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Author: ashelley

St Nicholas, the Freemen’s Civic Church, Gloucester

St Nicholas, the Freemen’s Civic Church, Gloucester

This church building has great importance in the history of the ‘Freemen of Gloucester’. Built in the 12th century in the Westgate ward of the old city, it performed a principal part in the support of the ancient burh (borough). The church became redundant in 1971 and is now under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Strategically located within the early burgage plots it was central in serving the Corporation and the industrious trades merchants of the City.

The parish vestry, in conjunction with the court of the adjacent ‘Boothall’, provided government to the local merchants. Within its parish duties it also administered the functions of the Westgate Bridge and St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Also, within its remit was the burial of inhabitants from the King’s Castle and from the county gaol.

A graveyard that stretched from behind the church was closed in the 18th century and the human remains reinterred in the city cemetery. The cleared area of the burial ground subsequently made way for increased housing.

The parish boundary had stretched from the Castle ditch to include the ‘Bareland’ that had been cleared, at the King’s request, some time following the civil disturbances of 1264. These grounds were subsequently claimed by the burgesses and were redeveloped during the 17th century. The Westgate burgage properties were held directly from the King and ‘landgable’ (tax) was paid to the Crown.

By the 15th century, the military necessity for the cleared zone had declined and the south facing plots were once again built on. This was all claimed by the burgesses as ‘corporation’ land. Remember, the burgesses were given their freedom by a charter of Henry II in 1155 and regarded themselves proudly as the ‘Kings Tenants’. An interesting thing about the ancient burh (borough) plan is that plot positions and borders were rigidly retained.

The early Saxon burh or borough had been concentrated on the Westgate ward of Roman Gloucester. It was well organised and laid out in precise burgage plots with frontages to the streets. As the Borough developed and the population grew, some plots were split (within their boundaries) to accommodate further housing. The borough was governed by a Reeve appointed by the king and later replaced by the Sheriff in the Castle. The edge of the old ‘Bareland’ is visible today in the existing Quay Street whose curving road indicates the probable lip of the outer ditch of the Castle.

St Nicholas Church, when it was later planted in its position, appears to have been dedicated by that name, to the patron saint of sailors and merchants. It has all the hallmarks of the old ‘wool churches’ in towns of that time, indicative of the wealthy trade in woollen cloth. Several other trades developed under the old Merchant Gild and the Westgate ward became considerably wealthy. Trading in goods via the Severn to Bristol and overseas brought a healthy income to the Corporation.

The Churchyard would have complemented the activities of the Boothall in being a popular outdoor meeting place with measuring and trading facilities and was possibly the place for the ‘town’ penal stocks. There is no doubt how the impressive tall elegant spire would have been visible from a distance and the peal of the six bells very encouraging. By the sixteenth century the church was so popular that squints were inserted in the side chapel walls to allow a large standing congregation to view the alter.

In contemplating the importance of this church in Gloucester, I would say it was truly the ‘Mother’ church of the Freemen’s community. AS.


‘Boothall’ (booth-hall) was a combined town hall/guild hall set at right angle (end-on) to the street where the Shire Hall stands today. The ground floor, with trading booths and storage for portable stalls that could be taken to the marketplace by the Cross. Upstairs was the Moot hall for court and Corporation meetings and voting.

St Nicholas Graveyard, burial ground has Registers running from 1558 to 1785. These can be viewed in the ‘Gloucester Archives’.

Free Burgesses of Gloucester, the proud ‘King’s Tenants’ had valuable collective rights including to graze their cattle and horses on the Common Ham and to fish a specific stretch of the River Severn.

Alms of St Bartholomew’s Hospital remain today in the form of a modern building in Park Road, Gloucester. Freemen of Gloucester continue to have an interest through their ‘Compensation Fund’.

The Freemen and Women of Gloucester who have inherited their ‘freedom’ from ancestors who were free burgesses of the City – continue their traditions today in the modern environment.

Gloucester – The Case for Royal Entitlement

Gloucester – The Case for Royal Entitlement

To whom it may concern

The City of Gloucester has good grounds for consideration of entitlement as a ‘royal’ town. Initiated by Alfred the Great and by Ethelred and Aethelflaed whose palace was at Gloucester. From earliest times it has been a place of noble patronage. Bede spoke of it as ‘one of the noblest cities in the Kingdom’. Alfred’s grandson Athelstan, first king over all of England was raised and died in Gloucester (buried in Malmesbury Abbey). Gloucester was referred to as his Royal borough by King Edgar, the unifier of England in 972. This was when six kings made submissions and he held regular councils and synods and it became a centre of royal government. Edward the Confessor in 1051, summoned his magnates to his ‘palace at Gloucester’, where he often resided.

The king’s palace designated ‘Kingsholm’ was later accompanied by royal apartments within a magnificent fortified ‘King’s Castle’ built in the style of the Tower of London. The castle that also housed the county sheriff, had three chapels, two drawbridges and comfortable chambers for both the king and the queen was a desirable royal residence. The old royal palace became less attractive than the security and comforts within the castle and its pleasant grounds.

Gloucester City was early governed by a ‘royal reeve’ (preceding the Norman Sheriff). Rights to farm the city by the burgesses were granted directly from the crown and customs were paid in the king’s hall (aula et camera Regis). Clearly this city had a warm appeal to visiting monarchs.

It is symbolic that from the start of the Norman reign, William the Conqueror would wear his crown at least once a year at Gloucester as he did at Westminster. He clearly regarded the City as ‘Royal’. His eldest son Robert, Duke of Normandy is buried in Gloucester Cathedral. Henry I in 1155 granted the citizens with similar liberties as those at London and Winchester.

It was also at the Cathedral in Gloucester that Henry III was crowned, the only English monarch to ever receive their coronation outside of Westminster Abbey. Henry, throughout his long reign favoured and often resided at Gloucester. Richard II from 1378 convened Parliament in the city and this practise continued regularly up until 1406, under Henry IV.

Royals buried in Gloucester include, King Osric who founded the monastic Cathedral in 680. The Mercian royals Ethelred and Aethelflaed at St Oswald’s Priory and King Edward II who is buried in the Cathedral. Gloucester was popular with King Henry VIII who is said to have enjoyed a close friendship with the Abbot of St. Peters and visited often. The city received further encouragement from Queen Elizabeth in 1561 by her ruling charter giving superior empowerment to its people that remained in force up until 1832.

In the 18th century, the Duke of Norfolk resided in a Palladian residence, ‘Spa House’ built in Westgate Street. Undoubtedly the gentry tended to shun the City after the Civil War for political reasons and consequently favoured Regency Cheltenham. However, the ancient city of Gloucester is the primary administrative centre of Gloucestershire and has retained many of its ancient liberties that existed prior to the civil wars.

The case for royal patronage must surely include the county. Gloucestershire can be recognised today as a Royal County having Prince Charles, the king in waiting, residing at ‘Highgrove House’ and Princess Anne, Prince Michael and Zara Phillips all making it their home. Historically, King George III made his home at nearby Cheltenham. Royals have maintained a link with Gloucester dating right back to Alfred the Great. It would seem perfectly reasonable that the town should be entitled ‘The Royal city of Gloucester’.


The Constitution of a ‘Royal’ title:- requires the approval of the sovereign. It’s the reigning monarch who decides to bestow the honour. Petitions can come directly from the prime minister or through the Cabinet Office.

If or when the Queen confers the title, the new name would come into effect on the date she signs and seals a Letters Patent. This being the legal instrument and in the form of an open letter, granting the title.

The process is similar for those towns that have the Latin suffix “Regis” meaning ‘of the king’ decision in the past and where it was usually bestowed on towns frequented by royalty.

Alan Shelley, November 2019, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Of Gloucester & York

Of Gloucester & York

The County towns of Gloucestershire and Yorkshire while unique in themselves have much in common with each other in forming our English nation.

It is interesting to discover the several historic parallels between these two ancient cities. Their capital importance within the history of England is sometimes overlooked by modern society. Historically they were only second to London and Westminster. An indication of the importance of York is given to its Archbishop, whose position is ranked directly after the Archbishop of Canterbury. The magnificence of the Minster is a clear indication of his exalted importance.

Physically, the strategic locations of York and Gloucester were chosen by the Romans in order to govern their locality and for their defensively convenient positions by the Severn and the Ouse. When the Romans founded their ‘colononia’ they would have recognised the importance of these locations within the indigenous British tribal areas.

York was created in 71 AD in the north, as the capital of ‘Britannia Inferior’, when the Ninth Legion conquered the British tribe known as the Brigantes. A timber fortress was initially constructed on level ground above the River Ouse close to the confluence with the River Foss. Several Emperors are known to have held court in York during the Roman occupation. Initially named by the Romans as Eboracum, the city name was Anglicised to Eoforwic and subsequently given the Norse name Jorvic by the Danes. Jorvic was recognised as the capital of the ‘Danelaw’. The Normans called the City Evorwic and finally York.

York had been the chief city of King Edwin of Northumbria, installed around 615 by King Raedwald, the Norsk bretwalda. William the Conqueror by 1068 had subdued the south but had trouble in the north and faced rebellion at York. He had a fortress built in 1069 from where the Normans carried out the ‘Harrying of the North’ destroying everything from York to Durham. When William came to England, claiming his cousin Edward (the Confessor) had bequeathed him the throne, he set about removing the Nordic traditions and culture that existed at York. Even so, the city retained its Nordic culture and traditions for many generations.

The import of the royal cities of Gloucester and York have greatly influenced the often-dramatic history of our monarchy and the governance of the nation. This was particularly apparent within the subsequent ‘Plantagenet’ conflicts leading to the ‘Wars of the Roses’ concluding with the Tudor supremacy,

William I’s fourth son Henry (born at Selby York), was a well-educated scholar in Latin and the arts and known as Beauclerc. As King Henry I he seized the throne in 1100 and in 1106 invaded Normandy to take control of the Duchy of his brother Robert. When Henry’s son William became shipwrecked and drowned in 1120, he declared his daughter Matilda to be his heir. Civil war in 1135, led to Matilda invading England in 1139 (against cousin Stephen of Blois) assisted by her half-brother Robert of Gloucester.

The House of Plantagenet

Henry II, a Frenchman known as Curtmantle or Henry Plantagenet, ruled as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Maine and Nantes. He also partially controlled Scotland, Wales, the Duchy of Brittany and the eastern half of Ireland. Son of Matilda (daughter of Henry I) and Count Geoffrey of Anjou, he was energetic and ruthless. He is greatly known to history for his conflict with his former friend Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

On the accession of Richard, as King, he conferred upon his younger brother John, the county of Mortain in Normandy. He also arranged his marriage with the granddaughter of Robert, Earl of Gloucester (Henry I’s bastard). There were difficulties with the marriage as they were cousins and it required approval from the Pope. John had many weaknesses but was identified as anti-French by the people. He won over the citizens of London by granting them the right to elect a mayor and to self-govern their city. Many towns, including Gloucester, were subsequently given similar privileges.

John became infatuated with the twelve-year-old Isabelle of Angouleme and discarded his first wife, Isabella, Countess of Gloucester. In 1203 he instigated the murder of his nephew and rival, Arthur of Brittany. John was always at loggerheads with the Church, leading to his excommunication until 1213. Famously, John was forced into sealing the Magna Carta at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. This defined the rights of the Church, the barons and the people. John died at Newark Castle in October 1216. Queen Isabella was residing at Gloucester when John died and in 1217, she returned to France.

The Royal borough cities of Gloucester and York were intrinsic elements of the mediaeval monarchy. Earls and Royal Dukes designated with distinguished titles, became rivals who were led to choose sides in the power games of later generations. Notably in the subsequent conflict and war between ‘the Roses’.

When John died in 1216 his son Henry aged only nine was quickly crowned in Gloucester to prevent control going to King Louis VIII of France. Henry III was protected and brought up by the powerful William Marshall (of Pembroke) in the middle of the First Barons’ Revolt. Henry eventually promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225 before re-establishing rule and governing personally through appointed ministers. His close and trusted friend Richard de Clare (of Gloucester) in Court, assisted him to oppose the radical Simon de Montfort (his brother in law) and the Savoyards. In 1263 Simon seized power, resulting in the Second Barons War.

Henry was married to Eleanor of Provence, with whom he was true and steadfast and had five children. Known for his piety, his patron saint was Edward the Confessor. Henry III died in 1272 after a long reign of 56 years and was succeeded by his son Edward I. Henry III is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Edward I was named by his father after Edward the Confessor. He became known as Edward ‘Longshanks’ and as ‘Hammer of the Scots’. An outstanding king, soldier and a wise statesman. King of England from 1272 to 1307. Edward spent much of his reign reforming royal administration and common law. He had studied his father’s reforms and developed a series of statutes relating to both criminal and property law. Edward is most known for his military campaigns. He subjected Wales to English rule and built a series of castles and towns to control the nation. He recovered the Duchy of Gascony and continually put pressure on the Scots. He was a tall man of six feet two inches in height and had an intimidating presence.

The ’Statute of Gloucester’ was legislated and proclaimed at Gloucester in August 1278. It was crucial to the development of English law. Reforming regal authority, alienated during his father’s dispute with Simon de Montfort. It is the statute originating the common law concerning property and the recovery of land seized illegally. It uses the old writ of quo warranto requiring proof of authority.

Edward I’s son Edward II, born 1284 in Wales, was known as Edward of Caernarfon. He was the first of the English monarchy to be crowned Prince of Wales. His reign was spent in conflict with the powerful authority of the English barons. Married to Isabella, daughter of the King of France his lifestyle was controversial. Perhaps his greatest disaster was losing the war with the Scots at Bannockburn. In the battle the all-powerful family de Clare came to its conclusion. The brave but impetuous Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester personally and by example led his men into a pitched battle. A trusted friend of the monarchy, he had been ‘guardian of the realm’ when the King was in France. Edward was deposed in January 1327 and legend has it that he was murdered in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire in September 1327. His funeral and burial were held in Gloucester Cathedral where his tomb is by the high altar and where it received great popularity from public pilgrimages.

During the reign of Edward II, a growing resentment from Isabella, Mortimer, Edward’s half brother Thomas Brotherton and from Henry of Lancaster, who had inherited the earldom from his brother Thomas. The cracks between the Houses were just beginning to show. The rule of Isabella and Mortimer did not last long before Edward III, the young King, conducted a coup d’état at Nottingham and Mortimer was executed.

Edward III, born at Windsor Castle, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from January 1327 until 1377. Crowned at fourteen after his father was deposed by his mother and Roger Mortimer. He was seventeen when he successfully regained rule. He declared himself rightful heir to the throne of France (starting the ‘Hundred Years War’) and set out to regain Scotland. Edward is known for his military successes.

His children were Edward, the Black Prince, John of Gaunt, Edmund, 1st Duke of York, Lionel, 1st Duke of Clarence (keeping the memory of de Clare alive) and Thomas Duke of Gloucester. Edward transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most powerful nations in Europe. He reigned for fifty years, nearly as long as his grandfather. His eldest son, the Black Prince was also known as Edward of Woodstock and Earl of Chester. He died before his father and so it was his son Richard that succeeded to the throne. The third son, John of Gaunt (or Ghent) became Duke of Lancaster through his wife Blanche of Lancaster who was of royal parentage, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. He was the most wealthy and powerful peer of the realm residing at Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire. Bolingbroke from Bolingborg in Lindsay, the Anglo Danish settlement of Stori at the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Edmund ‘Crouchback’ of Grosmont Castle was the second surviving son of Henry III. He was granted the wealthy possessions of Simon de Montfort including the Earldom of Leicester. Later he took the title Earl of Lancaster. His son Henry, 3rd Earl of Leicester and Lancashire was one of the principals that deposed Edward II. He was appointed Constable of Lancaster Castle and High Sheriff of Lancashire. His son Henry of Grosmont became first Duke of Lancaster.

Richard II, also known as Richard of Bordeaux, succeeded to the throne in 1377 upon the death of his grandfather Edward III. He was only ten years old at the time. He was dependant on his uncles John of Gaunt and Thomas of Woodstock. Following much unrest among the peasantry he was faced with a violent revolt in 1381 which he successfully assuaged. This King was a firm believer in the royal prerogative and depended on a small private retinue for protection. His authority was threatened by a group of aristocrats causing him to become tyrannical. In 1399, after John of Gaunt died, he disinherited Gaunt’s son Henry of Bolingbroke who had previously been exiled. Henry returned and gathered sufficient supporters to challenge Richard in warfare.

Hence began the 15th -century ‘Wars of the Roses’. The House of Lancaster, represented by John of Gaunt and his son Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford. They were of royal descent and likely candidates to succeed the childless Richard. Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, who was acting as Keeper of the Realm while the King was in Ireland, had little choice but to side with Bolingbroke. In August 1399, Richard surrendered to Henry at Flint Castle and he was taken to be imprisoned in the Tower of London.

However, Henry was not the next in line to the throne. The heir presumptive was Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, great-grandson of Edward III’s second surviving son Lionel, Gaunt’s brother. On 30th September, Richard gave up his crown willingly and ratified his deposition. He then retracted his decision and fell into a rage. He was formally deposed on 13th October (the feast day of Edward the Confessor) and Henry Bolingbroke was crowned king. To avert any threat of an uprising Richard was moved to Pontefract Castle where he probably starved to death.

Henry Bolingbroke, now King Henry IV was the first monarch since the Norman Conquest to use the English mother tongue. He founded the Lancaster branch of the House of Plantagenet. Henry V, also known as Henry of Monmouth, was king from 1413 until his death in 1422. An outstanding military strategist he has been immortalised by Shakespeare as the greatest warrior king of medieval England. Henry had one son who would succeed him as Henry VI at only nine months when his father died in 1422. He also succeeded to the French throne shortly afterwards. Timid and shy, prone to a mental illness, he had other people to rule for him.

Richard, 3rd Duke of York, known also as Richard Plantagenet, was a popular great-grandson of King Edward III through his father. He governed as Lord Protector during the spell of madness of Henry VI. During which time he made claims to the throne and was a major cause of the ensuing Wars of the Roses. It was generally agreed that he should become king on Henry’s death. However, he was killed in battle and it was his sons Edward (IV) and Richard (III) who would later ascend the throne.

Edward IV proclaimed himself king in March 1461, to rule until October 1470 and then in 1471 until his death in 1483. Edward had the patronage of the powerful Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (The King Maker).

During this period of the Wars of the Roses, the Lancastrians won several battles, forcing Edward to flee to Flanders while Henry VI was restored back on to the throne. Edward then formed an alliance with Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. With a small invasion force he was reinstated at York and marched south to defeat Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. He went on to win the Battle of Tewkesbury, in which Henry’s heir, Edward of Westminster was killed.

Shortly afterwards when Henry suddenly and mysteriously died, Edward was restored to the throne. He then reigned until his own sudden death in 1483. Edward was succeeded by his 12-year-old son Edward V who was never crowned before soon disappearing. Edward’s brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester had been acting Lord Protector during the young king’s minority. He then assumed full sovereignty and was crowned Richard III.

At that moment, the House of Lancaster appeared to have finally been crushed. However, when Richard III, Duke of Gloucester became king in 1483, he was to be the last king of the House of York and of the Plantagenet dynasty. It was Henry Tudor’s claim to the Lancastrian connection and the defeat of Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field, that finally ended the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII’s claim of entitlement was through his mother who was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III.

NB- Henry VII descended from Edward III through the Beaufort line (they were legitimised by half brother Henry IV; (not in succession). Henry VII claimed the throne by ‘right of conquest’ not by blood.

Conclusion – with regard to heritage, clearly there are weaknesses in the lineage of, or from. Edward IV and with the dubious Henry VII. The Tudor dynasty promoted propaganda to enhance their claim and to spoil the image of the old Yorkist allegiances. Lancastrian heritage has subsequently been frozen along with its wealth and is held within the ‘Crown’. It is the private estate of the ruling sovereign and it continues to fund and support the monarchy under the title of the ‘Duchy of Lancaster’.

The Duchy is administered on behalf of the sovereign by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is an appointed minister of the government. This estate has been the personal property of the monarch since 1399 when Henry Bolingbroke merged his Lancastrian title with the crown. Its revenues from the holdings provide for the monarch’s ‘privy purse’.

Lancastrian influence has been sheltered by the ‘Duchy’ and the prominence of the Tudor regime has overshadowed the earlier importance and consequent images of both Gloucester and York.


  1. For political reasons the memory of Richard was deliberately smeared. The characterization by Shakespeare has been sharply disputed by the large following of the ‘Ricardian Society’. Richard had been a dominant and respected leader, particularly popular in the North where he had shown himself to have outstanding military skills. He was also recognised to be pious and considerate in his dealings. He proved his bravery and leadership particularly in the battles of both Barnet and Tewkesbury.

Richard was killed in pitched battle on Bosworth Field in August 1485 and his body was interred in the Greyfriars Friary in Leicester. His grave was rediscovered September 2012 under a carpark covering the old Friary grounds. He was reburied with pomp and ceremony and a significant table tomb within Leicester Cathedral in March 2015.

  1. In medieval times Gloucester was popular with the monarchy. There were many beautiful buildings, including the Cathedral and a royal castle built in the style of the Tower of London. In a similar way the castle was part fortified royal residence and part prison. It had three chapels, two drawbridges and chambers for both the king and the queen. The castle normally housed the castellan in charge who was the county sheriff. During his reign, King Henry III was often in residence.

Following the Reformation and the Dissolution of the monasteries, the suppression of the chantries dealt a severe blow to the guilds and fraternities of the city. Radical protestant, John Hooper was appointed bishop of Gloucester in 1551. On Queen Mary’s accession, Hooper was burnt at Gloucester in 1554. Mary was considerably angered by Gloucester’s protestant sympathies.

Gloucester trade companies patronized puritan preachers. By the 1640s, Gloucester had fully adopted Protestantism, encouraged by the town clerk John Dorney, who declared that Gloucester was a ‘Free City’, free from Popery and in the cause of ‘God and the Commonwealth’.

The Siege of Gloucester by the army of King Charles I, took place between 10 August and 5 September 1643. The failure marked the beginning of the end for Charles I. He was finally defeated at the Battle of Preston and his subsequent execution in 1649. Popularity of Gloucester by the monarchy had taken another severe dint and when Charles II returned to the throne, he punished the City by having its walls torn down.

AS 11- 2019

Peggs vs Lamb Law Report

Peggs vs Lamb Law Report

Law Report: Trusts to benefit whole borough:

Peggs and others v Lamb and others – Chancery Division (Mr Justice Morritt), 12 March 1993. Paul Magrath, Barrister 20 April 1993.

The freemen of the ancient borough of Huntingdon did not have a statutory right to share equally between them all the income of the land, proceeds of sale and investments currently held by the trustees of the Huntingdon Commons Charity and Lammas Rights Charity.

The original and charitably valid purpose of the two trusts was to benefit the inhabitants of Huntingdon; but because the number of qualifying freemen and widows had dwindled considerably a scheme should be directed, pursuant to section 13(1)(d) of the Charities Act 1960, to enlarge the class of beneficiaries to include all the borough’s inhabitants.

Mr Justice Morritt so ruled on a summons brought by the trustees of the two charities, against representatives of the freemen and widows, and the Attorney General representing the interests of charity generally.

Timothy Lloyd QC and Malcolm Waters (Greenwoods, Peterborough) for the trustees; Hubert Picarda QC (Bates Wells & Braithwaite) for the attorney General.

Mr Justice Morritt said the two charities, as registered under section 4 of the 1960 Act, had the objects of providing income or other benefits to the freemen and widows in Huntingdon. Each was presumed to arise from a grant to the ancient borough, subject to a trust or condition in favour of the freemen and widows, as exemplified in Goodman v Mayor of Saltash (1882) 7 AC 633, in order to give lawful origin to rights exercised from time immemorial. But the class of freemen now entitled to benefit had so reduced, and income from the proceeds of the sale of charity property had so increased, that the annual benefit to a freeman was more than the Charity Commissioners considered to be considered to be consistent with the application of charitable funds. They suggested the trustees apply for a scheme to ensure income was only paid to freemen in need and the surplus applied to help the poor and sick of the borough.

The freemen claimed a statutory right to take equally between them the whole of the income of the trust property, pursuant to section 2 of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The Act’s purpose was to separate the freemen or burgesses from the corporation and to vest in the new corporation the property of the old while preserving certain rights of the freemen. Section 2 provided that the freemen ‘shall have and enjoy. . .as he or she by any statute, charter, by-law. Or custom in force at the time of passing this Act might or could have had, acquired, or enjoyed in case this Act had not been passed.’

The freemen argued that the evidence showed a long and consistent pattern of the freemen sharing equally between them the enjoyment of the land in specie and any income derived from it. This usage, even if only permissive before 1835, was converted into a statutory right by section 2. But his Lordship agreed with the Attorney General, that while section 2 made the rights enjoyed prior to 1835 actionable at law, it could not alter or enlarge them, or create a right where none had existed. Before 1835 the property was held on charitable trusts which the Act did not affect.

By 1835 the freemen’s use and enjoyment had existed for over 600 years, so that a lawful origin ought to be presumed as at 1835 if it was reasonably possible to do so, For the reasons given by the House of Lords in the Saltash case, which were equally applicable in 1835, such lawful origin could only be found in a charitable trust.

His Lordship also rejected the freemen’s submission that the purpose of the trusts was merely the provision of income and general benefits for individual freemen and their widows. The original purposes were general charitable purposes which were presumed to have been the purposes laid down in the Middle Ages. The class of freemen was then and for several centuries after an entirely suitable one by reference to which the charitable purposes should be laid down.

That was no longer so. The effect of the 1835 Act was to destroy the political importance of the freemen, thus undermining their social and economic importance too, Membership of the class was restricted and had since dwindled very considerably.

It was clear a case had been made out under section 13(1)(d) of the 1960 Act for a scheme to be directed, enlarging the class of persons benefitting so as to include the inhabitants of Huntingdon as a whole.

Shelley Successions at Sudbury

Shelley Successions at Sudbury

For centuries the Shelley’s were ‘freemen’ trading in Sudbury, clearly succeeding directly from Richard Shelley who is recorded in 1632. The family operated in the woollen weaving business employing apprentices and yeomen weavers. Eventually they moved into blacksmithing and established a flourishing operation at the east of the town in the area known as Wigan End.

In the 1860s Charles Thomas Shelley was head of the family, with premises at nos 9, 10 and Il East Street (Wigan End) with a yard at the rear containing two cottages and workshops. Across the street opposite were further premises nos 88 and 89 with another ‘forge’ workshop attached. Various trade directories for Suffolk refer to the businesses of Blacksmithing, Shoeing, Gig making and as wheelwrights. Directories also refer to the additional trade of beer retailing.

Charles’s uncle Robert Shelley had been the landlord of the ‘George’ Public House and Charles’s son William later became the proprietor of the ‘Prince of Wales’ Hotel [clearly with a knowledge of brewing which he capably did on his own premises]. In 1898, William opposed an application by Mr Mauldon to build a licenced PH at the ‘Wents estate’ abutting Clarence Road and Stanley Road in the parish of St. Gregory. A memorial was read at the hearing, stating the inhabitants of the parish oppose the application.

There were ten children of Charles and his wife Mary Ann of which seven sons survived to adulthood. It would seem that Charles may have been a little too enthusiastic to build up the beer retailing by erecting a Public House in 1863 called ‘The Red White and Blue’ [subsequently renamed the Hare and Hounds] and he put it up for auction. This may be significant because he was declared bankrupt in 1869 at the age of 43. By the time of his death in 1884 he must have managed to pay off any debts and to pass the properties and blacksmithing business on to his eldest son Charles George.

It would appear that following the bankruptcy, with the exception of son James who went to Ipswich as a blacksmith, William who went into the hotel trade and Aylmer who was a successful blacksmith independently employing two men, the younger brothers would need to seek their fortunes away from home. Henry Shelley, my great grandfather, went off to London as did all but one of the others eventually to follow in the same direction later on. Henry married his Assington fiancé in London in 1876 and they had three children, all boys, namely Walter James, my grandfather, Leonard and Bertie.

Around 1890 Henry returned to Sudbury with Mary Ann to live at I Girton Terrace in Princes Street. Their sons subsequently were comfortably employed in London and Leonard became a draper representing Sudbury silks, travelling far and wide installing draperies in many leading hotels and large houses.

On Henry’s return to Sudbury he appears to have immediately become employed by the Adams family at the wine merchant’s shop in the ‘Old Market Place’. Henry Sparrow Pratt and later his son Henry Cronin Pratt, (the ‘sensation of Sudbury who absconded with large sums of money in 1893) had an interest in the business. Henry Shelley was called upon to keep shop, look after the wine cellar and to porter the wines to customers with a pony and trap.

I believe that without any exceptions all of Henry Shelley’s brothers [having been born in the town] came back to Sudbury to give the oath and to take up their freedom. The problem existed for their sons who, by virtue of not having been born in Sudbury, were unable [through custom] to take up their freedom. A restoration of these lost lines has subsequently been made, both by the male and latterly by the female descendants of Charles Thomas Shelley.

Wigan End (East Street)

Wiggen, Wiggins or Wigan End from which the various versions are derived was a location at Sudbury, directly east of St Peter’s church. It was associated and peripheral to the ‘Old Market Place’. This opened out as a short street onto a highway to Great Waldingfield and to Acton. At the entrance of which, in mediaeval times there would have been an ‘East Gate’ to the Town.

Where did the name Wigan End originate? The most probable, as with many places in early times, it described the property ownership. Both the William Downes Map of 1811 and the Tithe Map of 1840 indicate “Wiggins End” and associated agricultural land named “Wiggins Piece. In the same way closely adjacent is agricultural land named “Newman’s Piece” (now the location of Newman’s Street along with a large area of houses.

Wiggins End is almost certainly derived from Wigayn’s End and Piece. In 1353 the Town Chamberlain recorded that property holder Simon Wigayn was in arrears with his rent tax — “In defectu redditus pasture quondam que in dominio domine ad festum Navitatis Sancti Johannis Baptiste”. These account details are to be found on page 22 of Hodson’s History of the Borough of Sudbury. Copies of early maps of Sudbury and Wigan End are in the possession of Alan Shelley.

The 19th century heralded several modernising changes to the Borough both in its town plan and in its corporate culture. Old buildings were cleared from around St Peter’s and a new ‘Town Hall’ was erected in 1828. This caused the old ‘Moot Hall’ to become defunct and to fall into disrepair. The removal of the old hall in 1844 cleared the way to create an enlarged market area outside the newly constructed

(1841) ‘Corn Exchange’. These changes closed an era of corrupt practices that were now reformed under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 making way for the new freely elected Council operating at the Town Hall on the ‘Old Market Place

Sometime between 1871 and 1881 Wigan End was revised, extended and renamed entirely as East Street. House numbers and names were changed accordingly.

NB. Rents were collected at St John the Baptist festival day (Nativity of St John The Baptist a Christian feast day 24 June ‘quarter day or annual payment day’

Shelley Ancestry at Sudbury

Year Name Place Source
1524 William Shelle Stoke by Nayland Subsidy List
1564 John Shelley marriage to Agn Grub at Clare BT Boyd’s List
1569 John Shelley marriage to Agn Gruce ? at Clare (a delayed marriage?) Boyd’s List
  John Shelye Yeoman at Pentlow Pentlow Parish Records
1573 William Shelye (siblings Thomas, Clement, Sarah & Susan) Pentlow Parish Records
1596 William Shelley married Ann artlet at Bulmer in July Bulmer Parish Records
    buried 21-8-1619 at Bulmer Bulmer Parish Records
1606 Richard Shelley married Margaret Linet at Bulmer 26 April 1631 Bulmer Parish Records
  (Able-man All Saints 1638 Reg) buried 5-01 1642 All Saints Sudbury
1640 Thomas Shelley 24-01 (4th sibling Philip, John, Mary, Richard) buried 1684 All Saints Sudbury
1663 married Elizabeth (buried 1684 All Saints) Freeman Sudbury Records
1668 Philip Shelley Weaver recorded on 1703 son of Thomas son of Richard Freemen’s List
1689 married Mary Willismore (Belchamp Walter 18-06) Parish Records
1704 Philip Shelley bapt 16-11buried1740 Parish Records
1727 married Elizabeth Fuller 5-03 St Gregory’s Copies of Deeds
1729 Philip Shelley bapt 1-01 St Peter bur 10-01-1800 Blacksmith Ship money 1782
c1750 | married Sarah – – (bur 1788 St Peter) Poll Book 1790
1757 Samuel Shelley (twin James bt 25-11) Blacksmith (wheelwright & gig maker) Pigots 1823
1784 married Sarah Parsonson 14-07 bur 20-08-1831 St Peter Copy of Will 1832
1795 James Shelley Born 23-10 died 13-05-1855 Blacksmith Copy of Will 1855
1816 married Susan Bantic 2-09 St Peter bur 13-05-1855 St Peter
1824 Charles Thomas born 11-04 died 4-07-1884 bur at Sudbury cemetery G.76 Folio 194 (3657)
1848 married Mary Ann Strutt 29-02-1848 dau of George Strutt, Baker St Peter
1850 Henry Shelley born 7-11 died 13 08 1921 bur at Sudbury cemetery grave DD 127C (8260)
1876 married Mary Ann Jacobs 26-11-1876 dau of James Jacobs of Assington  
Henry Shelley
Mary Ann Shelley

Shelley’s of Harrow

George Henry Shelley

Marine Insurance Broker Underwriter with Alfred Blackmore & Co. At Lloyds of London

Dorothy Alice ‘Ing’ Shelley

Leading Technician and Draughtsman. With British Thompson-Houston BTH At Willesden Works, North West London

Shelley family at ‘Marstrand’ Kenmore Avenue, Kenton Harrow. David, Hazel, George, Dorothy and Alan (1965)
Mother (President of Harrow Townswomen’s Guild)
Mum and Dad

Shelley Family Tree

Reverend Canon John Shelley Nurser PhD

Reverend Canon John Shelley Nurser PhD

Born May 1929 at Northampton, this virtuous cleric has been committed in his love of humanity and for its freedom. His academic achievements have been recognised internationally with considerable laurels. These accomplishments include recipient of the ‘Templeton Freedom Award’ in 1994 and in 2007, the ‘Albert Outler Prize’ from the American Society of Church Historians. He was a Commonwealth Fellow at the Harvard Division School 1956-57.

Educated Peterhouse Cambridge 1947-50 and 1953-56 (Lieutenant Royal Navy 1950-53) Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy, Cambridge UK in 1958.

Ordained into the Anglican Church in 1958, he was Dean of Trinity Hall Cambridge, 1961-68, Warden of St Marks Institute of Theology at Canberra from 1968-74 and Rector of Freckenham in Suffolk until 1976. John then became Chancellor at Lincoln Cathedral from1976 until he retired in 1992 as Canon Emeritus.

He continued in this capacity and was ‘Director of Christianity and the Future of Europe’ from 1992 until 1997 and as a Senior Research Associate of the Van Hugel Institute until 1996. He has been a Fellow of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex since 1998 and a Cecil Woods fellow of the Virginia Theological Seminary, 1999.

His books have earned world-wide recognition, including ‘Reign of Conscience’ 1987, contributor to ‘Churches on the Wrong Road’ 1986 and ‘A History of Lincoln Minster’ 1994.

Finally, John has retired, if that is possible with such an active driven mind and has settled in comfort with his loving American wife and publisher, Elizabeth at Sudbury, Suffolk.

Cousin John and I share great grandfather, Charles Thomas, blacksmith at Sudbury. John’s grand-father Aylmer Shelley (born March 1866) was a man of great enterprise. He started his career within the Shelley blacksmithing business and as a young skilled man he employed two men in a forge alongside. When a special circumstance arose to purchase a thriving bakery up the road at Long Melford, Aylmer jumped at the opportunity. It is amazing that he kept it running and was up to strength within a week. How he was able to transfer his skills remains a mystery. His grandmother was from a bakery family and it is likely that uncles were able to pass on these specialized skills.

John’s mother Florence and her sisters Molly and Dorothy were brought up with ‘Bixby’s Bakery’ which formed a central position in the life of the people of Long Melford. Elder daughter Florence, by Aylmer’s first wife, a milliner married Arthur John Nurser, a joiner and lived at Northampton. The two sisters Molly (Lavinia) Ponder and Dorothy Deeks (now deceased) became teachers both of whom I got to know well. Molly’s reputation was widespread, and it was interesting to hear so many townsfolk still respectfully address her as their teacher ‘Miss Shelley’.

John Shelley Nurser himself, has had a splendid unselfish and fulfilling career and is a credit to the wider family. He has virtuously directed his efforts in the pursuit of the Church and to the freedom of humanity. In quiet retirement at Sudbury, John has befriended many and offers advice whenever it may be called for. He was particularly instrumental in the placement of a memorial statue to remember an ancient event of great importance to the old Saxon borough of Sudbury. The town’s earliest mention is in 799 AD when Aelfhun, Bishop of Dunwich died when visiting the old minster.

John was able to advise on a suitable sculpture and to recommend a selected location adjacent to St Gregory’s Churchyard on the peoples ‘Croft’.

The tall and handsome John S Nurser, now in his mid-90s requires a little assistance to get around. He retains a scholarly mind and his infectious broad smile is readily extended to all of humanity.

Gloucester’s Civic Administration

Gloucester’s Civic Administration

NOTES extracted from VCH

Among Gloucester’s courts, the hundred court met every Monday, swore in constables, freemen, and officers of the trade companies, and tried civil actions involving citizens. From the mid 16th century, however, the court was in decline. More active was the piepowder court held at the Tolsey by the sheriffs on market days. That was the main court of pleas in the city, hearing a good deal of litigation and with a number of attorneys in attendance. The frankpledge jury (Court Leet) continued to meet twice a year, and issue, or re-affirm, detailed bylaws concerning paving and other routine administrative matters. A new body instituted by charter in 1561 was the orphans’ court, which was modelled on the London institution. Through it the mayor and aldermen administered the estates of freemen whose heirs were minors, checking wills and inventories, loaning out funds from minors’ estates to citizens at interest, and reimbursing the ‘orphans’ when they achieved majority. There were, however, recurrent disputes over the court’s working and it had almost fallen into disuse by 1640.

The most important city institution was the common council, whose members were co-opted from the freemen. By custom the number of councillors was 40, but the figure fluctuated, depending on whether the aldermen were included in the total. In 1605 James I appears to have reduced the number of the council to 30, but the membership was restored to 40 under Charles I’s charter of 1627. The common council elected certain city officers, such as the four stewards or chamberlains, the town clerk, and the recorder. It also made leases of town lands, regulated the commons, levied taxes, and issued ordinances for the general welfare and good rule of the community. During the 16th century the council expanded its authority at the expense of the frankpledge jury.

By 1600, however, the full council was increasingly overshadowed by the mayor and aldermanic bench. The path to aldermanic power was steep and difficult. An ambitious man had first to enter the council (usually in his late 30s), then serve twice in the costly and burdensome offices of steward and sheriff. After perhaps a dozen years’ service on the council he might then be considered for co-option to the bench. Most aldermen were in their late 40s when they were elevated, wealthy men belonging to the top score of taxpayers in the city and frequently associated with the distributive trades, the most prosperous sector of the economy. 

Gloucester Hams GLAF Visit

Gloucester Hams GLAF Visit

Proposed Site Visit by GLAF                                                        

Location: Gloucester Vale and the Water Meadow ‘Hams’

Western boundary of Gloucester City

Purpose: To review the popularity and amenity conditions of this historically important river valley landscape, with consideration to maintaining and enhancing/encouraging its rural attraction. The site in mind is located from Lower Westgate Street and by the Westgate bridge over the Severn moving along footpaths toward the Docklands and area of Llanthony Priory relics.

These meadows have an important role, both as a lung to the population and to their ecological position. Historically, they provided considerable sustenance to the Crown, castle and religious institutions previously settled at Gloucester. The ‘common’ ham of the burgesses (townsmen) of the city was essential for grazing their cattle and would have formed, for horses, an equivalent of the car parking of today.

It is most important for the upkeep of the grasslands of these meadows that they are mown and preferably grazed by cattle to prevent scrub and deterioration. Meadows with their permanent grass and herbage historically had greater surface value than pasture and even marginally more than arable land. They would provide early abundance for hay (winter fodder) and grazing for cattle over the summer months. Their settled nature is a haven for fauna and flora.

A Potted history of Gloucester

After the Roman garrison left Gloucester for Wales, the city gradually fell into decline. In 877 a raiding army of Danish Vikings settled for eight months before moving on. Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred the Great (whose town it was) rebuilt its defences in the format of a fortified burh (borough) with additional walls and strong gates north, south, east and west. The burgage plots of the burh, each in long narrow strips of approx. one acre, had buildings of up to three stories facing the streets. Animals and orchards to the rear with alleys for access. Cattle and horses were taken to the Common Ham for grazing over the summer months via lower Westgate Street.

After the requirements of the king and castle, the Church and the various religious institutions were allocated specific ham meadows. For example, we have Castle Meads, Archdeacon Ham, and past references to titles including Priest-ham, Nun-ham, Port-ham, Mean-ham, Sud-ham, Wal-ham and Common Ham. They were each strictly controlled and have interesting histories. Initially Priest-ham and Nun-ham were given to St Peters Abbey by the manor of Abbots Barton c750 it then gets a little complicated with agreements between the Crown, Castle/sheriff, Abbey of St Peter, Llanthony Secunda Priory and the Greyfriars etc.

Following the Dissolution and later the Siege (after which the walls, and independence were dismantled)  the old religious institutions were disbanded and much of the meadowland came under the controls of the Sheriff and the Corporation of the City. The reforms created by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 caused further difficulties with the burgesses only having shared ownership in the commons. In 1877, the Burgesses claimed that they, and not the Council had succeeded to the commoning rights granted in 1518.

In 1891, the Burgesses sued the Council for encroaching on their privileges. Finally, under the Gloucester Corporation Act of 1894 the Council took powers (exercised in 1899) to buy out the burgesses’ rights and to turn the meadows into public recreation spaces and pleasure grounds. It may be questionable as to whether they have been entirely well turned to that use!

With its close proximity to the densely populated city, can we possibly enhance public awareness and encourage greater use with safe enjoyment of this valuable and interesting rural thoroughfare?

Alan Shelley 8 June 2019

See Area Map:



Training Scheme 1932 – 1968

Sir George Williams, founder of the YMCA in London in 1844, was the youngest of eight brothers who were brought up by their parents on Ashway Farm, Dulverton in Somerset. George Williams was born on 21 October 1821. By the outbreak of the First World War the YMCA was well known in Britain and in many places overseas through its clubs, hostels and for its educational work. The YMCA is now represented around the world in 120 countries, working mainly with young homeless people providing accommodation, education and support.

The YMCA British Boys for British Farms Training Scheme, known as YMCA BBBF or BBBF for short was started in 1932 and ended in 1968. At different times during those years there were a total of 14 BBBF Centres where boys aged between 14 to 17 from varying backgrounds were placed in YMCA hostels to work on local farms for 8 to 12 weeks before moving on to other farms and being followed up by a YMCA Field Officer for a year. More than 20,000 boys went through this YMCA farm training scheme. For thirty-six years the name British Boys for British Farms was respected in agricultural circles, promoted by the National Farmers Union, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Labour, schools, colleges, employment agencies as well as social welfare departments. Some of the boys went on to Farm Institutes or Agricultural Colleges as well as working abroad for example in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. One BBBF boy became a missionary farmer in Formosa now Taiwan.

In the of Summer 1961 the YMCA also started British Boys for British Horticulture Training Scheme, known as BBBH at Wilderwick, East Grinstead and continued at Park Hill near Derby, from 1966 until 1968. These were the only two BBBF centres out of the fourteen to run both BBBF and BBBH training schemes. Some of the BBBH boys went on to work in several Royal Gardens and at Kew Garden. In 1966 there was an informal approach from Buckingham Palace seeking advice from the YMCA BBBH staff about the possibility of a residential training centre at Windsor.

In 1995 Barbara Vessey, a former BBBF matron whose husband was a warden, published an illustrated book entitled: “British Boys for British Farms: The Story of the YMCA’s Farm Training Scheme”, published by the YMCA. The book also covers the YMCA BBBH Training Scheme. Barbara Vessey died in June 2009. In December 2014 I had permission to have the book re-printed.

I am currently in contact with over 180 former BBBF boys and staff including a few who are living abroad. Stephen would like to hear from anyone who was in any way involved with the YMCA BBBF or BBBH Training Schemes including farmers, Instructors, lecturers, landowners and would like to receive any recollections and photos for the YMCA archives. I am also working on the locations of farms that were used in BBBF days. When the boys left the YMCA centre they were usually given a small New Testament signed by the staff and boys. In earlier days YMCA BBBF badges were also given out and these were numbered on the back.

Quote from Barbara Vessey’s book: “Such a scheme needs no monument in brick and stone. Its memorial is in the life of those who passed through the hostels, learned to love the countryside and found great satisfaction in working with nature and producing good quality crops and livestock. Many who left the city streets at the age of fourteen or fifteen, made their way by hard work and enthusiasm to farm on their own account. Together with all those who became advisers and teachers, managers and agents, or who supported the agricultural industry in related occupations, the contribution of this very basic farm-training scheme to the economic life of Britain was significant and long lasting.”

Following the success of the 1st National YMCA BBBF Reunion at North Cadbury Court in Somerset in May 2014 when Countryfile was present, two further Reunions have been held in East Sussex in 2015 and in Derbyshire in 2016. The 4th Reunion in 2017 was held again at North Cadbury Court in Somerset. In 2018 the 5th Reunion was held at Askham Bryan (Agricultural) College on 31 July 2018. This year the 6th Reunion was held on 5 June 2019 at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park at Guiting Power, near Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire.

For further information please contact: Stephen Milner, 22 Ellerslie Close, Charminster, Dorchester DT2 9QQ
Tel: 01305 – 266197. Email:

June 2019

Lammas Lands (half-yearly land)

Lammas Lands (half-yearly land)

In various parts of the countryside you may come upon the historical term Lammas-land. Usually meadow lands, they are a form of common land where right-holders are entitled to pasture their beasts following the harvest of hay. The period for grazing (or open period) runs from Lammas Day (12 August) until Lady Day on 25 March or in some cases, until 6 April. This custom dates back to the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas or ‘loaf-mas’ that ran from 1st August until 1st September. It was a festival to mark the wheat harvest, when a loaf was made from the new crop.

Half-yearly lands may be subject to physical restrictions, often by flooding during winter from overflowing rivers, streams and marshes. They are often referred to as ‘Lammas’ simply to indicate their ‘closed period’ when access is not allowed. This all dates from the manorial period when the lord of the manor provided his tenants with communal rights over ‘waste’ lands. Such were the ancient Lammas rights.

Controls were strengthened over Lammas lands by Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, and they remain subject to the protection of the Commons Registration Act 1965. Great advantage is given over Lammas lands, not only to prevent development but to environmental issues. Half-yearly land, closed over a period, provides protection to wildlife. This particularly applies with migrating, overwintering birds and waterfowl. The safeguards over these common lands has prevented enclosures and the developments over wastelands elsewhere.

Lammas lands are usually closed during the winter months when the public may be discouraged from using some of the footpaths. There are various forms of ‘similar’ lands, not identical with Lammas land. This is where the ownership of several portions of land are rotated. For example, ‘shack’ lands where, after arable crops are harvested, commoner/right-holders may graze animals on the stubble. Access to certain lands may be determined by ‘Lots’ this will often apply to meadows when hay or herbage is to be cut. Such activities are subject to local custom and periods vary according to the topographical circumstances.

In conclusion, Lammas lands are usually ancient hay meadows, but can be arable, held in several (often distributed in lots) during the crop-raising period, but subject to ‘rights of common’ at other times. It usually applies to pasturage.