The Wokingham Society’s Executive Committee is pleased to announce the launch of its e-Booklet containing the four significant Royal Charters that governed the town of Wokingham between 1227 and 1974. The booklet can be viewed here.
The texts of the Charters have been available in manuscript or printed form in libraries or archives, but therefore somewhat inaccessible to the local community and others interested in the history of the town. We have transcribed them into electronic form and are making them available, on our website, via the Town Council’s Virtual Museum and through the Berkshire Record Office so that they can be read and quoted freely by all users (subject to appropriate acknowledgement). A printed copy has been given to Wokingham Library.
The story starts in 1227 with the Bishop of Salisbury being granted a Charter by Henry III, allowing him to hold a weekly Tuesday market in Wokingham, which would in turn provide income to pay for a new church to be built in Salisbury.
The Charter of Elizabeth I in 1583 confirmed what had probably been a long-established move away from church control to a manorial system of administration and justice in the town, its markets and fairs.
James I then provided a Charter in 1612 which introduced a recognisable form of local government, with officers such as an Alderman, Burgesses and, still in existence today, a High Steward and a Town Clerk.
Lastly, the 1885 Charter of Queen Victoria, granted in response to a petition from the townsfolk who wanted to see some form of representational local administration, introduced a system of elected Councillors headed by a Town Mayor, and prescribed the boundaries of the town and its wards.
Not until 1974, when the Local Government Act transferred most of its functions to a new District Authority, did the 750 years of Wokingham town’s management of its own affairs come to an end. The Charters record and celebrate Wokingham’s growth as a town of significance.