Friday, 7 February 2020

The Decline and Rise of Lincoln

Arms of the city of Lincoln 
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lincoln is one of nine cities and nine towns in England that were given the status “County of the City of …”, such places are called County Corporate.

Counties Corporate were created during the Middle Ages, and were effectively small self-governing counties of no prescribed size but usually including some surrounding countryside and villages. They usually covered towns or cities which were deemed to be important enough to be independent from their county. Each town or city’s charter was drafted according to its needs, in some cases there was a security issue which brought about the status, i.e. Poole was plagued by pirates so became County of the Town of Poole.

Lincoln's Stonebow,
Meetings of the Corporation/Council have been held here for five centuries  


While they were administratively distinct counties, with their own sheriffs, most of the counties corporate remained part of the “county at large” for purposes such as the county assize courts. From the 17th century the separate jurisdictions of the counties corporate were increasingly merged with that of the surrounding county, so that by the late 19th century the title was mostly a ceremonial one.

Lincoln’s County Corporate status was made by a Royal Charter dated 21st November 1409. The main points of the charter were:
  • The election of two sheriffs instead of bailiffs.
  • The city to be called the County and City of Lincoln.
  • The Mayor to be the King’s Escheator¹.
  • The power to render accounts to the King’s Exchequer by attorney.
  • The Mayor and Sheriffs with four others to be justices of the peace, with defined jurisdiction.
  • A yearly fair beginning fifteen days before the feast of the deposition of St. Hugh (17 November) and continuing for fifteen days after.
  • The receipt in aid of the payment of the city rent of £180 of the annual rent of £6 paid to the Crown by the weavers of Lincoln; strictly and fully reserving the exemption from the jurisdiction of the City of the Cathedral Church, the Close, and the Dean and Chapter.

The Charter was witnessed at Westminster by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishops of London, Durham, and Bath and Wells, Edward duke of York, John earl of Somerset, chamberlain, John Typtot, treasurer, master John Prophete keeper of the Privy Seal, and John Stanley, steward of the household..

By the 15th century Lincoln’s fortunes were on the wane, it’s Jewish community, the second largest in he country after London, had been expelled 100 years before and in 1369 the Wool Staple² was moved to Boston: the population of Lincoln had fallen to its lowest level because of these reasons and the Black Death which ravaged most of England at this time. Buildings were demolished and the land was turned back to farming, even within the city walls. Lincoln’s population at this time was in the region of about 2,000, drastically down from its 6,000 at the time of the Conquest. Many churches were closed, some were demolished, there being parishes that were uninhabited.

Lincoln started to revive in the 18th century due to many factors, the main one being Richard Ellisons leasing and making navigable again the Fosdyke. The population grew and at the 1801 census there were over 7,200 people in Lincoln, and by 1901 the population had grown to nearly 49,000. The Industrial Revolution had arrived!

In 1466 a Charter was granted by Edward IV “to the Mayor Thomas Grantham and the citizens, in relief of the desolation and ruin which had come upon the city, that the villages of Braunstone, Wadyugtone, Bracebrigge and Canwik should be separated from the county and annexed to the county of the city, with the transfer of all jurisdiction of sheriffs etc., that all their inhabitants should contribute to "scot and lot" and all the charges of the city, and none be allowed to dwell within the liberties of the city who should refuse so to do… “

County Corporates were abolished through Government Acts in the 19th century, notably the Militia Act 1882 and Local Government Act 1888, Lincoln becoming part of Lincolnshire County Council but retaining it’s City Council status.

The list of Counties Corporate and when created

1. County of the City of …
  • Canterbury (1471)
  • Coventry (1451, abolished 1842)
  • Exeter (1537)
  • Lichfield (1556)
  • Lincoln (1409)
  • London (1132 until 1965)
  • Norwich (1404)
  • Worcestor (1622)
  • York (1396)

2. County of the Town of
  • Bristol (1373, City since 1542)
  • Chester (1238/1239, City since 1541)
  • Gloucester (1483, City since 1541)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne (1400)
  • Nottingham (1448)
  • Poole (1571)
  • Southampton (1447)

3. Borough and Town of …
  • Berwick upon Tweed (1551)
4. Kingston upon Hull became County of Hullshire by charter of 1440, restricted to Town and County Kingston upon Hull in 1835

1 A person appointed to receive property of a person who died intestate.

2 Lincoln was originally granted the Wool Staple in 1313 due to the importance of its Cloth industry, its loss was a blow the Lincoln didn’t recover from for a very long time.

First published on Wordpress 1st May 2013

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