Treasure 18: the charter of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ashbourne

This treasure is a Charter (D3397/1) granted by Queen Elizabeth I, which founded the Free Grammar School in Ashbourne, dating from 17 July 1585.

Following a petition by leading inhabitants of Ashbourne and neighbouring area to Queen Elizabeth I, this charter was issued to found a free grammar school on land granted by the Queen.  It ordained that the offices of schoolmaster and under-master be established, that there be a governing body of 3 governors and 12 assistants (with provision for the filling of vacancies), that the governing body make statutes and ordnances, and that it has the use of common seal.

Treasure 19 Queen Elizabeth (b)

There are 3 parchments, in Latin, with the Great Seal (partly damaged) attached. The charter has borders and initial letters decorated with painted figures and motifs, consisting of crowns, Tudor roses, royal coat-of-arms supported by a lion and dragon, a harp, a crowned eagle on a tree trunk holding a sceptre, and clouds with rays of the sun coming down. The initial ‘E’ is decorated with a particularly fine miniature painting of Queen Elizabeth on her throne, with the letter ‘E’ incorporating and being surrounded by allegorical figures, exotic birds, animals and fruits (including a robin, dragonfly and snake)
Treasure 19 Queen Elizabeth (a)

This stunning Elizabethan charter is a firm favourite with many of our staff. The exquisite detail and beautiful colours in the decorative borders and illuminated initials, make this document very special, as it brings a rare example of royal grandeur to our collections.

The charter has been nominated by Paul, who remarks: “I am always particularly impressed by how vivid the gold colouring has remained after so many centuries”.

Freedom of the City

Edward Revell's certificate of the Freedom of the City of London

Edward Revell’s certificate of the Freedom of the City of London

We had an enquiry last week from the archives at one of London’s ancient livery companies, the Leathersellers’ Company, asking for further details of an item in our catalogue: Edward Revell’s certificate of the Freedom of the City of London. There are two similar documents in the Leathersellers’ Company archives, dating from 1472 and 1488, which appear to be the oldest surviving certificates of their sort. Edward Revell’s certificate – until something earlier shows itself, at least – may be regarded as the third oldest.

As with other certificates of the Freedom of the City, the document bears the name of a Ward of the City of London: Cripplegate, here spelled “Crepulgate”. However, as the text is in Latin, that’s one of the few bits I can actually read!  The others are the names of Edward Revell, his father Thomas Revell, and the man to whom Edward was apprenticed, William Chambers of the Haberdashers’ Company.  The Revell family seat is also mentioned: Cranethwayte, which was also called Carlingthwaite and later became known as Carnfield – site of Carnfield Hall.  As for the rest, we are assured that it is very formulaic – but the word-count is a bit higher because they had to fit in all the titles of Philip & Mary.  As with the examples held at the Leathersellers’ Company, this certificate has clearly spent a long time folded in four – the Company’s archivist says this suggests “that Freemen would carry their certificates about their person like a passport (perhaps inside a small leather pouch), to produce as proof when claiming Freemen’s privileges, such as exemption from market and bridge tolls, etc”.