General introduction

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Institute of Historical Research

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Historical Manuscripts Commission

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1887

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3-15

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'General introduction', The Manuscripts of the Corporations of Southampton and Kings Lynn: Eleventh report, Appendix; part III (1887), pp. III-XV. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=67095 Date accessed: 22 September 2014.


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Contents

INTRODUCTION.

Consisting of (a.) Books, (b.) Charters and Letters Patent, (c.) Deeds, Municipal and Private, (d.) Letters and Loose Memoranda, and (e.) Rolls and Miscellaneous Documents, the manuscripts belonging to the Corporation of Southampton, like the muniments of several of our other provincial municipalities, have been recovered from extreme confusion, and reduced to order at the instance of the Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

(a.) Books.—Of the 504 MS. volumes belonging to the Corporation, the most deserving of consideration are—(1) The Oak Book, exhibiting on 60 vellum leaves, in penmanship of the time of Edward the Second, the ancient Laws, Ordinances, and Customs of the town of Southampton; (2.) The Black Book, otherwise styled Liber Niger nigro carbone notatus, otherwise styled Niger Papyrus, otherwise styled The Blak Papyr, a large folio of Municipal Remembrances, that was used for the enrolment of acknowledgments of deeds from the 16th of Richard the Second to the 12th year of Elizabeth; (3.) A curious treatise in English verse On The Philosopher's Stone and Aurum Potabile, the manuscript being the performance of a fifteenth century copyist; (4.) the Book of Remembrances of the Town of Southampton, from the year of grace 1445 to the time of James the First, containing a characteristic memorandum of the pious observances with which the people of the borough returned thanks in the 2nd year of Henry the Seventh for the birth of the sovereign's first-born son; (5) the Liber de Finibus ville Suthampton from 1489 to 1593 A.D., affording particulars of the costs and charges incurred by the town for Queen Elizabeth's entertainment in 1569 A.D.; (6) the Book of Oaths, Ordinances, and Burgesses's Admissions from 1496 to 1794 A.D., affording in its records of admissions numerous data that may be serviceable to the future biographers of the more memorable of the eminent persons who during that period condescended to accept the franchise of the borough; (7) the Book of Remembrances from 1591 to 1689 A.D.; and (8) the imperfect series of Assembly Books, that afford many curious illustrations of the social life of the borough in the seventeenth century. Of the minor minutes of these last-mentioned folios few are more startling than the orders given to churwomen (sic.), to place themselves in regular service, if they would escape whipping. For instance, on 28th April 1615, "Mary Quinton a churwoman was this daie sent for to this house and charged to gett herselfe into service presentlie uppon payne of a whippinge." On the same day, two other churwomen were ordered "at their peril" to place themselves in domestic service within the next month. In the ensuing report extracts are given from all the afore-mentioned books. Notice is also taken in the same report of (1) the folio of the Letters that passed between John Flamsteed of the Greenwich Observatory and his friend William Molyneux, the Dublin mathematician, from 2nd September 1681 to 10th May 1690, and (2) the Letter Book of Samuel Molyneux, of Trinity College, Dublin, containing copies of letters interchanged by Samuel Molyneux and his scientific friends between 9th January 1707 and 19th December 1709.

(b.) Charters and Letters Patent.—Opening with a charter dated by King John to his burgesses of Southampton in the first year of his reign, the collection of Charters and Letters Patent comprises fifty-eight several writings, one of the more interesting of them being the Letters Patent of the Exemplification (13 Feb., 2 Henry V.) of the enrolment, on the roll of the last parliament, of the petition of the burgesses of Southampton to the King for a diminution of their burdens, together with the sovereign's reply to the prayer.

(c.) Deeds, Municipal and Private.—Consisting, for the most part, of documents of strictly local significance and interest, that may be serviceable to future historians of the borough, and will not fail to afford some measure of entertainment to the Hampshire antiquaries, but have no claim to be rated with important historical evidences, the large assemblage of writings, catalogued under "Deeds, Municipal and Private," comprises matters of higher moment and value in (1) the Indenture of the Agreement, made on 13 July, 13 Edward III., between Edward the Black Prince of the one part and Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, of the other part, for the safe keeping of the town of Southampton, with lists of the men-at-arms and archers under the Earl's command at Southampton, from the 25th of July to the 25th of August in that year; (2) the Indenture of the Agreement, made 31st December, 42 Edward III., at Farnham, in the diocese of Win chester, between William of Wykeham of the one part, and the Mayor and the Community of Southampton of the other part, for the observance of ordinances and agreements for cessation from business in the said town during the fairs held yearly at St. Giles's Hill, near the City of Winchester; (3) the Indenture of a curious agreement, by way of a marriage settlement, made on 10 May, 2 Henry IV., between William Lelham "dominum de Grove" and his wife Cecilia of the one part, and John Benet of Oxford, cook, of the other part, in anticipation of the marriage of William Lelham (son and heir of the aforesaid William) with Juliana, daughter of the said John Benet; and (4) the remarkable Letters of Evidence, dated by John Ingler, Mayor of New Salisbury, on 2 December, 18 Edward IV., touching the testament of the late William Nycoll, sometime burgess and merchant of Southampton, and setting forth the circumstances under which the said William Nycoll's hand was used fraudulently for the sealing of a certain deed of enfeoffment, and certain letters of attorney for livery of seisin, when he was so completely in extremis that "his wittes were passed away and mynde allso so that he nother herd sey spake nor made any signe or tokene thereto to knowleiche"; it being alleged in the same Letters of Evidence that this fraud was committed by certain persons conspiring to compass the disinherison of the testator's niece 'Alice,' "the whiche was weddyd to a bondeman at Twyford."

(d.) Letters and Loose Memoranda.—It is for the writings, catalogued under this heading in the ensuing report, that the Southampton MSS. are especially deserving of the consideration of historical students. Opening with letters dated under the sign manual and signet of Henry the Sixth, the goodly show of privy seals, sign manuals, and bills prepared for the sovereign's signature, described in the earlier pages of the catalogue, comprises seven writings under the sign manual and signet of Edward the Fourth, eight writings of the same kind by Richard the Third, one by Henry the Seventh, five by Henry the Eighth, and one by Edward the Sixth, in all, twenty-three sign manuals. The letters so dated by Richard will not fail to arrest and hold the attention of readers. Beginning with letters, dated before Richard's accession to the throne, to the Mayor of Southampton, this remarkable assemblage of epistles by a sovereign, whose sign manuals are not plentiful, comprises an epistle dated to the Mayor, Sheriff, and Aldermen of Southampton on the 13th of October in the first year of the sovereign's reign, and running in these words. "Trusty and welbelowed, we grete you wele, and let you wit that the Duc of Buckingham is tratorously turned upon us contrary to the deutie of his liegeaunce and entendith thutter distruccion of us, you, and alle othre our trewe subgiettes that have taken oure part, whose traiterus entent we with Goddes grace entend briefly to resist and subdue. Pray you hertly therefore and naithles upon your leigeaunce charge you that with as many as ye may reise and make in defensible array on horsbak ye do sende to be with us at our Citie of Coventre the xxii day of this present moneth withouten faile in any wise as ye tendre our honnour and your owne wele, and we shall soo see to you for your reward and charges, as ye shal hold you right wele content. Yeven under our signet at our Citie of Lincoln the xiii day of Octobre." The series of Richard's epistles to the people of Southampton closes with the letters for the seizure of seditious bills and the arrest of seditious speakers, dated under his sign manual and signet to the Mayor and his brethren of the town on 5th April 1485, and running in these words:—"Trusty and Welbiloved We grete you wele, And wher it is soo that diverses sedicious and evil disposed personnes both in our citie of London and elliswhere within this our Reame enforced thaymself dailly to sowe sede of noyse and dislaundre ayenst our persoune and ayenst many of the lordes and estates of our landes, to abuse the multitude of our subgiettes, and averte thaire myndes from us if they coude by any mean attaigne to that thaire mischevous entent and pourpos, somme by setting up of billes, some by messages and sending furth of fals and abhominable languages and lyes, somme by bold and presumptuous open speche and comitacioun oon with othre, Wherethurgh the innocent people, which wold lyve in rest and peax and truly under our obeissance, as thay ought to doo, be greatly abused and oftentymes put in daunger of their lifes, landes, and goodes as ofte as thay folowe the steppis and advises of the said sedicious and myschevous personnes to our great hevinesse and pitie, For remedie whereof and to thentent the trouth openly declared shuld represse al such fals and continued invencions, We now of late called us the Maire and Aldremen of our Citie of London, togidre with the moost sadde and discrete personnes of the same citie in great nombre being present, many of the Lordes spirituel and temporall of our land and the substance of al our houshold to whom We largely shewed our trewe entente and mynde in al suche thinges as the said noyse and disclaundre ronne upon, in such wise as We doubt not, al wele disposed persounes were and bee right wele content with, Wher we also at the same tyme yave straitly in charge aswele to the said Maire as to al othre our officers servantes and feithful subgettes Whersover they be that from hensforth as often as they finde any persoune speking of us or any othre lord or estate of this our land othrwise than is according to honour, trouth, and peax and restfulnesse of this oure Reame, or telling of talys and tidinges Wherby the people myght bee stirred to commocions and unlawful assembles, or any strife and debate aryse betwix lord and lord or us any of the lordes and estates of this our land, thay take and arreste the same persoune unto to the tyme he have brought forth hym or thaym of whom he understode that that soo is spoken and soo proceeding from oon to othre unto the tyme the furst auctor and maker of the said sedicious speche and language be taken attached and punisshed according to his defautes, and that Whosoever furst fynde any sedicious bille sette up in any place he take it down and without redyng or shewyng the same to any othre persoune bring it furthwith to us or somme of the Lordes or othre of our Counsaill, all which direccions, charges, and commandements, so by us taken and geven by our mouth in our Citie of London, We notifie unto you by these our lettres to thentent that ye shewe the same within al the places of your jurisdiccioun, and see ther the due execucioun of the same from tyme to tyme, as ye wol eschewe our grevous indignacioun and answer to as at your extreme perelles. Yeven undre our signet in our Citie of London the vth day of Aprile." Amongst the one hundred and twenty-seven more or less noteworthy writings described in this catalogue after the notices of the royal letters, the searcher of the Southampton archives comes upon epistles by Nicholas Holmage [alias Holmegge], W. Clerk, and Richard Gryme, Mayors of Southampton in the time of Henry the Sixth, and letters from Lords of the Council temp. Henry VIII., Edward VI., Elizabeth, James I., and Charles the First. That the Southampton archives have proved so rich in historic letters is the more remarkable, because no inhabitant of the town was aware of the existence of these particular writings, until they came to light during the inspection that was made of the muniments of the borough by the inspector of the Commission.

(e.) Rolls and Miscellaneous Documents.—With a single exception, the Southampton Rolls are comparatively unimportant; but the single exception, the Roll of the Account of John Bentham, steward of the town, from Michaelmas, 7 Henry VI., to Michaelmas, 8 Henry VI., is a record to be examined no less carefully by general students of our social history than by annalists of the particular community to which it pertains.

Though it preserves no bundles of personal correspondence, and is poor in respect to several kinds of manuscripts, for which some collections of municipal writings are chiefly valuable, the King's Lynn muniment-room possesses in its Hall Books (beginning with the famous Red Register, 35 Edw. I. to 19. Ric. II.), and in certain of its Letters Patent and corporate indentures, a body of evidences that should be examined by students who would observe the constitutional growth and social life of the boroughs of medieval England. It has also in its Chamberlain's Accounts and Trinity Gild Rolls, an assemblage of records that are of inferior moment to students, only because successive antiquaries have done so much more for the sufficient exhibition of their most interesting particulars. That the Hall Books have hitherto missed the proper share of attention is the more surprising, because in a well known letter which was published so long since as 1832, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, the late Mr. Hudson Gurney gave our constitutional historians to understand that it would be worth their while to examine the volumes of which he spoke at second hand. The epistle which showed that at least on two occasions in Henry the Sixth's reign the parliamentary burgesses of Bishop's Lynn were chosen by a committee of twelve men of the borough, created no appetite for a larger measure of information respecting the electoral usages of the Norfolk town; and the length of the period is only now ascertained, during which the burgesses of parliament for Lynn appear from the records of the corporation to have been usually, if not invariably, chosen by a committee of twelve persons, and also to set forth the extent of the much longer period during which the ordinary freemen of the borough, the burgesses at large as they were disdainfully designated in the seventeenth century, had no direct voice in choosing the parliamentary representatives of their municipality. From an entry in the Red Register, it appears that on 9th October, 48 Edw. III., a committee of twelve burgesses made choice of Robert Bathe and John Waryn, to attend the parliament as the representatives of Bishop's Lynn. Two years later (50 Edw. III.), John Dockyngg and Thomas . . . . (his surname has vanished from the defaced record) were in like manner selected for parliamentary service by a committee of twelve persons, appointed to choose two fit and proper burgesses to attend the King's parliament. Henceforth to Henry the Eighth's time, all the persons, whose elections to serve the borough as burgesses of parliament are recorded in the extant archives of the municipality, were chosen for that purpose by a committee of twelve individuals, taken from the ruling body of the borough, whether that body consisted (as it did till the eighth year of Henry the Fifth) of twenty-four jurats, or of the "twenty-four" jurats and a subordinate council of "twentyseven" burgesses chosen yearly from the nine constabularies of the town (viz., three representatives for each constabulary), in accordance with the concessions made in 8 Hen. V. to the burgesses of Lynn by their lord, the Bishop of Norwich. The precise year of the last of these elections of parliamentary burgesses made by a committee of twelve does not appear. But, though burgesses of parliament for the borough were so chosen in the 1st and 3rd years of Henry VIII., the practice of electing parliamentary representatives by a committee appointed for the purpose was nearing its end. On 31st March, 14 Hen. VIII., instead of being elected by a committee, Mr. Thomas Miller and Mr. Bewshere were chosen to serve the borough in parliament by a majority of "the twenty-four" and "the twenty-seven;" and from this date the searcher of the Hall Books comes upon no evidence of a revival of a usage, that seems to have been the invariable method of making elections of this kind from the time of Edward the Third, and may have originated in the 7th year of Edward II., when a congregation of the burgesses appointed a committee of twenty-six persons to elect twelve of the more sufficient individuals of the community, to make provision in respect to all business touching the borough in the King's parliament and elsewhere.

The practice of electing parliamentary representatives by a committee having thus come to an end in the time of Henry the Eighth, elections of that kind were henceforth, till the middle of the seventeenth century, made by the ruling burgesses at congregations, specially summoned for the purpose. This change of electoral practice was followed at a brief interval by the charter dated on 27th June, 16 Henry VIII., for the reconstitution of the borough, a measure that, abolishing the ancient council of "the twenty-four" jurats and the subordinate council of "the twenty-seven" representatives of the constabularies, replaced them with a court of twelve aldermen and a court of eighteen common councilmen. Thus reconstituted the municipal assembly, or "this House" as it is usually styled in the Hall Books, kept the right of electing burgesses of parliament in its own hands no less tenaciously and exclusively, than "the House" of "the twenty-four" and "the twenty-seven" had held the same privilege, to the exclusion of the inferior burgesses from participation in the power of choosing the parliamentary representatives of the community. None the less for the reconstitution of the borough were the burgesses at large, viz., the freemen who were neither aldermen nor common councilmen, shut out from the parliamentary franchise. Chosen by "the House," taking their wages at various rates from "the House," and holding communication on parliamentary matters with "the House" and no other body of the townspeople, the members of parliament for the borough regarded themselves as responsible only to "the House" and as in no way under an obligation to consider the wishes or to study the feelings of the burgesses, who were not "of the House." That this state of things lasted to the revolutionary period of the 17th century appears from the abundant testimony of the Hall Books. But that the "burgesses at large" not only asserted their right to vote at the elections of their parliamentary representatives, but exercised the right in 1640, is shown by the Order of the Commons House of Parliament, dated 15th Oct. 1642, which required the mayor, aldermen, and common council of King's Lynn to "pay and allowe out of the towne stocke as formerly unto John Percevall and Thomas Toll their burgesses, for this present parliament, as lardge an allowance per diem as they heretofore allowed any of their aldermen that hath bene burgesses in parliament for that towne, notwithstanding the freemen of the towne had their voyces in the choice of the said John Percivall and Tho. Toll to be their burgesses for this present parliament." During the years, that intervened between the election of these last-named parliamentary burgesses and the choice of members for the first parliament to meet after Charles the Second's restoration, the question of the right of the "burgesses at large" to vote at such elections was a source of much contention amongst the keener politicians of the borough. From the wording of a municipal order (8 September, 1649) touching the election, it seems that the burgesses-at-large took part in the choice of the Earl of Salisbury to be a parliamentary burgess for King's Lynn; for whilst the order represents that "the House" granted the Earl the freedom of the burgh, it adds that "the cominalty of the burgh hath elected him a burgess "of the parliamentt of England." But in August, 1656, General John Desbrow and Major-General Phillip Skippon were chosen burgesses of parliament for the borough by the municipal "house," without the co-operation of the mere freemen; and on the 11th of the next month it was ordered by the mayor, aldermen, and common council "that Mr. John Horsnell of London be sent unto by this house as their solicitor in this behalfe to attende upon the Committee of Previledges at Westminster to make good this house's auncient custom of electing of burgesses to set in parliament, and that an abbreviate of the records be sent up to him in order to his prosecution of the same." That the decision of the Committee of Privileges favoured the claims of the house may be inferred from successive entries in the Hall Books. In the several ensuing elections that preceded the King's restoration the freemen at large seem to have had no share. On 19th Dec., 1656, Sir John Thorowgood was chosen to be a burgess of parliament by "this house." In like manner on the 3rd of Jan. 1658, Mr. Toll and Captain Griffith Lloyd were chosen burgesses of parliament for King's Lynn by the "mayor, aldermen, and common council," though "several burgesses of this burrough of the commons at large" appeared at the town-hall and requested that they might be allowed to take part in the election. On this occasion, after considering the claims and arguments of the petitioners, and before proceeding to the election of the members who were in due course chosen, the governing body of the corporation came to a recorded judgment "that the right of election of the said burgesses is at present in this house according to the aforesaid order" (viz., the Order of the Committee of Privileges and the Parliament). But on 16th April, 1660, yielding to another demonstration of sentiment on the part of the "burgesses at large," the House decided that, for the present election, and without prejudice in coming time to the ancient right and custom of the Assembly, the mere freemen should be permitted to vote; the record of this remarkable concession running in the Hall Book in these words, "Whereas Mr. Mayor hath this day caused a Common Hall to be warned in order to the elec tion of burgesses to serve in parliament to be houlden at Westminster and severall of the members of the House being mett together in this House, divers of the free burgesses of this burgh came and requested that they might be admitted to elect burgesses as theire right, which being taken into consideration this house doth think fitt for the present satisfaction of the people to suffer the commons to elect, and to wave the election in this house for this present election." Having thus yielded to popular feeling for a single turn, the ruling body of the corporation never again ventured to exclude the mere freemen from proceedings for the choice of parliamentary burgesses. The practical effect of this tardy concession, which implied the existence of a dormant right in the populace who had for successive centuries been prevented from exercising it, was that the freemen at large were admitted to the franchise without any parliamentary enactment for their enfranchisement.

In their orders and other memoranda, touching the payment of members of parliament, the King's Lynn Hall Books preserve several matters to be considered by social historians. Changing with the gradual depreciation of current money, the wages paid to burgesses of parliament for the borough rose from two to five shillings a day to each burgess, for each day spent either in attendance on the parliament, or in travelling to or fro between the parliament or the borough; and in a few cases the municipal allowance to a burgess of parliament was as much as ten shillings a day. On his election to represent the borough in parliament, Sir Robert Hitcham, Anne of Denmark's attorney-general and judge of the county-palatine of Ely, undertook to serve the borough gratuitously; in consideration of which tender care for their pecuniary resources the corporation, on the occasion of his passing through the town on his way to Ely in July 1610, entertained lawyer handsomely and gave him a gratuity of twenty pounds. Four years later the Mayor of Lynn, by a municipal order dated 20th June, 1614, was "allowed for his burgis wages for every day wherein he served this last parliament the sum of tenne shillinges per day," it being noted in the memorandum that "he went from hence the first of Aprill last and returned the xi of June next following." In December 1620, on the election of Mr. Matthewe Clark and Mr. John Wallis, two aldermen of the corporation, to serve as parliamentary burgesses, it was ordered with the same excessive or at least unusual liberality "that either of the said burgesses shall have for their wages tenne shillings for every day of the said parliament and for every day of their traveill outward and homeward." It does not appear whether the exceptional magnitude of these three allowances was due to exceptional circumstances. Anyhow, though the House of Commons in 1642 ordered the Mayor, aldermen, and common council of King's Lynn to pay their then burgesses, Messrs. John Percevall and Thomas Toll, "as lardge an allowance per diem as they have heretofore allowed any of their aldermen that have been burgesses of parliament for that towne," the municipal house had no regard for the munificence, shown to the Mayor in 1614, and to Messrs. Clark and Wallis in 1620, in ordering the wages of Messrs. Percevall and Toll, who each received five shillings a day and no more for parliamentary service from the borough treasurer.

A curious and instructive view of the dissensions and rivalries, that troubled the inhabitants of Lynn (Bishops Lenn as the borough was then styled) in the fifteenth century, is afforded by the Inspeximus dated 25th Nov., 14 Henry IV. (vide pp. 191 to 194) of a memorandum touching certain decrees, made by Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor upon certain discords and controversies between divers of the Potentiores of Bishop's Lenn of the one part and the Mayor, burgesses, and community of the other part, respecting certain oppressions and extortions committed by the said "potentiores" on the said Mayor, burgesses, and community. From this remarkable record it may be seen how the inhabitants of the little borough were not only historically divisible, but were sharply and hardly divided into three several orders, styled respectively the Potentiores, the Mediocres, and the Inferiores non Burgenses, and how these three classes were so rigidly defined, and their respective members so precisely catalogued, that it was known to every man of them, and to all his acquaintance, to which of the three orders he belonged. Further information respecting the feuds and discords, that stirred the rival classes in the same period of the borough's history, may be gathered (vide pp. 195 to 203) from the Exemplification, dated 2 June, 4 Henry V., of a certain instrument for the revocation of divers new ordinances and constitutions, and for the re-establishment of the ancient constitutions and customs, for the election of officers in the town of Bishops Lenn. Devised and established in the interest of municipal peace though they were, the new ordinances and constitutions made matters so much worse, and especially so by rendering quarrels fiercer and spites more rancorous, that in the opinion of the townspeople, or at least in the judgment of the prevailing party of the borough, it was needful to abolish them utterly, in order to recover the town from evils that threatened it with quick destruction. A few years later (8 Henry V., vide pp. 245, 246) a better remedy for the insolence of the jurats, and the passionate discontent of the poorer burgesses and other inferior inhabitants of the town, was devised by the Bishop of Norwich, when he established the annually elected common-council of "the twenty-seven," in order that, in respect to taxes for the sovereign and talliages for local charges and necessities, the populace of the nine constabularies should not be left completely at the mercy of the jurats, who were invariably drawn from the overbearing Potentiores. If they were not wholly wanting in the virtues, it is manifest from earlier records of the community that the Potentiores were not wholly exempt from the failings, of a dominant class. It indicates the spirit in which they dealt with the meaner freemen and the unenfranchised residents of their town, that in the 33rd year of Edward the First, they were at pains to procure Letters Patent under the great seal of "Pardon and Release" (vide p. 187) "to the burgesses of Lenn, in respect to all trespass, &c. said to have been done by them in assessing divers talliages on the community of the said town, without the unanimous consent of the same community, and in levying the same talliages from the poor and but moderately endowed men of the same community, and other great sums under colour of certain common fines, heretofore made by them for divers causes, beyond the sums to which the same fines extended themselves, and in converting to their own use, and not to the advantage of the said community, nor to the corporation of the same town, a great part of the same talliages and other different sums of money formerly levied in the same town, as well by occasion of the aforesaid fines as by occasion of murage granted unto them" by the Crown. In the composition made a few years later (October, 3 Edward II.), between the Bishop of Norwich of the one part and the Mayor and community of the town of Lenne of the other part, it was especially provided, for the correction of the extortionate disposition of the Potentiores and for the fairer treatment of the Mediocres of the community and of the Inferiores non Burgesses of the town, that the mayor and community should henceforth cease to exact from the poorer people of the place such immoderate "taskes and tallyages unleeful and unresonable grevous," as had heretofore been put "by the grete men of the towne aforesaid upon the mene peple and the povere to their oppression and hyndryng." The Potentiores having shown themselves thus greedy and rapacious, it was well alike for them and their victims, when the Bishop, as Lord of Bishop's Lenne, empowered the more numerous but feeble folk to vote yearly for the twenty-seven representatives, without whose concurrence the hitherto unbridled jurats should henceforth be powerless to settle the assessments of such taxes as tenths and fifteenths, or of sums to be levied within the borough for repairs of houses, walls, bridges, watercourses, and other local charges.