The Magna Carta Project

Original Latin


Nullus vicecomes, vel ballivus noster, vel aliquis alius capiat equos vel caretas alicujus liberi hominis pro cariagio faciendo, nisi de voluntate ipsius liberi hominis.


No sheriff, or bailiff of ours, or anyone else is to take any free man’s horses or carts for transporting things, except with the free man’s consent.

Audio commentary

Commentary for general audience

Clause 30 was another clause directed against misconduct by officials, pre-eminently royal ones, but possibly (the reference to `anyone else’ is ambiguous) baronial ones as well. In protecting the horses and carts of free men (and nobody else) against arbitrary seizure, it aimed to prevent the undue exploitation of the crown’s ancient privilege of purveyance (also restricted by Clauses 28 and 31) – its right to take goods it needed against only a promise of future repayment. In this case the goods in question were the means of transport, in the shape of horses and carts. Armies had to have the means to move their supplies, as did the court as it travelled around the country. King John was an exceptionally mobile ruler, and also a rapid one, thanks to the increasing use of horses rather than oxen for the transport of goods. In the period immediately before Magna Carta, moreover, he and his agents oversaw a large-scale programme of restocking castles, as a precaution against rebellion. The king’s need of horses and carts was accordingly constant and great, but his ability to commandeer them was highly unpopular, not least because the promised repayment was not always adequate, if, indeed, any was made. Restricting John’s ability to take the means of transport would bring an abuse under control and also reduce the king’s military effectiveness. The barons aimed only at restriction, however, not abolition, and horses and carts continued to be taken after 1215, albeit with further restrictions added to the texts of Clause 30 in 1216 and 1217.

Commentary for secondary school students

Clause 30 was essentially an attempt to place restrictions on one aspect of a traditional right of the crown known as purveyance, which enabled the king to take what he needed for his and his household’s maintenance and pay for it later. The scope of purveyance was greatly extended under Henry II and his sons, and Clause 30, along with Clauses 28 and 31, constituted an effort to bring it under control. Where Clause 30 was concerned, the commodity taken was transport, in the form of horses and carts, which the Angevin kings in general, and King John in particular, commandeered on a considerable scale. In fact the clause did not mention the king directly, only his officers. It is possible, depending on the interpretation of the phrase `anyone else’, that it also covered the officers of bishops and barons, but its primary target must have been the activities of King John and his agents, specifically as they affected the upper orders of society – the benefits of the clause were reserved for free men.

Horses largely replaced oxen as the principal means of haulage in England during the twelfth century. They were more expensive, but they made it possible for goods and people to move further and faster than previously. Under John, who spent far more time in England than either his father or elder brother, seizures of horses and carts facilitated the movements of troops, of money (in sacks containing £100 each – 24,000 silver pennies) and of the various departments of the royal court, and also of the king, as he rode tirelessly about the country, imposing himself on his subjects. Detail is scarce, but enough to show that was taken by way of transport (sometimes in the form of a doubtless compulsory `loan’) was by no means always paid for, either adequately or, in some cases, at all. When John quarrelled with the Cistercian abbots in 1212, one of his punishments for them was the requirement that they should provide him with `long’ carts and `very good’ horses. One abbot whose two carts were judged inadequate had them sent back to him, with a demand that he now provide the king with three.

In the years immediately before Magna Carta a substantial programme of restocking royal castles with food, drink and military equipment underlined the way in which John exploited other people’s horses and carts to maintain his rule, something which the civil war at the end of his reign, which was very largely one of sieges, only confirmed. Restricting the power of the king and his officials to take horses and carts thus constituted a way of reducing their power as well as of preventing an abuse. But Clause 30 did not go so far as to prohibit the seizure of horses and carts altogether, and though further restrictions were imposed in the re-issues of Magna Carta in 1216 and 1217, the basic practice continued.

Commentary for academic researchers

Aims and alterations

Like its two immediate predecessors, Clause 30 addressed one of the activities of officials, in this case the practice of commandeering forms of transport, specifically horses and carts, without the consent of their owners, these being no less specifically restricted to free men – the property of villeins was not protected. Derived from no. 20 of the Articles of the Barons, and formulated in words differing very little from those of the latter, Clause 30 underwent considerable modification in the re-issues of 1216 and 1217, in ways which are taken into consideration here because they help to elucidate the intended scope and purpose of the original text.1 It is not completely clear, indeed, what its scope was intended to be – the `anyone else’ (aliquis alius) to whom its prohibition was extended may well have meant only all the other agents of the king, of whom there were many, but it could also have been included as a way of covering the activities of all other officials whatsoever, baronial as well as royal, in so far as they affected free men. The term may even have been deliberately left vague, to enable the latter interpretation to be put upon a clause whose thrust was nevertheless primarily directed against the king and his servants. Only the latter’s activities are discussed here, for lack of evidence concerning those of the magnates, but the possibility should be kept in mind that Clause 30 was intended to have a wider remit.

There are difficulties, too, in defining the practice which Clause 30 was designed to remedy. It would seem that the earliest English kings were entitled to carrying services from their subjects,2 but by 1066 these had probably been subsumed within the so-called trinoda necessitas of army service, bridge-building and fortress-making, leaving only, perhaps, an obligation (from which a few exemptions were granted) to carry timber. It may be that the king could still use this ancient right in wartime to demand that his subjects help him to transport his army and its supplies, a possibility suggested by the charter which King John issued on 30 July 1209 on behalf of Durham Cathedral priory, recording that Prior Bertram had `at our request, in response to our necessity, given us present aid in terms of the cartage (de carreio) of his land for our army which we are leading into Scotland ...’.3 Since the charter continued by declaring that the prior’s services on this occasion were not to be treated as customary, or demanded as a due, either from him or his successors, it seems possible that others, less privileged, could still be imposed upon in this way.

John’s charter for Durham seems to have no parallels, however, and it appears likelier that the purpose of Clause 30 was to afford protection to all free men against what was effectively a form of purveyance, the practice of taking goods on the king’s behalf against the promise of future payment. But it did not explain how the interests of the free were to be distinguished from those of the unfree with which they were often bound up: if serfs lost their means of transport or conveyance, at harvest-time, for instance, or on market-days, their lords risked suffering financial loss through being deprived of carrying services (averagia) which for some lords, at least, long remained an important due which they were determined to preserve.4 Yet the king’s right to purveyance of this sort would have well-nigh disappeared had the protection afforded to the free by Clause 30 been by implication extended to the latter’s unfree dependents as well. In 1216 an attempt was made to dispel uncertainties when the prohibition was reworded to cover `anyone’s’ (alicuius) horses and carts, while omitting any reference to consent, and instead spelling out that the practice became acceptable when (and only when) it was paid for at what were described as long-established rates – 10d. a day for a two-horse cart and 14d. a day for a three-horse one. This still did not settle the issue, and when this rephrasing was carried over into the 1217 re-issue, it was accompanied by a further gloss, stipulating that no `demesne cart’ was to be taken from any churchman, knight or lady. The parson’s glebe or the landowner’s home farm were not to be troubled, but everyone else, free and unfree alike, remained exposed to the demands of the king’s officers, on condition that they received payment at specified rates for what was taken. If Clause 30 is understood as having been directed only against the conduct of the king’s officials, then these amendments can be construed as maintaining the rights of lords in the property and services of their serfs. But if it is regarded as covering the activities of baronial officials as well, then the changes made in 1216-17 would have resulted in lords having to pay for horses and carts taken from their own serfs, an improbability which suggests that this interpretation should be treated with caution.

On one further point the three issues of 1215-17 were not so much ambiguous as completely silent, in that they said nothing about the king himself. In the next clause of Magna Carta, King John was made to undertake that neither he, using the royal plural, nor his bailiffs would seize other men’s timber, but no. 30 was ostensibly concerned only with the king’s officers. It is possible that the `anyone else’ of the clause carried the additional weight of an oblique reference to the king, but it seems more likely that it represented an insurance against omission, included to cover everyone who might claim to act in the king’s name. That said, it seems improbable that the constraints on the taking of horses and carts were not meant to apply to the king as well as to his agents, given that purveyances were taken for his ultimate benefit, and on the understanding that he would pay for them.


Means of transport

Henry II and his sons naturally had horses and carts of their own, and sometimes had carts made, but they constantly needed more, for the movement of supplies in undertakings like Henry’s expedition to Ireland in 1171, for instance, when thirty carts were hired to carry supplies for the army from Abingdon and Newbury to Bristol, and probably as many to take corn from Oxford to the latter port,5 and also as essential tools in the government of their realms – the speed with which King John moved around England would have been impossible without a plentiful supply of carts, and of horses to draw them. In this respect he was fortunate, in that the twelfth century saw the development of lighter and more easily-manoeuvred carts, while horses came very largely to replace oxen as the main agents of haulage.6 Less powerful than oxen, and more expensive to maintain, horses could probably travel twice as fast – it has been estimated that a fully-loaded horse-drawn cart could travel between twenty and twenty-five miles per day.7 Magna Carta itself shows that these were the animals used by John, since it speaks only of horses and carts. Horses could indeed be carriers in their own right, in the form of pack-horses (summarii), and the prohibition of Clause 30 doubtless also applied to these. They were used to move small loads, and also light and valuable objects; when Henry II was at Rouen in 1180, for instance, the contents of the king’s chapel, probably consisting mainly of vestments, church plate and reliquaries, appear to have gone by packhorse, those of his chamber by both packhorse and cart, and the buttery, with its barrels of wine, by cart alone – a quadriga with iron-bound wheels, apparently drawn by three horses.8 At the end of John’s reign his chapel was still conveyed by a packhorse.9 But from the fact that the horses referred to in Clause 30 were described as equi rather than summarii, it would appear that they were considered primarily as agents of haulage, rather than as carriers, and that their most important place was the one they took between the shafts of carts.

There were several types of cart available by around 1200. Henry II’s quadriga was one of the largest, usually pulled by four horses rather than three. But the one most commonly recorded was the caretta, a light two-wheeled cart commonly drawn by one or two horses. It could be synonymous with the biga, which was probably a larger form of the caretta, usually hauled, as its name suggests, by two horses, but capable of accommodating four; on 10 April 1208 John ordered the reeve of Winchester to have a good biga made for him, with harness and traces for four horses, and to have it sent to him at Northampton by 15 April.10 Although the deadline looks impossibly tight, it still suggests that such vehicles could be quickly and easily made. The cart, which was recorded in the pipe roll as a caretta, was duly delivered, whether on or even near to the prescribed day it is impossible to say, but was described as `bought’, not `made’, suggesting that the reeve tried to meet the king’s demand by purchasing a cart ready-made, rather than having one built to John’s specifications. It cost 76s. 8d., showing that it was a very superior, and probably very large conveyance – the value set on carts, usually along with a horse or two, when they became deodands at eyres of John’s reign or of the early years of Henry III’s, seldom amounted to more than a few shillings, and could be even less. A cart without a horse which was recorded in 1203 as having crushed a Shropshire man was said to have been sold for just 6d.11


Government requirements

Such vehicles, inexpensive to make but still heavy enough to crush anyone they ran over or fell upon, could be found all over England by the beginning of the thirteenth century. They were vital to the transport of goods in a society which was rapidly gaining commercial experience and expertise, and they were no less necessary to the king and his officials who aspired to rule it. Unfortunately, government records which tell of the movements of carts are often unclear as to their provenance. For instance, the pipe roll entry which records the expenditure of £11. 9s. 9d. in 1203 `on the cost of carts which on many occasions took treasure from London to Southampton’12 does not say whether the carts were the king’s, in which case the cost would probably have been mostly that of maintenance, repairs and the expenses of the men who escorted and drove them, or if the money was spent either on their hire or on the reimbursement of the people from whom they had been temporarily taken. This in turn means that they tend to shed more light on the government’s need for methods of transport than on the ways in which this was met.

Such a need could become apparent at any time, as events dictated; on 5 July 1205, for instance, no doubt following the abandonment of a planned expedition to France, the sheriff of Hampshire was ordered to seek out `all the strong carts (bigas) which you can obtain’ and have them brought to Southampton, to remove the king’s wines collected there.13 There must also have been an increasing need for carts to move the king’s money around the country, especially after John started to distribute hoards of cash among his major castles. In 19 July 1207 a number of sheriffs were ordered to provide the transport (carriagium) needed to enable Robert de Vieuxpont to take 11,000 marks (£7,333 6s. 8d.) from Winchester to Nottingham, one of the most important of the new castle-treasuries, which was duly performed.14 Probably the money was moved, as a further consignment of 18000 marks (£12,000) was in 1212, in sacks containing £100 each15 – 24,000 silver pennies, far more than the strongest pack-horse could have carried.

The demand for carts became more consistently urgent in the later years of John’s reign, when supplies were needed for campaigns in Britain and overseas, and also for the stocking of castles in the face of resistance and rebellion. The Welsh campaign of 1212 was particularly exigent in this respect. In the build-up to the campaign John FitzHugh was entrusted with the maintenance of a consignment of ten carts, forty-nine carthorses and twenty carters, and instructed to oversee the construction of another `five long carts, good and light, without iron tyres (sine ferruris)’, which were then to be handed over to Brother Richard of Rievaulx, who would have them fitted with tyres.16 Other, less special carts were probably taken against the promise of future payment, a task entrusted to local officials – the sheriff of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, for instance, provided thirty-four carts, each one with five horses and two men to conduct it.17 Such was the need for carthorses that when the army was disbanded in August, after the disclosure of a plot against the king’s life, no fewer than 200 of them were temporarily entrusted to the sheriff of Lincolnshire, who spent over £36 on their upkeep in just over a fortnight.18 Huge quantities of supplies were transported, both to distribution points on the Welsh march and then, when the invasion was called off, to other depots in England. Thus the see of Durham, then in the king’s hand, sent 275 sides of bacon, nearly 1000 quarters of corn and oats, 700 horseshoes (and nails) and sixty shovels to Chester, and certainly did so by land, since three mounted serjeants accompanied the stores,19 and the ten barrels of wine, 186 quarters of corn and oats, and 158 sides of bacon which were sent to Chester from York and then incurred extra expense when they were carried to Nottingham after the abandonment of the campaign, must likewise have been carried overland.20

Similar pressure was applied a year later. In May 1213 King John’s plans for a campaign in France included an order to the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset that he should buy `all the oats which you can find’ in those counties, `whoever has them’, with the warning that 3000 quarters would not be enough, and send them to the king, along with quantities of wooden hurdles, of ropes and cables for ships, and of thread to make cords for crossbows21 – meeting the king’s demands would surely have stripped the two counties as thoroughly of carts as it was intended to do of oats. Perhaps these carts were not needed, since there was no overseas campaign in 1213, but a further expedition was planned and took place in 1214, and as part of his preparations on 24 January John ordered the bailiff of Savernake Forest, Wiltshire (and doubtless other officials too), to have sent to Corfe `all the carts which you can acquire in your bailiwick to carry our treasure to Portsmouth ...’.22 It was presumably this order which resulted in £17. 7s. 5d. being spent on transporting and protecting the treasure,23 a substantial sum arguing for the use of many carts and a large escort for the movement of an essential part of the king’s war chest.

Officials like the bailiff of Savernake can usually only be seen dealing with horses and carts in response to government orders. A rare exception to this rule is provided by a brief account of expenses incurred by Hugh de Neville in March and April 1207, which shows one of the king’s leading servants on the road.24 He certainly travelled with carts, for on one occasion he spent 4d. on ale for the carters and himself (as well as 27½d. on hay and oats for the horses), paid 3d. for an axle on another, and gave 5d. for nails and ropes for a cart carrying bread on a third. His payments for transport as such were usually very small, just a few pence, suggesting that he was using carts which were either his own or had been commandeered at an earlier stage in his journey, but sometimes larger amounts were disbursed. His movements several times coincided with those of the court, and on one occasion in Cambridgeshire he anticipated John’s needs (at least partly religious in this case, since this happened during Lent) by paying £5 15s. for salted eels, and then a further 4s. 6d. `for the transport of eels to Hallingbury’, Neville’s own manor where the king was due to stay. This larger-than-average outlay on transport suggest that Neville hired, or requisitioned, an extra cart or two to take the eels to where they were needed. On another occasion he gave as much as 32s. 7d. pro cariagio, suggesting a similar response to some unrecorded emergency. Whether these sums amounted to what the owners of the carts regarded as a sufficient payment for them is unknown.


The king’s needs

More can be said, and with more precision, about King John’s own use of horses and carts, though again their provenance is not always clear. He was probably more likely than his subordinates to have used his own means of transport, if only for reasons of prestige when he felt the need to display his regality. Paradoxically, this can be illustrated most vividly from William FitzStephen’s famous account of Thomas Becket’s entry into Paris in 1158, when he had eight carts, with iron-bound wheels which grated on the cobblestones, and covers made of animal skins.25 Two of them carried barrels of ale, another four contained the contents of the chancellor’s chapel, bedchamber, pantry and kitchen. Each was drawn by five horses, with a groom for every horse and another for each cart. Becket’s progress was made in self-consciously regal style, but that King John’s could be similar may be deduced from a record of 10 August 1212 of his expenditure on twelve carters, twenty-eight cart-horses, one cart for his pantry, another for his buttery, two for his kitchen, and two more for his hunting (de venacione), all of them gathered on that one day at Silverstone, Northamptonshire.26 Three years later, with war threatening, the king’s armour, too, travelled by cart (his bed, along with the contents of the napery and the gear needed to provide the king’s dinner, the digneria, went on horseback).27

Inevitably the king’s requirements in terms of horses and carts varied according to circumstances. John himself, it may be assumed, travelled on horseback, on the best animals available, helped, perhaps by the fact that the assessment of debts to the crown in palfreys as well as cash was not always just an idiosyncrasy of exchequer practice, for sometimes it was specified that horses, and not their value in money, were to be handed over. He and his household also needed carts, of course, more at some times than others. Some requirements were incidental. In November 1207 the bishop of Winchester gave the king 100 cartloads of firewood from Fonthill Bishop, thereby making it necessary for the king to instruct the sheriff of Hampshire to arrange to have the wood carried to Winchester, presumably in 100 carts.28 Five years later, when his chamber clerk Richard Marsh presented John with a quantity of iron armour (coopertoria ferri), it was transported in a cart originally bought for the wardrobe, and drawn by three horses hired for the occasion, for a total of 15d.29 Perhaps it was a vehicle like the long cart with iron tyres which was bought for the wardrobe at Beverley in January 1213 at a cost of 23s. 6d.30  

When John went on campaign his wagon train was doubtless substantial – for the 1211 Welsh campaign, John FitzHugh spent no less than £48. 2s. d. on carts and a variety of fittings which included panniers for the king’s dinner, suggesting that John expected to be able to enjoy a series of picnics as his army advanced.31 Five years later, according to the St Albans chroniclers, carts small and large, and also pack-horses (caretas omnes, bigas, et sumarios), were lost when the king attempted to cross the Wellstream north of Wisbech as he led his army into Lincolnshire.32 But when speed was of the essence, John travelled light; in the summer of 1212, for instance, he traversed the north of England with the royal chapel on a packhorse and a single two-horse cart `carrying money and wardrobe gear’. Horses and carts were hired afresh at every stage of the journey, usually for modest sums – a typical outlay was 2s. 6d. for a two-day stop in Carlisle, and then two more days on the road to Hexham.33


The demands of war

The pipe roll for 1213 is lost, while that for 1214 shows unmistakeable signs of administrative confusion in the face of mounting resistance to the king’s government. But there is unambiguous evidence for a substantial restocking of Northampton and Lancaster Castles early in 1215,34 when other castles were doubtless also fully victualled – the `Barnwell’ chronicler (now shown without much doubt to have been written at Crowland Abbey)35 noted that after the baronial capture of London John made no aggressive response, `only fortifying his strongholds and castles with men and victuals ...’.36 The demand for horses and carts must have been great, becoming greater still when civil war finally broke out. No accounts survive for John’s siege of Rochester in October and November 1215, and perhaps none were made – no doubt both supplies and transport were wherever possible taken from the lands of the king’s enemies, and thus cost little or nothing. But some idea of the way a siege conducted by a king was organised, and the demand for transport which it entailed, can be deduced from the fully documented investment of Bedford Castle, captured in 1224 after lengthy operations conducted under the eyes of the young Henry III.

King Henry had the advantage over his father in that he controlled London, which provided many of his supplies, but stores were brought in from many midland and southern counties, and also from East Anglia.37 Smaller items were probably carried by packhorses, for instance the wax, almonds, pepper and other delicacies said to have been bought for the king, and perhaps also the gallon of olive oil sent from London, but much of what was brought in to the besieging forces must have been too bulky to have been carried thus. Bedford’s position on the River Ouse doubtless allowed goods to be taken there by water from east or west, but anything brought up from London, or even from nearby Northampton, must have been largely delivered by cart. This included barrels of wine, the money needed to pay soldiers’ wages, which was carried, or stored, in barrels bought for the purpose, and huge quantities of military supplies – ropes, hides, iron and coal, boards, a large number of crossbows, along with their bolts, pick-axes for the men who undermined the keep, and above all siege engines: stone-throwers, mangonels and berefrays. When all was over these were dismantled and carried away again. In an age when warfare entailed few pitched battles but many sieges, any restriction on the king’s ability to obtain transport would have damaged his military capacity along with his mobility, as the barons who drafted Clause 30 were doubtless well aware. They could remedy a grievance and undermine John’s powers of resistance at one and the same time.



Although it is highly likely that the carts which King John and his subordinates needed to move stores and money were in large measure commandeered by the officials charged with their transport, who subsequently accounted for their outlays at the exchequer, corroborative evidence is scarce. The cost of moving money to Nottingham in 1207, for instance, was said to have come to £5. 8s. 7d., much of which should have been paid to the owners of the carts and horses involved. But whether it was so paid, and at what rates, it is impossible to say, though it can at least be said that the sums prescribed in 1216 did not invariably constitute a counsel of perfection. When John was at Nottingham in September 1212, his feasts were doubtless enlivened by the twenty cartloads of wine which he had brought up from Southampton38 (a writ of 1215 suggests that a single barrel, which should have held 252 gallons, constituted a full load for a cart).39 The carts themselves, with the three horses which drew each of them, were described as having been hired, and were paid for at the rate of 14d. apiece – precisely the rate for a three-horse cart laid down in 1216. This does not necessarily mean that they were taken by purveyance – the figure may have been chosen precisely because it represented the going commercial rate – but it does show that that sum could be paid.

The king himself, if he felt so inclined, could pay much more than the standard rate. When John passed through Northampton on 15 April 1208, he requisitioned a cart belonging to Conan the smith, and three days later, now at Woodstock, ordered the reeves of Northampton to give Conan 30s. `for one cart taken from him on our behalf’ – the same year’s pipe roll records that they did so.40 Even if hard usage had ruined the cart (there is nothing in the king’s order to suggest that the cart was returned to its owner), the payment was generous, even lavish, and certainly far more than the cart was likely to be worth. Conan the smith evidently enjoyed a windfall. But although precise evidence for the sums paid for commandeered transport, setting out the exact amount given for a specified number of horses and carts during a defined number of days, is very scanty, it is sufficient to suggest, unsurprisingly, that others received less than their due. When in 1194 the sheriff of Hampshire accounted for 7s. 3d. spent on hiring ten carts to carry lime from Andover to Marlborough, on his own showing he had paid less than 9d. per cart for what must have been at least one day’s journey and more likely two, if the return trip be taken into consideration.41 In 1212 only 2s. were paid to hire the two-horse cart which carried the king’s fruit from Gillingham successively to Bath, Bristol and Laycock, a three-day journey at the rate of 8d. a day.42 And even in 1221 the constable of Bristol gave just 3d. for every barrel of wine he had taken from the port to the castle, and 5d. for carrying a barrel to Marlborough,43 while the king’s government, though less ungenerous, still paid only £4. 14s. 2d. for the twelve carts which over ten days brought siege engines from London to Castle Bytham;44 the number of horses was not recorded, but in the light of the 1216 re-issue the hire of twelve two-horse carts for ten days’ use should have amounted to £5, or to £7 for three-horse ones.



Such instances notwithstanding, the prohibition contained in Clause 30 ultimately constitutes the firmest evidence for the abuse which it aspired to abolish (a characteristic it shares with several other clauses). Its stress on consent was significant, for as with many of the activities of Angevin government there seems to have been an indistinct, and for that reason easily-crossed, borderline between volition and compulsion which was apt to be defined according to the needs, or simply the inclination, of the king and his subordinates. In July 1214 Fulk de Cantilupe was ordered to find transport to carry timber from Rayleigh park, Essex, down to the Thames (it was ultimately intended for Dover Castle), `as a boon (de prece) if you can ... and if you cannot you are to have it transported for the lord king’s money ...’.45 A similar order issued in January 1215 commanded its recipient to have timber taken to Colchester, `acquiring as many carts as you can as a loan (mutuo) and hiring others ...’.46 It is probably not unduly cynical to suppose that a request for a `boon’ or a `loan’ by an agent of King John’s government was likely to be framed in terms which made it difficult, if not actually dangerous, to refuse.

But in any case there is every reason to believe that transport could be, and was, commandeered without any pretence at consent, even though the evidence is sometimes either indirect or from a slightly later period. A formulary composed around 1250, but containing earlier material, includes a writ in which the king orders a sheriff to take all the wine he can find at a certain place, and `I also order you to arrange whatever wagons and horses you can discover in the nearby villages to be taken, and cause the said wine to be transported ...’.47 The order could have been composed in John’s reign, since it is difficult to imagine such a writ being drafted after 1215, while its tone, as well as its content, was surely one with which that king’s servants, and subjects, were entirely familiar. John’s oppression of the religious in the later years of his reign included severe demands upon their horses and carts, no doubt reflecting his own military needs. The Worcester annalist who recorded `the heavy and unheard-of tallage’ which the king imposed on all English churchmen in 1210 noted that his own church gave a cart with four horses as well as 200 marks (£133. 6s. 8d.).48 Two years later the Cistercians throughout England were singled out for harsh treatment, which took the form both of withdrawal of legal protection and also, in the context of John’s planned expedition to Wales, an order that `each abbey should prepare for him a long cart with five very good horses. Indeed, he ordered some of the great abbots to prepare two carts with ten horses for his service ...’.49 The Dunstable annalist similarly recorded (under the wrong year) that the grey abbots were forced to provide the king with carts, together with horses and men,50 and the king’s demand is confirmed by his writ of 19 July 1212 in which he notified the sheriff of Yorkshire that he was sending back two carts which the abbot of Byland had provided, `because the horses were not good’ – the sheriff was to see that the abbot now provided three good carts with good horses, the additional cart being no doubt required by way of punishment.51

That the king’s officers could be no less exigent is suggested by the return of a Surrey jury in 1205, telling how Gilbert of Germany and two other men from Guildford Castle, one of them the keeper of the king’s horses at Pyrford, had tried to buy cloth from one Robert FitzOdo in order to make horse-cloths from it. A price was agreed upon, but when the Guildford men told Robert to cut the cloth, he refused to do so until he was given the money. The reeve of Guildford was brought in to try to persuade Robert to hand over the cloth, but to no avail, whereupon Gilbert and his colleagues withdrew for a doubtless well-lubricated dinner. Returning afterwards, they again asked the reeve to obtain the cloth, to be told once more that they would have to pay first, whereupon Gilbert dragged the man out of his house and struck him such a blow on the head with the hilt of his sword as to endanger one of his eyes. The neighbours raised the hue, to which the riff-raff (stulta gens) of the town came running, an all-out brawl erupted, in which two men were wounded, and instead of carrying the reeve off to Guildford castle as their prisoner, as they intended, Gilbert and his colleagues were themselves chased into it, only just escaping capture by the irate townsmen.52 The same sense of arrogant entitlement on the part of castle officials, backed by a ready recourse to violence, is suggested by an appeal from 1218, shortly after the accession of Henry III, in which the serjeant of the earl of Salisbury, whose interests the regency government were promoting in the far north of England, accused the constable of the castle of Newcastle of assaulting him in that town and seizing a cart `loaded with his lord’s arms, money and cloth to the value of 300 marks [£200] ...’.53

In the event, the men in charge of the king’s government appreciated almost immediately that it could not operate without the ability to requisition transport as and when it needed it, as the revisions of 1216/17 make clear, with the result that even as finally amended Clause 30 was honoured far more in the breach than in the observance. All that can be said, therefore, is that it did at least attempt to lay down conditions which could limit acts of official misconduct where horses and carts were concerned, and provided a yardstick by which such malpractices could be judged.


Details concerning the revisions from A. Luders, T.E. Tomlins, J. France, W.P. Taunton and J. Raithby (eds.), The statutes of the realm, 11 vols. (Record Commission, 1810-28), i, 15-16, 18. There are English translations in H. Rothwell (ed.), English Historical Documents iii, 1189-1327 (1975), 330, 335.


F.M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (2nd edn., Oxford, 1947), 286.


Durham University Archives, special collections, D & C Durham, 3.1.Reg.24 – a reference I owe to Nicholas Vincent. See also J. Raine (ed.), Historiae Dunelmensis scriptores tres, Surtees Society 9 (1839), lxvii.


See N. Neilson, Customary rents (Oxford, 1911), 60-7; R.A.L. Smith, Canterbury Cathedral Priory: a study in monastic administration (Cambridge, 1943), 122-3.


PR 17 Henry II (1171), 88-9, 131.


On this subject I have followed J. Langdon, `Horse-hauling: a revolution in vehicle transport in twelfth- and thirteenth-century England?’, Past and Present 103 (1984), 37-66; id., Horses, oxen and technological innovation: the use of draught animals in English farming from 1066 to 1500 (Cambridge, 1986), especially 14-15, 76-9, 143-55, 246-7.


J. Masschaele, Peasants, merchants, and markets: inland trade in medieval England, 1150-1350 (1997), 203-4.


V. Moss (ed.), Pipe rolls of the exchequer of Normandy ... 1180 and 1184, Pipe Roll Society new series 53(2004), 51.


T.D. Hardy (ed.), Rotuli litterarum clausarum i, 1204-1224 (Record Commission, 1833 – hereafter Rot.Lit.Claus. i), 221.


Ib., 110; PR 10 John (1208), 126-7.


D.M. Stenton (ed.), Pleas before the king or his justices, 1198-1212, iii, Selden Society 83 (1967 for 1966), no. 689 (p. 72).


PR 5 John (1203), 7.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 41.


Ib., 88; PR 9 John (1207), 42, 130, 139, 185, 190.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 116.


Ib., 119.


PR 14 John (1212), 161.


Ib., 102.


Ib., 47.


Ib., 27.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 134.


Ib., 162.


PR 16 John (1214), 44.


C.M. Woolgar (ed.), Household accounts from medieval England, 2 vols., Records of social and economic history, new series 17-18 (Oxford, 1992-3), i, 110-16.


J.C. Robertson (ed.), Materials for the history of Thomas Becket iii (Rolls Series, 1877), 29-31.


H. Cole (ed.), Documents illustrative of English history in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Record Commission, 1844), 237.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 192.


PR 9 John (1207), 96.


Cole, Documents, 255.


Ib., 251.


PR 13 John (1211), 108.


H.R. Luard (ed.), Matthaei Parisiensis, monachi sancti Albani, chronica majora, 7 vols. (Rolls Series, 1872-83), ii, 667. See also J.C. Holt, Magna Carta and medieval government (1985), 111-22.


Cole, Documents, 234.


For details see commentary on Clause 28.


Information from David Carpenter, with reference to the work of Cristian Ispir.


W. Stubbs (ed.), Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria, 2 vols. (Rolls Series, 1872-3), ii, 221.


Details from PR 8 Henry III (1224), passim.


Cole, Documents, 241.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 229.


Ib., 112; PR 10 John (1208), 173.


PR 6 Richard I (1194), 211.


Cole, Documents, 244-5.


TNA, E 101/349/4, mm. 1, 3.


F.A. Cazel (ed.), Roll of divers accounts for he early years of the reign of Henry III, Pipe Roll Society new series 44 (1982 for 1974-5), 17.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 208.


Ib., 182.


M. Carlin and D. Crouch (eds.), Lost letters of medieval society: English society, 1200-1250 (Philadelphia, 2013), no. 19 (pp. 84-5)


H.R.Luard (ed.), Annales monastici, 5 vols. (Rolls Series, 1864-9), iv, 398.


R. Howlett (ed.), Chronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, 4 vols. (Rolls Series, 1884-9), ii, 513.


Luard, Annales monastici iii, 33.


Rot.Lit.Claus. i, 120.


Curia Regis Rolls iv, 7-8 John, 1205-6 (1929), 87-8.


D.M. Stenton (ed.), Rolls of the justices in eyre ... for Yorkshire in 3 Henry III (1218-19), Selden Society 56 (1937), no. 1111 (pp. 393-4).

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