Charters of Higham Ferrers dating as far back as 1556 have been saved.
The original charters, documents recording the granting of rights and privileges often given by a monarch, were rarely seen and the parchment on which they were printed had deteriorated due to age and inadequate storage facilities, making them too fragile for display.
A small group, from the town council and Higham Tourism, got together in 2014 to investigate a way to solve this problem and The Charter Project began.
Nine months of conservation work began in September 2018 to restore the charters for future generations to see and enjoy. The work is now complete and the five remaining charters will be held at the County Record Office for their future conservation.
Copies have been made for touring exhibitions and to display on loan in the schools of the town. Digital copies will be available for all to see complete with translations as all but the last charter is written in Latin.
The first two charters, of William de Ferrers of 1251, were lost. The second one gave 91 serfs, who were little more than slaves, the freedom to marry and leave their inheritance to whom they chose and leave the town to live elsewhere. A copy of the names of the 91 freed Higham citizens remains.
The charters that have been saved are:
- 1556 – The Charter of Philip and Mary
- 1604 – The Charter of James I
- 1664 – The Charter of Charles II
- 1684 – The Charter of Charles II
- 1886 – The Charter of Queen Victoria
Anna Sauntson, town and district councillor and member of the Tourism Partnership, said: “Over the centuries the charters have played a pivotal role in the heritage of Higham.
"The Charter Group and friends are honoured to have worked on this prestigious project for our town to ensure these documents have been preserved for future generations and that through exhibitions and activities in Higham Ferrers and the wider community they will be shared with and appreciated by so many.”
The return of the charters will be celebrated in medieval style on Saturday, June 29.
The town will return to its medieval roots with a market, skirmishes and archery on the Castle Field, crafts and cookery at the Chichele College and music in the church.
The Bede House features an exhibition displaying the life of the town’s charters and other aspects of the town’s history to include a film made by Year 6 pupils of Higham Ferrers
Junior School during a week of learning about their heritage and the history of the Charters.