1. 750 years on: the Fine Rolls and the Nunney charter

Ken Lloyd, Project Director, Friends of Nunney Church tells how an entry on the Henry III Fine Rolls Project website has solved questions surrounding their charter for a market and fair for the people of Nunney.

⁋1Discovering just one entry in the Fine Rolls on the Henry III Fine Rolls Project website has solved two vexing questions for the village of Nunney, near Frome in Somerset.

⁋2We knew that the lord of the manor of Nunney, Henry de Montfort, was granted a charter to hold a fair every Wednesday in Nunney and an annual 3-day fair on the feast of St Martin. The villagers had therefore decided to make a big event of the 750th anniversary of the Nunney Fair this year on the assumption that it was first granted in 1260.

⁋3We discovered that the original document was in the Somerset county archives in Taunton. After photographing it and deciphering the Latin it did not give the year, but stated that it was granted ʻin the 44th year of our reignʼ.

⁋4Back in 1959 a Celtic market cross in the village was restored and re-positioned by the river to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the charter; a bronze plaque was affixed to the cross showing a date of 1259 for the charter. There are other references giving 1259 as the charter date.

⁋5The charter in the county archives has been labelled by the archivist as 1260. The confusion comes in because Henry III's father died on Oct 19 in 1216; the charter was signed on October 24th ʻin the 44th year of our reignʼ - which could therefore be interpreted as 1259.

⁋6The coronation of Henry III was on October 28 and regnal years are counted from that date. The Fine Roll entry clearly shows that the fine for the charter was paid on October 25th 1260 in the 44th regnal year. We are all relieved that we have not in fact missed the 750th anniversary!

⁋7The other question to which we could not find an answer was how much our lord of the manor had paid for the privilege of obtaining a charter. We knew that the king charged a fee to grant the charter and that the lord of the manor in turn made money from the stallage fees and sales tax -but how much?

⁋8The fine rolls entry says that, ʻHenry de Montfort has made fine with the king by half a mark of gold for having a charter of market and fairʼ (CFR, 1218–19, no. 747). So now we know.

⁋9A final note to highlight the contemporary relevance of the Henry III Fine Rolls Project: currently Mendip District Council are trying to get Nunney to pay them a stallage fee for the privilege of holding its fair by claiming that the charter says that we should hold it on the Feast of St Martin - which is not in August! The Parish Council are of course fighting the case.

1.1.1. C 60/57, Fine Roll 44 Henry III (28 October 1259–27 October 1260), membrane 1 747

⁋1 For Henry de Montfort. Henry de Montfort has made fine with the king by half a mark of gold for having a charter of market and fair, which he paid in the king’s Wardrobe to Aubrey de Fécamp and Peter of Winchester, clerks and keepers of the aforesaid Wardrobe, and is quit.