Letter-Book G, unlike its predecessors, does not appear to have been known by any distinctive colour, such as the "White," "Black," or "Red" Book, but to have been differentiated from the rest of the Letter-Books only by its letter of the alphabet. It comprises a period of twenty-two years, viz., from A.D. 1352 to 1374.
The truce between England and France, which towards the close of the last Calendar the Sheriffs were ordered to proclaim as continuing until the 11th September, 1352,
(fn. 1) was prolonged until the 1st August, 1353,
(fn. 2) and again until the 11th November.
(fn. 3) In the meantime a Great Council (not strictly a Parliament) had been summoned to meet at Westminster on Monday, the 23rd Sept., 1353, to which the City was invited to send two representatives.
(fn. 4) Thirty-six other towns were represented to the same extent. The proceedings of the Council are recorded in the Rolls of Parliament, but its acts were not at first enrolled among the statutes.
(fn. 5) Overtures had been made by Edward forputting an end to the war, but these had met with no response. It behoved him, therefore, to ask the Council to furnish supplies to enable him to meet his "adversary of France." This the Council showed itself ready to do by voting him a subsidy on wool, woolfells, and leather for three years.
To this Council was due the consolidation of the system of
Staples; their number and place were fixed for England, Wales,
(fn. 7) the regular or ancient custom was declared, and
the rights and privileges of merchants confirmed. One of the
provisions of the Statute of Staples (1353) forbade the exposure
of wool for sale within three miles of a Staple town, but in the
following year it was declared by Parliament that this prohibition did not extend to the sale of wool of one's own growing
(de propria crescencia sua) in a man's own house or elsewhere,
and the Sheriffs of London were ordered to make proclamation
to that effect.
In spite of the apparent hopelessness of success, Edward
succeeded in obtaining a further prolongation of the truce
until the 1st April, 1355,
(fn. 9) with the view of negotiations
being carried on before the Pope for a permanent peace.
To this end certain proctors were dispatched to the Papal
Court at Avignon, backed up by the authority of the Prelates
and the leading cities and boroughs of England,
(fn. 10) but the
negotiations fell through, and Edward commenced preparations for an expedition to France under his son, the Prince
The signs of the times are reflected in the pages of the
Letter-Book. On the 12th June a writ was dispatched to the
Sheriffs to make proclamation forbidding any one to leave
the Port of London for foreign parts without the King's special
licence, but this prohibition was withdrawn a month later.
Corn, and more especially oats, were to be sent with all speed
to Calais, where great scarcity prevailed.
(fn. 12) Armourers, who
had taken advantage of the crisis to raise their prices,
(fn. 13) were
charged not to leave the realm, whether in the service of nobles
(fn. 14) In September the Prince set sail for Bordeaux,
and the same month the Sheriffs were instructed to see that no
vessel, great or small, left the Port of London for foreign parts
before Michaelmas without special permission.
In October the City equipped a force of 20 armed men and
500 archers, and furnished them with their pay for forty days.
They were destined for Calais under the King himself, who
set sail for France early in November,
(fn. 17) and proceeded to ravage
the country. The campaign, however, was cut short by
trouble arising in the North, and Edward returned home.
The Scots had seized Berwick, but before Edward could
arrive on the scene, the town had been surrendered. On the
18th January (1356) he reached Newcastle, whence he
dispatched a writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs to set the City in
array in case of an attack by the King of France on the South
coast, which he would willingly attempt if opportunity offered.
The burden of the expense of the war, heavy as it necessarily
must have been to the citizens, was rendered the heavier by
reason of the King's favour to foreign inhabitants of the City,
who were exempt from contributing to any war tax. Ever
since 1303 (when, by a mutual arrangement between the King
and foreign merchants trading in England, the New Custom was
established) the citizen of London had been jealous of the royal
favour extended to the stranger in the land. We have seen
how the City refused to have anything to do with the appointment of collectors of this custom; how the opposition of the
City led to a temporary suspension of the custom in 1309, and
to its being declared illegal two years later.
(fn. 19) It had been
re-established by Edward II. in 1322, and confirmed by
Edward III. soon after his accession, and had become thenceforth a part of the ordinary revenue of the Crown. The
relations between the City and the foreigner had not been
improved by the passing of the Statute of York in 1335, which
set aside the City's franchises and granted the right of free
trade to the foreigner. The citizens complained to the King,
and succeeded two years later in obtaining a charter to the
effect that the City should enjoy all its liberties and free
customs, notwithstanding the provisions of the recent Statute.
In 1351, however, the obnoxious Statute had been again confirmed, and repeated petitions to the King recorded in the
(fn. 21) failed to obtain the restitution of the City's ancient
liberties, the loss of which (we are told) drove many to leave
the City and take up their quarters in Westminster and the
privileged precinct of St. Martin le Grand, where they were
free from paying scot and bearing lot.
That a large number of foreigners should be allowed to take
up their quarters in the City and not contribute with the citizens
towards the expense incurred by the City in supplying the King
with military aid had already caused much discontent. A
Florentine merchant, named Octavian "Francisse" or "Fraunceys," had refused to contribute his quota towards the expense
of furnishing the King with the City's last contingent of men
and archers in October, 1355, and the collectors of the Ward
where he resided had thereupon seized certain chattels for
payment of his assessment. The foreigner complained to the
King, who ordered the Mayor and Sheriffs to inquire into the
matter, and make a return. An inquiry was accordingly held,
when the collectors justified their conduct by the fact that the
complainant resided continuously in the City and carried on his
business there, and ought on that account to contribute with
the rest of the inhabitants to the war tax. They further
declared that they should detain his chattels until the assessment was paid, as they were accustomed to do in such cases.
The King, being informed to this effect, sent another writ to
the Mayor and Sheriffs in the following April (1356), peremptorily forbidding them to exact any contribution towards
the war from this foreigner, inasmuch as he was not only
paying to the King threepence in the pound like other merchant
strangers, but he was also of the franchise of the City and in lot
and scot with the citizens.
(fn. 24) The return made to this writ was
similar to the previous return, but it closed with a distinct
assertion by the Mayor and Sheriffs that for reasons stated
they were unable to deliver up the chattels seized.
In the meantime a further burden had been imposed on the
citizens by their being called upon (March, 1356) to fit out two light
boats known as "flunes" or "floynes" for the King's service.
To meet this and other charges an extraordinary meeting of the
citizens was summoned to the Guildhall comprising not only the
Mayor and Sheriffs and a majority of the Aldermen, but also a
large number of the wealthier Commoners selected from the
various Wards. Their names are recorded in the Letter-Book,
and with them the name of John Chaucer (the poet's father ?)
as one of the Collectors for Vintry Ward. The result of the
meeting was a resolution to raise a sum of nearly £500 by
levying two-thirds of a fifteenth on the several Wards.
On the 19th September (1356) the battle of Poitiers was
fought and won by the Prince of Wales, who sent home a
detailed account of his movements preliminary to the decisive
conflict by letter addressed to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty from Bordeaux on the 22nd October.
(fn. 29) The victory
was crowned by the capture of King John of France himself,
his son, and a number of French nobles and others, among them
being a Burgundian knight named Thomas de Voudenay, who
was eventually ransomed by the payment of 300 gold florins, a
goblet and covercle of silver, and a gold ring.
The Pope seized the opportunity of exhorting the Prince to
put an end to the war, and on the 3rd October sent a letter
begging him to confer with Cardinal Talleyrand and another
delegate in the interests of peace. Three days later he again
wrote, expressing pleasure at the generous treatment the King
of France was receiving at the Prince's hands.
In the spring of the following year (1357), King John was
brought prisoner to London and kept in honourable captivity in
the Savoy Palace. Three years later, when an end was put to
the war by the Peace of Bretigni (8 May, 1360), he returned to
France, but finding it impossible to carry out the terms of the
Peace, he again surrendered himself a prisoner in England in
(fn. 32) and soon afterwards died (8 April, 1364). About the
time of his return the Letter-Book records the raising of a small
sum of money in the City on behalf of the distressed King by
Drapers, Fishmongers, Mercers, and Grocers,
(fn. 33) but whether they
subscribed in their corporate capacity or as individuals is not
made clear. Another proof of sympathy felt for him in the City
was an entertainment given by Henry Picard, a worthy citizen
and vintner, at his house in the Vintry, when not only King
John but the King of England himself and two other crowned
heads were right royally feasted.
The overwhelming defeat suffered by the French left them
no courage to continue the struggle, and led to a truce being
concluded for two years. The truce was signed on the
23rd March, 1357, and was publicly proclaimed in the City on
the following 21st April.
(fn. 34) That it was none too strictly observed
by either side is an historical fact which receives support from
the testimony of this Letter-Book. In August, for instance, we
find the King bidding the Sheriffs take steps to prevent the
exportation of bows and arrows,
(fn. 35) weapons that had played an
important part in the late battle, whilst in the following October
they were ordered to make proclamation in the City to the
effect that no men-at-arms or archers were to leave the country
for Normandy or Brittany without the King's special permission
during the continuance of the truce.
The truce had been in operation only a few weeks when the
citizens took the opportunity of laying their long-standing
grievances before the King. They had been charged (they
said) for taxes and tallages above the rest of the Commons of
the realm; wool-merchants had suffered loss owing to the
variation in the weights of Dordrecht and England; large sums
of money had been advanced to the King and had not been
repaid, whilst his Purveyors had been in the habit of seizing
carriages, victuals, and merchandise for the King's use without
payment, an operation which infringed the chartered liberties
of the City. They went on to complain of an ordinance
recently made to the effect that matters done in London should
be tried outside the City,
(fn. 37) whereby the jurisdiction of the Mayor
and Aldermen had been ousted and the population of the City
had become diminished; and they concluded by bewailing their
own lot, deprived as they had been of their franchises through
no fault of their own, as compared with the privileges enjoyed
by the foreign merchants, who took their gains out of the country
and were more free than themselves.
Early in 1359, after a short interval of tranquillity, when the
citizens were able to devote their attention to their own affairs,
we find signs in the Letter-Book of the war being renewed.
Again the Sheriffs were bidden to take steps for preventing
men-at-arms and archers from quitting the realm,
(fn. 39) and on the
4th April (1359) the King's intention to cross the sea to put an
end to the war, notwithstanding the negotiations still pending,
was publicly proclaimed in the City.
(fn. 40) In July orders were given
for all Frenchmen to leave England, the Port of Dover being
assigned for their embarkation, and care was to be taken to see
that they did not take with them bows or arrows, horses, or any
kind of armour.
The year began to draw to a close and yet all was not ready
for the great expedition. In October the order was given for
merchants to forward all kinds of provisions to Sandwich for
the use of the army about to cross over to Calais.
(fn. 42) The King
himself was then at Sandwich, and it was from that port that
he dispatched writs for putting the country in general, and the
City of London in particular, in array, as prescribed by the timehonoured Statute of Winchester (13 Edward I., A.D. 1285), for
the defence of the realm during his absence.
(fn. 43) Before the end
of the month all preparations were complete, and on the 28th
Edward set sail before sunrise and arrived in Calais the same
evening, having left behind him his son Thomas of Woodstock
(at that time a mere boy) as nominal guardian of the realm.
The King had been in France but a few months when
rumours were abroad of a threatened invasion of England, and
the young guardian, with the aid of his counsellors, had to take
measures for defending the country against any possible attack.
To this end he issued writs for a Council to be held at five
different centres (London being one), to which deputations were
to be sent from various counties.
(fn. 44) The citizens of London were
called upon to meet in their Husting and elect four of their
number to attend a Council to be held at Westminster on
Monday, the 9th March. Following the same custom as in
elections to Parliament at this time, the citizens elected two
Aldermen and two Commoners.
(fn. 45) The threatened invasion
actually took place, and for a short time Winchelsea was in
the hands of the enemy. Two months later, however, the war
was brought to a close by a treaty signed at Bretigni (8 May,
1360), whereby Edward resigned all claim to the crown of
Once more the citizens were allowed leisure to attend to their
own affairs. The years which followed the Peace of Bretigni
until war broke out afresh in 1369 witnessed the promulgation
of various ordinances for the regulation of trade. These
were, as usual, of a most stringent character. The right of the
individual to buy and sell by private contract, or to take such
wages for his labour, skilled or otherwise, as he could get, was
little recognized in those days. We have already seen how
Parliament had stept in to regulate prices and wages in 1349,
after the country had been laid desolate by the pestilence
known as the Black Death, by the Statute of Labourers.
(fn. 46) This
statute had occasioned greater hardships than even the pestilence, for whilst the latter made labour scarce and had conduced
to higher wages, the former offered wages to the labourer that
it was worse than slavery to accept.
(fn. 47) Every contrivance was
resorted to in order to evade its provisions, but Parliament was
not to be denied, and another statute had been enacted in 1351
more stringent, if possible, than the first.
(fn. 48) Infringement of the
provisions of these statutes was followed by fines, a long list of
the names of defaulters and the amount of their fines for the
years 1357-9 being set out in the Letter-Book.
(fn. 49) The civic
authorities displayed not a whit more knowledge of the true
principles of economy than did Parliament, for in 1363 the
Mayor thought fit to issue a proclamation with the view of
putting a stop to labourers demanding excessive wages. This
proclamation not only fixed the price of corn, wine, building
materials, firewood, and other commodities, but prescribed the
amount of wages that should be paid to every craftsman,
labourer, or servant, down to the price to be paid a cook for
making a rabbit pie.
Another cause of the high price of every commodity ruling at
this time was thought to be the conduct of certain merchants
who, from their engrossing (i. e., buying up wholesale) various
kinds of merchandise and keeping them in reserve until they found
a good market, were known as "grossers." These merchants
formed themselves into a Fraternity, familiar to us at the
present day as the Grocers' Company, and by their manner of
conducting business attracted the attention of Parliament, and
(fn. 51) was passed in 1363 to the effect that thenceforth every
English merchant should deal only in one class of merchandise
such as he might choose by a certain day. This enactment we
find recited in the several charters granted by Edward in
1364 to the Drapers, the Fishmongers, and the Vintners of the
(fn. 52) although in the following year a better sense of the true
principles of commercial policy prevailed, and the obnoxious
clause was repealed.
(fn. 53) These and other guilds continued, nevertheless, to exercise vast powers of control over trades and
handicrafts by virtue of the charters granted to them by the
Crown. No one, for instance, could follow the trade of fishmonger unless he became a member of the Guild, whilst no
member of the Guild was allowed to meddle in any other trade.
A similar restriction applied to Drapers and Vintners, although
the latter were permitted to purchase cloth from Gascon merchants bringing wine into England, whilst the latter were
allowed to buy herring and cloth for exportation, the object of
these exceptions being to keep money in the country.
(fn. 55) Again,
the Weavers' Guild exercised complete control over all
(fn. 56) although foreign weavers from Flanders and
Brabant were specially exempted and were allowed to elect
overseers of their own,
(fn. 57) whilst we find the "Tailors" of
London—not yet raised to the dignity of "Merchant Tailors"
—complaining in 1371 to the Mayor and Aldermen of an
infringement of their chartered rights by non-freemen.
The favour thus shown by Edward to the City Guilds
synchronizes in a remarkable manner with a gift to him of over
£400, to which the various trades and handicrafts of the City
were the chief contributors.
(fn. 59) The Mercers, the Fishmongers,
the Drapers, and the Skinners are recorded as having contributed severally the largest amount, viz., £40, but whether
they did so in their corporate capacity is not clear; next come
the Vintners with a contribution of £33 6s. 8d.; the "Grossers"
with £26 6s. 8d.; as distinct from the "Grossers in the Ropery,"
who contribute no more than 100s.; the Goldsmiths and the
Tailors respectively with £20. The Butchers of St. Nicholas
Shambles are credited with £9, the Butchers of Eastcheap with
£8, and those of the Stocks with £6. Other misteries contribute
smaller sums, whilst various individuals are recorded as having
assisted towards the gift.
Another matter affecting the trades and crafts of the City
was brought to the notice of the civic authorities about this
time. Towards the close of the year 1364 the Commonalty
presented a petition to the Mayor and Aldermen, praying in
somewhat vague terms that those who had obtained the
franchise of the City might be allowed to enjoy the full benefit
of the same, and that the system of apprenticeship might be
maintained. On receipt of this petition the Mayor and Aldermen requested the Commonalty to formulate their grievance in
more precise terms.
(fn. 61) It appears that for some time past
freemen by patrimony—that is to say, those inheriting the
franchise of the City from their fathers—had been subjected to
certain disabilities (not specified) unless admitted otherwise to
the freedom of the City, viz., by apprenticeship or purchase;
and it had thereupon been decreed that any one who could
prove that he had been born free should enjoy the franchise
to the same extent as those who had acquired it by apprenticeship or "redemption."
The petition as formulated eventually by the Commons, and
submitted to the Mayor and Aldermen, was to the following
(fn. 62) :—
1. That those who acquired the franchise of the City by
patrimony ought not to be called upon to pay any fine, but on
coming of age ought to take the same oath as other freemen.
2. That apprentices should only be admitted to the franchise
on the testimony of their masters that they had duly served
their term of seven years at least and in the presence of the
rulers of their mistery.
3. That whereas every freeman had always been allowed to
traffic by wholesale in any and every commodity, but could only
trade by retail in the goods belonging to his own particular
(fn. 63) according to the intention of their ancestors (as they
believed), this ancient usage had been allowed to fall into
decay, and the good misteries which ought to form the backbone of the City were threatened with utter destruction unless
a remedy were speedily applied.
4. They suggested that at least one day a month should be
devoted by the Aldermen and the Governors of the several
misteries to the consideration of guild-matters; that these
days should be called "Guild-days" to distinguish them from
others, and that they should be fixed, and that on these days
and on no others should apprentices who had served their term
of seven years at the least be admitted to the freedom on
payment of 60s. at least. Those that could not afford that sum
might continue to serve others either as apprentices or hired
servants, but they were not to be allowed to add to the number
of masters already existing.
The petition concluded by a solemn assurance that the only
desire of the petitioners was to restore the ancient franchises
and usages of the City, but that to do so was especially difficult
in the face of the excessive favour shown by the King to
foreigners, to which they ascribed all the trouble that had
arisen in the City.
After duly considering the petition the Mayor and Aldermen
accepted the first and second articles without reserve. As to
the proposals respecting the form of admitting apprentices to the
franchise, they agreed with the petitioners that in future the
rulers of the mistery which the applicant for the freedom of
the City had exercised, as well as the master of the apprentice,
should be summoned to testify to his fitness; but they could not
assent to the "Guild-days" being fixed, as that was a matter best
left to the discretion of the Mayor. The consideration of the
other articles touching the holding of shops and dealing by
wholesale and retail was postponed.
Adam de Bury, who was Mayor at the time of this petition,
was re-elected the following year (28 Oct., 1365), and on the
very day of his re-election ordinances were passed to the effect
that (1) the freedom of the City should not be forfeited by
a freeman failing to continuously reside in the City, provided he
remained in scot and lot; and (2) that a freeman might change
his original mistery for any other, and might trade in any kind
of merchandise at will.
(fn. 65) Before Adam de Bury's second year
of office had expired he was removed by the King, and John
Lovekyn elected in his place.
The following year (1366) yet another ordinance was made,
to the effect that apprentices should be admitted to the franchise
at the end of their term on the testimony of their masters only,
without further evidence of their fitness for admission; and that
they should be received in the presence of three Aldermen and
the Chamberlain, but not be compelled to pay the sum of 60s.,
as ordained during the Mayoralty of Adam de Bury, if their
means would not allow them.
To return to the war. One of the first acts of Charles V. on
succeeding to the throne of France on the death of King John
in 1364, had been the issue of a proclamation to his subjects
enjoining freedom of trade throughout France to English merchants.
(fn. 68) Such a concession would naturally appeal to the heart
of Edward, and had the French King continued to pursue this
line of policy, war between the two countries might have been
indefinitely postponed. Unfortunately, however, he again excited
bitter feeling by the encouragement he gave to Pope Urban V.,
then living at Avignon (and more or less a tool in the French
King's hands), who not only revived the claim of former Popes
to the patronage of English benefices and to outs the jurisdiction
of English Courts by summoning English subjects to appear
before the Papal Court, but also revived the claim of homage
which King John had promised to pay for the recovery of the
English crown, which he had basely surrendered into Papal
hands. A statute, known as the "Statute of Provisors" or
"Statute of Præmunire," had already been passed against the
first-mentioned claim in 1353,
(fn. 69) and five years later the Sheriffs
of London were ordered to make proclamation against any one
bearing or receiving orders or letters prejudicial to the King of
England or his crown.
(fn. 70) The renewal of these Papal usurpations was met by the passing of another statute in January,
(fn. 71) whilst the claim for payment of homage was peremptorily refused by the Parliament which met in May of the
The Letter-Book discloses other signs of the overbearing
power of the Church in secular matters at this time. Thus the
King had to forbid the parson of the church of St. Mary Woolchurch to excommunicate the Wardens of London Bridge for
presuming to let on lease certain stalls and benches at the
Stocks market which formed part of what came to be known
as the Bridge House Estate, and which were unlawfully claimed
by the parson as appertaining to his church.
(fn. 73) Again, we find
the King issuing his writ to the Archbishop of Canterbury
forbidding him to cite the collectors of the King's custom
before a Court Christian for alleged abuses committed in the
City, for which a remedy could be found in the civil courts.
The action of Parliament in 1365 and 1366, although explicitly directed against the Pope, implied a challenge to the
King of France, his supporter, and eventually led to a formal
declaration of war in April, 1369. Edward, as usual, lost no
time in seeking the assistance of the City, and in spite of a
recent attempt to enforce the Statute of 1351 in favour of
(fn. 75) the citizens furnished him with a contingent of
sixty men-at-arms and a like number of archers (the King
finding their pay for forty days) for the defence of Calais.
The citizens were warned not to molest the Flemish and
(fn. 77) and to restrain their feelings of hostility,
kindled anew by the revival of the war, against such hostages
of the late King of France as still remained in the country.
A Parliament which was summoned to meet on the 3rd June
not only advised the King to resume—as he had already
intended to do—the title of King of France,
(fn. 79) but granted him
an increased custom on wool to enable him to prosecute the
It was frequently easier for the City to furnish the King with
money than with men. Hence we find it recorded that at the
end of August of this year (1369) the citizens had agreed to
raise a sum of £2,000 for the King in lieu of furnishing him
with a military contingent. For this purpose an assessment
had to be made on the Wards as follows.
(fn. 80) :—
Chepe and Cordwainer Street, each £218 8s.
Farringdon Within, £162.
Walbrook and Cripplegate Within, each £120.
Bread Street, £111.
Dowgate and Vintry, each £108.
Farringdon Without, £105.
Broad Street, £81.
Coleman Street, £57.
Candlewick Street and Cornhill, each £48.
Castle Baynard, £36.
Cripplegate Without, £30.
Aldersgate and Bassishaw, each £21.
Lime Street, £6.
The assessment as thus set out gives a clear idea of the
relative position of the several Wards of the City as to their
respective wealth and importance.
Whilst military operations were being carried on in a
desultory way in Aquitaine, the King of France was preparing for an invasion of England itself. As soon as this
design reached Edward's ears he acted as we have seen
him act before when the country was threatened with similar
danger. He summoned a special Council, comprising men
well versed in naval and mercantile affairs, for the purpose
of devising measures to meet the attack.
(fn. 81) Again two Aldermen and two Commoners were selected to attend, among
them being John Philipot, who nine years later fitted out a
fleet at his own expense, wherewith he rendered his country
The war continued to drag its slow length along until the
summer of the following year (1370), when Edward determined
upon strengthening his forces in France. On the 8th June he
wrote to the civic authorities notifying that he was in immediate
need of 100,000 marks for the purpose of expeditions that were
about to set out under the Duke of Lancaster and Sir Robert
Knolles, as well as for the defence of the realm, and he would
be glad to receive the sum of £5,000 by Midsummer Day. The
citizens begged to be excused advancing the money, on the
ground that they had already been called upon to suffer great
burdens; but as the King refused to give way, they eventually
agreed that the sum of £5,000 should be raised by voluntary
contributions, and the money advanced on the security of the
custom on wool, &c., in the Port of London.
(fn. 83) The names of the
contributors and the amount advanced by each were duly
recorded, and covered five pages of the Letter-Book, but they
were afterwards erased "by the Commoners in the presence of
the Mayor and Aldermen." The money was repaid on the
1st January, 1371,
(fn. 84) but scarcely a month was allowed to
elapse before the King again borrowed nearly the same sum
from the wealthier class of citizen. In this case the names
of the contributors have been left on record, and the loan
was repaid in less than a week.
(fn. 85) About the time that
this second loan was made, it was decided again to raise
money from the Wards for the purpose of gifts to be made
to the Prince of Wales and his consort on their return from
In the meantime, viz., in August, 1370, news had arrived in
the City that certain galleys with a large force on board were
lying off the North Foreland—or "Forelond of Tenet." The
citizens were hastily summoned before the Mayor, and after
consideration as to what was best to be done under the circumstances it was agreed that an armed watch should be kept by
night by certain Misteries or Livery Companies between Billingsgate and the Tower of London, each in their turn as prescribed,
until further orders,
(fn. 87) in defence of the City, as well as the King's
ships lying at "le Redeclyve," or Ratcliffe, a name familiar to
us in the present day in connexion with Ratcliffe Highway.
In February, 1371, Parliament met,
(fn. 88) the King himself being
present. The Chancellor opened the session with a speech,
in which he described the enormous preparations made by the
King of France, and requested the advice and support of
Parliament to avert invasion and prevent the destruction of the
English fleet. After much controversy, a grant was made of a
sum of £50,000 to be raised by a contribution of 22s. 3d. from
every parish in London and the Kingdom, and on the 28th
March the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen were appointed Commissioners by letters patent to levy the money in the City and
(fn. 89) Scarcely a month elapsed before it was discovered
that an egregious error had been committed. Instead of there
being 40,000 parishes in the country, as had been estimated,
there were less than 9,000, and, as a matter of convenience, a
Council, instead of a Parliament, was summoned to meet at Winchester in June in order to set the matter right. One Alderman
and one Commoner who had attended the last Parliament, viz.,
Bartholomew Frestlynge and John Philipot, were to attend the
Council, and the Sheriffs were called upon to prepare a return
of the number of parish churches, chapels, and prebends existing in the City, whether in the hands of secular or religious
(fn. 90) An inquiry was accordingly held, when it was found
"that the number of parish churches was 106;
(fn. 91) that in St. Paul's
Church there were thirty prebendaries who held thirty prebends,
whereof two were within the liberty of the City, and all the
others without; that in the free chapel of the Lord the King of
St. Martin le Grand there were eleven prebendaries who held
prebends outside the City, and that there were two other chapels
within the liberty of the City."
(fn. 92) On the 8th June—the day the
Council met at Winchester—letters patent under the Great Seal
were issued, appointing the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen to
be Commissioners for raising a sum of £638, being the City's
portion of the £50,000 granted by Parliament on the increased
rate of 116s. for every parish instead of the insufficient rate,
originally fixed, of 22s. 3d. This was quickly followed by
another Commission, appointing four Aldermen, viz., Adam
Fraunceys, John Pyel, Bartholomew Frestlynge, and John
Philipot, to superintend or survey the proceedings. The method
of raising the required sum was the same as that followed in
September, 1369, viz., by an assessment of the Wards, each of
which was called upon to contribute a sum on precisely the
same scale relatively as on the former occasion.
About this time we find a memorandum recorded in the
Letter-Book to the effect that the sum of £1,000 was graciously
given to the lord the King by the Mayor, Aldermen, and
Commonalty for safeguarding their ships at sea,
(fn. 94) and that an
assessment was again made on the Wards for the purpose of
raising it. It was evidently intended to place on record the
amount of assessment of the several Wards, space being left for
the purpose, but the assessment has not been filled in.
Notwithstanding these grants of money and vast military and
naval preparations, as well as alliances made abroad (Edward
had recently secured the neutrality of the Genoese by a timely
concession of free trade
(fn. 95) ), no great expedition set out this year
from England to prevent, if possible, the loss of Aquitaine.
The spring of the following year (1372) found the King still
engaged in preparing for his expedition to France. He
renewed his alliance with Flanders,
(fn. 96) and commenced to concentrate his forces at Sandwich. Archers and crossbow-men
who were willing to join the expedition were to assemble at
(fn. 97) Towards the end of July the port of Sandwich
was threatened by the enemy, but the danger passed away.
At the end of August the fleet was ready to sail, but by that
time many of the men had deserted.
(fn. 98) This ill-fated expedition
never reached its destination, owing to stress of weather, and
was soon forced to return home. On the 18th September the
King's vessel the "Gracedieu" was at Winchelsea, whence
Edward dispatched a writ of Privy Seal to the Mayor, Sheriffs,
and Aldermen bidding them punish those found guilty of having
recently raised a riot in the City.
(fn. 99) A Parliament had been
summoned by the guardian of the realm during the King's
absence, to meet on the 13th October,
(fn. 100) but the King, arriving
home before that day, caused the Parliament to be prorogued
to the 3rd November. (fn. 101)
After listening to the sad account of the King's failure
to invade France and of his necessitous condition, Parliament
proceeded to grant supplies. The heavy subsidy imposed
on wool in 1369 was renewed for two years, a fifteenth was
granted for one year, whilst the custom of tunnage and
poundage—viz., 2s. on every tun of wine, and 6d. on every
pound of merchandise—which had been granted the previous
year for the protection of the navy (when the City contributed
£1,000 for the same purpose as just mentioned), was continued
for another year.
The day that Parliament met the King sent a letter of Privy
Seal to the City ordering two barges to be built and equipped
by the 1st April (1373) for the defence of the realm against the
French and Spanish fleets.
(fn. 103) This writ being ignored by the
civic authorities, another was dispatched to similar effect on
the 28th November. Thereupon orders were given for raising
money in the Wards sufficient for building and fitting out one
barge, under the superintendence of John Coggeshale and John
(fn. 104) Before the barge was ready there came another writ for
both barges to be sent to Sandwich by the 1st March (1373).
We hear nothing more of the matter until the end of July, when
the Letter-Book records an indenture witnessing the delivery of
a fully-equipped barge, called "the Paul of London," to William
"Martlesham" or "Martesham,"
(fn. 106) who had been put in command of it; and on the 10th August John Coggeshale and John
Horn render their account of money received and expended on
behalf of the vessel.
(fn. 107) Towards the close of September the
barge was at Southampton, but unable to proceed to sea
owing to the loss of two anchors and two cables on its
voyage to that port. The deficiency was made good by the
City at a cost of 20 marks,
(fn. 108) but nothing more of this or the
other barge (ordered at the same time) is recorded in the
Letter-Book, except that the City received a present of very
inferior wine (the freightage of which the citizens were called
upon to pay !) for services rendered by the "Poule."
The course of events of this year proved even more disastrous
than that of 1372, so that when Parliament met on the
21st November (1373), it hesitated to provide more money for
the war. At length it was prevailed upon to grant a fifteenth
for two years if the war should last so long.
(fn. 110) In the meantime
the Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen had received a writ of
Privy Seal bidding them to use their best endeavours to persuade
the wealthier citizens, whose names were forwarded with the
writ, to advance money to the King, who was in sore pecuniary
(fn. 111) This is the last we hear of the war and of the King's
necessities in the Letter-Book.
Turning again to matters of municipal history recorded in the
Letter-Book with reference to the City, perhaps the most
interesting of all is the record of the lease of a tenement over
Aldgate to the poet Chaucer in 1374.
(fn. 112) A translation of this
document was printed in Riley's 'Memorials' in 1868, and it
has recently been set out in its Latin form in 'Life Records of
Chaucer,' edited for the Chaucer Society by Mr. R. E. G. Kirk.
The terms of the lease were to the effect that Chaucer should
enjoy the premises for life, paying no rent, but keeping them in
repair to the satisfaction of the City Chamberlain; whilst the
civic authorities, on their part, covenanted not to convert the gate
into a prison (as they had done with Ludgate and Newgate),
but reserved the right to dispose of the buildings, if necessary,
for the City's defence. When the poet took the lease he
probably had in view his coming appointment as Comptroller
of the Custom and Subsidy of wools, hides, and woolfells in the
Port of London. This appointment was made by letters patent
dated the 8th June (1374). The office was to be held during
the King's pleasure, and on condition that the poet personally
executed its duties. This he appears to have done for a period
of eleven years, until in February, 1385, the King acceded to
his request to be allowed to appoint a permanent deputy. In
the following year the gate was let by the civic authorities to
Richard Forster or Forester,
(fn. 113) who, in the opinion of Prof.
Hales, may possibly be identical with one of Chaucer's proxies
on his leaving England in May, 1378.
Another matter of interest is the royal licence granted to the
Serjeants of the City to bear maces after a prescribed form.
At what precise period the City Serjeants first began to carry
maces is not known, but there is evidence of their having been
accustomed to bear staves before the middle of the thirteenth
(fn. 115) The first mention of the City's mace, eo nomine,
appears to be recorded in the previous Letter-Book, under the
year 1338, when the office of mace-bearer was exercised by
the King's Serjeant-at-arms, Robert Flambard,
(fn. 116) who at that
time was so busy with the King's business that he asked for the
appointment of a deputy.
On the 18th May, 1354, the Mayor and Sheriffs received
the King's command to make proclamation of certain ordinances of the Parliament then sitting to the effect that no
serjeants of a city, town, or borough should thenceforth carry
maces of silver or gilt except the two serjeants of the City
of London and of York respectively; and that these maces
should not bear the royal arms, but only emblems of the
Cities of London and York, whilst the maces of other places
should be made of iron, brass, or tin, or consist of staves
tipped with latten, and that in no case should the maces
be carried outside the liberties of the several cities or
A few weeks later, viz., on the 10th June (1354), the citizens
of London succeeded in obtaining a charter from the King (still
preserved at the Guildhall) specially permitting the City
Serjeants to carry gilt, or silver, or silvered maces, adorned
with the royal arms or otherwise, within the City and its
liberties; and also without the same when in attendance upon
the King or any of the royal family, in the same manner
as the King's own Serjeant-at-arms, notwithstanding any
order made to the contrary.
(fn. 118) The same privileges were
extended to the City of York by the King's successor on the
It is commonly believed that this right of the City's Serjeants
to carry gilt or silver maces on public occasions conferred upon
the Mayor of the City for the time being the title of "Lord"
Mayor. How such a belief originated it is difficult to say.
Possibly it may be attributed to Noorthouck, who wrote that it
was "probably" on the occasion of the granting of this charter
"that the chief magistrate began to be called Lord Mayor, as
corresponding with the increase of dignity added to his public
appearance." It appears certain that the title "Lord" Mayor
rests on no official creation, and it is suggested that it may have
grown out of a mistranslation of the Latin term dominus, which
often meant no more than "sir."
The same year, viz., 1354, that the City obtained the distinction just mentioned, it had occasion to approach the King
on a matter touching the Hospital of St. Giles, near the old
house of the Templars in Holborn. This hospital had been
founded by Matilda, wife of King Henry I., and had been
largely endowed by pious citizens for the maintenance of
lepers. Edward I. had subsequently placed the hospital under
the master of a similar institution at Burton Lazars, co. Leicester,
for the time being. Trouble had already arisen in 1349, which
led the Chancellor, as visitor of St. Giles's Hospital, to
promulgate certain orders for its better management,
(fn. 121) and
now the civic authorities had again to complain to the
King of lepers having been ejected from the hospital and
their places taken by those who were in the enjoyment of
Both parties were thereupon summoned to appear before the
King, and the matter was arranged by the Mayor and Commonalty being allowed to continue, as before, to have always
fourteen inmates of the hospital of their own nomination from
the City and suburbs and county of Middlesex, that number to
be increased in proportion to further benefactions to the
hospital by good men of the City.
Under date 1358 we find a curious ordinance touching the
alienation of Aldermen's gowns.
(fn. 124) The ordinance has been
transcribed into the 'Liber Albus' from the Letter-Book, with
the following prefatory remarks as to the special occasions when
the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen were accustomed to be clad
alike (de una secta) :—
"Item, the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen were all accustomed to clothe themselves alike twice a year, viz., at the
riding of the Mayor to take his oath at Westminster,
that is to say on the morrow of the Feast of the Apostles
Simon and Jude, when such clothing was made with honest
furs. They were again accustomed to clothe themselves
alike against the Feast of Pentecost, the lining being of
The record in both manuscripts then continues as follows :—
"Hence, on Monday next after the Feast of our Lord's
Epiphany [6 Jan.] in the 31st year of the reign of Edward III.
[A.D. 1357-8] it was ordained by the Mayor and Aldermen that
whensoever it shall happen that the Mayor and Aldermen be
clothed alike and that (et quod
(fn. 125) ) none of them shall give or
alienate his gown within the year, under penalty of losing 100s.
to the use of the Commonalty, without obtaining any remission
thereof. And if it should happen that any one of them should
die within that year, that his executors shall not alienate nor
give to any one his gown within the year, under penalty aforesaid."
In 1360 an inquisition was held as to divers nuisances in the
Ward of Farringdon Without, when the jury found that the
citizens of London had enjoyed a right of way for themselves,
their horses and their carts, through the gate of the Temple
to the riverside, time out of mind, and that the owners of the
Temple for the time being were bound to maintain a pier or
jetty for landing (known as "Templebrigge"
(fn. 126) ), but that the
Prior of St. John of Jerusalem, who was then possessor of the
(fn. 127) had molested the citizens in the enjoyment of their
(fn. 128) It does not appear from the Letter-Book that any proceedings were taken on the jury's finding on this occasion. When,
however, fourteen years later (1374), Robert de Hales,
(fn. 129) the
Prior, interfered with a tenant of a house near "Templebarre"
who wished to convey victuals and fuel from Fleet Street to
"Templebngge" it is recorded that the Mayor summoned him
to appear to answer for his conduct, and in default of appearance imposed a fine, notwithstanding the King's writ ordering
proceedings to be stayed.
(fn. 130) The King had objected to the
Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen sitting in judgment in a matter
in which they and the Commonalty were interested parties, and
summoned them to appear before his Council or show cause to
the contrary. The end of the matter, so far as is recorded in
the Letter-Book, was that the City was again ordered to stay
further proceedings as likely to be prejudicial to the rights of
The Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem again
figures in the Letter-Book as complaining to the civic authorities
of a nuisance caused by the butchers of the Shambles using a
wharf or quay on the River Fleet for cleansing the entrails of
slaughtered beasts, more especially to the inmates of the adjoining prison. Some feeling, no doubt, was introduced into the
matter, inasmuch as the wharf had once belonged to the Prior
and Hospital, as the Prior alleged, but they had been ousted
from the property during the Mayoralty of Simon Fraunceys
(1342-3), and it had been leased to the butchers for the very
purpose that gave rise to the complaint at an annual rent of a
boar's head. No notice having been taken of the Prior's complaint by the civic authorities, he appealed in 1354 to the
King, with the result that two writs were issued to the Mayor
and Sheriffs bidding them to put down the nuisance without
(fn. 132) To these writs return was made to the effect that
the civic authorities had given orders for butchers to carry
the entrails of slaughtered beasts to the Flete and there clean
them in the tidal water of the Thames, instead of throwing
them on the pavement by the house of the Grey Friars.
Moreover, the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem had never
owned the wharf near the Fleet, as alleged, nor had it ever
tested the question of ownership at law, as the City was
prepared to do if prosecuted. The writ therefore could not be
In July of the following year (1355) the matter cropped up
again. By that time the butchers appear in their turn to have
been ejected from the wharf on the Fleet, and the King (who
was then at Sandwich preparing for another expedition to
France) directed another writ to the municipal authorities
bidding them provide some other suitable locality for the use
of the butchers in place of the one they had lost. To this the
City replied that a place had already been provided near the
wall of the Black Friars for the purpose required, at the expense
of the butchers themselves, and orders had been given for the
arrest and imprisonment of any one found disturbing them in
In course of time, however, the continual passage of butchers
with their evil-smelling burdens from the Shambles near Newgate to the pier or jetty on the riverside near Black Friars,
known as "Bochersbrigge," became so obnoxious to those
living on the line of route that the attention of Parliament
was called to the nuisance in 1369, and orders were given
for the bridge to be pulled down by the 1st August.
(fn. 135) That
day having come and gone, and the bridge still standing,
another writ was sent to the municipal authorities ordering its immediate demolition.
(fn. 136) Although this order was
carried out and the bridge destroyed, butchers continued to
carry offal from the Shambles to the riverside, and this
nuisance had also to be suppressed in 1370,
(fn. 137) whilst in the
following year the slaughter of beasts in the City, except
by butchers of Eastcheap and the Stocks, was strictly forbidden.
In 1361 we find the Butchers of the Stocks or Stocks Market
(on the site of which now stands the Mansion House) claiming
the right to stand and sell meat there on Christmas Eve and
Easter Eve. This claim was disputed by the Fishmongers, who,
on Christmas Eve, 1360, had ejected the Butchers from their
stalls. Thereupon the Butchers appealed to the Mayor and
Aldermen, who summoned both parties to appear on a certain
day, as well as the Wardens of London Bridge, the latter being
interested in the matter owing to the issues and profits of
the Stocks Market being devoted to the maintenance of the
On the day appointed the Butchers appeared, but produced
no documentary evidence in support of their claim, whilst the
Wardens of London Bridge produced an agreement made in
1324 between the several misteries of Butchers and Fishmongers, fixing the days when they should severally use the
market, viz., the Butchers on flesh-days and the Fishmongers
(fn. 139) but making no mention of Christmas Eve or
Easter Eve. It was therefore adjudged that until the Butchers
could produce some proof of their claim the terms of this agreement should be adhered to.
Among other matters of more or less interest recorded in the
Letter-Book may be mentioned the following, viz., the election
of a Common Council in November, 1352, from the Misteries
instead of from the Wards,
(fn. 141) the only other known instance
before 1376 of a Common Council being so elected having
occurred in 1351;
(fn. 142) the right of the Mercers to appoint weighers
at the Small Balance, and of the "Grossers" to make like
appointments to the Great Balance;
(fn. 143) the King's grant of a
monopoly of the sale of sweet wines by retail to John Pecche
in spite of a Parliamentary order to the contrary
(fn. 144) —a grant
which eventually deprived Pecche of his franchise
(fn. 145) —and the
restriction of the number of taverns in the City where such wines
might be sold;
(fn. 146) the encouragement of the practice of archery
in place of useless games;
(fn. 147) the ordinance of the Common
Council in 1356 that pleas in the Sheriffs' Courts should be
pleaded in English,
(fn. 148) although pleading in English in courts of
law was not established until six years later;
(fn. 149) and lastly certain
customs in connexion with legal procedure prevalent in the
City, such as the probate of wills before the Ordinary as a
preliminary to their being proved and enrolled in the Court of
(fn. 150) the custom as to the portion of her husband's goods
a widow could claim, when he had left children by a former
wife and none by the claimant,
(fn. 151) and the custom of compurgation by one hand alone and also with seven hands.
R. R. S.
The Guildhall, London,