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Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL/CH
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Full title: CHARTERS
Date(s): 1067-1980
Level of description: subfonds
Extent: 1.2 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The City of London has no charter of incorporation, and rights and privileges were granted by the Crown to the citizens under numerous titles - to the barons of London, to the mayor and citizens, or simply to the citizens - which titles were recited and confirmed in a charter of 1608 as names of incorporation. While the charters are rightly considered to be landmarks in civic history, they have to be read in conjunction with the customs of the period. As the first charter of William the Conqueror has reference to the civic laws of the time of Edward the Confessor, so many later charters simply confirm and elaborate on ancient customs and liberties.

In 1682-1683 the King's Bench issued a writ of Quo Warranto against the City of London which led to the Charter of the City being forfeited and the Corporation of London being dissolved, reducing the city to the legal status of a small village. Quo Warranto writs had often been used to regulate liberties and franchises, such as the right to hold a fair or a market. It was claimed that the City of London had breached its Charter by allowing the collection of tolls at market and by publishing a seditious petition against the King and Government - these abuses of the ancient liberties of the City were enough to justify issuing the writ. The overall aim of the King, Charles II, was to control the personnel and the government of the Corporation of London. After the Charter was forfeited the King issued a new one giving him the right to appoint and remove officers, including the Mayor, Sheriffs, Recorder, Common Sergeant, Justices of the Peace and Coroner, thus allowing him direct control over the government of the City. Between 1683 and 1688 the City of London was governed by a Royal Commission. In October 1688 King James II issued a Proclamation restoring the City Liberties as fully as before the Quo Warranto judgement. In 1690 a Special Committee of the House of Commons declared the judgement illegal and an Act of Parliament was passed restoring the City to its ancient rights, enacting that the City might prescribe to be a corporation and declaring that the Charter of the City of London should never be forfeited for any cause whatsoever.


Scope and content/abstract:

Charters of the City of London with related papers, 1067-1980.

Charters, grants and letters patent include the 'William Charter' of 1067?, a royal writ from William the Conqueror guaranteeing the citizens' rights as they were in the time of Edward the Confessor; a grant to Deorman (supervisor of the mint) of a hide of land in Essex, 1070?; charter confirming rights and liberties, 1155?; charter ordering the removal of weirs from the Thames, 1197; charter granting shrievalty (the right to have sheriffs), 1199; charter confirming the removal of the Guild of Weavers from London, 1202; charter granting the citizens the right to choose their mayor, 1215; charter granting archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, freeholders and all in the county of Middlesex the liberty of the Warren of Staines (a warren was land enclosed for breeding game), 1227; covenant between Richard, Earl of Cornwall and the City to lease Queenhithe Dock to the City, 1246; charter ordering that the mayor be confirmed in post by the barons of the Exchequer in lieu of the King, 1253; charter granting the citizens remission and forgiveness for misdemeanours, 1266; charter from the City of London granting tenement in Bassishaw (a ward of London) to John de Bauquelle, 1268; letters patent confirming the liberties of England as described in the Magna Carta, 1297; letters patent granting constitutions for the regular government of the City of London, 1319; letters patent ordering that charging murage (a tax levied for the building or repairing of town walls) should cease, 1319; letters patent granting royal pardon for those neglecting to keep watch on those who claim sanctuary, 1321; charter thanking the citizens for sending armed men to Leeds Castle, Kent, and offering reassurance that this will not be used as a precedent for further requests, 1321; letters patent regarding Stocks Market and the maintenance of London Bridge, 1324; letters patent granting pardon for trespasses, 1327; letters patent releasing the citizens from obligations to th e late King Edward II, 1327; charter regarding markets, gaol delivery and infangthief (jurisdiction over apprehended thieves), 1327; charter granting the bailiwick (district under the jurisdiction of a bailiff) of Southwark to the citizens of London, 1327; confirmation of ordinances regarding punishment of bakers and brewers, 1327; charter confirming the liberties granted to the City of London in Magna Carta, particularly regarding trade, 1337; letters patent regarding the conservation of the peace within the City on the King going out of the kingdom, 1340; letters patent granting the right to bear maces of gold and silver, 1354; charter granting the City's right to the soil of the Thames, 1444; letters patent granting the Corporation package (the privilege of overseeing the package of cloth brought into the Port of London) and scavage (tolls levied on merchants) as well as the office of gauger (exciseman), 1461; letters patent granting licence to citizens to purchase mortmain (lands held by a corporation) to the value of 200 marks a year, 1478; letters patent granting the removal of court sessions from St Martin's Le Grand to Guildhall, 1518; letters patent regarding the custom of the City in not presenting attaints within the City (attaint was a legal process instituted for reversing a false verdict and convicting the jurors), 1526; letters patent restoring the office of Keeper of the Great Beam and Common Balance, 1531; grants of land in Essex to Sir Richard Rich, Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations, 1539; grant of St Nicholas Shambles by Bishop of Westminster, 1550; letters patent granting pardon to the City, the Irish Society and the Companies for acts of misgovernment in Ireland, 1638; letters patent granting commission of militia, 1669; letters patent regarding the water line of the Thames Embankment, 1671; remission of Quo Warranto judgement, 1688 and letters patent appointing all Aldermen as Justices of the Peace, 1741.

Also transcripts and translations of early charters, made between 1582 and 1834; volume containing manuscript copies of 17th century Livery Charters; facsimiles of relevant charters held in other repositories and articles about the history of the charters, 1973 and 1980.

Records relating to the 'Quo Warranto' controversy, 1683-1692, including legal notes, opinions of counsel, petitions and commissions for the regulation, ordering and governing of the City of London by the officers appointed by the King.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Old English, Latin and French

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Available only with advance notice and at the discretion of the Head Archivist.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office.

Allied Materials

Related material:

A previously unidentified charter exists in the records of Kings' College Cambridge, described as "Charter of the City of London by Edward I, laying out statutes relating to city officials such as the mayor and aldermen" dated c 1300. Only the top section of the document remains. KCC reference KCAR/6/2/102/1/1, former reference: CC48.

Publication note:

See The Historical Charters and Constitutional Documents of the City of London (Walter de Gray Birch, 1887) for historical information and translations of the various charters. For more information on the Quo Warranto judgement, see The Charter Controversy in the City of London, 1660-1688, and its Consequences (Jennifer Levin, The Athlone Press, 1969).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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