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Shrewsbury Burgesses
 

Following the Norman Invasion of 1066, William I had the problem of subduing the still somewhat rebellious native population. To this end he dispersed his most loyal followers all over the country, creating a number of Baronies and Earldoms and gave them large tracts of land, dispossessing many of the native Saxon landowners in the process. Some of the land the King kept for himself.

 

As a result of this there were many disputes over who owned what in the way of property and, to clarify matters, William ordered a survey of the whole of England to establish who owned the various Manors prior to the conquest and who owned them now. Each Manor was also to be valued for taxation purposes. The results were written down in the Domesday Book of 1086.

 

In order to raise extra revenue to pay for building castles, equipping armies and enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, it became a common practice amongst the kings and nobility to rent out small plots of land in the towns, to those who could afford them. These small plots, called burgages, cost one shilling a year and were snapped up mostly by merchants. With the rental of the burgages usually came about two acres of the common land on the outskirts of the town which could be used for cultivation. There was no additional charge for this.

 

A merchant who rented a burgage plot could build on it and he usually erected a shop, or place of business, on the site with living quarters above. In order to squeeze in as many burgage plots in the coveted area of the centre of town (and thus maximise income) the landowner generally made the plots narrow where they fronted the street. The result was that the shops built on these plots had a restricted frontage but extended considerably at the rear. Examples of these types of shops can still be found in the centre of towns, such as Shrewsbury, which still boast medieval buildings.

 

As towns increased in size the merchants and other responsible citizens, desired a greater say in the way that the towns were run, and began to petition the then king to provide them with a charter to enable them to do so. These charters conferred on the town the status of “free borough” with a limited amount of self-regulation. The owners of burgages (now referred to as Burgesses), became entitled to vote in town and parliamentary elections and their first priority was usually to vote in a Mayor and Bailiffs to oversee the day to day running of the town. These officials were usually chosen from the ranks of town Burgesses as was the person returned as the Parliamentary Member.  Jobs for the boys! In university towns, such as Oxford and Cambridge, Burgesses from with the university faculties themselves were usually chosen as MP’s.

 

Now that they had a say in the matter the Burgesses began to form “Gilds” to regulate the various trades in the towns such as glovers, goldsmiths, mercers etc., and they instituted an apprentice system to ensure high standards of workmanship.

 

As mentioned above most Mayors were drawn from Burgesses and following their period of mayoralty (usually one year) they were given the title of Alderman.

 

The status of burgesses was passed down in families, usually from father to son. It could sometimes be deemed a gift (e.g. to a brother) and occasionally acquired by marrying the widow or daughter of a deceased Burgess.

 

As towns became larger, the strips of land on the outskirts, owned by the Burgesses, were needed for industrial use. Leases were granted for building purposes and the revenue obtained went into a common fund. Once yearly the contents of the fund were divided equally between all the Burgesses. Quite a useful source of income!

 

As far as I have been able to ascertain, the number of Muckleston’s on the Roll of Shrewsbury Burgesses contains 23 in number. The first was Richard Muckleston a Tanner, who became a Burgess in 1660 and (briefly) Mayor of Shrewsbury in 1688. Gough in his History of Myddle (1875 edition, page 128) says “Richard Muckleston was a person of bold and daring spirit, he would not brook an injury offered him. He commenced a suite against the town of Shrewsbury for exacting an imposition on him which they call tenorship, and did endeavour to make void their charter, but they gave him his Burgesship to keep quiet. He was accounted a just man in all his dealings.” That sorted them out! And once we Mucklestons had out foot in the door there was no stopping us, the following were also Burgesses.

 

THE SHREWSBURY BURGESS ROLL by H E Forrest-1924

 

* Richard of Shrewsbury, Tanner, son of Edward of Merrington, Gentleman. 1660. Mayor   1688 - Ejected. Roll No. B13

 

* Joseph of Shrewsbury, Grocer, son of the above Richard. 1701.

 

* Edward of Shrewsbury, Gentleman, another son, issue John (both admitted) 1708.

 

* Joseph son of the above Joseph. 1721.

 

* Richard of Shrewsbury, Mercer, son of Edward and grandson of Richard. 1721.

 

* Edward of London, Watchmaker, his brother. 1721.

 

* Price of Shrewsbury, Sadler, son of John of Oswestry, Grocer. 1733. Roll No. B199

 

* John of Shrewsbury, Gentleman, son of John, grandson of Edward (who was admitted      1708). 1753.

 

* William Hawkins [Muckleston] of Shrewsbury MD. 1782.

 

* Joseph son of Richard. 1783.

 

* Charles of Shrewsbury, Grocer, son of John (who was sworn in 1753). 1795.

 

* Edward of Wyle Cop, Carpenter, issue Rebecca (13), John (3). 1796. Roll No. B264.

 

* John of Shrewsbury, Shoemaker, issue Sarah (1). 1796. Roll No. B283

 

* Price of Cross Hill, Sadler, issue Mary (11), Price (10), William (7), Sarah (4), Maria (1). 1796.

 

* William of Cross Hill, Sadler. 1812. Roll No. B370.

 

* Edward of Dogpole Esq, Lieutenant 25th Regiment, son of Charles, (who was sworn in     1795). 1812 (of Quarry Place in 1835)

 

* Richard Jeffreys [Muckleston] of Pride Hill, Shoemaker, son of John, (who was sworn      1796) 1819

 

* William of St Alkmunds Square, Mercer, another son. 1831.

 

* John, junior of High Street, Grocer, another son.1832

 

* Edward of Shrewsbury, Gentleman, son of Edward, (who was sworn in 1812) 1840.

 

* Samuel of Pride Hill, brother of Richard Jeffreys, (who was sworn in 1819). 1845.

 

* Joseph of same, another brother. 1845.

 

* Rowland of Southwark, London, Shoe Manufacturer, son of Richard Jeffreys (who was    sworn in 1819). 1851.