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The Beverley Minstrels' Guild

The Charter

From Alan Radford, 16 Nov 2016

I've just transcribed the 1555 charter of the Beverley minstrels' guild, the guild to which all respectable musicians between the River Trent and the River Tweed belonged. I found it in "The history and antiquities of the town and minster of Beverley", by George Oliver (1782-1867).


The Order of the Famous Company or Fraternity of Minstrels in Beverley

Whereas it is and hath been a very annciente custome ante of the memorie of dyvers aiges of men heretofore contynnally frequented from the tyme of king Athelstone, of famous memorie, sometyme a notable kynge of Englande, as may appeare by olde bookes of antiquitie. That all or the most part of the mynstrell playing of any musicall instruments, and thereby occupying there honest lyvyng inhabytyng dwelling or servyng any man or woman of honor, and worshype of any citie or towne corporate or otherwise, between the rivers of Trent and Tweed, have accustomed yerely to resort unto this towne and borough of Beverley, at the Rogation Days; and then and there to chose yearly one alderman of the mynstrells, with steward and deputies, authorized to take names, and receive customable duties of the brethren of the said mynstrells' fraternytie; and the alderman to correcte, amend, execute, and continue all such laudable ordynances and statutes as they have hitherto ever used for the honestee and profit of their science and art musicall, to be only exercised to the honour of God, and to the comforthe of man. - Therefore William Pridsay, Robert Thompson, Christopher Farer, Richarde Craven, William Sands, William Yong, Robert Sparrowe, Robert Haryson, Henry Powre, Alexander Guy, and William Farley, the governors of the said town, A. D. 1555, by virtue of the ancient charters granted to this same towne of Beverley by the noble kyngs of this realme of England, and successyvly confirmed the same under their brode seall from the tyme of the above named king Athelstone, hitherto and now last of all confirmed in most ample manner by the gracious goodness of our most vituous sovereign Lord and Lady Kynge Phylip and Queen Marie, do grant unto the said broderhood of mynstralls the renewing of all the godly and goodley orders concerning the said science, of late partly omitted to be revyved in as large and ample a maner and form as they have been hitherto at any tyme used, and so to be continued at the said place and tymeyearly for ever, in manner as followeth.

Imprimis - It is ordained and statuted for ever, to be kept by the assent and consent of all the brethren of the fraternity of mynstralls, - That all the brethren within that science shall come at the commandment of the alderman or his stewards to what place within Beverley as he shall assign them, and there to chose the aldermen and stewards, and to keep the hour to them assyned in payne of every offence xij d.

Also if there be any brother that will not come in or being comed will depart without licence before the new alderman and jearers be chosen, and other honest orders there to be taken, for the profit and comodity of the said scyence and brotherhood, shall have for his fyne ij s. iiij d. without forgyvness.

Also it is ordyned and statuted by the alderman of the mynstralls, with the hole assent and consent of all the brethren of the same, that when the new alderman is chosen, that then he shall have two hours respite for to provide him two honest men, inhabiters and burgesses within the towne of Beverley, to be his suerties for the saveguard of the stock which then shall be delivered unto him by the old alderman, and of the performance of all his other duties according to this present original, which sureties shall be bounden in double value of the said stock, and if no such sureties are found, then that eleccyon to be voyd, and another alderman to be chosen.

Also the alderman shall make eleccyon of two able men for the guilde to fill, and himselfe to be third and of them three all the fellowship shall chuse for that year, to fill the said offys, also the alderman with hsi stewards shall set two able men on the eleccyon to these two that occupie, and of these fower the alderman shall chose one for stewerd, and the fellowship shall chose one for that year.

Also an ordynance made by the assent of all the brethren, with the alderman of the mynstralls, that there shall no man been any offys for the said fraternity to the tyme that he have paid his due, and be full brother upon payn of vj s. viij d. paid by the alderman.

Also it is ordayned and statuted by the alderman of the mynstralls, withe the hole assent and consent of the mynstralls themselves, that no aldernan shall take in any new brethren unless he be mynstrell to some man of honour and worship, or waite of some town corporate, or other ancient towne, or else of some honesty and conyng as shall be thought laudable and pleasent to the hearers there or elsewhere, upon pain of vj s. viij d.

Furtermore it is ordayned by the alderman and his brethren, that if there be made any brother already, not being able as aforesaid, or has been so able, and now declineth from the same for lack of honest usage, that then the alderman and brethren and officers shall them expell from their brotherhood, as alderman and officers will make answer to the kyng's officers when they speak of vagabonds and valiant beggers.

And if any person or persons so deprived shew himself obstynate, and stands in contencyon arrogantly, that then the kyng's officers be sent for to carry the offender or offenders to gaile, and there to remain until he be reconcyled to honest order, and for his obstynacy to forfeitt as th alderman and his brethren think meate and convenient in that behalfe.

It is ordeyned also that mynstrells to men of worship, waits, conyng men, and able men, beiing honestly esteemed, and within the liberties of the brotherhood of Beverley, shall come in and be brothers in the said botherhood at the next Rogaison Days, after admonition and warning be given them, upon payn of xx s. except they can shew lawful cause to the alderman and his brethren they being therof examined.

Also it is ordeyned by the alderman and his brethren, that no brother shall have but one apprentice at one time, upon payne of vj s. viij d. and he be presented to the alderman in one year and one day to be enrolled and made full brother, upon payn of vj s. viij d.

Also it is ordeyned by the alderman and his brethren, that no mynstrall shall teach his own son or any other for a particular sume of money, but he shall present him as is abovesaid, upon payn of vj s. viij d. It is ordered also that no mynstrall shall take any apprentice to teach on any other, as is abovesaid, except the same mynstrall be able and approved by the alderman and his brethren, upon payn of xx s. Also it is ordeyned that when the alderman and his brethren are settlin accompts, that then none of the other brethren shall come but as they are called, upon payn of ij s. that is to witt, the steward xvj d. for the negligence, and the offender viij d. Further it is ordeyned that no mynstrall, being a fgoreigner or stranger, shall remain upon faires and feastes within the said liberty longer than one fortnight to pass and repass, to be there masters and friends, and so to depart of the said liberties upon payn of xij d. every tyme they be taken, they being once thereof admonished and warned.

It is ordeyned also that no shepherd or husbandman, or husbandman's man, or man of other occupation, playing upon pipe or other instrument shall sue any wedding, or other thing that appertaineth to the said science, except it be within the parish wherein he dwelleth, upon payn of vj s. viij d.

Also at is ordeyned that no mynstrell shall play at any wedding or alderman's feasts within this town of Beverley, (the liberties of the Cross Days and all other fair days excepted) unless he be a burgess sworne upon scote and lote within the same, upon payn of iij s. iiij d.

Also if there be any man that is no brother, that taketh a brother's castle from him, he shall pay xij d. to the guilde. And also it is ordeyned that none shall play in a castle, except he be a brother, upon payn of xij d.

Also it is ordeyned that all manner of forfits aforesaid shall be divided into three pts. that is to say, one part to the comon place of Beverley, the second part to the brotherhood of the mynstralls, and the third part to the stewards or the officers which the straine is made or the forfeit paid, and within the town of Beverley, the half to the common places.

Also it is ordayned by the alderman and his brethren, that if there be any old and honest brother syke or at Male East by the visitation of God, within the said liberties, being destitute of help and succour and feu friends, then the alderman, being thereof admonished, shall, at the discretion of himself and four of the brethren, relieve and succour the brother so being visited, with some parcel of money, with all Godly customs that have been used heretofore, as nigh as ability may sue or attaine. Also an ordnance made by the assent and consent of all the brethren, with the alderman of the same fraternity, that no man be made brother with the occupation of the mynstralls without he be a mynstrall and able.

Also if there be any brother that dispraise his alderman and stewards, and will not do at the command of them at that time, that is to say, that when he or they will not come at the prime Guild or ony other thing which shall be at the welfare of the said, they shall pay ij s. iiij d.

And also an order made by the assent of all the aforesaid brethren, that the alderman shall recieve of every mynstrall that stands in the castles upon Cross Monday, without he be a brother to the said fraternity, then to pay xij d. to his contribute and to the welfare of the said fraternity of our Lady of the Read Arke in Beverley.

And it is ordeyned by the alderman and his brethren, that every officer of the said science, authorized by several letters under the common seal of the fraternity, shall yearly make a true account of all the receipts of him or them, or any of them, takes of any brother or other mynstrall, upon such payment as shall be thoughte mete by the alderman and his brethren, in case any fault can be proved in him or them so receiving any customs.

Also it is ordeyned by the alderman and his brethren, that if any brother of the said science or other do receive or gader any money of any brother or other of that science, having no authority so to do by lawfull letter seal as is premised, then it shall be lawful to punish such an untrue offender, and so proceed according as the law shall permit, or to cause him to make a true account of all such untrue and unlawfully taken receipts.

Also it is ordeyned and statuted by the alderman and his brethren for ever to be kept, That the said brotherhood of munstralls of there own grace and good will shall pay and give unto the governors of the town corporate of Beverley, and to the comonalty of the same, xx s. as often as thay shall have to renew the confirmation of the great charter, for there lawful aid in maintaining the said fraternity of mynstralls, as hath been the custom heretofore.

Also it is ordeyned that every brother of the said fraternity shall pay to the alderman for his brotherhood, ij s. within two years of his entry, upon payne of iij s. iiij d.


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