On this day … 22 April 1196

On a document dated 22 April 1196, according to Whittle’s history of Preston, it is recorded that Richard I made Theobald Walter lord of Amounderness and Preston, a lordship Theobold had previously held from Richard’s brother, the future King John.

Richard had given John, then Count of Mortain, the vast estate of the Honour of Lancaster, under which Preston and Amounderness were held, but had taken it back when he discovered, in 1194, that John had been plotting against him.

The 22 April grant was a reward to Theobald for turning against John and pledging his loyalty to Richard. But when John succeeded his brother as king, Theobold lost the lordship, ostensibly for ‘acting oppressively to his under-tenants’, who would have included the burgesses of Preston.

The burgesses would have been pleased with this turn of events, for John granted them a second charter, having previously granted them one when Count of Mortain. Such charters were extremely valuable to Preston.

According to Clemesha in his history of Preston:

By it he granted to the burgesses the right to hold a fair on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15th) which was to last eight days, and permission to pasture their cattle in his forest of Fulwood, with liberty to take timber therefrom for building their town. There was also added the toll of the Wapentake or Hundred of Amounderness, a gift the precise value of which it is now somewhat difficult to estimate, but which seems to have formed the foundation of the claim, which the corporation made in the 17th century, to the tolls of Garstang market and fair.

Soon after, John restored Theobald to his title and possessions in Lancashire. This was bad news for the Preston burgesses for Theobold took them to court for setting up a jail and a gibbet, which their charter did not allow. They had to pay him ten marks and a palfrey to buy him off.

According to Wikipedia:

A palfrey usually was the most expensive and highly bred type of riding horse during the Middle Ages sometimes equalling the knight’s destrier [war horse] in price. Consequently, it was popular with nobles, ladies, and highly ranked knights for riding, hunting, and ceremonial use. Knights would ride palfreys to battle so that their heavier warhorses wouldn’t be fatigued during combat.

The burgesses should have known better, for during the reign of Henry II they had been fined five marks for various breaches of their charter, including putting a man to the ordeal of water.

Again according to Wikipedia: ‘There were different types of trials by water. Trial by hot water and trial by cold water’. Trial by hot water involved plunging the hand into boiling water to pull out a stone, the depth, wrist of elbow, depending on the seriousness of the crime. Trial by cold water involved various forms of immersion.

Before being too quick to condemn the Preston burgesses for such a barbaric practice, it should be remembered that water-boarding is a modern form of ordeal by water.

The Preston burgesses did not have to tolerate Theobold for long, he died in 1205, when the king became their lord.

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