The Steward/Sheriff (Shire Gov’t Service) or Mayor (Town Government) is in charge of the administration of the town. The steward or sheriff is an appointed official serving at the king’s (sheriff) or his lord’s (steward) pleasure administering the affairs of a town in his lord’s feof, thus falling within feudal or baronial law under that lord’s care. If the pleasure and confidence of the lord has been earned, this appointment can last for life. In the case of the chief town of a shire, the official in charge will be a sheriff, based at the castle attached to the town. If the town has a royal charter, the sheriff will have no part of the administration of the town itself. that will be in the hands of a mayor. In the case of a town in a lord’s feof, all business must come through the office of the steward, including writs and official correspondence. Even royal agents aren’t allowed to trespass on their official business but must deliver the papers up to the steward, except by a special writ when the steward fails to act in accordance with the dictates of the Crown.
The Mayor part of this entry applies only to free-chartered towns. The mayor is a man elected by the aldermen of the wards into which the town is divided, from among their own ranks. To be chosen for either position, or for any of the other posts in the town government (secretary, treasurer, coroner, etc), one must be a property-owning burgess – the wealthiest members of the guild merchant, doctors, lawyers, or other well-heeled professionals, but including the members of the wealthy craft-guild halls only occasionally. The term of service was for life or at pleasure unless ousted for misconduct. The mayor is responsible for representing the town interests to the Crown or his sheriff, or the lord by whom the charter was granted, for finding collectors to gather tax monies, for organizing the levies when called for, Some towns may have a mayor and no councilors or aldermen, or there may be a panel of councilors or aldermen and no mayor. When there are both, the mayor acts as the chairman. The mayor might make as much as £125 per year. Often the relationship between a town and the local sheriff is adversarial, the sheriffs always attempting to assert feudal rights where charters have granted freedoms.
In London, the candidate for mayor must have proven his worthiness for the office first by having served as sheriff for the city for a year before standing for the mayoral election.
The Alderman/Councilor (Town Government Service) is a representative of one of the wards into which a town is divided for the purposes of government, To be chosen for this position, or for any of the other posts in the town government (secretary, treasurer, coroner, etc), one must be a property-owning burgess – the wealthiest members of the guild merchant, doctors, lawyers, or other well-heeled professionals, but including the members of the wealthy craft-guild halls only occasionally. The aldermen call themselves barons, and take for themselves the rank and dignity of peers. They are chosen from among the wealthier and wiser of each of the wards by those of the much more numerous body of common councilors, whose numbers are set by the town charter, varying between four and twelve per ward. The term of service was for life or at pleasure unless ousted for misconduct. The aldermen with or without a mayor are powerless to enact any legislation regarding the citizens of the town without the assent of the councilors. The councilors of Norwich numbered 80, and each of the four wards into which the town was divided (Conesford, Mancroft, Wymer, and Ultra Aquam) was represented by six aldermen. London had 24 wards, with an alderman for each and 12 common councilors.
An Affluent Merchant includes all wealthy members of the guild merchant, wardens and masters who, with their ready capital, finance the acquisition and shipping of the majority of the kingdom’s imports and exports. The larger and more wealthy the merchant guild, the more likely the merchants will be to form splinter guilds devoted to interests concerning a limited variety of goods, such as the grocers or drapers. The affluent generally rule their guilds, setting rules for quality of goods and measures, setting rules and regulations for apprentices, journeymen, and the admittance of new masters. They are always burgesses, that being a basic requirement for membership in the guild.
With the greatest disposable wealth, and hence clout, this Station commonly the strongest and most influential body in town society, due mostly to their constant concern with the affairs of the town. The more numerous by less affluent will generally be more difficult to motivate to raise their voice in public policy except when there is a persistent abuse being suffered that they require redressed, but even then, they are not likely to stay focused.
The Lawyer-Attorney/Pleader/Solicitor practices law in one of the several roles in the courts. An attorney is a lawyer with full power to conduct his client’s affairs at law, with full leave to act as his client’s agent, to argue his cases and causes, buy writs in his name, and receive judgements without having to get his constant approval and ratification at every step. These highly skilled and responsible men keep in close contact with their clients, however, as those whom they serve generally take a very active interest and closely supervise them, Unless they have no knowledge or interest in the law, or simply have no time for it due to the volume of domestic concerns (very common for great magnates), most clients will keep in as regular contact as they may with their attorneys to ensure their “great causes” are properly and zealously pursued.
A pleader is a man trained at law, a lawyer, but more specifically he is trained in the arts of rhetoric and belles lettres. He is hired for his skill in speaking to plead the cases of others in court so that a man’s ignorance need not be bared before the world. Their arguments and points are summed up for the client as the pleader proceeds, and must actually be ratified by the client and verified before being accepted by the court, to ensure that the case is argued as the client intends.
The solicitor is a clerk at law who works in a town where a particular court is located (hundred, shire, central royal). He is hired to search the rolls in which the writs and actions of the court are recorded and to keep his client informed of any actions taken against him, so that the client have sufficient time to prepare his defense or an answering suit. The solicitor is also present to keep tabs on the workings of the court, the cases on the dockets, the judges assigned, and the like to advise the client on the timing of his actions and the furthering the pursuit of any cases he may have pending.
Affluent Craftsman encompasses all wealthy members of the craft-guilds, their wardens and elders, and masters of manufactories that can be found in the towns. They are always burgesses, like their merchant counterparts, and members of the influential crafthalls or guilds. In the chartered towns, common councilors often be drawn from those of this Station. These men generally rule their crafthalls setting the standards for the trade, setting rules and regulations concerning apprentices, journeymen, and the admittance of new masters. When there are not enough craftsmen of a single trade to make a guild, several crafts may band together to form a regional corporation for mutual support. The banding together of diverse craftsmen will be much more common among the smaller boroughs of the countryside, often a measure taken out of self-defense against the powerful guilds-merchant in their own towns and in the larger shipping ports. With their wealth and hence clout, these men are normally voted into administrative positions not only in their own guilds, but also occasionally over the towns as well. The crafts tend to clash over economic priorities with the merchants, who import and export manufactured goods, but the merchants tend to dominate the crafts.
Affluent craftsmen generally keep three to five domestic servants, some times more, in their fine half-timbered houses, usually with a brick or stone undercroft (cellar) and first floor. The annual income of an affluent craftsman can range from £15 to £20 a year. .
Courtier, Government Service or Noble Service indicates the parent is an untitled dependent to the court of a nobleman. They can be found in the courts of greater barons and those of higher magnates, dealing in favors of one kind or another, running errands, personal favors, full purses, and business concessions, testing allegiances and loyalties, looking to glean what secrets he may find. But there are courtiers of all levels and means to be found hanging on to noble courts and households of all ranks. Those who have gained sufficient favor and proved useful can be found as household officers.
The Constable/Beadle/Sergeant is an officer charged with maintaining the peace, of responding to and issuing the Hue and Cry to apprehend malefactors and then hold and present them to the courts, especially in the wards of the chartered towns, While there are others of this title, rank, and function as a part of the policing of each shire, we are concerned here with the constable, two to four beadles and four to six sergeants attached to the alderman of each ward in a town.
The Merchant/Chapman entry covers the entire gamut of importers and exporters who ply the roads and waters of the realm with their goods, making sure they get where they are needed. The attics or garrets of their half-timbered homes, and also commonly the stone undercrofts (cellars) are used to store the wares awaiting a buyer or carrier for shipment, as the average merchant cannot generally afford to build and maintain a separate warehouse of their own. The town guild is likely to have large a few warehouses for the storage of commodities commonly traded in bulk through the town.
The chapman is a type of wandering merchant who takes his wares by cart, horse, or mule on a circuit of the more remote rural areas from spring through fall. The takes orders to fill the particular needs of the people on his circuit, lord and commoner alike. Due to the remoteness of the areas served, the lesser lords as well as the common folk depend upon his services.
The merchant entry is strictly tied to Town environs, where the chapman is a wanderer and can have his base in either Town or Rural areas, though leaning to Town in order to get his stock to travel with, however, just as easy for the towns to be the first stop on his route from a Rural home.
Craftsman stands for just that, a common craftsman working for his bread at the craft indicated by table 2-12. If there is a local craft hall, this craftsman will be a member, admitted to the freedom of the town, but not necessarily a burgess (GM’s discretion). Those who do not own property will not be allowed to participate in elections or stand for office such as common councilor or alderman. Either way, this craftsman is assumed to own the tools of the trade and make enough of a living to afford to rent a shop and home. The craftsman with burgess status will be better off financially, maintaining two or three domestic servants.
The renter will be known as an impoverished craftsman, though he will have the means of maintaining a two- or three-room half-timbered cot with a bedroom loft above built up some alley or side-street, or a single-floor flat above his workshop, built up against the sturdier home of a burgess or tucked up against the town walls. This level of craftsman has enough business to take on one apprentice at a time, and perhaps to use the services of a journeyman occasionally to keep things rolling along. Most of these have only a little extra to keep in stock or materials on hand, but enough to maintain a servant.
Because they cannot afford the fees to take the freedom of a free town, the impoverished craftsmen are usually found gathered in the liberty or neighborhood designated as under the view of the Church where no such fees are charged. Unfortunately these are not the best of neighborhoods. For the ease of entry, they also attract many low types of poor reputation. In the free towns, residents lacking burgess status must seek permission from the town to marry, for that right belongs to the free burgesses. In practice, this causes a great number of Common Law marriages and illegitimate children.
The common farmer is a simple master of a farm as large as roughly 90 acres, but generally around 30 to 50 acres (equivalent to a rural yeoman), which may be a combination of owned and rented fields located in the immediate precincts of the town. He owns his own plough, team, tools, and other supplementary livestock (cows, chickens, etc.) and sells what he doesn’t personally need of his crop within the town where it is most often needed. He is a burgess keeping a half-timbered or timber and stone house either within the walls of the town or within a safe, close distance outside convenient to a gate. He will bring in about £1 in profits each year, more in bumper crop years, less in years of dearth, and will keep at least one servant if not three or four.
The Gentleman, Franklin, Common Farmer and Craftsman/Farmer entries on the Free Rural Commoners table provide additional incidents of farmers of varying Stations to reflect their predominance in the primarily agrarian medieval society. There must be farmers to raise the crops to feed the people, especially the high concentrations of people in the towns where most of the residents are concerned with manufacturing goods and movement of those goods and raw materials.
A Journeyman is a man duly trained in a craft by way of a registered apprenticeship who is either too poor or too new to the craft to afford their own tools, or to afford even to rent a shop of his own if he does own the tools. Most crafthalls and guilds have a minimum requirement that all journeymen travel and practice their craft for no fewer than three years, during which time they are sometimes referred to as “improvers”. Journeymen hire out on either piece-work or a weekly basis to masters who need additional hands to work the materials to fill the orders for goods they have taken on. They often stay on in the shops in which they served their apprenticeships, thus increasing the income of the shop. When the master has no son, he may marry his daughter off to his journeyman so she will have a strong and capable pair of hands to help her keep the business going on his death. Because the licenses to take the freedom of the town, purchase property, and enter the craft hall or guild are expensive, many journeymen never become recognized masters of their crafts, but work their entire lives in other men’s shops. Lacking burgess status, journeymen must seek permission from the town to marry, for that right belongs to the free burgesses. In practice, this causes a great number of Common Law marriages and illegitimate children.
The Dayworker/Laborers form the body of common and temporary residents in the towns, made up of itinerant journeymen, maids and house servants, boatmen, bargemen, sailors, dock workers, porters, ditchdiggers, waterleaders, manual construction laborers, scavengers, refusemen, ragpickers, and all other manual laborers and all those seeking piecework for daily wages. They rent the damp, musty cellars or drafty empty garrets of the wealthier burgesses homes, or flats in apartment towers, throw up wooden shacks in alleyways, up side-streets, or under the steps of the larger homes of the better-off, where ever they can find a place. Lacking burgess status, journeymen must seek permission from the town to marry, for that right belongs to the free burgesses. In practice, this causes a great number of Common Law marriages and illegitimate children.