Letters Patent - The Great Fire of 1640

The great Fire of 28 July 1640

The "Protection" of King Charles I by Letters Patent


The following is a "Protection" issued by Charles I - authorising a nationwide "collection" for Yeovil as a result of the Great Fire of 1640. The collection was not made on the authority of letters from the Privy Council, but was granted by Letters Patent - a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by the monarch.

The Letters Patent, discovered in the early years of the twentieth century at Newton Surmaville, are remarkable for the time and date and on whose premises the fire started, the description of the damage caused by the fire and for the minute detail describing how the collection was to be carried out and distributed 



A Protection for losses by fire graunted unto the
Inhabitants of Yeovill in the County of Somersett

CHARLES by the grace of God King of England Scotland France and Ireland defender of the faith TO ALL and singular Archbishops Bishops Archdeacons Deanes and theor Officials Parsons Vicars Curats and to all spirituall persons  And also to all Justices of Peace maiors Sheriffs Bailiffs Constables Churchwardens and head boroughes  And to all Officers of Citties Boroughes and Townes corporate  And to all other our officers ministers and subjects whatsoever they be aswell within liberties as without to whom these presents shall come greeting  WHEREAS We are credibly given to understand as well by the humble supplicacion and peticion of our poore distressed subjects and Inhabitants of Yeovell on our County of Somersett as also by a certificate made at the general quartersessions of the peace holden at Bridgwater for the said County the sixth day of October last past 1640 under the hands of our trusty and well beloved subjects Sir William Portman Baronett Thomas Luttrell Thomas Smith William Every John Harrington George Paulett Robert Harbyn Robert Hunt and William Bull Esquires Justices of the Peace for the said county 

That within or uppon the eight and twentieth day of July last past 1640 about one of the Clock in the afternoone of the same day there happened to our said Towne of Yeovell being an ancient market Towne a suddayne and grevious misfortune of fire begyning in the house of one Walter Whitcombe which by reason of dryness of the season, the winde being strong and high, and the irrestable vehement and terrible flames thereof, did in a short space utterly consume waste and burne downe fourscore and three dwelling houses besides many other outhouses wherein lived twoe hundred families conteyning in them sixe hundred persons at the least of men women and children besides very many barnes stables staules and other buildings and outhouses to the number of twoe hundred together with corne hay wood coale householdstuffe and other wares and goodes, they having housed most of theire hay and made provision of coale wood and other necessaries for the whole year following for themselves families and cattell, which were all burnt and wasted and consumed by the saide fire amounting in all to the value of Twelve Thousand pounds (in excess of £70 million at 2016' value), a great part of which people receiveth reliefe and not able to subsist without the same and are about the number of three hundred persons and a great part of them Trades men whoe had only their houses and trades by which they formerly lived in good sort and sett many people on work and relieved many but are now themselves destitute of houses or any means to relieve themselves and theire families as appeareth to our foresaid Justices uppon the oathes of John Jennings gentleman John Laver gentleman Christopher Allambridge and Thomas Rocke able and sufficient Inhabitants of the saide Towne verifying likewise that by this untimely accident our said poore Subjects are greatly impoverished and utterly undone left in great distresse and misery, who have humbly besought us of our aboundment and gracious goodness and clemency 

We would be pleased to provide some convenient meanes for theire reliefe and mayntenance by granting them licence and power to aske and receive the charities of weldisposed people for theire support and livlihood unto whose request as also uppon the certificate of our foresaid Justices. We most willingly have condiscended and esteemed noe one thing to be more necessary then the re-edifying of decayed Townes and the relieving of the poore distressed people thereof, have thought good to commend the same to the charitable consideracion of all our loving Subjects within the said County of Somersett and of the other Counties and places hereafter mencioned  Not doubting but that all good Christians rightly and duly considering the premisses will be ready and willing to extend their liberall contribucionns in soe good soe necessary and so charitable a deede

KNOWE ye therefore that of our especiall grace and princely compassion We have given and granted and by these Letters Patent under our great Seale of England doe give and grant unto the Inhabitants of Yeovell in our County of Somersett aforesaid and to their Deputy and Deputies the bearer or bearers thereof full power licence and authority to aske gather receive and take the almes and charitable benevolence of all out loving Subjects whatsoever inhabiting within the Counties Shires Citties and priviledged places throughout the whole kingdon of England and Domynion of Wales (except the Counties of Leicester Nottingham Derby Lancaster Yorke Northumberland Cumberland Westmerland and Durham) for and toward the recovery of their said losses and the reliefe and maynternance of such and soe many as are fitt to partake of this Collecion, according to the directions hereafter expressed

WHEREFORE We will and command you and every of you that at such tyme and tymes as the Inhabitants of Yeovell aforesaid their Deputy or Deputies the bearer or bearers hereof shall come and repair to any your Churches Chappells or other places to asdke and receive the gratuities and charitable benevolence of our said subjects quietly to permit and suffer them soe to doe without any manner your lett or contradicions  And you the said Parsons Vicars Curats for the better stirring upp of a charitable devocion deliberately to publish and declare the tenor of these our Letters Patent or the Coppy or Briefe hereof unto our said subjects uppon some Sunday shortly after the same shall be tendred unto you and before the expiration of the date hereof Earnestly exhorting and perswading them to extend thier liberall contributions in soe good and charitable a deed  AND you the Churchwardens of every parish where such collecion is to be made as aforesaid to collect and gather the almes and charitable benevolence of all our loving Subjects as well strangers as others  And what shalbe by you soe gathered to be by the minister and yourselves endorsed on the backside of these out Letters Patent or the Coppy or Briefe hereof in words at length and not in figures  And the some and somes of money soe gathered and endorsed  Our will and pleasure is shalbe delivered to the bearer or bearers of these our Letters Patent warranted and allowed to receive the same and to no other person when as thereunto you shalbe required

AND LASTLY Our will and pleasure is for the more assurance of faithfull and equall dealing in the receipt accompt and distribution of the moneys collected by virtue of these our Letters Patent, that noe man shall receive any of the moneys soe collected but such shalbe appoynted thereunto by Deputacion under the hands and seales of Edward Philips and Robert Harbyn Esquiers and that the moneys collected and raised by virtue hereof, shall be distributed amongst such of those dampnified by the saide fire, only as need the same and are fitt to be relived by publique charity and by such proporcions as shalbe thought fitt and sett downe in writing under the hands of the persons last named, at such tymes and places of their meeting as by them shalbe from tyme to tyme appoynted for that purpose  It being not our intencions  that any of those whoe are otherwise of ability and in the judgement of the persons last named not thought fitt to be relieved by this collecion, should be made partakers of it  And they in like manner to appoynt in whose hands the moneys collected are to be kept untill the same shalbe distributed and how the accompt thereof shalbe ordered according to the true intent and meaning of our royall will and pleasure herein declared any Statute law ordinance or provision heretofore made to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding

IN WITNES whereof We have caused these our letters to be made Patent to continue for the space of one whole yeare next after the date thereof and not longer

WITNES ourselfe at Westmynster the seaventeenth day of November in the sixteenth yeare of our Raigne