POLITICS Florilegium Urbanum


Keywords: medieval Shrewsbury constitution electoral procedures reforms office-holding qualifications bailiff coroner town clerk sergeant salary oath duties re-election restrictions financial administration revenues tolls accountability auditors distraint participation government solidarity offences seals archives treasury council obstructionism political conflict factionalism
Subject: Electoral reform
Original source: Public Record Office, Parliamentary proceedings, C 49/22/1, C 49/22/3 (schedules attached to parliamentary petitions)
Transcription in: Great Britain. Parliament. Record Commission. Rotuli Parliamentorum; ut et Petitiones et Placita in Parliamento tempore 1278-1532, ed. J. Strachey, et al., London, 1767-77, vol.4, pp.476-480, vol.5, pp.121-27.
Original language: Middle English
Location: Shrewsbury
Date: 1433 and 1444


TRANSLATION

[1. Petition to 1433 parliament]

[A-01] First, it is agreed to by the bailiffs and community of the town of Shrewsbury regarding the annual election of bailiffs and other town officials, from this time forth in perpetuity, that the two bailiffs of the town then in office shall, on the day of the election of new officers – that is, the Friday following St. Giles' day in September – in front of the community take a public oath upon a [holy] book, administered by the town clerk then in office, that they will honestly and without bias choose publicly in the town guildhall 25 persons from the most honest and impartial members of the community who are resident burgesses, permanent householders, and contributors towards all financial impositions within the town, using the form and procedure that follows. The bailiffs (or either one of them) are not – because of any gift, promise, procurement, friendship, favouritism, envy, enmity, association with anyone, or for any other cause, through fraud, malice, collusion, or conspiracy (by he or they, or anyone else on their behalf) – to fail to choose the 25 persons from the most qualified and impartial members of the community, as described above, who are then present in the guildhall on the occasion of the election; and not anyone else. Excluding those who have held the office of bailiff and those who were electors the previous year, and so long as there are then present a sufficient number of [qualified] persons to make the election. The bailiffs are not to choose the said 25 persons from any list previously drawn up. The which 25 persons thus chosen shall make their choice under oath, sworn along the same lines as that of the bailiffs and administered by the town clerk. Then the town clerk is to question each under oath whether they, or any of them, have been suborned to choose any particular person to any particular office which lies within their election. If any person or persons is found under examination to have been suborned, then he (or they) is to be removed and another qualified and impartial burgess of the town, sworn and found (in the manner stated) not to have been suborned, is to be put in his place.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-02] Then the 25 are to proceed to elect 2 bailiffs for the year to come from the most honest, impartial and qualified burgesses of the town (as indicated above) who are best able to rule and govern, properly and faithfully according to law, good custom, and usages of the town. On condition that each of those chosen as bailiffs is to possess in his own right or for his lifetime lands or rents worth £10, or to own goods worth £100. Each of the bailiffs is to be a permanent resident and householder of the town, and contributor to all financial impositions within the town. Should the 25 choose a bailiff or bailiffs who do not meet the above qualifications, then each of them is to forfeit 20s. to the town community. If they cannot agree on whom to elect, then election by the majority of the 25 will be valid. If that majority chooses one or more bailiffs who are not qualified, then each of that majority is to forfeit the said sum of 20s., to be levied by the bailiffs then in office to the use of the community. Nor are the 25 persons to choose any official from their own number, but from other qualified and capable burgesses, as described above. They are not to choose for the office of bailiff anyone who has been bailiff within the previous 3 years, upon [penalty of] forfeiting the said sum of 20s., to be levied in the fashion indicated. Henceforth they are not to choose anyone for the office of the 6 [cessors] who has already held the office of bailiff of the town, each of them under penalty of 20s., levied in the said manner.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-03] The 25 persons sworn in the manner indicated above are to choose 6 men called cessors, each of whom is to hold 26s.8d annually from lands or rents (over and above reprises) in his own right or for his lifetime, or own goods worth £10, and is to be a bona fide burgess and resident of the town. [They are] to be responsible henceforth for the duties of receiving all kinds of revenues that come, or ought to come, yearly to the communal exchequer of the town, and for the effective and honest care of those revenues for the common profit.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-04] The 25 persons are to choose, by their oath sworn in the manner indicated above, 2 town coroners from qualified burgesses resident in the town, who are to occupy the office of coroner within the town and its liberties. The coroners are to oversee the public works of the town during their term of office, to ensure they are properly carried out from time to time, in a reasonable and honest fashion, for the benefit of the community. Whoever has been coroner one year is not to be chosen to the officer of coroner during the 3 years following. Nor is any man who has been a member of the 6 one year to be chosen to the office of the 6 men during the 3 years following. Henceforth, no-one who has held the office of coroner or of 6 men in the town is to occupy the office of sergeant, under penalty of 40s. upon each one [of the 25?], to be levied from each and every one by the bailiffs then in office, for the profit of the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-05] It is agreed to that no-one is to speak with the 25 persons – neither past or future bailiffs, nor anyone else – once they have taken their oath and been examined in the manner already mentioned, and have been tasked with making the election; nor is to go with them into whatever place where the election shall be made. With the exception of the present or future common clerk of the town; and he is to take oath upon a book, before the community of the town, that he will not suborn them, or any of them, nor allow any other man to suborn them to choose anyone particular for an office. He is thus to keep them safe [from influence] until they, or a majority of them, have reached agreement, in the way already indicated. Neither they nor any of them may depart from the place to which the town clerk brings them for making the election, until the election has been completed, upon penalty of 40s. each., to be levied by the bailiffs then in office, for community use.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-06] It is agreed to that the bailiffs who are newly elected each year, before they can take office, are to take oath upon a book before the community of the town: that they shall be faithful and loyal to the king and his heirs; that they will honestly and properly maintain his peace within the town, and administer and govern the assizes of all victuals within the town and its liberties; that they will do justice to poor as well as to rich; and that they will perform all the duties of the office honestly, to the utmost of their wisdom and ability, according to the laws, customs and usages of the town.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-07] It is agreed to that the said 6 men, once elected in the manner already mentioned, shall publicly take oath upon a book, before the community: that every day assigned by the bailiffs and the 6 men for receiving community revenues they shall go to the communal exchequer and there receive all such revenues as are brought there by various persons, and honestly and properly keep those moneys secure; also that they shall honestly and properly oversee all expenses and costs made by the bailiffs for the benefit and esteem of the town; and also to assist and advise the bailiffs for the benefit of the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-08] The coroners who are elected annually are to take a public oath in the manner already mentioned: that they shall honestly and properly fulfill the duties of coroner within the town and liberties; oversee the public works of the town; and honestly and properly write down, or have written down, the details of those works – where and when they were carried out, associated expenses and costs – and on a weekly basis deliver them to the bailiffs and 6 men in the town exchequer. If any person disobeys and does the contrary, and will not comply with the aforesaid ordinance, he is to forfeit 40s., to be levied by the bailiffs then in office, to the use of the community. If the bailiffs are negligent and fail to levy that penalty, as aforesaid, each is to forfeit 66s.8d., [of which] two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to whoever sues on behalf of the king, to the use of the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-09] Those who have been, or shall in future be, bailiffs are each to have and take for their year's term of office a fee of 100s. and a gown worth 20s. (and no more). The steward of the town then in office is to have and take annually 40s. for his fee and a gown of the same style as the bailiffs', worth 20s. Each of the 6 men in office now or in the future is to have and take for his annual fee a gown worth 13s.4d for his labour. The common clerk of the town in office now or in the future is to have and take annually for his fee 40s. and a gown worth 13s.4d. of the same style as those of the 6 men. Also, the coroners in office now or in the future are to have and take from the community revenues, for their labour in overseeing the public works, 12d. per week throughout the year, to be divided evenly between them. The bailiffs in office now or in the future are to be reimbursed for all reasonable expenses and costs incurred by them for the benefit and esteem of the town, at the time they render account; on condition that is has been confirmed by the 6 men (or at least 3 of them) that the expenses and costs have truly been incurred for the purposes indicated, otherwise their claims are not to be allowed.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-10] It is agreed to that the bailiffs who will take office may appoint two town sergeants, from individuals for whom they are prepared to be answerable. A third town sergeant is to be chosen annually by the 25 persons, on election day; he is to be a bona fide burgess, qualified, resident, and contributor to all kinds of levies within the town. The sergeant is to be warden of the town gate called the Castle Gate. The third sergeant is also to be responsible for collection of the town rents, honestly delivering the same to the 6 men in the exchequer on (at the latest) the day when the bailiffs and 6 men go over the accounts, and rendering a true account of the same. He is to receive annually for that labour 20s. from the community revenues, from the hands of the 6 men, and answer for everything that pertains to his duties. On the condition that this sergeant is to find suitable guarantors regarding levying the money assigned by the bailiffs for him to collect, and regarding delivering it to the 6 men in the communal exchequer and rendering an honest account before the bailiffs and 6 men in the exchequer, when they require him to do so; and regarding him being responsive and obedient to the bailiffs and their orders, as he ought to be. If that sergeant is unable to find guarantors for that purpose, in order to protect the bailiffs from being answerable, then the bailiffs may choose and appoint any sergeant for whom they will be answerable, at their own risk. Those 3 sergeants are to render a proper and honest account of all issues and estreats of the court, after the end of every third court session. Also of fines from brewsters who, when they sell ale, break the assize customarily enforced in the town since ancient times; [they are to account] at the end of every quarter, or within that period if it is so ordered or required by the bailiffs and 6 men then in office. Also of all other revenues that are part of their duty to collect and ought to be put towards the common profit, [they are to account] at the end of each year, before the day when the bailiffs and 6 men go over the accounts.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-11] Before they take up office, the sergeants are to take oath upon a book before the bailiffs and 6 men then in office, in the community exchequer, that each and every one of them shall: be faithful and loyal to the bailiffs, community, and franchises of the town; treat both poor and rich fairly; collect all moneys that the bailiffs assign them as their duty to levy, in the form of estreats or other revenues, for the profit of the community; render honest account of the same to the bailiffs and 6 men when they so require it; and be attendant on and obedient to the bailiffs, as they ought to be in their office. Each of them is to have and take annually, from community revenues, 26s.8d and a gown worth 10s. The sergeants are to be removed from office at the end of each year, along with the other officers. None of the sergeants is to occupy that office within the town [on terms] contrary to these ordinances, upon penalty of £6.13s.4d to be levied from each of them by the bailiffs then in office, to the use of the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-12] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that those who have been, or shall in future be, bailiffs and 6 men of the town shall henceforth choose and appoint tollreeves, from the most honest and most capable persons they can find, to receive the tolls and customs that ought to be taken at the town gate for communal profit. Before they can occupy the office of tollreeve, they are to take oath upon a book, in the community exchequer before the bailiffs and 6 men: to be faithful to the bailiffs and community of the town; and to bring to the community exchequer of the town, whenever required by the bailiffs and 6 men, all revenues that it is their duty to collect for communal profit. Once sworn, the tollreeves may receive and keep safe all the customs money sometimes called "sergeants' fees" that ought rightly to be collected at the gates, putting this money aside separately and then producing it and handing it over in the exchequer, in the manner already mentioned, without fraud, conspiracy, or deceit [to withhold any], to be received and recorded annually in its own right. If any omission or deceit on the part of the tollreeves, or any one of them, is discovered and proven true before the bailiffs and 6 men, they are to be removed from office by the bailiffs and 6 men whenever so found at fault, and others put in their places. Furthermore, when legally convicted of the same, each is to forfeit 40s. and is to be imprisoned, without prospect of bail or mainprise, until that amount is raised and paid to the 6 men for communal profit. If the bailiffs who were in office, or shall be in the future, do not impose the penalty specified in this article, then each of them is to forfeit 100s.; of which two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-13] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that no bailiff of the town shall henceforth receive or have in keeping any rents, customs, fines, nor other incomes or revenues that belong to the community. Rather these are to be taken to the community exchequer and there paid and delivered to the 6 men, who may have the safekeeping of the same. Those who have been, or shall in future be, bailiffs may not reduce or waive any duties payable to the community without consulting and obtaining the agreement of the 6 men, or at least 3 of them, upon penalty of paying double the amount they have waived.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-14] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that the bailiffs and 6 men shall render to auditors chosen annually by the community, under oath administered by the auditors, an accurate and honest account of all rents, revenues, and other profits already mentioned. The bailiffs are to carry out, or have carried out, their responsibility to the best of their knowledge – without any fraud, conspiracy or deceit – in bringing, or having brought, into the hands of the 6 men all rents, revenues, fines, and other profits that go, or ought to go, to the profit of the community during the year that they occupy the office of bailiff. Those 6 men are to have safekeeping of those communal goods that remain at the close of every accounting, until the election day, when they should bring it before the community in the guildhall and there be informed by the community who shall [thereafter] have the keeping of the same, for communal profit. If any future bailiff of the town obstructs or disturbs the 6 men in their safekeeping of the communal goods, he is to forfeit £10; of which two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to the community. The auditors who are chosen by the community, according to a long-established process, to audit the accounts of the bailiffs and 6 men concerning communal goods received by the 6 men, are henceforth after their election to take oath upon a book, administered by the common clerk, before the community to accept or reject them [i.e. the accounts] according to the form of the accounts, at their honest discretion. The bailiffs then in office are to have three peals of the community bell rung, to summon the community together to choose the auditors. Henceforth the auditors are not to be chosen based on some petition drawn up, to the deceit of the community. Similarly, burgesses who are chosen to go to Parliament are henceforth to be chosen by the community, in the same way and manner that the auditors are.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-15] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that no bailiff during his term of office may buy or sell by retail any kind of victuals, [nor] by means of collusion or underhandedness, contrary to parliamentary statutes and ordinances dealing with such cases. If he acts, personally or by others, contrary to those statutes and ordinances he is to forfeit – over and above the penalty specified in the statutes and ordinances – £20; of which two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to the community.

[A-16] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that all distresses that remain in safekeeping among the communal goods, not having been recovered by acquittance or replevin, on the day when the bailiffs and 6 men, past or future, have to render their account are to be shown to the auditors during the accounting and they are to make a record of what distresses remain; with a view to them being handed over by the bailiffs and 6 men to their successors chosen for the year following, by indenture, on the Monday following election day, without further delay, for the profit of the community. No bailiff is to act contrary to the ordinance contained in this article, upon penalty of forfeiting 40s., two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-17] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that whenever the town bailiffs, past or future, make a public proclamation (as has long been the custom) that all burgesses of the town should come to the town guildhall, or send their sergeants to instruct individuals to come to the bailiffs for purposes of the good rule, government, and welfare of the town, if anyone stays away and refuses to respond to such proclamations or instructions, without a reasonable and good cause for being excused, he shall forfeit and lose to the community 12d., to be levied from his goods and possessions by the bailiffs, without any remission, for the profit of the community. If the bailiffs are negligent in thus levying the penalty, they are to forfeit 2s.; of which two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-18] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that if any burgess or resident of the town is attached by any of the sergeants, in relation to any personal action within the town, that they are not to take him to gaol nor take any fee from him if he can find within the town or liberties sufficient guarantors for his coming to answer the Crown or the [opposing] party, depending on the requirements of the case, at whatever time is assigned him by the bailiffs in office now or in the future. If any sergeant does the contrary to this ordinance, he shall forfeit 20s. to the community, to be levied by the bailiffs then in office. And every time that any of the sergeants acts contrary to this ordinance he is to forfeit 20s., to be levied from him as already indicated. If then bailiffs then in office fail to levy the penalty found to be warranted, they are to forfeit 100s.; of which two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-19] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that, if any burgess of the town or liberties is being vexatiously sued or in any other way harassed so as to be in danger of losing his goods in relation to communal business of the town, and proper examination finds this indeed to be the case so that the bailiffs and community know it to be true, then the communal goods may be used to defend him or them, or preserve them from any [personal] losses. If the bailiff or bailiffs are negligent in this and will not use their power and such of the communal goods as seems reasonable to reimburse, by the hands of the 6 men, him or them thus vexed for reasonable expenses and costs in defending himself or themselves (assuming there to be sufficient goods in the communal treasury of the town), then the bailiff or bailiffs are to forfeit the penalty that follows in this ordinance: that is, each of the bailiffs, if they or either of them is found at fault, is to forfeit 40s., two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-20] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community, that if any person or persons create a disturbance in infringement of the king's peace within the town, and this is duly proved by verdict of 12 qualified and impartial persons of the town, and [he is] duly convicted of the same according to the custom of the town, before the bailiffs then in office in the guildhall, then he or they are each to forfeit 3s.4d, to be levied by the bailiffs for the use of the community, without any remission. If any person or persons commit an assault, striking any man in infringement of the king's peace within the town, and this is duly proved as already indicated, he is to forfeit 3s.4d, to be levied in the manner indicated. If any person or persons draw blood when assaulting a man, in infringement of the king's peace within the town, and this is duly proved as already indicated, he or they are each to forfeit 6s.8d, to be levied in the manner indicated. If the bailiffs then in office do not impose those penalties, so that such a penalty shall in the future happen to be lost, then they are to forfeit double the amount of the penalty; of which two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-21] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that the common seal of the town be kept in the common coffer, as has been the case in the past; and that 4 respectable men of the town, chosen by the community, shall have the 4 keys to the locks in their safekeeping. Neither the bailiffs, those now in office or those to be, nor anyone else is to remove the seal from the coffer for purposes of sealing any grant made to any person by the bailiffs and community, without the consent of 24 respectable men, burgesses of the town; they are to oversee the removal of the seal, sealings, and the restoration of the seal into the coffer. All documents belonging to the community of the town that exist now or shall exist in future are to be put into the coffer, and safeguarded and administered in the manner indicated. If anyone acts contrary to the ordinance contained in this article, he is to forfeit £20, two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community. Also, the account rolls of the bailiffs and 6 men then in office are from year to year to be deposited as [official] record, indented between the bailiffs and 6 men, as one party, and the auditors chosen annually to audit the accounts of the bailiffs and 6 men, as the other party. And all burgess rolls, community compositions, and court rolls are to be placed and kept in that coffer.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-22] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community, for the good rule and government of the town in the future, that the bailiffs and community and their successors shall choose 12 respectable men [who are] burgesses, residents, and the most qualified and judicious men of the town, to be permanent assistants to the bailiffs then in office, giving them good advice beneficial to the community whenever they are summoned to come to the bailiffs in the guildhall. They are to remain as such for life, unless they have to be discharged from the office due to some reason deserving it by judgement of the bailiffs and community. If any of them dies or is discharged, then another qualified and deserving burgess of the town is to be chosen in his place by the bailiffs and community; he is to take oath upon a book to be faithful to the bailiffs and community and to his franchise. If any of them absent themselves without good cause, when summoned by the bailiffs, or either of them or by any of their sergeants, and refuses to come to the bailiffs for the purpose mentioned, then he is to forfeit 3s.4d to the community of the town, to be levied from his goods and possessions by the bailiffs then in office, without any remission. If the bailiffs then in office are negligent in levying the penalty, they are to forfeit 6s.8d, two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-23] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that if any burgess or resident of the town interferes with or opposes any of the above ordinances, through collusion, conspiracy or any other method, or directly or indirectly stirs up any opposition to or interference with any of these ordinances in the future, or obstructs or prevents the bailiffs then in office from levying the penalties prescribed above as forfeits, then he is to be deprived of all offices and of his freedom within the town, for life; nor is he to be made free, nor listened to, nor have a voice in any common assembly regarding any matter that concerns the community. If in the future any man who is chosen to the office of bailiff refuses that office after being duly elected to it, in the manner already indicated, he is to forfeit £26.13s.4d, to be levied from his lands, goods and possessions by the bailiffs then in office, for the profit of the community. If the bailiffs then in office do not carry out the stipulations made in this article, failing to levy the penalty mentioned so that the penalty is lost (unless they are obstructed from doing it), then each of them is to forfeit £40, two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-24] If any person or persons who are subjected to forfeiting various penalties to the town community, as indicated in the above articles, lack the means to pay such penalties, then the town bailiffs then in office are to arrest them – if they can be found within the town or liberties – and commit them to prison, to be kept securely there until they have made an agreement [for payment] of the penalties to the community.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-25] If the town bailiffs, or either of them, or any other person who is (due to the above ordinances) subjected to a penalty payable to the king, is for that reason indicted before the king or his council or any of his justices, he or they are to be tried as to whether guilty or not of [the offence giving rise to?] the penalty by 12 qualified and impartial burgesses of the town and liberties, and not by anyone else.
[corresponding 1444 clause]

[A-26] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that henceforth on every day when the bailiffs, 6 men, coroners, and other town officers are elected, all the above articles and ordinances shall be read out loud before the community, by the common clerk of the town then in office, before any action is taken regarding the elections. This is so that all the community shall hear and know the good rules for government of the town contained in the ordinances, and can shun and avoid the offences clearly identified in the articles and ordinances.
[corresponding 1444 clause]


[2. Petition to 1445 parliament]

[B-01] May it please the wise and judicious Commons in this present Parliament to recall that at an earlier time various terms of settlement were drawn up between the bailiffs and community of the town of Shrewsbury, to promote peace, tranquillity and good government – the which were enacted by authority of Parliament in the time of our present sovereign to be in force for a certain time; which articles, among others, are contained in a schedule attached to this petition. Following their grant, they have up until now brought about harmony between the bailiffs and community, and maintained peace and unity in the town, to the relief and prosperity of the community. In that regard we request our lord the king, in this present Parliament, that by the consent and authority of his lords spiritual and temporal assembled in this Parliament, there be enacted all the things contained within the schedule. So that these things be made law and so be adhered to by the bailiffs now in office and those in times to come and by the community and each member of it, in perpetuity. And so that whenever the bailiffs or other officers, or any one of them, or anyone else covered by the schedule, commits or attempts anything contrary to any of the articles in the schedule, in regard to which the penalty is payable to the community, the community may at will bring an action in the king's courts in the town guildhall before the bailiffs then in office, or before the king's justices at Westminster, to levy the sums of money specified as payable to the community by he or they who has done contrary to any such article, for failing to carry out anything contained in the article. And that in the case of infringement of any article whereby the penalty should be payable to the king or his successors, whichever member of the community is willing to sue for the payment of the fine is to have one-third of the same, to be put towards the profit of the community.

[B-02] First, it is agreed to by the bailiffs and community of the town of Shrewsbury, so that there be good government in that town from henceforth and forever, that the bailiffs and community have chosen Roger Eyton, William Bastard, William Boerley, Thomas Thornes, Thomas Forster, John Knyght, John Shotton, John Gamell, John Falke, Thomas Otteley, Richard Stury, and John Beget – 12 worthy burgesses [who are] resident householders, the best qualified and most judicious within the town or liberties – that they and their successors shall be aldermen and give ongoing support to the bailiffs and their successors through good counsel given, according to their wisdom and judgement, for the well-being, prosperity, esteem, and welfare of the town, whenever they are forewarned to come to the guildhall of the town, or to any other place within the town, for the purpose mentioned. They are to remain so for as long as they live, so long as they reside continuously within the town or liberties; otherwise they are to be discharged by the bailiffs and community, or their successors, for what seems to them to be reasonable cause or when they die. Within 20 days following a vacancy, a replacement is to be chosen by the bailiffs and the aldermen still living and be set in the place of him thus dead or discharged. The individual thus chosen is to be given his oath of office by the town clerk and his successors: to be faithful and honest towards the bailiffs and community of the town and its franchise; not for friendship, association, or kinship, love or hate, nor as the intermediary of any other or for any other cause, to given any counsel to the bailiffs and their successors other than what his conscience tells him is the most beneficial and helpful to the bailiffs and community, for the benefit and esteem of the town. If any of them, when forewarned by the bailiffs or by either of them or by any of their sergeants, absents himself without reasonable cause and will not come to the bailiffs for the purpose mentioned, and that is proven before the law by an enquiry held by the bailiffs, he is to forfeit 3s.4d, as often as he is forewarned and fails to come. The bailiffs then in office are empowered by the present Parliament to levy such penalty or penalties so forfeited by him or them, to the use of the community, from his goods and chattels, without any remission. If the bailiffs then in office are negligent and will not levey the penalty or penalties, then they are to forfeit 6s.8d, of which two-thirds go to the king and one-third to the community. If any of the aldermen are absent, the bailiffs may proceed with their necessary business, by the advice of those who are present, for the welfare and esteem of the town.

[B-03] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community of the town, for the good government of the town, that the bailiffs and community have chosen Richard Attynham, Adam Goldsmyth, Thomas Couper, Nicholas Clement, Edmund Bastard, Degory Water, Philip Grace, Roger Adyes, Richard Taverner, William Wotton, John Grafton, Richard Marchall, John Hervy, Richard Waryng, Thomas Wynnes, Thomas Stone, Roger Pontesbury, William Thornton, Hugh Kynton, William Tuder weaver, William Nesse, Thomas Ideshale, John Fox saddler, and John Water – 24 worthy burgesses [who are] resident householders, [chosen from] the best qualified and most judicious members of the town community – that they and their successors shall give ongoing support and advice to the bailiffs and aldermen and their successors through good counsel given in matters of all kinds, according to their wisdom and judgement, for the well-being, prosperity, esteem, and welfare of the town whenever they are forewarned to come to the guildhall, or to any other place within the town, for the purpose mentioned. They are to remain so for as long as they live, so long as they reside continuously within the town or liberties; otherwise they are to be discharged by the bailiffs and community, or their successors, for what seems to them to be reasonable cause or when they die. Within 20 days following a vacancy, a replacement is to be chosen in the presence of the bailiffs by the remaining members of the 24, and he or they so chosen to be set in the place of him or them thus dead or discharged. The individual thus chosen is to be given his oath of office by the town clerk and his successors: to be faithful and honest towards the bailiffs and community of the town and its franchise; not for friendship, association, or kinship, love or hate, nor as the intermediary of any other or for any other cause, to given any counsel to the bailiffs and their successors other than what his conscience tells him is the most beneficial and helpful to the bailiffs and community, for the benefit and esteem of the town. If any of them, when forewarned by the bailiffs or by either of them or by any of their sergeants, absents himself without reasonable cause and will not come to the bailiffs for the purpose mentioned, and that is proven before the law by an enquiry held by the bailiffs, he is to forfeit 20d., as often as he is forewarned and fails to come. The bailiffs then in office are empowered by the present Parliament to levy such penalty or penalties so forfeited by him or them, to the use of the community, from his goods and chattels, without any remission. If the bailiffs then in office are negligent and will not levy the penalty or penalties, then they are to forfeit 3s.4d, of which two-thirds go to the king and one-third to the community. If any of the 24 are absent, the bailiffs may proceed with their necessary business, by the advice of those who are present, for the welfare and esteem of the town. And if the bailiffs then in office, or anyone else, raises, requests or proposes any matter to the entire community of the town, at such time as they assemble together in the guildhall, neither the community nor any member of it is to make a response, nor give permission to the bailiffs, [their] lieutenants, or anyone else, but only give their advice to the 24 commoners. They are then to adopt the best and most judicious advice, and to choose and appoint a speaker on their behalf from among the 24. No other member of the community is to presume [to act as], or take it upon him to be, the speaker or give a response, express his wishes, or say anything to any of the bailiffs, lieutenants, deputies, or anyone else, in their sessions and assemblies, but only to the 24 commoners, upon penalty of 20s. For every conviction of such [offender], the bailiffs are empowered by the present Parliament to levy it for the use of the community. And then the speaker so designated by the 24 commoners is to state and affirm the will of the community to the bailiffs and aldermen; and [communicate] the wishes of the entire community, by the mouth of one of the 24 commoners, chosen for that purpose as mentioned, to the bailiffs, 12 aldermen and 24 commoners (or such of them as are present in the town to proceed on the matter or matters so raised, requested, proposed or expressed), as they think reasonable and beneficial for the town, without any interruption or interference by any other member of the community, under the penalty mentioned.

[B-04] This is agreed to by the bailiffs and community of the town of Shrewsbury, concerning the annual election of bailiffs and other officers of the town. That from henceforth the bailiffs of the town then in office shall, on the day of the election of new officers – that is, the Friday after Michaelmas – using their good judgement, choose two members of the 24 men called commoners, who have been chosen by the community of burgesses of the town to be a council for the community to assist the bailiffs and 12 aldermen of the town. Which 2 men thus chosen from the 24 shall take a public oath upon a book before the bailiffs and community of the town, to be administered by the town clerk then in office, that they will honestly and without bias choose publicly in the town guildhall 25 persons from the most honest and impartial members of the community who are resident burgesses, permanent householders, and contributors towards all financial impositions within the town, using the form and procedure that follows. Those who have held the office of bailiff or who were electors during the last two years are excluded; each of the 25 is to be the sole tenant of a freehold of an annual rental value of 13s.4d (over and above all charges), or else own goods worth £6.13s.4d, over and above his debts payable. That there be no fraud or deception involved; that is, the said 2 men (nor either one of them) are not – because of any gift, promise, procurement, friendship, favour, envy, enmity, association with anyone, or for any other cause, through fraud, malice, collusion, or or conspiracy (by he or they, or anyone else on their behalf) – to fail to choose the 25 persons from the most qualified and impartial members of the community as described above, who are then present in the guildhall on the occasion of the election; and not anyone else. So long as there are then present a sufficient number of persons to make the election. In that regard the 2 men are to be questioned under oath whether they, or either of them, has been suborned to choose any [particular] person [to be] of the 25; if either is found to have been suborned, that one is to be removed and another chosen in his place, in the way indicated above, until 2 members of the 24 are found who have not been suborned. The 2 men thus chosen are not to choose the 25 from any list previously drawn up. The which 25 thus chosen shall make their choice under oath, sworn along the same lines as that of the aforementioned 2 men and administered by the town clerk. Then the town clerk is to question each under oath whether they, or any of them, have been suborned to choose any particular person to any particular office which lies within their election. If any person or persons is found under examination to have been suborned, then he (or they) is to be removed and another qualified and impartial burgess of the town, sworn and found (in the manner stated) not to have been suborned, is to be put in his place.

[B-05] Then the 25 are to proceed to elect 2 bailiffs for the year to come from the most honest, impartial and qualified burgesses of the town (as indicated above) who are best able to rule and govern, properly and faithfully according to law, good custom, and the necessary usages of the town. On condition that each of those chosen as bailiffs is to possess in his own right or for his lifetime lands or rents worth £10, or to own goods worth £100. Each of the bailiffs is to be a permanent resident and householder of the town or its liberties, as of 3 years prior to the election. And they are not to be persons subject to any special law. Should the 25 choose a bailiff or bailiffs who are not qualified, or do not meet the above requirements, then each of them is to forfeit 100s. to the town community. If they cannot agree on whom to elect, then an election by [a majority of] at least 15 will be valid. If the 25, or any of them, choose a bailiff or bailiffs who are not qualified, then each is to forfeit the aforementioned sum of 100s., to be levied by the bailiffs then in office to the use of the community. Nor are the 25 persons to choose any official from their own number, but from other qualified and capable burgesses, as described above. They are not to choose for the office of bailiff anyone who has been bailiff within the previous 3 years, upon [penalty of] forfeiting the said amount, to be levied in the fashion indicated. The bailiffs so chosen are to be householders within the town throughout the term of their office, under penalty of forfeiting 50s. to the use of the community, without any remission. Henceforth they are not to choose anyone for the office of the 6 [cessors] who has already held the office of bailiff of the town, each of them under penalty of the same amount levied in the said manner.

[B-06] If any person or persons suborn the 2 men who choose the 25, or either of them, in regard to the election of the 25 or any of them, or else at any time suborn the 25 in regard to making any officer who lies within their election, that person or persons thus suborning – whether man or woman – and so proven by due process is each to forfeit 40s. to the use of the community and is to be deprived for life of any office or franchise within the town. If he who has been suborned, and is found guilty of the same through the questioning or by any other means, will not reveal who suborned him, he is to forfeit 40s. to the use of the community. Neither of the 2 men who choose the 25 one year is to be chosen for the same role within the 5 years that follow, nor appointed or admitted to the office of bailiff during the 3 years following their election of the 25.

[B-07] The 25 persons sworn in the manner indicated above are to choose 6 men called cessors, each of whom is to hold 25s.8d [sic] annually in lands or rents (over and above reprises) in his own right or for his lifetime, or own goods worth £20; and is to be a bona fide burgess and resident of the town. [They are] to be responsible henceforth for the duties of receiving all kinds of revenues that come, or ought to come, yearly to the communal exchequer of the town, and for the effective and honest care of those revenues for the common profit. If the 25 choose the 6 men, or any of them, [in a way] contrary to this ordinance, then every member of the 25 will pay the penalty of 100s., as often as they do it. If the 25 cannot agree on the election of the 6 men, then election by at least 15 of them is to be valid; if the 15, or any of the 25, choose the 6 men, or any of them, [in a way] contrary to this ordinance then each of them is to forfeit the penalty of 100s. to the use of the community. The bailiffs then in office have the power to levy the penalties so forfeited by those duly convicted through a subsequent enquiry held before the bailiffs.

[B-08] The 25 persons sworn in the manner indicated above are to choose under oath 2 town coroners from qualified burgesses resident in the town, who are to occupy the office of coroner within the town and its franchises. The coroners are to oversee the public works of the town during their term of office, to ensure they are properly carried out from time to time, in a reasonable and honest fashion, for the benefit of the community. Whoever has been coroner one year is not to be chosen to the officer of coroner during the 3 years following. Nor is any man who has been a member of the 6 one year to be chosen to the office of the 6 men during the 3 years following. If the 25 choose the coroners, or either of them, [in a way] contrary to this ordinance, then every member of the 25 will pay the penalty of 100s., as often as they do it, to the use of the community. If the 25 cannot agree on the election of the coroners, then election by at least 15 of them is to be valid; if the 15, or any of the 25, choose the 6 men, or any of them, [in a way] contrary to this ordinance then each of them is to forfeit the penalty of 100s. to the use of the community. The bailiffs then in office have the power to levy the penalties so forfeited for communal profit, as set out in the previous article.

[B-09] Henceforth, no-one who has held or will hold the offices of coroner or 6 men in the town is to occupy the office of sergeant. Each of them under penalty of 100s., to be raised from them (and each of them) by the bailiffs then in office for communal profit, in the manner as set out in the previous 2 articles.

[B-10] It is agreed to that no-one is to speak with the 25 persons – neither past or future bailiffs, nor anyone else – once they have taken their oath and been examined in the manner already mentioned, and have been tasked with making the election; nor is to go with them into the place where the election shall be made. With the exception of the present or future common clerk of the town; and he is to take oath upon a book, before the community of the town, that he will not suborn them, or any of them, nor allow any other man to suborn them to choose anyone particular for an office. He is thus to keep them safe [from influence] until they, or a majority of them, have reached agreement, in the way already indicated. Neither they nor any of them may depart from the place to which the town clerk brings them for making the election, until the election has been completed, upon penalty of 40s. each. The bailiffs then in office have the power to levy the penalties so forfeited by them, to the use of the community.

[B-11] It is agreed to that the bailiffs who are newly elected each year, before they can take office, are to take oath upon a book before the community of the town: that they shall be faithful and loyal to the king and his heirs; that they will honestly and properly maintain the peace within the town and its liberties, and administer and govern the assizes of all victuals within the town and its liberties; that they will do justice to poor as well as to rich; and that they will perform all the duties of the office honestly, to the utmost of their wisdom and ability, according to the laws, customs and usages of the town.

[B-12] It is agreed to that the said 6 men, once elected in the manner already mentioned, shall publicly take oath upon a book before the community: that every day assigned by the bailiffs and the 6 men (or [at least] 3 of them) for receiving community revenues they shall go to the communal exchequer and there receive all such revenues as are brought there by various persons, and honestly and properly keep those moneys secure; also that they shall honestly and properly oversee all expenses and costs made by the bailiffs for the benefit and esteem of the town; and also to assist and advise the bailiffs for the benefit of the community.

[B-13] The coroners who are elected annually are to take a public oath in the manner already mentioned: that they shall honestly and properly fulfill the duties of coroner within the town and liberties; oversee the public works of the town; and honestly and properly write down, or have written down, the details of those works – where and when they were carried out, associated expenses and costs – and on a weekly basis deliver them to the bailiffs and 6 men in the town Exchequer. If any coroner disobeys and does the contrary, and will not comply with the aforesaid ordinance, he is to forfeit 40s. to the use of the community. The bailiffs then in office have the power to levy the penalties so forfeited by those duly convicted. If the bailiffs are negligent and fail to levy that penalty, as aforesaid, each is to pay the penalty of 66s.8d., [of which] two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to the community.

[B-14] Those who have been, or shall in future be, bailiffs are each to have and take for their year's term of office a fee of 100s. and a gown worth 20s. (and no more). Each of the 6 men in office now or in the future is to have and take 13s.4d for his fee and a gown worth 13s.4d for his labour. Also, the coroners in office now or in the future are to have and take from the community revenues, for their labour in overseeing the public works, 12d. per week throughout the year, to be divided evenly between them. The bailiffs in office now or in the future are to be reimbursed for all reasonable expenses and costs incurred by them for the benefit and esteem of the town, at the time they render account; on condition that is has been confirmed by the 6 men (or at least 3 of them) that the expenses and costs have truly been incurred for the purposes indicated, otherwise their claims are not to be allowed. If the 6 men, or any of them, are absent on the days assigned for receiving [revenues], without reasonable cause or permission from the bailiff or bailiffs then in office, then each of them who is absent is to forfeit 2d on each occasion, without any remission. Absences of the 6 men are to be entered into record by the town clerk, so that [the fines] may be deducted from their fees at the end of the year.

[B-15] It is agreed to that the bailiffs who will take office may appoint two town sergeants, from individuals for whom they are prepared to be answerable. A third town sergeant is to be chosen annually by the 25 persons, on election day; he is to be a bona fide burgess, qualified, resident, and contributor to all kinds of levies within the town. The sergeant is to be warden of the town gate called the Castle Gate. The third sergeant is also to be responsible for collection of the town rents, honestly delivering the same to the 6 men in the town exchequer on (at the latest) the day when the bailiffs and 6 men go over the accounts, and rendering a true account of the same under oath. He is to receive annually for that labour 20s. from the community revenues, from the hands of the 6 men, and answer for everything that pertains to his duties. On the condition that this sergeant is to find suitable guarantors regarding levying the money assigned by the bailiffs for him to collect, and regarding delivering it into the hands of the 6 men in the communal Exchequer and rendering an honest account before the bailiffs and 6 men in the Exchequer, when they require him to do so; and regarding him being responsive and obedient to the bailiffs and their orders, as he ought to be. If that sergeant is unable to find guarantors for that purpose, in order to protect the bailiffs from being answerable, then the bailiffs may choose and appoint any sergeant for whom they will be answerable, at their own risk. Those sergeants are to render a proper and honest account of all issues and estreats of the court, after the end of every third court session. Also of fines from brewsters who, when they sell ale, break the assize customarily enforced in the town since ancient times; [they are to account] at the end of every quarter, or within that period if it is so ordered or required by the bailiffs and 6 men then in office. Also of all other revenues that are part of their duty [to collect] and ought to be put towards the common profit, [they are to account] at the end of each year, before the day when the bailiffs and 6 men go over the accounts.

[B-16] Before the point where they take up office, the sergeants are to take oath upon a book before the bailiffs and 6 men then in office, in the community exchequer, that each and every one of them shall: be faithful and loyal to the bailiffs, community, and franchises of the town; treat both poor and rich fairly; collect all moneys that the bailiffs assign them as their duty to levy, in the form of estreats or other revenues, for the profit of the community; render honest account of the same to the bailiffs and 6 men when they so require it; and be attendant on and obedient to the bailiffs, as they ought to be in their office. Each of them is to have and take annually, from community revenues, 26s.8d and a gown worth 10s. The sergeants are to be removed from office at the end of each year, along with the other officers. None of the sergeants is to occupy that office within the town [on terms] contrary to these ordinances, upon penalty of £6.13s.4d. The bailiffs then in office have the power to levy the penalty thus forfeited by them, to the use of the community.

[B-17] Those who have been, or shall in future be, bailiffs and 6 men of the town shall henceforth choose and appoint tollreeves, from the most honest and most capable burgesses they can find, to receive and collect the tolls and customs that ought to be taken at the town gate for communal profit. Before they can occupy the office of tollreeve, they are to take oath upon a book, in the community exchequer before the bailiffs and 6 men: to be faithful to the bailiffs and community of the town; to collect and receive for communal profit all revenues that fall within their duties; and to bring the same to the community exchequer of the town, whenever required by the bailiffs and 6 men (or 3 of them). Once sworn, the tollreeves may receive and keep safe all the customs money sometimes called "sergeants' fees" that ought rightly to be collected at the gates, putting this money aside separately and then producing it and handing it over in the exchequer, in the manner already mentioned, without fraud, conspiracy, or deceit [to withhold any], to be received and recorded annually in its own right. If any omission or deceit on the part of the tollreeves, or any one of them, is discovered and proven true before the bailiffs and 6 men, they are to be removed from office by the bailiffs and 6 men whenever so found at fault, and others put in their places. Furthermore, when legally convicted of the same, each is to forfeit 40s. and is to be imprisoned, without prospect of bail or mainprise, until that amount is raised and paid to the 6 men for communal profit. If the bailiffs who were in office, or shall be in the future, do not impose the penalty specified in this article, then each of them is to forfeit 100s.; of which two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to the community.

[B-18] It is agreed that no bailiff of the town shall henceforth receive or have in keeping any rents, customs, fines, nor other incomes that belong to the community. Rather these are to be taken to the community exchequer and there paid and delivered to the 6 men, who may have the safekeeping of the same, for communal profit. Those who have been, or shall in future be, bailiffs may not reduce or waive any duties payable to the community without consulting and obtaining the agreement of the 6 men, or at least 3 of them, upon penalty of paying double the amount they have waived.

[B-19] The bailiffs and 6 men shall render to auditors chosen annually by the community, under oath administered by the auditors, an accurate and honest account of all rents, revenues, fines, and other profits already mentioned. The bailiffs are to carry out, or have carried out, their responsibility to the best of their knowledge – without any fraud, conspiracy or deceit – in bringing, or having brought, into the hands of the 6 men all rents, revenues, fines, and other profits that go, or ought to go, to the profit of the community during the year that they occupy the office of bailiff. Those 6 men are to have safekeeping of those communal goods that remain at the close of every accounting, until the election day, when they should – under penalty [for default] of £10 each – bring it before the community in the guildhall, for the use of the community. At which time and place the community is to choose a chamberlain who shall have custody of those goods for communal benefit, and the communal goods are to be delivered to him then and there; he is to have 6s.8d annually for his labour, and a gown worth 13s.4d. in the style of those of the 6 men. This chamberlain is to be a bona fide burgess, permanent householder, and contributor towards all financial impositions within the town, possessing in his own right or for his lifetime lands or rents worth 40s. (over and above reprises), or goods and chattels to the value of at least £40 over and above his debts payable. The chamberlain is to render account each year before the town auditors chosen to hear the account of the bailiffs and 6 men. These auditors are henceforth to be chosen annually, on the Thursday before St. Mathew's day in September. Following that day they are to hear the accounts of the bailiffs and 6 men and of other officers, until the Thursday following. On which Thursday the chamberlain is to appear before the bailiffs and auditors, and to take oath upon a book to accept and adhere to the decisions of the auditors concerning the account: receipts, payments and expenses he has made using the communal goods. If any of the future bailiffs of the town obstruct or disturb the 6 men in their safekeeping of the communal goods, then each is to forfeit £30 every time this happens; of which two-thirds go to the king, and one-third to the community. The auditors who are chosen by the community, according to a long-established process, to audit the accounts of the bailiffs, 6 men, and chamberlain concerning communal goods received by the 6 men and chamberlain, are henceforth after their election to take oath upon a book, administered by the common clerk, before the community to accept or reject them [i.e. the accounts] according to the form of the accounts, at their honest discretion. The bailiffs then in office are to have three peals of the community bell rung, to summon the community together to choose the auditors. Henceforth the auditors are not to be chosen based on some petition drawn up, to the deceit of the community. Similarly, burgesses who are chosen to go to Parliament are henceforth to be chosen by the community, in the same way and manner that the auditors are.

[B-20] All distresses that remain in safekeeping among the community goods, not having been recovered by acquittance or replevin, on the day when the bailiffs and 6 men, past or future, have to render their account are to be shown to the auditors during the accounting and they are to make a record of what distresses remain; with a view to them being handed over by the bailiffs and 6 men to their successors chosen for the year following, by indenture, on the Monday following election day, without further delay, for the profit of the community. No bailiff is to act contrary to the ordinance contained in this article, upon penalty of forfeiting 40s., two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.

[B-21] If the bailiffs will not levy the penalties forfeited as per this schedule, which it falls to them to levy whenever such a forfeit occurs, then the bailiffs are to incur a penalty equal to that to be forfeited; two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community. Excepting those penalties for which other amounts are imposed on the bailiffs, as specified in particular articles of this schedule.

[B-22] Whenever the town bailiffs, past or future, make a public proclamation (as has long been the custom) that all burgesses of the town should come to the town guildhall, or send their sergeants to instruct individuals to come to the bailiffs for purposes of the good rule, government, and welfare of the town, if anyone stays away and refuses to respond to such proclamations or instructions, without a reasonable and good cause for being excused, he shall forfeit and lose to the community 12d., to be levied from his goods and possessions by the bailiffs, without any remission, for the profit of the community. If the bailiffs are negligent in thus levying the penalty, and are duly presented according to the law, they are to forfeit 2s.; of which two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.

[B-23] If, at the suit of any party, any burgess or tenser of the town is attached by any of the sergeants or their assistants in the town, in relation to any personal action or for providing assurance of keeping the peace within the town or its liberties, they are not to take any such attached burgess or tenser to gaol before having brought him or them before the bailiffs, or their deputies at that time. And then he or they may accept from the one attached and arrested guarantors (if he can find them) such as the bailiff or bailiffs, at their discretion, consider sufficient for keeping the peace within the town or appearing to answer the Crown or the [opposing] party in the said action, as has been the custom in the past and depending on the requirements of the case, depending on the requirements of the case, at whatever time is assigned him by the bailiffs or their deputies (or any one of them) in office now or in the future. In such a case the sergeants or their assistants, or any of them, are not to take any fee from him. If the person or persons thus attached or arrested cannot find guarantors within the town and its liberties, and is committed to prison by the bailiffs or their deputies, or any of them, then when he thus arrested is released he is to pay, on every occasion, 4d. to the sergeant for his fee for the arrest, and no more – except for 4d. to the town clerk for make a record of any surety for keeping the peace. If any resident of the town, or someone from outside the town and its liberties who is neither a burgess nor a tenser, is attached and arrested at the suit of a party in regard to any personal action, the sergeant may take from him 4d. and no more. If he is attached and arrested for the purpose of providing surety for keeping the peace towards any outsider or resident who is not a burgess or tenser, the bailiffs may take only 14d. for the warrant and its sealing, and the clerk only 4d. for writing it. And if he is obliged to find guarantors, then he is to pay the clerk 12d. for making a record of the same and 8d. to the sergeant for the arrest, and no more. If any sergeant takes [more] or does the contrary to this ordinance, or anything here specified, so that the aggrieved party complains to the bailiffs or their deputies, or any of them, at the next court session or the one following that, then each and every sergeant who so does and is duly found guilty of the same is to forfeit 3s.4d to the town community – this to be levied by the bailiffs for the use of the community. If the bailiffs are negligent and do not duly levy that penalty, they are to forfeit 6s.8d, two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community. It is not lawful for any bailiff or bailiffs of the town to take from any person or persons sureties for the peace outside the town guildhall. Such sureties are to be registered there and made part of the official record.

[B-24] Should there be any burgess of the town or liberties, or either of the 2 men who hereafter choose the 25 electors of town officials, or any of the 25 [themselves], or any other person or persons who is or are being vexatiously sued or being harassed in any other way in regard to any election due to take place or [other] cause, so as to be in danger of losing his goods in relation to communal business of the town, and proper examination finds this indeed to be the case so that the bailiffs, 12 aldermen, the 6 men, and the 24 commoners who assist the bailiffs and aldermen know it to be true, then the communal goods may be used to defend him or them, or preserve them from any [personal] losses. If the bailiff or bailiffs and the 6 men are negligent in this and will not use their power and such of the community goods as seems reasonable (if there are sufficient goods in the hands of the 6 men) to reimburse him or them for reasonable expenses and costs in defending himself or themselves, then the bailiff or bailiffs and the 6 men are each to forfeit the penalty that follows in this ordinance: that is, each of the bailiffs and 6 men, if they or any of them are found at fault, is to forfeit 40s., two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.

[B-25] If any person or persons create a disturbance in infringement of the king's peace within the town and its liberties, and this is duly proved by verdict of 12 qualified and impartial persons of the town, before the bailiffs then in office in the guildhall, then he or they are each to forfeit 3s.4d, to be levied by the bailiffs for the use of the community, without any remission. If any person or persons commit an assault, striking any man or woman in infringement of the king's peace within the town and its liberties, and this is duly proved as already indicated, he is to forfeit 3s.4d, to be levied in the manner indicated. If any person or persons draw blood when assaulting a man or woman, in infringement of the king's peace within the town, and this is duly proved as already indicated, he or they are each to forfeit 6s.8d, to be levied in the manner indicated. If the bailiffs then in office do not impose those penalties, so that such a penalty shall in the future happen to be lost, then they are to forfeit double the amount of the penalty; of which two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community.

[B-26] The common seal of the town is to be kept in the common coffer, as has been the case in the past; and 4 respectable men of the town, chosen by the community, shall have the 4 keys to the coffer in their safekeeping. Neither the bailiffs, those now in office or those to be, nor anyone else is to remove the seal from the coffer for purposes of sealing any grant made to any person by the bailiffs and community, without the consent of 24 respectable men, burgesses of the town; they are to oversee the removal of the seal, sealings, and the restoration of the seal into the coffer. All documents belonging to the community of the town that exist now or shall exist in future are to be put into the coffer, and safeguarded and administered in the manner indicated. If anyone acts contrary to the ordinance contained in this article, he is to forfeit £20. two-thirds to the king and one-third to the community. Also, the account rolls of the bailiffs and 6 men then in office are from year to year to be deposited as [official] record, indented between the bailiffs and 6 men, as one party, and the auditors chosen annually to audit the accounts of the bailiffs and 6 men, as the other party. And all burgess rolls, community compositions, and court rolls are to be placed and kept in that coffer.

[B-27] If any burgess or resident of the town interferes with or opposes any of the above ordinances, through collusion, conspiracy or any other method, or directly or indirectly stirs up any opposition to or interference with any of these ordinances in the future, or obstructs or prevents the bailiffs then in office from levying the penalties prescribed above as forfeits, then he is to be deprived of all offices and of his freedom within the town, for life; nor is he to be made free, nor listened to, nor have a voice in any common assembly regarding any matter that concerns the community.

[B-28] If any person or persons who are subjected to forfeiting various penalties to the town community, as indicated in the above articles, lack the means to pay such penalties, then the town bailiffs then in office are to arrest them – if they can be found within the town or liberties – and commit them to prison, to be kept securely there until they have made an agreement [for payment] of the penalties to the community. And if they have the means [to pay] then, by authority of this present Parliament, the bailiffs are empowered to distrain for the penalties as often as they are imposed, and the distresses held until they [i.e. the bailiffs] have been satisfied for the penalties imposed in the abovementioned fashion, without any replevin of the distresses [permitted].

[B-29] If any burgess or tenser is indicted for any offence or offences committed, or alleged to have been committed, by him within the town or its liberties, and is arrested for the same – [no matter] whether allowed bail or mainprise by the bailiff or bailiffs or held in prison – the person or persons so indicted and put under restraint may be released without paying any fine or fee (except to the town clerk for writing the record) and without any fraud or prevention, so long as they are of good name and reputation.

[B-30] Waifs and strays of all kinds and other forfeited goods within the town and its liberties which ought to be put towards communal profit, are to be sold by the bailiffs and the 6 men (or 3 of the 6 at least). Any sale made to the contrary is to be void.

[The following clause is a little garbled]
[B-31] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community, for good government of the town and avoidance of trouble that might arise in the future, that henceforth no burgess or resident of the town or its liberties, out of fear that over the course of time the king's tenants and other residents of the town – when the bailiffs were in need of preserving good rule and peace – would call upon their masters and fellows of the same affiliation, rather than on the bailiffs (who are charged with preserving good rule and peace in the town); for every man who wished to give livery and receive livery in the town or its liberties gave and received liveries contrary to the Statute of Liveries enacted in the past. Then, when the bailiffs needed [support] at any assembly of lords, assises, or sessions [of the Peace], after a disturbance or trouble had arisen in the town, those men who were liveried would side with their masters or their fellows, and not with the bailiffs, who are responsible for keeping the peace as already mentioned. It is [therefore] ordained that henceforth no man living in the town or its liberties is to accept or wear a livery of any kind that is contrary to statutes of liveries made in the past, under the penalty specified in such statutes of liveries. If any burgess or resident receives a livery contrary to those statutes, then he is to forfeit the penalty specified in the statutes, the burgess [is to lose] his franchise, and the resident is to be expelled from the town forever. If the bailiffs will not duly execute [such punishment] upon one duly convicted, then they will suffer the same penalty, [paid] to the use of the community.

[B-32] It is agreed that no sergeant is to be chosen by the bailiffs, nor by the 25, within 2 years of him having been one of the 25. Anyone who is an elector one year is not to be, nor to participate in any election of officials within the town, on election days within the 2 years that follow. Any man who has served as bailiff one year is not to be chosen for the office of town coroner the following year. If a coroner or sergeant is chosen contrary to what has been agreed, he is to forfeit his fees and wages. And if anyone is chosen contrary to this article, he is not to be considered an officer.

[B-33] It is agreed that if any offence or offences are committed by the bailiff or bailiffs, or any other officer, contrary to any of the articles contained in this schedule, or any offence or offences are committed by them or any of them in the course of carrying out official duties within the town or its liberties, and they (or any of them) are impeached or sued for the same – whether at the suit of the Crown, or of the party [offended] – and the matter comes to court, then the coroners then in office are empowered to impanel the jury for the trial of those offences, and to oversee the process until the matter has reached determination according to law and reason. Except for offences committed by the coroners against these ordinances, for which the impanellment for [the trial of] the coroners is to be done by the town clerk then in office.

[B-34] If the town bailiffs, or any other person, are (due to the above ordinances) subjected to any penalty or penalties payable to the king, and in regard to its forfeiture are indicted before the king or his council or any of his justices, he or they are to be tried as to whether guilty of the penalty or penalties or not by 12 qualified and impartial burgesses who reside within the town or its liberties, and by no-one else; nor by any outsider.

[B-35] It is agreed to by the bailiffs and community that henceforth on every day when the bailiffs, 6 men, coroners, and other town officers are elected, all the above articles and ordinances contained in this schedule shall be read out loud before the community, by the common clerk of the town then in office, before any action is taken regarding the elections. This is so that all the community shall hear and know the good rules for government of the town contained in the ordinances, and can shun and avoid the offences clearly identified in the articles and ordinances.



DISCUSSION

I have numbered the articles in both documents, to facilitate any future comparison that students may wish to make.

The late fourteenth and first half of the fifteenth centuries were a period of constitutional upheaval in many towns, as urban societies tried to come to terms with changes – rooted partly in developments in the economy and the national legal system – that had stimulated social differentiation, so that a "ruling class" had become more evident within society. These changes had undermined the sense of communal welfare and created concern that the interests of the rulers, or of specific groups or even individuals within the ruling class, were different from the best interests of the community as a whole and might lead to administrative abuses. Such concerns were not new, for they are apparent in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, but they seem to have had a new vigour towards the end of the Middle Ages, as the ruled sensed the last semblances of authority slipping from their grasp and tried to reassert some control.

So it appears to have been at Shrewsbury. The constitutional formulations of 1433 and 1444 were later attempts to resolve constitutional and political problems that punctuated the town's history back to at least 1380. To what extent these were conflicts between rulers and ruled, and to what extent feuds between prominent families or power struggles between factions within the ruling class, is not easy to say. Such episodes usually involved a complex set of causes.

The parliament of November 1380 received complaints that the normal election of bailiffs on St. Giles' day, already being made by an electoral committee chosen from much the same urban class of enfranchised residents that furnished political leaders, had been pre-empted by an earlier election by unqualified persons – including apparently non-burgess residents who were not householders – under the direction of a few of the leading townsmen. Those leaders included Thomas Pride, a member of one of the most prominent Shrewsbury families of the mid-thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, and William and Hugh Biriton, whose family had less of a pedigree in the town. Thomas and William were the men who had been elected as the controversial bailiffs. A fourth member of those identified as rabble rousers was Richard de Beorton, who had been one of the bailiffs the previous year. For good measure, it was also complained that these bailiffs and their supporters had broken into the town treasury and squandered the money they removed, had risen against their betters, and had assaulted and imprisoned one of them, Reginald Scriveyn, subsequently refusing to obey a royal writ to release him, so that – it was melodramatically and implausibly claimed – his three sons died of grief. It appears that the complainants had been suffiiciently estranged to set up a rival administration, for their petition to parliament was said to come from their mayor (an official not otherwise seen in Shrewsbury at this period). At some point in proceedings there was a riot in the town.

The political division likely had begun earlier than the 1380 election and may be reflected in a separate complaint made, around the same time as that above, by bailiff William Biriton that his predecessor Beorton had, upon arresting a man for homicide, been assaulted by a second who rescued the prisoner. The king authorized two commissions, given to the same commissioners, to investigate both complaints. Whether they made any headway is unknown, but on 26 March 1381 a further royal commission was appointed to enquire into the disturbance of elections through intimidation and unlawful assemblies by men who owned no property in the town, and to proceed to new elections. This commission was of 18 local men, probably representing both sides in the dispute; certainly Pride, Biriton, Beorton and Scriveyn were to be members, and other surnames echo those found in the 1444 accord (Thornes, Pontesbury, Grafton, Taverner).

However, this too was pre-empted, by a local settlement already being negotiated under the supervision of the Earl of Arundel, who was perceived as the town's protector; after two weeks of wrangling, an agreement had been reached just three days after the king issued the commission of enquiry. It appeared to be a stop-gap solution: a council of 12 men was elected to govern the town for two years from the following September; whether as an adjunct to or in lieu of bailiffs is not clear, but it was to be the 12 rather than the bailiffs who rendered account of borough revenues before a six-man committee elected for that purpose. The 12 included 8 members of the redundant commission of enquiry: Beorton, Biriton, Pride, Thomas Skynner, Richard de Pontesbury, Robert Thornes, Reginald de Mitton, and James Dyer, along with John Tyler (one of those accused with Pride and co. in 1380), Richard Stury, John Perle, and John Geffrey. The king reviewed and approved the settlement in May.

If ballival government was temporarily superseded, by November 1383 it was certainly back in operation (although with the council a continuing feature of the constitution), for there was a fresh complaint to the king – this time that the bailiffs were not upholding the assize of bread and ale, with the result that food was selling at too high a price. The king ordered the bailiffs to fulfill their responsibilities, so that he was troubled by no more complaints. This was wishful thinking.

In August 1389 a further composition made more constitutional adjustments. The composition justified itself by referring to serious discord and arguments that had resulted from misgovernment. The specific problems were identified as ballival elections not having been carried out according to proper procedures, and town revenues not having been properly collected or not having been spent to the benefit of the town, along with a vague reference to other unspecified long-standing grievances that had not been remedied. The consequence of which had been a petition from the community to correct the situation, with an assembly of all the "good men and the community" (the bipartite division having its significance) held in Shrewsbury abbey – again under the supervision of the earl – to authorize the bailiffs and council to make the necessary decisions.

We can take all that with a pinch of salt. Such justifications were standard prologues to political reforms, and took on particular importance in the event that there had to be appeal to the authority of the king. He had little or no interest in how borough officials were elected, so long as it was done without disturbing the peace (hence the need to emphasize discord within the community), but rather more interest in any misappropriation of public funds, some of which were destined for the royal coffers. On the other hand, control of elections and alleged fiscal maladministration were constant bones of contention in urban communities; suspicion of fraud was persistent, regardless of the actual state of affairs. Perhaps more telling, regarding the reason for the new reforms, was the fact that the bailiffs at this time included Robert Thornes, an enemy of Thomas Pride; the latter was not even among the councillors at this time, and although William Biriton was, his loyalties may already have switched.

The terms of the composition [Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1396-99, 472-74], similar in many regards to those of the time of Henry VI, were as follows:

  • For the purpose of the ballival election, the outgoing bailiffs were to choose for the electoral committee 25 impartial resident householders who were burgesses (i.e. contributing to the common financial obligations).
  • First, the bailiffs were to take a public oath that in making their choice of electors they not be influenced by favouritism, enmity or bribe, nor had come to an agreement between themselves (or with others) prior to the election.
  • The 25 electors were to take a similar oath to elect qualified men as bailiffs; qualification being expressed both in terms of having experience of governing according to rule of law, and in terms of residence and wealth (the same as those later embodied in the 1433 reforms). Each was also to undergo questioning to ensure their collusion or vote had not been procured beforehand; anyone found guilty thereof was to be replaced by another.
  • A man elected as bailiff could not be elected again to that office during the next three years.
  • The electoral committee was also to choose the six cessors and two coroners, with the same restriction on re-election. The collectors of toll and murage were likewise to be replaced annually.
  • The coroners were to oversee public works, receiving 12d. a week (to be divided between them) as their fee, and taking their oath of office on election day.
  • The electoral committee was to be sequestered until it had completed its job. In the event that the 25 could not agree on their choice, majority choice was to hold good.
  • No-one was to criticize or threaten the bailiffs who chose the 25, or the 25 themselves. (This provision not being retained in the later reforms, it is not clear whether the intent was to protect them from intimidation prior to the election or from blame afterwards.)
  • The elections were to be held on the day usual since ancient times, the Sunday following St. Giles (in actual fact the transfer from St. Giles' day itself seems to have been introduced in 1381).
  • The bailiffs were not henceforth to receive more than 40s. as their fee, along with a gown comprising 5 ells of cloth, value 4s., and the steward and common clerk likewise; not including the reimbursement of reasonable expenses incurred by the bailiffs on bona fide town business.
  • Future bailiffs were neither to levy nor receive any town revenues, except at the recommendation and with the consent of the cessors, and then with at least two of the cessors necessarily being present at the time money changed hands. Any such revenues, large or small, cash or otherwise, thus coming into the hands of the bailiffs were to be turned over to the cessors, with a written indenture as the record, so that the bailiffs would never have anything in their keeping for long.
  • No bailiff was to neglect or delay the levy of any monies or revenues leviable as a result of these reforms.
  • In the week preceding St. Giles' day, the bailiffs and the cessors were to render account annually of all revenues received during the year, to a committee of six qualified persons elected by the community.
  • No resident burgess was to absent himself from the elections, except with reasonable cause.
  • The bailiffs could appoint their own sergeants, for whom they would be answerable, so long as these were chosen from resident burgesses and were replaced each year, on the same terms as the bailiffs and coroners. The sergeants were to give the bailiffs and cessors a faithful account of all the proceeds from the town court (estreats etc.) after every third court session, and of fines (e.g. on brewers breaking the assize) every quarter, or more often if required. Tensers' fines were to be levied each year by November 25 at the latest.
  • In the presence of the bailiffs and the cessors, the sergeants were to take oath that they would faithfully carry out their duties, not show favouritism to anyone, rich or poor, and render account as specified above, with the understanding that no sergeant would take any fee for any service without it being a matter of record. When the sergeants took their oaths the bailiffs and cessors were to deliver to each a document, sealed with the ballival seal, listing the fees that could be taken. The sergeants were at the same time to swear not to demand any other fees and, if they were found to have taken unauthorized fees, were to be discharged.
  • If any burgess interfered with, or acted contrary to, these ordinances, or colluded with anyone else that they should do so, he was to be banned from holding any borough office for life and fined £20 – or if unable to pay so large a sum, was to be perpetually disfranchised. If the bailiffs failed to enforce the fine, they were to pay it themselves. Holding public assemblies (other than official sessions) to address communal matters was also prohibited.
  • At every election these ordinances were to be rehearsed before the assembly, as the first order of the day. The 25 electors and the officers they elected were all to swear to uphold the ordinances, which were to endure forever (another instance of wishful thinking).
  • An amnesty was declared in regard to any past offence against the community, which issued a general pardon, with the proviso that if any private individual was in possession of anything that belonged in the communal treasury it be repaid.
The concord was witnessed by the community (via the common seal being appended) and by the bailiffs and council along with twelve other men of greatest worth in the town. The latter group included Scriveyn and Pride, and may have been included to explicitly involve (via buy-in or acquiescence) some of those against whose supposed offences the reforms were targeted.

Which of the constitutional and administrative provisions were new in 1389 and which simply reiterations of existing practice, is difficult to tell. This set of provisions is clearly a precursor, in terms of perceived problems and solutions, to those of 1433. With the exception of the emphasis on possible sources of illicit profit through office-holding in the case of the sergeants and of the bailiffs. Abuses of office by the sergeants, real or alleged, loom larger here than they did later.

The settlement does not, however, appear to have had a settling effect. In November 1389 the king had to deal with a complaint by William de Longenore (one of the 18 commissioners of 1381 and one of the "worthy" witnesses to the 1389 settlement) that while in the process of suing for trespass Reginald Scriveyn in the bailiffs' court, Reginald, his son John, Thomas Gamel chaplain, and other armed men assaulted and beat him before the bailiffs' eyes; this intimidation was sufficiently successful that he dared not pursue his case. In 1380 Longenore had been identified as the principal supporter of Scriveyn in the trouble he was causing; political alliances, at all levels of government, were shifting sands. In May 1395, the king ordered the bailiffs to hand over an unusually large number of prisoners in their custody, including Richard Scriveyn and Thomas Otteley, perhaps reflective of local unrest. November of the following year saw royal orders issued to the bailiffs and to the sheriff of Shropshire to arrest Thomas Pride; but he had gone to ground, and repetitions in 1397 and 1398 had no more success. Shortly after the last order, Thomas tried to protect himself by purchasing a royal pardon. Perhaps the trouble in which he found himself stemmed from his ballivalty of 1393/94 and/or his assessorship of 1395/96 for, after he re-emerged with the pardon, the bailiffs of 1398/99 – his former ally William Biriton and Robert Thornes – accused him of having embezzled rebates granted by the king on the fee farm and national taxations.

The availability of such funds was the consequence of a series of misfortunes in the 1390s, which can only have exacerbated existing tensions and competitiveness within the urban upper class. Flooding at the beginning of the summer of 1392 caused major damage to the town bridges, and undermined one of the towers and a large section of wall; and in 1394 a fire ravaged a large part of the town, causing further economic losses to the inhabitants. The townsmen successfully petitioned the king for a 3-year exemption from paying their fee farm, to give them time to recover. The holding of a short parliamentary session at Shrewsbury in January 1398 was accompanied by the seizure, by the entourage of the beleaguered Richard II, of arms and armour from citizens. Furthermore, as a frontier town on the Welsh border, Shrewsbury was periodically under threat, and the events following Richard II's deposition made that a reality, with Glendower's rebellion in 1400. In 1402 large expenditures had to be made by the bailiffs to prepare the town for a possible siege. An allied rebel force under Henry Hotspur was narrowly defeated by the king just outside Shrewsbury in 1403. Further provisions for defending the town did not, however, prevent the destruction of several villages within the Shrewbury liberties by Glendower's forces.

At the parliament of 1406, the local collectors of a royal tax requested being pardoned the amounts for those hamlets that had been ruined. At the parliament of the following year another request was made for exemption from the taxation of that year, citing the flood and the fire, the seizure of armour, destruction of parts of the suburbs and liberties during the battle of Shrewbury and the subsequent attack by the Welsh, the costs of both mounting a continuous defensive force to guard the town and also contributing contingents to campaigns against the rebels, as well as the general adverse impact of the state of war on commerce (the Welsh being said to have carried off provisions and sheep from the locality).

Meanwhile, the 1389 reforms had been sent to the king and were reinforced by his confirmation of them on 31 February 1399. Doubtless this was tied up with the continuing political feuds in the town, and a fear that the 1389 reforms would be overturned. If indeed they had not already been undermined – for a royal commission had, on 7 February, been ordered to investigate whether the composition of 1389 had been broken, and if so by whom, when and under what circumstances.

Accused along with Thomas Pride in 1398 was Nicholas Gerard, who had become the town clerk shortly after the implementation of the 1389 composition, which he witnessed as one of the twelve additional high-ranking members of the community. In his younger years (1384) he had been the target of the enmity of William and Richard Biriton. Whether the former's accusation, during the early part of his ballivalty in 1398, that Gerard and Pride were complicit in an embezzlement scheme was a continuation of the earlier feud, or a new political hostility is a matter for speculation. Gerard attempted to extricate himself by pointing the finger at Pride, for his name is among those of 21 Shrewsbury men on a second petition blaming Pride alone for the crime. In January 1399, Gerard provided assurances in Chancery that he would not harm Biriton or Roger Thornes, brother of Biriton's ballival colleague, and they and other members of the Biriton family gave similar assurances towards Gerard.

It was in the context of this continuing political rivalry that the bailiffs tried to reassert the 1389 reforms. But April 1399 saw one of the town sergeants instigate a riot against the bailiffs, and in May yet another composition was needed in an effort to restore peace, or perhaps to acknowledge a shift in power. At this time Biriton and Thornes were removed from office. Thomas Pride re-emerged from the embezzlement scandal, for in 1400/01 the borough was paying his expenses for conducting business for it in London, and in 1401 he was elected coroner (replacing Gerard); the following year he was sent to represent the borough at parliament, and later that year elected again as bailiff. Gerard meanwhile was in 1400/01 being prosecuted in the king's courts by Roger Thornes, acting for the community, which paid him a fee. In October 1400 a gathering in the guildhall, in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and several lay lords who sought to arbitrate a settlement of the continuing discord in the town, reached the conclusion that Robert Thornes and Nicholas Gerard were the principal troublemakers and bound them over to keep the peace, via a bond of £1,000 and the threat of being kicked out of town. Despite this Gerard was able to retain his post of town clerk and even participated in a commission to arrest Thomas Biriton. He had found favour with Henry IV, from whom in 1404 he obtained appointment as clerk of the statute merchant at Shrewsbury and a lifetime annuity, and a few years later the post of constable of Shrewsbury castle.

The terms of the composition of 1400, which the Archbishop described as being aimed at restoring tranquillity in borough affairs, were that there would continue to be two bailiffs at the head of local government, elected according to the form of the new composition (itself not specified). To avoid anyone aspiring to election as bailiff with a view to having access to or control of communal funds, two chamberlains were to be elected by majority vote of the burgesses and other members of the community; they were to administer those funds under the supervision of the bailiffs and 6 cessors, and at the close of their term of office to render an account of the same before bailiffs, cessors and six auditors elected by the community. Any surplus was to be placed in the borough treasury, along with the account records. The common seal of the town was also to be placed in that treasure chest, along with communal money, books, valuables, and other goods, under 8 locks. The bailiffs would keep one key, the chamberlains a second, and the cessors the other six. The archbishop's report on the composition was reviewed and approved by the king in February 1402.

It would appear that the political protagonists managed to avoid further quarrels or disturbances – or at least any significant enough to come to the king's attention – and perhaps some of them were distracted by other matters of self-interest. As the community emerged out of the shadow of the crises and temptations of the latter years of Richard II's reign and the early years of that of Henry IV, the leaders of the factions were distracted by other avenues of self-interest, or slowed down by age. They gradually pass from the scene and a relative quiet appears to have descended over Shrewsbury.

The documents embodying the reforms of 1433 and 1444 took their place in the town archives alongside earlier ones: I know of no other English town where "community compositions" were sufficiently numerous to be accorded their own class of record, as they were in 1444. If these reforms are indicative of a new period of internal strife, it has not left as much of a mark on the national record. We may at least reasonably assume some dissension and debate on constitutional matters in Shrewsbury, if not outright conflict. In 1434 the old charge of embezzlement of murage proceeds reared its head again; the accused were the collectors and bailiffs of the previous three years. The king ordered an audit of the accounts. This probably turned up nothing, for the careers of the accused bailiffs seem to have continued without ill effect, and a renewal of the murage was granted to the town.

The 1444 provisions do not have the look of a constitutional upheaval, the consequence of a new faction in power, but more an elaboration of the 1433 set, correcting things that proved unsatisfactory and dealing with a few unresolved or new problems. This would give credibility to the statement in the later set that the earlier set had succeeded in proving acceptable to the various interests within the town. Both sets have the appearance of seeking a balance between inherently opposed interests within the political community. They assured the urban upper class of a monopoly on political office (by specifying minimum qualifications), while confirming the role of the community in choosing their leaders from that class by developing formal electoral procedures, and emphasizing communal ownership of revenues, muniments etc.; at the same time they imposed checks on corruption or maladministration, by describing qualitatively the proper performance of duties, limiting individual access to communal money, and requiring accountability for revenues and expenditures. They established general principles while also addressing specific problems or abuses encountered in the past. In these broad concerns the Shrewsbury composition is fairly typical of those of other towns in the Late Middle Ages.

They are also typical in presenting the tell-tale signs of a growing institutionalized separation of ruling class and ruled, such as in the town councillors who are appointed for life, in contrast to the emphasis on annual elections for other officers. The council receives attention towards the end of the earlier set of ordinances, suggesting they were not one of the principal concerns at that time. Since the council itself was not a new institution, perhaps the point of that item was to establish or confirm life membership in the body; or perhaps mention of it was simply incorporated so as to cover all bases.

A decade later we find the introduction of a second council – again a typical feature of the fifteenth century – with the conciliar element of government now the first item on the agenda. The members of the upper council are accorded more dignity and authority by giving them the title of aldermen, and more independence by having them rather than the community choose replacement members. The lower council – perhaps seen in embryonic form in 1433 as the 24 respectable burgesses needed to oversee the application of the common seal – takes on a role in the indirect election process, partly to reduce balllival influence in determining the succession, while also allowing it to be claimed that the community elects the bailiffs. The community is now excluded from participating in assembly debates, but has to speak through the lower council; yet this council can hardly have been representative when its membership too was for life (which was not usually the case in other towns). The double council was a formalization of the socio-political divide within the community, and all these changes favoured the urban class from which the conciliar group was drawn, while reducing the risk of any of their members becoming overly powerful through executive office. We may also note that the same group's interests are served by what was removed from the 1433 ordinances when the 1444 set were drafted: the prohibition of bailiffs retailing food and drink during their term of office, and fines for refusing to accept election as bailiff.

These restrictions on democracy were probably made palatable to the community by including among the ordinances controls over the administration of borough finances. In 1444 the chamberlain, not mentioned in 1433, makes a reappearance, as an official directly elected by the community (although the 6 men continue to have a role in financial administration) and there is greater focus on regulating officers' fees. Both matters addressing popular concerns over believed corruption in government. What the populace wanted was rulers who were capable and trustworthy.

The 1444 composition seems to have fixed the shape of Shrewsbury's government in its broad strokes. A postscript took the form of additional judicial authority being granted by the king in 1445, with a clarification in 1446; the bailiffs, together with the recorder or steward, were to have cognizance of all lawsuits concerning property disputes and to act as justices of gaol delivery.

Even more than is the case today, legislation in the Middle Ages, whether local or national, tended to be more reactive than proactive. Fifteenth century urban ordinances paid far more attention to detail than did those of the thirteenth or early fourteenth century, which were more concerned with principle than process. It is from the details, however, that we can surmise the types of problems and concerns facing urban administration. In the case of the Shrewsbury constitutional ordinances, the abuses or suspected abuses of the political system were primarily related to rigged elections and/or undue influence, and to peculation.

Another major factor shaping constitutional development was the desire on the part of those at the apex of urban society to have greater control over decision-making and over the enforcement of social controls, to prevent recurrences of past disorder which too often attracted the attention of the king. For the most part, the community was prepared to concede the elite strengthened authority, in return for greater checks on corruption, be it political or fiscal. Since order was conducive to the peaceful conduct of business and life generally, and must have appeared particularly attractive to those towns buffeted in the past by disruptive vendettas and power-struggles within the ruling class, it was in the interest of the majority (at least of the enfranchised, who presented the greater political threat to the power-wielders) to foster authoritative government, so long as it was balanced by greater accountability. Although in practice accountability proved less a democratic control than a political weapon to use against opponents.

Sets of constitutional reforms such as those at Shrewsbury are late medieval conceptualizations of democracy (in the sense that their emphasis is on democratic cornerstones of election and accountability). They illustrate a transition: from a system of government reliant on an assumed innate benevolence and public-spiritedness of rulers, to one in which the rule of law would place checks on self-interestedness, whether political or economic. The transition did not, however, significantly alter the fundamental belief that the mantle of government was best worn by those who were the natural leaders of society, whose success in life was reflected in the accumulation of worldly goods and who had a strong interest in maintaining economic conditions that favoured commercial prosperity.

flourish

NOTES

"St. Giles day"
The first of September.

"contributors towards all financial impositions"
I.e. at scot and lot.

"to possess"
The financial requirement was for an income of £10 to be received from the property or rents – either owned by the candidate or held as a life interest (e.g. as a widower holding property of his late wife), or a larger amount in moveables which would quality those merchants whose wealth was invested in stock rather than land.

"cessors"
They were responsible for the collection and expenditure of community money, and were thus like officers called in most towns treasurers or chamberlains. Cessor was applied to tax-collectors, while sessor was used for officers of the Exchequer (the financial office of government). "Assessors" would be a modern term that is associated.

"reprises"
This refers to the deductions from income, such as rents resolute due on real estate.

"Castle Gate"
The northern entrance to the town, immediately beside the castle.

"issues and estreats"
Largely, the fines and amercements imposed by the court, which it typically fell to sergeants to collect.

"communal goods"
This refers primarily to the money in the treasury, but in some contexts may have a broader meaning encompassing other valuables.

"acquittance or replevin"
Replevin was what a defendant in a legal action, whose possessions had been distrained to pressure him to answer to justice, had to do to get back the impounded articles: he had to appear before the authorities and provide guarantees that he would come to court to defend. If the defendant was acquitted, however, distrained goods would then be returned.

"indenture"
An agreement written out in a sufficient number of copies that each party to the agreement had a copy. They were called indentures because typically the copies were written on a single membrane of parchment, which was then cut between the copies in a wavy or zig-zag line, so that the future fitting together of the pieces (if necessary because of legal challenge) would prove the pieces were genuine parts of the original.

"burgess rolls"
Records of men who purchased burgess status, which accorded them the privileges associated with the chartered liberties of the borough. The rolls record the names of entrants, the fees they paid to purchase entrance, and the names of their offspring (since only offspring born after entrance were entitled to inherit burgess status without payment of a fee).

"and of his freedom"
Being deprived of freedom does not here mean imprisonment, but loss of the special privileges of a freeman, i.e. disfranchisement.

"Roger Eyton"
A younger son of Fulk Eyton, who had an estate at Shrawardine (a village a few miles west of Shrewsbury), his position at the head of the list of aldermen suggests he had already risen to prominence in the town, despite being a relative newcomer. He was elected bailiff the following year and again in 1449 and 1455, and even held the country shrievalty in 1449/50 and 1465/66. Nonetheless in 1450 he was presented in the town for extortion and oppression, was convicted in the same year of having broken into and plundered the house of John Talbot at Shrewsbury (probably a political crime, as in 1459 he was attainted with other Yorkists, and after Edward IV took the throne was made constable of Shrewsbury castle). He took out royal pardons in 1452 and 1455. The last reference to him is in 1466.

"William Bastard"
The son of Peter Bastard, who was a member of the merchant gild at Shrewbury in 1397. He represented the town at five parliaments between 1435 and 1450 and served as bailiff 1445/46 and 1451/52. He is said to have held the post of town clerk in his later years (up to 1456); if so, this would be because the post was more akin to a recordership at that period.

"William Boerley"
Wedgwood suggested he may have been a member of the Burley family of Bromcroft. A lawyer named William Burley represented Shropshire in 19 parliaments between 1417 and 1455 (serving as Speaker in 1437 and 1445), and a county J.P. between 1439 and his death in 1459. He was also one of the lawyers retained by Shrewsbury. The M.P. for Shrewsbury in 1427, however, was another man of this name, and it was presumably he who was the alderman of 1444 (although yet another man of this name was member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1457); he married the grand-daughter of Thomas Pride, and came into possession of Pride's extensive property. He was bailiff in 1434/35, while another member of the family held the ballivalty in 1438/39. In 1433, described as "gentleman, of Shrewsbury", William was pardoned outlawry for failing to appear to answer pleas of debt; another pardon for a similar reason was issued in 1439.

"Thomas Thornes"
Bailiff in 1432/33, he was subsequently (1434) among ex-bailiffs accused of embezzlement; but this probably unproven charge did not prevent him being re-elected in 1436/37, and again in 1440/41; he was a parliamentary representative in 1437. His father Roger, a lawyer, had also represented Shrewsbury in parliaments of 1395, 1402, and 1410 and served as the borough attorney 1401-08. Roger had become mixed up in local political disputes at the close of the reign of Richard II, along with his older brother, Robert Thornes (bailiff 1388/89, 1398/99, 1402/03, 1409/10) and members of the Biriton family (William Biriton having been Robert's fellow bailiff in 1398/99). Thomas' grandfather, another Robert, had come to Shrewsbury from Lichfield and became a freeman at the former in 1344, later serving as bailiff (1363/64).

"Thomas Forster"
Bailiff in 1434/35 and1445/46; member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise 1452. A tailor of this name had purchased entrance to the franchise in 1397, when described as of "Hortumley" (Cheshire).

"John Knyght"
He had been been a bailiff in 1433/34, resulting in him being listed, a few months after the end of his term, among ex-bailiffs accused of embezzlement. In 1450 he was a member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise (this group of 12 appears to comprise 6 aldermen and 6 non-aldermen, and they are described as assessors).

"John Shotton"
John Shotton was a merchant who had already served the borough, in the capacity of coroner (1429/30); just a few years earlier (ca.1426) he had married, when referred to as John Shotton junior. He was only of the bailiffs (1431/32) who was accused in 1434 of embezzling murage money. His father had served Shrewsbury in the capacity of coroner (1403/04), assessor (1407/08, 1413-14), parliamentary representative (1415), and bailiff (1415/16, 1421/22, 1425/26). His surname suggests the family had local roots, for Shotton was a hamlet within Shrewsbury's liberties. His brother Nicholas had served several terms as bailiff (1408/09, 1414/15, 1422/23, 1433/34), and as a result of the last term was one of those accused in November 1434 of embezzlement; that this came to nothing is suggested by his election to the council of 12 in 1435. Their grandfather had been a bailiff there in 1363/64. John was a draper, with a sideline as a brewer; he was dead by 1453.

"John Gamell"
The Gamel family could trace its roots and its prominence back to the late thirteenth century, to the Alan fitz Gamel who was bailiff in 1242, possibly the son of Gamel de Romboldesham who was listed in the merchant gild records earlier in the century. Several family members held the ballivalty in the first half of the 14th century, and another, John Gamel, was bailiff in 1413. His son, of the same name, served as town clerk tempore Henry V and into the early years of Henry VI's reign and also held the ballivalty, five times between 1424/25 and 1451/52; during his ballivalty of 1438/39 he, described as "gentleman", was accused along with his fellow bailiff, Richard Burley gent., of having led the community on a raid on the Hencott farm of Lilleshall Abbey, enclosing it, and intimidating the abbot's tenants in the town so that they dared not pay the abbey their rents.

"Thomas Otteley"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1450.

"Richard Stury"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1450. Members of the Stury family (several of them named Richard) had played prominent roles in Shrewsbury since the late thirteenth century. Despite the 1444 alderman's father having refocused his interests on an estate on Rossall, the family continued to be important enough in Shrewsbury for Richard to be elected bailiff in 1444, the first of five such terms of office (the last being in 1464/65), and he represented it at the parliament of 1445/46. He died in late 1469 or early 1470.

"John Beget"
A mercer of this name represented the town in parliament in 1416, and served it for several terms as an assessor (1410/11, 1419/20, 1424/25, 1429/30). The family had held property in the suburbs since 1278, although John's father (a skinner) had tried relocating to London, it seems. However, he died before 1437, and there were two other men of the same name, probably his sons, active in the years that followed. In 1437 one of them, referred to as John Beget senior, conveyed property to Degory Walter, with John Beget junior as one of the witnesses to the transaction. The latter was then serving as bailiff. Which of them served as assessor in 1434/35, bailiff 1458/59, and was one of the first aldermen in 1444 is uncertain.

"give ongoing support"
The original has be ... continuell assistents to.

"Richard Attynham"
Assessor in 1459. Purchased entrance to the franchise in 1412.

"Adam Goldsmyth"
Assessor in 1459.

"Edmund Bastard"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1450. Probably related to William Bastard.

"Degory Walter" "John Water"
Degory was a draper. He and his brothers Richard, John and William were mentioned when their father, John del Watur, purchased the franchise in 1404/05. Degory acquired property from John Beget senior in 1437. John atte Water represented Shrewsbury in the parliament of 1463-65.

"Roger Adyes"
Assessor in 1459.

"Richard Taverner"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise 1452.

"John Grafton"
Described as a merchant in 1455, when parliamentary records note he owed £8.5.7d to the customs collectors at London on wool exported. The family, whose surname derives from a village a few miles northwest of Shrewsbury, had become involved in town affairs from the beginning of the fourteenth century. In Richard Grafton still held lands in the village near Shrewsbury from which the family derived its name. He and his son Robert Grafton was among the collectors of the poll tax of 1380. The following year Robert was one of the commissioners appointed to hold an enquiry into the political disturbances within the town. After becoming a freeman there in 1384, he went on to serve as bailiff in 1390/91 and 1401/02. The John Grafton who was an assessor in 1412 was probably his son.

"Thomas Wynnes"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1450. Described as a merchant in 1455, when parliamentary records note he owed £8.5.7d to the customs collectors at London on wool exported – the appearance being that he was the partner of John Grafton in this venture.

"Roger Pontesbury"
In 1444, in the context of a pardon for outlawry (for failing to appear in court), he was described as a chapman; in 1458 he was pardoned as a mercer. He and William Bykton (also of Shrewsbury) complained to a parliament – probably that of 1455 – of having been ill-treated in Lancashire in 1454, by Robert Bolde and others. He represented the town at the parliament of 1463-65.

"William Nesse"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1450. A weaver of this name, described as "servant of Richard Culmere" (perhaps meaning apprentice) purchased entrance the franchise in 1412.

"John Fox"
Member of a committee vetting applicants for the franchise in 1450.

"commoners"
I.e. common councillors.

"all charges"
I.e. obligatory outgoings such as a rent resolute.

"list previously drawn up"
This would seem a likely meaning of bille afore contreved, although the phrase might refer to a petition.

"subject to any special law"
Whether this refers to foreign residents, or to contractual agreements between a lord and retainer, is unclear.

"presented"
That is, a jury of residents presents a formal complaint in the court session dealing with such presentments.

"tenser"
In the 1433 ordinances the term resseant was used, but in 1444 tenser (this whole article had been rewritten for the later set of ordinances). The descriptor tenser would appear to be a traditional term, apparently still in use at Shrewsbury, for a non-burgess (townsman who had not taken up the franchise) who paid a licence fee for the right to conduct trade within the town. It appears to be in that sense that the term was used in the 1389 composition. Interestingly the term's derivations are associated with extortion or blackmail; it does appear that in some towns the trading licence fee was used as a means to pressure townsmen to take up the franchise.

"waifs and strays"
Straying livestock that was unclaimed, as well as lost or abandoned inanimate goods.

"livery"
A uniform, or item of uniform, or decoration (e.g. badge) that provided visual indicator of affiliation; in this case the reference is to affiliation with lords' factions, which underlay much of the political disturbance of the first half of the fifteenth century.

"any kind that is contrary to statutes"
These statutes did not include in their prohibitions liveries of gild brethren.

"electoral committee"
Such committees appear to have been a common compromise mechanism at this period. From one perspective, they allowed the community through representation to have a say in the choice of its officers; from the other, they prevented elections becoming unruly when an attempt was made to gauge the opinions of the assembly at large.

"Thomas Pride"
He had served previously as bailiff in 1376/77, and would also hold the office in 1383/84, 1388/89 and 1393/94; later during the '90s and the first two decades of the fifteenth century he served multiple terms as assessor and coroner. He represented the town at 11 parliaments between 1378 and 1414. No significant involvement in commerce is indicated, so he may have been a professional administrator or a lawyer, or perhaps he lived off the income from his extensive property in and around the town. He is last heard of in 1419, in which year he was involved in the last of several transactions to settle property on the husband of his daughter and heiress. The family had been present in Shrewsbury from the early years of the 13th century, and producing borough leaders since Robert Pride in 1246 began the first of several ballival terms. One of the principal streets of Shrewsury, Pride Hill, commemorates their presence, although this was only one of the locations in which the prolific family held property. An early owner of the Pride Hill residence, Roger Pride (bailiff 1273), was a wealthy wool and cloth merchant, as was his brother Richard. A later Roger Pride represented his borough at 19 parliaments in the first half of the 14th century. Thomas' father William had been bailiff in 1346/47. That the political attacks on Thomas Pride may have had something to do with affiliations in the larger political conflict on the national scene is suggested in Thomas' foundation of two chantries, in 1389, to pray not only for those of his own soul, but the souls of Ricard II and his queen.

"Earl of Arundel"
The document refers to him as the lord of the townsmen. He had landed interests in the town and locality. It was at his instance, in 1384, that the king granted the town the right to collect murage for five years. In part because of the frontier character of the town, it was able thereafter to obtain renewals of the murage grants in an only occasionally interrupted chain, up until the middle of the fifteenth century. The memory of the town's role in defending against Glendower's rebels remained strong enough 40 years later that the king then granted murage indefinitely, until rebuilding of the walls was completed, and even pardoned the townsmen any arrears not accounted for from past grants.

"Thomas Skynner"
A family found in Shrewsbury since the 13th century, it had acquired across several generations extensive landed wealth in the town and neighbourhood. Thomas had a long career in the service of the borough, representing Shrewsbury at 12 parliaments between 1371 and 1397, and serving as bailiff 1368/69, 1381/82, 1383/84, 1400/01 and 1404/05. His name was the first listed among the councillors of both 1381 and 1389, suggesting he was already seen as one of the senior leaders in local government – even when not holding an office he was often paid a fee, perhaps a retainer for providing legal advice. In 1385 he was acting as a trustee for property formerly of John Perle's father. He was among those who accused Pride of embezzlement. In 1408 he obtained, on grounds of old age, a royal exemption from having to hold any other office, and he appears to have retired from public life, last heard of in 1411, in which year he drew up his will; his bequests show him to have been fairly opulently wealthy, with one of those men with one foot in the urban middle class and the other in the county gentry. His heir was his sister, who had married Reginald Mitton, and his property later came, temporarily, into the hands of the Falk family.

"James Dyer"
His name is also found on the list of councillors in 1389, and in the same year he was one of the commissioners appointed to look into the dispute between William de Longenore and Reginald Scriveyn.

"John Perle"
The family name is found in Shrewsbury records from the early 13th century. His merchant father, Reynold, had represented the borough at three parliaments. He married into the Gamel family. His name is not found either among the councillors of 1389 or the second group of 12 leading citizens, although he was still alive in 1407; the absence may have had something to do with his son being among a group of armed townsmen accused earlier that year by the earl of Arundel of having broken into and hunted and fished in his park at Shrawardine, and assaulted his servants at other locations – such actions have the ring of an act of organized symbolic defiance of authority, and may reflect an aspect of the political differences between local factions. It was the son (of the same name) who was bailiff 1405-07, 1410/11, 1416-18, and 1422/23, a rare instance of apparent infringement of the prohibition (if not repealed) against consecutive ballivalties. So it may have been a next generation John Perle who represented Shrewsbury at the parliament of 1406.

"John Geffrey"
The Geffrey family had been present in the town since the 13th century. Two John Geffrey's – presumably father and son – seem to have been prominent in borough affairs in the last decades of the fourteenth century, holding ballivalties in 1369/70, 1374/75, 1377/78, 1386/87, 1392/93 and 1396/97; the name appears in the list of councillors in both 1381 and 1389, but whether this was the same man or two separate ones remains uncertain. It was likely the younger who was the colleague of Thomas Skynner at the 1397 parliament. He is not heard of after 1409, when a fletcher of that name was assaulted and died of his injuries.




main menu


Created: May 27, 2003. Last update: August 20, 2014 © Stephen Alsford, 2003-2014