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this place. As a significant and memorable warning, there was ordered to be executed here, all the rebel constables of the WestRiding, except those of Wetherby, Boroughbridge, and Tadcaster; all the offending serving-men of the West-Riding; and lastly, within sight of their neighbours, and home, and kindred, the misguided townsmen of Ripon.
Towards the close of the sixteenth century, there seems, also, to have prevailed much animosity and discord in the borough, chiefly caused by the uncertain mode of electing the chief officer, who was called “the Wakeman," and the irregular constitution of the municipal body; which, having existed—though, perhaps, originally as a Merchant Guild-apparently, from the Saxon times, became, in the absence of legally defined powers, a law unto itself, and therefore unable either to command respect, or to withstand that rising spirit of inductive argument which was not to be satisfied, merely with traditional authority. With the consent of Archbishop HuttonLord of the Manor and Liberty--whose predecessor, Cardinal Wolsey, had similarly interfered in 1517, a definite arrangement was attempted in 1598 ; and a code of By-laws framed for the general constitution of the body and government of the town. Much of the irregularity being “supposed a long time by ye most p'te of ye wisest and best accompt in and about ye said Towne to have fallen out by reason of ye confusion and ye number of aldermen being never limited wth any certaine number," they were then reduced from twenty-nine to twelve. Twelve more were added not long after ; but the system being still open to objection, the inhabitants, soon after the accession of king James, petitioned the monarch for a more certain and undoubted mode of election.”
This was granted to them, June 26th, 1604, in a Charter of Incorporation, obtained chiefly by the efforts of Mr. Hugh Ripley, a “ merchant and mercer” of the town, who was Wakeman at that time, and was nominated by the Crown, as the first mayor.
In consequence of the plague raging at York in 1604, the Court of the Lord President of the North was adjourned to Ripon, where it was held a short time.
When King James I. was on his progress to Scotland in 1617, he honoured Ripon with a brief visit. He left York on Tuesday, August 15th, and came here that evening ; when, as the official minute in the Corporation Register says, he lodged at “the house of Mr. George Dawson, and at his Highnes comynge to the said towne Mr. Thomas Proctor, Recorder of this corporation, made a speech vnto his Matie, wch done, there was presented unto his Highnes, by Mr. Symon Browne Maior, the Aldermen and Burgesses of the said Corporation, a gilte bowle and a pair of Rippon spurres, wch spurres coste vli and were such a contentment to his Matie as his Highnes did weare the same the day followynge at his dep'ture forth of the said towne.”
The plague again visited Ripon in 1625, so severely, that the country people dreaded approaching the town, and their children were more than once baptised on the common pasture. From the commencement of its fatality on the 2nd of June, 1625, to its termination on the 4th of May, 1626, there died in all ninety-six persons, whose names and places of abode are entered separately in the Parish Register.
In the spring of the year 1632, Charles I. passed through Ripon on his way to Edinburgh, where he was crowned on the 18th of July following.
The untenable position of the town exempted it from sharing, severely, in the horrors of the Grand Rebellion. One of those wars of words that preceded that most dire explosion was, however, for a while, maintained here : for the Scottish lords having refused, in 1640, to treat, at York, with the English Commissioners, Ripon was the place agreed on for their meeting.
The house in which this extraordinary conference was held, together with the table and benches that remained in the apartment used by the Commissioners, are still remembered by several persons. The great interest that attached to the building could not preserve it from destruction. It was pulled down many years ago, and its site now forms part of Mr. Cayley's gardens, near Ailcy Hill.
Another brief incident of this sad drama was enacted here, in March, 1642-3, when Sir Thomas Mauleverer entered the town with a detachment of the parliamentary forces. In the exercise of their usual blasphemy and licentiousness, they riotously and profanely intruded themselves into the Collegiate Church, and showed what kind of liberty they desired, and were worthy to enjoy, by breaking the painted windows, and defacing the memorials of the dead. “But,” says Gent (writing about ninety years after, in his usual quaint style), “they were soon after attacked by a detachment of Royallists from Skipton Castle, then governed by that glorious sufferer for his loyalty, Sir John Mallory, of Studley Royal, assisted by several Rippon champions, whose duty and allegiance were unalterable ; who, coming upon the rebels by surprise, in the Market
place, where they had kept their main guard, made them feel the sharpness of their swords, by a better fate than they deserved." Some were taken prisoners, and sent “to Skipton and other places."
But the energies of many“ glorious sufferers for loyalty not quench that fierce blaze that was so soon to scathe the land. In the very streets where the “Rippon champions” had enjoyed their little triumph, they soon after beheld their unfortunate and misguided king a captive in the hands of his subjects. On his way from Newcastle to Holmby, he came here on the 6th of February, 1646, having then left Richmond; and remained until the 8th, when he was conveyed to Wakefield. He was attended by a strong guard of horse and foot, and it is remarkable that Ripon was the only place of the ten stages where he was allowed to remain two nights.
The ascendancy of the Parliament affected materially the institutions of the town, which were all in antagonism with the popular feeling. The Manorial rights were seized, and sold to Lord Fairfax in 1647. The lands appurtenant to the Royalty were alienated between that year and 1650. The Chapter of the Cathedral was suppressed;
members of the Corporation became so insensible to the welfare of their country and their town, as to advocate the principles of puritanical dissent and licentious insubordination.
When order was restored by the accession of King Charles II., the Corporations were purged of their unworthy members; and a Commission for that purpose sat here, the 23rd of September, 1662. The vacancies were supplied by persons of great respectability, who did all that corporate influence could effect for the advancement of the town. For some time they directed their attention to the renewal of their charter, and the grant of two fairs for cattle and horses, that they deemed would be beneficial to the inhabitants. Nothing, however, was effected until the accession of James II., when, after a consultation with the Archbishop of York, they surrendered their charter, September 2nd, 1684, to the King, who was pleased to restore it, with another from himself, dated 12th January, 1686, confirming all the privileges of the Corporation, and conceding the fairs they desired.
From the close of the seventeenth century, the history of the town becomes devoid of general interest. It had its own little squabbles about the Pretender and the Pope; but, basking in the
sunshine of agricultural prosperity, and restrained by the influence of a wealthy and benevolent family, in one bond of political feeling that taught“Whatever is, is right,” there was generated a disbelief in the possibility of change, that has too often been ruthlessly dispelled, in the great social and commercial struggles which have ensued.
During the last twenty years, the ancient institutions of the town -and, especially, from that exclusive character in which their original efficacy existed—have been despoiled in silent antagonism with those measures by which legislators have attempted to redirect their operation, in a changed condition of society. The special privilege of the burgage holders to elect the members of Parliament was taken away by the Reform Bill. The numerical as well as the administrative power of the Corporation was reduced, by the general statute of 1835. The manorial jurisdiction of the Archbishop of York has been abridged, his Court of Pleas all but absorbed in the County Court, and his once lucrative franchise of fairs and markets infringed even within the parish. The constitution of the Chapter of the Cathedral has been remodelled ; and, lastly, the mercantile competition of other and distant places is encouraged, by the formation of a railway to the city.
The last, however, is the only change which may, ultimately, affect the prosperity or settled condition of the place. Although, of course, it was expected to work-here as elsewhere-such an hopeful effect as no man would limit even in imagination; it may be as probable that, with no peculiar advantage of mineral ealth, nor of position, except an unlimited water power, Ripon will not escape
that dominant commercial influence which has risen on the ruin of local immunities and associations ; but that henceforth it will be exclusively sought and enjoyed by those who would retire from successful contention with the world.