Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Tun

Current robes, Mayor of London.
Henry le Waleis (?-c.1302) was a prominent citizen of London who served as alderman in two different wards, was elected sheriff in 1270, and became mayor in 1273. Law enforcement seems to have been a serious consideration of his during his time in public office: in 1270 as sheriff he erected a new pillory for bakers who tried to cheat customers by selling underweight loaves of bread.

Waleis had several butcher and fishmonger stalls removed to make a better passageway for the king when he traveled in and out of London. These merchants were upset, and challenged the change with the former mayor, Walter Hervey, on their side. But when Hervey had strong words with Waleis, Waleis had Hervey arrested and imprisoned; he was tried and demoted from his position as alderman. To be fair, Waleis did have new buildings constructed in 1282 in a different part of London for the butchers and fishmongers.

In 1283, in the Cornhill area of London, he built a prison for the temporary incarceration of "night-walkers." Night-walkers were people found wandering the city after curfew. Night-watchmen would patrol the city, checking to make sure you had legitimate reasons for being outside at night. A servant who carried a message from his employer giving a reason for travel, and who carried a light (to prove he was not hiding his actions), would be allowed to go on his way. Someone with no light could be deemed "suspicious." Transgressors were held for the night and turned over to the mayor and aldermen in the morning. It was called "The Tun" because it resembled a tun or cask used for wine, stood on end and crenelated at the top..

Strangers and suspicious characters were an important issue for the mayor. Waleis made sure that the city gates had sergeants who were "fluent of speech" in order to question strangers to the city. He also arranged that parish churches would coordinate so that their bells rang curfew at the same time, whereupon gates and taverns were all to close.

An Ordinance of the city directed that bakers and millers found cheating their customers would be drawn (dragged) to the Tun. Waleis provided a wooden hurdle to which the malefactor would be strapped and then drawn through the streets for a touch of public humiliation before his incarceration. Also, if a priest were found with a woman, he would be drawn to the Tun with minstrels playing in order to draw even more attention to his misbehavior. (This practice was eventually eliminated. The Church convinced the King that the laity should not authority over the clergy.)

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