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It would appear from contemporary evidence that the Londoners must have been somewhat turbulent during 34 the thirteenth century. Owing to the smallness of the houses and the insufficient accommodation for families, the greater part of the population constantly filled the streets; and, although the watch and ward arrangements for the protection of the City may have been sufficient in quiet times, they were quite inadequate when troubles arose. In spite of stringent regulations frequent quarrels and riots occurred in the crowded streets, and punishments, fines, and imprisonments were common. The commonest offences, to judge by the records of trials, were night-stalking after curfew, robbery with violence, frequenting taverns, and gambling. The following passages illustrate some of the efforts which were continually being made to devise improvements in the administration of the City and the safeguarding of its inhabitants:
(a) On Wednesday next before the Feast of Pentecost, in the 10th year of the reign of King Edward, by Henry le Galeys, Mayor, the Aldermen, and the then Chamberlain of Guildhall, the following provisions were subscribed: —
As to the trades: that every trade shall present the names of all persons in that trade, and of all who have been serving therein; where they dwell, and in what Ward.
Also, each Alderman, with two of the best men of his Ward, shall make inquisition as to persons keeping hostels, and the persons lodging in the same, making enquiry one by one, and from house to house; that so he may know how many, and who, and of what kind or condition they are, clerks or laymen, who are residing in his Ward, of the age of twelve years and upwards.
To be remembered: — as to provision made how suspected persons, when found, ought to be removed, or under what security to remain.35
Secondly, as to the safe-keeping of the City: — All the Gates of the City are to be open by day; and at each Gate there are to be two serjeants to open the same, skilful men, and fluent of speech, who are to keep a good watch upon persons coming in and going out; that so no evil may befall the City.
At every Parish Church, curfew is to be rung at the same hour as at St. Martin’s le Grand; so that they begin together, and end together; and then all the Gates are to be shut, as well as all taverns for wine or for ale; and no one is then to go about the streets or ways. Six persons are to watch in each Ward by night, of the most competent men of the Ward thereto; and the two serjeants who guard the Gates by day, are to lie at night either within the Gates, or near thereto.
The serjeants of Billingsgate and Queen Hythe are to see that all boats are moored on the City side at night, and are to have the names of all boats; and no one is to cross the Thames at night. And each serjeant must have his own boat with four men, to guard the water by night, on either side of the bridge.
The serjeants at the Gates are to receive four pence each per day, and the boatmen at night, one penny each.
(b) Henry le Galeys, Mayor of the City of London, presented a writ of our Lord the King, in these words: —
Edward by the grace of God, etc., to the Mayor and Sheriffs of London, greeting. Forasmuch as we have heard that the bakers, and brewsters, and millers, in the city aforesaid, do frequently misconduct themselves in their trades, and that misdoers by night going about the city aforesaid with swords and bucklers, and other arms, as well at the procuration of others as of their own malice, do beat and maltreat other persons, and are wont to perpetrate many other offences and enormities, to no small damage and grievance of our faithful subjects: We, of our counsel, wishing to apply a fitting remedy to all the premises, and to strike both them and others with fear of so offending, do command you, and strictly enjoining, that you will so chastise such bakers, brewsters, and misdoers, with corporal punishments, and so visit the other offences, at your 36 discretion, that they may excite in others in like case a fear of so offending. And that all corn to be ground at mills within the city aforesaid, and without, shall be weighed by the millers, and that such millers shall answer in like weight in the flour coming therefrom. And the matters aforesaid, and all other things which unto the office of the Mayoralty of the same city, and to the preservation there of our peace, do pertain, you are to cause to be inviolably observed. Witness myself, at York, the 28th day of May, in the 26th year of our reign.