Keywords: medieval Leicester merchant guild membership regulation commerce wool cloth trade fraud disfranchisement
Subject: Merchant gild enforcement of regulations
Original source: Leicestershire Record Office, Leicester archives, Merchant gild roll.
Transcription in: Mary Bateson, ed. Records of the Borough of Leicester, (London, 1899), vol.1, 68-69.
Original language: Latin
Location: Leicester
Date: 1254


Memorandum that on 21 January 1254 Roger son of John Aldith [was charged that] he had offended against the community of the gild: that is, because he made a blanket which had good warp in the first part, but in several other parts the warp was deficient, and because on another occasion he caused a vermilion cloth of poor and inferior quality to be sewed to another, good vermilion cloth at Lynn. He took an oath that he would never again offend against the gild and that, if he should again be convicted of any betrayal or any other trespass against the community of the gild, he should forfeit his gild [membership]. He pledged a cask of ale and another one for his first offence, and they were assessed, by name of amercement, at 6s.8d; pledges [named], and they have paid and are discharged. This Roger Aldith was a third time convicted regarding a vermilion cloth made against the gild [standards]; that is, the weft in the middle portion was worse and more deficient than at either end, and on another vermilion cloth he had sewn a bordering cloth contrary to the gild [standards]. He was expelled from the gild and dissociated from its community in 1259.

William de Ailestone was charged with having on many occasions sold wool of Hinckley and Coventry men by weight and measure, against the community of the gild. He pledged 60s.; that is, with 6s.8d to be paid now and the rest suspended. He foreswore any [future] trespass of this kind, and if he should in the future be convicted of a trespass of this kind, against the community of the gild, he shall lose all gild trading [privileges] for a year and a day; pledges [2 named]. Of which [fine] he is credited with 3s. that he loaned towards the redemption of pontage, and he owes 3s.8d.; of which he has now paid Henry de Rodingtone 1s.10d. and he will pay 1s.10d. at the meeting of the gild members after Easter. He paid and is discharged.


These proceedings illustrate how an urban community or its merchant gild tried to control the behaviour of members. The offences committed were not simply a matter of fraud, they were an infringement of the principles underlying the sworn association of the community – in this case, the merchant gild, although in some towns it was the community of freemen. The term communa gilde, here translated "community of the gild", might rather be conceived of as "the communal interests of gild members"; note how the term gilda is used here to refer variously to the association, to membership, and to the shared values. It was primarily on the grounds of a member having betrayed his responsibilities towards his fellows – responsibilities imposed through the swearing of an oath of membership and loyalty – that the gild could exercise effective disciplinary measures, the most extreme being withdrawal of gild membership, which entailed loss of commercial privileges and sometimes a more complete ostracism in which other members were prohibited from doing business, and perhaps even socializing, with the expelled offender – a secular counterpart to Catholic anathema.

It should be noted that the records of both cases, initiated on the same date, comprise a series of entries recording developments over time. just as in records of civil or criminal court cases.

Shortly after his expulsion from the gild, Roger Aldith purchased a new membership, guaranteeing that, should he offend against gild regulations again, he would forfeit his membership forever and pay a fine of £12.13s.4d. However, old habits die hard, and twenty years later Aldith (or a like-named younger member of the family) was in trouble again.



The precise nature of the charge against William de Aylestone is not specified, but it is probably that he sold outsiders' wool wholesale, as though it were his own (perhaps to avoid tolls), rather than retailing it as a middleman.

Or "put in respite" as the original more literally says, may mean condoned (i.e. forgiven him – a common practice regarding those who contritely submitted to justice) or more probably postponed (i.e. held over his head in the event of a repetition of the offence).

"Henry de Rodingtone"
Henry de Ruddington was a prominent townsman who held the mayoralty (and therefore gild leadership) 1258-70; he was perhaps a financial officer of the gild around 1254.

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Created: October 28, 2014. © Stephen Alsford, 2014