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SOCIAL EVENTS Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Henley games sport gambling church services

Subject: Restrictions on games
Original source: Bodleian Library, Henley Assembly Books, vol. I, f.47
Transcription in: P.M. Briers, ed. Henley Borough Records: Assembly Books i-iv, 1395-1543, Oxfordshire Record Society, 1960, 56.
Original language: Latin
Location: Henley
Date: 1451


[10 September 1451]

On that day, the warden, and all officers, and the whole community of the town granted that if anyone of the town plays a ball-game on holidays or festivals while divine service is underway, from now on any officer present at the occurrence has full power to distrain [on the players] and impose [a fine of] four pence, towards supporting the lights of St. Mary, Henley, whenever and however often this occurs.

Also, the same thing applies to those playing at dice, except at Christmas time.


There was nothing metropolitan about vices, which in the eyes of authority included many sports and games. Henley's example shows that problems plaguing large towns were also concerns in small towns.

It is not certain whether the objection behind this ordinance was to parishioners being seduced away from attending church services, or to the playing of handball using the exterior wall of a church, as was often done, thus disturbing the service.



The title of the executive officer of local government at Henley.

Bailiffs, constables, and bridge keepers were also elected.

"whole community"
Likely meaning as represented by the town council.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 27, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003

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