WINCHELSEA CORPORATION RECORDS
|Title:||WINCHELSEA CORPORATION RECORDS|
Foreword to revised list of 2002
The records of Winchelsea Corporation were deposited in 1959 and the list of them, Winchelsea Corporation Records, published in 1963.
The records had mostly been housed in Winchelsea, but were augmented by two additional groups in 1953 and 1961.
In 1953 several volumes of corporation minutes covering the period 1527 to 1721 had been discovered, with other documents, at the offices of Messrs Trower, Still & Keeling of Lincoln's Inn, solicitors.
In 1961 an enquiry directed to the firm of Dawes, Son & Prentice of Rye, whose partners had provided town clerks since at least the 18th century, produced further documents, which were inserted into the original sequence by means of the addition of a letter to the numerical reference: see WIN/61a - 61e, 197a, 397a - 397b, 433a, 447a - 447c, 619a, 2036a and 2037a.
The documents were arranged partly according to the office of the corporation which had produced them and partly by subject, and were numbered in a sequence from 1 to 2358. The mnemonic prefix WIN was added in 1973.
The printed list also includes documents purchased by the corporation or presented to its museum: see WIN/512, 2042-2044, 2047. The covering letter presenting the last document to the corporation survives (see WIN/2362/6/1) and begs the question of the number of WIN documents which are the result of gifts rather than any administrative process.
There have been several accessions subsequent to the initial deposit, during which time Winchelsea's constitutional position, alone of the fourteen present members of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, has remained unchanged by local government legislation.
It has therefore been decided to retain the prefix WIN and continue the numbering sequence from 2359, but to introduce sub-numbers (the better to represent the provenance of individual classes and to allow for accruals) and to provide cross-references to similar material contained in the published list.
In the course of preparing the list for inclusion in the Access to Archives website in 2002, the entire archive was examined and individual documents compared with the descriptions in the published catalogue. Many of those descriptions were found to be inadequate, and a few inaccurate. It also became clear that many original bundles of vouchers, mostly dating from the creation of an office of Treasurer in 1822, had been broken and re-arranged under perceived heads of expenditure. A series of extracts from the corporation minute-books, some now missing, made in July 1768 in order to assemble evidence for the 'Winchelsea Causes' had also been distributed through the archive according to the subject of the extract.
Although the temptation to relist large portions of the archive has been resisted, the following list considerably augments the information available in the published catalogue, particularly by a much fuller calendar of entries relating to land and buildings from the early court books.
I am most grateful to Malcolm Pratt, Town Clerk of Winchelsea, for his energy in securing the deposit of this material, his provisional arrangement and listing of it and his patience while awaiting the production of a final version of the list. His list of documents relating to Rye among the records listed as those of Winchelsea Corporation (but almost certainly from the offices of Dawes, Son and Prentice) forms an appendix to this list.
6 xii 2002
This catalogue describes the surviving records of Winchelsea Corporation, generously deposited by that body on loan in the East Sussex County Record Office for the use of students in 1959. Winchelsea lost its importance as a port comparatively early and the corporation lost a great deal of its business; hence the records are less complete or extensive than those of its neighbour. For that reason the catalogue published in 1963 included lists of additional material relevant to Winchelsea history which had been deposited at the County Record Office by that date. Principal among these are the collections made by W M Homan, the historian of the town, which were kindly deposited for students' use by his daughter Mrs Goldie and listed as AMS 2277-2499; a synopsis of the list of these documents was included as Appendix 1 to the published catalogue. Homan did not live to publish the definitive history of the town which his scholarship and wide research deserved, but the draft of such a history is among Homan's papers. Despite the tendentious nature of his treatment of the origins of the Ports, this is a valuable work and deserves to be better known. His marvellous reconstruction in map form of New Winchelsea as laid out by Edward I in the 1292 Rental and his detailed study of the town's wine cellars have, among other articles in learned periodicals, already appeared in print. A bibliography of his published writings appeared on page 85 of the Catalogue. Homan also collected original documents which were also calendared with his papers.
Appendix 2 of the 1963 catalogue consisted of an analysis of the known versions of the Winchelsea Custumal, an indispensible document for the study of the constitution of the town. The custumal should be used in conjunction with the very full statements of the constitution given in connection with electoral disputes, especially the mayoralty of John Collins, 1621-8 in WIN/55, folios 241-269 passim and in the middle of the 18th century in WIN/433A and 498.
In 1959 some interesting documents on town administration were discovered while renovating Periteau House and listed as AMS 4444-4455; a brief list formed Appendix 3 to the 1963 Catalogue.
Finally Appendix 4 provided a brief description of the records deposited by the ecclesiastical parish in 1959 and listed as PAR 512.
The early history of Winchelsea is not preserved among the corporation archives. At first the dependency of a foreign monastery and, after the rift with France, a royal town, the earliest sources are the royal bailiffs' accounts, 1260-1372, among the Exchequer records at the Public Record Office (PRO SC 6/1031/19 to 1032/13). In the same office is to be found the rental of the town established on the hill of Iham in 1292 (PRO SC 11/673, printed in Inderwick, Appendix, pp 153-219). Other references to the town appear in the early Chancery rolls.
The Courts of Winchelsea
The main organ of administrative action down to the 19th century was the court. It is therefore the proceedings of the town court, enrolled under various titles, which form the main records of the corporation. Until the latter half of the 16th century little specialization and considerable duplication of function appear in these courts, which were presided over by the mayor and jurats. A succinct account of the various courts and their jurisdiction in Rye is given by William Page in VCH Sussex 9 51 but no full-scale study of the judicial and conciliar expedients of the individual ports has yet appeared; the following notes are largely exploratory.
From 1527, when the extant court books commence, the principal courts are the 'Hundred' and the 'Common Court' (curia communis, later the Court of Record or simply 'Court of the Lord King') The former differs from the normal Hundred Courts of the county at large in being concerned primarily with the political, communal and financial affairs of the town and not at all with judicial matters. It is the widest conclave of townsmen and, no doubt, the successor of the Anglo-Saxon 'moot' or assembly of the folk, the most ancient organ of town government.
At this court the mayor and other town officers were elected, including the two burgesses to represent the town in parliament, Cinque Port business was transacted, ordinances made, taxation and accounts approved. The only judicial action recorded is the election of the Grand Jury whose presentments were presumably made to a Court of Sessions (see below) and go unrecorded. Later in the century certain meetings of this court are termed 'Assemblies', the forerunner of the town council, and in these cases the names of the mayor, jurats and commoners in attendance are recorded. Nevertheless the composition of both courts seems to have been a full meeting of the inhabitants. In 1528 the composition of the Hundred Court is described as 'mayor, jurats and all the whole commonalty' and implies that all the inhabitants should be in attendance, though not necessarily taking part in the resolution about taxation then made (WIN/51 f32v).
In 1529 the composition is 'the bench and common there assembled' who had just elected two burgesses to parliament (WIN/51 f36r). The assembly is clearly stated to be composed of all the inhabitants (WIN/53 f75r). No clear distinction of function between the two is apparent; admission to the freedom, administration of town finance and property and Brotherhood business can occupy either session. Alehouse recognizances are normally taken at Assembly, elections to town office and proclamations for recognizances of land are retained by the Hundred.
Quite distinct is the Common Court or Court of Record. This is concerned mainly with civil pleas, important in a merchant community for recovery of debts and detained goods, and dealing also with pleas of land and trespass. Deeds are frequently enrolled in its proceedings as of record; see WIN/51 f184v, 185r for two cases where the deeds concerned are stated to be enrolled subsequently in the same volume. In the earliest volume (WIN/51), some of its sessions are called Piepowder Courts (curia pulverizata) or Courts for Strangers (curia de estraneis), being summary sessions for dealing with the suits of those outside the liberty and cases pleaded by attorney. Occasionally jurats and freemen were elected at this court for the sake of convenience.
The immunity of the Cinque Ports from attendance at the county courts, granted in the late 12th century, led naturally to the growth of their own Quarter Sessions jurisdiction, when this developed in the 14th and 15th century to replace the older forms of local criminal court, the manor, hundred and leet. 'Sessions of the peace' were no doubt held throughout the 15th and 16th century though no notice of them is taken in the court books before 1631 (WIN/59, f13 is headed 'Hundredum ac sessio pacis'). To such entries are appended, besides the recurrent lists of the Grand Jury, notes that 'their presentments appear upon the file of this year' (WIN/59 f13) or 'the parties presented by the grand jury, some were discharged, the others were fined as appears by the said presentments' (WIN/59 f82v). These show that the main record of this court was a series of sessions rolls or files, only fragments of which survive (see Presentments of the grand jury (WIN/198-215), writs of capias (WIN/216-229), an indictment (WIN/230) and some classes of documents registered or deposited.
Some of the court books are also missing, including the earliest, covering 1430-1526, which was in the town chest in about 1770 (see WIN/62). It is fortunate that other volumes in this series were discovered while sorting the contents of a solicitor's attic shortly before this catalogue went to press. It is to be hoped that further items will yet come to light. For three Tudor inventories of the Town's records see WIN/53 f255v, 259, 267v - 268.
It was no doubt the earliest court book, or the custumal, then in the town's possession, which is referred to in a hundred court resolution of 21 December 1527 (WIN/51 f32) in which 'the ancient Custom of this town of antiquity used' is invoked, 'whereupon the ancient records were searched and found and by the said hundred thoroughly confirmed'. It is the primary function of archives, to preserve evidence for the daily affairs of men, that has saved so much of the written past for a secondary task, the informing of historical enquiry. To this the records of Winchelsea which survive are now dedicated.
The spelling of personal surnames names is given as in the original, but Christian names are given in modern form. Place-names have been modernised, when identifiable, with the exception of forms before 1300.
|Date:||13th century -2000|
|Held by:||East Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives|
Table of contents
Membership of the Cinque Ports
WIN/1-4 Barons of the Cinque Ports, 1761-1821
WIN/5-24 Letters of summons to courts of Brotherhood and Guestling, 1710-1922
WIN/25-34 Draft and copy minutes of Brotherhoods and Guestlings, 166-1657, 1812
WIN/35-40 Lord Wardens' general proclamations, 1823-1826
WIN/41-50 Circular letters, petitions and correspondence, 1813-1914
Courts of Hundred, Assembly, Record and sessions of the peace
WIN/51-61 Court books, 1527-1886
WIN/62-64 Extracts from court books, 13th C - c1770
WIN/65-91 Copies of minutes of the court of assembly, 1771-1820
WIN/92-134 Copies of minutes of the court of hundred, 1765-1821
WIN/135-159 Warnings to attend court, 1769-1914
WIN/160-197 Writs of venire, 1775-1820
WIN/198-215 Grand Jury presentments, 1682-1821
WIN/216-221 Writs of capias and warrants to appear, 1769-1824
WIN/222-229 Sale of liquor without licence
WIN/230 Indictment, 1823
WIN/231-238 Informations and examinations, 1740-1851
WIN/239-257 Recognizances, 1785-1823
WIN/258-293 Papers concerning individual trials, 1785-1862
WIN/294-352 Licences and recognizances of alehouse-keepers, 1775-1822
WIN/353 Meeting House certificate, 1814
WIN/354-363 Orders of the courts, 1768-1824
WIN/364-376 Weights and measures, 1825-1861
WIN/377-378 Precedent books for sessions, c1880-1886
WIN/379 Summary convictions, 1853-1885
Court of Record
WIN/380-388 Precepts and recognizances, 1769-1778
WIN/389-397 Affidavits in pleas of debt, 1773-1781
WIN/397-415 Precipes and final concords, 1769-1828
WIN/416-417 Quitclaims registered in court, 1694, 1697
WIN/418-442 Election of officers, nd, 1767-1795
WIN/443-447 Sacrament certificates, 1691-1712
WIN/448-449 Oaths against transubstantiation etc, 1783-1866
WIN/450-481 The mayor as returning officer, 1774-1831
WIN/482-512 Documents concerning freemen and jurats, 1710-1785
WIN/513-613 Coroner: inquests, certificates, returns and accounts, 1775-1885
WIN/614-617 Town Clerk's papers, including Winchelsea Petty Sessions papers, 1876-1883
WIN/618-619 Chamberlain and treasurer, 1753-1834, 1882-1886
WIN/620-669 Town rates, town's and king's rents, 1589, 1702-1884
WIN/670-853 Legal business, 1787-1889
WIN/854-953 Town sergeant and gaoler's salaries, 1824-1866
WIN/954-1225 Vouchers, 1715-1866
WIN/1249-1311 Relief of debtors in Dover Castle, 1814-1860
WIN/1312-1351 Reading Room, 1899-1901; Town Band, 1912-1914; others, 1880
Taxation and rates
WIN/1352-1371 Oaths of tax commissioners, 1784-1803
WIN/1372-1510 Subsidies, land and income tax, 1785-1876
WIN/1511-1556 Hearth and assessed taxes, 1664, 1796-1870
WIN/1557-1687 County, police, asylum and gaol rates, 1810-1885
WIN/1688-2011 Papers, 1778, 1793-1815
WIN/2012-2017 Blank forms and circulars, 1797-1812
WIN/2018-2025 Papers, 1795-1823
Customs and excise
WIN/2026-2032 Papers concerning prosecutions, 1814-1824
WIN/2033-2039 Corporation estates, 1652-1831
WIN/2040-2044 Deeds of property in Winchelsea, 1326, 1413, 1461, c1660
WIN/2045-2053 Other estates, 1584-1803
WIN/2054-2145 General, 1570, 1816-1953
WIN/2146-2050 Loyal addresses, 1761-1884
WIN/2151 Description book, 1828-1886
WIN/2152-2156 Rates, 1662, 1762-1776
WIN/2157-2165 Informations and summonses for refusal to pay rates, 1815-1823
WIN/2166-2171 Property of Robert Haffenden late of Winchelsea: accounts for sale, 1780
WIN/2172-2188 Settlement examinations, 1775-1792
WIN/2189-2200 Removal orders, 1780-1822
WIN/2201-2206 Apprenticeship bonds and indentures, 1617-1634, 1770-1776
WIN/2207-2221 Bastardy papers, 1773-1824
WIN/2222-2234 Other overseers' papers, 1569, 1750-1840
WIN/2235-2237 Highway surveyors, 1822-1823, 1847-1848
WIN/2238-2242 Papers relating to the poor law, 1803-1822
Acts of parliament
WIN/2243-2314 1726, 1766-1861
Maps, prints and drawings
WIN/2315-2345 1763, c1830
WIN/2359/1 Queen Elizabeth's charter, 1586
WIN/2359/2 Minutes of the election and admission of freemen, 1783, 1796-1980
WIN/2359/3 Other documents, 1809-c1880
WIN/2359/4 General correspondence, 1877-1921, 1958-1982
WIN/2359/5 Correspondence by subject, 1924-1989
WIN/2359/6 Court Hall Museum, 1929-1977
WIN/2359/7 Deeds of Corporation property, 1803-1995
WIN/2359/8 Cinque Ports: courts and ceremonial events, 1892-1989
WIN/2359/9 Cinque Ports: papers of Herbert Lovegrove as Speaker of the ports, 1953-1982
WIN/2359/10 Accounts, 1951/52, and 1958/59 to 1983/84
WIN/2360/1 Account books, 1848-1886
WIN/2360/2 Vouchers to account, 1867-1886
WIN/2361/1 Armada ship-service arbitration 1596
WIN/2361/2 Accounts of queen's and town rents, 1807-1961
WIN/2361/3 Vouchers to account, 1887-1921
WIN/2361/4 Chequebooks, 1867-1920
Documents presented to the Corporation
WIN/2362/1 Papers of Charles Walter Campion (1839-1926) and A V Owen (1899-1982), former churchwardens of Winchelsea; 1904-1934
WIN/2362/2 Papers relating to the Town Well, 1851
WIN/2362/3 Winchelsea Auxiliary Fire Service papers of Percy Ide, 1940 - 1941
WIN/2362/4 Papers of G M Freeman as baron jurat of Winchelsea at the coronation, 1911
WIN/2362/5 Printed particulars of sale for the Friars Estate, 1908
WIN/2362/6 Assignment of mortgage of land in the sixth quarter of Winchelsea, 1678
WIN/2362/7 Maps, charts and plans collected by C H Dobbie, -1960
WIN/2362/8 Documents relating to raids on Winchelsea in 1377 and 1380, 1972-1986
WIN/2362/9 The Winchelsea working papers of Captain Herbert Lovegrove, -1987
WIN/2362/10 Deeds of Higham Cottage, Higham Green, and land at Ferry Marsh, Winchelsea, 1771-1876
WIN/2362/11 Recollections of Winchelsea 1911-1915 by Anthony Hugh Thomas, 1980
WIN/2362/12 Papers of D R Bourne concerning the jurat's oath of loyalty, 1996-1999
WIN/2362/13 Autobiography of Donovan Dennett Wilding Cole, 1997
WIN/2363/1 Correspondence, 1934-1962
WIN/2363/2 List of mayors 1295-1999; 2002
WIN/2363/3 Mayoral minute books, 1955 - 1990
WIN/2363/4 Vouchers to account, 1979-1988
From an early date the twin ports of Rye and Winchelsea on the Camber (the estuary of the Rother and the Brede rivers) have had a closely related history. By the grant of Cnut they both developed on territory belonging to the Norman abbey of Fécamp. They were jointly admitted to the confederation known as the Cinque Ports, at first as members of Hastings and subsequently, by the royal charters of c1165, 1191 and 1205, they received the same legal and financial privileges as the other full members of the Ports, including immunity from suit at the royal courts at Westminster and in the counties. Together they made payments at the exchequer and together they were addressed in royal writs.
Economically Winchelsea grew faster, despite its transplantation after the progressive inundation of its original site between 1250 and 1288, and declined earlier because its new position on the Brede tributary succumbed sooner than the harbour of Rye to the silt, which eventually destroyed them both as commercial centres. Their administrative history was from the start closely assimilated. In view of the recent publication of a similar volume to this devoted to the records of Rye corporation, it was felt that considerable repetition could be saved by omitting some of the detailed notes on the purpose and nature of many classes of records common to both towns. Where the records of Winchelsea reflect differences of municipal organization these have been duly noted.
Though reported on by the Municipal Commissioners, the borough passed unnoticed by the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835, after having been deprived of representation to Parliament by the Reform Act, 1832, and it retained until 1886 the full criminal and civil jurisdiction in its courts of Quarter Sessions and of Record, though in fact largely unused. Under the Municipal Corporations Act 1883, on 25th March 1886, all civil, criminal and admiralty jurisdictions and all exclusive franchises, privileges and exemptions in the scheduled boroughs (in which Winchelsea was included) were to cease, all corporations dissolved (with exceptions) and corporate property was made subject to a scheme of the Charity Commissioners.
A saving clause for the Cinque Ports (sect 13) left their Admiralty jurisdiction undiminished; the dissolution of a corporation was not to be construed to increase the authority of one port over another, and the non-corporate members were merged with 'the county, and hundred, and other division in which those members are respectively situate'. Winchelsea is thus, for civil purposes, part of the parish of Icklesham.
Through the intervention of Frederic Andrew Inderwick, QC, MP (1836-1904), the town's Corporation was saved by Section 14 of the Act: 'In the event of a charter not being granted to Winchelsea the property of the corporation of Winchelsea shall continue to be held, managed, and enjoyed as heretofore, in like manner as if a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, in pursuance of this Act, had provided for such holding, management, and enjoyment, and for that purpose the corporation of Winchelsea shall continue undissolved in like manner as if it were constituted by the said scheme; and notwithstanding anything in this Act, Winchelsea shall continue to be entitled an ancient town of the Cinque Ports.'
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