Booklet uncovers Saffron Walden charters

The Saffron Walden Charter, 1514 The Saffron Walden Charter, 1514

Thursday, May 8, 2014
10:10 AM

Five hundred years ago, in May 1514, Saffron Walden was granted the second of two charters that together marked the first tentative steps towards autonomy and local self-government for the town.

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The charters were particularly important at the time as, in the previous century, Walden had become a Royal manor, burdened by excessive taxes that restricted trade and impoverished the town. The beautifully illuminated first charter, which is on display in Saffron Walden Museum, granted powers to found the Guild of the Holy Trinity and to hold an annual fair on the feast of St Ursula.

The second charter, less than two months after the first, gave the newly-founded guild a Saturday market, with its court of pie powder, and the office of clerk of the market. The windmill and malt mill were also given. The guild was now free to run these and to keep the profits from them all, paying the king an annual sum of £10 for the privilege.

Together these charters framed the economic life of the town until the Guild was abolished in 1547.

As part of the town council’s celebrations Dr Liz Allan, of Cambridge, has written a 24-page booklet about the charters and the small group of local men and women who obtained them.

The illustrated booklet, entitled The Saffron Walden Charter, 1514, describes social and economic life in Walden in the early 16th century and includes illustrations from the charters. The booklet was designed and edited by Martyn Everett and proof-read by Sue Hollingworth. Copies cost £2 and can be obtained from Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre.

Dr Allan is also the author of Chepyng Walden: the Late Medieval Town, which will be published by Saffron Walden Historical Society in the autumn.

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