You are in [Themes] [Royal Charters]

Royal Charters, granted by the sovereign on the advice of the Privy Council, have a history dating back to the 13th century. Their original purpose was to create public or private corporations (including towns and cities), and to define their privileges and purpose.

Some English towns have firm knowledge of their early Royal Charters. For example, Marlborough's Royal Charter dates from as early as 1204, when King John granted a Charter to the Borough which permitted an annual eight-day fair, commencing on 14 August, the vigil of the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady (15 August), in which "all might enjoy the liberties and quittances customary in the fair at Winchester". He also established that weekly markets may be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. These continue to this day.

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- "Ancient Charter, Hungerford, 1902" [J Benjamin Stone]

Hungerford's Charters:

For Hungerford the situation with its earliest Charters is rather less clear! Most famously, the town alleged that there had been a Charter dating from the time of King Edward III (and John of Gaunt - c1364) - granting the right of free fishing (and a number of other privileges). The Duchy of Lancaster copy was allegedly lost in 1381 when the Savoy Palace in London burned down, and the Hungerford copy was allegedly stolen in 1568 (See "The Case of the Missing Charters").

However, later Charters do exist - notably by Richard II (1377-1399), Henry IV (1399-1413), Henry V (1413-1422), Henry VI (1422-1461) and Edward IV (1461-83).

Below are transcriptions of two further Charters - by Henry VIII (dating from 1520) and Edward VI (from 1553), both of which refer back to the earlier Charters:

The Charter by King Henry VIII, 1520:

Henry by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland to all and singular the justices, sheriffs, escheators, coroners, stewards, mayors, bailiffs, ministers, and all other his faithful subjects greeting. Whereas Lord E(dward) late King of England our progenitor did for himself and his heirs grant to our most dear great grandfather John late Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster by the name of John Duke of Lancaster and Blanche late his wife that they and their heirs of the bodies of the same Duke and Blanche begotten, and all their men, of the lands and fees which were of Henry formerly Earl of Lancaster, father of Henry late Duke of Lancaster on the seventh day of May in the sixteenth year of the reign of our same progenitor might be for ever quit of paviage, passage, payage, lastage, stallage, tollage, carriage, pesage, picage and groundage throughout all our realm and dominion

And afterwards Lord Richard late King of England, the Second after the Conquest did by his charter grant to the aforesaid lord and our great grandfather John late Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster that he should have for the whole of his life all fines for trespass and other offences whatsoever, and also fines for license to agree, and all manner of other fines, ransom, and amercements from and by whatever cause proceeding, and also forfeited issues of all men and tenants of and in the lands and fees of the aforesaid Duke and of all resiants withim the said lands and fees albeit the sane men tenants or resiants be ministers of the same late King Richard or his heirs.

And that the same Duke might for the whole of his life have whatsoever forfeitures year day waste and estrepement and whatsoever else of year day waste and estrepement forfeitures and murders could pertain to the sane late King Richard withim the lands and fees aforesaid in any soever of the courts of him or his heirs or in any other court whatsoever where it should happen that the aforesaid men tenants or resiants might make fines or be amerced or forfeit issues or that the afore said year, day waste & estrepement forfeitures or murder should be adjudged as well in presence of the same late King Richard and his heirs as in absence of him and his heirs and as well before him and his heirs, and in the Chancery of him and his heirs and before the treasurer and barons of the Exchequer of him and his heirs and before the justices of him and his heirs of the common bench and also before the steward and marshal or coroner of the household of him and his heirs or the clerk of the market for the time being and in other the courts of him and his heirs as before his justices in eyre to hold common pleas and pleas of the forest his justices to take the assizes and to deliver his gaols and before other the justices and ministers of him and his heirs whomsoever as well in presence of him and his heirs as in absence of him and his heirs, as fully and entirely as the same late King Richard would have held them if he had not granted them to the aforesaid Duke.

So that the aforesaid Duke, by the hands of the bailiffs and other ministers of his, might be able to levy, receive, and have the fines ransoms and amercements of the same men tenants and resiants of and in the lands and fees aforesaid, forfeited issues, and whatsoever to the same late King or his heirs could appretain of year, day, waste and estrepement forfeitures and murders of and in the lands and fees aforesaid which should happen to be made or adjudged before the said justices in eyre to hold common pleas and pleas of the forest and before the aforesaid stewards and marshal coroner or clerk of the market by estreats of the same justices in eyre in their circuits and of the aforesaid steward and marshal coroner and clerk in their sessions to be delivered thereof to the bailiffs and ministers of the aforesaid Duke and also the fines ransoms and amercements of the men tenants and resiants aforesaid and forfeited issues and all things which to the same late King Richard or his heirs could appertain of year day waste and estrepenent forfeitures and murders of and in the lands and fees aforesaid which should happen to be made or adjudged before him or his heirs or in the chancery of him and his heirs or before his treasurer and barons of the exchequer of him and his heirs or before the justices of him and his heirs of the common Bench or before the justices assigned to take the assizes and to deliver gaols or the justices to hear and determine felonies and trespasses or before other the justices or ministers of him and his heirs whomsoever by estreats of the exchequer of him and his heirs to be delivered thereof to the bailiffs and ministers of the aforesaid Duke by the hands of the sheriffs in whose bailiwicks the said lands and fees might be without let or hindrance of the same late King Richard or his heirs the justices sheriffs or other the ministers of him and his heirs whomsoever.

And that the aforesaid Duke for the whole of his life by himself and his ministers in all the lands and fees aforesaid as well in presence of the same late King Richard and his heirs as in absence of him and his heirs might make and have the assay and assize of bread wine and ale and of all manner of other victuals whatsoever, and of all things pertaining to the office of the clerk of the market of him and his heirs, together with the punishment of the same whenever and as often as should be expedient and necessary, and also that he might have and perceive (receive?) the fines amercements and ransoms and all manner of profits thence proceeding, so that the clerk of the market of the same late King Richard and his heirs should not enter the said lands or fees to do or exercise any matters pertaining to his office.

And that the same Duke for the whole of his life might have the chattels of felons and fugitives as well as of felons of themselves as of others whomsoever and of outlaws for any cause soever of all the men and tenants of and in the lands and fees aforesaid and also of all the resiants within the same lands and fees, albeit the same men, tenants or resiants be ministers of the same late King Richard or his heirs so that if any of his men and tenants of and in the lands and fees aforesaid or any of the resiants in the said lands and fees or any other person in the same lands and fees for any misdeed of his whatsoever ought to lose his life or limb or should flee and not be willing to stand his trial or commit any other trespass for the which he ought to lose his chattels (in whatsoever place justice should be had of him, whether in the court of the same late King Richard and his heirs or in other courts) such chattels should belong to the aforesaid Duke.

And that it should be lawful for him or his ministers to put themselves in seisin of the said chattels, and the same chattels to retain to the behoof of the aforesaid Duke without let or hindrance of the same late King Richard or his heirs the sheriffs escheators or other bailiffs or ministers of him and his heirs whomsoever.

And that the aforesaid Duke for the whole of his life should have the returns of all writs of the same late King Richard and his heirs and also of the summons estreats and precepts of the exchequer of him and his heirs and of the estreats and precepts of his justices in eyre of him and his heirs to hold as well pleas of the forest as common pleas or of other justices whomsoever and also the attachment as well of pleas of the crown as of others in all the lands and fees aforesaid.

And that the aforesaid Duke for the whole of his life by himself and by his bailiffs and ministers should have in the sane lands and fees the execution of the same writs, summons, estreats, and precepts, so that no sheriff bailiff or other minister of the same late King Richard or his heirs might enter the aforesaid lands and fees to perform any office or anything touching his office unless in default of the same Duke or his ministers.

And moreover the same late King Richard did by his same, charter for himself and his said heirs grant that if the sheriffs of the liberties hundreds or wapentakes be negligent or remiss in making any executions for the aforesaid Duke by writs or mandates of him and his heirs, or in any other wise whereby it should happen that the same be amerced or make fines in the exchequer or in any other the courts of him and his heirs, such fines and amercements should belong to the aforesaid Duke, and that they should be levied on the behoof of the same Duke by his ministers as above said during his life.

And that the aforesaid Duke during the whole of his life might have within the lands and fees aforesaid all manner of chattels called wayfs and strays deodants treasure trove and other things or chattels found, and that he by himself and his ministers might be able to take and seise at their pleasure to the behoof of the aforesaid Duke the wayfs, strays, deodants, treasure trove and other things found as above said.

And. that the aforesaid Duke for the whole of his life might have all manner of goods and chattels called mainour taken or to be taken upon any person soever within the lands and fees aforesaid, and by the same person disclaimed before any judge soever.

And our lord H(enry) late King of England our grand-father of his certain knowledge with the assent of his Parliament did by his charter grant declare and ordain for himself and his heirs that as well in his Duchy of Lancaster as in all and singular the other counties honours castles manors fees possessions and lordships to him before his adoption of his royal dignity howsoever and wheresoever descended by hereditary right in demesne in service or in reversion or otherwise soever, such and like liberties, royal rights customs and franchises, in all and throughout all, be had, exercised, and continued done and used for ever, and by such officers and ministers be governed and executed as, and which and by such officers and ministers they were wont to be used had ruled and governed in the same Duchy counties honours castles manors fees and other the possessions and lordships aforesaid as well in the time of the said lord and our great grandfather as in the times of other the progenitors and ancestors of the same our lord by virtue of the charters thereof made.

And our lord H(enry) late King of England our father, ratifying and approving the grants and declarations, decrees ordinances wills liberties customs and franchises aforesaid, and all and every other the matters and things in the charters aforesaid contained, did for himself and his heirs as much as in him lay by his letters patent of his special grace and of his certain knowledge, and with the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and also the commons of his realm of England in his Parliament late assembled, by the authority of the same Parliament accept, approve, grant and confirm the same, willing further and granting for himself and his said heirs with the assent and authority aforesaid that the customs liberties and franchises aforesaid and every of them, in all and throughout all, be had exercised continued done and used for ever according to the tenor of the charters aforesaid without let or hindrance of the same our father or his heirs, the justices escheators sheriffs or other bailiffs of him and his heirs whomsoever, as in the charters letters and confirmation aforesaid is more fully contained.

We command you that all and singular the liberties customs franchises and royal rights (jura regalia) aforesaid, as well within our manor and lordship of Hungerford with the appurtenances, in the county of Berks, which are parcel of the said Duchy as it is called, as in other places within the same Duchy, be held exercised continued and done, and you shall permit all and singular the men and tenants of the same manor and lordship, and also the resiants within the same lordship and manor, to use and enjoy those liberties customs and franchises and any of them according to the tenor of the charters letters and confirmation aforesaid, and that they may use them as they and their predecessors did use the like liberties franchises and customs, and every of them, from the time of the making of the charters letters and confirmation aforesaid, always as far as they have been wont reasonably to use and enjoy them.

Witness ourself at Westminster on the 13th day of July in the 11th year of our reign.
(With Great Seal attached).

Enrolled and examined by me Francis Archere, supervisor of our lord King James at the same place 1606.

The Charter by King Edward VI, 1553:

Edward by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland to all and singular the justices ... greeting.

Whereas lord Edward, formerly King of England our progenitor, by his charter, among other things, did grant ...(provisions of charter recited).

And afterwards lord Richard late King of England, the second after the Conquest, by his charter, among other things did grant ...(provisions of charter recited)

And Henry the Fourth de facto not de jure late King of England of his certain knowledge and with the assent of his Parliament did grant ...(provisions of Act recited) (There is a slight variation of phraseology, and the Act of Henry V and charter of Henry VI are not alluded to).

And whereas we, forasmuch as by and with the advice and assent of the lords spiritual and temporal and of the commons of our realm of England in our Parliament at Westminster assembled on the 4th day of November in the fourth year of our reign, and by the authority of the same Parliament it is ordained and established that Henry late called King Henry the Sixth should forfeit to us and our crown of England all castles manors lordships towns townships, honours lands tenements rents services fee-farms, knight's fees, advowsons, hereditaments and possessions with their appurtenances, which he or any other to his behoof had on the 3rd day of March last past being of the Duchy of Lancaster or which were any parcell or member of the said Duchy or thereunto united or annexed in the first year of Henry late called King Henry the Fifth, or at any time since, have by the same, advice assent and authority among other things ordained and established that the same manors castles lordships honours towns townships lands tenements rents services fee-farms, knight's fees, advowsons, hereditaments and possessions with their appurtenances in England Wales and Calais and the marches thereof and from the 4th day of March last past shall make the said Duchy of Lancaster corporate and shall be called the Duchy of Lancaster, and that from the said fourth day of March we do seise, have, perceive, hold, and inherit all the same manors castles and other premises with their appurtenances by the same name of The Duchy - and the same enjoy for ever to us and our heirs kings of England separate from all our other hereditaments.

And that by the same authority the said officers and ministers and also the tenants and inhabitants of and in the same Duchy shall have and exercise such and all like liberties franchises and customs as the same enjoy and use as and which or by which the officers ministers tenants and inhabitants of the same Duchy lawfully had exercised used or enjoyed in the time of Henry calling himself King Henry the Fifth.

And also that in the same Duchy all such liberties franchises customs privileges and jurisdictions be exercised had and occupied as before the said 4th day of March were lawfully used in the same and that the officers ministers .tenants or and inhabitants of or in the same Duchy shall be treated and managed accordingly to the same liberties franchises customs privileges and jurisdictions and not be distressed straitened or compelled to the contrary thereof in any wise.

We command you that all and singular the liberties customs franchises and royal rights (jura regalia) aforesaid, as well within our manor and lordship of Hungerford with the appurtenances in the County of Berks which are parcel of the said Duchy as it is called as in other places within the same Duchy be had exercised and continued and done, and you shall permit all and singular the men and tenants of the same manor and lordship and also resiants within the same lordship and manor to use and enjoy liberties customs and franchises and any of them according to the tenor of our letters thereof made.

Witness ourself at Westminster the 28th day of January in the 6th year of our reign.
(With great Seal attached)

Enrolled and examined by me Francis Archere Supervisor of our Lord King James, etc, at the same place, 1606.

The Elizabethan Period:

In the Elizabethan period, the rights and privileges of the townspeople of Hungerford became a matter of great contention and dispute. The topic is described in more detail under "The Case of the Missing Charters", and also under "Origins of the Town and Manor of Hungerford". In brief, when a dispute of the local rights developed in 1565 and again in 1568, the matter was taken to the Duchy of Lancaster. The townspeople alleged that rights (such a free fishing) had been granted since the time of John of Gaunt, but the Duchy copy of that charter had been lost in the great fire at John of Gaunt's Savoy Palace in 1381. Unfortunately, when they came to look for their own copy in the town coffer, it was found to be missing. A long legal wrangle with the Duchy ensued. An appeal was made by the burgesses to Queen Elizabeth. She replied on 7th September, 1574, confirming 'that the said inhabitants should hereafter have use and enjoy without interruption all such liberties and profits and benefits as heretofore time out of mind and remembrance of man they had used and enjoyed' - a very diplomatic document!

For the next 40 years or so, a succession of legal wrangles, inquiries, and surveys was carried out. Eventually, in 1611, the Duchy set up yet another commission to inquire into the history of the 'Kynnett, commonly called the Hungerford Brook, famous above all rivers thereabouts for good trout, which fishery had been impaired by lewd and ill-disposed persons fishing unlawfully'. Of the many concluding statements, the following were perhaps the crux:

1. The fishing extended from Elder Stubb to Irish Stile;
2. The King (James I) was Lord Royal of all water except the mill pounds;
3. The townsmen of Hungerford had had the right of fishing in the waters, three days a week, time out of mind.

Hungerford becomes managed by Trustees:
The inquiry had to a large extent gone against the townsfolk, and it signalled an end to the 'John of Gaunt' era of heresay rights. In the future, Hungerford was going to have its rights secured on a legal and recognized basis. As they were not a corporation, the townspeople decided to proceed by means of feoffees, or trustees.

In March 1612, James I duly granted the Manor of Hungerford with all manorial rights to two London men, John Eldred and William Whitmore, and in May, 'in consideration of a certain sum of money', Eldred and Whitmore conveyed the Manor, complete with 'rents, pleas, perquisites of court of burgh, with fishery and fishing of all rivers and waters in the manor aforesaid' to four Hungerford men. John Lucas, Robert Field, Thomas Carpenter, and Ralph Mackerell.

Several more transfers were made over the next few years, however, before the legal situation was considered entirely satisfactory. Finally, by an indenture dated 16th June, 1617, the Manor of Hungerford was conveyed to Ralph Mackerell (Constable), and 13 other local men 'in trust for the inhabitants'. These 14 men thus became the first feoffees or trustees of the Town and Manor of Hungerford.

See also:

- Manorial History

- The Case of the Missing Charters

- Duchy of Lancaster Surveys of Hungerford (1552, 1573, 1591, 1606)

- Town and Manor of Hungerford

- Letter from Dr Kleineke to Fred Bailey re early Hungerford Charters