TOLLS AND CUSTOMS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval London trade disputes Winchester tolls customs exemption distraint
Subject: Agreement between London and Winchester regarding payment of tolls
Original source: British Library, Add. MS.6036, ff.6-7 (with a slightly variant copy on f.11)
Transcription in: W.H.B. Bird, ed. The Black Book of Winchester, (Winchester: Warren & Son, 1925), 11, 23.
Original language: Latin
Location: London, Winchester
Date: 1304


On 23 March 1304 there was a meeting between John Blund, then mayor of London, William de Leyre, John de Wengrave, Thomas Romayn, Walter de Fynchyngfelde, Richard de Gloucestre, Nicholas de Farundoun, John de Dunstaple, Nicholas Pycot, Thomas Sely, Hugh Pourte, aldermen, and John de Burreforthe sheriff, and other citizens on their own behalf and that of the community of the city of London, and Roger de Enkepenne, then mayor of the city of Winchester, and his fellow citizen John de Kyrkeby on behalf of themselves and the community of their city, to negotiate a settlement of disputes that have arisen between them concerning various customs taken at London from Winchester citizens by London bailiffs. In regard to which disagreement, it was agreed the following proposals would take force henceforth. That is, that all citizens of Winchester who belong to its merchant gild shall be exempt in the city of London from pontage, murage and pavage, and all other customs whatsoever levied on their merchandize, except for tronage of wool given in the past, viz. 6d. for the first sack and 5d. for each subsequent sack, and except for the custom on leather hides and woolpells, and similarly the customs taken on the queen's river, from which they cannot be exempted, regardless of on what grounds they make their claim. And that all the citizens of London shall be exempt from all customs at Winchester, including pontage, pavage, murage and all other customs and tolls whatsoever. So that this agreement may be remembered forever, it has been enrolled in the papers of the London Guildhall in the presence of the mayor, aldermen, and citizens, by the hand of William de Hiclynge clerk of the chamber, who wrote this.


This copy of a London record (the translation above being a reconciliation of the two versions) was entered into Winchester's book of memoranda in the context of a later document, likewise originally a London record, concerning renewed complaints in 1408 made by the Winchester authorities before the London authorities of distraints made on Winchester citizens to obtain payment of tolls on goods they had bought at London and were carting out. The complaint was of course that this exaction was contrary to the agreement of 1304. In 1407 Winchester had procured a royal writ addressed to the mayor and sheriffs of London stating that Winchester has possessed liberties granted by kings since Henry I, including that "they be exempt from toll, lastage, pesage, passage, cheminage, murage, pavage, quayage, picage, and all other kinds of tolls and customs in perpetuity" [Black Book, p.13], and ordering the London authorities not to harass Winchester men on this matter without first presenting their case to the king. In October 1408 a further writ from the king, issued in response to arguments presented to him by lawyers engaged by Winchester, repeated the tenor of the city liberties and ordered the London sheriffs to appear before him to explain why they had not respected Winchester's exemptions.

The London authorities responded to this situation in November 1408 by ordering that any distraints taken by the sheriff or his officers from Winchester gildsmen should be restored, and no such further action taken in the future unless specifically ordered by the mayor. They reserved the right to make future distraints related to toll-taking in cases where Winchester citizens could not demonstrate that they were exempt; the expectation appears to have been that a citizen present proof of being a member of the merchant gild. The agreement between the two cities did not extend to the Winchester fair, which belonged to the bishop, not the citizens.

In 1329 a similar agreement was drawn up between Southampton and Salisbury, citizens of the latter (whose chartered exemption from toll dated to the twelfth century) having been aggrieved by the imposition of tolls at the former. Southampton acknowledged the right of Salisbury citizens not to have to pay pontage, murage, pavage, quayage or other normal tolls on their merchandize, while Salisbury agreed that its citizens would pay tolls on a list of specified goods, at a rate considerably lower than that charged others. For urban authorities, formal compromises such as these must have seemed preferable to the prospect of confrontation that might harm the economic interests of both sides and sour relations between two communities that were as much collaborators as competitors within a multi-layered economic network characterized by a strong degree of interdependence of the various hubs and nodes of production, exchange, and distribution.

Salisbury was also in dispute with Lincoln, in 1367, over their opposing claims, of the latter to have the right to impose tolls and the former to be exempt from tolls. The king had sent instructions to the Lincoln authorities to respect his grant of exemption to Salisbury's citizens, but the authorities responded with the argument that their royal charter granted them custody of Lincoln, in return for paying an annual fee-farm, with the responsibility of preserving it undiminshed for the king, and that since they had long been accustomed to taking toll from all merchants coming to, or passing through, the city, without exempting anyone, and since Salisbury citizens could show no royal acquittance from tolls that pre-dated Lincoln's charter, the Lincoln authorities could not rightfully allow any exemption until the matter was discussed before king and council, lest such an allowance should prove to the detriment of the king and the city. [Calendar of Inqisitions Miscellaneous, vol.3, p.249] It seems unlikely this delaying tactic would have won the day for Lincoln.



"John Blund"
His mayoralty ran from 1301 to 1307.

"John de Wengrave"
Recorder of London from 1304 to 1319.

"pontage, murage and pavage"
Special tolls levied for funding the building or maintenance of bridges, walls and roads, respectively.

A fee/toll for the weighing of bulk merchandize.

"queen's river"
This refers to Queenhithe, a part of the quayside along the Thames that was within the queen's soke (independent jurisdiction); the citizens were not in a position to grant exemption from tolls taken there.

Specifically, in Letter Book C.

In the original pondagium, the weighing of goods. However, the writ of October 1408 gives pontagium.

A toll for obtaining right of way for land travel (whereas passage applied more to water transport).

Right to erect a stall from which to sell one's goods; it assumed that ground needed to be broken with a pick to set the stall firmly in place.

main menu

Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: January 6, 2019 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2019