Portsoken Ward. Knighten Guild. 9

Portsoken Ward. Knighten Guild.

Extent and Priveleges of them. Authentick Copies whereof are still remaining in certain old written Books in the Guildhall of London: Which Records and Charters follow.] And first,

An Ancient Record concerning the Original of the Guild, and Confirmation of it.


IN the Times of King Knowt * (or Kanutus) the Dane, were there thirteen Knights very well beloved both of King and Kingdom. These begged of the King's Grace a certain Piece of Land in the East Part of London, which the Inhabitants had lately forsaken by reason of the Hardship and Service they there stood charged withal. The Knights suit, for to have this Land granted unto them for ever, with the Liberty of a Guild upon it; the King upon this Condition granted, namely, that every one of them should perform three Combats upon the Land, and in the Water; and come off with Victory: And also, that upon a Day appointed, they should run at Tilt against all Comers, in the Field which is now called East Smithfield. This they having performed gloriously, the King gave them the Field, and the same Day named it Knytte Guilden; appointing these Boundaries unto it. First, that it should reach from Ealdgate to the Place where the Bars now are, Eastward on both sides the Town. He extended it another way toward Bishopsgate, as far as the House of William the Priest. To the Southward, the Liberties of this Guild reached so far into the Water of the Thames, as a Horseman riding into the River at a dead low Water, could dart his Horseman's Staff from him. So that all East Smithfield, with part of the right hand Way, which stretcheth by Doddings Pond into the Thames; and also the Hospital of St. Katharines, with the Mills, (which Hospital was founded in the Reign of King Stephen) together with the outer Stone Wall, and the new Ditch of the Tower, stand, and are within the Fee aforesaid. For the said Wall and Ditch were not as yet made; but were afterwards, in the very time that King Richard I. was at Jerusalem: Which was done by the Bishop of Ely, the King's Justice over all the Kingdom. The occasion was a Difference betwixt Earl John the King's Brother, and the Chief Justice. By the digging of this Ditch in the Ground of East Smithfield, did the Church of the Holy Trinity in London lose half a Mark a Year Revenue; and the Mill which belonged unto the poor Brotherhood of the Hospital of St. Katharines, and unto the Churches of St. Katharines, and of the Holy Trinity altogether, was fain to be removed, to their no little Hindrance. A Garden also which the King had hired of the Brotherhood aforesaid, at the Rent of six Marks a year, was for the most part destroyed also by the said Ditch: Recompence was often sued for, but not made very speedily, though promised faithfully. Afterwards, King Edward gave five Marks and an half unto the poor Brotherhood, for that part of their Garden which the Ditch had destroyed; and that part which it had not, he restored unto them again, which they hold unto this Day. As for their Rent of five Marks and a half, he gave them his Charter, by which they receive it very duly either out of the Exchequer or the Hanaper, even until this present.

Ancient Records concerning the Knighten Guild.


Out of Book Dunthorne in Guild hall, Folio 78.

* Or K. Edgar, Secund. Lib. Trinitat. Pro nimia servitute.

East Smithfield.

These were English Knights: and therefore in some Writings it is called Anglish Knytte Guilden.

The Tower Ditch first made.

This Guild was by divers Kings afterwards confirmed. And first by Edward the Confessor, then by William Rufus; of whose Charter I here give you this Abstract.

Out of the Book C. Fol. 134.

William King of England, &c. to Bishop M.G. de Magu, and R de Boare, and to his faithful * Leige People of London, sendeth greeting. Know ye, that I have confirmed unto the Men of Cnitengilda, their Guild, and Lands pertaining unto it, with all their Customs entire; even as they enjoyed them in the Time of King Edward, and of my Father: Witness Henry de Both at Rethyng.

* Fidelibus. By which, perchance both in this, and other King's Charters of those Times, are meant, such as were the King's Tenants, or held Lands of him, and had sworn Fealty for them to him.

Of K. Henry I. his Charter this is the Abstract.


Henry King of England, &c. to Bishop M. to the * Sheriff of London, and to all his Barons and faithful People of London, as well French as English, sendeth greeting. Know ye, that I have granted unto all the Men of the Cnyttengilda, their Guild, and Lands pertaining unto it; together with all their Customs after the best manner; even as they enjoyed the same in the Times of King Edward and my Father, and as the King my Brother by his Charter and Seal confirmed them. And I free it from any Forfeiture that might accrue unto my self, forbidding all Men, that upon Pretence hereof, they presume not to offer them any Molestation: Witnesses, R. de Momford, R. de Bigot, and H. de Booth, at Westminster.

* Vicecomiti London.

More concerning the Liberties and Extent of the said Guild.


Know ye, that the Soken of Knyttengilda reaches from Aldgate, with the Lands on both sides the Street, even unto the outer Bar. On the South Side it reaches towards the Thames; joining with the Soken within the Bar, 66 Foot St. Paul. On the North it goes within the Bar 16 Foot of St. Paul. The Soken also extendeth towards Bishopsgate, even unto the House belonging sometimes unto William the Priest, and after unto Geoffrey Tannar; together with all Smithfield, and so far into the Thames, as a Horseman, at low Water, riding upon his * Destrier into the River, could dart his Lance from him; together with the Right Hand part of the Street which goes by Doddings Pond to the Thames: But as for that on the Left Hand, it is not of that Soken; but yet in the Parish of St. Botolphs.

Out of Book H. in Fol. 48.

* Super dextrarium, i. e. his Horse of Service, or great Horse.

More concerning the Tower Ditch beforementioned; and of the enclosing the whole City of London with a Ditch.


Whilst King Richard, in his Return from Jerusalem, was kept Prisoner by the Emperor of Almayne, there fell out a Dissension betwixt Earl John the King's Brother, and the Bishop of Ely, Lord Chief Justice of England; whereupon the Bishop thought good to fortify the * K.'s Castle, which the Earl at that time provided to beleager. It seemed good to the Bishop, therefore, to encompass in the whole Bulwark with a Wall of a most wonderful Thickness, and to make a broad and deep Ditch about that. Which the Thames flowing into, the whole Tower might both be encompassed and fortified by it. Upon occasion, therefore, of this Ditch, which was then made in Smithfield, (and by reason of that other Ditch, which the Citizens for the same cause then began to make round about their City) did the Church of the Holy Trinity lose half a Mark of yearly Revenue; and the Mill also belonging unto the Poor of the Hospital of Aldgate was taken away: Whereupon there accrued no small Damage both unto us*, and to those poor People; for which though Recompence hath been often promised, yet we hitherto received no Satisfaction.

Out of Book Dunthorn, Fol. 82.

* The Tower.

* This is a Character of the Antiquity of this Writing, and also that it was done either by the Parson, or some of the Parishioners of Trinity Parish.