The Longespee Charter
The 1248 Longespee Charter measures only 11 inches wide and 8 and a half inches deep and is written on vellum. A direct translation of the Charter is as follows:
Know all persons present and those to come, that I, William Longespee, have given and granted and by this my present writing have confirmed for me and mine heirs to the burgesses of Poole and their heirs, all kinds of liberties and free customs and acquittances, as well of their bodies and their chattels, form toll and all appertaining, as free citizens or burgesses of the cities or towns of our lord the King have throughout all England, in an ample a manner as was known to belong to me or my lands, upon the land, sea, ports and passages, saving to me and mine heirs of every ship sailing over the seas to foreign parts two shillings.
This is the Charter that granted a degree of self-government to the people of Poole. It was the result of an agreement between the Lord of the Manor and the chief men of Poole. When it became known that the Lord did not have enough funds for his planned military expedition to the Seventh Crusade, a bargain was struck whereby the men of Poole raised funds for the expedition in return for a grant by him of a Charter of Priviliges.
As a result of the Charter, the people of Poole were free from feudal dues to the Lord of the Manor, with the exception of a tax on ships going abroad, whilst still having the rights to use the manor heaths for fuel and grazing. They could now choose their own town council, from whom the Lord of the Manor would choose the head, now known as the Mayor, but originally called the Port-Reeve.