Act to Establish a 'Company of Merchants', 1500
Source: Transcribed and annotated by: J. Latimer, The History of the Society of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol (Bristol, 1903), pp. 26-35
These been the Actes & ordenaunces made ordeyned & estab- lisshed in the Counsailhous called the Inner Chambre of the Guyhald of Bristowe the Tuesday the xth day of the moneth of November in the xvith yere of the reigne of oure sovreyn lord Kinge Henry the viith  by Richard Vaughan than maire of the said Toun Robert Straunge late maire of the same John Hawkes John Eastfeld John Penke John Dreux and Henry Dale Aldermen William Towket Philip Ryngstone and Nicholas Brown late maire Hugh Elyot and John Bateyn Shirefs Hugh Johnes John Jay Philip Grene William Spicer Thomas ap Howell John Taillour Robert Forthey John Fyster David Philip John Popley William Esteby John Rowland David Leyson Thomas Vaughan John Elyot William Lane John Vaughan Richard Hoby Waltier Rys Thomas Permiter and Thomas Snyg their brethern burgeises elected of the comman counsaill of the forsaid Toun than there beyng present in a comman counsaill than there holden for reformacion of dyvers colourable and crafty dealyng of certyn burgeises of the said Toun that from day to day and yere unto yere coloure straungiers and Foreyns goodes and marchaundises and buy and sell the same not oonly to the use and greate profite of the said Foreyns and straungiers contrary to the othes of the forsaid burgeises but also to theire utter undoyng and to the greate hurt of the comman wele of the said Toun, the which actes and ordenaunces hereaft folowen that is to say:
First the said Maire Aldermen Shirefs and their said brethern of the said cornon counsaill have ordeyned and establisshed in the said comon Counsaill and by Auctorite of the same that from hensfurth forevermore shalbe in and of the said Toun of Bristowe a company or felowship of marchauntes separate and distincte from every other companyes of handecraftymen.
Also the forsaid maire Aldermen Shirefs and their said brethern have elected chosen and named the said John Penke marchaunt to be maister David Leyson and John Stokes marchaunts to be Wardeyns to rule and governe under the forsaid maister maire all the said company and felowship of merhaunts from the said xth day of the forsaid moneth of November unto the feste of Seynt Michaell tharchaungell than next Suying.
Also they have elected chosen and named George Meke and William Gifford of Bristowe merchaunts to be as well bidelx as Broggours [brokers] of the said occupacion of marchauntes unto the said fest of Seint Michaell to do and obey in all things all the commaundments of the said Maister and Wardeyns resonable to be don and obeid for the Wele of the said Company of Marchaunts.
Also yt ys ordeyned and establisshed that fromhensfurth forever the said maister and wardeyns shull have fre libertee twyse in every weke that is to say on tuesday and Thursday to assemble in the said Counsaill hous and by their said bidells to cause to com thider and appere before theym there as many of the said company nowe beyng or that herafter shall be as shall pleas theym there to have comynicacion togeders as well of feats of marchaundises and other busengnes concernyng the same as to here complaynts and sette direccions accordyng to reason and good conscience bitwene partees of the said company beyng atte variaunce or debate, or to send the said parties with their causes as they have founde theym certifyed unto the maire of Bristowe for the tyme beyng by his maistership further to be ordred or directed as the case rightfully shall requyre.
And also that no persone of the said feliship atte any tyme herafter vex trouble or sue any other of theym in any Courte spirituell or temporell bifore that the matier hangyng in variaunce bitwen the parties be shewed to oon of the said Maister and Wardeyns upon peyn to pay for a fyne for every tyme he shall do contrary tn this ordenaunce xxs. to be levied of his goodes to the use of the said feliship of marchauntes.
Also yt is ordeyned establisshed and enacted by the said Maire Aldremen Shirefs and comon Counsaill for the Wele not oonly of the said marchaunts adventurers but also of all other burgeises of the said Toun that fromhensfurth no marchaunt nor other Burgeis of the same Toun shall cary or do to be caryed ne send or do to be sent or delyvered to any person or persones dwellyng oute of the said Toun and Fraunchise of Bristowe any wyne wax woode yron or other marchaundise onlesse that all the same merchaundise be firste playnly and withoute any fraude coloure or male engyne solde by the said Burgeis to hym or theym to whom they so shuld be caryed or sent or to his or theire Servauntes or Attorneys.
Also that immediatly upon evy such sale of any of the said marchaundises the seller thereof shall come or send his servant untothe Shiriefs of Bristowe for the tyme beyng and shewe unto theyme the qualite and quantitee of the same merchaundise so solde and to be caryed sent or delyvered And the name or names of the Citie or Burgh Toun Hamelette or place where the same persone or persones
dwell to thentent that the said Shirefs shull thereby knowe howe and by whom to be answered of toll murage pavage Kayage Kelage and all custumes due unto theym of or for the same merchaundlses.
Provided allwey that it be lefull to every Burgeis of the said feliship of merchaunts to sende or do to be caryed to his custumers dwellyng oute of the said Toun of Bristowe all such merchaundises as the same customers shall send unto hym for by their letres or by their trusty servaunts or frendes Certifying neverthelesse every such Burgeis unto the said Shirefs for the tyme beyng the qualitee and quantitee of all the Same merchaundises and the names of the Townes or places where the said customers dwell And also paying unto the same Shirefs toll and allmaner customes and other dutees due unto theym for the same Provided also that it shall be lefull to every of the said Burgeises to send and do to be caryed to london allmaner of merchaundises there to be solde this present acte and ordinaunce notwithstandyng.
Also yt is ordeyned establisshed and enacted that yf eny Burgeis of the said Toun of Bristowe do in any thynge contrary to this ordinaunce than he shall pay unto the said maister and wardeyns to thuse of the said feliship of merchaunts for a fyne iiis. iiiid. of every xxs. of the value of all the merchaundises caried sent or delyvered contrary to this ordinuance.
Also that the said maister wardeyns and bidelx upon reasonable warnyng to theym to be given on the behalve of the said maire Alder- men and Shirefs shull appere in their propre persones before the said maire Aldermen and Shirefs in the said Guyhald And there be sworn upon the holy Evangelistes that is to say the said Maister to do and execute by his power all that perteyneth or shall perteyn to the office of maister of the said feliship And the forsaid Wardeyns to do that longeth or shalbe long to theire offices of maisters (sic) And the forsaid bidelx to do all that belongeth to thoffices as weil of Bidelx as of Brocours to dryve bargayns truly and indifferently bitween marchaunt and marchaunt withoute fraude or male engyne.
And that yerly fromhensfurth forevermore the maister wardeyns and company of marchauntes of Bristowe for the tyme beying within xiiii dayes next ensuying aft the fest of Seint Michaell tharchaungell shall assemble togiders in the said Counsaill house And there electe chose and name of theym self oone maister two wardeyns and two Bidelx or broggours for the said Company, to occupye for the yere than next suyng And the said maister Wardeyns and bidelx so elected chosen and named they shull present before the maire Aldermen and Shirefs of the said Town for the tyme beyng in the said Guyhald within iiii dayes next after the said eleccion and nominacon there to be sworn in maner and fourme affore reherced upon peyn of xli. to be
paid unto the Chamberleyn of Bristowe for the tyme beying to thuse of the maire and commalte of the same Town for any default to be made in that behalve to every which penalite of xli so to be paid every person of the said company so makynge defaulte shalbe contributary of his propre goodes after his habilite and power to be rated by the discretions of the maire and Alderman of Bristowe for the tyme beying Also that noo persone other than the said George Meke and William Gifford or such other as the maister wardeyns and Company of marchaunts of the said Town for the tyme beyng shall assigne and name shall take upon hym to be a common Broggour in merchaundlses bitwene partie and partie within the said Town or suburbes of the same upon payn of xls. for every bargayn that he so shall make To be levied of his goodes, the oone half thereof to thuse of the said Chamber And the other half thereof to the contribucion of the said feliship of marchauntes.
Also that either of the said George Meke and William Gifford and every other Broggour that hereaft shalbe elected named and chosen in to the said company of marchauntes shall take for his labour as well in that occupacion as in the said office of Bidelx fees hereaft followyng that is to say iid. for every xxs. of the hoole value of all the marchaundises whereupon eny bargayn shalbe made or dryven by any of the said Broggours bitwene partie and partie that is to wete the oone peny thereof of the byer and the other peny thereof of the seller Also yf it happen any of the said Maister Wardeyns or bidells to decease or to be amoved from his saide office within a yere next ensuyng after he is or shalbe perfected or created Maister wardeyn or Bidell of the said feliship of merchauntes That then the maire and Aldermen of Bristowe for the tyme beyng within x days next then ensuyng shall chose make and create an other person hable of the said feliship to be in the rome or place of hym so deceased or amoved the which so elected perfected and made shall make before the said maire and Aldermen his othe truly to execute his office for the residue of the same yere in the which he so shalbe elected and perfected.
Also it is ordeyned and establisshed that every persone of the said felouship shall appere in his propre persone before the said maister and wardeyns in their forsaid place of assemble asoft and whan as he shall thereto be warned by the said Bidells or any of theym withoute he shew cause resonable unto the said maister and wardeyns why he may not so appere before theym upon payn of forfaiture of vid. atte every time he doth contrary to this ordinaunce to be levied of his goodes to the contribucion of the said felouship.
Also that no marchaunt of the said feliship ne no son servnt or apprentice of any of the said marchauntes shall atte any tyme herafter receyve atte or in the porte of Bristowe afforsaid into his kepyng any cloth or other goodes or merchaundises of any persone not beyng admytted a felowe of the said company of merchaunts to thentent to sell carry or delyver the same cloth goodes or marchaundises in to or atte any porte cryke or place beyonde see to the use or profit of the same persone or of any other not beyng felowe of the said company of merchaunts nor bey nor receyve beyonde see for any persone not beyng felowe of the said company of marchaunts any wares or merchaundises to be conveyed fromthens to the said porte of Bristowe or to any other porte haven cryke or place within the Ryver of Severn upon payn to pay atte first tyme he shall do contrary to this ordenaunce of evy xxs. of the hoole value of marchaundise for the which he so shalbe attorney iiis. iiiid. And atte second tyme vis. viiid. And on that that the ffader of every such son the son beyng in his servyce and the maister of every servant and apprentice so beyng attorney for any persons not being of the said company of marchauntes in any two viages contrary unto this ordenaunce to leese [lose] his libtie that he than hath in the said toun and to be discomoned and put therfrom forevermore.
Also that no marchaunt of the said town of Bristowe nor other burgeis of the same Town nor noo son servaunt or Apprentice of any of theym shall from hencefurth frette or cause to be fretted lade or do to be laden on thisside the See or beyont see any Ship balynger kervaill barge or other vessail of Englond Wales Irlond Fraunce Briteyn Spayne Portingale or of any other countrey porte or place with any goodes or merchaundises withoute the will avise assent and license of the said maister and wardeyns or withoute thassent of the more parte of the said company of merchaunts upon payn of fforfaiture of xxli. for every ship balynger kervaill Barge or other vessaill frette or lade contrary to this ordenaunce to be paid to the contribucion of the said company of merchaunts withoute any pardon or forgifnesse Provided alwey that every marchaunt of the same company his servant or Apprentice beyng beyonde see lakkyng company there of the said feliship of merchaunts to lade hooly togeders oon Ship with merchandises in to Englond may lade his goodes and merchaundises In any ship that shall pleas hym So always that noo Ship nor vessaill of the said porte of Bristowe beyng hable to serve hym sufficiently for that season be in the porte cryke or place beyond see or nygh theraboute where he shall so seke frett redy to serve hym in that viage atte as good chepe frette as any straunger there shall do. Provided also that every marchaunt of the said felouship and every other burgeis of
the said Town of Bristowe shalbe atte his libertee to frette any ship or shippes Picardes and other vessailles in to Irlond and Islond asoft and whan as it shall pleas hymn.
Also it is ordeyned and establisshed that if any persone not beyng of the said feliship of marchaunts take upon hym heraft to frette or lade on thisside the See or beyonde see any ship or other vessaill with any goodes or merchaundises that then no persone of the said feliship of marchantes shall take any frett in the same ship or vesaill wherin he so shall lade or take frett upon payn to pay xxs. for every ton and ton lode so laden with any foreyn or straunger to be applyed to the contribucions of the said company of merchaunts asofte and whan as such cuase shall happen withoute any pardon or forgevenesse.
Also that fromhensforwarde every Average that shalbe leyd of or for any ship or other vessaill fretted and to be fretted by any persone or persones of the said felouship shall be leyd in the said Toun of Bristowe in the presence of the maister and wardeyns of the said felouship for the tyme beyng or of oone of theym yf any of theym woll be present atte the leying therof under payn of xls. for every average to be leyd contrary to this ordynaunce To be paid by the marchaunts that shall ley or cast or be present atte leying or castyng of every such average to thuse and profite of the forsaid maister wardeyns and feliship of merchaunts And that to the payment of every such penaltie of xls. every of the merchaunts that shall ley or be present atte leying or castying of every such average shull be con tributary in maner and fourme as by the said maister and wardeyns of the forsaid felouship of merchaunts for the tyme beyng shalbe reasonably adiuged And to thentent that noon Average of or for any ship or vessaill shall heraft. be leyde within the said Toun but that the said maister or wardeyns or oon of theym shalbe present atte leying of every such Average Therfor it is ordeyned and establisshed by the said maire Aldermen Shirefs and their brethern of the said Comman Counsaill that the Burser of every ship and vessaill of or for the which any such Average shall be leyd shall come unto the maister and wardeyns of the said company of Marchaunts for the tyme beyng or to oon of theym yf any of theym may then be found within the said Toun of Bristowe or suburbes of the same and ther gyf unto hym or theym notice of the tyme and place where and whan every such Average shall be leyd And that by a day or two dayes next before the tyme of leying of the same average under payn of vis. viiid. to be paid by every Burser found in defalt in that behalf asoften and whan as he shall offend contrary unto this ordenaunce to the contribucions of the said company of marchaunts.
Also that at every such Average that heraft shalbe leid upon every
ton and ton lode of merchaundises to be comprised within the boke of the same Average except oonly salt oon peny of laufull money of Englond and of every ton lode of salt ob. [a halfpenny] over and above all costes that here before have ben accustumed to be leyd in Average And all that money comyng of the said ob. of every ton lode of salt and id. of every ton and ton lode of every other merchaundises shulbe gadred receyved and delyverd by the Burser of the ship or vessaill for the which the same average shalbe leyd unto the said maister or wardeyns or to oon of theym to the sustentacion of the charges of the said feliship before the next departure of the same ship or vessaill from the said porte of Bristowe towards any other porte or place upon payn of vis. viiid. for every default in that behalf to be paid by the said Burser unto the same maister and wardeyns to the sustentacion of their said costes and charges.
Also that asoft and whan as any Ship Balynger barge or other vessaill shall come to the said porte of Bristowe from any porte beyond the South See laden with wyne wax iron woode [woad] mader grayn oyle or any other merchaundises beyng the goodes of any Alyen or straunger the said maister and wardeyns shall than and asoft cause all the said feliship or the more parte of theym to assemble togeders atte their said place of assemble And thon and there shall shewe unto theym the coming of the said ship Balynger Barge or Vessaill and marchandises desirying of the said company of marchaunts their Advises what is to be don in that behalve for the wele of the said feliship And therupon their advises had to do as by the more parte of theym shalbe condescended and appoynted And that noo person Burgeis of the said Toun of Bristowe shall atte any tyme herafter take upon hym to bye or receyve in to his kepyng charge or governaunce any such newe come wares or merchaundises of any Alyen or straunger withoute thadvise assent or licence of the said maister wardeyns and merchauntes upon peyn to forfaite to the forsaid felouship of marchaunts asoft and whan as he so shall do iiis. iiiid. of evy xxs. of the value of all the wares or marchaundises bought contrary to this ordenaunce.
Also it is ordayned and establisshed that frohensfurth every Son or Apprentice of every merchaunt of the said feliship shall atte request instaunce or desire to be made by his fader or Maister unto the said maister and wardeyns be admytted to be oon of the same feliship withoute any fyne therfor to be paid Provided alwey that every such Son or Apprentice be Burgeis of the said Toun of Bristowe sworn and admytted by the maire and Chamberleyn of Bristowe for the tyme beyng before that he in any wise be admytted into the said feliship of marchaunts by the said maister and wardeyns Also it is ordeyned
and establisshed by Auctorite aforsaid that every other persone Burgeis of the said Toun that hath obteyned or shall obteyn his libertie of the same Toun by redempcion or by mariage of any Widowe or Doughter of any Burgeis of Bristowe afforsaid and will be oon of the said feliship of marchaunts shall make fyne therfor with the said maister and wardeyns as they shall reasonably agree bitwen theym.
Also that no Burser souldeour nor other maryner that fromhens- furth shall sayle in any ship or vessaill of Bristowe or within any other ship or vessaill fretted or herafter to be fretted by the said maister and wardeyns and their said feliship or by any of theym shall bryng or delyver or cause to be brought or delyverd in to the ship or vessaill wherin he shall saill any moo clothes [cloths] than oonly iii hoole clothes or other goodes to the value of iii clothes for the which they shalbe sworn upon a boke before the cape (sic) merchaunt of the same ship that the said clothes and goodes be his propre goodes and caryed atte his aventure or ells that they be the goodes of oon of the said feliship of merchanunts And if any Burser souldeour or maryner do herafter in any thyng contrary to this ordenaunce that than upon due profe therof made bifore the said maister and wardeyns the same Burser souldeour or maryner shall pay to the same maister and wardens for eny cloth or other goodes to the value of a cloth so coloured vis. viiid. And on that clerely and utterly shalbe dismyssed of sayling as Burser souldeour or maryner in the company of any of the said marchauntes forevermore Provided alwey that if any person of the said company Of marchaunts or any that hath ben Apprentice unto any of theym happen to saile as a souldeour or maryner in any ship or other vessaill herafter that then hit shalbe lefull unto hym to bryng goodes in to the ship or vessaill wherin he so shall saile vi clothes or other goodes of his propre goodes to the verray [true] value of vi clothes therin to be caryed in to that porte beyonde see unto the which that ship or vessaill shall happen to be fretted And that it shalbe lefull unto every of theym to be Attorney in feate of marchaundise to eny other persone of the said company.
Provided also that evy maister quarter maister or other maryner conduytyng governyng saylyng or suynng in any ship may for that viage bryng in to the same ship asmoch clothe or as many clothes of his propre goodes or of the goodes of any marchaunt or marchaunts of the said feliship of marchaunts as shall amounte in frette to the verry value of the Portage that the said maister quarter maister or maryner shall hold for his wages in the said ship in the same viage.
Also that fromhensfurth no burgeis of the said Towne of Bristowe bey or cause to be bought any goodes or marchaundises p'teignyng to any fforeyn Alien Straunger in any ship bote or
vessaill beyng or for to be in the porte of Bristowe afforsaid nor in any other place within the said Toun of Bristowe or suburbes of the same but oonly in the common hall called Spicer's hall of the same Toun which is a comman place ordeyned for that cause And that no marchaunt of the said company nor other burgeis of the said Toun fromhensfurth shall shewe or offer any wyne wode or other marchaun- dizes to be sold to any persone or persones or suffer any persone or persones not being of the said company of marchaunts to se or taste any wynes or other marchaundises of his in any other place than oonly in his mansion or shop or in celers or vawts yt he holdeth or shall hold in ffee or for terme of lyfe or for terme of yeres within the said Toun or suburbes ffish and fruyte excepted upon peyn to pay unto the said maister and wardeyns iiis. iiiid. of every xxs. of the value of the said wynes and marchaundises so sold offerd to be solde seyn or tasted contrary to this ordenaunce of the which sommes the said maister and wardeyns shall fro tyme to tyme delyver and pay the oon half unto the said Chambreleyn or to his successour to thuse of the said maire and co'altee.
Also it is enacted ordeyned and establisshed that fromhensfurth no persone of the said company nor other burgeis of the said Toun shall make or cause to be made for any persone or persones hereafter offendyng contrary unto the said Actes and ordenaunces or to any of theym any labour request desire or prayer unto the said maire or to his successour or to the said maister and wardeyns of the said feliship that nowe be or hereafter shalbe or to any of theym whereby to stirre theym or any of theym to pardon forgeve or relesse the said penalitees or ffynes or any percell of theym to the said persones so offendyng or to any of theym upon peyn of forfaitur of vis. viiid. to be levied of his or their goodes and marchaundises so makyng any such labour request desire or prayer and to be applyed in fourme folowyng that is to say the oon half therof to the use of the said Chambre and the other half therof to the contribucion of the said feliship of marchaunts And that asoften and when as he shall make or do to be made any such labour request desire or prayer.
Also that the said maister and wardeyns yerely before the ffest of Alhalowes shull yeld unto their successoures maister and wardeyns of the said feliship a iust and trewe accompt of all money by theym or by any oftheym receyved or to be receyved, aswell for ob. [a halfpenny] of every ton of salt and for id. of every ton or ton lode of other marchaundises as for ffynes and forfaitures to be made or forfaited by force of the said ordenaunces or of any of theym And truely answer to theym the same upon payn of xxli. to be paid to the said Maire and Comonaltee and to their successoures to the comman profite of the
said Toun by hym or theym of the maister and wardeyns of the said company of marchaunts that shall make default in makyng or yeldyng any such Accompt or that shall not truely answere all arrerage to be founde upon hym atte eny such Accompt.
Also it shalbe lefull unto the said maister wardeyns and feliship that nowe be and heraft shalbe for the goode rule of the same feliship to make ordeyn and establissh by their Aller [unanimous] Assent Actes and ordenaunces under such paynes as they shull thynke resonable And the same to revoke and adnull asofte and whan as it shall pleas theym So alwey that the same Actes and ordenaunces so to be made ordeyned and establisshed by the same maister wardeyns and feliship be in no wise contrary to the Kyngs lawes nor p'iudiciall nor hurtfull to the comon wele of the said Toun of Bristowe.
Also it is ordeyned and establisshed by auctorite of the said common counsaill that if any persone or persones of the said merchaunts or burgeises that shall happen to do contrary to the said ordenaunces or to any of theym will refuse to pay the said fynes and penalitees or any parte of theym that than it shalbe lefull aswell to the Chamberleyn of the forsaid Toun for the tyme beyng for the partes therof p'teynyng unto the said Chambre as unto the said maister and Wardeyns or their bidell for the partes therof belongyng to the said feliship and to eny of theym to entre in to the vawtes celers shoppes mansions and all other houses of the same persone or persones so refusyng to pay the said sommes of money for the forsaid ffynes and penalitees or any parte, of theym and ther to distreyn by his or their propre goodes for the same And the distresses there so taken alwey to cary lede and toward theym self to reteyn unto the tyme all the same sommes be to theym fully content and paid.
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