen, three of whom had served the office of bailiff of the town. (fn. 55) These feoffees were probably the master, wardens, brothers, and sisters of the gild of All Saints or the Charnel Brotherhood, to which we find, by the wills of the archdeaconry of St. Albans, (fn. 56) that most, if not all, of the wealthier townsmen of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries made bequests and evidently belonged.

In 1426–7 the clerical element seems to have been eliminated from the care of the clock tower, and it was then conveyed to eighty men and women, again probably the brothers and sisters of this gild specially deputed to act as trustees. The feoffees were from time to time renewed, and so soon as the town became incorporated in 1553, the management of the clock tower was taken over by the mayor and burgesses; indeed, the first mayor, chamberlain, steward, and seven out of the ten chief burgesses named in the charter of 1553, are mentioned as feoffees of the clock tower in 1549. (fn. 57) The fee of the tower was conveyed to the corporation on 21 February, 1586–7, by John Sybley son and heir of John Sybley, the last surviving trustee, for the public use of the borough. (fn. 58) The site of the clock tower seems to have been the only piece of land which the townsmen as a body held before their incorporation.

Besides the Charnel Brotherhood, it seems from a petition of the four trade gilds of the town hereafter referred to that they were in existence before the charter of incorporation of 1553, but as to the relation they bore to the Charnel Brotherhood, or the powers they had, we have no information. (fn. 59)

We have traced the governing bodies of the town down to the time of the dissolution of St. Albans Abbey. Certainly from the early part of the sixteenth century, and possibly before that date, the abbot of St. Albans had leased the office of bailiff and clerk of the market of the town, with all the fines imposed at the court held twice yearly at the Moot Hall and all other fines. In 1519 these offices were so leased to John Gelly for thirty-one years; and later to Raynold Carte, who held them at the time of the dissolution of the abbey at a rent of £13 6s. (fn. 60) The lessee's performance of his duties when the crown took the place of the abbot as overlord after the dissolution of the monastery till the charter of incorporation does not seem to have been altogether satisfactory, for we are told that for an offence not stated he was sent down by the Privy Council to St. Albans on 18 October, 1541, under charge of the king's marshal, there to be set in the stocks on the next market day, from an hour before market till an hour after. (fn. 61)

By a charter dated 12 May, 1553, Edward VI incorporated the town under the name of the mayor and burgesses of the borough of St. Alban. The corporation and officers were to consist of the mayor and ten principal burgesses, with power to admit others as burgesses, to form a common council; a steward, who appears to have acted in the capacity of a recorder; a chamberlain, and two sergeants at the mace. The Charnel House, otherwise the Town House, which was the old Moot Hall, was granted as their common hall. They were to have a court of record, having jurisdiction in all pleas of debt, contract, and other pleas under the value of £38, a court leet and view of frankpledge, a gaol, a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays except at Christmas-time, fairs at the feasts of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Alban, and St. Michael, with a court of piepowder, and to have the return of writs. (fn. 62) It will be noticed that much of the old organization continued under this charter. The mayor took the place of the bailiff, the office of clerk of the market and steward remained, whilst the abbot's hundred court became the court of record, and the court leet, view of frankpledge, the moot hall, the gaol, markets, and fairs were continued.

Some time before this date there were four craft gilds (fn. 63) in the town, viz., the Company of Innholders, which comprised tanners, tallow chandlers, curriers, pewterers, musicians, and ropers; the Company of Mercers, which included mercers, drapers, vintners, apothecaries, haberdashers, tailors, dyers, clothworkers, and weavers; the Company of Shoemakers, which embraced shoemakers, saddlers, collarmakers, glovers, barbers, surgeons, smiths, glaziers, plumbers, tinkers, bowyers, fletchers, cutlers, carpenters, lathrenders, joiners, turners, painters, coopers, wheelwrights, sawyers, bricklayers, and tilers; and the Company of Victuallers, which included victuallers, bakers, brewers, butchers, and fishmongers. From these four companies twenty-four persons called assistants were elected to be upon the common council, (fn. 64) and from these assistants two bailiffs were chosen to look after the market. Two men of each of the trade companies were elected wardens, whose duties were to meet four times a year and see that no one but freemen exercised any trade in the town, and that the tradesmen carried on their crafts properly. Besides the above officers there were viewers of the market, and constables and viewers for each ward, who carried out the duties of police in the town.

Edward's charter was confirmed by his sister Mary on 18 December, 1553, and by Elizabeth on 7 February, 1559–60. The latter also in 1570 gave to the corporation the privilege of granting licences for the sale of wine, the profits to be devoted to the Grammar School, which was confirmed and extended by James I. (fn. 65) Charles I on 27 December, 1633, granted the corporation a new charter, and amongst other things created the office of high steward, who was an honorary officer 'to counsel and direct the mayor and aldermen in the business of the borough.' The steward was superseded by the recorder, and a common clerk or town clerk and a coroner were also appointed. The election of the twenty-four assistants was given to the mayor and principal burgesses, being taken out of the hands of the craft gilds, which were evidently falling into decay, as in 1664. their number was reduced to two, the Mercers and the Innholders, (fn. 66) and in 1822 their books ceased to be kept and they became extinct. For some time previously there had been no exclusive trading in the town, (fn. 67) and such trading was finally abolished in 1835 under the Municipal Corporations Act.

Under the charter of Charles II, granted on 27 July, 1664, the title of the corporation was changed to the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of the borough of St. Alban, and instead of the ten principal burgesses twelve aldermen were appointed. On 28 October, 1684, the charters were surrendered to Charles II, and on 16 March, 1685, James II granted a new charter whereby the number of aldermen was increased to eighteen, but this charter was declared void by proclamation upon the accession of William and Mary, thus leaving that of Charles II the operative charter till the Municipal Corporations Reform Act of 1835. By an Act of Parliament of 22 George II (1748–9) a Court of Requests was held on Saturdays for the recovery of debts under 40s. (fn. 68)

Under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 the style of the corporation remained as before, but the corporation was to consist only of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, a third part of the council going out of office annually. Other alterations were also made in accordance with the Act, and either as a direct or indirect consequence of it all courts except the petty and quarter sessions were discontinued. (fn. 69) Upon St. Albans becoming the seat of the bishopric, the corporation prayed that the town might be erected into a city, which was done by royal charter dated 28 August, 1877.

A market was held by the monastery, probably under a prescriptive title. We are told that Abbot Wulsin enlarged the market place in the tenth century, (fn. 70) and market rights were confirmed to later abbots. In 1287 we find the abbot held a market here every Wednesday and Saturday, (fn. 71) and this right was continued till the dissolution of the monastery, shortly after which date it was granted to the mayor and burgesses under the charter of incorporation by Edward VI. The markets are still held on the same days by the corporation or their lessees, namely, the cattle market on Wednesday and the general market on Saturday. In the early part of the nineteenth century the Wednesday market was apparently abandoned for a time.

City Of St. Alban. Azure a saltire or.

See Of St. Albans. Azure a saltire or with the sword and martyr's crown of St. Alban over all.

The fair at the feast of St. Alban was apparently held by prescription; the fair at the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, lasting for eight days, was granted by Henry I (1100–35), (fn. 72) and the fair held on the eve, day, and morrow of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was granted to the abbey on 17 October, 1532. (fn. 73)

After the dissolution of the abbey the right to hold these fairs was granted to the town under the charter of incorporation by Edward VI, together with a court of piepowder, excepting that the fair held at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was abolished and a fair to be held at Michaelmas took its place. In 1753 notice was given that owing to the alteration of the calendar the fair formerly held on 29 September would be held on 10 October, that the fair called Lady-Day Fair would be held on 25 March as usual, and the horse fair on 17 June. (fn. 74)

The fairs appear to have been reduced to two early in the nineteenth century, and later one only was held, which was discontinued a little after the middle of the century. At a meeting of the town council on 21 May, 1873, it was ordered that the September statute fair and the October and March pleasure fairs be abolished. (fn. 75) This resolution was confirmed by an order in council of the same year. (fn. 76)

As has been already remarked, St. Albans from its foundation to the time of railways has been a place of passage, the first stage out of London on the road to the Midlands. The abbey, with its immense possessions, also brought many people, and consequently much trade, to the town. The four craft gilds, namely, the Innholders, Victuallers, Shoemakers, and Mercers, existing in the sixteenth century, and probably much earlier, give some idea as to the directions in which the trade lay. The innholders and victuallers provided for the needs of the numerous travellers passing through the town, and the prosperity of shoemakers is borne out by the fact of the existence of a separate market for cobblers and cordwainers, and the mercers comprised the general merchants. It must not be forgotten that from the evidence we have of the disputes with the abbots, from the persistence with which the townsmen put forward the claim to full their coarse cloth at their own mills, and from the name Fuller Street which formerly existed near Holywell Hill, there was some trade in the manufacture and dressing of cloth. The manufacture of straw plait was for long the staple industry in the town, but is now decayed. In the time of Charles II St. Albans was famous for 'straw tankards and pots.' (fn. 77) There was a cotton mill at Sopwell, and the Abbey Mills are, and for long have been, silk mills. There are now several large printing works, a brush factory, a boot factory, and a cardboard box factory.

St. Albans apparently first sent members to the Parliament of 1300–1, and it continued irregularly to do so till 1336, (fn. 78) four years after the adverse decision of Judge Tresillian. It is possibly to this period that an undated petition by the burgesses of St. Albans to the crown relates. In it the petitioners complain that the sheriff being du fee et de robe of the abbot will not summon them. (fn. 79) The burgesses of St. Albans did not again send members to Parliament till they received their charter in 1553, and from that date till 1852, when the borough was disfranchised for bribery, (fn. 80) they continued to do so. The city of St. Albans is now for parliamentary purposes in the St. Albans or mid-division of the county.


  • 1. Sharpe's MS. Cal. to the Close R. at P.R.O. under St. Albans.
  • 2. Ibid. and later calendars to the Close R., the Patent R., Plea R.; Sharpe, Cal. to the Corp. of Lond. Letter Bks.
  • 3. Pipe R. 4 John, m. 49d.
  • 4. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 410.
  • 5. Chart. R. 2 Edw. IV, No. 24.
  • 6. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 205.
  • 7. Ibid. ii, 230.
  • 8. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), vi, 438; Select Pleas in Manorial Courts (Prof. Maitland), p. xlvi; Aug. Off. Misc. Bks.
  • 9. A writ of attaint lay against a jury that had given a false verdict in an action real or personal. In this case the charter would amount to an exemption from the right to appeal from the borough court.
  • 10. Confirmed in Pat. 9 Edw. II, pt. 2, m. 22.
  • 11. Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. (Rolls Ser.), vi, 268.
  • 12. See the testes to the numerous early St. Albans deeds at the P.R.O. and B.M.
  • 13. Stubbs, Const. Hist. iii, 577; W. Hudson, Leet Jurisdiction at Norwich, xviii.
  • 14. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 423.
  • 15. Ibid. ii, 158.
  • 16. Ibid. vol. passim.
  • 17. Aug. Off. Decrees, xiii, 75.
  • 18. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 205.
  • 19. Anct. Pet. E. 864, 1483.
  • 20. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 249, 415.
  • 21. It is a significant fact that the two petitions which we have from the townsmen as to their right to send representatives to Parliament, the one dated 1315 and the other undated but of about the same period, are addressed from 'les burgois de Seint Auban' only (Anct. Pet. E. 306, 8472, and Parl. R. 327), while the other petitions of the same time upon other matters are from 'les burgois et les bon gentz' and 'les burgeys et la communalte de la ville de Seint Alban' (Anct. Pet. E. 864, 1483). From this it may be inferred that the burgesses only elected the members of Parliament. (See Stubbs, Const. Hist.)
  • 22. Assize R. 321; see also similar charges against the abbot in 1275 in Hund. R. (Rec. Com.), 192.
  • 23. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 410.
  • 24. Ibid. 413, 419.
  • 25. Ibid. ii, 149, &c.
  • 26. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 157.
  • 27. Ibid. 159.
  • 28. Anct. Pet. E. 306, 864; Parl. R. i, 327.
  • 29. Ibid. 162 et seq.
  • 30. Ibid. 217.
  • 31. Ibid. 222.
  • 32. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 222 et seq.
  • 33. In 1332 twenty-four burgesses of St. Albans brought a royal charter of liberties into Chancery to be cancelled, and a silver seal which they had had made for them, and acknowledged that they ought not to have it (Close, 11 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 38 d.).
  • 34. Assize R. 337.
  • 35. Placita in Cancellaria (P.R.O.), No. 43.
  • 36. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 410; ibid. ii, 230, 255.
  • 37. Ibid. i, 421; ii, 156, 157, 160.
  • 38. Ibid. ii, 223.
  • 39. See Dr. Sharpe's Calendar to the City of London Letter Books; Sharpe's MS. Calendar to the Close Rolls, and the indictment by the abbot of the townsmen in 1331. The only two persons who appeared were Simon Fraunceys, sheriff, and afterwards mayor of London, and one of the serjeants of the bench; Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 222. In the insurrection of 1327, again the townsmen acted under the advice of the citizens of London (ibid. ii, 156, 160, 161).
  • 40. Round, Commune of Lond. 223.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid. 241; Round, Feud. Engl. 559.
  • 43. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 215, where this curious expression is used.
  • 44. Ibid. ii, 156.
  • 45. Ibid. 160.
  • 46. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 229, 230.
  • 47. Walsingham, Hist. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), i, 472.
  • 48. Compare the similar proceedings by the abbot of Bury St. Edmunds against the townsmen in 1304, in Gross, Gild Merchant, ii, 32, and by the bishop of Bath and Wells against the townspeople of Wells in the preface to the Year Bks. 16 Edw. III (Rolls Ser.), vol. i, p. xxiv et seq. by L. Owen Pike.
  • 49. See ante, and Gross, Gild Merchant, i, 252, and also the charter of incorporation by Edw. VI, where London is frequently referred to as the type upon which the St. Albans corporation was founded.
  • 50. Chron. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), 148.
  • 51. Annales Amundesham (Rolls Ser.), fol. i, 446.
  • 52. Chant. Cert. No. 27.
  • 53. The Moot Hall is returned in the crown minister's account of 1541 as lately belonging to St. Albans Abbey and as unoccupied (Mins. Accts. 32 & 33 Hen. VIII, No. 71); on the Chant. Cert. No. 27 in 1548 the Brotherhood House is also said to be unlet. In the charter of incorporation of 1553 the Charnel House (that is, the house of the Charnel Brotherhood) otherwise the Town House, is granted to the town. It would seem that the Moot Hall and the Brotherhood House were the same.
  • 54. There is a seal used by Geoffrey Fylynden, evidently that of a gild, attached to Add. Chart. 18183, dated 1400. It is worthy of note that the vicar of St. Andrew's chapel was almost invariably called the warden of the chapel, which is suggestive of the office being connected with a gild.
  • 55. Corp.MSS. printed in Herts.Gen. i, 88.
  • 56. See Wills of the Archd. of St. Albans at Somerset House and Mr. Brigg's Cal. to them in Herts. Gen. i, 45, &c. The entries in the latter are taken only for genealogical purposes, and omit most of the bequests to the charnel.
  • 57. Herts. Gen. i, 91.
  • 58. Ibid. 89–92.
  • 59. Gibbs, Corp. Rec. 17.
  • 60. Aug. Oft. Dec. xiii, 75.
  • 61. Acts of P.C. 1540–2, p. 259.
  • 62. Charter printed Clutterbuck, Hist. of Herts. i, App.
  • 63. Gibbs, Corp. Rec. 10, 17.
  • 64. Cf. Gross, Gild Merchant, i, p. iii.
  • 65. For further history of the wine licences see article on Schools.
  • 66. Gibbs, Corp. Rec. 78.
  • 67. Mun. Corp. Rep. 2922.
  • 68. Ibid. 2724, where the composition and particulars as to this court are given.
  • 69. The Court of Record held on Fridays was discontinued in 1789 (Mun. Corp. Rep. 2924). The Quarter Sessions Rolls of the borough begin in 1785.
  • 70. Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 22.
  • 71. Assize Roll, 325.
  • 72. Chart. R. 2 Edw. IV, m. 24.
  • 73. Pat. 24 Hen. VIII, pt. 1, m. 31.
  • 74. Gibbs, Corp. Rec. 128.
  • 75. Ibid. 244.
  • 76. Lond. Gaz. 11 July, 1873.
  • 77. a Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiii (ii), 274.
  • 78. Official Return of Members of Parl. pt. 1.
  • 79. Anct. Pet. E. 306, 8472; see also Parl. R. i, 327.
  • 80. For an account of the proceedings prior to the disfranchisement see 'Political History.'