This is the first of a series of posts with little nuggets of information I’m coming across while researching my new book about Berwick’s defences.
Needless to say, building the mediaeval walls at Berwick cost a lot of money. Usually the work was paid for by the Warden of the town who was then refunded by the exchequer in London, but an interesting couple of notes I’ve come across show that local taxes are nothing new.
The first mention from 1305 refers to a petition to Edward I proposing that the Mayor and burgesses of Berwick should hand over the customs and farms (rents) from all trade except wool and the profits from milling and fishing in the town for twelve years! The burgesses gave £501 and the king ruled that twelve years was too long and that the Chamberlain and burgesses should come to an agreement. The religious houses were not exempt either and were subject to the Warden’s justice should they not co-operate!
It appears that an agreement was made that the town would be taxed for seven years and that the works should be finished within this time. This didn’t happen as they had been “hindered by divers causes” and in 1313, another year’s worth of the town farm was granted by the new king, Edward II, again with the proviso that the town was enclosed.
A year later however, the town petitioned the king complaining that this levy was too onerous and were asking for three years refund worth 300 marks (approximately £200). The Chamberlain, John de Weston, was ordered to hold an enquiry into the affair and cease the taxation.