Monday, September 20, 2010

Bangor's Royal Charter, 18th March 1613


Pic above - fragment of the gravestone of one of Bangor's Provosts or "Provest" (see how the stonemason was in two minds about whether it should be spelled with an "o" or an "e" ! ) Photographed at Bangor Abbey, June 2010.

In my previous post, about John Luke, I included his mural of Belfast's Royal Charter. 2013 sees the 400th anniversary of King James VI & I granting Royal Charters to 14 towns across Northern Ireland and a further 26 within the Republic of Ireland. Locally, the three which are most relevant to me are the Charters for Killyleagh (10 March 1613), Newtownards (25 March 1613) and Bangor (18 March 1613). The full texts of the Bangor and Killyleagh charters are in The Hamilton Manuscripts - thanks to Ian Wilson for reminding me of that!

To summarise the Bangor charter, King James VI & I ("in the 10th year of our reign in England, France and Ireland, and in the 46th of Scotland") granted "the inhabitants of the village or town of Bangor" the following:

• Bangor would be an "entire and free Borough"

• A "body corporate and politic" would be set up with one Provost, twelve free burgesses and a Commonalty. John Hamilton was the first Provost of Bangor (He was Sir James Hamilton's brother). These positions were to be reappointed every year - for the Provost his election was to be on the Feast of St Michael the Archangel / Michaelmas (Sept 29); for the Burgesses their election was to be on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (June 24).

• the right to elect two MPs to Parliament - "two understanding and fit men"

• the "Commonalty" was to be made up of "all the inhabitants of the said village, and all and such other men as the Provost and free Burgesses shall admit".

• safeguards were also built in to get rid of any of these appointments, for example that in instances of "mal-administration and ill-behaviour in that behalf be removed".

• a weekly civil Court to be held on a Saturday

• convene public assemblies to "statute, ordain and establish acts for the good rule and wholesome government of the said Borough", and appoint two "Sergeants at Mace and other inferior officers or ministers necessary for better government"

• establish a Merchant Guild with a seal and coat of arms

• hold a "free market" every Thursday, and two other annual fairs on 11 November "to be held yearly for ever" and 1 May  "to be held yearly for ever". In a year where these dates fell on a Saturday or Sunday the fairs were to be held the following Monday. The Provost held the post of "Clerk of the Market".


A document dated 1833/1834 also contained in The Hamilton Manuscripts (entitled 'Corporation Commissioners Report on Bangor') shows that the town and Borough of Bangor was, over 200 years later, running more or less on the basis set up by the 1613 Charter.

Surely these Charters, and the stories of the towns, should be marked in some meaningful way?