Our Town Charters 1199–1887
A Charter is a document recording the granting of rights and privileges often given by a monarch or a baron. There was a total of seven Charters, of which only the last five are remaining in Higham Ferrers.
King John granted William de Ferrers, 4th Earl of Derby, lands across Northamptonshire including Hecham which became Higham Ferrers.
In the reign of Henry III, William de Ferrers (5th Earl of Derby) created two Charters bringing great change and prosperity to the town.
The first Charter has been lost but evidence suggests that Higham Ferrers was empowered to elect its own Mayor and Burgesses, hold its own courts, and retain any fees that were levied by the Courts.
The second one gave 91 serfs, who were little more than slaves to the Earl, the freedom to marry whom they chose, leave their inheritance to whom they chose and leave the town to live elsewhere.
1556 Charter of Phillip and Mary
This Charter improved the powers of the Corporation and allowed the election of a Member to Parliament. For many years the Town provided a safe seat for a supporter of the Crown nominated by the Duchy of Lancaster, the biggest land owner.
1604 Charter of King James I
This Charter appointed the Mayor to be Justice of the Peace and those with rights of citizenship were freed from Jury Service within the borough.
1664 and 1684 Charters of King Charles II
1664 – Confirmed existing privileges. Changed the Monday market to Thursday and granted a Saturday market for horses and beasts.
1684 – Granted a common seal with the power to choose a Mayor, 7 aldermen and 13 chief burgesses.
1886 Charter of Queen Victoria
After the Municipal Corporations Act of 1882, the Charter of Queen Victoria re-organised the composition of the Corporation on modern lines to conform to the pattern of local government laid down in that Act.
This Charter is the only one of the town's Charters written in English; the earlier ones were in Latin.