Lionheart’s charter

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BOB HIND: Built in just a year and a day, the ship that ruled the world

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On this day in 1194 Richard the Lionheart signed Portsmouth’s first charter.

He had gathered his army and fleet at Portsmouth to prepare for an expedition and needed money to finance it. To do so he sold privileges in the form of charters.

Inhabitants bought the charter enabling them to hold an annual fair lasting 15 days. This later became known as the Free Mart Fair.

They were also able to hold a weekly market each Thursday and the charter gave them the right to try minor offences and tax residents.

Richard also gave orders for houses and a royal residence to be built – King’s Hall at the upper end of a thoroughfare, which later became St Nicholas’ Street and later became part of the site of the Cambridge Barracks, now the site of the Portsmouth Grammar School – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.