The ancient custom of this borough is, and has always been, that in all kinds of action brought within the borough attachment may be made of all kinds of goods and chattels in pleas of debt, detinue, broken contract, trespass on the case, and all other cases determinable by the common law at the request of all plaintiffs who require that. Such attachment may be made of all those goods and chattels of which possession may lawfully be taken and obtained within the borough or its liberties, in the following way. That is, the four sergeants-at-mace, upon warrant being given them, shall make attachments by land, within the liberties of the same, and the officer called the water-bailiff shall do the same by water, from the mouth of the haven as far as the liberties extend (that is, as far as St. Olave’s Bridge, Hardley Cross, and Weybridge). Once any kinds of goods or chattels have been attached, they shall remain so in the custody and safe-keeping of the officers who have thus made the attachment. Which officers shall, at the next court session following, when the action or actions are heard, submit to the bailiffs presiding in the court an inventory of each and every of those goods and chattels, to be entered into the record. The intent being that every item of those goods can be produced to satisfy the debt and damages which may be awarded by the court in any action for which the attachments are made; or, if the trial finds that the plaintiff has no good cause for the action, that the attached goods and chattels may be restored to the possession of their owners. And the custom is that if an attachment has been carried out, the action initiated, and an accusation been made before the court, but no-one subsequently appears on behalf of the defendant, there may be allowed four separate defaults [in appearance] on four separate court days, on the basis of the attachment. And if within those four court-days no-one comes on behalf of the defendant, the bailiffs shall convict [the defendant] and award judgement on behalf of the plaintiff against those goods and chattels. Whereupon, at their discretion, they shall designate two to four honest burgesses to appraise, under oath, the goods and chattels that have been attached in the manner indicated. The appraisement having been made, those burgesses shall report it before the bailiffs in court, where it is to be entered into the record. If the defendant does not come to satisfy the plaintiff of the debt demanded and damages awarded, then at the request of the plaintiff, at some subsequent court session, the bailiffs shall have the court award a [writ of] venditioni exponas, directed to the officer or officers who carried out the attachment, to sell the attached and adjudged goods and chattels at the highest price [possible] ; they shall bring the money issuing from the same to the bailiffs at the next court, to satisfy the plaintiffs for the debt and damages awarded to be recovered, if the value of the attached goods was sufficient. Should it be that [the value of] the goods attached do not cover the amount of the debt and damages awarded, the appraisers, because of their action in appraising, have no liability to the plaintiffs for more than the value of the goods, nor for legal costs, or withdrafts of the court. But if the attached goods and chattels, through the appraisal and sale, yield a greater sum than the debt and damages awarded, then the remainder of the money received for the appraised and sold goods and chattels, after the plaintiff is satisfied for his debt and damages, and after the legal costs and withdrafts of the court, is to remain in the keeping of the bailiffs for the benefit of the defendants or any other person or persons having rightful and lawful authority to demand the same.
On a number of occasions many of the goods and chattels that have been attached are alleged to be the goods and chattels of persons other than the parties against whose names actions are entered in the court, as defendants. In such cases the party or parties who claim ownership of those goods and chattels and wish to reverse the attachment made, and actions and recoveries forcefully undertaken to that purpose, if present in court shall, there in open court before the bailiffs, take oath that they claim the attached goods with good cause and due consideration, and without fraud, collusion, or deceit. Furthermore, the bailiffs shall require the party claiming the property to enter a plea into the court, [to the effect] that at the time the attachment was made the goods and chattels were not those of the defendants but belonged to him at that time, as his own goods. Upon which plea, if the party who caused the attachment to be made is not satisfied and will not withdraw his action, then the party who is plaintiff in that attachment shall join issue upon the plea of the claim, to prove that the goods and chattels were, at the time when the attachment was made, those of the alleged defendant in the attachment. Upon which issue a jury shall then be nominated and impanelled at the next, or some later, court session (at the discretion of the bailiffs), to enquire and try , under oath, [the issue of] ownership, according to the proofs offered by each party. If it is found, by the verdict of that jury, that ownership of the goods at the time the attachment was made was in the claimant to them, as per the plea entered into the court, then the goods and chattels shall be released from arrest and restored to him or them found to be the rightful owners of the same. Provided always that if the claimant is not present in court, to be sworn [to make his proof] , his attorney may be received to put before the court the plea claiming ownership, to be tried by jury verdict as indicated above. But if the verdict of the jury finds that the ownership of the attached goods and chattels, at the time they were attached, belonged to he or they alleged as defendants in the action brought and entered in relation to those attachments, and not in he or they laying claim to the same, then those attached goods and chattels shall remain liable for satisfying the debt and damages due the plaintiff who caused the attachment to be made.
The custom of this borough is that if an outsider, who is not party to the attachment or action but is alleged to be the owner of the goods and chattels attached, does not come to the court in person or by attorney to lay claim and try the issue regarding those attached goods and chattels within a year and a day following the making of the attachment, or at the latest following judgement given upon the fourth default [of the defendant in the action] , then by custom any such owner or his executors shall be utterly and forever excluded and debarred from having or claiming any right or interest in or to those goods and chattels attached, or in or to any part of the same. Moreover, the custom of this borough is and has been that if any goods and chattels are attached and, after four separate defaults occur within any action brought in relation to those goods and chattels (as the rightful goods and chattels of the alleged defendant in the action), a conviction results, so that by the judgement of the court those goods and chattels are to be delivered to the plaintiffs in satisfaction of the debt and damages awarded and recoverable, then, even though no other person is alleged to have title or right to the property, but only the defendant in the action, nonetheless for equity and justice to be done, the bailiffs shall bind the plaintiff, to whom the goods and chattels are delivered, through two sufficient sureties who are freemen of the borough, to redeliver the goods and chattels to the court, or their value according to the appraisal of them certified to the court, should any other person (other than the alleged defendant in the action relating to the attachment) appear in court within the year and a day to make and undergo trial of a claim to be the rightful and true owner of those goods and chattels, in the manner indicated above, according to the custom of this borough.
And the custom of this borough is that when attachments are made under the name of one or more men as defendants in an action brought, but another who is not party to the action claims to own the attached goods and chattels, and the bailiffs are informed that this is the case, to avoid a great loss, if the information appears, in the judgement of the bailiffs, to be true, without any deceit or fraud suspected in the claimant not party to the action, then the bailiffs may, at their discretion, allow the claimant, with two sufficient freemen, to be bound by a recognizance in the court, before them, to try [the issue] of ownership of the attached goods and chattels within a limited time (at the discretion of the bailiffs), in the manner for trying ownership of attached goods already indicated; in default of him undergoing trial of ownership within the deadline, the two freemen will, by their recognizances, become liable as sureties and pledges in the action upon which the attachment was made. Then, upon the recognizance, the bailiffs, taking into consideration the losses that might arise from [detention of] the attached goods, may at their discretion order the goods to be released from arrest and delivered to the alleged owner. However, this manner of trying ownership is not to be used as a matter of course in regard to attachments, but only at the discretion of the bailiffs, in circumstances where great loss might be incurred by someone not a party to the action, whose claim to ownership is felt to be free of fraud or collusion. For the custom of this borough, when for purposes of an action attachment is made of goods appearing to be the goods of the party defendant to the action, is that those goods shall remain under arrest to be liable for the action, and shall not be released without two sufficient sureties or pledges to the action, who are freemen; in default of provision of such sureties, the attached goods may be subject to a conviction adjudged by the court, in the way indicated above. Nevertheless, if the defendant who owns the goods is present when his goods are attached and is unable to provide sureties for the action, as per the custom already mentioned, but alleges before the bailiffs in court that the plaintiff has no grounds for such action against his goods, then the bailiffs shall entertain him, in person or by attorney, to plead [his case] and join issue with the plaintiff. And then, according to the verdict rendered by the jury, if the plaintiff has no grounds for an action, the goods shall be released and delivered to the defendant; otherwise, those goods shall be liable for satisfying the debt and damages of the plaintiff in that action, as per the judgement awarded. Also, by the custom of this borough, all goods and chattels, of whatever kind, attached by virtue of an action brought, shall, upon recognizance being made before both or either of the bailiffs, prior to the fourth default, by two freemen of this borough that they will become sureties and pledges to the action entered against those goods, be released and discharged; and those pledges shall be recorded in court [rolls] as being answerable for [the judgement awarded in] the action. But after the fourth default has been entered, no sureties may be received.
[The degree of attention paid to this matter suggests how thorny a problem was the issue of attachments, a much-resented tool to compel offenders to answer to justice. ]
[St. Olaves is a village about six miles south-southwest of Yarmouth on the River Waveney, still crossed by a (modern) bridge there, although a ferry was used before a bridge existed (the first stone one built, perhaps not long before the 1491 edition of the customs, atop wooden piles that may have supported an older bridge). The decision to build a bridge may owe something to the erection nearby of an Augustinian priory whose shared dedication to the tenth century Norwegian king Olaf suggests a church there earlier than the priory’s believed foundation date of 1239, likely serving the manor of a family known to have Norse roots. Hardley Cross, where the River Chet joins the Yare, some seven miles west-southwest of Yarmouth, marked the boundary not only of the liberties of Yarmouth but also those of Norwich (in regard only to jurisdiction over the Yare), probably defined through a settlement of disputes between the two towns in the fifteenth century; the existing cross monument is post-medieval, but evidently replaced an earlier one. A similar distance west-northwest of Yarmouth was Weybridge, another priory site, near Acle, on the River Bure.]
[A withdraft of the court was a retraxit; that, is a situation where the plaintiff explicitly withdrew his suit after having formally lodged a complaint in court , or where (as in this case) the defendant again after a complaint had been formally declared in court either requested permission to settle out of court or, by neglecting to defend, allowed judgement to be passed against him; for such withdrafts, the court levied a fine of a few pence.]