(Court of the Star Chamber, 1515)

[Bill of Complaint]

To the kyng our soueraigne lord:

        HUMBLY COMPLAYNYNG shewith vnto your highnes your daily Oratours and true liegemen the maire and Aldremen and certayne the honest  Comyners of your Towne of Newcastell vppon Tyne.  Where your saide Towne is, and the Tyme wherof mannes mynd is not the contrarie hath bene a Towne corporate endowed with dyuers great Franchesises and liberties aswell had by the grauntis of your most noble progenytours as by many good and lawdable Custumes vsed within the same approued and confirmed by your highnes and your said most noble progenytours, And emongis all other custumes, one is that the mercers Drapers and bothemen [i.e., merchants] ... haue occupied & vsed to buye and sell aswell in greate as by retaill in the same Towne all maner of wares and merchaundises what so euer aswell perteynyng to their owne misteries as to oders and all oder haue vsed only to medle occupye utter buye and sell thyngis perteynyng to their own particuler misteries and craftis and no ferder nor eny oder without especiall agrement in that behalfe had and means wherof the said Towne hath prosperously contynued and abiden till nowe of late that certayne sedicious and maliciously disposid persones ynhabitauntes of the same Towne hath moued and stered many of the Comons of the same Towne to disobedience of their maire, not contented with the said rehersed custume...but vserpe and clayme to buye and sell all maner wares marchaundises and oder thynges within their same Towne att their libertie aswell perteynyng to oder craftis and misteries  as to their owne without any agrement contrarie to the sayde auncyent lawdable custumes...  And if the saide myndemeaned persones can obiecte or allege any defaute yn your said beseechers they be redy at all tymes to be ordered and corrected by your grace your most honorable Counsaill or whome it shall please your highnes to lymyte and appoynte for the same.  And this they moste humbly requyre your highnes at the Reuerence of god...And your saide besechers shall dailly pray to god for your highnes long in honour prosperously to contynye and endure.

The answere of the Artificers Burgeneses and Guildmarchauntis of the Towne of Newcastell To the bill of Complaynte of the mayre and Aldermen of the saide Towne

    THE SAYDE ARTIFICERS sayen that the seyde bill is cediciously sklawnderously contryued and vntruly Imagyned by the saide mayre and Aldermen and other their adherentis and of their affynytie few in nombre of their owne synguler lucre and aduayle [avail] and to thentent that the better credence shulde be geuen to their vntrue and feyned surmyses...for in tymes passed the sayde artificers bought and sold all maner of marchaundises and wares att their free libertie accordyng to the grauntis amde to theym by the kyngis noble progenytours and ratified and confirmed by the kyngis grace that nowe is without any agree with other craftis... For the saide artificers seyne that by the grauntis made vppon their first corporaction it appereth that the libertie and auctoritie of free byeng and sellyng was in a generaltie geuen to all the burgeses Guyldmarchauntis of the said Towne no persone excepted...[T]he said seyne that certayne persones of the said Towne haue sued for Justice to the said maire and Aldremen syttyng in the Kyngis Courte of the said Towne for executyng of Justice att whiche tyme the saide maire and Aldremen wold litle or nothyng regard the saide humble sute or place of Justice, but with greate fury maliciously breke the hed of one of the said suters in the said Courte that the blode ranne downe by his eres, to the worst example that coude be. ...All which maters the saide artificers bene redy to proue and make goode as this Courte will award, and prayen that they may be entreted by the saide maire and Aldremen as they and their predecessours haue bene by the sayde mayre and Aldremen and their predecessours.

[Edward Ratcliff and John Bentley take evidence in the case:]

    TO THE FIRST Article Whether it hath been vsed tyme out of mynd that euery Burges of the seid Towne of Newcastill for the tyme hath vsed to occupye eny misterye or Craft othir then the Craft that he is of Without the agrement of sich Craft that he desirethe to be of or not...
    John Dolfenby of the age of lxxvj yerez sworne saith that he dwelled & was prentes in the seide Towne when he was xxti yere old and syns he dwelled in the Cuntre and he neuer knew oone Cfaftesman occupye the Craft of a nothir Without Interrupcion agrement or Condempnacion.
    ALSO John lunker Shipewright of the age of l [50?] yerez sworne saith that he neuer knew no Craftesman occupye the Craft of eny othir and that no Caftesman occupyed eny marchaundisez othir then for the Neccessarye of his houshold and famylie Without Interrupcion.

[There are many others who testified to the same effect, followed by others who disagreed:]

    Alsoo dauid mane of the same towne Schomaker Sayeth that he bought Wax Flakkis Tarr Irne hoppis and Corne by the space of xvj yere without any Interrupcion or Agrement...
    Alsoo John Robson of the said Towne Tailliour Saithe that he [and other tailors] hath bought Clothe lynyn and wolnyng hattes Bonnettes Knyffes Spicez Silkis velwettes Flakes Corne and other merchandise xxti yere to gedir without any Interrupcion ore Agrement...

Decree of the Star Chamber, May 2, 1516:

    [Starts with a long introduction describing the dispute and reciting the evidence].
...Whereuppon theseid moost Reuerend fader in god Thomas Cardynall Archibusshop of Yorke and nowe Chaunceller of Englond and theseid lordes and other abouenamed of the kinges moost honorable counsaill to the lawde and prayse of almyghty god...haue ordeyned declared and adiugged in the premisses by the expresse consent and assent aswell of thoos persones that were actorized and had auctoritie to pursue for the Craftysmen Artificers and Comens of thesame Towne and by thagrement of the Counsaill lerned for the same Conynaltie as by the expresse consent and assent of theseid Merchauntes Bothemen Mercers Drapers and Spicters and by the agrement of their counsell lerned in maner and forme folowying that is to seye First it is ordeigned decreed and adiugged by theseid moost honorable counsell that noon of thies felawshippes or craftes here vnder written named and specified shall occupie or vse the craft mysterie or occupacion of Mercers Bothemen Drapers or Spicers...but oonly theire owne propre craftes mysteries or occupacions that they be of though he or they wold agree and make and paye fynes therfor so to doo...
[fines are specified in detail].  And furthermore it is decreed ordeyned and adiuged by theseid moost honorable Counsaill for and concernyng the ordre of the eleccion of the Maire Aldermen Shirief Chamberlaynes and other Officers of the same Towne in maner and forme following First at their auncient eleccion day after the assemble of the xij felawshippes or craftes... [election procedures spelled out]  And furdermore it is ordeyned decreed and adiuged by theseid moost honorable Counsell that all theseid decrees ordenaunces and iuggementes before remembred...shalbe fermely assuredly and inviolably obserued and kepte...vpon payne of euery personne making defaute or offendying therin to the oute of the kynges fauour and in the kynges high displeasure and his body to prisonne and there to remayne witout bayle or maynprise at the kynges pleasure and to forfaite to the kyng and his heires for euery tyme that he shall soo offende xlli.  And also it is ordered and decreed by theseid moost honorable counsell and also the kinges high pleasure is that theseid decrees ordynaunces and iuggementis be exemplified vnder his greate Seale and openly proclaymed in the same Towne to thentent that euery personne may haue knowledge therof So that noon shall excuse hym by ignoraunce and the same exemplificacion to remayne in theseid Towne for a perpetuall memory...[the king pardons past offenses against his peace by the inhabitants if they adhere to this decree].  Actum et decretum in Camera stellata apud Westmonasterium secundo de Maii anno regni illustrissimi Regis Henrici octaui actauo ...necnon Consiliarii vtriusque partis affixerunt nomina sua in forma sequenti.  [names omitted].  In cuius etc.  Teste Rege apud Westmonasterium quito die Maii.

Source:  I.S. Leadam, Select Cases before the King's Council in the Star Chamber, vol. II, A.D. 1509-1544, pp. 75-118 (Selden Society, London, 1911).