|Original source:||Leicestershire Record Office, Leicester archives|
|Transcription in:||Mary Bateson, ed. Records of the Borough of Leicester, (London, 1901), vol.1, 283-85, 297-98; vol.2, 142, 383-85.|
|Original language:||1. and 3. Latin; 2. French; 4. Latin (translated by Bateson)|
|Date:||13th and 14th centuries|
1. [The account of] the same Walter [de Busseby, mayor, concerning the expenditures] of the Keeper of the High Cross in the same year [1313/14]
He accounts for 6 stones bought at Waverton, 10s. For transport of those stones to Leicester, 20s. For a gallon and a quart of linseed oil to oil the stones, 23d. Drink supplied for [those] hauling a certain stone from the street to John Cagge's garden, 8d. To two lads carrying stones that were part of the old cross from the garden of Thomas Houghill to John Cagge's garden, 2d. For wax and pitch to make a piece on the shaft of the cross, 1½d. For wax and pitch to make a piece on the knights, 3½d. To William Steyn for going to the vicinity of Banbury for John Mason on 14 August, 6d. [subtotal] 33s.8d.
To two lads for clearing the road on 18 September  for [the transport of] the windlass, 2½d. For transporting the windlass from the monastery to the cross, 12d. For drink for the men re-erecting the windlass, 1s.4d, and for their watch kept over the windlass for two nights, 4d. On the following day, for drink for the men hauling the knights from the Guildhall to the cross, 14d. For timbers, supports and poles bought for the stairing, 6d. To William Steyn, the masons' assistant, for 3 days, 6d. To two lads carrying stones from the house of Thomas de Scharnford, for 1 day, 3d. For half a horseload and one "decenna" of iron bought, 40s. To John Frene for his services there for three days, 3d. To two carpenters for repairs to the windlass, 12d. [subtotal] 17s.6½d.
During the following week: for lead bought from Peter de Kent, viz. half a pig and one stone, 15½d. And from William Coc, 1 pig of lead priced at 2s.4d. For coal and firewood for [smelting] the same, 3d. To William Steyn for his services for 2 days, 4d. Given to Master John for his repairs to the cross, as contracted, 66s.8d. To his associate Adam for painting, 50s.(in part payment of 66s.8d). To Nicholas Smith for all his work, [no amount given]. Given to a certain mason staying behind to make the nodules and vane of the cross, after Master John had departed, 11d. To the same on another occasion, 3s.8d. [subtotal] £6.5s.5½d, excluding N. Smith. Grand total £8.16s.8d.
2. [Work on the Guildhall, possibly 1273]
These are the expenditures on the Leicester guildhall after 2 February. For a door, hinge-hooks, and staples, 6½d. For workmen on the Monday, 3½d. [For the same] on the Tuesday, 3½d. On the Wednesday, 3½d. On the Thursday, 3½d. On the Friday, 3½d. On the Saturday, 1d. For workmen the following Tuesday, 2¾d. [Paid] to our mason, 11d.. On another week to our carpenters, 18d. To a mason, 12d. For ale, 3¼d. For transportation, 1d. To John Sturdi for timber, 2s. To the mason, 12¼d. To William le Gardener, 3s.4d. [To] John Karitas, 18d. To [Henry] le Lindraper, 16d. To William le Waleis, 6d.; and a further 3d.
Our expenses since Easter: for our carpenters, 4s.5d. Simon Dorlot, 8d. Tom Alleskineng, 7d. Hugh Alsole, 12d. For one tortpost, 9d. Henry Lindraper. 3s.
In the following week, for our carpenters, 3s.6d. For ale, 5½d. To Richard de Selt', 3d. To Robert de Silebi, 3d. To Margery Mutun, 3½d. For timber 18d. The week after that: for our carpenters, 3s. For their meals, 8d. For workmen raising the timbers, 12½d. For ale, 2d. On the following day: for ale, 8d. For workmen, 2¼d. For nails, 2½d. For workmen, 3¾d. For workmen,1¼d. For timber, 12½d.
In the following week, for workmen, 3½d. For making the sand-pit, 2¾d. For casting sand, 3d. For timber, 8d. In building the wall, 3½d. For sand, 1d. For hauling the stone, 2½d.
In the week before Whitsun, to the masons: Henry, 18d.; William, 16d.; Hugh, 14d.; Roger, 7½d. To the son of H[enry?], 4½d. For workmen, 2½d. For fetching sand, 6d. For lime, 4½d. For ale, 2d. To G[eoffry] de Sent Botouf, 10d. For timber, 12d. For iron for our windows, 8d. For boards, 3d. For making the bar, 2¼d.
In the week after Whitsun, to Richard le Marechal, 17d. For our carpenters, 14d. For workmen, 2½d. For timber, 12½d. For ale, 2d. For transport, 2d. For sand, 12d. For nails, 1d.
In the following week, for large nails, 2½d. For our carpenters, 20d. For workmen, 3½d. For ale, 2d. For timber, 12½d. For 2 large trees, 5d. For fetching [them], 6½d. To Alexander Persun, 12d. To Robert de Anesti, 12d.
After 29 June, for our masons, 7½d. For workmen, 2½d. For lime, 1d. In the following week, for workmen, 2¼d. For small [pieces of] timber, 1½d. For ale, 1d. Then [after] 22 July, for timber 15½d. For workmen, 3¼d. For lime, 2d.
[The remainder is almost entirely lost, but dates of 25 July and 1 August can be discerned].
3. [Work on the Guildhall 1314/15]
He accounts for laths bought for covering the hall and chamber, 3d. Item, for nails for the same, 4d. Item, two bowls for mortar, 3d. Item, for eaves-boards and tie-beams, 2d. Item, for ridge-tiles, 4d. Item, for sand, 12d. Item, for lime, 22d. Item, for 1,000 slates, including transportation, 2s.2d. Item, for the wages of the roofer, 10s.2d. Item, for boards for the doors of the hall, and for their cross-bars, and laths and nails for the projections of the hall and chamber, 13½d. Item, for spikes, board-nails, and for large nails made for doors, hinge-hooks and hinges, 10d. Item, for one beam bought for a joist in the solar, 5d. Item, for boards bought for the same, 8d. Item, for timber for benches in the same, 6d. Item, for one form for the same, 12d. Item, for transport of earth for the solar and hall, 12d. Item, for hay bought for making plaster, 7d. Item, for the wages of two men for 8 days [working] on the hall and chamber, 2s.4d. Item, for one man helping out for 1 day, 1¼d. Item, for the wages of Henry Carpenter working for 3½ days on the hall and chamber, 12d. Item, for one bolt, 2d. Item, for fetching the bar, 1½d. Item, for carrying water to the hall, 1d. Item, for grass to strew about the hall and chamber, on two occasions, 3d. total 26s.7¼d.
4. [Work on the Guildhall 1366]
Expenses on the Gildhall of Leicester. First beginning on Monday next after the feast of St. Gregory the Pope, in the 40th year, viz. in shovels, spade, ropes, timber, carriage, barrow, nails and divers matters. Total 12s.6½d. Item payments to carpenters £1.6s.8d. Item paid to Roger of Belgrave for a post and to a workman 4s.3d. [9 payments for timber to others named]. For spars 11s.7d. Paid for two springers 1s.4½d. Two loads of timber 18s.... Paid to sawyers for nine days and a half 7s.6d. Sum total to the feast of Easter £6.19s.2½d.
Paid in Easter week for lime and to workmen and for divers matters13s.
Paid in the first week after Easter for nails and beer 1s.6d. For sawyers 4 days and a half 3s.9d. For three workmen 5s.4d. For 3 masons in that week 7s.2d.Total 17s.9d.
[Other items are water, beer, stones, springers, nails, boards, 36 spars 6s.0½d., shovels, wages of a slater.]Total £3.7s.6½d.
Labour [persons named]£1.15s.
Paid in the fourth week. In divers costs in rearing the hall 4s.9d.... To John Waterman for water 1s.1d.Total £1.19s.10d.
Paid in the fifth week for spike-nails 1s. [Beer, spars, solder, lime, laths]£1.12s.7d.
Paid in the sixth week. First to John Steyne slater for 9 days 6s.9d.... To Will. Slater for 5 days 3s.9d.... Paid for 14 pins 3s.2d. To Peter labourer 1s. Paid to masons for 2 weeks 11s.... Paid to Adam Cok borer 1s.3.0s.6d.
[Other items added in another hand, including wages to persons named.] Paid for bowls, hinges and other small things 6s.1d.
Received of Will. of Syston and John of Scraptoft from the Mayor for the building of the common hall in the 40th years by two tallies £18.7s. Item for chips 15s.4d. Item received 9s.10½d. Item for 2 vats sold 1s.2d. Item received for spars 7s. Item he answers for £3.1s.4d. of the toll of the East Quarter of Leicester.
The cross-topped monuments that were known to exist in many towns, and of which a few examples or remnants survive today, had a variety of functions. The most evident is that they marked the location of where public trading could take place the "market" not necessarily being a dedicated open area, but in many places an event taking place in one or more of the streets and, thereby, a focal point in the urban topography. If the location of a marketplace changed, its cross would need to be relocated. This signal may have been particularly for the guidance of outsiders (non-townsmen), since their retailing was normally restricted to the marketplace. Having said this we should also note that similar, but perhaps less imposing, markers were used in some places to denote the boundaries of a town.
In the case of the simpler structures, rising above a stepped platform, such as that at Alnwick in Northumberland, they provided a convenient and logical public location for the announcement by the town crier of news, injunctions, or promulgations. They probably also provided a less formal soapbox for residents to voice their opinions; for instance, in November 1311 Robert de Gouteby was accused of having slandered the mayor at Leicester's High Cross. However, market crosses do not seem to have been built to serve as preaching crosses, which were separate creatures, although occasionally there may have been some overlap or ambiguity of functions. It seems unlikely, however, that they were intended as communal meeting points, since they seem to have been put up in an age where halls were being used for that purpose.
In the case of the more elaborate pillar-and-roof structures topped by a cross which seem not to have made much appearance before the late fifteenth century they were to shelter retailers. Some may have had a partly charitable purpose: to give shelter to poorer retailers, such as hucksters, who had no stalls of their own. That at Malmesbury (ca.1490) provides a fine example. But some of the larger shelters were essentially market-houses, intended for stall-owners. At Henley in 1504 the authorities gave a 12-year lease to a townsman of all the stations under the cross, for just 3s.4d a year, which was well under the revenues that the "keepers of the work of the market cross" [P.M. Briers, ed. Henley Borough Records, Oxfordshire Record Society, 1960, 75] had been able to raise during the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV. The low lease may reflect changed circumstances, for in 1493 cross revenues had amounted to 8s.10d, and after the keepers resigned in 1497 they were able to turn over only 6s.6d, and perhaps there was a downward spiral occurring, with reduced resources making it difficult to keep the cross in repair and retailers increasingly reluctant to operate beneath a decaying structure.
But to return to the purposes of market crosses... perhaps most important was the symbolic function of the market cross. While townspeople may not have expected that these crosses would formally extend to the marketplace the sanctity of the churchyard a frequent earlier choice of venue for the conduct of business (until prohibited for markets or fairs to be held in such places) at the least the presence of a cross towering over commercial proceedings was a reminder that all transactions were carried out in the eyes of God. The cross was thereby an exhortation to fair and honest dealing. Such crosses should be seen as one form of public expression of corporate piety.
At Leicester, the High Cross was placed at the crossroads of the High Street, which ran between the North and South gates, and the streets leading from the East and West Gates. At this central point in the town it is likely a market had long existed, its antiquity suggested by the natural location and the absence of any known explicit market grant. The forum of the Roman provincial capital was close by and Alan Everitt ["Leicester and its markets: The seventeenth century," in The growth of Leicester, Leicester University Press, 1972, p.41] suspected its market function may have survived into the original medieval shambles, on the southern edge of the forum, along the street leading westwards towards the crossroads. The existence of the High Street market is documented from the early twelfth century, and when borough records themselves refer to it, in the early fourteenth century, it is as a market held every Wednesday; towards the close of the Middle Ages a Friday market was also held there. This was the commercial centre of the medieval town, and the High Street was one of the foci for population; several inns were clustered in the stretch in the vicinity of the cross. In later times, and probably those medieval, the opening of the borough fairs was publicly proclaimed from the cross; other proclamations were likely made there. In 1520 the High Cross was designated as the only place where bakers from outside town could come and sell bread on market days; it may have been so used in earlier times, although not as the exclusive point of sale.
A Saturday Market is known to have existed by the same period, but in the south-eastern corner of the town, bounded by the walls. This unusual location for a market is probably because it was not for foodstuffs so much as for livestock and needed more space than the High Street could offer; this was also the natural place for a new butchery to be established. It was occasionally called the Earl's Market and may have been an initiative of one of the earl's to establish a new source of income, particularly if the customary Wednesday Market sometimes referred to as the community market held no revenues for him because not a privilege he had granted. Gradually more types of wares were drawn to this location, trade there increased as did the population of the south-eastern quarter of the town.. A Market House was build there in the early fifteenth century to house the shambles and drapery. In Victorian times the Wednesday Market was transferred there and the town centre shifted eastwards from its original location at the High Street crossroads.
There does not appear to have been a cross in the Saturday Market. We hear of other crosses, but know less about them than about the High Cross. Just outside the East Gate stood Berehill Cross, upon a small mound; the site is now occupied by the Clock Tower, considered the present town centre. The Red Cross was located just inside the West Gate, shown by Speed on his Leicester map (1610) at the west end of Red Cross Street, and the Senvey Cross just outside the North Gate. These placements suggest boundary markers, placed (like High Cross) at the junction of several streets, although Professor Everitt [op.cit., 41-41] has argued that these were market crosses. It may be that the functions of market cross and boundary marker, both to some degree for the benefit of those coming from outside the town, were in some cases intertwined. By contrast with the other crosses mentioned, St. John's Cross is assumed to have been associated with St. John's Hospital, in the northern stretch of the High Street, and may have been a preaching cross. Most of these crosses were dismantled in the sixteenth century, according to Billson [Mediaeval Leicester, Leicester, 1920, p.202], but Roberts' map of 1741 seems to show crosses outside the south, east and north gates, as well as at other locations around the perimeter of the walled town.
How long a cross had stood in the Wednesday Market we do not know, but the earliest reference occurs in 1278, when a mason was paid 4s. for repairing it. The mayoral account rendered in 1306 refers to further repairs, under the supervision of a Keeper of the Cross. The fabric had evidently sufficiently deteriorated by 1313 that it had to be completely rebuilt, and adorned with statues that had apparently previously been incorporated into the Guildhall architecture. A piece of equipment was borrowed from the Abbey of St. Mary to hoist the statues into place. Billson thought the cross was surmounted by a weathercock, but this seems a misunderstanding.
Some of the work required on the cross in 1313 appears to have been carried out by the townsmen on either a voluntary or conscription basis; they were not compensated for their labour, but the authorities provided refreshments. The same account included expenditures incurred by the keeper of the West Bridge, on repairs. Again Master John Mason was employed on this project, along with an associate, some young assistants, and several labourers digging and transporting sand, as well as fetching lime and stone.
The account of mayor John de Knythcote for the following year identifies the continuing work on the cross, probably immediately after that recorded in Busseby's account, i.e in early October 1314. Wax and pitch were applied to parts of the structure, presumably as sealants. Adam the painter continued his work. The windlass was dismantled and taken back to the abbey. Within this phase of the project, 19s.3d was expended. The same year saw reroofing and other work underway on the guildhall, as in document 3 above.
In the sixteenth century a new structure was erected near the High Cross, with a roof to provide shelter, perhaps for women selling small wares, and so it is shown on Speed's Leicester map of 1610. Roberts' map appears to show both the new and the old market cross; neither is directly in the crossroads, but a little north of the junction, in the High Street.Town hall
What may have been Leicester's first town hall strictly speaking the hall used by the merchant gild which acted as the original nucleus of communal aspirations to self-government is assumed to have been in St. Nicholas' parish. The work of 1273 appears to have been the preparation of a new hall, for in 1335 it was stated that the mayor of 1275/76 had granted, with community consent, the "old gildhall" to William Emery. The statement came in the context of the court entertaining a claim to a rent (of 1s.6d and two capons) from the property from William le Turnour. We hear of this original gildhall, described as a "messuage belonging to the community of the Gild", in 1257 when a rent of 1s.7d was due from it to Isolda le Turnur, and on several other occasions up to 1264 when the borough authorities were paying this rent. How long the gild had been meeting in this hall we do not know.
The second guildhall was established on property purchased ca.1251/55, for £4.6s.8d, by the mayor, burgesses and community from William Ordriz, who reserved for himself a rent of 1s.4d and two capons. However, subsequent negotiations managed to free the borough from that payment, and a renunciation of any dower claim in the property was also obtained from William's mother, for £1.6s.8d. It may have been a largish property, for it was described as the "capital messuage" of Stephen fitz Ivo Sheile, the father of the seller, and at least one of the adjacent properties had belonged to another family member, Richard le Parmenter a.k.a. Richard Sheile.
What we see in 1273 may have been refurbishment of the hall of the messuage, or (less likely) a new structure built on part of the property. Why it took 20 years before this could be accomplished is unclear, but perhaps the meagre resources of the borough were stretched too thin to allow the work to go ahead, once a clear title to the property was secured.
The timing of the project is not insignificant. The original purchase of the property represents one of the earliest references to a mayoralty existing at Leicester, apparently superseding the alderman of the merchant gild. Between the 1250s and '70s we see various initiatives by the leading townmen to flex their muscles. In 1260 they were enforcing members' obligation to attend gild meetings, protecting the monopoly of members on the local wool trade, and regulating the weavers and fullers crafts. They sought to free themselves in small ways from the domination of the earl (e.g. gavelpence and pontage), and to assert some authority, such as tax collection, in the Bishop's Fee, which was outside the jurisdiction of the borough authorities; when the latter proved unsuccessful, we find a ruling prohibiting townsmen from entering the merchant gild if living in the Bishop's Fee (1273), while in 1274 an ordinance forbade that anyone serving on the consultative council of jurats be a resident of that Fee. A quitclaim by the town ca.1273 uses the terminology "by common agreement" when referring to the action. The 1275 session of parliament is the first to which Leicester is known to have sent representatives. In 1277 the burgesses obtained from the earl a grant of reforms of court procedures. So the rehabilitation of the Ordriz residence as a town hall can be seen as part of a growing sense of political community and desire for self-determination.
The new hall was located on a corner opposite St. Nicholas' church, just a short walk from the High Street and High Cross, down what became known as Guildhall Lane (not to be confused with the street currently bearing that name) and later Blue Boar Lane, after an inn situated at the junction of the lane and High Street. The lane has disappeared in modern times, lost to the creation of the inner ring road that, slashing through the intramural area, runs directly over where the medieval guildhall must have stood. From 1310 on we have several references to 4s. rent due from 4 shops under the guildhall; or to be more precise, the guildhall comprised the hall where meetings were held, and at one end a two-storey section, with a chamber or solar above and the shops below. These rents are not heard of after the Black Death, so perhaps demand for the shops disappeared and the space was put to other uses. One such may been a gaol certainly part of the guildhall was so used after the corporation relocated to a new home but the principal town prison at this time was in the High Street.
From the late fourteenth century, when the merchant gild had ceased to be a significant player in local government, the community having gained a good deal of independence from the earl and many of the powers and forms typical of borough governments of that period, the building was referred to more as the "common hall" than the guildhall, or occasionally as the "town hall" or the "mayor's hall".
The hall stood where that lane met Jewry Wall Street and the street known as Holy Bones ran south from their junction; Holy Bones looks to have been carved out of St. Nicholas' churchyard, although Professor Everitt [ibid.] thought the name was owed to the refuse from the nearby shambles. The borough also held buildings in Holy Bones adjacent to the guildhall, usually referred to as cottages perhaps these were other elements of the property purchased from William Ordriz. The second along from the guildhall was in 1432 called the Storehouse, and on one occasion described (perhaps derogatorily) as a barn. In 1452 the cottage next to the town hall was being occupied by the town clerk, Richard Derwentwater. In 1462 a 99-year lease of this cottage was given to a subsequent town clerk, Richard Reynold; it was described as a "long house" and included the Storehouse and an adjacent garden/orchard. Evidently the proximity of the cottage to the hall provided a convenient residence for the town clerk, but the long lease precluded his successors from the advantageous location; Reynold is still found as the tenant in 1480, although apparently no longer living there.
The account related to work on the guildhall in 1366 is on a separate document from the mayoral account of that year. The reason is that the accountants were different, as indicated in a statement in the mayoral account: "£13 paid to Will. of Syston and John of Scraptoft keepers of the work of the common hall of the town for the work of the said hall by a tally against them as of pence received of a tallage of the community of the town there. And £5.7s. paid to the same for the said work by tally against them." [Records of the Borough of Leicester, vol.2, p.141]
Whether such supervisors were an ongoing or ad hoc element of borough officialdom we cannot tell, but the separate accounting would suggest the latter. Earlier repairs are incorporated into the main content of the mayoral accounts. In 1306, payments were made for boards, nails and hinges for the gildhall windows, and for a carpenter to work on the windows as well as on the benches; and for slates and a slater with two apprentices helping him they were paid 10s.0½d as their fee, so the work was probably fairly substantial. A gildhall caretaker supervised this work. In 1320/21 the roof needed further work, and a thousand slates were purchased. In 1323 it was the turn of the porch to require attention, although the repairs were minor.
In 1326/27 the work was rather more substantial, requiring 38 cartloads of sand and 28 cartloads of stone (the latter taking 3 days to transport, using a single cart), as well as 31 quarters of lime; 2500 slates were bought, along with 300 laths. Two masons and two assistants were employed for 9 days for this work, which evidently entailed repairs to roof and foundations. The roof repairs went beyond the slate covering, for lumber was bought for studs, tie-beams, and other roof timbers, and a carpenter engaged for 3 days. In addition some plastering was carried out inside and new security devices bought for the hall door and windows. The total cost was £2.18s.4½d. The 1333/34 accounts indicates a crumbling or damaged wall was repaired by a dauber. The following year saw repairs to the benches in the gildhall, after they had been broken when the Justices of Assize had held a session there, perhaps from the volume of people attending or as a result of some disturbance.
The scene was set for the substantial work of 1366 by an entry in the mayoral account for 1357/58, which suggests the guildhall was in a rickety state, for timber was bought and carpenters put to work shoring up the hall, and a slater paid to repair the roof. The 1351/52 account likewise refers to a mason being employed to repair defects in the guildhall; work was also done on the gable of the common hall and the windows of the guildhall, as well as 6d. spent on making a new bench for the guildhall, and work on the wall surrounding the garden attached to the moothall.
The loss of most routine borough records from much of the fifteenth century shields from our view the continuing work that was doubtless needed to keep the guildhall in repair. Yet it was probably not the inevitable dilapidation over time that eventually prompted the move to a new base of operations, but rather the growth in the size of the corporation. In the latter half of the century, the ranks of the bureaucracy were expanding, with posts ranging from the recorder, a professional lawyer, to minor officers such as the meat and fish testers. The senior members of the town council were made aldermen and each was assigned a constable when the town was divided into twelve wards for policing purposes. Most significantly the existing town council of 24 leading burgesses was, from 1489, supplemented by a lower council of 48. The guildhall was apparently not up to accommodating regular meetings of this significantly enlarged council.
By 1495 it had begun to meet in the hall of the Corpus Christi gild, built in the late fourteenth century to serve a socio-religious gild founded in 1343 and which was influential, thanks to many of its members coming from the ruling class in Leicester; the gild may have met earlier in a room in the East Gate, rented from the borough. This hall stood close by St. Martin's church in what was then Kirkgate (but now Guildhall Lane). Around the middle of the fifteenth century it was extended westwards to meet the growing needs of the membership, and a further, smaller hall was added towards the close of the century, perhaps in connection with the transfer of the corporation meetings; the second hall was later known as the "mayor's parlour". After the suppression of gilds in 1548, the corporation was able to secure possession of the property, by a somewhat circuitous route. The fourteenth century home of the borough government was put to a variety of uses by the authorities, up until the end of the seventeenth century at least.
"oil the stones"
"nodules and vane"
|Created: August 27, 2004, Last update: October 29, 2014||© Stephen Alsford, 2004-2014|