Congleton Charters

The museum is currently the custodian of the town’s charters and corporation records. Of the 120 charters and associated documents, 81 date from before 1500. The earliest datable document is the charter of Henry De Lacy, Baron of Halton and later Earl of Lincoln, written in 1272, however this document is not part of the collection currently. This allowed the men of Congleton the right to hold land through the payment of a money rent rather than by personal service to the Lord of the Manor. It also gave the inhabitants of the town the right to elect a Mayor.

Initially legal documents, these charters are also works of art. The most decorative is the 1625 charter of James I.

Elizabeth I Charter of 1583/4. This Charter gave Congleton greater freedom from the control of the Duchy of Lancaster of which it now formed a part. It established a Mayor and Corporation, grating them the right to make bye-laws and to have their own seal. This charter is decorated along the edges with the Tudor rose, Fleur-de-lys, the Irish Harp and the Welsh Dragon. Elizabeth I is dressed in her state robes trimmed with ermine and holding the orb and sceptre of sovereignty.
James I Charter of 1625. This Charter was very important in the development of the town as it confirmed Congleton as a ‘free borough for ever’ and established the system of local government which was to remain until the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act in 1835. It is a beautifully illustrated document with a coloured border of flowers incorporating the Royal Arms and the town badge.
Charles II Charter of 1666/7 The initial capital C contains a head and shoulders illustration of Charles II wearing an elaborate lace collar. The drawings around the edge include the coats of arms of France, England and Scotland together with the Irish harp. There are also drawings of various flowers including honeysuckle and carnation.