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When the Copy reached me and I found it to be in contracted and somewhat barbarous Latin, I thought it would be more generally useful if it was accompanied by an English version, which accordingly I prepared and sent to the Chairman, at whose request I afterwards undertook to read a paper to introduce the document to you. On starting to write it I was desirous of obtaining some information as to old Birmingham, not in my knowledge, and accordingly I applied to a friend, who knows old Birmingham well. I mean Mr. Joseph Hill. In reply he said that he was already acquainted with the Survey, that he and Mr. W. B. Bickley had been engaged upon it for some time, and he was good enough to shew me a translation by Mr. Bickley of the early part which was then in type, and which appeared in the Midland Antiquary during the present month. [January, 1887.]

It is somewhat singular that an important document touching the local history and the description of Birmingham more than 3 Centuries ago, should have remained unnoticed for that period, and in the end should be needlessly translated twice, by persons unknown to each other, working about the same period. Mr. Bickley commenced his translation first, but mine was first finished.

As I read the title, it is “A Survey of the Borough of Birmingham, of the Manor or Lordship of the Forren of Birmingham, and of the Manor of Barkeswell in the County of Warwick.” A Literatim copy of the Title will be found on the prints already handed to you. (See Appendix B.] I would call particular attention to the language, for if the above reading of it is right, the Borough of Birmingham is described as a separate thing from the Manor of Birmingham, which would appear to comprise only the Forren of Birmingham and Deretend.

Entries in the Survey clearly prove that at that date there were in the Forren Copyholds held of the Manor. Is there any other known reference to Copyholds in Birmingham ?

It is, I believe, commonly considered stiil, that Birmingham was not entitled to be called a Borough until it was incorporated in 1838, although Mr. Toulmin Smith pointed out that Birmingham had been divided into Borough and Forren, as is the case with Walsall, Kidderminster, Leominster, and other places.

But there is one expression at least in the Survey which may be thought to ply the existence of a Corporation in Birmingham in olden times. Under the heading Rents of Tenants at Will within the Borough of Birmingham aforesaid," it is set forth “ That the Bailiff and Commonalty of the Borough of Birmingham hold at the will of the Lord divers stalls for Fishmongers, Butchers, and Tanners in the Market.” The expression “ Bailiff and Commonalty of the Borough” is very significant of an incorporated body. The same expression is to be found more than a century and a half earlier in the writ of ad quod damnum of 1392, for the foundation of the Gild of the Holy Cross.

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It would be interesting to be able to show what was the nature and constitution of the Borough of Birmingham. The word here can hardly have the same meaning as it had in incorporated towns. For notwithstanding that Mr. Toulmin Smith lays it down in his usual positive way that "it is essential to a true knowledge of English History thoroughly to understand that Commonalty, or Communitas, expresses a Corporate Municipal existence,” I take the liberty to doubt whether, notwithstanding the above-mentioned two instances of the use of the word Commonalty, Birmingham had any existence as a Corporation prior to the Reign of the Queen. If it had, who were the Corporators—what was their qualification—how were they appointed—and what were their powers and functions ? That the Gild of the Holy Cross in Birmingham, whilst it was in existence, was a Corporate Body is plain—but that Gild was not the Borough of Birmingham. Presumably no Roll of the Members of the Gild has survived the Protestant zeal for destruction of the Reformation period, otherwise Mr. Smith would probably have found it—but it is clear from the express terms of the License of foundation that the Gild was not a Municipal Institution—as the “ Brethren and Sisteren” might include not only men and women of the Town of Birmingham, but men and women of other towns. In Walsall, where a similar Gild existed, it was also the practice to admit men and women from other towns into the Gild. Many yards in length of the Gild Roll there, of the time of Edward IV. and Henry VII., still exist, which conclusively shews this—and that the Members of the Gild were not the Burgesses is plain from the circumstance that we have also a separate Burgess Roll extending from the time of Edward III. to the time of James I. The Burgesses were admitted before the Mayor ; the Members of the Gild before the Masters of the Gild ; thus shewing the distinct existences of the Corporation of the Borough, and of the Corporation of the Gild.

To stimulate research by Birmingham men for documentary evidence as to the ancient meaning of the Borough of Birmingham, I may mention that the old Burgess Roll of Walsall, which throws considerable light on the former history of the town, was not in modern times known to exist until about a year ago when I discovered it in the possession of the Rev. Walter Sneyd, at Keele Hali, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, where it had been kept since the period of the Civil Wars. Hidden away in some remote and unsuspected place may be similar important documents, which would throw a glare of light on the early history of the Borough of Birmingham.

Pending the production of more conclusive evidence, I think that it cannot be right to conclude, from the mere use of the expression “ Bailiff and Commonalty,” that the Borough of Birmingham was a corporate Borough. The word Borough is used here, I would suggest, in Dugdale's sense of “ villa insignior," or in the sense given in Ragneau's Glossary of French Law, which says " this word Bourg is equivalent to Town; and at this present day,” (being now 2 or 3 centuries ago)" signifies a town not closed with walls and ditches."

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The original runs :-“ Ce mot bourg vaut autant que ville, et aujourd'huy signifie une ville non close de murs et fossez,” which is almost identical with the following “Burgum vocant domorum congregationem quae muro non clauditur.”—Luitprandius Ticenensis, lib. 3, c. 12.

The tenant 2ndly named in the Survey is said to hold "in libero burgagio," or in free burgage—and what “free burgage” means is shewn by a subsequent entry in which Edward Pepwell is said to hold "in free socage or burgage.” This entry shows the equivalency of the tenures in socage and burgage, and illustrates the Statement in Skene that Socmanry or socage is “when one holds his lands in the name of Burgage.”

The Survey is important especially with respect to the names of places and streets mentioned in it. Particular houses and places mentioned are :

The Bull, in Welch End.
Welchman Cross.
The Tolbooth in High Street.
The High Cross.
The Crown in Spicers Strect.
The Graveyard of the Chapel of the Blessed Mary.
The Swan in Deretend and Parke Street and in the Cornemarket.
The Newhouse in Welsh End.
The George in Edgbaston Street.

The Corner House in Molle Street.
This latter was afterwards given by William Colmore to Lench's Trustees.
It is worth notice that the Survey speaks of More Street as being then lately made.

Hutton supposed (p. 64) that Dale End, Peck Lane, and New Street were opened between the Restoration and 1700. They are, however, all three mentioned in the Survey, as being then in existence.

Streets and places in the Borough which are mentioned are :
Deretend and Bridge.

Chappell Street (now Bull Street).
Dale End.

Parke Street.
Edgbaston Street.

More Street or
Malte Mille Lanc.

Molle Street.
Spicers Street

High Street.
Welsh Market.

English Market.
Welsh End.

Wells Street.
Dygbathe.

New Street.
Spyceres Lane.

Welch Lane.
Pecke Lane.

Tenters Greve.
Newmarket Street.

The Meat Crosse.
Bennett's Hill (a pasture).

The Shambles.
The Alms Houses.

Tanners Row.
Rea bridge.

Cornmarket.

It would be tedious to enumerate the various places in the Forren which are mentioned. For these the Survey itself should be referred to. (See Appendix C.)

Hutton (p. 59) cites a writer to the effect that at the Restoration Birmingham probably consisted of only three streets, but he himself thinks there were more, probably 15. The Survey names more than that number a century before the Restoration.

There are some observations of a purely technical nature, which would be properly made if I were addressing a legal audience, but these I think it would not be interesting to bring before a general Meeting like this. I simply point attention to the fact that Real property Lawyers will find much that is instructing in a perusal of the Survey in the original language.

In conclusion I can only express my regret that my personal want of knowledge of old Birmingham has prevented me from doing justice to the subject I have been attempting to deal with ; others, however, are engaged on the work. I have done what I could, and pray your indulgence.

Erchequer Court of Augmentations.

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