Statute of Winchester

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13 Edward I, c. 1-6 (U.K.)


Statute of Winchester


[Assented to 8th October, 1285.]


Fresh Suit shall be made after Felons and Robbers from Town to Town, &c.
1. Forasmuch as from day to day, robberies, murders, and arsons be more often used than they have been heretofore, and felons cannot be attained by the oath of jurors which had rather suffer felonies done to strangers to pass without pain, than to indite the offenders of whom great part be people of the same country, or at least if the offenders be of another country the receivers be of places near; and they do the same because an oath is not put unto jurors; nor upon the country where such felonies were done as to the restitution of damages, hitherto no pain hath been limited for their concealment and laches; our lord the king, for to abate the power of felons, hath established a pain in this case, so that from henceforth, for fear of the pain more than for fear of any oath, they shall not spare any nor conceal any felonies; and doth command that cries be solemnly made in all counties, hundreds, markets, fairs, and all other places where great resort of people is, so that none shall excuse himself by ignorance, that from henceforth every country be so well kept that immediately upon such robberies and felonies committed fresh suits shall be made from town to town and from country to country.
Inquiry of Felons and Robbers, and the County shall answer if they be not taken.
2. Likewise when need requires, inquests shall be made in towns by him that is lord of the town, and after in the hundred and in the franchise and in the country, and sometimes in two, three, or four counties, in case when felonies shall be committed in the marches of shires, so that the offenders may be attained. And if the country will not answer for such manner of offenders, the pain shall be such, that every country, that is to wit, the people dwelling in the country, shall be answerable for the robberies done and also the damages: so that the whole hundred where the robbery shall be done, with the franchises being within the precinct of the same hundred, shall be answerable for the robberies done. And if the robbery be done in the division of two hundreds, both the hundreds and the franchises within them shall be answerable; and after that the felony or robbery is done, the country shall have no longer space than forty days, within which forty days it shall behoove them to agree for the robbery or offense, or else that they will answer for the bodies of the offenders.
This Act shall be respited until Easter next.
3. And forasmuch as the king will not that his people should be suddenly impoverished by reason of this penalty, that seemeth very hard to many, the king granteth that it shall not be incurred immediately, but it shall be respited until Easter next following, within which time the king may see how the country will order themselves, and whether such felonies and robberies do cease. After which term let them all be assured that the aforesaid penalty shall run generally; that is to say, every country, that is to wit, the people in the country, shall be answerable for felonies and robberies done among them.
At what Times the Gates of great Towns shall be shut, and when the Night Watch shall begin and end.
4. And for the more surety of the country, the king hath commanded that in great towns being walled, the gates shall be closed from the sun-setting until the sun-rising; and that no man do lodge in suburbs, nor the edges of the town, except in the day-time, nor yet in the day-time, unless his host will answer for him; and the bailiffs of towns every week, or at the least every fifteenth day, shall make inquiry of all persons being lodged in the suburbs or the edges of the towns; and if they do find any that have received or lodged in any other way people of whom there may be suspicion that they are against the peace, the bailiffs, shall do right therein. And the king commandeth, that from henceforth all watches be made as it hath been used in times past, that is to wit, from the day of the Ascension unto the day of the Saint Michael, in every city by six men at every gate; in every borough, by twelve men; in every town, by six or four, according to the number of the inhabitants of the town, and they shall keep the watch continually all night from the sun-setting unto the sun-rising. And if any stranger do pass by them he shall be arrested until morning; and if no suspicion be found he go quit; and if they find cause of suspicion, they shall forthwith deliver him to the sheriff, and the sheriff shall receive him without delay, and shall keep him safely, until he be delivered in due manner. And if they will not obey the arrest, they shall levy hue and cry upon them, and such as keep the watch shall follow them with all the town and the towns near, with hue and cry from town to town, until that they be taken and delivered to the sheriff as before is said; and for the arrestments of such strangers none shall be punished.
Breadth of Highways leading from one Market-Town to another.
5. And further, it is commanded that highways leading from one market town to another shall be enlarged, whereas woods, hedges, or dykes be, so that there be neither dyke, underwood, nor bush whereby a man may lurk to do hurt, near to the way, within two hundred foot of the one side and two hundred foot on the other side; so that this statute shall not extend unto oaks, nor unto great trees, so as it shall be clear underneath. And if by default of the lord that will not abate the dyke, underwood, or bushes, in the manner aforesaid, any robberies be done therein, the lord shall be answerable for the felony; and if murder be done the lord shall make a fine at the king's pleasure. And if the lord be not able to fell the underwoods, the country shall aid him therein. And the king willeth that in his demesne lands and woods, within his forest and without, the ways shall be enlarged as before is said. And if perchance a park be near to the highway, it is requisite that the lord shall minish his park so that there be a border of two hundred foot near the highway, as befoer is said, or that he make such a wall, dyke, or hedge that offenders may not pass, nor return to do evil.
That View of Arms be made. Hue and Cry shall be followed. Fairs or Markets shall not be kept in Church-yards.
6. And further it is commanded that every man have in his house harness for to to keep the peace after the ancient assize; that is to say, every man between fifteen years of age and sixty years, shall be assessed and sworn to armor according to the quantity of their lands and goods; that is to wit, for fifteen pounds lands, and goods of forty marks, an hauberke, an helm of iron, a lance, a knife, and a horse; and for ten pounds of lands, and twenty marks goods, an hauberke, an helm of iron, a lance, and a knife; and for five pounds of lands, a doublet, an helme of iron, a lance, and a knife; and from forty shillings of land and more up to one hundred shillings, a lance, a bow and arrows, and a knife; and he that hath less than forty shillings yearly shall be sworn to falces, gisarmes, knives, and other small arms; and he that hath less than twenty marks in goods, shall have swords, knives, and other small arms; and all other that may shall have bows and arrows out of the forest, and in the forest bows and pilets. And that view of armor be made every year two times. And in every hundred and franchise two constables shall be chosen to make the view of armor; and the constables aforesaid shall present before justices assigned, when they shall some into the country, such defaults as they shall have found about armor, and of suits, and of watches, and of highways; and also shall present all such as do lodge strangers in uplandish towns, for whom they will not answer. And the justices assigned shall present at every parliament unto the king such defaults as they shall find, and the king shall provide remedy therein. And from henceforth let the sheriffs take good heed, and bailiffs within franchises and without, greater or lesser, that have any bailiwick or forestry in fee or otherwise, that they shall follow the cry with the country, as they are able, having horses and armor so to do; and if there be any that do not, the defaults shall be presented by the constables to the justices assigned, and after them to the king; and the king will provide remedy as before is said. And the king commandeth and forbiddeth that from henceforth neither fairs nor markets be kept in churchyards, for the honor of the church.
Given at Winchester, the eight of October, in the thirteenth year of the reign of the king.



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