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Murage

Murage was a medieval toll for the building or repair of town walls in England and Wales. Additional comment: The term 'murage', while having this specific meaning could also refer to other aid for walls or to the walls themselves. It generally is applied to defensive towns walls but can also refer to flood defences and sea walls. The tax was taken in many towns in Ireland and in English possessions in France. (see the numerous calendars of royal rolls. For Ireland Thomas, A., 1992, The Walled Towns of Ireland 2. Vols (Irish Academic Press) mentions most grants.)

This was granted by the king by letters patent for a limited term, but the walls were frequently not completed within the term, so that the grant was periodically renewed. Additional comment: Grants sometimes specifically state that they were to be taken for the repair and maintenance of walls. In the later Middle Ages many place had a vested collection of murage.

The earliest grant was for Shrewsbury in 1218. (actually the grant is dated 26 June 1220 ref. CPR (1216–25) p. 238-9) Other towns receiving early grants included Bridgnorth, Stafford, Worcester, Oxford, Gloucester, and Bristol. Many of these places were in the west of England, and were particularly at risk from Welsh incursions.

Since the king's writ did not run in Wales, it is perhaps surprising that several Welsh towns also obtained murage grants. The first was for Hay on Wye in 1232, the year after the town was burnt by Llywelyn the Great. Other towns having them included Oswestry, Radnor, Abergavenny, Carmarthen, Monmouth, Knighton, Montgomery, and Clun. Clun is now fully in England and Knighton partly so. However few such grants were made after 1283, after the completion of the Edward I's Conquest of Wales. Additional comment – It is no surprise at all that the King's writ applied in the context of trade in Wales since many merchants would be based in England and elsewhere and Welsh towns would need to show royal consent to tax powerful English of Foreign merchants.

Some of the walls were probably enclosing towns for the first time. Others, such as at Worcester, were to extend walls in order to bring suburbs inside the town, or to fund the repair of existing walls, as was the case at Canterbury, to which murage was granted in 1378, 1379, 1385, 1399 and 1402.

"Ye Olde Murenger House", a public house in High Street, Newport, South Wales, dated to about 1530, takes its name from the collector of this toll.[1]

References

  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London)
  • Thomas, A., 1992, The Walled Towns of Ireland 2 vols. (Irish Academic Press)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1216–25) Vol. 1 p. 238-9 http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/patentrolls/h3v1/body/Henry3vol1page0238pdf
  • Ballard, A. and Tait, J. (eds), 1923, British borough charters, 1216-1307 p. 347 http://archive.org//stream/britishboroughc00balluoft#page/347/mode/1up
  • P. W. King, 'Medieval Turnpikes' Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society 35(10) (December 2007), 740-1.
  • Canterbury's City Walls: http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/1599.html
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