Medway Council Heritage Services catalogues
  • Title
    Charters and Customal
  • Reference
  • Date
  • Level of description
  • Extent
    24 items
  • Archival history
    Care of the charters and other documents of the City of Rochester can be gathered from the council minutes. It would appear that they were under the responsibility of the town clerk and kept in a chest at the Guildhall. The minutes of June 1630 record that another lock was installed on a chest containing the records of the City and in 1697 there is mention of two chests to be moved from the Old Guildhall to the ‘New Guildhall and there remain’. However, it is possible that they were not kept at all times in the Guildhall. For instance, in 1578 Martyn Cotes mentioned that he had found the charter of King Henry III (1265/6) among the writings of his aunt Finch. In 1724, the executors of the late town clerk, Francis Brooke, delivered to the mayor and aldermen the charters and other records of the City at the Guildhall. Translation and transcription work was carried out in the 18th and 19th century. In 1824, the Council requested that the charters be taken to the Keeper of the Record Office for inspection in order to certify them as original documents. After 1974, they became the responsibility of the Museum curator. They were moved to their present location in 1990.
  • Language
  • Physical description
    The condition of the charters is good. In 1955, Edith Scroggs was employed to transcribe and translate the charters and also give advice on their preservation. Cleaning, flattening and repair work were undertaken by the Public Record Office. The City also invested into a steel fireproof cabinet and adapted a room at the Guildhall with fireproof door and dehumidifier (see RCA/CS1/13/2). At the end of the 16th century, some of the seals received the attention of Martyn Cotes, town clerk of the city of Rochester. He decided to preserve the seals by sewing them into sheepskin bags. Some of the bags are inscribed with his initials and the year ‘1588’.
  • Publication note
    Transcriptions and translations of the charters have been published in: ‘Authentic copy of the Charter and Bye-Laws, &c of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent’, 1749 ‘An Authentic Copy of the Charter and Bye-Laws of the City of Rochester with an Abstract of the Customal’, 1809 ‘Calendar of Charters Rolls’, 1226-1516 (London 1903-1927) ‘Calendar of Patent Rolls’, 1216-1509, 1547-1582 (London 1891-1986) Philip H. Bartlett, ‘The City of Rochester Charters’, 1961 R. Marsh, ‘Rochester: the Evolution of the city and its government’, Rochester City Council, 1974 F.F. Smith, ‘A History of Rochester’, London, 1928