1552

October
The first recorded meeting of the Court Leet was held in October. The minute-book begins with the year 1552, when the Lord of the Manor was Sir Thomas West, ninth Lord La Warre. The steward is not named until a subsequent entry, but was probably that great and powerful nobleman, Edward, third Earl of Derby. It is one of the oddities of sixteenth century life to find a magnate of his standing and position—he was certainly the most powerful person in the county—holding this office. The names of the householders who had to serve as a jury are given, as well as those of the officials. There was a boroughreeve elected by the burgesses and holding a position of responsibility closely approaching to that of the mayor of a modern city. There was a catch-pole, whose functions were those of bailiff of the Court. There were two constables, whose honorary but sometimes onerous duty was to secure the peace of the town, prosecute offenders, put down unlawful games, make a faithful presentment of all “bloodsheds, outcries, affrays, and rescues,” and see that archery practice was duly enforced on the sometimes unwilling townsmen. For this purpose there were archery butts in Market Stead Lane, at Aldport, and at Collyhurst. The pillory is not named, though it may have existed; but the decision for the erection of stocks is recorded in 1569. But if archery had become unpopular, bowling was a favourite recreation, and giddy-gaddy or cat’s pallet, a now obsolete game, could only be put down by the terrors of fine and dungeon. The markets had to be looked, after, and for this purpose there were four “market lookers” for corn, two for fish and fleshmeat, and five for white meats, which Mr. Earwaker explains as veal, pork, lamb, &c., but which are much more likely to have been milk, butter, and vegetables. Two officers were charged to keep the Market Place clean, and on one occasion two women were appointed. There were appraisers to value various kinds of goods, and “sealers” of leather, who had to make sure that all skins were properly dressed and duly stamped in accordance with the statute. There were laws against buying in the market and selling at a higher price on the same day, and the injunctions against forestallers are repeated. Standards by which to test weights and measures were provided. Strangers might not buy before a certain time. A couple of ale founders, or ale conners, had not only the duty of certifying the liquor for the use of the King’s lieges, but were also entrusted with the oversight of the sale of bread. There were two byrlamen for Market Stead Lane, two more for Deansgate, and four for Milngate, Withynge Greue (Withy Grove), Hanging Ditch, Fennel Street, “and so to Irk’s Bridge.” The duties of these officers were to see that the rules and regulations made by. the Court were duly carried out in their several districts, and that they did not always attend to their duty is clear from these records, when they are some­times charged with allowing swine in the street and other faults of omission. The meaning of the name is doubtful, but it has been suggested that it is equivalent to bye-law men. To see that the streets were kept clean and in good order was the duty of certain other citizens, whose title of “scavengers” need not lead us to suppose that they actually did the work themselves. There were two for Market Stead Lane, two for Deansgate and St. Mary’s Gate, three for the “Old Market Stede,” two for Smithy Door, three for Hanging Ditch and Long Millgate, two for Fennel Street, and four for Milngate and Hunt’s Bank. Finally there were five afferators or affeerers, whose duty was to assess the amount of the penalties to be inflicted by the Court as fines.
Such was the Court which assembled in October, 1552. Those important persons “the myse leyers” and “myse” gatherers, who had to make and collect the local rates, are not named in this Court roll, but they occur in sub­sequent entries. There was also at a later date a swineherd, who each morn­ing conducted the porkers of the town by the sound of the horn to the common at Collyhurst, and brought them back again at nightfall. The jury found that a burgess had encroached upon the King’s highway in the erection of a house, and he is admonished not to “ditch, pale, or hedge anyfurther there unless he have the licence of the twelve men.” Who were the “twelve men” is not stated, but they appear to have been the jury of an inferior or smaller court, which met more frequently, but of whose proceedings there are no records. Perhaps, however, it is merely a general way of indicating the Court Leet jury, which would consist of not less than twelve. Another burgess is ordered to make a stone wall so that his dunghill shall not affect his neighbour’s watercourse. Several orders are more or less anticipatory of recent action of the Health Committee in relation to the “pail system.” A watercourse that has apparently been diverted must, emphatically, “goo the same weye as hit hathe bene orderede afore,” and less than two months are allowed for the change, on pain of a fine of twenty pence. Another man’s palings are too high, and are ordered to be cut down four inches. A burgess who has a field in Toad Lane has allowed the ditch to become unpleasant, and he is therefore admonished to sklannse it, and the word has the appearance of indicating that the authorities are firmly resolved to have that ditch made clean. The same man who had not observed the “building line” is directed to “dyche the lyche anends his feldes ende in Newton Lane,” and the like injunction is laid upon another negligent farmer. A penalty of one penny is to be inflicted upon all persons who suffer their geese to be put in the Market Stead. House­holders in St. Mary’s Gate having neglected to keep the “street end” clean, the landlord is informed that he must cause his tenants to do this cleansing “or do it himself.” Extracts from the Court Leet Records from 1552 to 1602 have been edited by Mr. John Harland for the Chetham Society, and the Records are now being printed in full for the corporation, under the editorial charge of Mr. J. P. Earwaker. The first volume appeared in 1885.(7)

1552
An Act passed “for the true making of woollen cloth.” It directs “that all the cottons called Manchester, Lancashire, and Cheshire cottons, shall be in length twenty-two yards, and that all clothes called Manchester rugs, or Manchester frizes, shall contain in length thirty-six yards, &c.”
(7)

1552
An Act of Parliament passed by which the Manor of Manchester, the advowson of the Church and various other possessions of Thomas Lord La Warre were settled upon himself in tail with remainder to his half brother, Sir Owen West; to the heirs male of his late brother Sir George West; and to the right heirs of Sir Thomas West,  late Lord La Warre, his father.
(7)

1552.
Common Prayer Book established, and articles of religion confirmed by Convocation.
(9)

1552.
Starching linen first introduced.
(9)