By Dan Spencer
In the fifteenth century Salisbury was a wealthy and populous city due to its manufacture of cloth.
In the late fourteen century its population may have been as high as 4,800 people. We are fortunate that records of its city government survive for the period. These provide interesting examples of how the campaign of 1415 might impact on an English city.
The king’s expedition to France was a costly undertaking and wealthy places like Salisbury were asked to contribute loans in order to make it possible. This was nothing new. In June 1412, the city had been expected to provide a loan of £1,000 for the Duke of Clarence’s expedition to support the Armagnac faction. This was later reduced to 100 marks (a mark was two thirds of a pound, 13s 4d in pounds sterling). This came after two citizens of the city, Walter Shirle and William Walter, were appointed by the assembly of Salisbury to discuss with the king’s council a reduction in their contribution. The sum was to be levied among the citizens according to their ‘present status’.
When preparations were in hand for the invasion of 1415, Salisbury was again asked for financial support. This was in addition to the taxation voted at the parliament of November 1414. That required a levy of a tenth on the value of moveable goods by 2 February 1415, with another payment of the same level a year later. We see in the city records how the royal order for the collection of the tax was exhibited at the city assembly on 11 January 1415. The assembly elected assessors and commissioners to collect the tax in the city.
However the financial contribution of Salisbury did not end there. The city was also expected to provide a loan to fund the war effort. On 25 February 1415 the assembly met to discuss the arrival of the duke of York and Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester (who was also Chancellor of England), who came with a letter from the king requesting a loan. This letter was exhibited to the citizens on 2 March. After a discussion with the duke and bishop, it was decided to advance a loan of £100, which was raised from eighty-six inhabitants of the city.
The assembly again met on 11 April and decided to appoint Walter Shirle to travel to the king himself to seek sureties for the repayment of the loan. However, Walter reported back to the city on 17 June that he could not obtain a surety of the loan until the arrival of the king in ‘these parts’. (Henry left London to move towards the south coast on 16 June.) The money was therefore entrusted to Shirle’s safekeeping until they could decide how to proceed.
It appears that Walter was soon pressured into handing the money over to the king. On 3 July, he informed the assembly, having come from the king’s council at Winchester, that if he had not paid the money to the king, the community would have incurred the king’s anger. But he had been able to receive an assurance that the loan would be repaid from the customs of Southampton at a later date. The citizens were evidently not displeased with Walter Shirle, as he was chosen as one of two MPs for the city in the parliament of the same year (November 1415).
Given that Salisbury had contributed financially to the campaign, it is not surprising that they should be interested in the outcome of the battle. The city records include a report on the battle which may be drawn from a royal newsletter. We will be telling you more about this in a later posting, as well as about the impact of soldiers passing through the city en-route to embarkation for the campaign
The city records are published by the Wiltshire Record Society in 2001 (David R. Carr, ed., The First General Entry Book of the City of Salisbury 1387-1452).
The photograph of Salisbury Cathedral came from Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons Licence