Repair and lease of a tower at Southampton, 1481

Indenture between the mayor of the town of Southampton on the one part and Roger Kelsale on the other part.

To all faithful Christians to whose attention this indented document comes, Thomas Avan, mayor of the town of Southampton, William Perchard and Richard Wiskard, bailiffs of that town, along with the entire community of comburgesses there give greetings in God everlasting Let it be known that a certain tower built over our gate, called the Watergate, in the southern part of town, is very ruinous and in poor condition and in need of no small expenditure on repairs. However, our dear brother Roger Kelsale, a yeoman of the king and our fellow burgess, perceiving our poverty, the need for expenditure on fresh repairs to that tower, and [the desirability] for a town situated on the sea-coast to be fortified, buttressed, and defended against all sorts of raids or invasions by enemies of this English realm, in so far as it has the means, has earnestly and voluntarily undertaken to hold and maintain the tower, renovating and repairing it satisfactorily at his own expense, as regards all repairs that may be necessary. On the understanding and condition that we, the mayor, bailiffs and community of burgesses of the town, on behalf of ourselves and our successors, are willing to grant [the tower] to Roger and his heirs or assigns for ninety-nine years.

For our part, considering not only the zeal and benevolence that Roger intends to apply to the benefit, utility, and defence of this town, but also anticipating all aspects of the burden and expense of repairing the tower and of maintaining its defensibility, and in consideration of twenty pounds handed over towards repairs to the town walls (parts of which have collapsed or are decaying due to the action of stormy tides on the shoreline), we have, by unanimous agreement, leased, handed over, and by this indented document have confirmed to Roger the tower, together with a house adjacent to the tower (when it returns into the hands of the town – Margery Kyrton now residing in that house) and all its appurtenances, in the same manner in which William Sopar, formerly of this town, had them. In addition, [they grant] licence for the erection and construction of a solar or solars, at the upper (not lower) level between the tower and the house where the king’s customs are collected (belonging to the college of the Blessed Mary at Winchester, called the New College, and being leased by Christopher Ambros) on the north side of the gate. Provided that the new structure erected and constructed at the upper level does not result in damage or impediment to the town, in regard to the unloading of wagons or carts carrying cargoes of wool to the town weigh-house, or travelling through the town in the direction of the sea-front or elsewhere to discharge there other goods with which the carts are loaded.

Furthermore, we, the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, have by this document licensed Roger, his heirs and assigns, to erect, build, and maintain throughout the entire term aforementioned (with the sole exception of times of war), on the far side of the town walls near the aforesaid gate, a new “skelyng” in which to put his rigging, oars, and sails together with all tackle required for [his?] ships, and other timber.

Roger, his heirs and assigns to have and to hold the tower and the house, as well as the licence to build on the upper level of the tower, as indicated above, and the aforesaid skelyng in peacetime, from 24 June next until the term of 99 years fully expires, for: the stated twenty pounds already paid; an annual payment to us, the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, and our successors in the town, of 12d. in legal tender, on the date mentioned, for the entire duration of the term; bearing the cost of all other works, both routine and extraordinary, such as loop-holes and other military fittings for defending the town. of whatever sort necessary and appropriate; and [for paying] the rents and [the upkeep of] the defences that anciently been an obligation of that tower and house. Roger, his heirs and assigns shall, as their own cost and expense, repair, keep up, and maintain the tower, house, and solar in all regards, during the whole of the term.

Should it happen at any point during the term that the rent fall into arrears, wholly or partially, so that although demanded according to due process it is unpaid for half a year, then it is permissible for the mayor, bailiffs, and community of comburgesses, or their successors, the mayors, bailiffs, and community of burgesses of that town who shall then be, to distrain on the tower, house, newly-built solar, and skelyng, and lawfully to carry off or drive away the distrained items thus taken there, and to keep possession of them until the mayor, bailiffs, and community of comburgesses are fully paid and satisfied by Roger, his heirs and executors. And should it happen at any point during the term that the rent, having been duly demanded, fall into arrears, wholly or partially, and be unpaid for an entire year. and that in the tower, house, solar, and skelyng there cannot be found sufficient distrainable items, or that it is not properly maintained and becomes ruinous, and this can be satisfactorily demonstrated and proved, or that during the same time the tower is not repaired or kept defensible, then it is permissible for the mayor, bailiffs, and community of burgesses of the town, or their successors there, to re-enter and repossess the tower, house, solar, and skelyng, and hold them again as they formerly did, and to evict and completely remove Roger, his heirs and executors from the same, this agreement notwithstanding.

Roger, his heirs and assigns are not permitted, without [explicit] licence from the town, to rent, sell, or in any way alienate their term of the lease of the tower, or the house, or the newly-built solar, to any lord or magnate, so that any damage or impediment should in any way befall or happen to the town during the term of the lease, under penalty of forfeiting twenty pounds to be levied for the town’s use.

With the proviso, however, that whenever during the term there occurs or breaks out all-out war or serious hostilities between England and any other kingdom or other foreign country, Roger, his heirs or assigns, are, after receiving due warning in that regard, to dismantle and remove the skelyng for the duration of the war, to avoid it proving an inconvenience to the town.

Provided always that neither Roger nor his heirs or assigns, by reason of the above terms of the arrangement, shall in any way during the entire term meddle with the gate beneath the tower, nor with the small gates in that tower, nor with repairs to the same.

We, the mayor, bailiffs, and community of burgesses of the town, by this agreement, will warrant and defend against all-comers the aforesaid tower, house, solar and skelyng, during the entire term [of the lease], under the conditions specified above. In testimony to which, and in confirmation of the terms of the arrangement, the mayor, bailiffs, and community of burgesses of the town of Southampton, by unanimous agreement, have appended their seal to that one part of this indenture which is to remain in Roger’s possession. Roger has appended his seal to the other part of this indenture, which is to remain in the possession of the mayor, bailiffs, and community of burgesses of the town. These being witnesses: Thomas Avan, then mayor of Southampton, John Shropshire and Richard Gryme, two of the aldermen of that town, Thomas Smyth, sheriff of that town, William Perchard and Richard Wiskard, bailiffs of that town, Massia Salmon, then steward there, with many others. Dated at Southampton, 2 June 1481, in the twenty-first year of the reign of King Edward IV.

Translation by: A.B. Wallis Chapman, ed. The Black Book of Southampton, vol.2 , Southampton Record Society, vol. 14 (1912), 78-86

Discussion around the significance of this repair work can be found on this page.