Charter Rights

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Charter Rights

The chief rights which the charter usually gave them were the right to be governed by a Mayor and Corporation chosen from among their number; to be assessed as a whole for royal and seigneurial dues (this meant that as individuals they were free from the lord's steward or king's sheriff); and to levy such tolls as might be necessary upon inhabitants or strangers for the upkeep of their town.

Members of a corporate town, that is of a town having a charter, were free men before the law, holding their houses by what the lawyers called burgage tenure; justice was done between them in the Mayor's court.

It came to be recognized, too, that any villein who could contrive to live in a town undetected for a year and a day was henceforth a free man, and could not be compelled to return to his master.

These rights were often not achieved all at once; they came earliest to those towns situated on royal estates, ancient demesne, to use the lawyers' technicality; for successive kings saw in the enfranchised burgesses a valuable ally in their political struggle against the Barons.

It was John who, in 1213, first summoned representatives of the towns to his council.

Earl Simon's parliament of 1265 was in a sense a bid for their support from the other side.

Edward I, too, a strong king if ever there was one, was also a great emancipator of towns.

Next - The Colonies.


But castles, monasteries and Roman sites would not have become towns without the stimulus of growing trade. The trade in question was foreign rather than domestic, and this fact determined the conditions of their growth and limited their importance It is only when England is linked by common government with some part of the Continent that we hear of towns; they fell into decay when Roman Britain was cut off from the rest of the Empire, and arose again when England became a part first of the Danish and then of the Norman overseas empires. While the Saxons avoided towns the Danes contributed to their... see: Trade

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