The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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Letters Patent of the Society of Merchant Venturers, 1552

Source: Transcribed and annotated by: J. Latimer, The History of the Society of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol (Bristol, 1903), pp. 42-46.

p. 42

Edward the Sixte by the grace of god, of England Fraunce and Ireland Kinge defender of the Faith, and in earth of the Church of England and Ireland supreme head To all those to whome theis patente letters shall come Health, Knowe yee that of the lamentable petition of Edward Prin, Thomas Hickes, and Robert Butler our faithfull Subiects of our Citty of Bristoll and other marchaunts adventurers of the Citty aforesaid (called marchant Venterers) putting themselves theire factors servants goods and marchandice in perill uppon the Sea to divers parts beyond the seas for marchandizes out of this our Realme of England to bee carried & into this Realme of England to bee broughte We have bin given to vnderstand howe that divers Artificers and men of manuell arte inhabitinge the same Citty haveinge alsoe occupacions to gett theire liveinge (whoe were never apprentice or brought upp

p. 43

to or in the recourse or trade of the arte of the marchants afore- saide, nor haveinge anie good knowledge in the same Arte) Doe commonly exercise use and occupie the saide recourse or trade of marchandize to and from the partes beyond the seas commonly in strange shippes or vessells whereby divers kindes of commodities of this our Realme of England are secretly carried and conveyed away, against our good orders and lawes, and to the greate defrauding us of our Customes, In such sorte behaveinge and exerciseinge themselves in and after such like eville and irregular manner, the which have bine and are to the great scandall of the saide marchants and alsoe to the decayeng of the Navye and marriners and the porte of the Citty aforesaide, and chiefely of the saide marchants, haveing bine brought upp to and in the saide recourse of marchandize and haveinge also great knowledge in the same recourse Whereupon they have petitioned us that a fitt remedy mighte bee (by us) provided for them And wee willinge to forsee our indempnitie and danger in this behalfe, and to provide for the profitt and good order of the saide marchants in tyme to come (as wee are bounde) have of our speciall favour and grace graunted and given lycence, and by theis presents for us our heires and Successors (for as much as in us) Doe graunte and give Licence to the aforesaide Edward Prin, Thomas Hickes, and Robert Butler and other marchant adventurers (called marchaunts Venturers) of our saide Citty of Bristoll That hereafter they shall have One Maister of the Arte or misterie of marchaunt Venturers of the Citty aforesaide And wee doe make ordeyne and constitute him the saide Edward Prin maister of the Arte or misterie aforesaide by theis patents And that they shall have twoe wardeins of the afore- saide Arte or misterie And we do ordeyne and constitute them the saide Thomas Hickes and Robert Butler wardeins of the aforesaide Arte or Misterie by these presents And the saide Edward, Maister of the saide Arte or Misterie, And the aforesaid Thomas and Robert, wardeynes of the same Arte or Misterie Wee doe name assign decree and declare by theis patents: And that the saide Edward Thomas and Robert and other Free men of the saide Citty, vsing the Arte or Misterie of Marchant Venturers aforesaide which nowe are and from tyme to tyme for ever shalbee of the same Citty Shalbee from hencefourth in deed matter and name one bodye and one Comynaltie Corporated for ever by the name of the Maister Wardeins and Comynaltie of marchant Venterers of the Citty of Bristol And that they shall have a perpetuall succession And that the aforesaide Maister Wardeyns and Comynaltie and theire Successors for ever, euerie yeere, and as often as need shalbee, may choose and make of themselves one

p. 44

Maister and twoe Wardeyns or Guardians to supporte the Affaires thereof And to oversee rule and governe the saide Misterie and Comynaltie, and all men and occupiers, dealers servants factors stuffes and workes wares and marchandize of the saide misterie and Comynaitle in the Citty and Subburbes aforesaid And the maister and wardeins of the yeere before to amove and their defects concerninge the saide Misterie duely to correct and cause to be corrected And that the saide Maister Wardeyns and Commynaltie aforesaide shall have as aforesaid a perpetuall succession and a Common Seale to serve for the affayres and busines of the saide Arte or Misterie and Comynaltie aforesaide for ever And that they the saide Maister Wardens and Com- mynaltie and theire Successors (by the name of the Maister Wardeins and Comynaltie of the Misterie or Arte of marchant Venterers of the Citty of Bristoll) shalbee capeable and fitt in the lawe, and may plead and bee ympleaded, answere and bee answered, defende and bee defended, before all and whatsoever Judges and Justice, temporall or spirituall or any other person or persons whatsoever, in whatsoeuer Courts, and in all accions reall personall and mixt, and pleas of Nouel diseisen, and alsoe in all pleas suits quarrells affaires and demaunds whatsoeuer concerninge onely the Arte or Misterie aforesaide and the affaires of the same And that euery one of them the saide Maisters & wardeins of the Misterie or Arte aforesaide for every yeere as aforesaide to bee chosen shall take his corporall oath before the Mayor and Alder- men of the Cittie aforesaide for the tyme beinge well and faithfully to doe and execute the office aforesaide whereunto hee shalbee in such wise elected And unto the saide Maior and Aldermen for the time beinge wee doe give lycence by these patents to receyve the saide oath And further that the saide Maister Wardeins and Comminaltie of the saide Misterie or Arte and theire Successors shall have full power and authoritie to make and ordeyne statutes and ordinaunce for the good and profittable governement surveying search and correction of the Misterie or Arte aforesaide onely, and of the men of the same Misterie or Arte, and such onely as doe touch and concerne the saide Misterie and Arte accordinge to the necessitie and ymportance of the matter, as often and when as need shalbee And that they may lawfully and freely execute all and singular those things without any lett suite or ympediment of us our heires or Successors or of the Justice Escheator Shiriffe Coroners or any other Bailives or Ministers of us our heires or Successours whatsoeuer Soe as those Statuts and Ordinaunce bee not against our prerogatyve or the lawes and Customes of our Realme of

p. 45

England, nor in preiudice of the Mayor of our Cittie aforesaide And further wee will and by theis patents Doe grannt (for us our heires and Successors) to the aforesaide Maister wardens and Commynaltie that noe Artificer of the Citty aforesaide for the tyme beinge shall exercise the recourse of marchandize into the kingdomes or dominions of the parties beyond the seas unlesse hee shalbee admitted into the saide Societie and State aforesaide by the saide Maister and wardens, Neither that any other but onelie those whoe have bine, or hereafter shalbee apprentice to the saide Misterie or Arte of Marchaunts aforesaide or have vsed the same Misterie by the space of seauen yeeres Provided allwaies that the Statuts and Ordinaunce hereafter (by the saide Maisters Wardeins and Commynaltie) to be made or ordeyned Doe only touch the Maisters Wardeyns and Comynaltie aforesaide or the men of the same Comynaltie and not any others which are not neither shalbee of the same Cominaltie And soe as they bee not against our prerogative or the lawes and Customes of our Realme of England, neither in prejudice of the Mayor of the Citty afore- saide, nor in preiudice of anie person or persons of any bodie politicke or Bodie Corporated or Incorporated haveinge or they haveinge Clayminge or they claimeinge anie Liberties Franchises priviledge righte or preheminence by vertue colour or pretence of any graunte, guifte, or Letters pattents of us, or of any of our progenitours before this tyme given graunted or made And soe as the saide Statutes or Ordinaunce are not, or any of them bee not, in preiudice of our welbeloved Subiects the Governour Assist- ants and Societye of marchants commonly called Marchants Aduenturers goeing vnto and frequentinge the Coaste of Holland Seland Braband and Flanders and other Regions Landes and Dominions to the same partes adioyninge, putting forth themselves theire goods wares and marchandizes in perrill for trade and marchandisinge sake, Nor to any Statutes Ordinaunce or Con- stitucions heretofore made published or ordeyned by the saide Governour or Governours of the saide Societie or hereafter to bee made, published, established, or ordeyned by the saide Governour or Governours and Assistants or theire Successors notwithstandinge that noe expresse mention of the true yeerely value of the premisses or of any other value or certeyntie thereof or of anie other guifte or graunte by us or by anie of our Progenitours to the aforesaide Maister Wardeyns and Comynaltie of the Misterie or Arte of marchant Venturers of the Citty of Bristoll, or to theire Prede- cessours before this tyme hath bin made, nor in anie wise by theis patents is made, nor of anie Statute, Acte, Ordinaunce, provision or

p. 46

restraint, or of any other thinge cause or matter whatsoever in anie wise made published ordeyned or provided to the contrary thereof notwithstandinge In Witnes whereof wee have caused these our Letters to bee made Pattente Witnes my Self at Westminster the eightenth day of December In the Sixte yeere of our Raigne.

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