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The Guildable Manor of Southwark’s Charter Day, Thanksgiving Service, Quit Rents and Court of Exchequer

The Foreman of the Guildable Manor of Southwark, Lawrence Day ISO CStJ JP, invited several Livery Masters, including myself and my Consort, to participate in a celebration of the 1462 Charter of Edward IV.  The charters of 1327, 1462 and 1550 were for the acquisition of the Guildable Manor and the further acquisition of the King’s manor and the Great Liberty Manor and of all legal rights in the three manors in what is now Southwark.  The charters granted rights to the City to take tolls and customs at Billingsgate, Smithfield and the right of weighing wool.  In 1462 King Edward IV needed money to defend Calais from the French and loans were requested from the City, which was the reason for the 1462 charter.  It includes a clause that no privilege shall be forfeited through disuse.

The ceremony marks the City’s acquisition of Southwark from the Crown.  The City maintains a constitutional presence in the Borough through the Courts Leet.  Southwark is an independent authority under its free tenant burgesses who constitute the Courts Juries.  The Foreman and officers of the Southwark Manors are summoned by the Royalties Collector to the Court of Exchequer to make a formal payment to “quit” the rent to the Crown on behalf of the City.  A Quit Rent is the payment made to show that there is no longer any obligation by an occupier of land to the previous owner other than the sum involved.  Quit Rents were either trifling amounts or payments in kind rendered annually.

The word “exchequer” comes from the chequered cloth which covers the table in the Court of the Exchequer on which cash accounts to the king were rendered, and payments from the crown were moved from the black to the white squares.  Such a chequered cloth was indeed in use at this ceremony.

The day began at the church of St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey Street, Southwark in the presence of the Under Sheriff-High Bailiff, Foreman, Officers and Jurors of the Courts Leet and the Corporation of Wardens of the Manors of the Town and Borough of Southwark.  Fortunately, the order of service had several pages of explanations and history so we knew what was going on!

After hymns and readings we reached the important bit – the Quit Rents Ceremony and Court of Exchange.  It was conducted by the Common Crier and Clerks.  The Royalties Collector and City Attorney officiated.

The Foreman of the Guildable Manor and Representatives of the King’s Manor and Great Liberty responded by placing each of the eleven quits of the Quit Rent of £11 on the checked table cloth.  After each quit was announced and placed on the table there was a cry of “Good Service”.  It was witnessed by the Clerk of the Chamberlain’s Court and Manor Jurors.

A pound was then the unit of account of silver pennies, ie a pound of silver.

After the service we processed to the Oxford and Bermondsey Club for a generous and impressive lunch.  During lunch new members of the Guild were introduced and each was required to read a rule from the Guild rule book.  This was challenging as the rules were written in old English.

It was a fascinating and historic experience.  Eileen and I were grateful to the Guild for the opportunity to participate.  We wish the Foreman a speedy recovery, following his recent spell of bad health.

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