Monday, 26 June 2017

The “William Charter” – archive treasure …




The Guildhall put on what has to be the smallest exhibition ever … if the items were 950 years old, then really it is amazing they still exist … but they are: signed, sealed, delivered, still going strong, released from the archives and on show …

The Guildhall




The two items also set in motion the establishment of the City of London (the Square Mile, as it is sometimes known) – the trading, business and financial centre of the UK – 950 years ago.






City of London flag

William, the Conqueror, after his success at the Battle of Hastings (in 1066 AD) marched north to take London … William wanted to safeguard this prosperity, recognising its importance as a centre of trade and wealth.


City of London
Coat of Arms

The leaders of the Anglo-Saxon court (intelligently) surrendered peacefully, and were rewarded with the Charter, which over time proved beneficial to both parties.



This Charter declared that William would not reduce the citizens to a state of dependent vassalage, as usually happened in the larger towns … William was a ruthless, but wise conqueror.


The "William Charter" with his Seal dated 1067

The peoples of the City were able to continue their work and trade without general administrative interference …


It is written in Old English, and not in William’s native Norman French … the degree of autonomy which it guaranteed has been valued and defended by the City ever since.



This international character of London was noted by the Charter addressing both the French and English residents and treating them with equal status.


The explanatory board at the Exhibition -
the text is set out below

The document is very significant, apart from its 950 years’ survival, because it guaranteed the collective rights of Londoners. 


Nothing new was given … but it confirmed the citizen’s rights and privileges already in existence … confirming that the succession to property was not subject to arbitrary royal intervention.



“William, King, greets William the Bishop and Geoffrey the Portreeve, and all the citizens in London, French and English, in friendly fashion; and I inform you that it is my will that your laws and customs be preserved as they were in King Edward’s day, that every son shall be his father’s heir after his father’s death; and that I will not any man do wrong to you. God yield you”.


The Tower of London, built by William, resides outside of the City’s east wall.


The Charter and Seal as displayed


This precious tiny piece of vellum measures six inches by one and a half inches … the two slits were relevant and used … the larger one as a seal-tongue (holding the seal to the document) and the other as a tie (when the document was folded and transported).




The City from the south side of the Thames: the Tower
is in the right-hand corner (east side of this image)

The Seal is one of the earliest surviving examples from William’s reign.


This Charter is one of over 100 held in the archives, which different sovereigns have issued for the Citizens of London - enabling the City to keep its unique position.



The City of London Corporation is unlike any other administrative body in the UK and has some unusual responsibilities for a local council, as well as having responsibilities and ownerships beyond its boundaries.


Common Council Journal for Burnham Beeches
(1880) - with cover displayed separately
Here I show the cover of the Common Council Journal and minute book as at 1880 … for Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire … which the Corporation still owns and has jurisdiction over … as per this Notice (re dog fouling!) to be effective 1 December 2017!  (It is a .pdf)


This incredible glimpse into history came from the London Metropolitan Archives whose holding of records, documents, films, photographs and maps take up the equivalent of 100 km (62 miles) of archives.



The pretty unprepossessing main entrance of the
London Metropolitan Archives (a free resource) -
with significant contents, which 30,000 people visit
every year and many more access digitally
This was an opportunity I could not afford to miss and be able to post up for you to read … a rare opportunity to view the treasures held in trust for the nation.




Through these two items – the Charter and the Seal – are the key to how William won the support of London and how the City itself began to gain its special autonomy.


Map of London about 1300 AD
see here

This tiny square mile, the City, in the metropolis of London still exists and maintains its unique status, with its ancient City traditions …






… going back to Roman, Anglo-Saxon times before being ‘chartered’ by William the Conqueror in 1067 – which the authorities of London have held, archived and maintained for the nation for over nine hundred and fifty years.


The London Metropolitan Archives website ... the About page - there is an interesting video ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

46 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

What an amazing exhibition. William may have been ruthless, but he was an incredibly practical and wise man wasn't he?
He was responsible for the creation of the Domesday Book as well wasn't he? Something that historians amd archaeologists today are still grateful for.

A Heron's View said...

I think that Theresa May needs to be informed about all of this ...

bazza said...

Hi Hilary. I think the Guildhall is one of the most magnificent buildings in London - mostly the interior. So much of the way Britain is today was set down from that time onward and then of course came Magna Carta.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fulsome Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

A neat history lesson, Hilary. I was blown over when I saw the charter at the Guildhall when visiting the art gallery and Roman amphitheatre earlier in the year http://bitaboutbritain.com/art-and-the-amphitheatre/ I was particularly impressed that William had it written in the vernacular, rather than Norman-French or Latin; clever boy - he needed London on side. Love the Guildhall - memories of lunches there in those amazing surroundings.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Common Council Journal is huge.
That the people in London got to keep their rights is really significant.

Karen Lange said...

This is interesting, Hilary. I didn't realize that London was called the Square Mile, and most of these other wonderful details. Appreciate you capturing the details and personality of this rich historical gem. Have a great week! :)

Out on the prairie said...

A tiny yet powerful text to have.I always enjoy the history you find to share.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those were some really old items. It is amazing they survived.

Didn't the Tower of London hold Sir Walter Raleigh? The one our city of Raleigh is named after?

Jo said...

Fascinating Hilary. I had never heard of William granting such rights to the City of London before. My history was never good as a child, I have learned so much more since I left school. The Archives is a huge place isn't it, would take forever to really see everything. I read a book about William the Conqueror years ago and it actually seemed to me his wife, Mathilda I think, had a lot to do with his wisdom. She was a very clever woman.

Pat Hatt said...

Amazing how some thing stand the test of time and survive to this day.

Claudia Bookwright said...

The rule about picking up after our dogs is much the same, here in Lakewood, Colorado. All the parks have green boxes that dispense baggies for just that purpose. However, people can ride their horses on many of the trails and are not required to pick up after them. Go figure.

I enjoy your bits on history. Y'all have so much more of it than do we.

Andrea Ostapovitch said...

Fascinating. Our country, Canada, celebrates its 150th birthday this year. That's a tangible number. Nearly a thousand years? That boggles the mind.
Have a great week,
Andrea

Deborah Weber said...

What a fascinating bit of history. I'm always delighted by what I find when I stop by here Hilary. And I most definitely would like to visit the London archives in person - what a fabulous resource.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC – it was a few tiny exhibits – but of how much value … immeasurable. William was ruthless, but a very practical and wise man …

Yes he was responsible for commissioning the Domesday books … different ones for sections of the country … perhaps I should write about them … and yes we refer to them constantly – they are invaluable too …

@ Mel – perhaps she should be reminded …

@ Bazza – I’ve never seen the interior properly … I usually pop in for a specific exhibition, glance around (I’m afraid!) and leave for another exhibition … you are right I need to look further. Yes 1066 and onwards was how Britain or England at that stage became ‘set in stone’ so to speak … we needed a few extras … as you mention the Magna Carta …

@ Alex – yes, the Minute books back in the days were blank books with pages pasted in … but the Charter is an incredible record … and that the City know what they are entitled to …

@ Karen – the ‘Square Mile’ is a nickname for the area of what is known as ‘the city’ …

@ Steve – yes it is a tiny very powerful text record isn’t it … and wonderful to know we have such things tucked away in our archives …

@ Diane – It is extraordinary that these two items have survived and apparently in such good condition …

Raleigh and his wife were imprisoned in the Tower … and yes you’re right – Raleigh North Carolina was named after Sir Walter …

@ Jo – Well I know my history was definitely not good as a child, nor later, til I started blogging then I started to learn … The Archives do seem like a magnificent place – I think I need to visit sometime.

I wrote about William and Mathilda when I posted about St Nicolas Church Pevensey … August and then the 2nd part in November last year (2016) … quite detailed information there … and yes she was probably under estimated for many a century …

@ Pat – it is extraordinary … the crystal sceptre (600years+) has also survived intact … we are lucky in this country …

@ Claudia – yes we have regulations too, boxes for the droppings etc and the expectation that the peoples will do their civic duty … sadly obviously a new regulation is required …

I’m glad you enjoy my posts … especially the history …

@ Andrea – yes I realised Canada is celebrating 150 years this year … it is a tangible number – but it always amazes how far our history goes back … two thousand years and beyond …

@ Deborah – that’s great … it’s lovely to have your and everyone’s visits to the blog … it’s why I post … yes I must look into visiting the archives at some stage – it seems impressive …

Thanks everyone – lovely to have your comments and to know you appreciate the posts and history I post … cheers Hilary

Sandra Cox said...

Isn't that amazing? If the Charter and Seal could talk, can you imagine what they'd have to say? What they'd seen in nearly a thousand years....

Lynn said...

That's fascinating, Hilary. Wonderful to view in person, I'll bet!

Anabel Marsh said...

That must have been fascinating to see! I'm always in awe gazing at really old things and imagining who has handled them over the years.

Janie Junebug said...

What a beautiful and fascinating place. Jacksonville, Florida, is pretty much a historical and cultural wasteland.

Love,
Janie

Liz A. said...

Wow. Amazing some of that stuff is still extant.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sandra - yes thinking back and trying to work out their life, as such, is really mind blowing isn't it ... for a great deal of it - 'they'd - the items' have been pretty upset -as they'd have been locked away for a few centuries - protected and preserved. But across that period of history ... a lot went on ...

@ Lynn - yes I was very lucky to get up and see them, if only behind glass, and then to be able to read the description was a blessing ... as someone had translated for us viewers ...

@ Anabel - it takes some thinking about handling such treasure - even back 800 years ... let alone today ... and who had custody of them ...

@ Janie - we are lucky here to have so much historically valuable information available to us ...

@ Liz - it is extraordinary that it has been kept, then protected and conserved for these centuries ...

Cheers - it was a great 'little' exhibition to see! Thanks for visiting - Hilary

Marja said...

The guild hall is beautiful and what a great piece of history of William. My husband is also William but not a conqueror. Interesting I never heard about the square mile before

Rhodesia said...

A really interesting post and it is good that history is not forgotten. I am glad that all the old items are well preserved and looked after. Interesting that William had it written out in English and not in French:-)
Keep well Diane

Mike Goad said...

Nice. Good learning!

cleemckenzie said...

This gave me the chills. What a treasure trove of history. William was very smart. If he hadn't allowed commerce to continue, he would have had a non-tax paying public who were disgruntled, to say the least. And didn't the Battle of Hastings actually take place in the town that is called Battle, just outside Hastings? Small point, but I've always wondered if that bit of history I remember from somewhere is true. You keep me wanting another journey to GB. I'll be close this fall, but will be visiting those Norman folk instead. I'll wave across the Channel.

M. Denise C. said...

Wow. So interesting, H. I think I walked all over that square mile the last trip. :-)

Mark Noce said...

So cool! I could hang out forever in archives like that:) My wife studied in London, and I remember fondly visiting her there when we were in college.

Chrys Fey said...

950 years survival. That's amazing.

I want a journal that big! :D

Joanne said...

Glad you could see this. Quite an exhibit. Glad such artifacts are preserved and appreciated. Always interesting research. Thanks

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marja - I must look look around the area where the Guildhall is situated and 'inspect' further! Yes ... I think there's only one Conquering William - the one we have presently seems a peace loving King in waiting. The Square Mile is a nickname for the City ...

@ Diane - I think we'd have difficulty forgetting history ... remembering all that happened is another matter! It was interesting to see that William acknowledged English and the English ways ... it meant he rarely visited England once he'd settled its security through his appointees.

@ Mike - many thanks ...

@ Lee - yes rather a lot of history here in the UK and yes, William was smart ... he maintained the commercial aspects of life, extracted some taxes and then was able to live in France most of the time.

Re where William and Harold fought - they think they've worked out where the battle (death of Harold) took place and it's just on the fringes of Battle - yes the town of Battle in Sussex, inland from Hastings. He landed here just outside Eastbourne - miles from Hastings! - and had to skirt inland, or sail across, before he could get to Senlac Hill where William and his force waited, for the English to turn up - it is thought the English and Normans met in Battle - now Battle.

Yes please wave across 'Le Manche' facing a little east ... as I'm further up the coast from Normandy!

@ Denise - you probably did walk over this area of London when you were here for your recent visit ... glad you enjoyed your visit though ...

@ Mark - there's so much to see here ... I get overwhelmed - which I think is why I prefer smaller exhibitions - though I do the others too. What a treat to be able to visit your wife over here when she was studying and you were still both in College ...

@ Chrys - yes well preserved they are and now well conserved too. Those books are huge aren't they ... and would make a good journal ...

@ Joanne - many thanks ... it was lovely to be able to get to see this exhibition, small though it was ... a treasure of history in two small items ...

Thanks so much to you all for visiting - delighted you enjoyed the post and its history ... cheers Hilary

DeeDee said...

Wow, this is so informative. I have never come to that part of the world, Its definitely in my must-see list now

Click Here to see what Mrs. Dash Says

Jean Davis said...

Amazing that the vellum is still intact from that long ago. It must have been kept safe from the beginning.

I was surprised how much of the text was similar enough to how we write today.

Jacqui Murray said...

Life back then was pretty interesting, and unpredictable.

bookworm said...

For me as an American, this is amazing. I was taught none of this, nor had I picked any of it up in my reading. All I can say is - how interesting!!! The Unknown Journey Ahead agingonthespectrum.blogspot.com

Jz said...

And here I go, off into a deep (if pointless) ponder over how very small the imposing and fearsome structures of yesteryear are now -- grandeur reduced to something you have to squint at in the corner of pictures to pick out at all.
Today’s conclusion: I do not think I care much for the scale of our modern world...

You do make me think, Miz Hilary! :-)

Betsy Brock said...

How very fascinating! It's incredible to me to hear you talking about 950 years ago. Our country is so young compared to yours! This weekend we're celebrating only 241 years! haha.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ DeeDee - well that's great if you're going to get over to see us and some of England.

@ Jean - that's why they use vellum, and ink on vellum, it does last over time; also I guess anything to do with the City - they'd have kept very safe ... and shows what can be done.

I was pleased to see the text explanation ("translation") displayed so I could take a photo and let you see it; also it's so short and to the point - I'm glad you appreciated seeing it.

@ Jacqui - William kept us on our toes right from the beginning ... waiting for Harold to turn up on the south coast to begin battle ... then setting out to administer his new kingdom (ie not losing it).

@ Bookworm - well I'm delighted you enjoyed the post and it added a little knowledge of our early life here in England ... history is fascinating ...

@ Jz - I know life is very different along the generations isn't it and today we certainly can understand more of our early ancestors and their way of life ... so today's life does pale into insignificance - yet it is a layer upon many layers of life on earth ... where we'll be in a few more millennia is another matter! Delighted that these two tiny pieces of history gave you food to think about!

@ Betsy - I know we have lots of history here ... in fact I think they've just found something that's in existence but was used in the Neolithic era (4,000 BC - 2,000 BC - ie six thousand years ago) ... that mind-boggles me!

Yes - you are about to celebrate 241 years aren't you ...

Cheers to you all - and from here I can send you murky thoughts - we are sitting in a cloudy-mist of damp! England! Take care - Hilary

Regine Karpel said...

Great.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Amazing. Our (colonial) history on this side of the Atlantic pales in comparison. I really want to visit Europe some day to see all these treasures and artifacts. Will we still be allowed to travel to England from the mainland? :-P

Sandra Cox said...

I love all this history.
I agree with, EC. William may have been ruthless but was also wise.
Have a great Thursday.

diedre Knight said...

Fascinating, Hilary! The Guildhall itself is something to behold - let alone the history it holds within. I'd never heard about 'The Square Mile'. Thanks for the enlightenment! Somehow I am relieved to know that Poo Patrol was mandated long before it became a necessity at my house ;-)

Sherry Ellis said...

That is a fantastic exhibition! I'm so glad they added the explanation board for the writing. It's amazing how much English has changed over the years!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! That's so cool. I am thankful for your posts on history.

Nick Wilford said...

Amazing that such a tiny document could be so powerful. I would have imagined the Charter to be very long and complex.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Regine - thanks ...

@ CD - yes, well the Romans travelled up to us, we absorbed them and as much of their history as we could and then the Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans all came too - we're happy with what they've left us! Then some of you decided to leave us ... some of us stayed - history is an agglomeration of many things ... just much of ours is recorded over the centuries ...

@ Sandra - many thanks - it's so fascinating putting some of the historical puzzle pieces into context. Yes William was ruthless, but he knew good business and administration ...

@ Diedre - the Guildhall is an incredible place that keeps reminding us it is there via the art, the Roman amphitheatre underneath, the small exhibitions it puts on, the Library, and various City of London events ... it's a central hub.

@ Sherry- it was a very special tiny exhibition - and I was delighted to be able to visit. Our language has evolved, still is I think!

@ Tyrean - oh great ... I'm so pleased you enjoy these posts ...

@ Nick - exactly ... completely succinct - I can't imagine us writing things like that today ... (well I certainly can't see me being that succinct!)

Thanks everyone - so pleased you've enjoyed the post ... I must explore more of the Guildhall sometime! Cheers Hilary

Juliet Batten said...

How fascinating Hilary. That little piece of vellum looks so delicate, what a wonder it survived.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - I was delighted to see the few items - but such treasures ... setting London apart all those centuries ago ...

Vellum is surprisingly resilient ... and has obviously stood the test of time ... but still one needs to conserve it ... as they have done ...

It was great to see and to read about - cheers Hilary