Book Review Researching Rutland	Registered Charity No 700273 Rutland Local History & Record Society
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 Corpus Christi. 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. Jean Orpin Rutland History Society Newsletter