The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset
by John Hutchins:
(3rd Edition published 1868)
Transcribed by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester - May 2010
THE TOWN AND BOROUGH OF DORCHESTER.
The Domesday Books (1)
Amongst the archives of the corporation of Dorchester is an ancient volume called THE DOMESDAY BOOK, the contents of which consist mainly of enrolments of seisin according to the custom of the borough, the transfer and sale of, and the succession by inheritance to, the various tenements therein, commencing anno 18 Rich. II (1394) The purpose of this book is entered therein, fol. 2 a, which translated is as follows:
[NOTE:- The actual Charters referred to have also been transcribed on this site see links below]
Whereas many burgesses our antecessors and predecessors of this borough of Dorchester in times past their lands, tenements and burgages, rents and reversions, by their deeds have given, granted, alienated, released, and quit-claimed, and also by the testaments of their last will have given and bequeathed; very many of whose deeds, forsooth, charters, muniments and testaments have been in various ways torn, lost and wilfully concealed; so that the intentions, conditions of donors, and the wills of testators can by no means be fulfilled, to the damage of some and the disinheriting of many: Therefore the whole community, desiring to prevent such damage and disinheriting, ordain that copies and the tenor of whatsoever deeds, testaments and releases touching the said borough which shall hereafter come into the hands of the Bailiffs of the said borough and whereby seisins may be made, be entered in this book.
At the beginning is a series of bye-laws agreed to by the jury at a law court held in 1414: of which the following is a translation :(2)
DORCHESTER. A lawful Court holden there on Monday next after the feast of St. Michael, in the second year of the reign of King Henry the Fifth after the Conquest, before Thomas Wyke and William Forde, Bailiffs of the same borough, John Blount and John Gouldesmyth, Constables of the aforesaid borough. On which day inquest was taken by twenty-four good and lawful men of the aforesaid borough, sworn, namely, Reginald Jacop, Robert Baker, John Gyle, John Pury senior, John Bomel, John Gryffyn, Geoffry Mose, Henry Crauel, Richard Bertram, Thomas Baker, Thomas Bayly, Walter Boner, Henry Ostyler, Robert Bertram, Walter Chyryell, John Voge, Walter Gaylode, Robert Mose, Thomas Budd, John Pury junior, John Plomer, Robert Burlok
Nicholas Pury, John Belhous, who say and ordain by their assent and consent together, with the assent and consent of the whole community of the said borough that no one for the future shall cast any carcases within the town, but that immediately after their perishing they shall be sent without the gates of the town.
Also they say that no skinners shall beat skins nor hides in the street where man's food ought and is wont to be sold.
Also they say that none shall throw dung in the market street beyond one week before they remove it.
Also they say that none for the future shall be made our Bailiffs who have been so already, before that their turn comes; that is to say, after that others who may be found sufficient are seen to occupy the said office in the round of the whole town.
Also they say that all our Bailiffs who have been aforetime and have not rendered their accounts shall render their accounts reasonably before certain men chosen and assigned for this purpose; and that none hereafter be made common treasurers, but the common money shall be entirely delivered to the Bailiffs and placed in the common chest.
It is also agreed that all our Bailiffs coming in future render an account once a year according to a reasonable warning of eight days, and at the end of each year shall be displaced from their office.
In like manner it is agreed that if any courtesy (curilitas) should be given to any justice or other ministers of our lord the King for businesses touching our community, that it be given at the discretion and view of twelve discreet and lawful men who may best know how to order that courtesy, and, when the time of reckoning shall come, may be able to give their testimony thereof before the whole community.
There shall be made also a common Register to certify of the tenements sold in our Borough, and the Bailiffs shall have a certain seal of office assigned for this; and the seal shall be made in this manner, that is to say, in the middle of the seal there shall be a crowned leopard, and there shall be written in
the circuit SIGILLUM BALLIVCRUM DORCESTRIE. And he who may
have necessary occasion for this, and shall reside within our borough, shall give to the Bailiffs for the seal six pence, and he who (requires the same) without the borough shall give for the seal according to agreement; he shall also give to the clerk for his writing in the Domesday three pence.
Also, if any one in our borough shall have purchased any tenement in perpetuity, and his wife shall have been named in the deed of feoffment, and it shall afterwards happen that they desire to alienate the said tenement to any one, the vendor shall immediately bring his wife into full court before us and our Bailiffs, and there it shall be asked of the wife whether it be by her consent or no, and if it shall be found that she has done this of her own free and good will, without any means of coercion of her husband, then that process shall be enrolled in the common register, and that purchaser shall give as fine for the recognisance of his holding, and for the seal of office, and for the writing
of the clerk according as it is before ordered.
Also if any should hold any tenement in our Borough, and should desire to bequeath in his will that tenement to any one, he to whom that tenement shall have been thus bequeathed, shall have no seizin thereof until the will shall have been proved in full court before us and our Bailiffs, and the seal of office affixed to the said will, and he to whom that tenement shall thus fall shall give as fine for the probate of that will, and for the seal of office, and for the writing of the clerk, according as is said before.
It is also agreed that if our Bailiffs shall take any pledges by name of distraint for any debt, and those pledges should not be redeemed within a year, proclamation shall be made of them at the end of the year in due manner, and if they should not then be redeemed they shall be appraised by the view and discretion of twelve good and lawful men, chosen to say the truth, at the end of the year, in the court-leet at that time held, and no pledges shall be hid away under a fine of twenty shillings to be paid to the whole community, but all and each shall be openly shown before the aforesaid men, and shall be sold to the profit of the whole community.
Also it is agreed that if any execution in our court by the Bailiffs should be commanded to be made against any one, that our serjeants immediately and without any delay shall do therein what may be given to their charge, and if it should be found that by their negligence they shall be unwilling to do this, they shall be immediately put away from their offices, and .. . . ... . . towards the court for contempt.
And the Bailiffs shall have power to take a distraint as well in the houses as without the houses wherever they may the better distrain, except the bedchamber of husband and wife.
And if any one shall be found acting contrary to that agreement, when it shall have come to a like accident, then the door of the chamber shall be sealed under the seal of the Bailiffs, so that he shall have no entrance or egress there, under the penalty which is incurred, until he shall be ready to justify himself, and to deliver sufficient distraint to the Bailiffs, if such he have.
In like manner it is agreed that when any collection ought to be made to the aid of our lord the King, that collection shall be set by good and lawful men sworn for that purpose, and then it shall be made as well of the rich as the poor, so that no one be spared for love, nor for the colour of any office, nor any one burdened for hatred, but each be assessed according to his own power, and the exigency of the law, and nothing taken from any one unless his name shall have been first inrolled and how much he should give; and then after a certain extent made to show how much each ought to pay a roll indented be made thereof, and the middle part of this roll be sealed under the seal of the collectors of that money and be placed in the common chest before that anything be levied, and there be safely kept until the feast of Saint Michael then next following, and then the roll of this collection shall be read in full court-leet held at that time before the aforesaid collectors, and in the hearing of the whole community to hear how much each one should pay, and to go over and amend what should be rightly done to each; and this notwithstanding the aforesaid collectors shall render an account together with all others administering the common property, and if there should be any residue after their account, it shall remain to the aid of the whole community; and they who shall be assigned to levy this kind of collection shall not be on that account acquitted of their own portions of that collection, but shall receive for their labours according to the fair consideration of the whole community; and if the aforesaid collectors should be convicted of levying more of anyone than at first was charged to him, or that they should not do as it ordained, they shall give to the whole community one hundred shillings of silver.
It is likewise agreed that when any collection ought to be levied by the constables of the peace of our lord the King, for arming and for the expenses of hobelers or archers, or for the expenses of men to guard the sea, or to anything which shall be committed to their charge, they shall do in the same manner in all respects as is aforesaid under the penalty before denoted.
Also they say that no bakers who make white bread of corn shall make barley bread or of mistlen for sale.
And it is agreed that each Bailiff shall receive for his stipend by the year twenty shillings of silver, and his fees as well of tenements sold when they shall happen as of the seal of his office, and of the toll of corn coming to the market.
The Town Clerk shall have also for his stipend, by the year, six shillings of silver and eight pence, and his fees of other things as is accustomed.
And our Serjeants shall receive for their stipend according to their manner and usage as is accustomed.
And all other profits arising from the bailiwick beyond the rent of our lord the King, and those things which are aforesaid, shall remain to the advantage of the whole community, unless for a reasonable cause anything shall be spent to the common profit. And if there should be any residue at the end of the year after the accompt of the Bailiffs received, there shall be made of this a certain reckoning written and inrolled before the auditors of the said accompt, and likewise the names of the Bailiffs who were for the time, and also the date of that year; and that reckoning shall be placed in the common chest, sealed under the seals of those auditors of the account, and then, although the time shall have elapsed that any expenses about the common businesses ought to be made out of those goods thus remaining, notwithstanding that reason, the reckoning shall always remain whole and without erasure, although the money be diminished by any expenses, and the expenses shall be written by themselves; so that by the aforesaid reckoning of the receipt it may be seen whether the expenses extend more or less beyond the reckoning of the receipt.
And the common chest shall have three several locks, and their keys shall be delivered to three men, chosen for that purpose to keep the common property, and the keepers of the aforesaid keys shall be changed every year.
And it shall not be permitted to any one to lend the common money to any one, nor to deliver it to any one for trading, nor to administer it in any manner, except to the profit of the whole community, to the use of whom it shall be safely kept for various accidents happening.
Also it is agreed that no gutters shall be retained hereafter in any street within our borough as a nuisance where people have been accustomed to pass, but wherever they shall be found they shall be stopped up.
Also it is ordered that no one hereafter shall have a bitch (3) at heat wandering through the town under the penalty of forty pence to be paid to the community.
And that no swine-herds at market time shall allow their swine to go within the three surtes and the lane on the south side of the tenement where Robert Baker now lives, under the penalty of the loss of the same pig.
And that no son or next heir of any free burgess within the aforesaid town, although he shall arrive at his inheritance by the decease of his father or of any other kinsman, shall be welcome to his inheritance [except] by proclamation thereof made in due manner according to the custom of the aforesaid town, by doubling his rent [for the first year ?] But yet he shall not be a free burgess in the same town, unless he has made a fine, by pledge, acacording to the custom of the aforesaid town, as by twelve jurors may be agreed in a court-leet, &c.
And that no burgess of the town nor any other resident in the town shall keep hereafter either bullock or heifer in the inclosure of the East Wallys and West Wallys as in common, that is to say, from the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mary the Virgin (Feb. 2) yearly until the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin then following (Sept. 8), but during that time it shall be strictly placed in fence. And after that day, that it may be common to all the burgesses and residents in the same town, namely, from that day until the feast of Saint Martin then next following as for great beasts; and after that day until the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mary the next following, that it be pasture common to all the burgesses and residents in the town, namely, for sheep, &c., and for no great beast.
And further, the aforesaid twelve jurors ordain that according to ancient custom yearly on Monday next after the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, by twenty-four lawful men of the aforesaid town, there be chosen two men the most fit and discreet for the office of Bailiffs, whether they be present or absent. And if they be there present, that then they there immediately take the oath of the office aforesaid. And if they be absent or either of them be absent, that then they have a day of appearance there on Monday, namely, upon that Monday three weeks, on that day to take the oath of the office aforesaid. And if any one hereafter shall refuse and shall be unwilling to abide by this ordinance, that he shall lose ten pounds of sterling money to be immediately paid to the use of the town aforesaid; and further, that hereafter nothing be allowed to him of the liberty of the borough aforesaid, without redemption, &c.
And further the Burgesses ordain and of their assent and consent will that the legal court of the term Hockday shall hereafter for ever be held on Monday, namely, on the eighth day after the feast of Easter, any custom of ancient use to the contrary notwithstanding.
Notes:- by John Hutchins:-
It is in the original binding, which is still nearly perfect, and consists of two oak boards about half an inch thick and 14 inches by 12 inches. They are fastened together with thongs of stout buckskin, and are covered with leather, impressed with poor Cinque-cento ornaments, amongst which the Tudor portcullis and rose are conspicuous. The corners are defended with brass with the same kind of ornament and a small boss in the middle, and there is a brass centre-piece of similar character. Ends and catches remaining show that it was formerly secured by clasps. It is not unlike the oldest binding of the Exchequer Domesday, and is perhaps of the time of Hen. VI. or earlier..
(2). The original will be found in a future page, as an Appendix to DORCHESTER.
(3). "Licieoam," for Lyciscam, a great dog, or sheep dog: See Virgil, Ecl. iii. 18; and Ovid, Metam. iii. 220