During a century and more after the Norman Conquest of England the most important evidence for the workings of the realm are the charters confirming to principal churches and higher aristocracy their tenure of lands and various associated legal rights, or of other privileges, such as rights to take or exemption from tolls, and the writs issued by the king to protect the exercise of these rights.
These documents are technical productions drafted by clerks of the king’s chapel and sealed with the great seal, kept by the chancellor. The person requesting the king’s support might make a request wherever he found the king, and the resulting document will show where the king was at the time and who participated in agreeing the terms of the request. The sealed document was given to the individual to present to a twice-yearly meeting of the shire court or to the officers ordered to enforce the individual’s rights or to the person judged to have infringed them. Each document is a snapshot of business involving king, advisers, and principal subjects, and most can be located to a place of sealing and the shire in which they were effective.
An original act of Henry I
Writ-charter notifying the shire court of Huntingdonshire and the merchants of England that the king has granted to Ramsey Abbey fair at St Ives for eight days from the Wednesday after Easter. March 1110
H(enricus) rex Angl(orum) Roberto episcopo Lincol(ie) et Gisl(eberto) uic(ecomiti) et omnibus baronibus et omnibus fidelibus suis francis et anglis et omnibus mercatoribus totius Anglię salutem. Sciatis me concessisse sancto Benedicto de Ramesia et sancto Iuoni de Selepe feriam a die mercurii in pascha usque ad octauum diem ita bene et honorifice cum soca et saca et toll et tiem et infangeneteof et cum omnibus consuetudinibus sicut aliqua feria melius habet in tota Anglia. Et uolo et precipio ut omnes ad eam uenientes et in ea existentes et inde redeuntes firmam pacem meam habeant. T(estibus) Roberto episcopo Lincol(ie) et Roberto comite de Mellent et Ham(one) dap(ifero) et Gisl(eberto) uic(ecomite) et Willelmo de Hoctona. Apud Brantonam. In anno quo rex dedit filiam suam imperatori.
Henry king of the English to Robert bishop of Lincoln and Gilbert the sheriff and all his barons and all his sworn men French and English and all merchants of all England greeting. Know that I have granted to St Benedict of Ramsey and St Ivo of Slepe a fair from the Wednesday after Easter to the eighth day, as well and honourably with sake and soke and toll and team and infangthief and with all customs as any fair well has in all England. And I will and command that all people coming to it or being there or returning from it shall have firm peace in it. Witness Robert bishop of Lincoln and Robert count of Meulan and Haimo Dapifer and Gilbert the sheriff and William de Houghton. At Brampton. In the year when the king gave his daughter to the emperor.