Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gloucester pavage and murage in the time of Edward III

Gloucester pavage and murage in the time of Edward III

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

On 28th December 1328 King Edward III granted a reconfirmation of all previous grants of liberties to the burgesses of Gloucester, even those liberties rarely used or not used at all. The grant specially confirmed that no burgess shall plead outside the walls of Gloucester except when related to outside tenures. The burgesses were also granted to be quit of “murage, quayage, pavage, passage, gildage and Merchant’s Guild” and all other customs throughout the whole kingdom. This royal charter was especially to honour the body of the late King Edward II who was buried in Gloucester.[1] 

King Edward II died at Berkeley Castle on 27th September 1327 after he was deposed by his wife and her lover (Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer), possibly murdered, although some claimed he moved to France and lived as an ordinary person for many years. The government of King Edward III (operated by Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer) spent about ten days in Gloucester in December 1328 before moving on to Christmas at Worcester.[2]

Aerial view of modern Gloucester 


The first grant of pavage given to Gloucester that I have found was made on 29th April 1321 chargeable on all goods brought into the town. This grant was for four years.[3] It is presumed that the town authorises collected the dues and improved the street paving. Another presumption is that the streets were cleansed of dung, dirt and putridity during the term of the grant but this is not stated in the letters patent. The pavage grant to Dublin in 1366 mentioned this requirement.[4] Presumingly Gloucester had a good reputation for clean streets and so it didn’t need to be told.

On 7th March 1327 another grant of pavage was made for five years.[5] On 26th July 1331 King Edward III granted pavage to Gloucester for a four year term.[6] The amount due on the various goods coming into Gloucester is not stated for the grants of 1321 and 1331. But we do have an extensive list of goods and their custom charge available when the 1331 grant was renewed in 1335.

On 24th February 1335 King Edward III granted to the burgesses of Gloucester that to aid in the paving of the town they could collect dues on a whole range of goods coming into the own for the following seven years.[7] About a hundred years later, on 28th October 1434 King Henry VI made another grant pavage to Gloucester, this time for five years.[8] Other grants of pavage were made at other times but the type of goods charged and their rate of custom is unknown.[9] The goods and the rate of custom of the 1335 grant were as follows [the 1434 rate is in bold type if different]:[10]

Each load of corn, ½d (d = pence)
Each horse, mare, ox or cow, 1d [half pence]
Each hide of a horse, mare, ox or cow, fresh, salted or tanned, 1d [quarter pence]
Each cart carrying salted meat, 2d [one penny]
Five salted pigs, 1d [half pence]
Six hams, ½d
A fresh salmon, ½d
A dozen of shad, 1d
Each lamprey before Easter, 1d [half pence]
A hundred sheep-skins with the wool on, goat-skins, deer-skins, 1d [half pence]
Each hundred of lamb-skins, kid-skins, hare-skins, rabbit-skins, fox-skins, cat-skins and squirrel-skins, ½d
Each cartload of salt, 1d
Each load of salt by week, 1d
Each load of cloth, 1d [half pence]
Each whole cloth, 1d
Each hundred of linen cloth, canvas and Irish cloth, Galway cloth and Worstede cloth, 1d [half pence] [the hundred of canvas or cloth contained 120 ells and each ell was about 45 inches]
Each cloth of silk with gold of samite (a rich silken stuff), diaper and baudekly (a gold-emroided cloth named from Bagdad), 1d [half pence]
Each cloth of silk or gold or chief of sandal afforced (a fine stuff of silk or linen), ½d [quarter pence]
Each ship coming to the town by the Severn charged with goods for sale, 4d [one penny]
Each dole of wine and ashes (a crude tartar obtained from wine-lees), 2d [1½ pence]
Each load of ashes, ½d
Each load of honey, 1d
Each barrel of honey, 4d
Each sack of wool, 4d
Each trussel of cloth brought by cart, 4d [two pence] [a trussel was a package or bale of cloth from the Old French trusser to pack]
Each load of cloth and other small things, ½d
Each cartload of iron, 1d
Each load of iron, ½d
Each cartload of lead, 2d
Each load of bark by week, ¼d
Merchandize sold by weight, of the hundred, 1d, [usually small wares sold by weight]
Of a peis (Old French for weight) of tallow and fat, 1d,
Of a quarter of woad, 2d
Of each hundred of alum and copperas, ½d
Of two thousands of onions, ¼d
A load of garlic, ½d
A thousand of herrings, ½d
Of a hundred of bord, ½d [an Eastern fabric from Egypt]
Each quern, ½d
A thousand shingles, 1d
A thousand lathes, 1d
A new cart, ½d
A cartload of green timber, ½d
A hundred of faggots, ½d [one penny]
A ship loaded with hay coming to the town, 1d
Of each peis of cheese and butter, 1d [half pence]
A dozen loads of coal coming by water, ½d
Of two thousand nails of all sorts except cart-nails, ¼d
A thousand nails for the ridges of houses, ¼d
A hundred of iron for horses (horse shoes) and clouts for carts, ½d [clouts were pieces of iron bound round the ends of the axle=trees to protect them against wear]
Each trussel of merchandize exceeding the value of 2s (s = shillings), ¼d
A cauldron for brewing, 1d
A cartload of sea-fish, 2d [half pence]
A load of sea-fish, ½d
A bale of Cordovan leather and basan leather, 2d
A hundred of tin, brass, or copper, 2d
A boatload of brushwood or timber, 2d
A boatload of chalk, 1d
A boatload of sea-coal, 1d[11]

Comparison with other cities

The rates of custom payable on the various commodities levied at Gloucester were similar to other cities but also different. The grant of pavage to Dublin in 1346 included a quarter penny on a load of corn (half pence at Gloucester), a ship of sea-coal was two pence (one penny at Gloucester), two thousand onions were half penny in Dublin versus a quarter penny at Gloucester while herrings were a quarter pence at Dublin but a half pence at Gloucester. Items levied at the same rate included woad, nails and rabbit skins and others skins.[12]

The economy of every town was different. The availability of each commodity and the desire of the city authorities to encourage some trade over other commodities may account for the differences. Even within a town the rates could be different as we shall see with the murage grant given to Gloucester in 1345.

A map of the walls in red and the main streets and sites of Gloucester 


On 1st October 1345 King Edward III granted to the Bailiffs and men of Gloucester the right to take custom from goods for sale coming to Gloucester by land, and by water, for the following seven years. This grant of murage was to aid in the repairing and sustentation of the town walls.[13] In 1298 and 1302 records relate to the bringing of stone by way of the River Severn from Elmore for use for the town walls.[14]

The rate of murage was sometime half that of pavage while on other commodities it was the same rate. The type of goods charges for murage sometimes differed from that of pavage. The following were the rates for murage on the goods coming into Gloucester for sale:

Each horse load of corn for sale, whatsoever kind it may be, or of malt, ¼d (d = pence)
Each horse, mare, ox or cow, ½d
Each dole of wine, 2d
Each pipe of wine, 1d
Each hide of a horse, mare, ox or cow, fresh, salted or tanned, ¼d
Five salted pigs, ½d
Ten hams, ½d
Ten sheep, goats and hogs, 1d
Ten fleeces, ½d
A hundred sheep-skins with the wool on, goat-skins, deer-skins, 1d
Each hundred of lamb-skins, kid-skins, hare-skins, rabbit-skins, fox-skins, cat-skins and squirrel-skins, ½d
Each hundred of gray-work, 6d [furriery made of the skins of the animal known in Old French as gris]
Each quarter of salt, ¼d
Each horse-load of cloth, ½d
Each whole cloth of the value of 40s (s = shillings), 1d
Each trussel of cloth brought by cart, 3d
Each hundred of cloth worsted, 2d
Each cloth of worsted called “couerlyt” of the value of 40s, 1d
Each hundred of linen cloth of Dilesham (near Worstead, Norfolk), 1d
Each chief of cendalle afforced, 1d
Of other cendalle, ½d
Each hundred of salted cod [green fish] or stock-fish, 2d
Each cartload of fish, ½d
Each horse-load of sea-fish, ½d
Each salmon, ¼d
Each dozen of lampreys, 1d
Each barrel of sturgeon, ½d
Each last of herrings, 6d
Each horse-load of ashes, ½d
Each horse-load of honey, 1d
Each sack of wool, 2d
Each cart-load of tan by week, 1d
Merchandize sold by weight, of the hundred, 1d,
Of each peis of tallow and grease, 1d,
Of a quarter of woad, 2d
Of two thousands of onions, ½d
Each bale of cordwain, 3d
Of a hundred of bord, ½d
Each quern, ½d
Each hundred of faggots, ¼d
Each thousand of turves, ¼d
A cart-load of brushwood or timber, by the week, ½d
Each hundred [weight] of tin, brass or copper, 2d
Each boat laden with ale, brushwood, turbes, or any other things whatsoever for sale exceeding the value of 20s, 1d
Each trussel of merchandize of any kind exceeding the value of 10s, ½d
Each ware not named here of the value of 5s and over, ¼d

The walls of Gloucester

The earliest mention of the walls of Gloucester that I have found was in a royal charter of King John of gifts and liberties to the town of Gloucester in return for a fee farm payment of £55. In that charter the burgesses of Gloucester Merchant Guild should not “plead without the walls of the borough … except pleas relating to outside tenures”.[15] Yet Gloucester is noted for its older walls. Originally Gloucester was founded as a town by the Romans with the usual forum buildings and military and religious buildings. After the Roman Empire left the town fell into decline and was abandoned for a number of centuries. Sometime round 900 AD the Anglo-Saxons built a new town on a regular grid of streets within the Roman walls. But this new town didn’t following the grid street system of the Roman town except that the principal East-West street was near each other.[16]

The walls of Gloucester, or any town, were not just for defence from attacking armies. In times of war the walls did serve that purpose but on a daily basis the walls serve more practical needs. It a time without an established police force the walls and gates of a town helped control the free flow of criminals. When the gates closed at night the town folk were safe from criminals from outside. Equally criminals inside he own could not make a quick escape.

The walls also controlled trade. Merchants had to use the town gates for access and couldn’t avoid tolls and customs by jumping the fence with their goods for sale. The walls also provided civil pride as only a town or city with money could afford to pay for the erection of walls.    

Benefits of pavage and murage

What benefits did the grants of pavage and murage bring to Gloucester and to others? On a positive view the grants helped pave the streets and repair the town walls. But the tolls fell heavily upon rural dwellers as the tolls only applied to goods coming into town for sale. Goods within the town did not pay. Yet there were few goods coming into Gloucester that were free of the tolls. One would think therefore that the town acquired a large sum of money from pavage and murage but evidence for other places would not support this.

Exeter received grants of pavage and murage from 1224 to 1374 on a vast amount of goods coming into the city for sale. In 1306/7 the income on these tolls was £40 per year. But after the Black Death and the start of the Hundred Years War trade declined. The returns in the 1360s and 1370s rarely exceeded £6 per year. In 1377 a new system of murage was introduced at Exeter which was levied on resident property holders rather than on traders. This new murage levy brought in £28 per year.[17]

Another factor which limited the income from pavage and murage was the system of borough freedom granted to individuals in various towns and cities. Not only were these people free of most custom tolls within their own town but they were also exempt in other recognised towns across England. The nationwide exemption granted to Gloucester in 1328 was cited as reason for other cities to have such freedom for its burgesses. In 1474 the burgesses of Waterford claimed exemption “just as the burgesses of Gloucester are” exempted. These exemption extended to that of pavage and murage. Most town halls kept a list of the other recognised towns so as to properly collect tolls and not accidently collect from a person with borough freedom, less they have to give the money back.[18]

In other cases unfranchised inhabitants, and those from outside the town, paid an annual payments to cover all market tolls and charges. These payments varied between 6 pence and 1 mark but were usually in the range of 1–2 shillings range.[19] The payment was reassessed each year but if it is possible that a trader could save on taxes such as pavage and murage with the one big payment if he did substantial trading in the town.

The amount of money raised by pavage and murage was also limited by the size of the Gloucester economic area. The borough rolls show that the villages from which men came regularly to trade in Gloucester's market lay within a relatively small surrounding area of the Vale and Severnside, most of them within or close to the well-known limit of 6½ miles which was the usual distance for those attending a day's market. Beyond this distance other market towns like Tewkesbury, Cirencester, Painswick and Minchinhampton drew their own catchment area.[20]

To these exemptions, and limitations to the revenue generated for pavage and murage, must go the tax avoidance activities of various people. Some of the earliest records to survive from ancient history are government tax documents and following on close behind are other documents showing people’s opposition to taxation or activities to avoid paying tax. It is little different in our time. In medieval times tax avoidance and evasion were ongoing issues. In 1273 a man living in Barton Street was said to intercept and buy leather from those coming through the suburb on their way to the market.[21] It is possible that some of this trading outside the town boundary happened in the period of pavage and murage.  

Cistercian monk in a mediaeval abbey ruin

The wealthy people of today and big corporations have a name of using off shore tax havens to avoid tax. Some of the large corporations of medieval times also used tax havens. The Cistercians usually had their abbey far out in the countryside but also possessed a few town properties. C.H. Berman noted that “The French archives show that Cistercian abbeys sought numerous commercial rights and properties in those centres most conveniently located for their trade. Commercial rights or preferences were gained through exemptions from tolls and taxes allowing the order to move animals and goods toll-free to urban centres and once there to buy and sell without paying market taxes” [such as pavage and murage]. Berman says that this practice of pretending to bring goods into a town for the order’s own use and once inside the town, selling the goods was common practice for the Cistercians in France and England.[22]

In 1455 it was estimated that about 8 per cent of properties within Gloucester were owned by non-residents, mainly abbots and priors of the surrounding region. Yet an institution like Llanthony priory, just outside the own walls, held about 10 per cent of town properties.[23] In 1392 the town bailiffs complained against Llanthony Priory concerned a doorway that the priory maintained near St. Kyneburgh's chapel; by means of it, many traders entered without paying toll.[24]


Medieval towns were as complex and dramatic as any modern town. The many grants of pavage given to Gloucester shows a determined effort by the town authorises to have functioning streets to serve the many needs of its residents. The construction and repair of the town wall shows civic pride and the clear determination of boundaries and authority. The grants of pavage and murage also show how medieval towns had, in ways, more local revenue generating capacity than modern towns which rely on central government for much of their revenue and we are supposed to be the progressive, modern age – the medieval world was not all medieval.   


End of post


[1] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester (Gloucester, 1893), pp. 11, 12
[2] Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward III, 1327-1330, pp. 194, 195, 196
[3] Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward II, 1317-1321, p. 578
[4] John T. Gilbert (ed.), Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin (Joseph Dollard, Dublin, 1889), vol. 1, p. 24
[5] Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward III, 1327-1330, p. 57
[6] Calendar Patent Rolls, Edward III, 1330-1334, p. 163
[7] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, p. 50
[8] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, pp. 57, 58, 59
[9] Calendar Patent Rolls, Richard II, 1381-1385, p. 328 = 16th November 1383; Ibid, Henry IV, 1402, p. 172 = 17th November 1401-1405; Ibid, Henry IV, 1405-1408, p. 91 = 12th November 1405
[10] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, pp. 50-2
[11] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, pp. 50-2
[12] John T. Gilbert (ed.), Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin, vol. 1, p. 16
[13] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, p. 54
[15] W.H. Stevenson (ed.), Calendar of the Records of the Corporation of Gloucester, p. 6
[16] C.M. Heighway & J.F. Rhodes, ‘St. Michael’s Church, Gloucester: A Reconsideration of the Excavations of 1956’, in Joseph Bettey (ed.), Archives & Local History in Bristol & Gloucester: Essays in Honour of David Smith (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2007), p. 161, 165, 166
[17] Maryanne Kowaleski, Local Markets and Regional Trade in Medieval Exeter (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 195
[18] Maryanne Kowaleski, Local Markets and Regional Trade in Medieval Exeter, p. 201; Niall J. Byrne (ed.), The Great Parchment Book of Waterford: Liber Antiquissimus Civitatis Waterfordiae (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2007), p. 33
[22] Jason Bolton, ‘The Cistercians at Rothe House’, in the Old Kilkenny Review, Volume 66 (2014), p. 37
[23] John Langton, ‘Late medieval Gloucester: some data from a rental of 1455’, in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 1977, p. 269

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