King Edward 1 (1239-1307) the monarch who conquered the Welsh, fought the Scots and expelled the Jews from England at the point of a sword murdering many in the process (and not a politically correct head of state) awarded the town a second charter as he set about reforming the archaic laws to boost trade and bring about the beginning of the end of serfdom.
Two centuries later the Tudor heads of state Queens Mary I (1516-1558) and Elizabeth I (1533-1603) granted further rights to the town. Although the town no longer has 32 burgesses or even a guild hall – there are many reminders of those days in the shape of this market square, the office of mayor on the town council, the various timbered buildings still standing such as The Old Angel and the community having the status of a town.
The Tudor age saw the Christian schism of the Reformation leading to the banishment of the Catholic clergy and the establishment of the Church of England. Later the church was whitewashed inside and the colourful wall paintings were covered and the statues of the Virgin Mary and all the Saints were taken down as the new broom of Protestantism swept away the old practices and even the priest was chased from his sacristy (now a broom cupboard in the church).
Queen Mary and her Spanish husband Philip granted the Charter of Incorporation – empowering Axbridge to continue as a free corporate borough, with its Mayor, burgesses, and constables.
Chronicler: “Whereas our borough of Axbridge in our County of Somersetshire is an ancient borough, always having within it thirty-two men called Burgesses from time to time elected, nominated and appointed out of the more discreet and honest men… there may and shall be fourteen of the elder and principal and better and more honest of them who shall be called the Aldermen.”
Some of these new positions were held by John Whiting; Mayor and Clerk of the Market, John Bythesea; First Aldermen, Richard Fulle; and Burgesses: William Broyde, Senior; William Broyde, Junior; Walter Durban; John Borne; Thomas Hall; Jasper Wrentmore; William, Jones the bread taster, Christopher Wilmott, the leather warden, and Christopher Sadler, the ale taster.
The Mayor read out the good news concluding : “It shall be lawful for the Common Council of the borough to hold and keep yearly for ever, two markets in every week, and four fairs to be holden there yearly. Witness Ourself at Westminster, the twenty-third day of February in the fort-first year of our reign. God save the Queen.”
Later King James’s Charter also granted Axbridge the right to two silver maces which meant the town could police the market and combat crime and in particular West Street then outside the town’s boudary. The charter brought the dodgy end of town under the council’s control with the Chronicler announcing: “We are credibly informed that in the street called West Street, many riots, routs, unlawful assemblies, contentions and offences are committed by diverse disorderly persons.”
Don’t tell anyone but West Street continues to be a fairly lively part of town although we are unaware of anyone from there being placed in the stocks recently.
The pageant with a cast of 300 is now scheduled to take place from Saturday to Monday August 28-30th, 2021 – having been put back a year due to Covid-19. Please note due to the ongoing pandemic the date may have to be altered again.
For more details of the pageant visit http://axbridgepageant.com/index.html and
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For more from the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk