processes by writ
|In cases begun by what are called "sheriff's writs" such as writs of debt, writs of wrongful detention, and writs of account which are to be held before the bailiffs, after the sheriff has returned the writs, the following is the legal process. When the plaintiff initiates the action, the defendant named in the writ shall be summoned to answer at the next court of portmensmoot. If he fail to answer the summons, let this be duly noted and he shall be required to find a pledge for his appearance. If he still defaults, causing his pledge to be amerced, he shall be required to find 4 pledges to answer. If he again defaults, so that his pledges are amerced, he is to find 8 pledges, and so on. If the defendant is so resistant that he refuses to answer the complaint, he is to be distrained by all his goods and chattels, wherever found within the territorial jurisdiction of the bailiffs, until he comes to court. If, to obstruct the suit and delay the legal process, the defendant locks his goods and chattels inside his house or chamber, so that the bailiffs cannot get at them for purposes of distraint, then that house or chamber is to be blockaded so that neither the defendant nor anyone on his behalf can have access thereto, until he come to court. When the defendant comes to court, he and the plaintiff shall present their cases as best they may. The same process, involving distraints and blockade, may be used not only in pleas begun by writ, but also in pleas begun by gage and pledge.
assault and battery
|In pleas concerning battery,
wounding, breaking and entering, or other trespass against the peace,
the legal process is as follows. If the defendant refuses to find
pledges for his response to the
charge, and if he has no chattels within the town [which may
be distrained] to bring him to justice, and these facts are
witnessed in court, then he is to be arrested and brought before the
bailiffs to respond to the plaintiff. And if he is convicted, the
plaintiff shall be awarded damages assessed by the court and the
defendant committed to prison for the following terms:
bailiffs or coroners
|It is ordained by common
counsel of the community that
if any townsman assaults a bailiff of the town with or without weapon,
or gives him a blow or a wound, or draws his blood, or maliciously
obstructs the performance of his duties, or disturbs the peace in the
presence of a coroner or other good men of the town, so that the trespass
can be proven by the witness of coroner or two or three honest men, or
otherwise by inquest, the guilty man shall
be committed to prison. He shall be securely kept there without prospect
of bail until he has made full amends to the injured party, according
to damages assessed by the coroners and good men of the town. He shall
be seriously punished, for the sake of the community, for the harm
done to its bailiffs; and before he is allowed out of prison, he must
find mainpernors to answer to the
king for his crime, when called upon to do so. If any townsman slanders
a bailiff in court, or out of court if the bailiff is in performance
of official duties, and is convicted of the same, he shall be sent to
prison until he can find sufficient surety to make amends according to
the determination of the coroners and good men of the town.
Notes: the French terms used for what is here translated as "good men" and "honest men" are "bones gentz" and "prodes hommes" terms often used to designate the ruling class or even the town council; it may be the case in this chapter, which is concerned with the sacrosanctity of office, that an Ipswich councillor was accorded particular credibility and authority as a witness to a crime.
|Any man who assaults or gives a blow or wound to a sub-bailiff of the town, or who obstructs his performance of duties (notably arrest), is to be taken and committed to prison. Unless the offender make amends to the injured party, he shall be punished by the court, according to whether his trespass is major or minor.
|It is ordained that there be
wardens assigned to the fish market to ensure that the regulations
ordained for that market, for the common profit of the town and the
surrounding region, be properly observed. Those regulations being,
first that no regrater nor non-burgess make a bargain outside of the
market (either in or out of town), nor forestall fish being brought
to the town for sale. A first offender shall have his merchandise
confiscated (to the use of the
community) and shall compensate the
individual from whom he bought it; failing this, he shall be punished
for his trespass by imprisonment. If he has not the means to
compensate the seller from whom he forestalled the merchandise, then
the merchandise shall be returned to the seller and the offender
shall remain in prison until he has compensated the community for the
value of the forestalled items. For a second offense, the offender
shall be put in the pillory, the forestalled fish confiscated, and the
offender obliged to compensate the seller. For a third offence, the
offender shall be obliged to give up his occupation for a year and a
day, and the merchandise confiscated. The same ordinance applies to
Notes: The punishment for the third offence giving up one's occupation (in the originals "mystery" or "craft" are the terms used) would have deprived the offender of his regular livelihood. Regraters or middlemen (whom we might think of today as retailers) were not prohibited per se, so long as they did not forestall or undertake other business practices intended to push prices up. Use of the term forestalling to describe an offence of this kind seems not to have emerged until the second half of the thirteenth century, so this chapter may represent an addition or revision to the original custumal compiled in 1200.
regraters who sell
to other regraters
|No regrater in the fish market may buy from another regrater in order to sell the goods in the market, so that the price of fish goes up. The punishments for which may be confiscation of the fish, imprisonment, the pillory, and the offender giving up his occupation for a year and a day. No regrater in the market may remove plaice, sole, flounder, eels or any other fish from the baskets in which they are brought to the market, in order to sell at the same market, against the will of the owner of the fish; since this is a trespass against the peace, offenders will be punished by imprisonment.
|No regrater of the fish market may buy fish there in order to sell it before the time established by the wardens, viz. half way to prime, upon pain of confiscation of the fish. Merchants from outside the town who are called pedlars may not begin to sell before the hour of prime; if these outsiders load up their fish they should do so in open market, not inside any house, and nowhere else, upon pain of confiscation of their merchandise.
|No porpoise, salmon, conger, or turbot is to be cut in any house nor in any other place except the communal place of the fish market. No such fish is to be stored privately overnight without showing it to the warden of the fish market, upon pain of its confiscation.
fish kept too long
|The community forbids any regrater in the fish market from selling or displaying any kind of fish, scaled or unscaled, that is spoiled and unfit for human consumption, or that has been stored longer than appropriate. If anyone there is found with such fish, on the first occasion the fish will be confiscated and given to the poor; on the second occasion, the fish will be confiscated and the offender sent to the pillory; on the third occasion, the fish will be confiscated and the offender must give up his occupation for a year and a day.
mixing in bad corn
|Upon pain of the same
punishment, it is forbidden that any storer of
corn, miller, or anyone else mix rotten corn in with good corn with
the intent of selling it in Ipswich, to deceive townsfolk or
Notes: I have followed Twiss' hypothesis that cornstorer and miller are possible translations of corlenocher and pokyere respectively.
|Upon pain of the same punishment, it is forbidden that any poulterer sell or display for sale any fowl that is spoiled and unfit for human consumption.
|In any contract or convenant relating to merchandise, the legal process is as follows. If one party reneges on a contract or covenant, resulting in a plea being brought before the bailiffs, and the party defends by denying the contract or covenant, he is not to be believed if the plaintiff can prove the contract by the oath and examination of certain men who were present when the contract was made between the parties, or if he can prove the contract by inquest. Similarly, if a merchant sell his merchandise to another merchant with full payment to be made within the day, for which speedy payment of a debt no written record or tally is commonly made, and a plea arise between the two over the merchandise, then the purchaser is not to be allowed to wage his law until he has paid the seller every penny, so long as it can be proved (by inquest under the law merchant) that the goods were sold and delivered. The purchaser must also be given the chance to prove by inquest any claim that he owes nothing to the seller. The proof in either case must be through the examination of at least 2 sworn men. Also, if a man hands over his chattels to another, to hold in trust and return when requested, the keeper of the chattels is not to be allowed to wage his law while he withholds the chattels, so long as the plaintiff can prove the [defendant's] receipt of the chattels, by the witness of good, true and credible men, sworn and examined.
debts or damages
|When the court has awarded recovery of a debt or damages, but he against whom the award is made refuses to make satisfaction, the plaintiff may request that the court authorize daily distraint on his goods and chattels, whether inside house or outside, wherever they can be found within the liberties of the town, until the plaintiff has [goods to] the value of the amount due him. If the individual distrained continues to refuse to pay what has been awarded against him within 40 days after being distrained, the bailiffs shall have the distrained items brought before them in court, and the individual shall be warned by two men to appear at the next court session to reclaim the distrained items and make satisfaction of the award against him. If he still will not come, or comes and refuses to make satisfaction, then the distrained objects are to be appraised in court by sworn men, and the individual is to be warned to appear at the next court session and make satisfaction. If at that session he does not appear, or does not make satisfaction to the plaintiff, then the taker is to give the distrained objects to the plaintiff to do with whatever he wishes. If the items distrained are more valuable than the amount of the award, the surplus is to be returned to the distrained individual. If less valuable, then the remainder is to be levied without delay from the chattels of the debtor, and the sub-bailiff who was ordered to make the original distraint is to be reprimanded by his superiors for not having distrained sufficient goods, unless he has the excuse that he could not find other goods on which to distrain. The appraisers of distrained goods are to be warned not to collude in appraising goods at a higher value than they are worth; if they do so, they shall be obliged to buy the goods at the price they have set. This process applies to residents of the town and the neighbouring countryside. If the plaintiffs are outsiders, such as merchants from foreign lands, or others from distant countries, or mariners coming to the town to sell goods or merchandise, or outsiders passing through at time of fair or market, then more rigorous and speedy efforts must be applied to the debts or damages awarded them (since they do not have 40 days to wait for distraint). If anyone delays rightful execution in the aforesaid situations, by locking up his goods within a house, so that the bailiffs cannot get at the goods for purpose of distraint, then the house or chamber, with all the goods therein, is to be blockaded until satisfaction is made. If anyone is convicted of breaking the blockade and carries off any of the goods, without permission of at least one of the chief bailiffs, he shall be arrested and held in prison until the purloined chattels are returned or he makes satisfaction for the award to the plaintiff and even then he shall be punished for his trespass. When the chattels are brought back, the bailiffs shall levy from them the debt or award.
increase of damages
|In any plea of land where damages are assessed by inquest, if the members of the jury (by favouritism or ignorance) assess the damages too low, then the bailiffs and the court have the discretion to increase them.
failure to pay
for goods bought
|Some men without means or
of bad faith who make themselves out to be merchants in the town,
through envy, covetousness or lack of good advice, have made bargains
and bought merchandise from merchants or other outsiders coming to the
town, but illegally and faithlessly (to the loss of the reputations of
the town and good men living there) have delayed paying for the
merchandise. Consequently, the outsider merchants have often avoided
coming to the town again, to the damage of the town and countryside.
Conscious of the wickedness and folly or such foolish purchasers and
of the desirability for the honour and profit of the town to redress
this defect, the good men of the town have unanimously ordained that
no one residing in the town be involved in buying goods or merchandise
from any foreigner or other outsider
coming to the town by land or water, unless he pay the merchant on the
date they agree. If anyone delays in payment, the bailiffs, as soon as
they hear of it, shall without hesitation and rigorously seize the goods
and chattels of the deceiver and satisfy the merchant for payment, without
waiting 40 days for the distraint
addressed in cap.34. If the foolish purchaser
is a burgess and has no chattels from which the bailiffs may raise the
money he owes to the merchant, then he is to be
disfranchised for a year and a
day, so that he have none of the financial or commercial advantages
that burgess status gives; and he shall not be restored to the
franchise until he has found good
and sufficient surety for
compensating any townsman who suffers distraint, damage or grief as a
consequence of him having falsely withheld what was due to the
merchant. The bailiffs shall register the surety in the common roll
of the town, so that every townsman damaged by the deceiving purchaser
may recover [losses] against him and his surety. If
the deceiving purchaser is a non-burgess resident and does not have
sufficient [chattels] in the town to enable the merchant
to be satisfied, then the purchaser shall be barred from conducting
any commercial transaction in the town until he has paid the merchant
what he owes him.
Notes: what seems to be referred to indirectly, regarding the ramifications of the deceiver's actions on his fellow burgesses, is a variant of withernam.
an end to wrangling
|Regarding fish, herring,
onions, garlic and other merchandise brought by water into the town
to sell, often when it comes time to pay for a bargain [made
earlier], dissension arises between sellers and complaining
purchasers who allege that the merchandise is not as good quality as
it appeared when first they viewed it or as the sellers assured when
the sale was made. As a result, the purchasers too often renege on
the contract they have made, and arguments take place. To prevent
such arguments, the community
ordains that when the owner of such merchandise brought to the town has
made a sale, before the goods are removed, the contract of sale is to be
declared before a bailiff and set down in writing, if the seller requests
it; the agreement, the day when payment is due, and the surety offered for
payment (if applicable) is to be entered on the roll of the bailiffs. The
bailiff and 4 good and honest townsmen, who are knowledgable about that
type of merchandise and are sworn to the duty, are then to view the
merchandise. In this way, if the merchandise [at time of
delivery] is not as it was first shown to the purchaser,
then the payment or the merchandise shall be adjusted as necessary.
The bailiffs are to warn [the 4 surveyors] when
taking oath that they must not collude to commit fraud in cases where
any surveyor has a share in the merchandise. And they shall advise
outsider merchants, when they bring goods to the town, to take good
and honest hosts; if the hosts
become involved in selling the merchant's merchandise, they must turn
over all the proceeds to the merchant, failing which the hosts shall
be punished in the same way as defaulters in payment
[cap.36]. If the merchant sells his own merchandise
to an unreliable purchaser, without seeking advice from his host and
without making recognizance
[of the contract] before the bailiffs or without
survey of the goods, then the merchant must suffer for his folly by
recovering the money owed him from the unreliable purchaser as best he
Notes: the actual chapter title refers to "wolvard", which I have tentatively translated as "wrangling"; I cannot find the meaning of "wolvard" but, based on the context of the chapter, I suspect it is a metaphorical term conjuring images of a pack of foxes or wolves squabbling among themselves.
|Tenements in the town can be divided among male heirs as well as among female heirs excluding property gifted or otherwise bequeathed by the ancestor whenever one of the parties requests his share. If the division of the inheritance is done by common agreement [among the heirs], then the eldest heir may have first choice of the part he wants; following which, each remaining heir shall choose a part in the order determined by [casting] lot. If any of the heirs through malice argue against and obstruct the division of the inheritance, then the heir who requested a division may recover his part by plea of gage and pledge, if he initiates it within 40 days of being denied his share (if not, he loses the opportunity to recover by that type of plea). Once the plaintiff has entered a plea, the bailiffs shall have the defendant summoned by two freemen to attend the next portmensmoot to answer the suit. If after three summonses he has not come, he may employ three essoins if he wishes. If after the summonses and essoins he comes to court and can offer no reason why the plaintiff should not have his share, or if he fails to come, the plaintiff shall be awarded his share of the inheritance with damages. The assessment of damages is to be delayed until the inheritance is divided, in case the defendant has caused the inheritance to go to waste in which case, he shall be assigned the portion that has gone to waste. If the plaintiff's share is also wasted, the cost of the waste shall be included in the assessment of damages by 12 sworn men. Once the judgement has been awarded, the 12 sworn men shall make the division and the bailiffs shall deliver to the plaintiff his share. The defendant shall be warned to come to the next portmensmoot to hear the assessment of damages; whether he come or not, let the judgement be executed upon him. If the elder partner [in the inheritance] has countersued, he shall lose the right to choose first, and take his [choice of] share through lot, as the other partners.
denial of quitclaim
or other writing
|If there is a plea in the Ipswich court concerning tenements subject to the court's jurisdiction, and a charter of feoffment, quitclaim or other document is introduced against the plaintiff to quash the suit, but the plaintiff denies [the authenticity of] the document, the defendant may prove that it is genuine by inquest together with [examination of?] the witnesses named in the document (if they are residents of the town). The bailiffs may require, by the authority of the court, that the witnesses appear along with other good and honest men to test the authenticity of the document. However, if the witnesses are outsiders, so that the bailiffs cannot constrain them to appear before the court, neither the testing of the document nor the suit itself should be delayed, any more than if the witnesses were dead.
proof of tally
without a seal
|If there is a plea of debt
between merchants, by law merchant, concerning a tally without a seal,
[recording] a contract about merchandise, and the
defendant denies the authenticity of the tally, the plaintiff may
prove it by the law merchant. The proof is to be made by two men of
good reputation, sworn and examined, who were present when the tally
was made between the merchants, or when the debt recorded by the tally
was acknowledged [in a recognisance] by the debtor.
If the proof is acceptable, the plaintiff may recover the debt and
damages. If the evidence given [by different witnesses]
in the proof is found to be inconsistent, the tally is to be condemned
as false. If however the debt by tally without seal is claimed
without [recourse to] the law merchant, the defendant
may be allowed to deny the tally be inquest or by his law
[i.e. compurgation], whichever he prefers.
Notes: In a relatively illiterate society, the tally was a method of recording the amount of a debt; it was a stick of wood notched in a particular way, and in two parts which fit together (the indenture being the counterpart in written records): one part being held by the debtor and one by the creditor. Seals were similarly a feature of a pre-literate society where many men could not even sign their names. Merchants had their own version of the heraldic crest, in the form of distinctive marks (similar to brands used on animals) that could be impressed into sealing wax; these marks, or a variant, might be handed down in a family from one generation to the next.
render of a sword
|The son of a burgess who
is his father's heir, after the death of his father, shall come into
court within 40 days of the death (if he is in the country), and render
to the bailiffs the sword on which his father swore to maintain the
freedom of the town and to conceal the secrets of the town. If he does
not, he is to be banned from every council of the town until he has
complied. If there are several sons, the eldest brother shall render
the sword, and the others shall give the same oath that the eldest
does. It is not to be allowed that any son of a burgess sit down or
remain at a common council of the town if he is not sworn to conceal
the counsel and secrets of the town.
Notes: the oath of the father referred to was that required from a townsman when entering the franchise. The ceremony described was that of a freeman's son taking up the franchise by right of patrimony, without fee (other than the sword); a rare recorded case of this in 1314 indicates that the entrant could redeem the sword with a small cash contribution. The "council" refers to assemblies of citizens at which town business was discussed.
distress by one burgess
|No burgess of the town shall by his own authority distrain on another whom he accuses of debt to him or trespass against him; he must initiate a legal action before the bailiffs.
distress by a burgess
on an outsider
|If an outsider owes a debt to a burgess and the day of payment passes, and the outsider, passing through the town, will not satisfy the creditor for his debt, the creditor has the right to arrest the debtor's chattels until he can find a bailiff, before whom he can initiate a plea of debt.
a burgess' share
|If a burgess of the town buys merchandise within the franchise of the town and there is an outsider there who claims the right to have a share in the merchandise, the outsider shall not have a share. But if an outsider buys merchandise and there is a burgess present who claims a share, the burgess has the right to a share.
view of frankpledge
|View of frankpledge is to be held
in the town each day during the week of Pentecost; the purprestures
presented in the view should be remedied and amended, by view of the
bailiffs and chief pledges [who are] presenters within
40 days of the week of Pentecost.
Notes: the English version of the custumal uses a different name for view of frankpledge the leet [court]. The English version uses as the title of those who made presentments of offences "head boroughs", rather than capital pledges. A purpresture was an encroachment onto public property.
probition of waste
during a plea
|When an action regarding a tenement is brought before the bailiffs by king's writ, the bailiffs shall forbid the tenant, against whom the writ is directed, from committing waste or despoilment on the property which is the subject of the action. If the tenant does so despite the bailiffs' prohibition and the plaintiff recovers the tenement in the action, the amount of damages awarded against the defendant are to be doubled; damages are to be assessed by 12 sworn men. The tenant is also to receive a serious amercement for his trespass in disobeying the bailiffs. The same procedure is to be in effect for pleas of land begun without writ; prohibition of waste should be made at request of the plaintiff.
not taking pledges
from poor weavers
|The community ordains and prohibits that no-one of the town take from poor wool carders, spinners, poor tailors, seamstresses, poor laundresses, nor other poor people of low status, any fabricated garments, linen, parcels of clothing, carded wool (white or dyed), flax, hemp, thread (woollen or linen), nor any other suspicious goods, as pledge for money, wine, ale or any other kind of victual, in cases where there is cause for suspicion that the goods offered as pledge may not be the property of the poor people who offer them. If anyone takes such goods as pledge from poor people, contrary to this prohibition, then the bailiffs may deliver the items back to their rightful owners, without the latter paying [any compensation to] the person in whose possession they were found, even if the person who put the items up as pledge has not the means to answer for it. The bailiffs should have this ordinance announced each year, along with the other cries, so that no-one infringing the ordinance may defend on the basis of ignorance.
|In the same way, anyone in the town may, through plea begun by gage and pledge, recover missing goods and chattels, no matter in whose possession they are found or by what means the possessor has acquired them; the possessor must recover his loss as best he can from the pledger of the goods.
|The chief bailiffs singly or jointly must appoint an attorney for the plaintiff and defendant in every action before them, whether with or without writ, whether the party is absent or present in court, and either in court or outside it. The name of the attorney must be recorded. If any party to the action is in such poor health that he cannot come to court without risking to life or limb, then the bailiffs must send a sub-bailiff or some other appropriate person to take the sick man's attornment in the action.
court in mercantile
|Any of the chief bailiffs, wherever he may be within the territory under his jurisdiction, may receive a recognizance of debt, so long as both the creditor and the debtor are present; the recognizance is to be entered into the town roll. Once this is done, the court may not entertain the debtor's denial of the recognizance made, against the witness of the bailiff; but nor are any damages to be awarded to the creditor in recognizances made, whether in court or outside it, without a legal action having been initiated. In cases where mercantile contracts or covenants are declared voluntarily before one of the bailiffs within the territory under his jurisdiction, in the presence of good men of the town, the word of the bailiff is credible enough to warrant registering [in the town records] the agreement. The court may not entertain either of the merchants denying what has been recorded; any who tries shall be condemned according to the law merchant. However, the oral witness of a bailiff to a recognizance cannot be accepted after the end of his term of office, if the recognizance is not found to be enrolled.
widow's free bench
|If any burgess who is a
peer and member of the commmunity, and
not previously married, marries a single woman or a widow and the wife
outlives husband, then the widow shall have the deceased's chief messuage
for her residence in the name of "free bench" for as long as she remain
a widow. She may not waste nor dispose
of this property, so that her husband's heir is disinherited. She may
also have dower rights in half of [the deceased's] other
property in the town (if it is subject to dower). If her husband only
held the one messuage in the town, the widow may still hold it by free
bench, but her husband's children shall lodge with her in the
Notes: it appears from this (and the following chapter) that only a man's first wife had "free bench" rights in his principal residence; the reference to "children" may refer particularly to those who had come of age, rather than underage children (who it is difficult to believe would have been thrown out on the street by their widowed mother!).
|In the case of a woman who,
after the death of her husband, does not have the right of free bench,
she may remain dwelling in the chief messuage for 40 days after the
husband's death (doing no waste
thereto), within which period the husband's heir is voluntarily to
assign her a reasonable dower; which is, half of all the tenements
and rents of which her husband died in possession.
Notes: it is implicit that if the heir does not do this of his/her own accord within 40 days, the widow may sue for dower rights.
|If a resident burgess marries a woman from outside the town, and the woman outlives her husband, the woman may continue to enjoy the franchise for as long as she remain a widow.
no homage and fealty
|It has been the practice
in Ipswich from antiquity that no tenant of tenements in the town held
by free burgage do homage or fealty for them to the property's chief
lord. The chief lord may not demand from the tenant any relief, ward,
marriage or other service, but only payment of the rent, nor may he
have any other profit from the property except escheat when the law
allows it. However, this does not exempt the burgesses from taking an
oath of allegiance to the new king, their liege-lord, when it is
demanded after the death of a king of England. It is also the custom
in the town that no outsider may
distrain his tenant for arrears
of rent, except by the bailiffs of the town, for the reason that the
bailiffs should not allow any distrained items to be kept in any place
except within the town, so that they can redeliver them after
[the distrained party makes]
gage and pledge, if process of law
necessitates this. However, those who are burgesses of the town, at
lot and scot, may distrain their
tenants for arrears of rent at any time, without the involvement of
the bailiffs; for, if they put the distrained items anywhere other than
they ought, then they can be distrained and brought to justice more
easily than can be an outsider.
Notes: relief, wardship and marriage were feudal services. If the services were no longer performed for a property (e.g. because a tenant had died without heir, or had been imprisoned), the property reverted or escheated to the lord.
treatment of wives
in plea of trespass
|A woman who is covered [by the law] under her husband may be brought to justice before the bailiffs to answer to a plea of trespass or where the tumbrel may be the punishment, in the same way as she would be subject to justice were she unmarried; this applies to a case of personal trespass, but not trespass related to a tenement.
husband to answer
for wife's debt
|A husband shall answer in court in pleas concerning debts contracted by his wife before and after their marriage. But if the woman becomes a surety for a debt, the husband cannot be held answerable for that.