Royal Charters and Other Records

Next in importance to the Domesday record is the charter of Richard I., which document is carefully preserved in the Doncaster Archives. It is the first main link in the chain of evidence of the how the village grew into a borough. Its importance is sufficient justification for here giving a full translated copy of the text:

  • A.D. 1194. Richard, by the Grace of God, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitain, Earl of Anjou, to the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls, Barons, Justices, Sheriffs, Stewards, Governors, Head-boroughs, and all his Ministers and faithful subjects, GREETING. Know ye that we have granted, and by our present charter have confirmed to our Burgesses of Danecastre, their Soe, Soke, or Soak of Danecastre, with the town or village of Danecastre. To have and to hold of us and our heirs by the ancient rent, which at that time was rendered to us, and over and besides, twenty-five marks of silver, to be paid annually, with the ancient rent, that they may answer the marks to us at our Exchequer. And for this our Grant, they have given us fifty marks of silver. Wherefore, we will and firmly command that the said our Burgesses of Danecastre may have and hold their aforesaid Soke, with the town of Danecastre, in manner aforesaid effectually and peaceably; freely and quietly; fully and honourably; with all the liberties and free customs to the same appertaining; so that none hereupon may them disturb, These persons being witness: H. Archbishop of Canterbury, R. Archdeacon of Hereford, William de Warren, Osbert, the son of Hervey, Simon de Patershelle, Ric. Barre, Simon de Kimbe, and very many others. Given by the hand of Master Eustacius, Dean of Salisbury, then officiating in the place of the Chancellor, the twenty-second day of May, at Toke, or Tuke, in the fifth year of our reign.
  • A.D. 1401-2 Be it remembered that this is enrolled in the memorandum of the Exchequer of the year of Henry the fourth, among the records of the term of Saint Michael, on the part of the remembrancer of the treasury.

The charter clearly establishes one fact, namely, that after Count Mortain’s forfeiture, some of the tenants on the Doncaster estates became tenants in chief, that is to say they held direct of the King, and not of Count Mortain’s successor. It was undoubtedly the successors of these men who are described in the charter as “our Burgesses of Danecastre”. These men, as we shall show hereafter, did not own the manor, but were subject to the customs and usages of the manorial court. They simply paid a rent to the king for the land they held. This rent is described, you will observe, as “the ancient rent”, but so far as we know, there is no record whatever giving the amount of the rent paid. This, perhaps, is the first time the word ‘burgess’ was used to describe the tenants of the Doncaster estates. In the ‘Pipe Rolls’, 9 Henry II. (1162-63), the tenants are described as the “men of Danecastre”; they were called upon to pay X marks. They are also similarly described in other records dated before and since the charter of Richard I.

The men of Doncaster were tenants of the king enjoying certain privelages, but had no legal estate in the manor. The king’s tenants were subject to the manorial court, and had to pay the customary fees. Unfortunately Doncaster was not surveyed in ‘Kirkby’s Inquist’ (1284-5), therefore there is little to assist us in forming an idea of the wealth and influence of the “men of Danecastre”. We may, however, infer from the action of the fifth Peter de Mauley, that they were a body of men of considerable importance. By a charter sealed at Doncaster on “Thursday next after the fifteenth day of Michael, I Edward III (1327), he released them from the future payment of certain dues payable to him as Lord of the Manor. The following is a transcript of a part of the charter:

  • ……… have released, and quit claimed as well as to the power, as to the riches of the commonalty of the town of Donecastre, the pernicious custom raised from the same town heretofore by my ancestors, which we are wont to receive, from all manner of regrators of the same town; that is to say, from bakers,  brewers, butchers, fishers, and wind-fallen trees, and from all manner of regratory. And so that I, the aforesaid Peter, nor one of my heirs in that same custom aforesaid, nothing do claim nor assume.

A form of local government had been developing for years. Probably it was connected with, or at any rate overshadowed by the manorial court; in that case,  although the burgesses might have gained many privileges and greatly developed their system of government, yet it will be seen that the danger of having the right of the free exercise of self-government was, under existing conditions, in danger of being taken away. This created a desire on their part to have a charter of confirmation setting forth very distinctly the rights and privileges enjoyed by them and their forefathers. There is nothing particularly noticeable in any of the charters succeeding that of Richard I.,until we come to that of Edward IV., which we will now examine.

This charter was dated at Westminster, the 30th October, 7 Edward IV (1467). It is an important document, but too long for inserting here in full. The following extract will serve to illustrate what we have written in the last paragraph:

  • Know ye that we have been informed on behalf of our beloved, the now burgesses, tenants, residents, and inhabitants of the town of Doncastre, in the county of York, how they, for a very long time elapsed, have had certain liberties and free customs, and have used, and engaged the same. Now the burgesses, tenants, residents, and inhabitants, fearing that they, of, and in these very liberties and free customs, through a defect of a declaration and specification of the same, and upon other emergencies, in process of time, may be molested, aggrieved, obstructed, and incommoded; most humbly have besought us, that we would graciously condescend the aforesaid liberties and free customs, under specifical, declarative, and express terms to the same, burgesses, tenants, residents, and inhabitants, and to their heirs and successors, in form under specified: to grant and to incorporate them and make them persons fit and capable, with perpetual succession. We, favourably, listening to their supplication, in this behalf, of our special grace, and of our certain knowledge, and mere notion, have granted, and by these presents do grant, for us and our heirs, that the said town of Doncastre be a free borough, and that the burgesses, tenants, residents, and inhabitants of the same, and their heirs and successors, be free-burgesses, and may have a Gild-Merchant, and may enjoy and use the same liberties and free customs, in the same borough as they and their predecessors have heretofore reasonably used and enjoyed.

The charter provides for the election of a Mayor and two Serjeants; the Mayor and community to have a seal and perpetual succession, and that they may plead and be impleaded; be justices within the borough; and provision as to pleas of debt, return of writs etc. There is one clause in the charter of special interest, it refers to the past office of Mayor and read as follows:

  • Liberties – and that they, forever, may have and enjoy, all, and singular, the liberties and free customs, which heretofore the Mayor and Burgesses of the town aforesaid have used and enjoyed, or by whatsoever other name they were described.

In the early 1900’s, the Corporation published 3 volumes relating to its charters and other documents. In the introduction to one of these volumes is written: “The manor or Lordship of Doncaster, which pertained to the Dukedom of York, had merged in the crown on the accession of Edward IV., and the rolls now calendered will show that before the charter of 1467, Doncaster possessed its Mayor and other officers, who were appointed by the manorial court”. This statement is made on the authority of the Court Rolls. The following is the published translation of the earliest entry in the Rolls, 1454-1509:

  • “Great Court of Richard, Duke of York, held at Doncaster, I October., 33 Henry VI. (1454) – Thomas Phillipson is elected Mayor.

On what authority the statement is made that the lordship of Doncaster pertained to the Dukedom of York is not stated; it needs some explanation. As to whether a person elected by the manor court to fill a certain office can be correctly described as a mayor, is perhaps open to doubt, unless great latitude of expression is allowed. At the same time the office may have originally been a Roman one; if so that may account for the fact of the appointment being made by the manor court, and to some extent account for the holder being styled Mayor. The text of the word rendered Mayor is not given in the published work.

At the time of the holding of the court in question, the Duke of York was acting as the King’s Lieutenant. Perhaps this is the reason why it was entitled the Duke’s Court. Later, some of the courts were styled the “Great Court of our Lord the King. The King was directly represented in the lordship in the person of a bailiff, but under what conditions the office was held we have not inquired. This office was exempt from the operation of the ‘Act of Resumption’, I Henry VII (1485). This Act was not in any way to “be hurtful or prejudiciall unto oure graunte and Lts. Patents urnder oure greate seale made to Henry Carre of the office of Bailiff of oure towne of Doncastre within oure countie of York”.

In 1506 a “Great Court of our Lord the King” was held before the Mayor. This court was held in virtue of a charter granted on the 14th July in the twentieth year of the reign of Henry VII. (1505). By the terms of the charter all the rights and profits belonging to or appurtenant to the Manor of Doncaster, and previously held by the crown, became the property of the burgesses of the town. The charter contains the following words:

  • Know ye,……have given and granted…… to the mayor and community of our town of Doncastre and to their successors, the manor, town, lordship, and soke of Doncastre, with all the towns, villages, hamlets, and their members whatsoever, and all and singular the messuages, marshes, lands, tenements, rents, reversions, and services, advowsons, of churches, chantries, and chapels, possessions and all hereditaments whatsoever within the aforesaid manor, lordship, town, and soke of Doncastre, and within the aforesaid other towns, villages, and members existing together with the court-leets, view of frank pledges courts, waters, mills,……fairs, markets, tolls, picages, stallages, pontages, passages, and all singular profits, commodities, and emoluments whatsoever……

This carter was confirmed by succeeding sovereigns. Nevertheless, the Corporation was not allowed to enjoy its wealth in peace. As previously intimated, the successors of the Mauley’s contended that they had never waived their rights to the lordship of Doncaster. The lawyers were set to work, and a long dreary battle seemed inevitable. At first the battle was entirely in favour of the Corporation. Nothing daunted, the plaintiff, Ralph Salvin, again offered fight. The Corporation appeared to be either tired of the costly litigation, or were becoming alarmed for the safety of their possessions, so they settled the dispute by way of a compromise. They paid to Salvin a sum amounting to about £3000. From a decree published on the matter of Salvin against the Corporation it is stated that the fee-farm rent paid by the Corporation to the Crown amounted to £74. 13s. 4½d.

In order to avoid the possibility of future litigation, and to more fully establish the Corporation’s title to the properties out of which the Salvin contention arose, it was, after due deliberation, decided to petition the King to be allowed to surrender their charters with a view of a re-grant under amended conditions. The petition was drawn and was entitled:

  • The most humble peticion of the maior, aldermen, and burgesses of Doncaster, in the county of York.

It was presented to King James I., and endorsed –

  • At the Court of Windsor, the third of September, 1622. His Majestie is most graciouslie pleased to grant these peticioners request, and that Mr. Attorney Generall doe forthwith make ready a booke of the same fitt for his royall signature as is honorablie desired.

Letters of attorney from the Corporation to Robert Roiston and Brian Cooke, dated 20th October, 1622, authorised the surrender of the charters. Previous to this date, viz., 28th February, 1622, an indenture had been made between the King on the one part and Ralph Salvin on the other part. It recites that Salvin had “in consideration of a certaine sume of money to him in hand, well and truly paid, hath granted, bargained, alienated, and sould”, etc. Then follows particulars as to properties in Doncaster and other villages. In 1627 William, son of Ralph Salvin, by deed –

  • ……released, and forever quit(e) claimed unto the maior, aldermen, and burgesses of the borough of Doncaster, in the said county of Yorke, all his estate, right, title, interest, clayme, and demand which he hath, or can have, if aine, in the manor of Doncaster, &c.

He also at the same time gave bond to the Corporation in £3000 for the observance of all matters arising out of release granted by him to the Corporation.

Neither James I nor his successor Charles made a re-grant of the property to the Corporation. This may be the real reason – otherwise unaccountable – of the release and bond of William Salvin. In 1664, Charles II. made a re-grant, but from a subsequent charter granted by James II. we gather that the terms of the re-grant were not entirely satisfactory to the Corporation. The deed of surrender had not been enrolled, nor had it been entered on record. What the Corporation wanted was the confirmation of the ancient privileges they had enjoyed previous to the surrender of their charters, the particulars of which were given in the deed of surrender. As the deed had not been duly recorded, and, moreover, the charter of Charles II. did not recite them, they were fearful of losing them entirely. The charter of James II. practically gave them back all they had surrendered.

– Taken from the Co-operative Congress Souvenir, 35th assembly, Doncaster, 1903

Post Script.

We shouldn’t read too much into the fact that Charles II. messed up the re-grant of the charter. I don’t believe it was intentional. If he had fallen out with Doncaster for some reason or another, then why would he grant the first Earldom of Doncaster to the illegitimate child born of his mistress, Lucy Walters.

One response to “Royal Charters and Other Records

  1. I have not found a lot of blogs that offer such consistently readable and interesting content as is on offer here,
    you are due the miniscule amount of time it takes to express my admiration at your hard work.

    Bless you.

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