Worcester 1621 Charter Extract

1621 Charter for the City and County of Worcester – James I – 2nd October

Extract from Victoria County History
The charter of 2 October 1621 is a long and elaborate document in which the whole government of the city is reviewed and recast. It begins by declaring that the city ‘ever hereafter is, shall be and remain, a free city of itself, and that the said city of Worcester precinct, circuit and going about and jurisdiction thereof shall extend and reach out . . . . unto seven wards of the same city.’

The city was declared a county of itself and incorporated by the name of the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Worcester, with a common seal. The government of the city was entrusted to the mayor, ‘six lawfull and discreet citizens’ as aldermen, a sheriff and two chamberlains, a body of twenty-four, including the mayor and aldermen, and a body of forty-eight, including the two chamberlains. To this body was assigned ‘one Counsell House within the guildhall of the said city.’

It was further appointed that each year on the Monday next after St. Bartholomew’s Day the mayor, aldermen, twenty-four and fortyeight should elect one of the twenty-four, willing to accept office, as mayor, six of the twenty-four as aldermen and one of the twenty-four or forty-eight as sheriff, he not having previously served that office nor been mayor nor bailiff. (fn. 114) The two chamberlains were to be elected by the same authority from among the forty-eight; the recorder, who must be learned in the law, should be chosen by the same body.

Provision was also made for the election of a common clerk, auditors, coroners, escheator, sword-bearer and sergeants-at-mace. (fn. 115) These officers, as also the recorder, should hold their office at the will of the mayor, aldermen, twenty-four and forty-eight, and, with the exception of the recorder and common clerk, were subjected to loss of franchises, fine and imprisonment if they refused to bear office after their election. Entrance into the common council of the forty-eight was obtained by co-option.

The legal powers of the city authorities were further defined. Upon each Monday a court of record was to be held in the gild hall by the mayor, recorder and aldermen, or any three of them, to which such jurisdiction was given in matters of debt, trespass and pleas of land as had formerly belonged to the court held before the bailiffs, aldermen and chamberlains of the city. Power was given to execute the law merchant; the mayor, recorder and aldermen were declared justices of peace within the city; the sheriff was empowered to hold a court, called the county court of the city, each month; the corporation was allowed to purchase real property up to the yearly value of £100; tolls, rights of fair and market, chattels of felons and fugitives, wastes and commons were confirmed as they had been held in times past.

The only exception to the authority of the corporation was contained in the last clause of the charter by which it was ruled that nothing in the charter should be construed to the loss or prejudice of the bishop or of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. All privileges enjoyed by the cathedral body before the granting of the charter were declared inviolate, ‘the liberty of bearing the sword before the mayor of the said city according to the tenor of these presents excepted.’