The custom of this borough is, and has been from time immemorial, that the bailiffs, burgesses, and commonalty of this borough, in their common council and assemblies, may from time to time make ordinances, laws, and constitutions for the common good of the corporation. And they may also revoke and repeal any such ordinances, laws, and constitutions which they have made, should they be found to damage the condition or common good of the corporation, or may revive and re-enact any of those ordinances, laws, and constitutions, in consideration of [the needs of] the time.
The custom of this borough has always been, ever since it was made and incorporated as a free borough that not only each and every of the freemen of the borough but also each and every resident of the borough ought to maintain, keep, uphold, and obey all such ordinances, laws, orders, and constitutions that, at different times, have been, are, or at any time in the future will be made, ordained, and put in place by the common council of the borough, upon the penalties specified and set in those laws, orders, and constitutions. And that any freemen or residents who break or disobey any of those laws, ordinances, and constitutions have been, may be, and ought to be committed to the gaol or prison of the borough, by the borough’s bailiffs then in office (or by any one of them); staying there until they have paid the penalties and fines of all laws, ordinances, and constitutions broken or disobeyed by them. For which imprisonment in that regard, no freeman or resident of the borough shall at any time thereafter be permitted or entertained in bringing through [a court of] the corporation any action or suit against the bailiffs, or against anyone who committed that freeman or resident to arrest or imprisonment as indicated above.
The custom of this borough is also, and has always been, that no law, ordinance, order, or constitution made, ordained, or established by any common council or assembly can be revoked or repealed except by another common council or assembly that has been called and convened. Such a common council consists, by ancient custom of this borough, of the two bailiffs (or at least one of them) and their twenty-two brethren, who are known under the name of the twenty-four, or the majority thereof, together with the forty-eight, or the majority thereof. This common council forms the body and estate of the whole corporation of the borough, which is incorporated under the name of the bailiffs, burgesses, and commonalty of the borough and town of Great Yarmouth; in this, the bailiffs, or any one of them, represent the bailiffs, the twenty-four represent the burgesses, and the forty-eight the entire commonalty of the town. The meeting or manifestation of whom, or the majority of them, in the manner already indicated institutes a common council and assembly, so long as there is present one of the bailiffs then in office. Then, whatever ordinances, laws, orders, and constitutions are thereby made, ordained, put in place, and agreed to, each of them being written up and recorded by the clerk of the assembly, are put into effect and must be observed; and offenders against the same are to be punished according to the same, without any kind of favouritism or preferential treatment, by custom of this borough, in perpetuity.
[A formal charter of incorporation was not granted to Yarmouth until 1608, but by the late fifteenth century many towns had aspirations in that direction and were, in many regards, acting as if incorporated; in that context the charter of 1208, granting liber burgus status to Yarmouth, could by the 1490s have been interpreted (as indeed it was in Manship’s time) as tantamount to incorporation.