Tag Archives: King John’s Royal Charter Day in Droitwich
By Rhys Jones
In 1215, King John arrived near Wyche on horseback, but 800 years later he arrived in rather more comfort by narrow boat. I was granted an audience with the King to take his photo as he boarded the long boat, and I was invited to travel with the royal party. Photos show the King, Queen, and Royal party laughing and joking, not realising that some of the people of Droitwich would be hostile.
Anticipating the arrival of the King, monks and local dignitaries assembled at St Andrew’s Church and paraded to the canal, passing crowds who were mostly unaware of what was happening. When the King arrived, negotiations soon started regarding the fees to be paid by local businesses to the King. Some of the locals showed their hostility. One in particular, risked having his head cut off in public but was spared at the last minute.
One of the Droitwich Arts Network favourite activity is children’s art workshop and competition. During the Charter Day festival DAN have organised a very busy painting competition for kids. They have had a chance to paint their works on the special paper sheets with King John’s seal on it. All paints, brushes, colour pastels and protective aprons were provided by DAN, as well as inspirational art by world’s famous painters.
Droitwich Salt Slaves
In 1215 slavery had nearly disappeared in England. This was due to the attitude of the church, who ruled people’s minds in the 13th century. The bishop of Worcester banned the exporting of slaves and so did William the Conqueror at the port of Bristol. The Norman’s feudal system did not need slavery; it had serfdom.
In spite of this, Droitwich, then known as Wich, was an unusual place. It had a concentration of unskilled workers working around the clock in shifts, cutting wood, feeding furnaces, continually stirring salt out of boiling brine, and transporting the salt by packhorse. It was a densely populated industrial centre of workers performing difficult and dangerous tasks night and day in a very dirty and smokey environment – a rare thing in England at that time. Due to the poor condition of the roads, salt manufacture in Wich could only be achieved during the summer months. In those days, salt was essential for preserving food; without it folk would starve during the winter.
The Royal Charter was signed by King John in Bridgenorth on August 1st 1215, about seven weeks after signing the Magna Carta on 15th June 1215. Four or five merchants from Wich, headed by the elected Reeve (chief), was granted an audience and knowing that John was desperately in need of money, struck a bargain that benefited both parties. The king let at the yearly rental of £100 (over £100,000 in today’s money) all his royal rights to the town of Wich.