A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1945.
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The medieval borough of Stratford belonged, with the manor, to the Bishops of Worcester. In 1196 Bishop John de Coutances obtained from Richard I the grant of a weekly market here and, according to Dugdale, he thereupon granted to the burgesses the inheritance of their burgages at a quit rent of 12d. together with an allotment to each burgage of land measuring 12 by 3½ perches, and freedom from toll, according to the customs of Bristol (fn. 1) (or, as seems more probable, of Breteuil). (fn. 2) In 1252 there were about 240 burgage tenements in the borough, mostly held at the rent of 12d. (fn. 3) In 1331 Robert de Stratford, then rector of Stratford, obtained for the bailiffs and good men a grant of pavage for four years, (fn. 4) and this was renewed in 1334. (fn. 5)
The borough officials in the 15th century were the bailiff, the two sub-bailiffs, or catchpolls, the two constables, and the two ale-tasters, all of whom were annually elected in the Bishop's Court. The earliest reference to the bailiff of Stratford occurs in 1232, when he was ordered to assist the king's purveyors. (fn. 6) The office of sub-bailiff was in existence by 1295, (fn. 7) but no record of the constables or ale-tasters has survived earlier than 1452. (fn. 8) The only evidence of the working of this system is provided by a Star Chamber case which arose out of a riot at the bailiff's election in 1504. (fn. 9) The three ringleaders were accused of breaking into the court house, refusing to accept the choice of a bailiff made by the leet jury, and detaining the court by threat of force until 10 o'clock at night. They replied that whereas the jury which elected the officers had been wont to consist of twelve of the most substantial inhabitants, John Elys, the bishop's deputy steward, had caused it to be made up of inferior persons, some of them even servants; and that when even this packed jury had failed to agree on the choice of one of the bailiffs, he had upon his own authority proclaimed the new officers as if they had been regularly and unanimously elected.
The Gild or Fraternity of the Holy Cross was already in existence in 1269 when Bishop Giffard granted a licence to the brethren to build a chapel and to found a hospital, which he committed to the protection of his bailiffs of Stratford. (fn. 10) The gild, which was refounded in 1403, became of great importance and in the 15th century probably included all the more important townsmen. At the Michaelmas leet of 1452, (fn. 11) for example, all the jurors and all the officers elected were members of the gild and all of them except the two ale-tasters served at some time as masters, proctors, or aldermen. From this time, with increasing frequency, an alderman of the gild was elected bailiff, and in several years the sub-bailiffs also served as proctors. (fn. 12) In early Tudor times the bridge wardens, whose relation to the gild has already been discussed, constituted yet a third authority within the borough.
The college was dissolved in 1539 and the gild in 1547, and about February 1553 the inhabitants of Stratford petitioned the Crown to be allowed to purchase their confiscated property. (fn. 13) The result of this petition was the first charter of incorporation, granted a few months later.
The purpose of the charter of 28 June 1553 (fn. 14) was to ensure the continuance both of the privileges which the inhabitants had enjoyed in virtue of grants made to the gild and of the functions—the payment of the vicar and schoolmaster and the maintenance of the almshouses—which the gild had hitherto discharged. The inhabitants were therefore incorporated under the name of the Bailiff and Burgesses of Stratford-uponAvon with perpetual succession, power to make by-laws, and a common seal. The Common Council was to consist of 28 members—14 Aldermen and 14 Capital Burgesses—one of whom was to be annually elected as Bailiff. The aldermen, and one of their number as the first bailiff, were named in the charter and they were to choose the second company from among the 'better and more discreet' inhabitants. There was no property qualification, nor any minimum length of residence. Aldermanic vacancies were to be filled up by the aldermen from among the capital burgesses, but the elections of future capital burgesses and of the bailiff and other officers were to be made by the whole chamber. Aldermen and capital burgesses were equally eligible to serve as bailiff, though an alderman was invariably chosen. (fn. 15) The consent of the Duke of Northumberland and of 'his Heirs and Assigns, lords of the Borough' was, however, necessary before the bailiff could be sworn into office.
The bailiff was to be king's escheator, coroner, almoner, and clerk of the market, and, together with one of the aldermen who was to be chosen annually, acted as justice of the peace within the borough. The corporation was also granted return of all writs issued by the sheriff of the county; a court of record to be held fortnightly before the bailiff with jurisdiction in personal actions up to £30; a weekly market and two fairs with courts of piepowder and stallage, piccage and all other profits thereto appertaining; and the right to elect two serjeants-at-mace and such constables and other inferior officers as had hitherto been chosen by the court leet.
The property granted to the corporation consisted of portions of the former estates of the gild and the college. The first, of the annual value of £46 3s. 2½d., comprised all the property of the gild in Stratford, Wilmcote, Shottery, Bridgetown, Dodwell and Drayton, the Gild Chapel, and the great and small tithes of Wilmcote. The college estate, worth £34 annually, consisted of the great tithes of Old Stratford, Welcombe, and Bishopton, and the lesser tithes of the whole parish of Stratford. In addition, the bailiff and burgesses received licence in mortmain to the yearly value of 200 marks. These annual revenues of some £80 were chargeable with recurring payments amounting to about £67 a year: £20 each as stipends to the vicar and schoolmaster, £2 for the tenths of the vicarage, £10 to an assistant minister, and 4d. a week to each of the 24 almspeople. The corporation was also to provide houses for the vicar and the schoolmaster and to maintain the almshouses and the grammar school in repair. The nomination of the vicar and the schoolmaster was reserved to the Duke of Northumberland.
The charter of 1553, which remained the governing charter until 1610, marks rather a transitional stage, for Elizabethan Stratford retained many of the features of a manorial borough. The most obvious is the veto reserved to the lord of the manor on the nomination of the bailiff. After 1554, when the manor and borough escheated to the Crown on Northumberland's attainder, the legality of this veto was open to question, for it was doubtful whether it passed to subsequent grantees without a special clause in their patents. (fn. 16) In practice it was a mere formality. On the first Wednesday in September the corporation nominated three persons, from whom one was elected bailiff by a majority vote; and then submitted the three names to the lord of the manor before swearing day. (fn. 17) Sir Edward Greville in 1592 and again in 1601 threatened to withhold his consent, (fn. 18) but did not proceed with his claim. In 1601 Coke as Attorney-general gave his opinion in favour of the corporation, (fn. 19) who thereupon allowed the custom to lapse entirely. (fn. 20)
The grant of corporate privileges left unimpaired the existing manorial system of government. After 1553 there were two authorities in the borough, the new common council and the court leet. The first book of orders of the corporation, made in 1557, (fn. 21) provides that the common council shall meet monthly and that there shall be two great Leets or Law Days, on the Wednesday after Michaelmas and the Wednesday after Low Sunday. (fn. 22) The leet during the first few years was responsible for the general administration, the common council, perhaps, concerning itself rather with the management of the corporate property. It was in the leet also that the bailiff and other officers were elected and sworn. The close connexion between the two is shown in the form of the records: the court rolls of the leet are generally headed 'Visus franci plegii cum curia et sessione Pacis', (fn. 23) an indication that the bailiff and chief aldermen were present as justices of the peace. The leet records continue down to 1560. The next roll of 'The Court ther holden' on 4 May 1561 (fn. 24) includes no names of jurors, but the proceedings are much the same. The court roll form is also retained for the meeting on 6 October 1563, (fn. 25) which is the first to be described as a 'Hall', and to be entered in the Council Book. From 1564 (fn. 26) onwards the proceedings of the chamber are always recorded in the form of minutes.
This disappearance of the leet early in Elizabeth's reign is probably connected with the grant of the manor about that time to the Earl of Warwick. The charter makes no mention of the right to hold a leet, so that the leet as constituted by the order of 1557 was presumably held by the sufferance of the Crown, in whose hands the manor then was. The earl would naturally resume his right (fn. 27) and the Lord's Leet no doubt continued to be held, as it was certainly being held in the 17th century. (fn. 28) As a result of the change, the functions of the corporation were inevitably extended; and matters such as the assize of bread and the admission of strangers into the town are henceforth regulated by orders in the council books. But with all this administrative growth, the judicial powers of the corporation remained confused and anomalous. Hence, at the end of the 16th century there arose a new demand for a borough court leet. (fn. 29)
The only criminal jurisdiction conferred by the charter was that of the bailiff and chief alderman as Justices of the Peace. Their powers, however, were open to question. The charter made no mention of the right to hold Quarter Sessions, though the corporation obtained counsel's opinion in their favour on this point (fn. 30) and, at least from 1602 onwards, a court described as Quarter Sessions was being held before the bailiff and chief alderman with a jury of presentment partly composed of members of the common council. (fn. 31) Coke nevertheless gave it as his opinion in 1601 that the borough justices might 'only deale wth matters wch tend to the breach of the peace'. (fn. 32)
For the corporation, the most troublesome effect of these anomalies was to deprive them of any clear right to collect fines and enforce their orders by imprisonment. Their power to make by-laws was defined in the charter in general terms;—for the government of the common council, the preservation of the revenues, and other matters touching the affairs of the borough, though they defended their exercise of it on the ground of their having inherited the customary powers of the court leet. (fn. 33) In the execution of such by-laws they were impeded not only by the doubtful status of their justices in Quarter Sessions, but also by the fact that the jurisdiction of their court of record was limited to personal actions only. Especially inconvenient was the lack of any effective means of punishing members of the corporation themselves for wilful obstruction or refusal of office—offences more serious in the 16th century than in later and more settled times.
In many other ways, direct or indirect, the charter of 1553 limited the power of the corporation; the boundaries of the borough were still so restricted as to exclude even the parish church; the profits of the escheatorship and other offices with which the bailiff was invested remained with the Crown, and he was obliged to certify them to the Assizes; the profits of markets and fairs, which the corporation were entitled to receive, did not, without special words, include the right of taking toll; nor was there any grant of pontage, though the charter implied liability for the repair of the bridge.
In October 1590 (fn. 34) the corporation petitioned the Lord Treasurer for the nomination of the vicar and schoolmaster and an additional fair, and offered, for these and other franchises, a fee-farm rent of £5 a year. (fn. 35) The petition speaks of the town as 'now fallen much into decay for want of such trade as heretofore they had by clothinge and makeinge of yarn', and according to a petition of 1601 there were in the borough no less than 700 poor. (fn. 36) The last years of Elizabeth were marked by general depression, which was accentuated in Stratford by the two disastrous fires of 1594 and 1595. In 1597 therefore the corporation petitioned again for a renewal of their charter and, in particular, for a remission of subsidies. Richard Quyney, one of the aldermen and a friend of Shakespeare's, went to London to plead their case. His sojourns in London, from October 1597 to February 1598 and again from October 1598 to February 1599, were the occasion of the well-known correspondence with his brother-in-law Abraham Sturley in Stratford, which gives a valuable picture of the life of the borough in Shakespeare's time. (fn. 37) The parliamentary grant of 10ths and 15ths in 1597 was made subject to a remission of £3,600 to decayed and impoverished towns; (fn. 38) Stratford claimed a share of this benefit, (fn. 39) and the town was discharged of all subsidies and taxes in January 1599. (fn. 40) In 1601 Sir Edward Greville inclosed the Town Commons and revived his claim to control the election of the bailiff, (fn. 41) and the corporation once more petitioned for a renewal of their charter. Finally in April 1610 two of the aldermen, Daniel Baker and Abraham Sturley, were sent to London (fn. 42) and concluded the matter successfully. The new charter is dated 3 July following. It seems that a still more liberal charter came near to being issued before the end of Elizabeth's reign. About 1598 Sir Julius Caesar, then a master in chancery, asked for a certificate from the county justices to the effect that a confirmation of the charter with an additional fair and a fee-farm of the tithes would conduce to the better government of the borough and the relief of their poor without being hurtful to any neighbouring town. (fn. 43) There is also extant a rough draft in Latin, of about the same date, of a charter granting more extensive privileges than were ever in fact secured: the extension of the borough boundaries, the nomination of the vicar and schoolmaster, and the right of parliamentary representation. The origin of this document is not known, nor why, if in any way official, it was not proceeded with. (fn. 44)
The charter of 1610 was essentially a confirmation. It grants few new privileges, but in clarifying the grant of 1553 and confirming also the powers which since that time the corporation had claimed to exercise by customary right, it marks the achievement of fully corporate status. The preamble emphasizes as the main object of the grant the keeping of the peace; ' . . . and that the aforesaid Borough . . . shall be and remain a peaceable and quiet borough . . . and that our peace and other acts of justice may be the better kept and preserved'. A Recorder was therefore granted, to hold office at the pleasure of the corporation and to be a justice of peace together with the bailiff and chief alderman. The borough justices were formally empowered to hold Quarter Sessions and their jurisdiction was extended over the township of Old Stratford, including the church and churchyard. The right of the corporation to make by-laws in writing and enforce them by fine or imprisonment, to have a jail; (fn. 45) to impose fines for refusal of office; to appoint and remove constables and other inferior officers, was also explicitly stated. The number of aldermen was reduced to thirteen, including the bailiff. (fn. 46) Besides the recorder the corporation might appoint and swear a High Steward, a Common Clerk who was to be skilled in the laws, and two of their number as Chamberlains. The grant of property in the charter of 1553 was recited in full, with the addition of the College tithe barn. (fn. 47) The bailiff, aldermen and chief burgesses, while in office, were exempt from jury service outside the borough, and the exclusion of the sheriff and his officers was emphasized. The charter also granted three additional fairs, together with the long-disputed right of taking toll, and the profits arising from the offices of king's escheator, coroner, and clerk of the market, within the borough. The Court of Record was to be held weekly before the bailiff, chief alderman, and common clerk or his deputy, or any two of them, and its jurisdiction was extended to mixed as well as personal actions, though the limit of £30 was still retained.
The extent to which this charter simply regularized existing practice appears in the fact that three of the four new offices which it created—those of Recorder, Common Clerk, and Chamberlain—were already in existence. The chamberlains had been elected and sworn since 1554 and practically continued the functions of the proctors of the gild. The early history of the offices of town clerk and steward is obscure. They were at first held separately, though their respective functions are not always easy to distinguish. Richard Symons, one of the original chief burgesses, appears as town clerk 1554–68 and receives a fee of 10s. a year. (fn. 48) He keeps the records and draws up the chamberlain's accounts (fn. 49) and is also employed on legal business. The steward, who first appears in 1556, seems generally to have been of rather higher social status, not necessarily a resident and probably a lawyer. His fee, which at first varies between £3 6s. 8d. and £7 10s. has by 1568 become fixed at £5 a year to which in 1596 are added the fees of the Court of Record. (fn. 50) While mainly concerned with legal business, he also sometimes keeps the minutes. (fn. 51) From 1570 to 1586 the two offices were apparently combined in the person of Henry Rogers of Sherborne, who was also steward to Sir Thomas Lucy. He is generally referred to as the steward, (fn. 52) as are his successors, John Jeffereys of Walton (1586–1603), who became a member of the corporation, and Shakespeare's cousin, Thomas Greene, of the Middle Temple (1603–17). By the end of the 16th century the numerous suits in which the corporation were involved necessitated the frequent absence of their steward in London. The original division of duties therefore becomes once more evident, the minutes of the chamber being frequently kept by one of the aldermen or burgesses. The charter of 1610 allowed the common clerk, as he is there called, to execute his office either in person or by a deputy to be nominated by the corporation. The first recorder of Stratford was Edward Aglionby who is so described in 1586, (fn. 53) though he had been receiving an annual fee of £2 for ten years previously. From that time the office remained in continuous existence until officially established by the charter of 1610, its holders being John Dyer of Grove Park (1587–90), Sir Fulke Greville of Beauchamps Court (1591–1606), and his son Sir Fulke Greville, afterwards 1st Lord Brooke, who was recorder 1606–28. Neither the recorder nor the town clerk was ever sworn in to office before 1610. These early recorders were probably appointed as unofficial legal advisers of the corporation, and the office assumes a more aristocratic character from the time that the burgesses begin to be in special need of a powerful patron. The use of a title quite unwarranted by the original charter may be ascribed to the indulgence of the Earl of Warwick and Sir Edward Greville as lords of the manor: both Aglionby and Dyer were also recorders of Warwick and the Grevilles of Beauchamps Court were kinsmen of the Grevilles of Milcote.
The greater security which the charter conferred is reflected in the third book of orders, issued in 1612. (fn. 54) Here for the first time many matters relating to the government of the town, such as the licensing of victuallers and common brewers and the keeping of the streets, (fn. 55) which had once been the concern of the court leet, are dealt with in by-laws of the corporation. In 1634 it was resolved to seek a further renewal of the charter; (fn. 56) in 1638 counsel was retained 'in the State of Or Charter and especiallye about the Right of p'sentacon to whom yt belongethe'; (fn. 57) and in January 1640 Richard Tyler and William Greene, aldermen, were sent to London 'if yt may be to buye the Inheritance of the p'sentacon of the Vicar and Scholemr or the p'sent p'sentacon of bothe or eyther'. (fn. 58) This had been one of the principal objects of the corporation for forty years past. It acquired a new urgency in the 1630's owing to the prolonged quarrels between them and their vicar, Thomas Wilson, on whose death in 1638 the living was vacant for nearly two years while the right of presentation was in dispute. (fn. 59) Nothing further is heard of the petition for a new charter, which no doubt had to be abandoned in the political troubles that followed soon afterwards.
The grant of the third charter, in 1664, was the result of the policy of the Crown towards borough corporations in general. The first reference to the Restoration in the Stratford Council Books is the order for altering the bailiff's mace on 15 June 1660. (fn. 60) The county commissioners appointed under the Corporation Act visited the town in August or early September 1662, when three aldermen and three chief burgesses were removed from the corporation. (fn. 61) On 10 April 1663, information having been received of the Privy Council's order to the Attorney-General to prosecute Quo Warrantos against all towns which had not renewed their charters since 1660, the bailiff was empowered to consult with others of the company and with Sir John Clopton 'of fitt proposalls for alteracons & addic[i]ons to a new charter'. (fn. 62) On 8 May John Wolmer, junior, and Francis Oldfield, aldermen, were appointed to go to London for the purpose, (fn. 63) and in the following October they again went to London. (fn. 64) The new charter bears date 31 August 1664. The expense of obtaining it left the corporation considerably in debt and obliged them to discontinue the customary salaries paid to the mayor and the town clerk. (fn. 65) Wolmer and Oldfield, who had borne the expenses, were obliged to wait for eighteen months or two years before being fully repaid. (fn. 66) Such liabilities of office, rather than political reasons, may account for the numerous refusals to serve which occur during the next few years.
The most significant provision of the charter of 1664 is the veto reserved to the Crown on the nomination of the high steward, recorder, and town clerk. A new addition to the clause authorizing fines for refusal of office—'and if he . . . shall refuse to take such oaths as shall be lawfully imposed upon him'—refers to the requirements of the Act of 1661: and again, in another clause, all members and officers of the corporation are expressly required to take the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy. This close political control was compensated by the grant of certain new privileges. The old title of bailiff was henceforth to be exchanged for the more dignified one of mayor. The number of justices was increased to five: the mayor, the ex-mayor, the two senior aldermen, who came to be known as the Standing Justices, and the recorder. For the holding of sessions the town clerk or his deputy was to be joined with them, the mayor and town clerk or deputy to be of the quorum. The limit of the jurisdiction of the Court of Record was raised to £40 and exemption from service on foreign juries was extended to all the inhabitants.
The new charter was followed, as before, by a new Book of Orders of the corporation, issued in 1665. While in the main similar to the book of 1612, it included a right of appeal against the amount of any of the fines to the corporation. The intention of this clause was probably to discriminate between obstinate dissenters and those who declined office for purely personal reasons. The large number of aldermen and chief burgesses who were fined and distrained upon for breaches of orders during the next few years suggests that the town was in a disturbed state. The Act of 1661, however, does not seem to have been used at Stratford to the same extent as at Warwick (fn. 67) as an instrument of religious or political persecution. Dissenters were less numerous here (fn. 68) and political feeling was in any case less liable to be excited in a nonparliamentary borough. There are two clear instances—Richard Smart, junior, in 1665 and William Hunt, draper, in 1670—of the election of burgesses who refused the oaths and declarations required by law. (fn. 69) A probable third case is that of Richard Hunt, who had been removed by the commissioners in 1662 and was re-elected in 1669. He refused to serve, after long consideration, but he does not appear to have been fined. (fn. 70)
The circumstances in which this charter was surrendered and a new one granted ten years later are not altogether clear, but the issues seem to have been local rather than political. In December 1669 about twenty of the poorer inhabitants of Stratford assembled together and lopped and carried off timber from some hundred trees in the waste which the lord of the manor claimed as his own. The mayor and justices were accused of instigating the riot and neglecting to punish the offenders (fn. 71) and were summoned to London to answer these charges in Hilary Term 1671; (fn. 72) and just a year later the Attorney-General's Information was exhibited. (fn. 73) The majority of its thirty-one articles were easily answerable by reference to former grants, but there was still sufficient evidence of the corporation's having exceeded their powers for the 1664 charter to be held at least technically forfeit. They had, for example, issued token coinage; (fn. 74) their Court of Record had exercised jurisdiction beyond the borough limits, (fn. 75) and their town clerk had entered upon his office before the royal approval had been obtained. (fn. 76) On 2 March, however, the Attorney-General assured the corporation that the charter 'is not surrendered nor intended so to bee. But the King is pleased to com[m]and that a confirmation be prepared . . . with a further Grant of some New priviledges so that their former Priviledge of being Exempted from serving in Juryes at the Assizes in Warwicksh. remains in the same force it was'. (fn. 77) The draft of a new charter had already been referred to him on 22 February, (fn. 78) though it did not pass the Great Seal until 20 August 1674 and then only with significant alterations. The dubious legal position of the corporation in the interim is shown in the repeated orders indemnifying the mayor for holding courts and granting writs of capias. (fn. 79)
This long delay of over two years resulted from the numerous objections lodged against the first draft. Both the Earl of Middlesex (fn. 80) and William Combe (fn. 81) entered caveats against it and there was a controversy with Lord Brooke over the extent of his powers as high steward. He claimed, under the charter of 1610, to appoint a deputy steward, a clerk of the peace, and the attorneys of the Court of Record. (fn. 82) The status and dignity of the town clerk or steward had for some time been rising; he generally belonged to a local landed family or to one of the Inns of Court and, after 1617, was never a member of the corporation. His salary was raised from £1 to £7 in 1625 (fn. 83) and to £10 a year in 1627. (fn. 84) His tenure of office was sometimes made conditional on residence in the town. (fn. 85) His sole functions by 1660 seem to have been those of legal agent to the corporation and steward of that court which the high steward would claim, from the nature of his office, to be under his jurisdiction; and Lord Brooke was the more anxious to establish his control because as Recorder of Warwick he enjoyed the clear right of nominating his deputy, who was also town clerk. (fn. 86)
The changing character of the town clerkship and the growth of corporation business gave rise in the 17th century to a confusing variety of minor offices. The deputy town clerk was appointed under the charter of 1610. He was 'nominated and approved' by the corporation, but it remained customary to obtain the town clerk's approval, (fn. 87) and neglect to do so was one of the charges against the corporation in the Quo Warranto of 1672. (fn. 88) By the middle of the century the deputy is coming to be known, at least unofficially, as the town clerk, (fn. 89) and to hold also the separate office of clerk of the peace. The latter was clerk to the borough justices and in 1672 the corporation claimed to appoint him, on the ground that the mayor was custos rotulorum. (fn. 90)
At the beginning of the 17th century there seem to have been three attorneys of the Court of Record. (fn. 91) But as only four appointments were made by the corporation down to 1674, all of them between 1599 and 1617, (fn. 92) the right of nomination may have been conceded in practice to the high steward.
By the charter of 1674 the office of steward of the court of the borough was created in place of that of town clerk and there were also to be a clerk of the peace, learned in the law, and four attorneys of the Court of Record. The nomination to all these offices was granted to Lord Brooke while he continued High Steward (fn. 93) and was thereafter to revert to the corporation (fn. 94) —as it did on Lord Brooke's death two years later. The issue was solely one of principle and Lord Brooke, protesting that he had 'noe designes to serve but those of your Corporation', offered to make the appointments only from year to year so that anyone displeasing to the corporation might be removed. (fn. 95) Thereafter the stewardship gradually became an office merely of dignity, the more so as before the end of the 18th century the Court of Record had ceased to function; and the clerk of the peace became also town clerk. (fn. 96) His salary of 10s. was raised to £10 in 1779, (fn. 97) and for more than 130 years, 1762–1894, the town clerkship was held by successive generations of the family of Hunt, solicitors in the town. (fn. 98) Towards the end of the 18th century the original functions of the clerk of the peace were delegated to a clerk to the mayor and justices, at a salary of 5 guineas, who first appears in 1788. (fn. 99)
For the rest, the corporation managed in 1674 to retain their existing privileges. By one clause of the charter the serjeants were expressly allowed to carry before the mayor two maces bearing the royal arms or the arms of the borough, the use of such insignia having been challenged in the Quo Warranto. (fn. 100) More important, the authority of the borough justices in Old Stratford, which had been one of the principal objects of attack, was confirmed, though with the proviso that it should not extend to the making of church and poor rates; a restriction to be explained by the controversy during the past 25 years over the liability of the Earl of Middlesex's tenants at Milcote to contribute to the relief of the borough poor. (fn. 101) The powers of the chamberlains were more fully defined: they were authorized to levy fines by distress and to execute warrants and were required to give security on assuming office. (fn. 102) Certain alterations were made in the dates of the five fairs and the grant of the profits of fairs and markets specifically included the toll of corn. Finally, the royal veto on the nomination of the high steward, steward, and recorder, which had been omitted from the first draft, was restored; and, as Stratford received no subsequent charter, it remained in force until 1835. (fn. 103)
In the last years of Charles II, when the boroughs became the centres of political conflict, the corporation of Stratford signalized its loyalty by a series of addresses to the Crown. One such address was presented in July 1683, congratulating the king on the failure of the Rye House Plot and offering to surrender the charter without a Quo Warranto. (fn. 104) The charter was in fact surrendered in October 1683, (fn. 105) but by the influence of the recorder, Thomas Lucy, it was returned without alteration. (fn. 106) Another loyal address was promptly presented on the accession of James II. (fn. 107) Meanwhile the political excitement of the time is again reflected in the records of elections to the corporation and there is some evidence that controversy was now more bitter than in the days of the Clarendon Code. In 1678–9 the corporation involved themselves in some trouble through their over-hasty zeal in imposing for refusal of the Oaths and Declaration the fine of 20 marks instead of the customary £5 prescribed in the orders and they were eventually obliged to retract. (fn. 108) In September 1685 William Hunt, draper, who had been fined 15 years earlier for refusing the Declaration against the Covenant, was once more elected a chief burgess and subjected to a further fine on his refusal. Even after the Revolution similar intolerance was shown towards William Hunt, junior, 1689–90, who absolutely refused either to serve or to pay, (fn. 109) and in the re-election in 1695 of Joseph Smith, ironmonger, (fn. 110) who had already been victimized in 1682.
In 1699, encouraged perhaps by the Tory majority at the elections of the previous year, the corporation resolved to petition for a new charter granting the right to send burgesses to Parliament, (fn. 111) but nothing further is heard of this project. In politics throughout the 18th century the corporation of Stratford shared the consistent Toryism of the county as a whole; both their recorder, Sir William Keyte (1709–41), (fn. 112) and their steward, Sir Hugh Clopton (1699–1746), (fn. 113) were strong Tories, and the former a Jacobite. In 1733 the corporation requested the county members to vote against Walpole's Excise Scheme, (fn. 114) and in the following year, on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Royal with the Prince of Orange, which was very unpopular with the Opposition, they decided not to present an address. (fn. 115) In 1792 an address of thanks was presented for Pitt's Proclamation against Seditious Writings, (fn. 116) and in 1796 the corporation voted an annual subscription of £100 towards the prosecution of the war with France and resolved that all public feasts should be abolished in the meantime. (fn. 117)
The structure of municipal government which the charters established remained in being until 1835 and functioned effectively down to about the middle of the 18th century. Until 1843 the corporation continued to meet in the Gild Hall. Members were summoned by the tolling of the chapel bell a quarter of an hour beforehand (fn. 118) and were expected to attend, the aldermen in their purple gowns, the chief burgesses in gowns or cloaks. (fn. 119) In the hall the two companies sat separately, the burgesses occupying a side table, (fn. 120) and votes were taken, according to an order of 1761, beginning with the junior burgess present. (fn. 121) On public occasions, at church and at the proclaiming of the fairs, the whole corporation appeared in their robes, attended by the two serjeants-at-mace—generally distinguished as the bailiff's or the mayor's serjeant and the alderman's serjeant—and the constables. A further touch of ceremony was added by an order of 1732 requiring that the mayor when he appeared in public should always carry a white wand. (fn. 122) Emphasis on the position and dignity of the chief magistrate is one of the outward signs of the growth of corporate status. (fn. 123) But the office was burdensome as well as honourable and involved expenses which the various minor perquisites attached to it were rarely sufficient to meet. From 1625 onwards, therefore, the bailiff or mayor received a regular annual allowance. This was originally fixed at £10 (fn. 124) and was increased between 1639 and 1643. (fn. 125) It was again raised to £20 in 1733, (fn. 126) to £30 in 1804, (fn. 127) to £50 in 1820, (fn. 128) and finally to £80 in 1824. (fn. 129) The office was usually served by one of the junior aldermen and from the end of the 17th century it became common for an aldermanic vacancy to be filled shortly before election day so that the person chosen might be elected mayor for the following year. There is only one instance in the history of the old corporation of a bailiff or mayor being continued in office for a second year. (fn. 130) From 1557 onwards, refusal to serve entailed a fine of £10.
The present Corporation insignia includes 3 silvergilt maces, of which one probably dates from the charter of 1553, another was given by John Sadler in 1632, and the third by John Ludford, Steward of the Court of Record in 1757. The Sadler mace was remodelled in 1653 and again at the Restoration, but is still surmounted by the Commonwealth crown. There are also the Mayor's Staff or Sword-stick, which c. 1820 superseded the Wand referred to above, and two relics of the medieval Gild; an iron mace silver-gilt and a large two-handed sword which was probably a property in the pageant of St. George and the Dragon. The beadle's staff probably dates from the reign of George I. The original Seal of the Corporation, which was used until c. 1656, is now in the New Place Museum, and the Mayor's Privy Seal, presented by Richard Quiney in 1592, is at the Birthplace. (fn. 131)
The office of Chief Alderman is distinctive of the old Stratford corporation throughout its history, though it is specifically mentioned only in the charter of 1610, the first charter having simply provided that one of the aldermen besides the bailiff should be annually chosen as a justice of peace. From 1563 until 1586 the chief alderman is always the bailiff of three years previously. The interval is reduced to two years from 1588 to 1641, when it was resolved that in future the bailiff should always become chief alderman for the year following his term of office; (fn. 132) and this arrangement continued without alteration. Beyond acting as a justice of the peace for his year the chief alderman seems to have had no other distinctive functions.
The two chamberlains, according to the charter of 1610, were to be chosen from among the chief burgesses, though it had hitherto been not uncommon for one of them to be an alderman. (fn. 133) They normally held office for two years, so that each of them was responsible for presenting one annual account, for which he received a gratuity of 20s. The beginning of the financial year was at Michaelmas until 1585, when it was changed to January. (fn. 134) Account day was always in January and was fixed by the 1610 and subsequent charters on the Friday after Epiphany. Responsibility for the revenues included other duties, such as the repair of the corporate property, (fn. 135) the prosecution of tenants in arrears, the lopping of trees and the sale of timber. By the Orders of 1665 they were entrusted with the general supervision of the almshouses in addition to paying the inmates their weekly allowance. In early Stuart times the chamberlains were responsible for replenishing the town stock of arms and gunpowder. (fn. 136) They also had the management of the corporation feasts. (fn. 137) The fine for refusal to serve as chamberlain, first imposed in Orders of 1612, was £6 13s. 4d. The chamberlains' accounts were jealously scrutinized and their power to incur expenditure on their own initiative was from time to time restricted by orders of the corporation. (fn. 138) A deficiency in the accounts in 1633 led to the temporary creation of the office of treasurer, with the object of controlling the chamberlain by dividing his duties. (fn. 139)
Vacancies among the aldermen were filled up from the second company, generally, but by no means always, according to seniority. In the 16th and 17th centuries small fines for admission were payable both by aldermen and chief burgesses, (fn. 140) but these had lapsed by 1833. (fn. 141) In 1603 the fine for refusal of either office was fixed at £5.
Of the minor officers of the corporation, only the serjeants-at-mace were appointed by charter. The constables, ale-tasters, and leather sealers were survivals of the court leet. They were annually elected and sworn, usually in the council chamber, but sometimes at the borough Quarter Sessions. In place of the two constables and two sub-bailiffs of the medieval borough, four constables were chosen after 1553. The number was increased to six in 1610, to correspond no doubt with the number of wards, (fn. 142) and to seven in 1824. The constables normally held office for two years and the fine for refusal to serve was fixed in 1557 at £5. (fn. 143)
The constables performed both police and administrative functions. They made presentments at the leet or at sessions for breaches of the peace, absence from church, and other matters, and were especially concerned with measures for the prevention of fire and with the privy watch. The watch was established in 1557, when the constables were ordered to call together 'Certen of the Councill & Sum other honest men' once a month for the purpose. (fn. 144) By 1665 the obligation to watch had become general on all the inhabitants, and members of the corporation were exempted from it. (fn. 145) From 11.0 at night until 4.0 in the morning during the winter months the streets were also patrolled by a bellman who received his wages from the constables. (fn. 146) In the troubled winter of 1678, when a Popish rising was at any time expected, the corporation ordered 'that all persons shall watch in their own persons and that their bee appoynted 16 persons every night to watch tell they see cause to the contrary'. (fn. 147) That this system was not very effective is suggested by the constables' presentment in January 1647: 'for wach & ward the times have bin troublesome & we cannot tell what hath bin dun in it'. (fn. 148) But there is little evidence of any other provision for the policing of the town at night until the appointment of a superintendent of the watch and three watchmen under the Act of 1830. (fn. 149) The constables were also responsible for the collection and payment of the various rates due to the county and were required to make presentments at the county sessions, in spite of an attempt by the corporation in 1679 to claim exemption from such liability under the charters. (fn. 150) They kept their own accounts, which were passed by the chamber, (fn. 151) and were authorized from time to time to levy rates either to meet some particular expenditure or to recoup themselves for charges already incurred.
The number of ale-tasters and bread-weighers was originally two; three were chosen in 1588 and 1589, (fn. 152) and this number became permanent in 1612, to correspond with the increase in the number of constables. The fine for refusal of this office was fixed in 1557 at £2. (fn. 153) The two leather sealers seem always to have been chosen from persons engaged in one of the leather trades. By the beginning of the 19th century the functions of the leather sealers must long have become purely formal. The continuous series of appointments ends in 1807. Thereafter a single leather sealer is intermittently chosen and the office seems to have lapsed altogether after 1823. The fine for refusal was fixed in 1612 at £1.
In spite of the grant of Quarter Sessions by the charter of 1610, the court of the lord of the manor still exercised throughout the greater part of the 17th century a largely concurrent jurisdiction. (fn. 154) It appears from the rolls of the 'Great Leet' for 1626 that the regulation of alehouses was the only matter which was recognized as the exclusive province of the sessions. The borough constables had to make presentments in both courts, and it often happened that a person was presented at the sessions and at the leet on successive days for the same offence. But as the century advanced, much of the business with which the court leet more especially concerned itself, such as the supervision of the butts and the enforcement of the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance, was becoming obsolete, while the regulation of the Bancroft, though outside the province of the sessions, was also the subject of frequent orders of the corporation. The large number of essoins at the leet—as many as 82 in 1670—seems also to indicate its declining importance. The last recorded session of the leet was in 1685.
In Stratford, as elsewhere, the development of municipal government at the end of the 16th century is closely connected with the problem of the poor; and in particular with the problem of controlling the migration into the town of strangers who might become a burden on the rates. The punishment of receivers of inmates and of the conversion of barns and stables into dwelling houses without licence are among the purposes for which the charter of 1610 specially authorizes the making of by-laws. In earlier times these matters had been regularly dealt with by the court leet. (fn. 155) In 1577 the task of ejecting inmates was being performed by the serjeants. (fn. 156) The increasing urgency of the problem led to the first appointment of head boroughs in 1592. (fn. 157) They were appointed at irregular intervals, usually of about two to four years, from 1592 until 1737, and were nearly always members of the corporation. The usual number is two for each ward, though there are often three for Wood Street, (fn. 158) the largest ward, and occasionally three for Chapel Street. Their only duties were to make a periodic search of their wards, to present the names of all inmates, and of those who harboured them, at the Common Council or the Sessions (fn. 159) and to warn the inmates to give security or leave the town within a certain time. After 1700 the intervals between the elections of headboroughs get noticeably longer, (fn. 160) and from 1730 onwards only one for each ward is chosen. The headboroughs were never sworn into office, but by the orders of 1612 were liable to a fine of £2 for refusal to serve.
In poor-law matters generally, the corporation exercised, within the borough limits, all the functions of a parish vestry. In 1584 we find them assessing a poor-rate on the inhabitants. (fn. 161) Throughout the early 17th century coal-money was distributed by the chamberlains, and in years of exceptional hardship, corn was purchased to be sold to the poor at reasonable prices. (fn. 162) A stock to set the poor on work was raised in 1613, (fn. 163) and in 1637 the corporation contracted with one Humfrey Edkins to employ six or ten poor children in weaving bone lace. (fn. 164) The first workhouse in the borough was established by the corporation in 1725, (fn. 165) and in 1737 a committee of trustees consisting of three aldermen was appointed to assist the overseers in regulating it. (fn. 166) The four overseers for the borough were annually chosen at a council meeting about Easter time. (fn. 167) One of them acted as paymaster, and the other three as collectors, each of them being responsible for two of the wards. (fn. 168) Their accounts were submitted to the corporation. (fn. 169) By the middle of the 18th century the corporation had assumed the nomination of the surveyors of highways for the borough, (fn. 170) who had hitherto been chosen at the Easter vestry. (fn. 171) There were three surveyors and from about 1780 the same persons were often continued for several years. (fn. 172)
The gradual decay of the old corporate bodies which preceded the Act of 1835 begins in Stratford about the middle of the 18th century, particularly in the financial sphere. The chamberlains found it increasingly difficult to complete their accounts by the day appointed, mainly because of the difficulty of collecting the rents. (fn. 173) By the last quarter of the century the finances had become further disorganized by a mounting burden of debt. As early as 1637 there was a debt of £440, on which over £35 a year was being paid in interest; (fn. 174) and it became permanent after 1775, when the corporation were compelled to borrow £600 to meet the expenses of the Stratford inclosure. (fn. 175) The Shottery inclosure of 1786 added at least another £200 to their liabilities, (fn. 176) which were further increased by extensive repairs to property and prolonged litigation over tithe. (fn. 177) By 1816 the corporation were considering whether to obtain an Act of Parliament enabling them to sell off portions of their estates for the discharge of importunate creditors. (fn. 178) In 1833 the debt, though it had been considerably reduced in the few years previously, still stood at £5,447 10s. (fn. 179)
The deputy mayor, Thomas Sheldon, was appointed as one of the chamberlains in 1780—the first time since 1662 that an alderman had held the office. During the next few years it became common to elect only one chamberlain, and from 1782 to 1787 Sheldon served at a salary of £10 a year. Such an arrangement was of doubtful legality and was not repeated after 1789. Instead, a salaried acting chamberlain was reelected for as long as he would serve, with an assistant chamberlain who held office only for a year. Jonathan Izod, alderman, was acting chamberlain 1798–1810, and James Saunders, the local antiquary, 1816–21. The salary was increased to £30 in 1815 (fn. 180) and to £100 in 1824. (fn. 181) For the next ten years, 1824–34, the acting chamberlain was a man of exceptional financial ability, John Gill, wine merchant, of Bridge Street. In 1826 Gill established a sinking fund for paying off the debt, (fn. 182) which enabled him in 1830 to reduce the interest from 5 to 4½ per cent. (fn. 183) At the same time the management of the corporate property was reformed: instead of the ancient practice of granting leases on fines, premises, as the leases fell in, were let by auction and £1,200 was spent in buying up the interests of existing lessees. As a result of this policy the annual income of the estate was increased from £1,500 to £1,872 between 1827 and 1833. (fn. 184) Gill's work received the enthusiastic recognition not only of the corporation (fn. 185) but of the Municipal Commissioners.
The break-up of the old system during the 18th century is nowhere more obvious than in the great reduction in the numbers of the corporation and the increasing difficulty of filling up vacancies and even of securing a quorum at council meetings. The full complement of twelve in each company was never attained after 1731. By 1789 the number of chief burgesses had sunk to two and for considerable periods there were less than six. In 1753 the fines for refusal to serve as alderman or chief burgess were increased from £5 to £30 and £20 respectively (fn. 186) and the fine for refusing the office of mayor was raised from £10 to £50 in 1768: (fn. 187) in spite of which, on an average, one person in every four elected to the corporation during the last sixty years of its life still declined. Members who had left the town refused either to attend or to resign, (fn. 188) and townsmen who wished to resign were not permitted to do so for fear of still further depleting the numbers. There is an indication that in 1803 only six of the aldermen were living in Stratford. (fn. 189) Joseph Walker, who served as mayor 1806–7, was actually living at Worcester, and business had to be arranged to suit his convenience. (fn. 190) In these circumstances it was often very difficult to secure the attendance of the twelve members necessary to constitute a Hall, and between 1784 and 1823, the period approximately of the nadir of municipal government in Stratford, nearly a third of the council meetings summoned were adjourned and 'No Business was done for want of the attendance of a proper number of members'. (fn. 191) In practice the difficulty of making the corporation function efficiently was to some extent met by the delegation of powers and the growth of a committee system. Thus the supervision of the Poor Laws seems increasingly to have passed from the corporation as a whole to the justices. (fn. 192) In 1780 a committee including the mayor, chief alderman, and chamberlains was set up to settle the accounts and recover arrears of rents. (fn. 193) From 1809 onwards the chamberlains' accounts, instead of being examined by the whole corporation, were submitted to three auditors, annually elected from among them. (fn. 194) The management of the property was also increasingly delegated to committees. (fn. 195)
The 18th century saw also the decline or the disappearance of the borough courts. The extant archives of the Court of Record continue until 1724, but the commissioners in 1833 reported that it had not been held within the memory of any of the officers then present. (fn. 196) The Quarter Sessions, even in the later 17th century, had rarely been held four times a year. (fn. 197) There had indeed been frequent complaints of the mayor's neglect to keep regular sessions and in 1680 he was fined £5 for not doing so. (fn. 198) But the concurrent jurisdiction of the county sessions, definitely established in 1680, (fn. 199) deprived the borough court of much of its usefulness. The last continuous period during which the sessions functioned regularly was 1726–35. The records after 1745 frequently note the adjournment of the court for want of business, and though the practice of holding four sessions a year was revived from 1789 to 1803 it was by then rare for any business to be done. (fn. 200) From 1817 onwards only the Michaelmas Sessions was kept.
Lastly, the course of disintegration can be traced in the changing character of the minor offices and of their relation to the corporate body itself. In the first few years after the charter of 1553 the constables had generally been chosen from among the chief burgesses; (fn. 201) and until well into the 18th century the offices of aletaster and constable were stepping-stones to membership of the corporation. The ale-tasters, who held office for a year, were often appointed constables the year following; and vacancies among the chief burgesses were frequently filled from among the constables of the previous year. The last election of a chief burgess as constable took place in 1699, (fn. 202) but it remained the custom for another half-century to serve one or both of the minor offices before being elected to the corporation. The chief exceptions during this early period were lawyers and professional men or, occasionally, the sons or relatives of influential aldermen. The connexion begins to be broken in the last years of George II and after 1775 it almost completely disappears. Only five of the fifty-three persons elected to the corporation in the last sixty years of its life had ever served either as ale-taster or constable. (fn. 203) At the same time the minor offices themselves were tending to become more or less permanent. For constables to be re-elected at intervals for further periods of service had never been uncommon; the first case of a long period of continuous service occurs 1762–9 and this practice becomes increasingly frequent. Thus. Robert Ashfield was constable 1794–1819 and was followed by his son John who held the office down to 1835. (fn. 204) The same tendency is noticeable among the ale-tasters, though their duties were purely formal. (fn. 205) Thus many of the ties which had bound the Elizabethan structure of municipal government into a living organism were dissolved by 1800.
These changes are of more than constitutional significance. The decline of the corporation in the Georgian era is in part a reflection of the economic decline of the town, which appears also in the number of 18th-century aldermen and burgesses who had to resign owing to bankruptcy. Fundamentally it is the outcome of complex social changes which affect the whole character of municipal government. In Elizabethan and early Stuart times membership of the corporation involved liabilities, sometimes even amounting to personal danger, no less than dignity and honour. If the chief burgesses themselves often serve as constables it is because their status and authority are necessary to preserve the peace; and it is noteworthy that such elections are most common in times of military preparation or political disturbance. (fn. 206) The same principle of direct responsibility appears in the earlier records in a variety of other ways. The corporation maintained a stock of weapons, powder, and shot in the 'Armeshouse' at the Gild Hall, (fn. 207) which was replenished in times of trouble: 'muskettes for ye Bayliffe & Burgesses' were ordered to be bought in 1627; (fn. 208) in June 1640 every alderman and burgess was required to provide himself with 2 lb. of gunpowder and 2 lb. of drop-shot from the armoury (fn. 209) and the purchase in January 1642 of an additional hundredweight of powder foreshadowed the approach of the Civil War. (fn. 210) Before the Restoration the duty of forming the watch devolved mainly, if not entirely, on the aldermen and burgesses; whereas in the orders of 1665 members of the corporation alone are exempt from the duties of the watch, which they alone had originally been required to perform.
The changing character and functions of the corporation over a period of 300 years are naturally reflected in the types of men who served on it. Stratford was neither an assize town nor a parliamentary borough, and in one respect therefore the social structure of the corporation, unlike that of Warwick, (fn. 211) changed very little. From the charter of Edward VI to the Act of 1835, 359 persons served on the corporate body; and no more than two of them—John Lane, (fn. 212) 1600–4, and Edmund Rawlins, (fn. 213) 1642–3— can be classed as county gentlemen. The younger sons of substantial yeomen families, such as the Badgers of Bidford Grange, (fn. 214) the Rutters of Upper Quinton, (fn. 215) the Burmans of Shottery, (fn. 216) or the Huckells (fn. 217) and the Walfords (fn. 218) of Binton, did occasionally set up in trade in the town and rise to high municipal office. But of the members who can be identified, the majority down to 1800 are tradesmen and innholders. Before 1660 there is also a minority of lawyers, most of them connected with the business either of the corporation or of neighbouring landed families. In Shakespeare's time the composition of the chamber reflects the general life and activity of the town and reveals a considerable level both of prosperity and culture. (fn. 219) A few of its members, like Adrian Quyney or the poet's own father, or his son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, obtained grants of arms; many of them held land outside the town, such as Robert Perrot, brewer, who died seised of the 'Manor' of Luscombe in Snitterfield: (fn. 220) in a number of cases their sons entered the universities and the church or became citizens and liverymen of London. (fn. 221) They were also closely interrelated. A table of the Quyney family and their connexions includes no less than 27 of the 132 members who served between 1553 and 1625; Abraham Sturley and his relatives by marriage account for another 7; and a third group of 11 during the same period includes William Smith, haberdasher, of Henley Street, Shakespeare's presumed godfather, and his executor, Julyne Shaw. The close hereditary connexion of certain families with the corporation survives well into the 18th century. The most notable instance is that of the Wolmers, ironmongers, haberdashers, and salters, who lived in the 'Tudor House' at the corner of High Street and Ely Street, and who were represented without a break from 1607 to 1747. The family, which produced five bailiffs or mayors, came to an end with Joseph Wolmer, who died in 1747 aged 89, leaving legacies totalling more than £2,700 besides considerable property. (fn. 222) His elder brother Thomas (1656–1732) served for 55 years as town clerk and purchased the lower farm at Ingon. (fn. 223) A family only less prominent were the Hiccoxes, mercers and grocers, who were represented on the corporation in 90 out of 136 years, 1637–1772. (fn. 224) The list also includes three generations of the Tylers, who served 1564–1649 with a break of only one year; (fn. 225) of the Ainges, with a break of seven years, 1590–1662; and of the Rogerses of Harvard House, relatives and neighbours of the Wolmers, whose period of service extends from 1585 to 1653; and there are many other such examples of continuity. This family system seems to reach its climax in the 1650's, when nearly half the burgesses elected are the sons of past or present members. (fn. 226) The political upheaval of the next generation brought into prominence a number of new families, the majority of whom had recently settled in the town. (fn. 227) But very few of these established any hereditary connexion with the corporation, (fn. 228) and the great majority of persons elected after 1770 come from families with no record of previous service. (fn. 229) There are also some significant changes in the occupations of members. While mercers, drapers, and grocers form, as always, the largest single class, the appearance of a banker, a wharfinger, and several builders reflects the influence of the Industrial Revolution. But an increasing proportion—more than a third of those elected after 1800— are professional men, physicians, surgeons, and schoolmasters, or persons of means described simply as 'gentlemen'. Thus by the early 19th century the corporation had become less close, but also somewhat less representative of the town than it had been in Shakespeare's time.
By the Act of 1835 the corporation consisted of 4 aldermen, including the mayor, and 12 elected councillors. Five of the original councillors and all the aldermen had served on the old corporation. The Stratford-upon-Avon Borough Act of 1879, which transferred to the corporation the powers of the local Board of Health, increased the numbers to 7 aldermen and 18 councillors. (fn. 230) Under the Ministry of Health Order of 1924 by which Alveston was included within the borough, the corporate body now consists of a mayor, 8 aldermen, and 21 councillors. (fn. 231)