The Market

The Bury St Edmunds
Market Charter

Background to the Second Charter of 1608

The Abbey of St Edmunds grew up after about 906 when the remains of King Edmund were brought to the old town of Bedericsworth.

In 945 the crown granted a large area of land to the monastery, which was known as the Banleuca, an area which was still used as the boundary of the Borough of Bury St Edmunds until 1934 when it was slightly enlarged to the west.

In 1032 the first stone church was built and Bedericsworth began to be replaced as a name by St Edmunds or St Edmundsbury which was still in use in the 17th Century. In 1044, Edward the Confessor granted jurisdictional and administrative powers over the Liberty of St Edmund to the Abbot. This area survived as a unit up until 1974 as the County of West Suffolk. In this area the Sheriff of Suffolk had no power to carry out the law or to collect taxes or geld as it was also known. This gave the Abbot great power and a great income from rents and feudal dues.

Edward the Confessor also granted a mint to the Abbey and its coinage bears the first known written use of the name St Edmund's Bury.

In 1065 Baldwin, a French monk from St Denis, near Paris, was appointed Abbot, probably through his close association with King Edward the Confessor as the royal physician. Because of the large income now flowing to the Abbey, he was able to start building the great abbey church.

The abbey grew in power and influence to be among the greatest in Europe for the next 400 years but in the time of Henry VIII came the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1539 Abbot Reeve signed the Deed of Surrender and together with 41 monks, he was pensioned off. Local people had grown tired of the Abbey's continued strict insistence on exercising its feudal rights, which by now were 500 years old and probably thought well "behind the times".
The Abbot's rights and privileges now passed to the Crown and much of the property was sold off, leased to royal supporters or otherwise acquired by those in high offices of court.

By the time of James I, who came to the throne in 1602, the town finally managed to get some element of local self government, always denied under the abbots.

The first charter of James I was in 1606 which gave the town a corporation of an Alderman and 36 Burgesses, a grant of arms and the right to appoint 4 Justices of the Peace, a Town Clerk and a Recorder. The Alderman was also to be Clerk of the Market and the Corporation received power to make byelaws governing markets and fairs.

The Fire of Bury This was not really enough to give the Corporation the control and income it desired and the town asked for more. In 1608, a major fire destroyed a large part of the town and was a national talking point. This may have encouraged the King to grant a second charter which included 500 loads of timber to help with rebuilding, as well as the rights to certain major sources of income. Unfortunately, as the Crown had previously leased off most of these rights to Sir Robert Drury for 40 years from 1604, this was yet another rather empty-handed generosity. Also, in those days, you had to pay for such Charters and it cost 300 to obtain the 1608 Charter.

Having been granted these rights, the Burgesses did not wish to wait for another 36 years until Sir Robert Drury's lease expired. Therefore they raised the enormous sum of 2,000 and purchased the lease from him in 1610 in order that they could gain control of the markets and tithes in their area.

Introduction to the Charter

The document which follows is a typed-up version of a handwritten document in the County Records Office. The document is a comparatively modern clerk's translation and summary of what is known as the Second Charter, granted to the town in 1608. It covers other matters as well as the control of, and income arising from, the market. It was translated from the original Latin.

Bury St Edmunds: A grant of the reversion of the tithes, fairs, markets and some other property which formerly belonged to the Abbey of St Edmunds.

Second Charter, Granted 1st July 6th James I 1608

1Recital of a Lease of the tithes to Sir Robert Drury

Reciting that the King had by former Letters Patents granted and to Farm Let to Sir Robert Drury all manner of tithes of corn, herbage, milk, wool, lambs, calves, fowls and fruits within the Lordship of Bury and all other tithes etc. in times past belonging to the Monastery of Bury and gathered by the Almoner of the same Monastery and all the Almoner's Barns with the appurtenances and the houses, glebes, meadows and appurtenances as also all the Fairs and Markets and the ground and soil of the same and the Butchery and Butcher's stalls and all those other cottages and stalls whatsoever and all rents and profits and commodities of the premises and all tolls and customs, etc and all Courts of Piepowder excepting to the King, his heirs and successors, all advowsons of churches and chapels to the said Lordship belonging, and all great trees, Woods and Underwoods, mines and quarries and all private tithes, oblations, obventions and mortuaries.

To hold the same to the said Sir Robert Drury for 40 years under the yearly rent of 28-3-4 at Michaelmas and Our lady and 8-10-0 more for the said fairs and markets, etc. at the same feasts.

2Recital of the Office of Gaol Keeper

And also reciting that the said King by former Letters Patents had granted to John Johnson and Thomas Johnson the Office of Keeper of the Gaol in Bury to hold the same to them and the survivor of them by themselves or deputy with an annual fee of 3, and one robe or livery of 13/4.

3Grant of Timber

Now the said King by these Letters Patents upon the petition of the Alderman and Burgesses of the said Borough of Bury St Edmunds setting forth that by a great fire many messuages etc and much goods and wares were burnt and consumed doth grant 500 tons of timber to the said Alderman and Burgesses towards the rebuilding of the said messuages etc to be taken out of Hitcham Wood.

4Reversion of the Tithes granted to the Alderman and Burgesses

And doth also give and grant to the said Alderman and Burgesses and their successors all the aforesaid tithes which were by the late Almoners of the said Monastery gathered and also all the barns, houses and buildings called the Almoners Barns with the appurtenances and the houses, lands, glebe meadows etc, formerly belonging to the said monastery and all the said fairs and markets and the Butchery and other cottages, stalls and stallages in times past belonging to the said monastery and all manner of tolls, customs, etc and Court of Piepowder and all other tithes whatsoever both great and small and the Reversion and Reversions of all the said premises Except all advowsons of Churches and chapels to the said Lordship and premises belonging and also Except all private tithes, oblations, obventions, and mortuaries.

To hold the same to them and their successors of the King etc as of his Manor of East Greenwich in Kent by fealty only in fee and common socage rendering therefore the several rents of 28-3-4 and 8-10-0 as aforesaid.

5Grant of the Gaol, Toll House, Market Cross, etc

Grant to the Alderman and Burgesses etc the gaol or prison called Bury Gaol with the buildings thereto and the houses and chambers called the Toll House and the grounds whereon they stand and the materials of the Market Cross lately ruined by fire and the Market Bell also the Office of Keeper of the Gaol called Bury Gaol without any render to be made for the same and constitutes the Alderman and Burgesses (immediately after the decease of the said John Johnson and Thomas Johnson or other determination of their office) Keeper of the gaol aforesaid without any render to hold of the King etc as of his Manor of East Greenwich etc, as aforesaid, the said office to be executed by them or their sufficient deputy with all fees, etc.

6To enjoy these privileges in the same manner as the Abbots

That the Alderman and Burgesses shall and may have and enjoy all the before mentioned particulars and so many the same and like privileges etc and in as ample manner as any Abbot of the said Monastery or any other person enjoyed the same.

7Corporation agrees to pay Ministers' stipends and rebuild the Toll House

The said Alderman and Burgesses covenant and agree with the King etc immediately after the determination of Sir Robert Drury's term to pay the sum of 6-18-10 to the Minister's stipends and save the King harmless from the payment thereof and to repair the chancels of the Churches of St Mary and St James's and acquit the King thereof and to re-edify and repair the Toll House which shall be for the setting and placing of cloth as well woollen as linen and other commodities brought from remoter places to the said town.

8Corporation agrees to repair the Gaol, build a Market Cross and repair the Bridges

And also repair the Gaol lately ruinated and will employ and use it for the keeping of offenders from time to time to be sent thither and discharge the King of the yearly fee of 3-13-4 formerly payable to the keeper of the said Gaol and likewise to build a Market Cross for the placing and exposing of grain and other commodities and lastly to repair the Eastgate Bridge, the Southgate Bridge, Stamford Bridge, Ruth Bridge and the Bridge at the Northgate.

9Corporation to collect the King's Rents

And whereas by former Letters Patents Charles Johnson Gent. was appointed to the office of Bailiff and Collector of His Rents called Landmole in Bury and the Tolls of the Fairs and Markets, the profits of the Toll House and Court there held with proviso that he be responsible for the profits received to the Kings Receiver for the County of Suffolk according to the Statute 7th Edward VI with a salary of 3-7-4.

And whereas by other Letters Patents one Gerrard White was appointed to the office of Bailiff and Collector of the Rents and profits of the Lands and Tenements in the North and East parts of Bury parcel of the possessions of the late Monastery to pay the said rents etc. yearly to the Kings Receiver of the County of Suffolk according to the Statute 7th of Edward VI with a yearly salary of fifty shillings the said Offices of Bailiff and Collector of the Rents called Landmole in Bury and the Office of Bailiff and Collector of the Lands and Tenements etc in the North and East parts of Bury within the Lordship thereof and the Office of Bailiff and Collector of the Rents and Profits of the Lands and Tenements etc parcel of the Manor of Grange also East Gate Barns in Bury parcel of the possessions of the late Monastery, and the said Alderman and Burgesses to answer to the King those Rents and Profits according to the Statute 7th Edward VI.

And the said Alderman and Burgesses do agree that they and their successors at their own costs and charges will gather the aforesaid rents called Landmole, the rents of the North and East parts of Bury and of the Manor of the Grange and pay the same to the King's General Receiver for the County of Suffolk.


There are some common clauses not translated.

The headings are the translator's insertions.

Punctuation is by the translator in most cases.

Originals: The original Letters Patent and early translations are held at the Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, where the archivist has often been able to provide valuable help and advice to the Borough regarding these early documents. The document reference was D1/6/1, and the archivist was Mrs Margaret Statham in 1978.

The Heading refers to the 1st July in the 6th year of the reign of James I, i.e., 1608.

Glossary of terms:

Advowson :the right of deciding or nominating who should be given a Church Living. The owner of the Advowson not only could give patronage to his friends, relatives and supporters, but also received all the tithes from the parish.
Court of Piepowder :a summary court with jurisdiction over a fair or market. The name is believed to come from the French Pied-Poudre or "dusty feet" because the market traders travelled long distances.
Mortuary :a payment to a priest on the death of a parishioner.
Messuage :a dwelling with outhouses, gardens and associated land.
Reversion :the right to succeed to possession.
Farm :the letting out of revenue to one who collects it in exchange for a fixed sum. Hence the modern expression of "farming out the work".
Landmole :An ancient rent paid on certain arable land in the town. The original rate was 1p per acre per half year.
In fee and common Socage :Legal term for a Feudal tenure of land involving payment of rent to a superior. Such terms survive today with a freehold house being held in fee simple for example. In the area of a socage, despite it being let or leased out, the lord retained his overlordship.
Ruth Bridge :Also known as Roth Bridge. This was another bridge outside the Southgate over the River Lark, possibly where it runs below the modern Rougham Road.
Stamford Bridge :The bridge in Out Westgate near the Ouida Memorial.
Tithe :A tithe was originally meant to mean one tenth of a persons income and produce, which was to be given to support church and clergy.
Almoner :The appointed monk in the Abbey responsible for administering and distributing alms to the poor. As this might be food and grain rather than money, he had the use of the Almoner's Barns for storage.
Glebe :This is a piece of land which served as part of a clergyman's benefice and provided some income for him.
Appurtenances :Anything attached to, associated with or belonging to the property mentioned.
Oblations :Literally - offerings to the Saint, but along with the following
Obventions :probably meant in this context to cover any other payments not specifically named.
13/4 :Thirteen shillings and four pence, or between 66p and 67p in today's money.
Without any render :No rent or dues had to be paid in return for the grant of the prison grounds, Toll House and Market Cross. This was probably because they had all been burnt down and would be a liability for the town, and not an income source.

Originally prepared by:

D J Addy
Chief Technical Officer (Finance)
St Edmundsbury Borough Council
September 1978

Copied with additional notes for this webpage in 1997

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