City government before 1612


Victoria County History



Elizabeth Crittal (editor)

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'Salisbury: City government before 1612', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6 (1962), pp. 94-100. URL: Date accessed: 20 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Bishop Richard Poore granted a charter to his free citizens in 1225 setting out the conditions of tenure in the city which he had founded. (fn. 1) These had the characteristics of burgage tenure although they were not so described. A quit rent of 12d. for each plot of land was to be paid for all services and demands, and the tenants had freedom to transfer their holdings by sale, gift, or mortgage. The first royal charter was granted in 1227. (fn. 2) This emphasized the ecclesiastical nature of the foundation by referring to the establishment of the new church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and granting to the bishop, canons, and their men such liberties and free customs as they had hitherto enjoyed. It also granted that the city 'called New Salisbury' should be a free city with freedom for all its citizens from tolls, pontage, passage, pavage, lastage, stallage, and carriage throughout the realm. The citizens were to enjoy all those liberties enjoyed by the citizens of Winchester. All merchants were to come and go freely with their merchandise, paying only the lawful customs. Permission was granted for the bishop and his successors to inclose the city within ramparts, and to hold it forever as their demesne, saving the royal rights during a vacancy; to alter the course of the roads and bridges for the improvement of the city, and to demand tallage and other reasonable aid whenever the king tallaged his own demesnes. Finally licence was given for an annual fair and one weekly market. (fn. 3) An inspeximus of a charter of John to a former bishop, and another charter from Henry III, both dated 1227, confirmed the wide feudal franchises of the bishop in all his lands. (fn. 4) In the second half of the 13th century it was specifically acknowledged that in Salisbury these franchises included the right to the assize of bread and ale and to a gallows. (fn. 5) The bishop thus exercised full seignurial powers over the citizens, who on their side enjoyed certain commercial advantages bestowed by the royal charter.

Neither the charter of 1225 nor that of 1227 mentions any municipal organization but some form of such organization, including the appointment of officers to administer the expanding community, must have begun to develop soon after 1225. The first known mayor held office in or before 1249, (fn. 6) and the names of twelve men holding the office are known between 1261 and 1302. (fn. 7) There were two coroners in 1249 (fn. 8) and 1265, (fn. 9) and by 1265 there were two reeves (prepositi). (fn. 10) The date of the formation of the four wards of New Street, Market, St. Martin's, and the Meadow is not known, but the aldermanries of Ernold Brun and Henry le Pestur existed in 1249, (fn. 11) and the Market ward was so named in 1268. (fn. 12) The city had a common seal at least by 1298 and probably considerably earlier. (fn. 13)

The 28 articles of the agreement of 1306 between bishop and citizens provide some account of the municipal organization at that date, (fn. 14) but since for the most part they are only recording an existing state of affairs, they are sometimes very imprecise. The right of the citizens to choose their own mayor was acknowledged, (fn. 15) but his subordinate position was emphasized by the requirement that when chosen he should be sworn into office by either the bishop's bailiff or his steward. The mayor and bailiff then worked in close co-operation, but at first it was only in the regulation of the assize of bread that the mayor was on an equality with the bailiff; in this matter they might act singly or individually. (fn. 16) The agreement mentions aldermen, but does not specify their number, duties, or mode of election. The reeves are mentioned in connexion with the collecting of rents and the levying of distraints; (fn. 17) in 1330 they were concerned with the collection of the bishop's rents, which they paid to the reeve of the manor of Milford. (fn. 18) There were also in 1306 two serjeants elected by the citizens. The agreement stipulated that the bishop could appoint a third serjeant if he wished, who should supervise the other two, especially in affairs concerning the bishop. (fn. 19) It also recorded the bishop's right to select one of the three citizens holding keys to the city chest in which were kept the city 'Domesday' and the common seal. (fn. 20)

By the beginning of the 14th century, therefore, the city had its own officers although they were subordinate to those of the bishop. It never, however, achieved a court of its own, and the bishop exercised extensive powers of civil and leet jurisdiction within the city. The fortnightly court, presided over by the bishop's bailiff and held in the Guildhall, dealt with all matters relating to the transfer and devise of tenements, and with civil actions as in any court baron. It also administered the assizes of bread, ale, and wine, and could amerce offenders contravening the regulations governing the sale of provisions within the city. (fn. 21) It could sit as a court of pie powder and try cases both between visiting merchants and between visiting merchants and Salisbury men. (fn. 22) The mayor and chief city officers were obliged to attend the bishop's court regularly, and, although subordinate to the bishop's officers there, they were probably not entirely without powers, for the court apparently could not proceed to judgement without their presence. (fn. 23) In or before 1249 an ejection from a house had been carried out 'by judgement of the court of Salisbury and order of the mayor', and in the mid-14th century bailiff and mayor were spoken of together as holding the court. (fn. 24) The citizens were normally only obliged to attend twice a year at the view of frankpledge. (fn. 25)

All wills devising tenements in the city had to be exhibited in the bishop's court after probate in the court of the sub-dean, and conveyances of property had to be publicly performed in the bishop's court. Both these precautions, proving that the prohibition against alienation in mortmain had not been violated, and safeguarding the bishop's rights as mesne lord, were probably in force long before they were recorded in the 1306 agreement. (fn. 26) Tenements were conveyed by oath made before the bishop's steward, or bailiff, in court, followed by seisin at the hands of the mayor and reeves. The 1306 agreement also placed on record the bishop's right to all rents eventually accruing from any unallotted land, or from new stalls and standings in the market. (fn. 27)

The bishop had a prison in Salisbury by 1246. (fn. 28) By 1346 it was in the Guildhall (fn. 29) and there it remained until its closure in 1785. (fn. 30) The evidence strongly suggests that from the first it was used for both clerks and laymen, (fn. 31) and that the laymen were not only citizens of Salisbury. (fn. 32) The last reference to its use for clerks convict that has been noticed comes from 1496. (fn. 33) After that time testators wishing to benefit the prisoners refer to the 'poor prison in the town', (fn. 34) or the town prisoners. (fn. 35)

The prison was first ordered to be delivered, by a single royal justice, in 1256–7, (fn. 36) and commissions addressed on those occasions to 'four knights', were also issued in 1278–9, (fn. 37) 1282–3, (fn. 38) and 1284–5. (fn. 39) From this it may perhaps be inferred that by Edward I's time delivery had become the rule. From the introduction of the circuit system in 1293 until the close of the 14th century, deliveries were common. (fn. 40) The last delivery, of which the record survives, took place in July 1410, (fn. 41) although the name of the prison is still to be found in a list of gaols delivered which appears to have been drawn up at the end of the 15th century. (fn. 42) Justices in eyre are known to have sat at New Salisbury four times between 1249 and 1289, and may have sat there regularly from 1227. (fn. 43) Assizes were held there regularly from at least 1267–8, (fn. 44) and from 1399 it was the only assize town in the county until 1835, when the Summer Assizes were removed to Devizes. (fn. 45) In 1857 they were moved back to Salisbury, and the Spring Assizes moved to Devizes. (fn. 46)

From the beginning of the 15th century details of the municipal organization are provided by the series of general entry books, called ledgers, which begin toward the end of the 14th century, but are mostly illegible before 1406. (fn. 47) From that time they contain a regular record of meetings of the city assembly. (fn. 48) In the early years of the 15th century the composition of the body seems not to have been absolutely fixed. When lists of names are given, they generally vary in number from under 10 to over 40, and, in at least one assembly, over 60, (fn. 49) and the phrase 'and many others' is often appended to them. Nevertheless, it is clear that the assembly was coming to be regarded as a body of fixed composition. Between 1413 and 1422, the writing of lists of names was replaced by the phrase 'in the presence of the mayor and others whose names appear in the list', (fn. 50) and in 1412 and 1414 twenty-four probi homines of the city are referred to. (fn. 51) From this time the twenty-four is regularly spoken of as the senior group of the assembly, and elections to it occur from 1417 onwards. (fn. 52) In 1415 it was customary to summon freeholders to the assembly, and a fine was imposed on those making default. (fn. 53)

The emergence of a second group in the assembly, the forty-eight, was complete by the middle of the 15th century; it is first so-called in 1445, (fn. 54) and elections to it are recorded from then onwards. Members of it were sometimes referred to in the 15th century as concives. (fn. 55) After this time the twenty-four and the forty-eight regularly constituted the assembly, although there are in the 15th century instances of assemblies, perhaps when special business was to be discussed, at which citizens not of either body were present. (fn. 56) No later instances of this are known, and in 1597 the bishop complained that the twenty-four and the forty-eight excluded his other freeholders. (fn. 57) At normal assemblies, the attendance throughout the later 15th and the 16th centuries was generally between 30 and 50. Comparisons of attendances over short periods show that successive assemblies consisted of almost the same men, so that either the twenty-four and forty-eight were not kept up to their full numbers, or else regularly contained a good proportion of inactive members. In 1580 certain members of both bodies lived outside the city, and this may have usually been so. (fn. 58) In the later 16th century there are several instances of citizens refusing to serve on the twentyfour or the forty-eight, (fn. 59) and in 1580 it was ordered that those who refused to serve on the former could nevertheless be nominated as mayor. (fn. 60) Nonattendance at assemblies sometimes caused concern and rules laying down fines, often to be paid in wax, were revived from time to time. (fn. 61) There are, however, only a few recorded assemblies at which no business could be transacted; (fn. 62) it is not clear what the quorum was in earlier times, but in 1605 it was 30. (fn. 63)

Except for its annual meeting on All Souls Day (2 Nov.) to elect the mayor and senior officers, the assembly met at irregular intervals. There appears to have been no fixed number of meetings held annually, but the number recorded in the ledgers was usually between 4 and 8 throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. There is no mention of any smaller body meeting more regularly until 1584, when it was decided that the mayor and other senior citizens should meet at the Council House weekly to settle disputes and consider matters relating to the welfare of the city. (fn. 64) Nothing further is heard of this, and it is more probable that the day to day business of the city was carried on informally by the mayor, officers, and leading citizens. Committees were occasionally appointed for such purposes as viewing the city property, (fn. 65) supervising the cleaning of the canal, (fn. 66) and reforming the poor. (fn. 67)

A Council House is first mentioned in 1416; (fn. 68) it may have been new then, for two years earlier the common chest stood in St. Thomas's Church. (fn. 69) The place of meeting, however, still varied, perhaps according to the numbers attending, and the bishop's Guildhall and the churches of St. Thomas and St. Edmund were all used at times in the 15th century. (fn. 70) In 1428 the assembly met in the Council House because the escheator was occupying the Guildhall. (fn. 71) The city records and money were kept in the Council House, and arrangements were regularly made for the custody of the keys of the chest and the house by persons responsible to the assembly. A new Council House was built between 1580 and 1584. (fn. 72) The yearly assembly for the election of officers on 2 November was held in St. Edmund's Church in 1393, (fn. 73) and this was clearly the regular practice until 1612 unless there were some reason to the contrary, as for instance when plague caused it to be held in St. Thomas's Church in 1579. (fn. 74)

As is shown below, there is no evidence of the guild merchant in Salisbury having any administrative functions. (fn. 75) The mayor and commonalty were, however, joined for religious and social purposes in the guild or fraternity of St. George, which may in fact have been the guild merchant in another guise. The first reference found to the guild of St. George is in 1376 when William Teynturer, the younger (mayor in 1361 and 1375), devised property for religious purposes to the mayor and commonalty forming the fraternity of St. George. (fn. 76) But the guild was probably founded earlier, possibly in 1306 when the guild merchant was re-constituted. (fn. 77) Gifts to endow obits increased the property held by the guild and its early benefactors are listed in a bede roll of 1420. (fn. 78) The guild had its own chaplain, paid and maintained out of the mayor's expenses. (fn. 79) The chaplain had a dwelling in St. Thomas's churchyard, (fn. 80) but the guild's activities were not centred upon any particular church, although it may have had a chapel in St. Thomas's. (fn. 81) By the end of the 15th century the city chamberlains were paying for three annual obits to be said in the three Salisbury churches for all the benefactors of the fraternity. (fn. 82) In addition to its own feast and pageant of the riding of the George on 24 April, (fn. 83) the guild supported the city pageants connected with the watches on the eves of Midsummer, St. Osmund, and St. Peter. On these occasions the effigy of St. George headed the procession accompanied by men in harness and archers provided by members of the corporation. (fn. 84) From the end of the 15th century support for these activities declined, (fn. 85) but the guild's official status lasted until its suppression in 1548, and its property was not confiscated like that of other religious guilds because it was held on behalf of the commonalty. (fn. 86) Members of the twenty-four and forty-eight who were in the fraternity wore the hood of the livery of St. George, and the striped gown of the societas of the city on special occasions. (fn. 87) At the end of the 15th century, and probably earlier, these two groups also had special gowns for certain civic functions. (fn. 88)

The more important city officials, including mayor, aldermen, serjeants, and reeves seem to have been invariably appointed from among the twentyfour, (fn. 89) while constables and chamberlains were more generally of the forty-eight, and subordinate officials not of the assembly at all. In 1558 it was laid down that none of the twenty-four was to be returned in any jury, or chosen to be constable, churchwarden, chamberlain, or any other inferior officer. (fn. 90) The 15th and 16th centuries were probably a period of steadily-increasing dignity and power for the mayors of Salisbury. Although still in fact subordinate to the bishop's officers, they themselves supervised the carrying out of the orders on such matters as taxation and musters, while a number of royal visits brought some mayors into actual contact with royalty. In the everyday regulation of such local matters as the market, their powers were probably more effective than those of the bishop's officers, and their position as head of the commonalty assumed greater importance whenever the struggle with the bishops broke out. (fn. 91) In the abortive attempt to obtain incorporation in 1452–3 the city claimed that the mayor should be a justice, (fn. 92) but in 1462 the bishop obtained the right to appoint justices for the city. (fn. 93) The first commission which he issued included the then mayor, John Wise, (fn. 94) and mayors were probably included in the commission from that time until at least 1535, (fn. 95) when the bishop lost the power of appointing his own justices. (fn. 96) Even after that bishops evidently nominated members of the commission, (fn. 97) and in 1578 the assembly agreed to petition the bishop that former mayors and those who from time to time should be mayors might be justices as a reward for their labour and charge. (fn. 98) In 1595 the mayor was apparently regularly in the commission with some others of the twenty-four. (fn. 99) In spite of the cost of being mayor, there are few instances of men paying fines to avoid the office, (fn. 100) although in the later 16th century some refused to serve on the twenty-four for that purpose. (fn. 101) In 1426 those who had served the office were excused it for five years afterwards, (fn. 102) and in 1451 it was laid down that the retiring mayor should not be among those nominated for the next year. (fn. 103) In spite of this it was the custom in 1500 and in 1583 that the old mayor should be among three names put forward by the twenty-four for the forty-eight to choose from. (fn. 104) In 1420–1 it was decided that the mayor should have a yearly allowance of £10 for his expenses, (fn. 105) and this was regularly allowed, with certain other expenses, from that time. In 1503 an additional 5 marks a year were allowed instead of certain fees which mayors had formerly taken from those they committed to ward. (fn. 106) In 1578 one of the mayor's perquisites was the nomination of the two city catchpoles. (fn. 107)

The duties of some of the other city officials are rather obscure. The two reeves, whose last recorded appointment was in 1464, (fn. 108) were as is shown above, responsible to the bishop for the collection of his rents and this was still said to be so in 1469. (fn. 109) They may have had some duties relating to the city as well, for in 1412 the assembly ordered that their rolls should be inspected. (fn. 110) Even less is known about the duties of the four aldermen, one for each ward, whose election is regularly recorded throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Little can be deduced from the ledgers except that they were sometimes ordered by the assembly to supervise the execution of a particular order in their wards. In the 15th century fines were regularly paid to be exempt from being reeve or alderman but these may have been from members of the assembly who did not live in the city. (fn. 111) Like the aldermen two serjeants-at-mace were regularly chosen in the yearly assembly on 2 November. Of the third serjeant, whom the bishop reserved the right to appoint in 1306 (see above), nothing appears from the ledgers, but he was still being appointed in 1592. (fn. 112) The two city serjeants were also called servientes ad clavam or ad gaolam, and had some supervision over the city prison, (fn. 113) and perhaps over the constables. They had duties relating to the fairs in 1494, (fn. 114) and in 1595 the city claimed that they were officers to the bishop's court. (fn. 115) It may well be, however, that all these offices which were filled annually on All Souls Day from the twenty-four were to some extent honorific as far as specific duties went, and that the actual administrative work was done by men who were chosen less regularly, were not generally of the twenty-four, and some of whom were salaried.

Two constables were appointed from time to time in the earlier 15th century, evidently holding office for several years together. (fn. 116) Later in the century it became more common to appoint four, (fn. 117) and this remained the practice until 1612. By about 1500 each constable seems to have been assigned to a ward. (fn. 118) Their duties appear to have been those usual for the office. They are mentioned in connexion with the keeping of watch and ward, (fn. 119) and with the arresting of malefactors, (fn. 120) and were occasionally assigned special duty by the assembly, such as the presentment of card-players in 1500. (fn. 121) The office was of some dignity, for holders of it were generally of the forty-eight. In 1408–9 the assembly decided to appoint two chamberlains annually, (fn. 122) probably as a result of the permission granted in 1406 for the commonalty to acquire in mortmain property to the value of 100 marks. (fn. 123) It was at first intended that their accounts should be supervised by a comptroller, but nothing more is heard of him: in 1444 the assembly ordered that four auditors should be appointed to audit the chamberlains' accounts with the mayor, (fn. 124) and this was the regular practice from that time. The chamberlains were usually appointed for a year at a time, but sometimes for longer periods, (fn. 125) and it was not uncommon for the same ones to be re-appointed. In 1554 it was ordered that none should hold the office more than three years, (fn. 126) and in 1575 that only one should go out of office in any one year to ensure continuity. (fn. 127) Surviving accounts show that the chamberlains had complete supervision of the collecting and expending of the city's income. (fn. 128)

In 1434 it was decided to appoint a serjeant who was to be specially concerned with raising the rents and supervising the repairs of the city property. (fn. 129) This officer was generally known as the mayor's serjeant; he was a paid servant of the city, (fn. 130) and in the 16th century was appointed for life or during good behaviour. (fn. 131) A livery was ordered for him in 1607. (fn. 132) There was a clerk of the city, who was paid a wage and received livery, by 1411. (fn. 133) In 1420 the assembly ordered that no deed should be sealed with the mayor's seal except by the clerk. (fn. 134) By the middle of the century the office was of some account, for in 1449 a royal letter ordered the city to obey a former order to appoint Edward Chitterne, a royal servant, into the office of recorder, otherwise called town clerk. (fn. 135) The clerk may have acted as legal adviser at this time, for in 1452 the assembly ordered that the man whom Chitterne had displaced should have 26s. 8d. a year for his good advice. (fn. 136) There is, however, no later evidence of this. The office was often called mayor's clerk; in 1474 William Wynne was appointed to it for life with a salary of 20s. and a gown. (fn. 137) Later appointments were during good behaviour. (fn. 138) In 1573 the clerk's duties included the engrossing of recognizances of debt under the statute merchant. (fn. 139) In 1580 Robert Boston was admitted to the office on the recommendation of the Earl of Leicester. He was at the same time admitted to the twenty-four, (fn. 140) an indication of the increasing dignity of the office. This is borne out by the next holders, Giles Hutchins and John Batt, both of whom were also of the twenty-four, and the former subsequently mayor and member of Parliament. When Batt was appointed, the office was called town clerk. (fn. 141) Fees paid by the city to legal advisers have been noted in the early 15th century, and sometimes appear to have been regular retainers. (fn. 142) The first certain instance, however, of a permanent retainer, is the fee ordered in 1452 to be paid to the former clerk of the city for his advice during good behaviour. (fn. 143) In 1479 Richard Jay, serjeant-at-law, was appointed city counsel in all matters for life at a fee of 40s. (fn. 144) In 1496 'Master Elliot', i.e. Sir Richard Eliot, later Justice of the Common Pleas, was retained for the city causes. (fn. 145) No further retained counsel has been noted until 1587, when John Penruddock was appointed, (fn. 146) and he was succeeded in 1601 by Giles Tooker, (fn. 147) who was later first recorder of the city under the 1612 charter.

The right to have a seal for the recognizance of statute merchant debts was granted to the city in 1351. (fn. 148) In the 14th and 15th centuries the Crown appointed to the clerkship, at first for life and later during pleasure. (fn. 149) In the 16th century the city made the appointments, since the writs ordered the appointment of a fit person. (fn. 150) Holders were generally prominent members of the twenty-four, (fn. 151) an indication that the office was of considerable profit.

It is clear that Salisbury regularly had two coroners throughout the 14th and earlier 15th centuries. Their names constantly occur in the attestations of deeds. (fn. 152) Two coroners' rolls, for c. 1361–77 and c. 1382–4, survive, (fn. 153) and several writs ordering the sheriff to choose new coroners are known. (fn. 154) A number of holders of the office are known to have been mayors, (fn. 155) and in the earlier 15th century it was usual to appoint them in the assembly. (fn. 156) In 1462 the bishop obtained the right to appoint his own coroner for the city. (fn. 157) He appears not to have regularly exercised it, for in 1495 the commonalty complained of the lack of a coroner and asked for leave to appoint two as had been done in times past. (fn. 158) In the later 16th century appointments of a coroner were sometimes noticed in the ledgers; (fn. 159) and in 1597 the bishop complained that the citizens claimed the right to choose one contrary to his liberties. (fn. 160)

Appointments of lesser city officials were only occasionally recorded. Three minstrels were regularly paid for livery in the 15th century, (fn. 161) and were allotted a dwelling place in Rollestone in 1479. (fn. 162) Their successors were no doubt the four waits who had silver chains in 1572. (fn. 163) The city catchpoles are mentioned in 1525; (fn. 164) they were later called yeomen of the city, (fn. 165) and were assistants to the serjeants-atmace. (fn. 166) The appointment of a beadle, to deal with the poor and with straying animals, was ordered in 1568. (fn. 167) In 1575 two were appointed, (fn. 168) and this was apparently the usual number thereafter. (fn. 169) A mayor's cook was appointed in 1559; (fn. 170) in 1572 two men were appointed to the office to serve alternate years. (fn. 171) The assembly also appointed officers to enforce the assizes of bread and ale, and other similar regulations. They included aletasters, (fn. 172) sealers of leather, searchers of flesh or carnals, (fn. 173) and searchers of cloth. (fn. 174)

The matters over which the assembly and the city officers had control between 1400 and 1612, as revealed by the ledgers, were numerous. From the first they naturally included such functions as the election of burgesses to represent the city in Parliament, the scrutiny of accounts, and the supervision of city property. The regulation of the market also occupied the assembly throughout the period; frequent orders were made about the places and times at which the various commodities were to be sold, the prevention of market offences such as engrossing, (fn. 175) and the removal of refuse and offal. The enforcement of the various assizes was also regularly ordered, particularly those of ale (fn. 176) and candles. (fn. 177) In 1433 the preparation of weights and scales and a suitable house to keep them in was ordered, (fn. 178) and the weighbeam was leased out from that time onwards. The mayor could order the punishment of those who had broken the regulations of their guilds. (fn. 179) From the early 15th century orders were sometimes made for the cleansing of the streets and watercourses and the maintenance of bridges. In 1485 four overseers were appointed for the four wards to supervise the clearing of the streets and to assess inhabitants for contributions towards the wages of a carter; (fn. 180) a similar order was made in 1562. (fn. 181) Special steps were needed before the visits of royalty, as, for example, in 1514, when surveyors were appointed to see that all rubbish was removed, especially from the High Street and Market Place, before the visit of Henry VIII and Queen Katharine. (fn. 182) As early as 1381 the commonalty made an agreement about the cleaning of the common trench; (fn. 183) in 1461 those who lived along it were ordered to clear it of filth before the visit of Edward IV. (fn. 184) Flood gates were constructed in 1458 on the watercourse entering the city near Castle Gate, (fn. 185) and 30 years later the assembly obtained the right of way through a property called Shirley's Abbey in order to gain access for raising and lowering the hatches. (fn. 186) Some years later it was ordered that these gates should be left open, so that the river water could take its course through the streets. (fn. 187) Money was spent on the making of a new bridge in High Street c. 1415 (fn. 188) and on the repair of Ivy Bridge in 1458, (fn. 189) and of Fisherton and Crane Bridges in 1561. (fn. 190) The city's first fire regulation in 1431 ordered that all houses should be tiled and not thatched. (fn. 191) In 1458 a fine of 40s. was imposed upon anyone not guarding their fires by day and night. (fn. 192) An order of 1534 for leather buckets, ladders, and 'grapuls' for the 'depressynge of fyre' resulted in the purchase of 21 buckets to be kept in the Guildhall in the custody of the serjeants-at-mace. (fn. 193)

Among matters of national importance with which the assembly was concerned were taxation and the raising of troops. Assessors and collectors for raising tenths were regularly appointed as long as they were levied, while the raising of royal loans and other contributions, such as the grant for the manning and victualling of the Trinity of Lymington in 1462, were also supervised by the assembly. (fn. 194) Levies were raised and armed by the city on receipt of royal orders, (fn. 195) and the defence of the city was looked to in uncertain times. Thus in 1461 and 1485 schemes were set forth for the manning of the gates and bridges at the entrances to the city. (fn. 196) More regular watch was no doubt kept for the apprehension of criminals and vagrants; by 1538 inhabitants were being assessed toward the payment of the watchmen. (fn. 197)

In the later 16th century, a time of depression in the city's cloth industry, (fn. 198) much attention was paid to setting the poor to work and the punishment of vagrants. A workhouse or bridewell was established in 1564, (fn. 199) and from that time members of the assembly were regularly ordered to 'reform' the poor and vagrant. (fn. 200) The purchase of wheat for the poor was ordered in times of scarcity, (fn. 201) and in 1604 an assessment was made for the relief of those suffering from the plague. (fn. 202) The city also administered several legacies left for setting the poor to work, assisting tradesmen, and apprenticing children. (fn. 203) In 1569 the mayor and commonalty were given the supervision of the grammar school then established in Salisbury with the chantry revenues of Trowbridge and Bradford. (fn. 204) A master was appointed in 1572, (fn. 205) but in 1609 a committee was ordered to enquire into the decay of the school. (fn. 206)

The articles exhibited by both sides in the disputes between the city and the bishop beginning in 1593 illustrate the progress which the city had made since the comprehensive agreement of 1306. (fn. 207) That agreement had recognized the subordination of the citizens and their officials to the bishop and his officials, and this was still the legal position three centuries later. It is clear however that, during these three centuries, the city assembly was left virtually free to regulate and administer the practical affairs of the community. By the later 16th century the commonalty had attained a position of such influence, based on so long a period of practical government, that the bishop's legal powers, even if exercised with restraint or laxity, were intolerably irksome.


1 Hatcher, Salisbury, 728; Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 187–8; Fanny Street, 'Relations of Bishops and Citizens of Salisbury, 1225–1612', W.A.M. xxxix. 190–1. Miss Street's article has been used extensively in the compilation of this section.
2 Sar. Chart. and Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 175–8; Hatcher, Salisbury, 730 where the chart is incorrectly dated 1228.
3 See p. 138.
4 Sar. Chart. and Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 178–80, 180–82.
5 Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 266; Plac. de Quo Warranto (Rec. Com.), 801.
6 Rob. Picot, who was dead by the time a plea in which he was concerned was heard in that year: Crown Pleas Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 255.
7 Hatcher, Salisbury, 695–8, which gives list until 1836.
8 V.C.H. Wilts. v. 24; Crown Pleas Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 254, 256.
9 Sar. Chart. and Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 342.
10 Cart. St. Nicholas Hosp., ed. C. Wordsworth, 142; Sar. Chart. and Doc. (Rolls Ser.), 342; they are probably to be identified with the two bailiffs mentioned in 1249: Crown Pleas Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 254.
11 Crown Pleas. Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 254–5.
12 J. I. 1/998A m. 42.
13 See p. 178.
14 Printed in full in Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 189– 98; and see below, p. 101.
15 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 191.
16 W.A.M. xxxix. 208–11.
17 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 193; W.A.M. xxxix. 208–9.
18 D. & C. Sar. Bailiff's acct. roll 1330.
19 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 191–2; W.A.M. xxxix. 210.
20 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 194; W.A.M. xxxix. 210. For city 'Domesday', see Wilts. Borough Rec. (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 80.
21 W.A.M. xxxix. 212–13.
22 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 192–3; see also Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 104.
23 W.A.M. xxxix. 210, 212.
24 Crown Pleas Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 255; J. I. 3/130 m. 33d.
25 W.A.M. xxxix. 212–13.
26 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 192, 195; W.A.M. xxxix. 205–7.
27 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 187–8; W.A.M. xxxix. 205.
28 Crown Pleas Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 257. He had a prison by 1200 but its location is unknown: Cur. Reg. R. i. 193.
29 Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds C.25.ii, will of John of Homington. This is an earlier date than that given in V.C.H. Wilts. v. 21.
30 See p. 121.
31 Crown Pleas Wilts. Eyre, 1249 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 257; Sar. Dioc. Regy. Liber Niger, f. 15.
32 V.C.H. Wilts. v. 21.
33 P.C.C. 4 Horne (Will of Wm. Maynerd).
34 Ibid. 75 Noodes (Will of Hen. Long).
35 Ibid. 7 Carew (Will of Robt. Bachet).
36 C 66/71 m. 11d.
37 48th D.K. Rep., 162.
38 C 66/102 m. 9d.
39 C 66/104 m. 18d.
40 This is shown by a study of the gaol delivery rolls (J. I. 3) for the circuit.
41 J. I. 3/194.
42 B.M. Add. MS. 35205. Dated in catalogue as 'temp. Hen. VI', but probably a little later.
43 V.C.H. Wilts. v. 18.
44 Ibid. 20, 38.
45 Petitions for Removal of Assizes, H.C. 136, p. 4 (1840), xli.
46 M. G. Rathbone, Guide to Records in Custody of Clerk of Peace for Wilts., 14.
47 Wilts. Borough Rec. (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 69. Subsequent information about the assembly and city officials is based, unless otherwise stated, on a general perusal of these books.
48 So translated in the later-15th century from the convocacio of most early entries. Other descriptions noticed include concilium vicinorum and concilium majoris: Ledger A. ff. 56d. 68d.
49 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 111 (1436).
50 Ibid. f. 46 sqq.
51 Ibid. f. 50; Hatcher, Salisbury, 111; Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 193.
52 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 62. There may be earlier illegible entries referring to the twenty-four, but they were certainly not so prominent before c. 1412–15, and it is quite probable that their evolution dates from about that time.
53 Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 193; the entry does not imply that all freeholders were summoned.
54 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 140.
55 Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 204.
56 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 145d. (1447); Ledger B. ff. 89 (1470), 104d. (1471).
57 Hatcher, Salisbury, 303.
58 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C. f. 58d.; see also Hatcher, Salisbury, 291.
59 e.g. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C. ff. 64, 95, 162d.
60 Ibid. f. 63d.
61 Ibid. Ledger A. ff. 67 (1418), 101d. (1434), 119d. (1440), 140 (1445); Ledger B. ff. 15d. (1455), 135 (1480); Ledger C. ff. 46 (1577), 174 (1603).
62 Ibid. Ledger B. ff. 143, 170–1; Ledger C. f. 45.
63 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 191d.
64 Ibid. f. 83d.
65 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 50 (1414).
66 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 143d. (1482).
67 Ibid. f. 341d. (1566).
68 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 56d.; see p. 87.
69 Ibid. f. 50.
70 Ibid. ff. 84, 91, 99, 114d.; Ledger B. ff. 97–98, 100–1, 112d.
71 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 91.
72 See p. 87.
73 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 65d.
74 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 59.
75 See p. 133.
76 Hatcher, Salisbury, 100; C. Haskins, Ancient Trade Guilds and Companies of Salisbury, 289.
77 See p. 132.
78 Haskins, op. cit., 39.
79 Ibid. 27 and see Sar. Corp. MSS. Chamberlains' Accts. (extracts from these between the years 1444 and 1510 are in Swayne, Scrapbk.).
80 Haskins, Guilds, 38.
81 See p. 149.
82 Haskins, op. cit. 37.
83 Ibid. 40, 68.
84 Ibid. 68.
85 Ibid. 40.
86 Ibid. 44.
87 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. 56, 152, 170d.
88 Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 212, 218, 221, 234.
89 W.A.M. xxxix. 220.
90 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 318d.
91 See p. 101 sqq.
92 W.A.M. xxxix. 235.
93 Cal. Chart. R. 1427–1516, 180.
94 W.A.M. xxxix. 222.
95 Ibid. 240, 246; Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 208
96 Act for recontinuing liberties in the Crown, 27 Hen. VIII, c. 24.
97 W.A.M. xxxix. 330 n.
98 Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 227. The wording of the resolution does not make it clear whether the mayor for the time being was generally a justice; it may be that what was desired was that mayors should remain justices after their office.
99 Hatcher, Salisbury, 299.
100 For an early instance, see Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 4d. (1399–1400); see also Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 217.
101 See p. 96.
102 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 91.
103 Ibid. f. 157d.
104 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 205; Ledger C. f. 76; for an alternative method of election see Ledger C. f. 63d.
105 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 148.
106 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 209.
107 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 50d.
108 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 72d.
109 Hatcher, Salisbury, 172.
110 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 46.
111 e.g. ibid. f. 56, where a 'civis forinsecus' of Warminster paid 60s. to be excused being alderman for life.
112 Hatcher, Salisbury, 302.
113 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 75d.
114 Ibid. f. 182d.
115 Hatcher, Salisbury, 299–300; W.A.M. xxxix. 388.
116 e.g. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. ff. 46, 67d.
117 e.g. ibid. Ledger B. ff. 120 (1474), 134 (1479).
118 Ibid. ff. 198, 201.
119 e.g. Hatcher, Salisbury, 202 (1483).
120 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 204 (1500).
121 Ibid. f. 205d.
122 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 147d.
123 Cal. Pat. 1405–8, 183.
124 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 136d.
125 e.g. ibid. Ledger B. f. 195d. for 4 yrs. (1496).
126 Ibid. f. 312.
127 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 39d.
128 For details of surviving acct. rolls before 1612 see Wilts. Borough Rec. (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 71. Earlier accts. or fragments are in Ledger A. ff. 47 (1413), 70d. (1418–19); Ledger B. ff. 184–5 (1438–9).
129 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 102.
130 Ibid. f. 122d.
131 Ibid. Ledger B. ff. 296, 343d.; Ledger C. f. 194.
132 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 199.
133 Hatcher, Salisbury, 110; see also Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. ff. 129d. (1440), 149d. (1448).
134 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 148.
135 Ibid. f. 156.
136 Ibid. f. 160d.
137 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 118d.
138 e.g. ibid. f. 255d.; Ledger C. f. 67.
139 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 26d.
140 Hatcher, Salisbury, 290.
141 Ibid. 296–7; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C. f. 131d.
142 e.g. Hatcher, Salisbury, 110 (1411), 114 (1420).
143 See above.
144 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 134; for Jay, see J. C. Wedgwood, Hist. of Parl. Biogs. 1439–1509, 497–8.
145 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 195; Wedgwood, op. cit. 295.
146 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C. f. 99d.
147 Ibid. f. 167.
148 Cal. Pat. 1350–54, 45; for the seal, see p. 179.
149 e.g. Cal. Pat. 1350–54, 50 (1351); 1422–9, 396 (1427).
150 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. 225d., 294, 303, 319, 319d.; Ledger C. ff. 26d., 98d., 151.
151 They included Henry Goldstone, Thomas Chaffyn, John Abyn, Giles Estcourt, and Christopher Weekes, all M.P.s for the city at some time.
152 Sar. Corp. MSS. Domesday Bks. passim.
153 J. I. 2/199, 204.
154 e.g. Cal. Close, 1307–13, 19; 1429–35, 78.
155 e.g. Geoffrey of Warminster, mayor 1335–6, 1342–4 and coroner between 1332 and 1346: J. I. 3/120 mm. 5, 6d.; J. I. 3/130 mm. 12, 89A, 90d.; Cal. Close, 1346–9, 126.
156 e.g. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 83; Ledger B. f. 26d.
157 Cal. Chart. R. 1427–1516, 180.
158 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 194.
159 e.g. ibid. Ledger C. ff. 35, 109.
160 Hatcher, Salisbury, 302.
161 e.g. ibid. 179.
162 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 134d.
163 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 23d.
164 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 255d.
165 Ibid. Ledger C. ff. 134, 149.
166 Hatcher, Salisbury, 299.
167 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 345.
168 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 37d.
169 Hatcher, Salisbury, 302.
170 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 320d.
171 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 22.
172 Ibid. Ledger B. ff. 6 (1453), 338d. (1565); Hatcher, Salisbury, 302.
173 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 330 (1563); Hatcher, op. cit. 302.
174 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C. ff. 41d. (1576), 60 (1579).
175 Such offences, with the enforcement of the assizes of ale, etc., were within the jurisdiction of the bishop's court in 1306: W.A.M. xxxix. 212–13.
176 Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 204–5.
177 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 255d. (1525), and regularly thereafter.
178 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 99d.
179 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 183 (1494).
180 Ibid. f. 155.
181 Ibid. f. 327d.
182 Hatcher, Salisbury, 214.
183 Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds E. 8. ii.
184 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 51.
185 Ibid. f. 33d.
186 Ibid. f. 154d.
187 Ibid. f. 180d.
188 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 53.
189 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 32d.
190 Ibid. f. 324d.
191 Ibid. Ledger A. f. 96.
192 Ibid. Ledger B. f. 34.
193 Ibid. ff. 277, 279d.
194 Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 198, 204.
195 Ibid. 200, 203, 204, 207–8, 211–12, 214, 223.
196 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. 49d.–50, 157.
197 Ibid. f. 287.
198 See p. 128.
199 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. 333, 336.
200 e.g. ibid. ff. 338d., 341d.
201 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 21.
202 Ibid. f. 178.
203 Hatcher, Salisbury, 282, 288.
204 V.C.H. Wilts. v. 349.
205 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C. f. 23d.
206 Ibid. f. 205.
207 Hatcher, Salisbury, 298–303.