Medway Council Heritage Services catalogues
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    The City of Rochester has a long history of independent government. The Charter of 1227 granted them a guild merchant, giving them the right to control the trade in the City and to make byelaws. Originally the guild merchant and the administration of the city were separate entities but as members of the guild merchant managed the affairs of the city so their activities became intertwined. The Guildhall became then the centre of government of the city. The title of the chief magistrate of the City of Rochester has changed over the centuries. The Textus Roffensis (early 12th century) called it a "praepositus" (provost) and the charter of 1331 referred to provosts and bailiffs. The charter of incorporation of 1446 was more detailed with regards to the administration of the City, explaining that the bailiff should be elected annually and be a "suitable and discreet person... even if he be an innkeeper or victualler". With the consent of the citizens, the bailiff could appoint a clerk, two constables, a coroner and other officials. The charter of 1461 raised him to the status of mayor. As well as appointing a clerk and constables, the mayor nominated a man "learned in the law" who, along with him, acted as keeper of the peace. The charter of 1629 described the government of the City: a mayor elected by the freemen, 11 aldermen and 12 assistants constituted the "Common Council of the city". This structure remained unchanged until the passing of 1835 Municipal Corporation Act. Despite petitions to the Houses of Parliament, the City of Rochester, like other incorporated boroughs of England and Wales, had to comply with the new act. It meant that: 1. The governing body was to be composed of one mayor, six aldermen and 18 councillors. 2. The council meetings and accounts were made public. 3. The office of town clerk was made compulsory. 4. The electoral franchise was increased, giving the burgesses the right to vote in the election of the city council. 5. The freemen lost their privileges (for instance, exclusive right to trade in the city, etc). The boundaries of the City of Rochester were also altered. They were first defined in the charter of 1446 as: "From City to hospital called Seyntberthilmewes and from le Warff of said hospital opposite water of Medeway in circuit, viz. by Kyngesforow and Shereaker lawncelane to Horstedestrete, thence in circuit by lane between messuages of Gilbert Stritche and William Horstede, to Cross called Kenelyngescrowche alias Poulescrosse, then in circuit to manor of Nesshyndene thence to le Milhylle by Nesshyndene, thence in circuit to stone opposite between King's highway to Woldham and manor called Ryngges on East of said Manor, from said stone to water of Medeway, also from said City to Cross opposite in Litilborghe in town of Strode, and also by water of Medeway viz. from Sherenass to Hawkewode." With the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act, the rest of Strood village and part of Frindsbury now belonged to the City of Rochester. Following the Kent Review Order of 1934 over 170 acres of land in Strood and Frindsbury were added to the City's jurisdiction. In 1951-1952 the Council attempted to extend again the boundaries by including over 5000 acres of land lying in Strood Rural District Council, but was only successful in obtaining 292 acres. The Council assumed many functions, including regulation of the trade and fairs, management of the city land and estates, and law and order through several courts. The Municipal Corporation Act of 1835 did not add to the functions of the Council but it made the appointment of a Watch committee compulsory. By the end of the 19th century, the Council saw its responsibilities increasing through the ratification of several acts. It was responsible for elementary and technical education, public health, housing, police and fire services, water supply, inspection of building plans and sanitary by-laws, public libraries and museums, etc. The 20th century, particularly after 1945, saw a multitude of meetings regarding the amalgamation with neighbouring councils. With the ratification of the Local Government Act of 1972, the merger did materialise, uniting the City of Rochester with Chatham Borough Council and Strood Rural District Council. It put an end to the City of Rochester's independence after 784 years of chartered existence and 528 years as an incorporated borough.