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Population and status

The number of taxpayers recorded in the lay subsidy of 1332 was 69. Like the Domesday Book, this shouldn’t be taken as total population, as it doesn’t include families, clergy, inhabitants of religious houses, or those who avoided paying tax. This makes a total of about 632. However, Royal Charters of Grantham dating from before the Black Death (1348-1350) show that the population was more like 1500. This shows that figures from documentary sources often have to be treated with caution.

The Black Death and economic decline in the second half of the fourteenth century meant a decline in population in Grantham, and some buildings became derelict. However, Grantham faired much better than many other towns in this period.

According to the Royal Charters of Grantham, by 1550 the population had re-attained its early thirteenth century level of around 1500 people.

Towns offered opportunities for work and wealth creation, and it is estimated that in 1332 up to one-third of people living in Grantham had moved there from the surrounding countryside.

Grantham became an incorporated town in 1463. Incorporation gave towns five key liberties:

  • Perpetual succession of all previous privileges
  • The power of suing and being sued as a whole and by the specific name of the corporation
  • The authority to issue by-laws
  • The power to hold lands
  • Use of a common seal

Towns also often had the freedom to hold their own weekly Borough Court, which Grantham had by the thirteenth century. They had the power to levy money from townspeople and spend it to the benefit of the town as a whole, for example on maintaining walls, bridges and roads and so on. Towns could also regulate trade by setting up merchants guilds. They could also elect officials like the Mayor, or burgess alderman. There was also a council of 24 of the town’s leading inhabitants, who were responsible for maintaining civil and criminal order.

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Last updated: 3 March 2011

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