Accounts of Tin Mining in Cornwall,
Stanner Charters of 1198 & 1201
The Stannary Charter, 1198
Know that the sheriff of Devon and Cornwall has received by the hand of William de
Wrotham, the command of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury in these words:
Hubert, by the grace of God, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, Legate
of the Apostolic See, to the sheriff of Devon and Cornwall, greeting. We order you, on
behalf of the Lord King, that in place of Geoffrey Fitz-Peter you entrust to William de
Wrotham all the stannaries of the Lord King in your bailiwick and all that belongs to
those stannaries. And you shall see to it that he has tin miners with that freedom which
they should have, and which they have been accustomed to have, and you will see that he
has all those lawful men whom the same William will name for you. You shall see that they
expedite this matter, that they bring aid and counsel for the keeping of the king's
stamps, and all the products of those stannaries, and see to the disposal of the profit
from the same. Forbid all men free admission to your bailiwick lest, without permission of
the same William, they carry away any tin either by land or sea. You will also give him
much help in expediting the present business of the Lord King, that it may prosper, and
that your Lord King may not suffer loss through neglect on your part.
Witness, Stephen of Turnham, at Westminster, on the twentieth day of November.
And know also that the sheriff of Devon and Cornwall has received another command of
the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury in these words:
Hubert, by the grace of God, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and
Legate of the Apostolic See, to the sheriff to Devon and Cornwall greeting. We command you
that by the oath of twelve free and lawful men of your bailiwick, who know quite well the
truth of the matter, that you make diligent inquiries as to what may be the weight of the
first and second smeltings and that you cause these weights to be guarded in future as the
bearer of these presents, William de Wrotham, will tell you.
Witness, Geoffrey de Bocland, at Salisbury, on the seventh day of January.
Know likewise that we have received letters from Geoffrey Fitz-Peter that we are to be
with William de Wrotham in the place of Lord Geoffrey Fitz-Peter as a justice for
executing the command of the Lord of Canterbury about the measuring of the weights of the
first and second smeltings and the disposal of the profit from the tin of the Lord King,
wherefore it is that the sheriff of Devon and I, William de Wrotham, . . . greet Lord
Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Geoffrey Fitz-Peter, and all the Barons of the
Exchequer of the Lord King.
And we give notice that on the nineteenth day of January in the ninth year of the reign
of King Richard, at Exeter in the county of Devon, we inquired upon the oath of . . . wise
and prudent men, about the true weights of the tin of Devon, and we inquired about such
quantity as was the just and ancient weight of the city of Exeter, by which in ancient
times, now and always, it has been customary to weigh the second smelting of tin, and what
it always ought to be, and we found that the just and ancient weight of the first smelting
formerly, now and always, was eight times the weight of the second smelting, and it ought
to be nine times the weight according to the weight of the city of Exeter for this reason,
namely, that from any thousand weight weighed by the greater weight thirty denarii are
given to the Lord King, according to ancient custom for the ferm of the stannaries of
Devon and for the expense of conveyance to market towns, and because the tin at the second
smelting was less, and according to their oath it was measured and determined by such
measure in our presence in the stannaries and towns of Devon.
[Similar account of the weights of Cornwall. Statement that Wm. De Wrotham began to
administer the Stannary in A.D. 1198, and that the administration of the Stannary under
the following regulations is as good as can be expected.]
All miners and buyers of black tin, and first smelters of tin and merchants of tin of
the first smelting have just and ancient customs and liberties established in Devon and
Cornwall. Likewise just and ancient weights of the first and second smelting of tin,
determined by the oath of the above-mentioned jurors, and marked with the stamp of the
Lord King, shall be kept.
Also all men have the common right of buying tin by just, ancient, and free customs, as
they are accustomed to have and ought to have, by the mark from any thousand weight of the
second smelting. And in the towns and market towns wherein the chief warden of the
stannaries shall have appointed a time for a second smelting, from each thousand weight of
which the Lord King ought to have one mark, let the second smelting be weighed by the
weight of the city of Exeter, and that weight shall be marked by the stamp of the Lord
King. Likewise the established weight of the city of Exeter shall always be kept in the
custody of two lawful men in the market towns, and in the custody of the clerk appointed
by the Lord King.
And the stamp of the mark, with which the weight and all the tin of the second smelting
ought to be stamped, shall always be guarded under the seal of the keeper of the weight of
the second smelting and of the clerk appointed by the Lord King, except when they stamp
with it. Again, the guards of the second smelting and the clerk shall diligently and
mindfully record, as they love themselves, all the thousand and hundred weights and pounds
which may be weighed and stamped throughout the year by the weight and stamp of the
And in any town where a second smelting has been decreed let there be two lawful and
rich men who shall receive from the merchants the mark of the Lord King, in the presence
of the wardens and the clerk of the second smelting and of the stamp for weighing and
marking, and both the clerk and the wardens shall not permit the tin to be carried away
until the treasurer of the Lord King shall have received the mark of the Lord King and the
customary tax on the tin.
And the treasurers of the mark of the Lord King may make statements and chirographs
about the money of the Lord King against the wardens and the clerk of the weight and the
stamp. And in the chirographs shall be enumerated the day of receiving, and the amount of
money received, and the number of thousands and hundreds of pounds of tin received, and
the names of the merchants who acquired the tin. Likewise the treasurers of the Lord King
by statements and chirographs of this kind shall deliver the money of the Lord King to the
chief warden of the stannaries.
Neither the chief warden nor any servant of his shall in any way presume to annoy the
treasurers of the Lord King during their lifetime. Nor after the death of those treasurers
shall they annoy the heirs until they have reasonably assured themselves about the receipt
of the money of the Lord King according to the statements and chirographs made against the
wardens of the second smelting and against the clerk of the Lord King.
The keepers of the stamp and the weights, and the clerk of the Lord King shall always
safely guard, in common custody under their seals, the statements and chirographs made
against the treasurers; and they shall keep them in a receptacle to which each shall have
his own key....Likewise in any town, other than the city of Exeter or the town of Bodmin,
where there has been a second smelting, a house shall be taken by rent for the Lord King's
service. And the whole weighing and marking of the second smelting shall be done there,
and let none presume to make a second smelting, weighing, and mark ing elsewhere, as he
loves himself and his own....
No one may presume to have in the market towns any weights with which to weigh tin
except they have been previously measured in the presence of the keepers of the weights,
and judged by the weight of the Lord King, and marked by the stamp of the mark of the Lord
King; The wardens and the clerk of the first smelting, as they love themselves and their
own, shall diligently and mindfully make a record of the thousands and hundreds and pounds
which have been weighed and marked by the weight and stamp of the warden throughout the
whole year. And let no Christian man or woman, nor any Jew, presume to buy or sell any tin
of the first smelting, nor to give or carry away, outside the stannaries or outside the
places appointed for weighing and marking the first smelting, until it shall have been
weighed and marked in the presence of the wardens and clerks of the weights and stamp of
Let no Christian man or woman, nor any Jew, presume to have within or outside the
stannaries any of the first smelting beyond a fortnight unless it be weighed and marked by
the wardens and clerk of the weight and seal of the ferm. Let no Christian man or woman,
nor any Jew, carry tin in any way, by land or sea, beyond Devon or Cornwall, except he
first have permission of the chief warden of the stannaries. Let good and lawful men be
appointed in the harbors of Devon and Cornwall to take the oath of all ship-hands and
sailors arriving there, that they will not carry away, nor permit to be carried away in
their ships, any tin except it be weighed and marked by the royal customs, and except they
have the writ of the chief warden of the stannary. The stamp of the ferm shall always be
guarded under the seal of the warden and of the clerk except while they are using it at
the appointed places. In weighing the tin let the tongue of the scale balance justly
between the weight and the tin, so that the scale is not drawn towards the tin, in
accordance with the wish of the buyer, on any just scale.
The Stannary Charter, 1201
The King to the Archbishops, etc., greeting.... John, by the grace of God, King of
England, etc., to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, judges, sheriffs,
foresters, and to all our bailiffs and faithful people, greeting. Be it known that we have
granted that all tin miners of Cornwall and Devon are free of pleas of the natives as long
as they work for the profit of our ferm or for the marks for our new tax; for the
stannaries are on our demesne. And they may dig for tin, and for turf for smelting it, at
all times freely and peaceably without hindrance from any man, on the moors and in the
fiefs of bishops, abbots, and earls, as they have been accustomed to do. And they may buy
faggots to smelt the tin, without waste of forest, and they may divert streams for their
work just as they have been accustomed to do by ancient usage. Nor shall they desist from
their work by reason of any summons, except those of the chief warden of the stannaries or
his bailiffs. We have granted also that the chief warden of the stannaries and his
bailiffs have plenary power over the miners to do justice to them and to hold them to the
law. And if it should happen that any of the miners ought to be seized and imprisoned for
breach of the law they should be received in our prisons; and if any of them should become
a fugitive or outlaw let his chattels be delivered to us by the hands of the warden of the
stannaries because the miners are of our ferm and always in our demesne. Moreover, we have
granted to the treasurer and the weighers, so that they might be more faithful and
attentive to our service in guarding our areasure in market towns, that they shall be quit
in all towns in which they stay of aids and tallages as long as they are in our service as
treasurers and weighers; for they have and can have nothing else throughout the year for
their services to us. Witnesses, etc.
From: G. R. Lewis, The Stannaries, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1908), Appendix A,
pp. 233-238, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for
Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed.,
New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 79-84.
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998