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THE WICK CHARTER
James, by the Grace of God, King of the Scots, to all true men of his whole land, Clergy and Laity, Greeting. Know ye that we, understanding that not only are the revenues or income of our crown increased by the industry and increase of Free Burghs within our Kingdom; but also that the Lieges of the same are very greatly enriched by the Foreign commerce and trade of the Burgesses and free inhabitants of the said Burghs; and also, considering that there is no Free Burgh within the limits or bounds of Caithness, and that the Town of Wick, lying within the Sheriffdom of Inverness, is situated on the sea coast, in a place very suitable and fit for navigation; so that, if the said Town of Wick were erected into a Free Royal Burgh, and the ordinary Magistrates of the same were elected, with the advice of our trusty Cousin, George, Earl of Caithness, his heirs and successors, not only would our said annual revenues be increased by the Customs and Taxes of the said Burgh, and those lying within the said bounds of Caithness be enriched by the frequent access of Merchants and foreign traders and rendered more civilized but also thefts, rapines, murders, and other oppressions, committed amongst the said inhabitants, would be repressed through fear of punishment. Therefore, and for various other reasons and considerations us moving, from certain knowledge, and of our own accord, after our perfect and legitimate age of twenty one years completed declared in our Parliament and our general Revocation made in the same, We have made, constituted, created, erected and incorporated, and, in terms of these presents, do make, constitute, create, erect, and incorporate the whole and entire aforesaid Town of Wick, with all and sundry houses, buildings, tenements, waste places, yards, orchards, tofts and crofts, lying within the territory of the same, into one Free Royal Burgh, with free harbour, to be called the Burgh of Wick in all time coming: With special and plenary power to free inhabitants and Burgesses of the said Burgh and their successors in future, with the express advice and consent of our said Cousin, George Earl of Caithness, his heirs and successors, and not otherwise or in other manner, of making electing, constituting and creating a Provost, and four Bailies indwellers or inhabitants of the said Burgh, together with a Treasurer, Dean of Guild, Councillors, Burgesses, Searjants, and other officers necessary within the said Burgh for the government of the same; and those, as often as shall be deemed expedient for reasonable causes: Of depositing one half part of the monies paid by the said Burgesses in respect of their freedom in our said Burgh, for our said Cousin and his successors in future; and the other moiety of the same monies to be applied for the public good of the said Burgh. With free also and special power to the said Burgesses and free inhabitants, duly elected, received and admitted to the Freedom of the said Burgh, through the present and future Councillors and Dean of Guild of the same buying and selling, within the said Burgh and freedom of the same (lie) pakpeill; and wine; ale; cloth, as well linen as woollen, narrow, long and broad; and other kinds of commerce, and goods, (lie) those called stapill guidis, (lie) tapes. And also with power to the said Provost, Bailies and Councillors of the aforesaid Burgh, and their successors, of admitting and receiving, within the same Burgh, Bakers, Tinsmiths, Butchers, Fishers, Dealers in fish and flesh, Tailors, Blacksmiths, Weavers, Fullers, Carpenters, and all other necessary artificers and operatives pertaining and relating to the Freedom of a free Burgh. With power also to the said craftsmen of using and exercising their aforesaid trades, as freely as they are used and exercised in any Royal Burgh within our said Kingdom. And likewise, with power to the said Provost, Bailies, Councillors, Burgesses, and their successors, of building one public prison or more within the said Burgh, and a Market Cross; and holding a Market every week on Friday, together with three free thrice in the year, viz:- on the Feast of All Saints, on The Lord's day for palm Branches, and on the Nativity of John the Baptist; which are popularly called All hallowmas, Palm Sunday, and Midsummer; and these for the space of four days each; and of charging, levying, receiving, and collecting the customs and dues of the same, and of supplying them for the public good of the said Burgh; Also, of charging, levying, receiving. and collecting all and sundry petty customs of the aforesaid harbour of the aforesaid Burgh, as well by land as by sea, and of applying them to the aforewritten use. And, also, with power to the said Bailies and their successors of receiving resignations of all and sundry lands, tenements, annual rents, yards, tofts, crofts, and others lying within the said Burgh and Freedom of the same, and of handing over and disposing of the same to any person or persons, with infeftments, charters, sasines, and other necessary evidents; Of appointing, fixing, beginning, confirming, holding, and, as often need be, of adjoining Burgh courts, within the said Burgh and Freedom of the same, twice in the week, viz:- on Tuesday and Saturday: Of making, creating, and appointing clerks, serjeants, bailiffs, and all other officers and necessary members of Court; Of punishing transgressors according to the form of law: Of levying and applying to their peculiar uses, the forfeitures and fines of the said Courts: and, if necessary, of seizing and distraining for the same: of making and ordaining acts, laws, and statutes within the said Burgh and Freedom of the same for the keeping and observance of good order: Of apprehending arresting, imprisoning, punishing, and according to the laws of our Kingdom, beheading and hanging all transgressors and delinquents, with pit, gallows, infang thief, outfang thief; and generally, of using and exercising all, any and sundry, with all privileges immunities and liberties whatsoever, as freely, in all respects, as any other Free Royal Burgh within our said Kingdom. To hold and have the whole and entire aforesaid Burgh of Wick, with all and sundry houses, buildings, tenements, waste places, yards, tofts, crofts, and others whatsoever, lying within the territory of the same, together with the harbour aforesaid, anchorages and customs of the same; and with all and sundry liberties and immunities and privileges aforewritten of the aforesaid Burgh, to the aforesaid Provost, Bailies, Councillors, Burgesses, and free inhabitants of the same, and their successors, in free burgage, in perpetuity, by all their righteous ancient meathes and divisions according as they lie in length and breadth, in houses, buildings, bounds, grazings, fields, tofts, crofts, moors, marshes, ways, paths, waters, pools, streams, meadows, pasturages, mills, multures, and their sequels, fowlings, huntings, fishings, peats, divots, coals, coalpits, rabbits, rabbitwarrens, pigeons, pigeoncots, forges, maltkilns and breweries; woods, forests, and thickets; beams and timber, quarries of stone and lime; with courts and their ishes, bloodwills and with all and sundry liberties, commodities, profits, assythments, and their proper pertinents whatsoever, as well those not named, as those named as well under the earth as those above the earth, far and near, belonging or seeming in any manner whatever justly to belong to the said Burgh, harbour, and others particularly mentioned before with their pertinents; in all time coming, freely quietly, fully, entirely, honourably, well, and in peace, without revocation, contradiction, hindrance or obstacle in any way. The said Provost, Bailies, Councillors, burgesses and free inhabitants and their successors to render, therfor, annually, to us and our successors the sum ten merks of the money of this our realm, on the Feast of Pentecost, in the name of alba firma only together with the due and accustomed Burghal service only.
In testimony of which we have commanded our seal to be put to this our present charter, in presence of our much loved Cousins and advisers, John, Lord Hamiltoun Commendator of our monastery of Aberbrothock, Archibald, Earl Angus, Lords Douglas, Dalkeith and Abernethy; our very Reverend and Venerable Fathers in Christ, Petrick, Archbishop of Saint Andrews, Walter, Prior of Blantyre, keeper of our privy seal; our chosen privy counsellors, Alexander Hay of Easter Kennet, Clerk of the Register and Council of our Rolls, Lewis Bellenden of Auchnoull, Knight Clerk of our Justiciary, and Master Robert Scott Director of our Chancery. At Edinburgh, the twenty fifth day of the month of September, in the year of our Lord, One thousand five hundred and eighty nine, and the twenty third of our reign.
Published in Caithness field Club bulletin March 1990 and other places.