The Magna Carta Project

Original Latin


Omnes kydelli de cetero deponantur penitus de Thamisia, et de Medewaye, et per totam Angliam, nisi per costeram maris.


All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames and the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea-coast.

Audio commentary

Commentary for general audience

Clause 33 is unusual, in that it demanded action to remedy an abuse apparently unconnected with the actions of the king or his agents.  Mainly intended to benefit the city of London, it was extended to cover the whole of England, in ordering the removal of fish-weirs from rivers  In the form complained of, they had probably been relatively recently introduced from the Continent.  Substantial V-shaped structures of wood and sometimes stone, which were set in riverbeds to catch fish by guiding them into central baskets or nets, they proliferated in the Thames, where they helped to provide food for London’s growing population, and also to meet the needs of the devout who ate fish instead of meat on the numerous religious fast-days.  But they also constituted serious obstructions to river craft, and hence to trade, both upstream and downstream of the city, and presumably hindered navigation on other rivers as well.  The explicit exclusion of coastal weirs from Clause 33 was no doubt principally due to their being usually less likely to obstruct shipping than riverine ones, but it may also reflect the fact that secular and ecclesiastical magnates were the likeliest owners of such devices along the shores.

Magna Carta 1215
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