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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

The right of free warren throughout the soke 18d


We

have called this another stage in the tenure of this manor and for this reason, an ecclesiastic of high rank, with the authority of the Pope of Rome at his back, was a more powerful subject than any lay baron, and this influence soon shewed itself, for while the lay lords of the manor had been content with doing their service to the king, and exacting service from those holding under them, the Bishop of Carlisle, in the first year of his tenure, obtained from the king three charters, conferring on the town of Horncastle immunities and privileges, which had the effect of raising the town from the status of little more than a village to that of the general mart of the surrounding country. The first of these charters gave the bishop, as lord of the manor, the right of free warren throughout the soke {18d}; the second gave him licence to hold an annual fair two days before the feast of St. Barnabas (June 11), to continue eight days; the third empowered him to hang felons. An additional charter was granted in the following year empowering the bishop to hold a weekly market on Wednesday (die Mercurii), which was afterwards changed to Saturday, on which day it is still held; also to hold another fair on the eve of the Feast of St. Laurence (Aug. 10th), to continue seven days. {18e}

We here quote a few words of the original Carlisle charter, as shewing the style of such documents in those days: "Henry to all Bishops, Bailiffs, Provosts, servants, &c.,

health. Know that we, by the guidance of God, and for the health of our soul, and of the souls of our ancestors and descendants, have granted, and confirmed by this present charter, to God, and the church of the blessed Mary of Carlisle, and to the Venerable Father, Walter, Bishop of Carlisle," &c. It then goes on to specify, among other privileges, that the bishop shall have "all chattells of felons and fugitives, all amerciaments and fines from all men and tenants of the manor and soke; that the bishop and his successors shall be quit for ever to the king of all mercies, fines (&c.), that no constable of the king shall have power of entry, but that the whole shall pertain to the said bishop, except attachments touching pleas of the crown, and that all chattells, &c., either in the king's court, or any other, shall be the bishop's." Then follow cases in which chattells of Robert Mawe, a fugitive, were demanded by the bishop, and 24 pounds exacted from the township of Horncastle in lieu thereof; also 40s. from William, son of Drogo de Horncastre, for trespass, and other fines from Ralph Ascer, bailiff. Robert de Kirkby, &c., &c. The same document states that the bishop has a gallows (furcae) at Horncastle for hanging offenders within the soke; and, in connection with this we may observe that in the south of the town is still a point called "Hangman's Corner."

These extensive powers, however, would hardly seem (to use the words of the charter) to have been "for the good of the souls" of the bishop or his successors, since they rather had the effect of leading him to the abuse of his rights. Accordingly, in the reign of Edward III., a plea was entered at Westminster, before the King's Justices, {19a} by which John, Bishop of Carlisle, was charged with resisting the authority of the king in the matter of the patronage of the benefice of Horncastle. That benefice was usually in the gift of the bishop, but the rector, Simon de Islip, had been appointed by the king Archbishop of Canterbury and, in such circumstances, the crown by custom presents to the vacancy. The bishop resisted and proceeded to appoint his own nominee, but the judgment of the court was against him.


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