TOLLS AND CUSTOMS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Leicester commerce wool merchant guild membership privileges foreigners middlemen tolls smuggling market offences punishment
Subject: Prosecution of a toll evader
Original source: Borough archives
Transcription in: Mary Bateson, ed. Records of the Borough of Leicester, (London, 1899), vol.1, 205-07.
Original language: Latin
Location: Leicester
Date: 1280s


Memorandum that on 2 June 1281 Jakemin de Lede was accused by William Lengleys, mayor of Leicester, and the community of that town that Jakemin travelled through the countryside in the county of Leicester, taking with him foreign merchants and with the money of those merchants buying wool wherever he might find it, to the serious damage and in contravention of the liberty of the gild of the town.

And this Jakemin came to an open court session and could not deny the thing. Therefore it was decided that no-one who is within the liberty of the merchant gild may be involved with Jakemin in the town of Leicester henceforth. If anyone who belongs to the gild is found to associate with Jakemin, he is to lose the gild and the liberty of the town in all regards, until Jakemin has made satisfaction to the community for the damage mentioned.

On 28 June 1289, Jakemin de Lede was accused of having taken merchants outside the fixed boundaries of the town of Leicester as far as the vill of Tilton and elsewhere; and there they bought wool by the fleece and by the sack, in contravention of the liberty of the town and gild, and to the serious damage of the entire community and its gild.

Jakemin comes and says that it seems to him that he has done nothing wrong, because a certain chaplain by the name of William came to his house and there sold to his master Peregrine eight and a half sacks of wool. Subsequently, Jakemin journeyed with Peregrine to that vill, and there they put the wool into packs and carried it off, and paid neither tronage nor toll on the wool. From there they travelled to Garthorpe, where they bought 23 sacks of wool and likewise carried it off [without paying] tronage and toll. And it seems to him that he is able to do this fairly, since he is an outsider and not a member of the liberty of the town and its gild. If he had not taken Peregrine, some other outsider (such as Michael Frothe or others) would have taken him.

The same Jakemin was accused, based on him not being in the liberty of the town or its gild, regarding the way in which he buys his malt in the lord's market, and makes ale from it, and has it sold by measure in his house to anyone who wishes to buy, in contravention of the liberty of the town and to the serious damage of the entire community.

Similarly, he was charged, on the same grounds, that he bought wine at Boston and sold in in his house in large and small measures that were not certified, and he arranged for coal, oats, hay, and various other items intended for the market to be regrated. And Jakemin comes and says that it seems to him that he has done nothing wrong in this regard, because he is a stall-holder and pays "cannemol" annually, at the sum assessed by the jurors, for [the right] to sell ale.

The same Jakemin was accused of having taken the same merchants to Dalby, and there he bought the lord of Dalby's wool, viz. 8½ sacks, in contravention of the liberty of the town. And Jakemin comes and says that a certain clerk of the lord of Dalby came to his house while his master Peregrine was counting the money and sold Peregrine the wool; and Peregrine took one penny from the money and gave it to the clerk by way of arrears. After which Peregrine and Jakemin travelled to Dalby together and put the wool into packs and carried it to Leicester, and paid the bailiffs tronage and toll on that wool.


Jakemin's surname, referring to Liège, implies he was from Flanders; neither he nor his master's Christian names are English in origin and, as he himself stated, he was not a citizen of Leicester. We may surmise Jakemin was a factor residing in Leicester in order to do business there for his master. His defence to one of the charges, that if he hadn't guided the merchants someone else would, has a touch of the flippancy of a young man, and factors were often newly-graduated apprentices; although if the date of the first entry is correct, Jakemin had been in the town for several years – he is listed amount residents taxed in 1286.

The method of carrying out Peregrine's business, which was the export of wool (complaints about Jakemin's brewing and retailing activities probably reflecting a side-business to help Jakemin support himself), was to make deals inside Leicester, at Jakemin's residence there, but to collect the goods outside the town, thus making it difficult for toll to be collected on it, the loss of such revenue being part of the damage done the community. The authorities would have preferred for the wool to be brought into the town market.

In early 1290, Jakemin took out membership in the merchant gild. Possibly this was necessitated by a decision of the court, or possibly he thought it the safest course to reconcile himself with the community. Two years later we again find him in trouble, fined for selling wine contrary to the terms of the assize; however, this was a common enough offence, 15 other townsmen being fined for it on the same occasion. He appears to have put down some roots, if he is the same as the Jacob of Liège, merchant of Douai, who with his wife Ellen in 1298/99 sold a house in the High Street worth £20, and a nearby piece of property in 1306, when his son William was old enough to quitclaim his rights in the same.



"foreign merchants"
The term extraneos could apply to anyone outside of Leicester; but in this context it is likely to mean foreigners as we would understand the term.

"within the liberty of the merchant gild"
I.e. a member in possession of the privileges of gildsmen.

Tilton-on-the-Hill lies a few miles east of Leicester.

A fee payable for weighing of merchandize, named for the trone, or large beam (to distinguish it from the small beam used for goods measured in avoirdupois).

A village to the northeast of Leicester.

"by measure"
Probably referring to retail sales in smaller amounts than the law allowed.

In the original sine signo posito, lacking the mark that measures had to bear to show they had been examined by the authorities and certified as corresponding to standards.

I.e. he pays a licence fee for the right to have a stall in the market.

An annual levy collected, more in the manner of a tax than a toll, from brewers, and probably assessed on an estimation of quantities brewed.

"same merchants"
Presumably Peregrine; it is not clear who else is intended, unless the merchants from the charge of 1281, but perhaps foreign merchants in general are meant.

Great Dalby lies about halfway between Leicester and Garthorpe.

The original has "master", perhaps because reflecting the terminology used by Jakemin who, as a foreigner may not have had the best grasp of English; the reference is likely to the lord of the manor, on whose estate the wool would have been produced.

Jakemin probably means God's penny, a token given in earnest of sealing a bargain, and which might be accepted by the courts as proof of a contract.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: March 13, 2016 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2016