William Browne’s Town: The Stamford Hall Book 1465-1492
- Edited by Prof Alan Rogers
Stamford Survey Group in association with Stamford Town Council and Stamford Civic Trust
Stamford is fortunate to have a Hall Book, a record of the council minutes of the town. Until now it has
remained in the town’s archives only to be seen by historians with an appointment. With this transcript
Alan Rogers has made the first part of the Hall Book accessible to all and we are given the opportunity to
step back in time and discover what life was really like in the fifteenth century. Future volumes are
planned which will continue the story of Stamford’s town affairs.
The book gives a remarkable insight into the lives of townspeople in medieval England covering the
years from 1465, shortly after the town’s incorporation, until 1489 just after the death of William Browne.
William Browne was a very rich and important Merchant of the Staple. He controlled the affairs of the
town during this period, serving as Alderman on several occasions. His legacy to Stamford is All Saints’
Church and Browne’s Hospital.
As today, rules and regulations governed the lives of townsfolk. The minutes record laws forbidding
Sunday trading and fines for leaving horses tied up in the wrong places on market days – as the editor
comments, ‘There were parking penalties even in medieval Stamford’. We also find that there were
designated places for dunghills and times when animals could be brought into town. From this book we
learn how law and order was enforced and the punishments meted out to wrongdoers.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the volume is the tremendous number of different trades pursued in the town. The wardens
strictly controlled the craftsmen to ensure the quality of goods and there was a diversity of rules governing the guilds and the pageant of
Alan Rogers has had close links with Stamford and readers will no doubt be familiar with his books The Medieval Buildings of Stamford
(Nottingham 1970), The Book of Stamford (Buckingham 1983) and, with J S Hartley, The Religious Foundations of Medieval Stamford
(Nottingham 1974). He has also been closely involved with local history in Rutland, most recently in Uppingham, inspiring and
encouraging local historians to record aspects of the history of that town.
For this volume Professor Rogers has written an excellent introduction including the insight he has gained about the role of William
Browne in making the transcript. He also adds useful comments throughout the volume and there is an excellent index. It is a shame
that the Editorial Conventions are not at the front of the book and a glossary would have been useful for those less familiar with the
legal terms of the medieval period. Do not however be deterred by the plain cover: inside it is a fascinating record not just for people in
Stamford but for anyone interested in town life in the Middle Ages. It is a book to dip into, and read aloud it comes to life. It certainly
merits a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in history.
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