Effigy of King Henry IIIIf you are an avid and discerning collector of government policy consultations here's a very rare one indeed - it includes references to Henry III of England, Marlborough Castle and some very, very old laws.
The Law Commission is consulting on a new round of statute repeals - tidying up the heap of laws that build up over the centuries and have, for one reason or another, become redundant. This Repeal Bill will include two of the four remaining parts of the United Kingdom's oldest piece of statute law - it's called the Statute of Marlborough.
The Statute of Marlborough was a set of laws signed by King Henry III of England in 1267 while Parliament was meeting at Marlborough Castle. In general they were in support of order and of the established powers. Four 'chapters' (as they were called) of the Statute are still legally valid.
The Law Commission's list of laws ripe for repeal includes a bunch of Finance Acts that are well past their sell by date and a 1964 Act to clear slums and promote house building. A more recent victim for repeal is the 1997 Act authorising referendums for setting up the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly - as the referendums are now history, the Act is redundant and will be consigned to the footnotes.
The list also includes several laws from the Second World War that aimed to maximise agricultural output and so defeat the U-boats. The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1943 "now contains no remaining substantive provisions. Its repeal is proposed on the grounds that it is obsolete." What a sad way to slide into history.
From the same period, the Treason Act of 1945 will go completely. It was a 'purely procedural' Act. But it certainly claims a footnote in history: had it not been passed the prosecution of William Joyce (aka Lord Haw Haw), who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain from Germany, might have failed.
One legal authority has said that if the statutory requirement for corroboration had not been repealed by the 1945 Act, William Joyce could not have been convicted on the basis of the evidence offered at his trial.
Marlborough Castle - how it could have lookedThe Statute of Marlborough has in one instance divided the Commission's legal experts.
Three of its extant laws (1,4 and 15) are often called the 'Distress Act'. These govern the recovery of rent or other money owed (in Medieval and legal parlance 'distresses') making it illegal to do so except through the courts.
Chapter 15 lays down where 'distresses' are forbidden to be taken - including the 'King's Highway' and the 'Common Street'. In plain language this chapter stops actions to remedy a breach of one person against another being taken in the street etc. Maybe these chapters were the foundation stone of the solicitors' professional monopoly in dealing with such disputes.
Chapter 23 (sometimes called the 'Waste Act 1267') prohibited tenants 'making waste' (or perhaps as we would say today 'laying waste') to land they hold in tenancy - or 'alienating' or selling it.
The Law Commission wants to repeal Chapters 4 and 15 as a law of 2007 abolished 'distress' replacing it with a statutory procedure for debt recovery. So 4 and 15 "no longer serve any useful function."
But Chapter 1 will stay on the statute books as it goes further than the 2007 Act "by making it an offence to take revenge or distress without the authority of the courts, rather than simply acting as an enforcement agent without due authority." The drafters of the 2007 Act did not get everything right.
Chapter 23 will remain on the statute books because "Opinions differ as to whether or not it serves any useful function today, and as a result it is not suitable for inclusion in a Statute Law (Repeals) Bill."
Those chapters of the Marlborough Statute which have already been repealed included legislation on subjects with Norman legal titles that would delight a crossword setter: including redisseisin, beaupleader, essoins, guardians in socage, replevin - and, in plainer English, resisting the King's officers.
And when someone tells the Law Commission's consultation that Magna Carta (signed in 1215) was an even older piece of Statute Law, they will quickly reply that Magna Carta was only copied into the statute rolls to become law in 1297.
The consultation runs until 27 February 2015.
For a history of Marlborough Castle written by David du Croz for Marlborough News Online - see the Visiting Marlborough section.
Part of the Kennet Valley at War Trust collectionA collection of World War Two artefacts recalling the deployment of hundreds of American servicemen to the Marlborough area during the Second World War is set to be digitised as part of a community history project.
The Kennet Valley at War Trust has received £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project to conserve and enhance the charity’s collection of artefacts and to increase the number of ways in which the local community can access the collection and celebrate their local heritage.
Based in a small museum at Littlecote House, which was once home to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Trust’s collection of Second World War artefacts is of regional significance.
The collection’s artefacts range from a three-ton Sherman tank turret, and an entire stable – used to billet four American airborne soldiers over the winter of 1943-1944 – relocated from the village of Aldbourne, to part of a German Heinkel 111 bomber’s wing.
British, Canadian and American military uniforms, civilian artefacts and photographs, personal testimonies, helmets, badges and spent ammunition also help to tell the story of the conflict.
Company E of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 101st Airborne Division was brought back to prominence in Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers.
The Trust’s museum was opened in 2007 by Ira Clyde Grube, a veteran of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 101st Airborne Division.
The grant will help the Trust to produce an educational pack, which will be sent to 250 schools in North Wiltshire, West Berkshire and Swindon. Three walks exploring the Kennet Valley’s war time archaeology will be developed, and a series of 10 workshops will be delivered.
Meanwhile, Trust members and volunteers from Newbury College and Ramsbury Primary School will digitise the collection, which will be collated into a new website.
Trust spokesman Tim Green said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will help young people and the wider community better understand and take pride in their local heritage.”
Newbury College’s interactive media course leader, Julian Bellmont, said: “The project is of enormous educational benefit to the students, enabling them to get actively involved in the local community.”
Lisa Flower, the history coordinator at Ramsbury Primary School said: “We look forward to trialling the new educational packs and online resources, and the opportunity to make more links with our local community, to bring history alive for our pupils.”
Bruce Steggles of Littlecote House said: “Littlecote House Hotel fully support the project and the Trust’s work to keep the history of the local community alive for present and for future generations”.
And Stuart McLeod, head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “The Kennet Valley at War Trust’s collection reflects many different aspects of civilian and military life along the valley during the Second World War and we’re pleased to announce our support for this project which will create a lasting digital and educational legacy of the local community’s wartime memory.”
Between November 1548 and June 1549, the King of England’s Sergeant Plumber, George Hind, made several visits to a major Tudor construction site near Marlborough - now called Bedwyn Brail. Excavating the Tidcombe Gate water tank at the end of the conduit
Between 2007 and 2014 members of the Archaeology Field Group from the Wiltshire Archaeology and Natural History Society (WANHS) uncovered the engineering work Hind had designed – and, buried deep beneath Bedwyn Brail’s woodland, it was still in perfect condition with water flowing through it.
In privately owned woods close to the Wilton windmill, they had rediscovered the complex water system that would have supplied the Duke of Somerset’s planned mansion. Its more immediate use was to supply his builders with water.
"The perfection of the system is breathtaking", local historian Graham Bathe told Marlborough News Online. "The top water engineer in the land, the king's Sergeant Plumber, came here to manage the project, at a time before water-pumps were invented.”
“Everything had to be engineered so that water could gravitate wherever it was needed, from fountains to the kitchens and stables. This mansion was to be vast, capable of housing and dining hundreds, including the king himself, and the water supply demonstrates state-of-the-art technology".
The discoveries are revealed in a paper by Graham Bathe, Robin Holley and Brian Clarke in the latest issue of the Society’s annual Magazine – Volume 107 of WANHM. [See below for details.]
Members of the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group at the head of the conduit - with water still flowing through itApart from this water supply, the Duke of Somerset’s new mansion was never finished – and probably never got substantially beyond the laying of foundations.
The Duke of Somerset (eldest son of the Seymours of Wolf Hall) had become Lord Protector (or regent) for his nephew, the young Edward VI, who was Henry VIII and Queen Jane Seymour’s son. After their deaths, Somerset was in virtual control of England and his powers seem to have gone to his head. He sought out regal trappings and ordered personal building schemes on a megalomaniac scale - including Somerset House and Syon House in London.
Plans for his Wiltshire house were cut short when he was accused of felony, his Wiltshire lands seized and, soon after, was executed. The mansion would have replaced his father’s Wolf Hall where he and Jane Seymour were brought up, but which was simply not grand enough for the man who had become Lord Protector of the realm.
The Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group have discovered the amazingly preserved system that collected water from four natural springs and from seepage along the conduit’s length, and channelled it into a carefully constructed storage tank at Tidcombe Gate.
The collection of seepage along the length of the conduit was engineered through a band of rubble on its eastern (uphill) side. This band was called ‘the vault’ in the Tudor letters about the construction as the WANHS paper makes clear:
Archaeologist Jo Ramsay clearing water from the excavations “There was debate about whether enough coarse quarry stone was available for ‘the vault of the conduit, being a thousand foot long’, when such stone was also needed for the foundations and infill of walls.”
It has long been known that there was an ancient ‘great ditch’ running through the Brail – since 1880 it has been marked on Ordnance Survey maps as a ‘Conduit’. Most of the rediscovered conduit was inserted below the great ditch – the total length of the conduit is 469.9 metres.
The extent of the brickworks was a great surprise to the archaeologists. The use of bricks in this sort of sixteenth century water system is rare in England.
From the surviving letters in the archives at Longleat, it is clear that enough local clay was dug to create up to two million bricks – about 100,000 of them were made on site and used for the water system’s conduit.
Sergeant Plumber Hind was also known for his work on lead roofing – ‘plumber’ comes from the Latin for lead: ‘plumbum’. We will probably never know why Hind chose to make this system almost entirely from brick rather than lead piping – but the amount of water this mansion would require certainly gives us a clue.
Excavations underway The authors of the WANHS paper believe that the use of brick showed just how large Somerset’s new house was planned to be. This brick conduit could certainly carry in excess of 25 times more water than the usual diameter of lead piping. And, as the archaeologists have now proved by their discoveries, the brickwork was very durable.
The other unusual thing about this water system is the very shallow gradient of the system. The Brails conduit has an overall fall of 1 in 150 which may be the shallowest channel gradient recorded for systems of this period.
Water systems relying on gravity-flow had been installed in royal palaces, castles and some great religious houses since the late twelfth century. But the Tudor period saw great advances in water and plumbing technology – and Sergeant Plumber Hind was at the forefront of the advances.
The unearthing of this massive and rare water supply system in Bedwyn Brail, studied in conjunction with the surviving documents about its construction, gives a unique glimpse into the Tudor period. But, tantalisingly, it also shows what a huge and powerful house Lord Protector Somerset had been planning – before his ambition and unbending self-importance tipped him into ultimate disgrace.
[Individual copies of the Wiltshire Archaeology and Natural History Magazine – Volume 107 (2014) can be bought from the Devizes Museum. It is free to members of the WANHSociety.] [Click on photos to enlarge them.] [With thanks to Graham Bathe for his assistance on this article.]
LORD PROTECTOR SOMERSET
The downfall of the Duke of Somerset (formerly Edward Seymour) was caused in part by his penchant for building on a flamboyant and extravagant scale, which he funded by pillaging dissolved monasteries.
In July 1548 he persuaded his nephew, King Edward (then aged 10) to give him Reading Abbey and he soon employed George Hind to take as much lead as possible from the Abbey buildings. He obtained about 450 tons of lead as well as other reclamation materials to be used for his grandiose building programme. (The remains of this Abbey can still be seen in the town.)
In October 1549 one of the charges against Somerset was that “he did convert, to his own use, lead and material from Sion, Reading and Glastonbury of great value”. In fact lead and stone from Reading ended up in a new water conduit for Windsor Castle.
GEORGE HIND - SERGEANT PLUMBER
George Hind was awarded the office of Sergeant Plumber by Henry VIII in 1542. He was charged to carry out plumbing work at all the King’s palaces and works in England. He was paid a salary of 12 pence a day. And he was also awarded an annual livery, vesture [clothing] and fur or, if he preferred, 40 shillings instead. (For comparison, the steward at Wolf Hall at about this time was paid £3.10s a year.)
The post of Sergeant Plumber was one of seven expert craftsmen the Tudor Kings appointed. The others were master mason, carpenter, joiner, painter, glazier and – most importantly – locksmith.