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CONSTITUTION Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval Bury St. Edmunds customs franchises abbey jurisdiction reeve farm charter market trial combat dues revenues punishment

Subject: Factors influencing the gradual acquisition of freedoms
Original source: British Library, Harleian Ms.1005, ff.141-143, 147, 149-151
Transcription in: Thomas Arnold, ed., Memorials of St. Edmund's Abbey, vol.1 ("Cronica, by Jocelin de Brakelonde"), Rolls Series, no.96 (1890), 276-81, 293-95, 299-305.
Original language: Latin
Location: Bury St. Edmunds
Date: 1180s-1190s


After the death of Abbot Hugh, the keepers of the abbacy wanted to remove the reeves of the town of St. Edmund from office and use their authority to appoint new ones, claiming that this was the right of the king, in whose hand the abbacy was. We, however, sent messengers to Sir Ralph de Glanville, then justiciar, complaining about this. He replied that he was well aware that £40 was payable each year from the town to our sacrist, namely for [providing] lighting for the church; and, he said, Abbot Hugh at his own initiative and privately, without the agreement of the convent, had given the ballivalty to whomever he wished, whenever he wished, while upholding the £40 due the altar. Consequently it was not to be wondered at if the king's bailiffs demanded the same right for the king....

Upon his return, our messenger reported to us what he had heard and seen; we, somewhat reluctantly but with little option, reached a common decision – despite the opposition of our sub-sacrist Samson – that we would do our best to have the old reeves of the town removed by joint agreement of the convent and the keepers of the abbacy. But when Samson was made abbot he, not forgetful of the injury done to the convent, on the day following Easter Sunday after his election had convened in our chapter-house knights, clerics, and a crowd of burgesses. And, in front of them all, he stated that the town belonged to the convent and to the altar, namely for providing lighting for the church, and that he wished to restore the ancient custom that the reeveship of the town and other things belonging to the convent should be dealt with in the convent's presence and with its consent.

Within the following hour two burgesses, Godrey and Nicholas, were named as reeves; after some debate over from whose hand they should receive the horn, which was called the "moothorn", they received it in the end from the hands of the prior, who (after the abbot) is in charge of all conventual affairs. Those two reeves remained in the ballivalty for several years without interruption, until they were accused of negligence in their duty of administering the king's justice. Following their removal, Hugh the sacrist – at the proposal of the abbot himself, so that the convent's concerns over this issue be eased – took the town into his own hand and appointed new officers to answer to him for the reeveship. But in process of time (I don't know how), the appointment of new reeves later took place elsewhere than in the chapter-house, and without [consulting] the convent.

[ .... ]

In the tenth year of Abbot Samson's abbacy [1191/92], by communal decision of our chapter, we complained to the abbot in his court, saying that the payments and revenues from all the goods of towns and boroughs of England were growing and increasing to the profit of their possessors and the benefit of their lords – with the exception of this town, which customarily pays £40 and this has never been re-evaluated. The burgesses of the town were at fault here, for they held in the marketplace many significant encroachments, in terms of shops, booths and stalls, without the consent of the convent and solely by grant of the town reeves, who were the annual farmers and in essence the servants of the sacrist, removable [from office] at his pleasure.

However, when the burgesses were summoned they answered that they were in the king's assize, nor did they wish to respond, to the prejudice of their charters and the town franchises, concerning tenements that they and their forefathers had held honestly and peacefully for a year and a day without challenge. They stated that it was a long-standing custom that the reeves might, without consulting the convent, grant plots of land in the marketplace for shops and booths in return for a rent to be paid annually to the reeves. This we denied, expressing the wish that the abbot dispossess them of those tenements which they held without warrant. But the abbot told us in private (coming to our council as if he were one of us) that he wanted to uphold our rights insofar as he could, but that he had to act in accordance with judicial process and could not without a court decision dispossess free men of lands or rents they had held, whether justly or unjustly, for several years. If he did so, he said, an assize of the realm would lead to him being liable to amercement by the king.

The burgesses, after discussing the matter among themselves, in the interests of peace offered the convent a payment of 100s. in return for keeping the tenements they had long possessed. We did not wish to agree to this, preferring to postpone the dispute in the hope that, perhaps, in the time of a future abbot we might either recover all our rights or change the location of the market. And so the issue went unresolved for several years.

After the abbot had returned from Germany, the burgesses offered him £40, petitioning for his confirmation of the town franchises under the same terms in which his predecessors, Anselm, Ording, and Hugh, had confirmed them. Abbot Samson graciously gave his approval to this request. Although we moaned and groaned about this, a charter was drawn up for them just as had been promised; since it would have shamed him and caused confusion if he had failed to fulfill his promise, we did not wish to argue with him or make him angry. Once they had the charter from Abbot Sampson and the convent, the burgesses had increased confidence that they would never during Samson's abbacy lose their tenements or their franchises; consequently they were never thereafter inclined to renew their previous offer to give the payment of 100s. mentioned above. But the abbot, finally paying heed to the situation, gathered together the burgesses [before him] on the matter and told them that, unless they made peace with the convent, he would prohibit them from erecting booths in the marketplace of St. Edmund's. They answered that they were willing to give each year a silken cope or some other adornment worth 100s., as they had previously promised, but only on condition that they be freed forever from the tithing penny which the sacrist rigorously exacted from them. But the abbot and the sacrist rejected this, and therefore the dispute was once again left unresolved. Indeed, up to the present we are still deprived of that 100s., just as the old saying goes: "He that will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay."

[ .... ]

On the day after Christmas there took place in the cemetery gatherings, arguments and brawls between the abbot's servants and the burgesses of the town: words led to blows, punches to wounds and bloodshed. When the abbot heard of this he, after calling before him in private certain persons who had gathered at the spectacle but had held themselves apart, ordered written down the names of the offenders, all of whom he had summoned to appear before him on 30 December in the chapel of St. Denis to answer the charge. Meanwhile he did not invite any burgesses to his table, as was previously his custom during the first five days of Christmas.

On the appointed day, having heard the testimony under oath of sixteen law-abiding men men, the abbot pronounced: "It is evident that these wrongdoers have broken the canon latae sententiae. But since both sides are composed of laymen and they therefore do not understand how much of an outrage it is to have committed such sacrilege, I will excommunicate these by name and publicly, to make others that much more afraid [of committing the same]; and, so that justice is seen to be fully done, I will begin with my own domestics and servants." This was carried out, once we had put on our stoles and lit candles. They all went out of the church and, after being advised [what to do], they stripped and, completely naked except for their breeches, prostrated themselves in front of the church door. When the abbot's assessors, both monks and clerics, came to him and tearfully informed him that more than a hundred men were lying naked in that way, tears came to the abbot's eyes too. Although his countenance and his words reflected the rigour of the law, and he concealed the pity he felt, he wanted to be persuaded by his counsellors to absolve the penitents, knowing that mercy is more commendable than punishment and that the Church embraces all who are penitent. After they had all been severely scourged and absolved, they all swore to abide by the judgement of the Church for the sacrilege committed. So on the following day a penance was assigned them according to canon law, and the abbot exhorted them to return to unity and concord, threatening terrible things to all those who instigated discord by word or by deed. He had a public proclamation made forbidding gatherings or spectacles in the cemetery. And so, peace among everyone having been restored, in the days that followed the burgesses feasted with their lord the abbot with great rejoicing.

[ .... ]

Many people were surprised at changes made to customs, at the orders or with the permission of Abbot Samson. From the time when the town of St. Edmund was given the name and liberty of a borough, the tenant of each house had been accustomed to pay the cellarer a penny at the beginning of August towards the [cost of] reaping the grainfields – this customary payment was called "repselver". Before the town was given its liberty, all of them used to participate in the reaping, as if serfs; only the houses of knights, chaplains, and servants of the court were exempt from these obligations.

Over the course of time, the cellarer spared certain of the wealthier men of the town, exacting nothing from them. The other burgesses, seeing this, began to say publicly that no-one who owned his own house ought to pay that penny, only those who rented houses belonging to others. Subsequently they all acted together to petition for this liberty, approaching the abbot on the matter and offering him an annual payment in lieu of that exaction. The abbot gave thought to how the cellarer had to go through the town in an undignified manner to collect the "repselver", and how he had to cause securities to be taken from the houses of the poor – sometimes three-legged stools, sometimes doors, sometimes other items in everyday use – and how old women would come out brandishing their distaffs to threaten and curse the cellarer and his men. Then he announced his decision that every year, at the portmanmoot session just before the beginning of August, the reeve should hand over to the cellarer twenty shillings [raised] by the burgesses, who designated a revenue source for paying it.

It was thus arranged, and confirmed by our charter. They were also given an exemption from a certain custom called "sorpeni", in return for 4 shillings to be paid at the same time of year. For the cellarer was accustomed to receive a penny per year for every cow belonging to a townsman that was led out and put to pasture, except for cows belonging to chaplains or servants of the court, which he was accustomed to impound, involving a great deal of bother.

When the abbot reported this in chapter the convent was at first indignant and disgruntled; the sub-prior, Benedict, gave a response in chapter on the matter on behalf of everyone, saying: "Abbot Ording, he who lies right there, would not have done such a thing for five hundred marks of silver." This made the abbot angry and he postponed discussion of the matter for the time being.

Also, a serious dispute took place between Roger the cellarer and Hugh the sacrist concerning things related to their spheres of jurisdiction, in that the sacrist refused to make available the town gaol to the cellarer for locking up thieves arrested on lands under the cellarer's jurisdiction. This often caused difficulties for the cellarer who, when thieves escaped, would be blamed for a failure of justice.

It happened that a certain free tenant of the cellarer, known as Ketel, who lived outside the [town] gate was accused of theft, defeated in [trial by] combat, and hung. The convent was distressed by the reproaches of the burgesses, who said that if that man had resided within the borough the matter would not have come to a combat, but he would have acquitted himself by the oaths of his neighbours, as is the franchise belonging to those who live in the borough. Once the abbot and the more sensible members of the convent recognized this and considered that that all men, whether [living] inside or outside the borough, are our men, and that the same franchises should be enjoyed by everyone within the banleuca, except for the villeins of Hardwick and their like, after deliberation they took steps to make it so.

The abbot therefore, wishing to lay the disputes to rest through a clear specification of the scope of responsibility of the sacrist and cellarer, seemingly supporting the position of the sacrist, ordered that the servants of the town reeve and the servants of the cellarer should jointly go into the lands under the cellarer's jurisdiction to arrest thieves and other wrong-doers, and that the reeve should have half of the money due from the imprisonment and custody, and for his labour. Also that the cellarer's court should convene in the portmanmoot, and any judgements should be given there by common counsel. It was further decreed that the cellarer's men should come to the tollhouse just like everyone else, there to renew their pledges, be registered on the reeve's roll, and pay the reeve the penny known as "borthselver" – of which the cellarer might receive half, although at present he receives nothing from any of this. This was all done so that everyone could enjoy equal privileges. But the burgesses continue to declare that those living in the suburbs should not be exempt from paying market tolls unless they are members of the merchant gild. And nowadays the reeve appropriates to himself the pleas and fines related to the cellarer's areas of jurisdiction, to which the abbot turns a blind eye.

The ancient customs of the cellarer, as we have seen, were as follows:

  • The cellarer had a property with barns nearby Scurun's Well, where he was accustomed to hold formal sessions of his court dealing with theft and all other pleas and lawsuits. There too he would put his men in [frank]pledge, have this registered, and renew [the procedure] every year, whereby he received income such as that the reeve received via the portmanmoot. That property, together with the adjoining garden (now held by the infirmarer), was the manor-house of Bedric, who was in ancient times lord of the town – which is why it was called Bedricsworth – and his demesne fields are now part of the cellarer's demesne. However, that which is now called "averland" was the land of his villeins.
  • The lands that he and his men held totalled nine hundred acres, which are still fields belonging to the town; the service due from which, when the town was made free, was divided into two parts, so that the sacrist or the reeve receive a rent (that is, twopence per acre), while the cellarer have plough-service and other services (that is, the ploughing of one rood per acre without food – a custom still in force today).
  • The cellarer was to have the folds where all men of the town are obliged to keep their sheep (a custom still in force), except for the steward who has his own fold.
  • He was to have "averpenny" (that is, 2d. per thirty acres), a custom altered before the death of Abbot Hugh, when Gilbert de Alveden was cellarer.
  • It used to be that the men of the town, at the orders of the cellarer, had to go to Lakenheath and perform transportation service by bringing back eels from Southrey; but often, returning empty-handed, they went to that bother without any benefit to the cellarer. Consequently an agreement was made between them that henceforth the men might remain at home, [in return for which] they would pay annually one penny per thirty acres. However, nowadays those lands have been divided up into so many plots that it is difficult to know from whom the payment is due – I have seen the cellarer collect as much as 27d. one year, but now he is barely able to get 10½d.
  • The cellarer used to have control over the roads outside town, so that no-one was allowed to dig them up for chalk or clay without a licence from him.
  • He was accustomed to call upon the fullers of the town to lend him cloths for transporting his salt. If they failed, he could prohibit them from making use of the river and might confiscate any sheets that were found there. These customs are still in force today.
  • Anyone buying grain or other goods from the cellarer used not to have to pay toll at the town gate when he departed, which enabled the cellarer to sell his goods at a higher price, and this is still the practice.
  • The cellarer customarily levies a toll on flax at the time when it is wheeled out [of the fields]; that is, one bundle per load.
  • The cellarer used, as he ought, to be the sole person to have a free bull in the town fields; now several persons have them.
  • When someone transferred burgage land to the convent as alms, and it was assigned to the cellarer or some other official, that land would be exempted thereafter from hawgable – particularly if [assigned] to the cellarer, because of the importance of his office (since he is the second-in-command in the monastery) or for respect due the convent, since the situation of those who provide us with food should be given support. But the abbot's position is that this custom is unfair, since by it the sacrist loses the rents due him.
  • The cellarer used to warrant the servants of the court that they were exempt from scot and tallage; but this is no longer the case, since the burgesses claim that the servants, while they may be exempted insofar as they are servants, are not so when they have burgage tenements in the town and they or their wives buy or sell openly in the market.
  • The cellarer used to be free to collect all the manure from every street, for his own use, except that in front of the houses of those who hold averland – they alone being permitted to collect and keep the dung. This custom was undermined little by little in the time of Abbot Hugh until Denis and Roger de Hehingheham were cellarers; they, intent on restoring the ancient custom, seized burgesses' carts that were loaded with dung and made them unload. But because many burgesses protested this and prevailed [in the dispute], everyone collects the dung near his own property and poor people sell theirs whenever and to whom they wish.
  • The cellarer customarily has a certain privilege in the marketplace of the town: that he or his buyers should – if the abbot is not in residence – have [the right of] first purchase of all foodstuffs for the use of the convent. The buyers of the abbot or those of the cellarer, whichever arrive first in the market (whether the former before the latter, or vice versa), may buy first; but if they are both present at the same time, priority is given to the abbot's buyers. Similarly, at times when herring is for sale, the abbot's buyers may always buy a hundred herring for a halfpenny cheaper than others pay; likewise for the cellarer and his buyers. Or if a load of fish or other foodstuffs should arrive first at the court, or come into the market, and if the goods have not been unloaded from the horse or the cart, the cellarer or his buyers may buy the entire load and carry it away without paying toll on it.

.... when a certain person had a look at my text and read of so many good acts, he called me a flatterer of the abbot ... saying that I had suppressed or passed over certain facts .... When I asked him what kind of things, he replied: "Are you not aware that the abbot gives to whomever he pleases escheats of land that are part of the demesne of the convent, and [the marriage of] girls and widows who are heiresses to lands, whether in the town of St. Edmund or outside it? Are you not aware that abbot diverts to his own court suits and pleas initiated by the king's writ concerning claims to lands which belong to the convent's fief, especially those suits from which income derives [for the court], while those from which there is no income he leaves for the cellarer or sacristan or other officials?"

To which I replied ... that every lord of a fief from which homage is due ought rightfully to have its escheats when they occur within a fief from which he had received homage. For the same reason, [he has the rights to] a general aid from the burgesses, to the wardship of boys, and to the giving in marriage of widows and girls, in those fiefs from which he has received homage.... However, in the town of St. Edmund the custom exists – because of it being a borough – that the closest relative might have wardship of a boy along with his inheritance, until [he reaches] the age of majority.


Charters granting franchises are apt to make us see the growth of urban self-administration as an episodic affair, proceeding from plateau to plateau. But it may be that in the absence of other, less formal records, we lack a picture of a more ad hoc, gradualistic emergence of urban independence from external authority. Townsmen were likely lobbying or agitating for, or even usurping, powers in advance of their formal grant.

We are fortunate that, in the case of Bury St. Edmunds, there is a window into this period, in the form of a chronicle written by one of the monks, Jocelin de Brakelond, of the events relating to the abbey in the closing decades of the twelfth century and opening years of the next, a time of change for the abbey during the abbacy of Samson, a capable administrator under whose tutelage Jocelin had been a novice and under whom as abbot he served in several capacities. The chronicle (particularly the passages extracted above), with the surprising amount of attention it gives to everyday matters, throws light in several passages on the way the town was governed, the character of a burgess society under seigneurial control, and the tools and tactics employed by the townsmen at this early period in the process of the struggle for administrative autonomy – tactics which included recognition of mutual interest, peaceful negotiation, passive resistance, and outright violence. It suggests how townsmen acquired privileges piecemeal; such advantages might be consolidated later by embodiment in a charter.

The abbey was established in the eleventh century, taking over custodianship of the shrine to national martyr, St. Edmund, a former king. It was given by Edward the Confessor extensive authority over what was equivalent to a shire, with the town once known as Bedricsworth as the administrative and commercial centre (for further information, see "Recognition by an abbot of the customs of his burgesses"). The townsmen thus came under the lordship of the abbey. The Church generally proved a more conservative lord to boroughs than did the king, whose interests were better served – up to a point – by encouraging the development of local autonomy.

The Abbot of St. Edmund's was a very powerful figure and obliged to protect the rights, privileges and revenues of his house. However, it was less the abbot who was the town's master than the convent, and particularly the sacrist and cellarer of the conventual community. At the risk of oversimplifying, the sacrist had jurisdiction over the intramural population, while the cellarer's jurisdiction was in the suburbs, agricultural in character. The sacrist was responsible for levying the town rents and other local taxes, and the town reeves were appointed by and answerable to him. Since the reeves presided over the portmanmoot and the leet court, supervised the marketplaces and assizes, and collected tolls, this prevented the burgesses from asserting themselves through an elected executive and the town courts. They relied, perhaps more heavily than most other towns, on a merchant gild as an expression of self-regulation and as the voice of that segment of the community with the greatest interest in freeing the town from abbey jurisdiction; the gild became a focus of opposition to the abbey. The cellarer's authority, although focused more on the suburbs, was likewise a source of annoyance to the townspeople: his preoccupation with agricultural activities allowed him to claim precedence when buying in the market, and to provide exemption from borough tolls for those buying abbey produce (giving him a competitive advantage over town merchants, or allowing him to raise his prices above those of the townsmen). As well he supervised the fulfillment of labour services, or collection of payments in lieu of services. The cellarer also had a court, for administering justice over the suburban tenants of the abbey.

It is evident that, by the late twelfth century, Bury's burgesses already had some of the freedoms or institutions that were associated with the development of distinctive and autonomous urban communities:

  • it had customs distinguishing it from mainstream society: e.g. trial by inquest had replaced trial by combat, wardship was in the hands of kin rather than a feudal lord;
  • some manorial services of an agricultural nature had been superseded by a monetary payment;
  • some customary payments of town to lord had been aggregated under an annual farm of £40, although this was in the hands of the reeves, rather than the burgesses;
  • the burgesses (as opposed to the townsmen – applied to residents of the banleuca) were defining themselves as those who held property by burgage tenure and were at scot and lot (contributing to communal taxations and participating in market activities); whether membership of the merchant gild was a pre-requisite for burgess status is less clear, although extra-mural residents could acquire certain burgess rights (exemption from tolls) by joining the gild;
  • there was some agency of communal organization or representation – almost certainly the merchant gild – that could speak on the burgesses' behalf, defend the burgesses special rights (as opposed to those living in the suburbs), and that had a treasury from which it purchased the property whose rents would pay the annual farm in lieu of repselver.
On the other hand, they had no control over the courts – key institutions of local governement – or the election of the presidents of the court (the bailiffs), and they continued to be subjected to certain manorial services.

The dispute over the rents from market stalls indicates how the burgesses were trying to assert independence from the abbey, or rather to buy off the convent's claim to direct influence over the level of those rents. In this matter the abbot opposed the burgesses' ambitions, although he may have later made a private arrangement with the burgesses accepting the money (see below). However, Abbot Samson, aiming to put both the administration and the finances of the monastery back on a firmer footing, was amenable to meeting at least some of the burgesses demands to convert customary dues into an annual payment, similar to in principle if on a smaller scale than the fee farm that other boroughs, subject to the king, were negotiating for at the same period. The precedents he set likely encouraged the burgesses to hope that, after acquiring more economic independence, they could move on to win administrative independence.

Despite the freedoms granted by Abbot Samson, the abbey on the whole fought hard to prevent the borough from acquiring any substantive independence from its lordship. The monks were themselves somewhat at odds with Samson in the concessions he made to the burgesses. Even Jocelin, who knew Samson well and had some respect and admiration for him, became increasingly critical of him during the course of compiling the chronicle. Jocelin held several administrative posts through which he doubtless felt the effects of the rather autocratic Samson's decisions; those posts are believed to include that of cellarer ca.1198-1200, which would explain why Jocelin takes pains to list those of the cellarer's jurisdictions and revenue sources that had been undermined. After Samson's death, the monks appear to have reasserted themselves and presented the new abbot (appointed 1215) with their equivalent of the "Magna Carta" (see Antonia Gransden, "A Democratic Movement in the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries," Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol.26 (1975), 25-39). Several clauses of this relate to changes in borough-abbey relations effected by Samson:

  • The town reeve was to be appointed by the sacrist and convent, without the abbot's consent being required, with the prior and sacrist responsible for handing over the moothorn and keys of office to the new incumbents.
  • Girls and widows who held property in the borough by a type of tenure which enabled escheats were to be given in marriage by the convent, without the abbot being involved.
  • An annual payment of 100s. handed over to the abbot privately by the borough reeve be restored to the convent.
  • The cellarer was to be allowed, without impediment from the sacrist or reeves, to use the town prison to hold thieves caught on his fief.

The abbey's unwillingness to loosen its leash on the burgesses – and, to be fair, we should remember that the abbey's prosperity depended on it scrupulously protecting its jurisdictional rights – became increasingly frustrating for the burgesses. They, as the town became a centre of the cloth industry and trade, were less dependent on the abbey as a source of business, but still lacked the administrative autonomy that might help them take full advantage of commerce. Taking advantage of the weakening of national powers during the civil war, the young men of Bury organized themselves into a gild (1264) with the goal of removing the town from the abbey's control. Although abortive, it set the scene for further efforts of open rebellion during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, as a frustrated urban populace formed a commune to strive – unsuccessfully – to throw off the yoke of ecclesiastical overlordship.



"Abbot Hugh"
Abbot 1157-1180, predecessor to Sampson (who became abbot in 1182).

"keepers of the abbacy"
Note that it was not the abbey per se that had come into the king's hand as a result of the interregnum following the abbot's death; it was the office of abbot and the privileges and jurisdictions associated with that office.

The moothorn served both as a symbol of office and also as a practical device for summoning burgesses to attend the moot.

"revenues from all the goods of towns"
This passage (exitus omnium bonarum villarum) could also be translated as "revenues from all good [i.e. prospering?] towns", but I am here assuming that what we have is an oblique reference to tolls and/or taxes, while redditus (here translated as "income") may refer to specifically to rents or more generally to the customary dues the burgesses paid the abbey.

I.e. since the lords of the towns are mentioned separately, possessors may refer to the farmers of borough revenues – it being common at this time for royal or seigneurial officers, or private entrepreneurs, to farm those revenues.

I.e. they had set up new market stalls (some of which may have acquired a measure of permanence) without the annual payment to the abbey being adjusted to take account of the rents or stallage due. It appears from what follows that the reeves, as the farmers of the borough, would have been the beneficiaries of the new rents.

"in the king's assize"
I.e. under the jurisdiction of the king, probably on the grounds of Henry I's charter (albeit that, technically, this was not addressed to the burgesses per se, but to the abbey and its burgesses). It was a common ploy for boroughs trying to break free of seigneurial jurisdiction to appeal to the king; but in the case of disputes at Bury St. Edmund's the king almost invariably supported the rights of the abbey.

"year and a day"
It was commonly the custom in boroughs that a year and a day's unchallenged tenure of a borough property gave secure title. See the Fordwich customs for instances of the significance of a year and a day.

"payment of 100s."
It is not clear whether this was to be an annual increment to the farm or a one-time payment in return for recognition of the right of the burgesses to hold the encroachments. The latter is more likely, since the former would surely have won the approval of the convent. Later events may suggest that the burgesses had been thinking of an annual increment; but the terms under which they renewed negotiations, upping the ante, could also be used to argue against this.

"tithing penny"
Payable at the view of frankpledge.

"gatherings, brawls and arguments"
Butler argued, from the use of spectaculum (usually applied to a performance) to characterize the events, that the assembly in the cemetery was to witness wrestling matches, and perhaps other sports. It is plausible that what began as a friendly competition could, given the antagonistic relations between borough and abbey, have deteriorated into real hostilities.

"latae sententiae"
The offence was one of sacrilege; that is, the abbot was less concerned with the violence itself than with the fact it took place on the consecrated ground of a cemetery.

Silver (money) for reaping, dues reflecting the commutation of personal service for that task

"servants of the court"
Lay servants of the abbey (curia here probably meaning religious house), possibly referring to the serfs who worked the abbey fields.

"spared certain of the wealthier men"
Whether this was done because the cellarer wished to maintain good relations with the merchants who supplied they abbey, or whether some of the more powerful townsmen were refusing to pay, was probably beyond the scope of Jocelin's knowledge, for he stated that he would only put down on parchment that which he personally saw or heard.

"only those who rented houses"
The evidence is too slim to draw a firm conclusion, but one might infer from this that membership in the enfranchised community was already premised on owning a house in the town.

"securities to be taken"
I.e. pledges for payment of the repselver at a later date.

A stick used in spinning wool into thread, a role usually performed by women, particularly poorer women or spinsters.

"revenue source"
In the record of the charter itself, of which a copy has survived, it is specified that the the burgesses would pay the 20s. from rents collected from buildings they erected on land they bought (from a tanner) in the marketplace; these rents were assigned in perpetuity to the ballivalty, whose incumbents would be responsible for their collection.

Scorpenny, a fee for pasturage (Latin pascherium), was also paid for through the same rents that covered the repselver.

"which he was accustomed to impound, involving a great deal of bother"
It is unclear from the original whether these phrases apply just to the cows of the chaplains and servants, or to all the cows. It seems likely that impounding would apply to cows found on pastureland without having the right to be there; but inparcare might also be interpreted as putting the townsmen's cows out to graze in a secure (enclosed) pasture. The bother involved – possibly implying labour and/or difficulty – could refer to distinguishing the ineligible cows from those eligible; or, perhaps more likely, to the whole activity of pasturing the cows as well as collecting the dues, thereby offering a rationale for the abbot's decision.

The gathering of the monks to address convent business.

"Abbot Ording"
Ording, who was buried in the chapter house, had died fifty years earlier, so it may be doubted if Benedict's outburst was for anything more than effect.

"town gaol"
The gaol was facing the marketplace, backing onto the town wall (although in the period of Jocelin's chronicle, it is more likely the defences were in the form of rampart and ditch than stone walls). It was under the jurisdiction of the sacrist, who appointed the gaoler. As running the gaol was a source of revenues (through fees charged the prisoners), the sacrist was presumably reluctant to share them with the cellarer.

"common counsel"
This presumably meant that the presiding officers of the cellarer's court and of the portmanmoot would sit together in judgement.

The tollhouse was another building situated facing the Great Market in the new town. There the reeves collected rents and other dues from the abbey tenants, along with market tolls.

"renew their pledges"
H. E. Butler, whose edition and translation of the Chronicle was published in 1949, believed this referred to the requirement of each man to find guarantors for his being in tithing and thereby subject to view of frankpledge. This seems to be supported by information from the passage that follows, about the cellarer's sources of revenue, but the vague phrase might just possibly refer to finding guarantors for payment of rent due the abbey, or even to a form of franchise entrance.

H.T. Riley associated borthselver with stallage (i.e. a payment for setting up a board in the market).

"at present" "nowadays"
Jocelin is evidently speaking here of the way the balance of power had shifted in the rivalry between sacrist and cellarer between the time of the abbot's settlement and the time at which he was writing the chronicle – sometime after 1202, the date of the latest events dealt with in the chronicle.

"as follows"
Presentation of the cellarer's rights and dues as a bulleted list is my own arrangement, to make it easier to read what is otherwise a long chapter written by Jocelin.

Land held in return for provision of avaragium, a transportation service by livestock. Averpenny was the payment representing commutation of the service.

"one rood per acre without food"
I.e. that each tenant be obliged to do that much ploughing, without the cellarer having the obligation to provide meals. Although these services applied to suburban lands and tenants, many of the burgesses residing within the fortified circuit also held lands in the suburbs.

The Latin, cerna, refers to a measure specific to flax; since the flax was being carted off, we can guess that the measure would be equivalent to a cartload.

Literally "second father" (secundus pater), after the Abbot. This claim seems an unwarranted opinion of Jocelin; the prior was the abbot's deputy and the sacrist might have disputed with the cellarer as to who was next in precedence.

"warrant the servants"
I.e. if the abbey servants were harassed or prosecuted for failing to contribute to local taxes, the cellarer would back up their claim of exemption. At this period, the townspeople did not contribute to royal taxes, but the king had granted the abbey the right to tax its tenants when the king taxed his.

Lands whose tenants died without heirs or were convicted of felony were returned into the hands of the the tenant's lord.

"age of majority"
usque ad annos discretionis, the years in which he can make sound decisions for himself.

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Created: August 18, 2001. Last update: November 15, 2002 © Stephen Alsford, 2001-2003

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The contents of ORB are copyright © 2003 Kathryn M. Talarico except as otherwise indicated herein.