The Beginnings Gallery

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Town Charter Drawer

This charter is over 800 years old. It is one of the earliest documents in existence that mentions Petersfield and officially confirms the town's status as a borough. Borough status gave inhabitants rights to self-government, and in Petersfield’s case, the right to hold a market.

Three different people granted town charters to Petersfield. King Henry I's grandson, Earl William of Gloucester, granted the first in the mid-1100s. This charter has been lost.

After William died, his wife Hawise issued a new charter, confirming the one her husband had granted. This was an important public act and demonstrated that Hawise was a powerful woman. But this power came from her parents and her husband. She, like other medieval women, most likely had little control over her own life.

In 1198, Earl William and Hawise’s son-in-law, Count John of Mortain, confirmed Petersfield’s town charter. A year later, he was crowned King John, made famous in Robin Hood.

The Petersfield Charter transcript 

"Know all men present and to come I Hawisa Countess of Gloucester have granted and confirmed to my Burgesses of Petersfield, who have settled and do reside in the Borough of Petersfield and who shall settle there all Liberties and Free Customs in the same Borough which the Citizens of Winchester have their City, who are in a guild with Merchant, and they shall have the same in a Guild of Merchants in Petersfield as my Husband William Earl of Gloucester granted to them by his Charter."

Hampshire Record Office: Petersfield Borough Archive: 39M74/DB1