The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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Act of Parliament: The Merchant Venturers, 1566

Source: Transcribed and annotated by: J. Latimer, The History of the Society of Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol (Bristol, 1903), pp. 47-50

p. 47

The Coppie of an Acte made at the Parliament holden (by prorogation) at Westminster the last daie of September in the eighte yeere of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Lady Queene Elizabeth & Anno Christi 1566.

An Acte for Confirmation of Letters Pattente graunted to the Marchant Adventurers of the Citty of Bristoll.

Whereas the Cittie of Bristol, beinge an Ancyent Towne of this Realme of England, hath allwaies bin inhabited and vsed by and with a number of Marchaunte Aduenturers of the same Citty

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vsinge trafficke and marchandize to and from beyond the Seas, By reason whereof the same Citty hath not heretofore bin only greatly enriched, and the Inhabitants of the same of all Science verie well occupied and sett in worke in and aboute theire severall Arts misteries and occupacions, but have bine alsoe ayding and assistaunt (by reason of the said marchaunte Aduenturers) uppon the seas unto the Princes Navie of this Realme (in tyme of warres) for the defence of this whole Realme, with twentie five shippes for the moste parte, untill that nowe of late, by reason of a number of the Inhabitants of the saide Cittie, of divers faculties and sciences, being not able to have anie convenient shippes or vessells of theire owne, have vsed to trafficke marchandize and carry wares to and from the parties of beyond the Seas, in strainge shippes and vessells, soe commonly and so much as the marchauntes aduenturers, haveinge noe other science but onely that to lyve uppon, were not able to mainteyne theire own navigacon and shippes, but some were enforced to sell theire shippes, and some to leave theire shippes, and lay them upp in Docke, untill such tyme as they were spoiled and lost, So as of late there were scant five shippes left belonging to the saide Citty, whereas in tymes past there hath bine twenty five: And this matter beinge of late declared, and informacion thereof made to our late soueraigne lorde Kinge Edward the Sixte, his grace mindinge to provide, as well for the mayntenance and contynuance in prosperitie of the saide Citty As alsoe for the encrease of defences of this Realme from our Enimies, as before this tyme had bin: And to thintent that the marchauntes adventurers and Navigacion of the saide Citty might encrease and multiplie to such nomber as before tyme had bin, Did by his grace's Letters pattente under his great Seale of England bearing date at West- minster the eighteenth daie of December in the sixte yeere of his grace's Raigne encorporate the Company and Feloushipp of the saide marchaunte Aduenturers by the name of Maister Wardeyns and Comynaltie of the Misterie or Arte of Marchaunte Venturers of the City of Bristoll And by the same letters pattente Did not onely graunte unto them to plead and to bee ympleaded by the same name But alsoe divers other Liberties Ordinaunce rules priviledges and aucthorities, as by the saide letters pattente therein more fully and at large doe appeare, Which saide letters pattente and all and euery thinge and things in them conteyned and expressed Our Soveraigne Lady the Queenes Majestie that nowe is, hath to and for thintent and purpose above expressed, likewise by her grace's Letters pattente under her great Seale of England

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bearinge date at Westminster aforesaide the eighte day of July in the eighte yeere of her saide graces Raigne, allowed confirmed and ratified As by the same Letters pattente doe alsoe therein playnely appeare Bee it therefore Enacted by the Queenes moste Excellente Maiestie, the Lordes Spirituall and temporall, and by the Commons in this present Session of Parliament assembled, and by the aucthorite of the same, for the consideracions and mayntenance of the Cittie of Bristoll aforesaide, that the said Felowshippe and Society of Marchaunte Aduenturers bee incor- porate for evermore in such manner and wise, and by such a name, as is declared and conteyned in the aboue resited letters pattente of our said late Soueraigne Lorde Kinge Edward the Sixte And that the same Corporacion may evermore hereafter have and enjoy all such like Liberties, ordinaunce, rules, priviledge, and aucthorities, as are menconed and specified in the said Letters pattente accordinge to the words sentences true intent effecte and meaninge of the saide letters pattente to all intents and purposes. And furthermore, whereas by the saide recited Letters Pattente of our saide late Soueraigne Lord Kinge Edward the Sixte yt is graunted to the saide Corporacion that noe Artificer or of anie other science of the saide Citty of Bristoll for the tyme beinge should exercise the recourse of marchandize into the parts beyond the Seas vnlesse they were admitted into the Societie and Corporacon aforesaide by the Maister and Wardeins of the same Corporacion for the tyme beinge, or else weare, or shalbee appren- tice to the saide Misterie or Arte of Marchaunts aforesaide by the space of Seaven Yeeres, And for that there is noe penaltie pro- vided or ordeyned for such as shall exercise the recourse of marchandize beyond the Seas contrary to the Clause of the said letters pattente aboue resited, divers and sundrie persons of the saide Citty, beinge neither admitted into the saide Societie or Corporacion neither haue bene apprentice to the same Arte by the space of Seaven yeeres, Doe still vse and exercise the recourse of marchaundise beyond the Seas, contrary to the good intention therein had and made, and contrary to the expresse words of the saide letters pattente to the great hinderaunce and decay of all the aforesaide Cittie

Bee it therefore Enacted and established by the Aucthoritie of this present parliament that after the Feaste of Sainct John the Baptist next cominge, noe manner of person or persons dwelling or that hereafter shall dwell within the said Citty of Bristoll, or the Subbirbes or Liberties of the same, shall vse or exercise, by him- selfe, or by anie other, the recourse or trafficke of marchandize

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beyond the Seas, vnlesse the same person or persons bee nowe made, or hereafter shalbee admitted to bee, of the saide Societie or Corporacion aboue named by the maister and wardeyns of the saide Corporacion, Or els that hee or they have byne, or shalbee apprentice or apprentices, and served in and to the saide Arte or misterie of Marchaunts within the same Cittie or Liberties of the same by the space of seaven yeeres uppon paine of Forfeiture of all the goods and marchandice that hee or they, or any of them, shall att anie tyme after the saide Feast of Sainct John the Baptist soe vse, carry, transporte or convey to or from beyond the Seas contrary to the tenure aforesaide: the one moyetie of which Forfeiture to bee to the Queenes maiestie, her heires and Successours, and the other moyetie to bee devided betweene the said Corporacion and the Chamber of the saide Citty of Bristoll aforesaide And that if anie person or persons that nowe is or are, or that hereafter shalbee anie of the saide Corporacion of marchants shall att any tyme after the saide Feast of Sainct John Baptist vse or exercise any other science, misterye, arte, or occupacon then onely that of marchante Adventurers, that then it shalbee lawfull to and for the saide Maister and Wardeyns of the saide Corporacion for the tyme being to dismisse expel remove and put of and out of the saide Societie or Corporacon the same person or persons which soe shall vse anie other science misterie arte or occupacion then onely of marchant aduenturers as is aforesaide.

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