The Charter granted by James I. to the Borough of Dorchester, 26th June, 1610, provided that no person not being
a free burgess or free inhabitant of the Borough should presume
to exercise any art, occupation or mistery, or use any shop
or station for sale therein, except in the time of fairs and
markets, under pain of forfeiture, fine and imprisonment.
The Bailiffs and Capital Burgesses were also given power to
make Bye-laws for the due government of the inhabitants.|
In accordance with these provisions of the Charter, the Bailiffs, Capital Burgesses and Common Council issued fourteen Bye-laws or Constitutions (B. 27) on 22nd October, 1621, which called into existence " The Company of Freemen of the Borough of Dorchester," consisting of all the freemen, with power to elect yearly a Governor, four Assistants, and a Receiver, the Governor and Assistants, when elected, to appoint a Clerk and Beadle ; the Governor to call a Hall four times a year for the election of freemen, and the Governor, the four Assistants and five Capital Burgesses to have power to allow of, for Freemen, all the free inhabitants of the Borough, and their apprentices who have served their time, on payment of 12d. for a handicrafts man, and 2s. for every other person, and to admit " forreigners and strangers as they shall hold meete," on payment of a fine. No person not a free Burgess or free inhabitant shall exercise or work at any art, occupation, or mistery within the Borough under a penalty of 40s. a month. It is provided that the Freemen shall be liable to certain rates, taxes and fines, that a common purse and stock be kept by the Receiver, that apprentices be enrolled, that no inhabitant shall take a tenant who is not a freeman, or demise a building site to any other, or employ a journeyman or servant not approved by the Governing Body, or sell the goods of any foreigner which he has not lawfully bought.
These Constitutions are as follows (B. 27a) :—
Constitutions of the Company of Freemen, made the 22nd October, 1621.
1. Upon complaynt and desire of reformacion to the Bayliffs and Capitall Burgesses of the Borough of Dorchester in the County of Dorset lately made by their neighbours Inhabitants of the same Borough of the manifold abuses and disorders dayly arising within the said Borough by the want of care to put in execucion his Majesties Royall Charter or Letters Patents lately graunted to the Bayliffs and Burgesses of the said Borough as well as in that parte thereof which concernes the prohibicion of all (except Freemen and their apprentices) to vse or exercise any arte occupacion or mistery or to sell or vtter any merchandize within the said Borough (but only in the tyme of Faires there) as alsoe for want of fitt ordinances and constitucions for the better government of the Inhabitants of the said Borough in poynt of trade, which the Bayliffs and Capitall Burgesses of this Borough have authority to make by vertue of the said Charter or Letters Patents, Wee the Bayliffs and maior parte of the Capitall Burgesses and Common Counsell of the said Borough, vpon Consideracion of the premisses, assembling and meeting togither in the Towne hall of the said Borough on the two and twentith day of October A'no D'ni (i.e. Anno Domini or' in the year of our Lord') 1621, doe by vertue of the power vnto vs given by his Maiesties said Charter or Letters Patents with our generall consent constitute ordeyne make and establish these Lawes institucions ordinances and constitucions following to be for ever heerafter inviolably kept, and observed within the said Borough, viz.
2. Imprimis (In the first place) , that all the Freemen of the said Borough shall from henceforth for ever bee called by the name of The Company of Freemen of the Borough of Dorchester, and that there shall bee for ever heerafter chosen yearly at the Towne Hall of the said Borough, on the next Munday after the Feast of St. Michaell Tharchangell (i.e. the Feast of St Michael and All Angels which was on 29th September) by the maior parte of Freemen of the said Borough (not being Capitall Burgesses) which shall bee present at such choice, one person that shall be Governor of the Company of Freemen of the said Borough and fower Assistants vnto him, and one Receiver for the same Company of meete and discreete Freemen of the said Borough (not being Capitall Burgesses there) whoe shall vndertake the saide places whervnto they shall bee soe chosen and shall
continewe in their places by the space of one whole yeare then next following, vpon payne of euery of them refusing, to forfeite the some (i.e. sum) of Forty shillings. And in case any of the saide Governor Assistants or Receiver shall dye in tyme of his or their office then an other Freeman or Freemen of the said Borough shall bee chosen in his or their place or places so dying in manner aforesaid, within one weeke after the death of any such person soe d3dng, whoe shall vndertake and execute the place or places where vnto he or they shall be chosen vntill a new officer or officers shall be chosen in his or their places vpon the payne aforesaid. And for the first Gouernor of the said company Mr. John HILL of the Borough aforesaid is elected and appointed, and for the first iiij (i.e. 4) Assistants Robert Coker, Joseph Paty, John Conduit, and John Cooke are elected and appoynted, and for the first Receiver Morgan Hayne is elected and appoynted.
3. Item, that the said Governor and his Fower Assistants shall chuse and have of fitt and discreete persons for such places one Gierke and one Beadle of the said company to doe and performe such things as to their places or offices shall appertayne.
4. Item, that the said Governor shall for ever heerafter (yf there bee cause) Fower tymes in the yeare, viz. every quarter once, and noe oftner, without extraordinary occasion, call a Hall, at which tymes and none other (except vpon vrgent cause) Freemen of the said Borough shall bee elected or allowed.
5. Item, that the said Governor and Fower Assistants togither with five of the Capitall Burgesses of the said Borough (which shall be from tyme to tyme appointed by the then Bayliffs of the said Borough), or the maior (i.e. major) parte of them (soe as there be as many of the said Capitall Burgesses presente as of the said Governor and Assistants) shall at all tymes heerafter have power to allow of for Freemen, all Free Inhabitants of the said Borough, and all Free Mens apprentices of the said Borough which shall have served out their apprentishippes within this Borough for the Fyne of Twelve pence for every handicrafts man, and of two shillings for any other person, and admitt and infranchise for Freemen of the said Borough such other forreigners and strangers as they shall hold meete and for such Fynes as they shall agree of, the names of which Freemen with their Fynes shall be from tyme to tyme registred and recorded in a booke by the Clarke of
the Company within one weeke after such allowance or ad- mittance.
6. Item, that noe person (which shall not bee a Free Burgesse or Free Inhabitant of the said Borough after one monethes warning vnto him given by the said Governor, or in his absence by any of the said fower Assistants, to desist or forbeare) shall at any time heerafter exercise any arte occupacion or mistery within the said Borough and the precincts of the same nor shall worke or labor in any arte occupacion or mistery within the Borough aforesaid and the precincts of the same, or shall have or vse any howse shop place or standing in the Borough aforesaid and the precincts of the same for the selling or vttering of any merchandize or any other thing there (except victuelles only) or for the exercising of any arte, occupacion or mistery in the Borough aforesaid (except only in the tymes of Faires and Marketts there) vpon paine to forfeite loose and pay to the hands of the said Governor of the said Company for the tyme being the somme of Forty shillings to be by him deliuered over to the Receiver of the said Company, for every moneth that any such person shall breake or disobey this Constitucion, to be recovered by distres and sale of the gooddes of every person soe offending or by any other course, as a Fyne on him heerby imposed for his contempt and disobedience in not fullfilling and performing his Maiestys graunt and Royall comaundement in this behalfe mencioned and expressed in the said Charter or Letters Patents.
7. Item, that the Governor of the said Company and his fower Assistants for the tyme being shall from tyme to tyme for ever heerafter endevor to recover and receive all such Fyne and Fines as shall be by any person or personnes forfeited by force of any of these Constitucions, and attend prosecute and defend all suits in Law and Complaynts which shall be comenced or prosecuted concerning the execucion of these presente Constitucions or follow any other fitt course for the vpholding and mayntayning of these presente Constitucions at the Costs of the Common purse of the said Company.
8. Item, that the Governor of the said Company and his fower Assistants for the tyme being togither with Five of the Capitall Burgesses of the said Borough to bee from tyme to tyme named by the then presente Bayliffs or the greater parte of them (soe as there bee as many of the said Five Capitall Burgesses presente as of the said Governor and Assistants) shall for ever heerafter as they shall see occasion assesse rate and tax all Freemen and Free Inhabitants of the said Borough (the then presente Bayliffs only excepted) at such reasonable rates and taxes as to them shall seeme meete towards defraying of such charges and expences and raising of such sommes as by the said Capitall Burgesses Governor and Assistants or the greater parte of them (wherof the said Governor to be one) shall be thought fitt to be defraied, expended and raised for the good and benefitt of the said Company of Freemen and the suppressing of forreigners. Or if the said Capitall Burgesses Governor and Assistants shall differ about any of the said rates, then the said presente Bayliffs shall decide such difference. And that every Freeman of the said Borough shall for ever heerafter within eight dayes after demaund to him made, satisfy and pay to the said Receiver all such somme and sommes of mony as he shall bee rated or taxed at, vpon payne to forfeite for every such offence three shillings and fower pence and three shillings and fower pence more for euery moneth that such his rate shall be vnpaid after the end of the said eight dayes.
9. Item, that the Governor of the said Company and his Fower Assistants for the tyme being or the greater parte of them togither with Five of the Capitall Burgesses of the said Borough to be from tyme to tyme appoynted by the then Bayliffs of the said Borough or the maior parte of them wherof the said Governor to be one, soe as there bee as many of the said Capitall Burgesses presente as of the said Governor and Assistants, shall and may for ever heerafter fyne or amerce every Freeman and Free Inhabitant of the said Borough that shall carry himselfe stubornely or otherwise misdemeane himselfe or shall refuse to observe such Orders for the goverment of the same Company and for the ordring of trade amongest the tradesmen of the said Borough as by the said Capitall Burgesses Governor and Assistants shall be thought fitt, soe as the same Fyne on any person for any such offence exceed not Tenne shillings, the same Orders being first allowed off and confirmed by the Bayliffs and Capitall Burgesses of the said Borough or by the greater parte of them.
10. Item, that there shall bee a common purse and stock for the said Company which shall be kept by the Receiver for the said Company for the tyme being and that the said Receiver shall collect, distreyne for, sew for, receive and gather such seuerall rates and taxes as shall be vpon the Freemen and Free Inhabitants of the said Borough sett and assessed, and shall receive all Fynes and other monyes which shall bee forfeited by breach of any of these Constitucions and all other monyes which shall belong to the said Company, and shall out of the same deliver and pay all such sommes of mony as shall bee thought needfull by the Governor of the said Company and his said Assistants for the tyme being, or the maior parte of them, wherof the said Governor to be one, for any cause or matter whatsoever for the good of the said Company, And shall within tenne dayes next after a new Receiver shall be chosen in his place, make his Accompt faire writen in a booke for that purpose before the Bayliffs and Capitall Burgesses of the said Borough and before the Governor of the said Company and his Fower Assistants which were in office that yeare that he was Receiver, or before as many of them as will be presente at such accompt, of all such sommes of mony as he hath or shall receive or disburse by vertue of his office of Receivershipp and pay over the Remaynder vpon his accompt to the next Receiver for the said Company within one weeke next after his Accompt soe made vpon payne to forfeite Five shillings : and Five shillings more for euery weeke after that he shall not make his accompt and deliver over the Remaynder as aforesaid.
11. Item, that euery person that shall bee bownd Apprentice to any Freeman within this Borough shall have his name registred by the Clerke of the said Company at or before the next Quarter calling of a Hall, after he shall bee soe bownd, in a faire booke to be provided for such purpose, vpon payne that euery such Freeman shall forfeite Forty shillings, and such Apprentice his Freedom, and every such Apprentise to pay for the entry of his Apprentiship fower pence and noe more.
12. Item, that noe Inhabitant within this Borough of Dorchester shall take into his howse or any parte therof any Tenant Inmate or vndertenant for their habitacion other then such as are or shall bee Freemen of the same Borough, nor shall graunt nor demise any parcell of grownd within the same Borough to any person that shall theron erect or build any messuage or dwelling howse but only to a Freeman of the said Borough (except the same person that is or shall bee soe taken in or to whome such grownd shall bee graunted or demised, bee first allowed of by the said Five Capital-J Burgesses to be chosen as aforesaid, and by the said Governor and his Assistants or the maior parte of them).
13. Item, that noe Freeman or Free Inhabitant of the said Borough shall entertayne into his service any iorney man (i.e. journeyman) or servant (except apprentices) vnles the same iorney man or servant shall bee first approved of and allowed by the said Five Capitall Burgesses and by the said Governor and his Fower Assistants or the maior parte of them : vpon payne to forfeite for every such iorney man or servant that he shall soe entertayne contrary to this Constitucion the somme of six shillings and eight pence for every moneth that he shall soe entertayne any such iorney man or servant.
14. Item, that noe Freeman or Free Inhabitant of the said Borough shall directly or indirectly vtter or sell within the said Borough the goodes wares or merchandize of any f orreigner ther then such as he hath himselfe lawfully bought, and is his owne proper goodds before such sale or vtterance vpon payne to forfeite for every tyme that he shall breake this Constitucion the summe of five powndes.
In testimony of allowance of these Constitucions we the Bailiffs and maior parte of the Capitall Burgesses of the said Borough have heervnto subscribed our names and set our Common Scale the day and yeare first above written.
Richard BLACHFORD Bayliff
Richard BUSHROD Bayliff
[There are other names which seem to be later additions.]
Wee the Inhabitants Freemen of the Borough of Dorchester haue scene and pervsed the Constitucions abovesaid and doe heerby submitt our selves to performe and observe them and euery of them and for the breach of them or any of them doe consent and agree to pay and be lyable to the paines penaltyes and forfeitures therin conteyned in manner and forme therin expressed.
Here follow, for the rest of the skin of parchment, and on the back of it, a very large number of signatures of Freemen, closely written, some few being dated, the latest 1679. No seal is now attached to the document.
It will be seen that these Bye-laws were not made until the lapse of eleven years subsequent to the granting of the Charter. Perhaps the two following extracts from Minute Book C. 4 may record a circumstance which impressed upon the Corporation the need of definite rules and constitutions for the protection of the interests of the townsmen.
6th Nov., 1619. " Upon complaynt made vnto the Baylififs and Burgesses of this Borough that one Thomas Ford is come to this Borough and heere intendeth to set vp a wholesale Trade for mercery wares for a Londoner, to the greate hindrance of the mercers within this Borough ; the Bailiffs and Capitall Burgesses of the same Borough being assembled did hold it fitt and soe did agree that seeing they haue a charter within this Borough to exclude all Forreiners that the said Thomas Ford and his master for whome he deales shall be kept out of this Borough for setting vp their said Trade here."
20th August, 1620. "
The day and yeare abouseaid the company being called togither about a peticion preferred to ye Duke of Lenox by one Thomas Ford who hath lately set vp trade in this borough wherin he hath suggested that he was admitted leave and allowance of 7 of the cheifest magistrates and Justices of this towne, now all these of the Common Counsell of this borough whose names are heervnder written doe vtterly disavow that ever they gave consent to any admittance vnto him but have been very much against it and doe all agree that vsing his trade he shall bee expolsed this borough.
Jo : Parkins; Henry Whittell; Wllia' Hertford; Oliver Hayne; John Govld; Edmunde Dashwoode,"
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