Par 193/7/2 West Tarring Market Charter (11 June 1444)
The West Tarring market charter is the oldest document that I have had the pleasure of cataloguing in my twenty seven years at West Sussex Record Office so, as I am retiring at the end of the month, I thought that it deserved a mention as our document of the month!
The charter came in to the Record Office as part of the West Tarring parish records collection in 1992. At that time I was responsible for cataloguing parish records and so it fell to me to list them. It was an amazing collection to be involved with, as the older records of most parishes had been deposited here many years previously, so it was mostly more recent records together with a few older registers that came my way. The West Tarring records ranged from the charter of 1444, through the ‘Landscot Book’,
to correspondence and papers relating to the repair of mosaics in the church. The ‘Landscot’ book covers the years 1622-1742 and includes the amount of rate set 1622-1638, a summary of accounts 1622-1742, and a list of parish officers for each year from 1632. What I found particularly interesting was the list of briefs (requests for charitable relief read out from the pulpit) that had been collected for various causes. This was fascinating reading. In 1686 there were a number of collections ‘for the relief of French Protestants’, but in 1690 there seemed to be a spate of fires throughout the country resulting in these parishes being in need of relief. Parishes listed included ‘New Alsford’, ‘Bungay in Suffolk’, ‘Bishops Lavington Wiltshire’ and ‘St Georges’ in the Borrough of Southwark’. However, it was the market charter that afforded me most pleasure because of its age. It was in fairly poor condition but had been repaired and still had its seal attached. It was in Latin but, as my Latin is limited, I was pleased to be able to consult a translation, also on parchment, that had been compiled in 1904 by Edward Sayers. However, although titled as a translation I was disappointed to discover that it is, in fact, a summary. However, there is also available a handwritten copy of the Latin charter, together with another handwritten translation. It would seem that the inhabitants of West Tarring have no market and have to travel to other local markets to trade.
They petition that they are concerned because dwelling by the sea, and, according to the summary, ‘they at various times do suffer great injury…from our enemies of France, and from other parts, because, as they say, having no market of their own, during their absence at the market, they are in terror lest their village should be ransacked and their goods taken’. The charter to hold a market was granted to be held on every Saturday provided it did not interfere with any other neighbouring market. However, we must not forget that the granting of a charter also involved the granting of revenues so it was to the financial advantage of the person to whom the charter was granted.