One year to go: Magna Carta 800 Celebrations

on Thursday, 17 July 2014. Posted in Events

Trowbridge, a Magna Carta Baron Town

2015 will be the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede.  There will be national and global celebrations since more than 100 countries count the Charter as the foundation of democracy on which their constitutions are based.  There is a unique opportunity in Wiltshire to raise the profile as the only county with both an original copy of the Charter and a Baron Town.
 
Most of the 25 barons who enforced Magna Carta were from the East and North of England. The caput or headquarters of Henry de Bohun was in Trowbridge. The only other Magna Carta baron in the West of England came from the village of Curry Mallet in Somerset.
 
The Barons were essential in enforcing the Magna Carta and in also making successive Plantagenet kings confirm and re-issue the Charter. If the barons had not kept up the pressure on the wily Plantagenets, the Charter would just have been a long forgotten footnote in history.

 
 

Why did Henry de Bohun rebel?  He had spent years developing the early town. He had modernised the Castle, obtained arguably the earliest Market Charter in Wiltshire; he had laid out the market place to enable tradesmen and shop keepers to sell their goods, and he had also built the first St James Church.  King John decided to take Trowbridge away from Henry and give to his own half brother, William Longespee. Henry had made Trowbridge an attractive asset and Longespee wanted it.

Such arbitrary seizing of lands forced Henry to join with other Magna Carta barons, and he was at Runnymede to see the Charter sealed by King John. Magna Carta made clear that no king was above the law. Soon after Runnymede, King John was forced to give Trowbridge back to Henry.
 
We are fortunate in Trowbridge; Henry de Bohun was unusual among the Magna Carta barons in that he did take such an interest in his caput and it is probably no coincidence that Trowbridge is now one of the largest of the communities which were formerly the caputs of the barons. Not surprisingly there is an image of him in St James Church, the church he originally built, holding a copy of the charter.

In 2015 Trowbridge will be celebrating the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta and the town’s role in the history of that historic document. It will also be celebrating Henry de Bohun who did so much to develop the town as well as taking a major role in the enforcement of the Great Charter.

Lance Allen
Town Clerk
Trowbridge Town Council

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