The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol






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Robert Ricart's Chronicle of Bristol, 1450-1508

Source: Transcribed by Evan Jones (2004)
Manuscript: Bristol Record Office, 04720
Note: A printed and digitised version of this chronicle, which contains most of the information contained in the extract below, can be found in: Lucy Toulmin Smith (ed.), The Maire of Bristowe is Kalendar by Robert Ricart, Town Clerk of Bristol 18 Edward IV (Camden New Series, Vol. V, 1872).

This page contains an extract from Bristol's official town chronicle - a document generally known as 'Ricart's Kalendar'. Bristol's town clerk, Robert Ricart, began this chronicle in 1479, having first recorded the town's history since 1217. He then went on to chronicle the important events of the town over the next three decades. The last entries in Ricart's handwriting were made in 1506, although he appears to have remained Town Clerk until at least 1508 (Toulmin Smith, 1872, p.iii). Later town officials then maintained the chronicle until 1898.

Since this chronicle was kept as a reference document for the civic authorities of Bristol, Ricart and his successors emphasised those matters they deemed to be of greatest importance to the life and governance of the town. From the point of view of the town clerks, the most important information to record was the names of the mayors, sheriffs and bailiffs who presided over Bristol during its civic year. This information was valuable because it would, in later years, facilitate the dating of official documents that might contain only the name or signature of one of the officers of the town. On the other hand, the chronicle was not merely an administrative document. Below each annual entry, a half page (c.10cm) was left blank for recording events of importance to the town (see photo). Other entries concern: major political events in the life of the nation (such as the birth of a prince), notable developments in the town (for instance the paving of Bristol's streets), and extraordinary happenings (such as a great storm or flood). In many years nothing was recorded. This might be because little of note happened that year. Or it might also be because, like bad diarists, the town clerks often simply forgot to update the chronicle.

One interest of the extract of Ricart's Kalendar given below is that it covers the period of Bristol's 'discovery voyages' of 1480-1508. The entries up to 1506 are in Ricart's own hand, indicating that they were made within a few years, or at most a decade or so, after the events took place. The chronicle includes detailed entries for the years in which John Cabot made his three voyages, during the summers of 1496, 1497 and 1498. Since the chronicle is dated according to Bristol's civic year, which ran from 15 September, the relevant entries are those for 1495, 1496 and 1497. What is significant about the entries for these years is that they make no mention of the discovery voyages.

What the absence of any reference to the Cabot voyages indicates is, of course, open to question. Nevertheless, it is inconceivable that Ricart would not have known about them. Cabot had a royal patent for the expeditions, Bristol had a population of just 10,000 people and Ricart himself was intimately connected to the town's political and mercantile elite. The men who financed, equipped and manned Cabot's expeditions would thus have been well known to Ricart. Indeed, it also seems likely that Ricart would at least have met John Cabot during the two or three years in which the Venetian navigator lived in Bristol. The absence of any reference to Cabot's voyages, or any of the other discovery voyages of this period, thus suggests that Bristol's official record keeper simply did not regard them to be of sufficient note to be worth recording.

That the Cabot voyages should not be mentioned in Bristol's official town chronicle may seem extraordinary, given that Cabot's 1497 expedition is regarded today as one of the great events of Bristol's history. These days, a statue of John Cabot stares over the entrance to Bristol's quays, while visitors to the City's Art Gallery and Museum are greeted by a large painting, which depicts the mayor and bishop, in full ceremonial regalia, sending Cabot off on his 1497 expedition. Yet, Ricart's chronicle suggests that the importance of the voyages was not recognised at the time they occurred.

The Chronicle

Photograph of Robert Ricart's Chronicle of Bristol: Entry for Civic Years,
15 September 1496 - 14 September 1498

Note: The years given in Ricart represent the year to 14 September of the listed year. So the year 1497, for example, covers the period, by the modern calendar, 15 September 1496 - 14 September 1497.

Edward IIII, 20

Edmund Westcotte - Mayor
John Powke - Sheriff
John Greffith & John Weswall - Baliffs

Edward IIII, 21

William Wodington - Mayor
William Toket - Sheriff
Robert Bannok & John Houndesley - Baliffs

Edward IIII, 22

John Forster - Mayor
John Pynke - Sheriff
John Langforde & William Regent - Baliffs

Edward IIII, 23

Robert Strange - Mayor
John Estirfielde - Sheriff
Thomas Spicer & Henry Dale - Baliffs

This yere the viiith day of Aprile the king Edward the iiijth dyed at
Westminster, and was buryed at Wyndsore the xixth day of the same moneth
and on Sonday the vijth day of Jule then next ensewing Richard
Duc of Gloucester, brother to the said king Edward, was made king &
crowned at Westminster

                     Rex Richardus tercius

Richard III, 1


And this yere the two sonnes of King Edward were put to sylence in the towre of London

Henry Vaghan - Mayor
John Stephens - Sheriff
John Vaghan & William Gamicell - Baliffs

This yere, the xvth day of Octobre, was the grettest
flode & the grettist wynde at Bristowe & in the cuntrey
there abouts that euer was seen, and grete hurt doon in
merchaunts sellers in wode & salt. Shippes lost at Kyngrode
the Anthony of Bristowe & a ship of Bilbowe set a lond
at Holow bakkes. & other botes & cokkes lost. Saltmerssh drowned
corne catell & houses borne awey with the see, And moche
people drowned to the noumebre of CC & mo. And sone
after Herry Duc of Buks was bihedded at Sarum.

Richard III, 2

William Wikeham - Mayor
John Wayne - Sheriff
John Heminyng & William Spycer - Baliffs

This yere Harry Erle of Richmount londed at Milford
Haven in Wales, and sone after he mette with King Richard
at Bosworth feld, and there gate the feld of King Richard
the xxijth day of August, where the same King Richard
was slayne. And sone after there was a sodeyn sikenes
in all places of Englond, called the sweting syknes,
wherof moche people dyed.

Rex Henrieus septimus

Henry VII, 1

Edmund Wescote - Mayor
Rais Sherman - Sheriff
Philip Ryngston & Hugh Jonys bruer - Baliffs

This yere the saide Edmond Wescote, Maire, dyed
within xv. daies after Mighelmas. And Herry Vaghan
was elect into his rome. And this yere the King
maryed Elizabeth the eldest doughtir of King Edward
the iiijth.

Henry VII, 2

William Wykham - Mayor
John Snyg - Sheriff
John Jay & Thomas ap Howell - Baliffs

This yere the Quene was crowned. And a felde was made this yere
ageinst the king by therle of Lyncoln, the Lord Louell & Martyn Swarte
and they all wer slayne.

Henry VII, 3

John Esterfeld - Mayor
John Chestre - Sheriff
Nicholas Brown & John Walshe - Baliffs

This yere a grete ship called the Anthony of Bristowe
was lost at Kingrode, in defaute of the Master of the same ship \
And this yer the prince Arthur was borne at

Henry VII, 4

John Penke - Mayor
Clement Wilteshire - Sheriff
John Howell & John Hurler - Baliffs

This yere the Kyng sent an army of vij M men into Brytaign to socour
the Duches of Britaign. Also this yere the king sent for
the Maire Shiref & Baillifes to come to his grace to London.
And they brought vp with them ij. men of Waterford bicause
the Baillifs had taken them & imprisoned them for brynging
of Irissh money to the town ./

Henry VII, 5

Robert Strange - Mayor
Thomas Spycer - Sheriff
John Taillor & Robert Fortey - Baliffs

This yere the Brigge vpon the Were was newe made.

Henry VII, 6

John Stephens - Mayor
William Regent - Sheriff
Geore Monony & Richard Vaghan - Baliffs

This yere dyuers stretes in Bristowe were new paved.That
is to say Horsstrete, Knightsmyth strete Brode strete, Highe
strete Redclif strete, Seynt Thomas strete, Temple strete,
Towker strete, the Bak,Baft strete, Seynt Mary strete Lewens
mede. And the High Crosse was peynted & gilt, which cost xx li.
This yer the King was at Bristow wher he had a beniuolence
of xviij C li [1800]. Also this yere Mathew Jubbes purchaced a ground
of the town in Seynt Nicholas strete for terme of [blank].

Henry VII, 7

William Toket - Mayor
Henry Dale - Sheriff
John Fuyster & David Cogan - Baliffs

This yere the King went to Calice with a grete
armye ageynst Fraunce. But peace was made withoute

Henry VII, 8

Clement Wilteshire - Mayor
John Drewes - Sheriff
John Popley & Roger Dawes - Baliffs

This yere the saide Clement Wilteshire deyed and John
Hawkes was elected to occupy oute his rome.

Henry VII, 9

Henry Vaghan - Mayor
Philp Ryngston - Sheriff
John Reyner & Philip Grene - Baliffs

Henry VII, 10

John Esterfeld - Mayor
Mathew Jubbes - Sheriff
William Estby & John Rowlond - Baliffs

This yere Sir William Stanley Lord Chamberlain
was biheddid.

Henry VII, 11


[A later note in a different hand summarises this entry.]

William Regent - Mayor
Nicholas Broun - Sheriff
David Leyson & John Johnes - Baliffs

This yere the King & Qwene came to Bristowe with dyuers
Lordes spiritual & temporall. And this yere the Duc of Bedford,
the kinges uncle decessed at Thornbury on whois sowle god
have mercy, & was buryed at Keynesham. And the saide Maire
& his brethren met with the saide Duc in Kyngeswode with ij M
men on horsbake, all in blake gownes, & so brought his body
to Keynesham, for the which the saide Maire & his brethern had
grete thankes of the King.

Henry VII, 12

John Drewes - Mayor
Hugh Johnes Brewer - Sheriff
Thomas Vaghan & John Elyot - Baliffs

This yere the Cornyshmen rebelled ageynst the King, and the
lord Awdley arose with them. And the King met with them
at Blak heth, & ther had Victory of his enemyes rebelles and
the saide lorde Awdley was taken ther & behedded at [blank]].
The same lord when he was at Wells with the blak smyth callid Mighell Josef
Capteyn of the Cornysh men, havyng with them xl M [40,000] men, sent
to the Maire of Bristowe to ordeign loddgyng & vitaill for xx M [20,000].
But the Maire sent them worde that they shuld come no nere and
if they wold come ner at their oune aduentur. And then the Maire
mustred & made redy to withstond the said rebelles. And garnished the
town walles with men harnessid & with gonnes, & brought shippes & botes
aboute the mersshe garnisshed with men artillery& gonnes. And the
said rebelles hereng of this chaunged theire purpose& toke another wey.

Henry VII, 13

Henry Dale - Mayor
Richard Vaghan - Sheriff
William Lane & John Spencer - Baliffs

Henry VII, 14

Philip Ryngstone - Mayor
John Jay - Sheriff
John Vaghan & Thomas Westcote - Baliffs

Henry VII, 15

Nicholas Brown - Mayor
Philip Grene - Sheriff
Richard Hoby & Walter Rice - Baliffs

Henry VII, 16

Richard Vaghan - Mayor
Hugh Elyot & John Baten - Sheriff & Baliff

Henry VII, 17

George Monoux - Mayor
Thomas Snyg & Thomas Patnaunt - Sheriff & Baliff

Henry VII, 18

Hugh Johnes - Mayor
John Colas & John Caple - Sheriff & Baliff

Henry VII, 19

Henry Dale - Mayor
Richard Americk & William Godferd - Sheriff & Baliff

Henry VII, 20

David Philips - Mayor
William Jeffreys & Thomas Penson - Sheriff & Baliff

Henry VII, 21

Roger Dawes - Mayor
Thomas Elyot & John Harrys - Sheriff & Baliff

This yere the said Thomas Elyot dyed & Thomas Smyth merchant
was chosen in his rome of Sheref

Henry VII, 22

Philip Ryngston - Mayor
William Edwardes & John Welles - Sheriff & Baliff

Henry VII, 23

John Vaghan - Mayor
John Edwardes & Simon Gervys - Sheriff & Baliff

Further Reading:
Peter Pope, The Many Landfalls of John Cabot (Toronto, 1997)
J.A. Williamson, The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery Under Henry VII (Hakluyt Society, Second Series, No. 120, CUP, 1962)

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