22 Edward IV chapter 2

1482 – 1483

The text is the English version printed in Statutes of the Realm, vol. II, page 470. Readers who have consulted several old laws will notice the English of this copy is much more modern than most from the period. While older English versions of this act exist, they are thought not to be very faithful rendering of the (controlling) Norman French. The English version given below is an early 19th-century translation from the French. The matter is discussed on page @, volume II of Statutes of the Realm.

The following changes have been made: Subheads and extra paragraph breaks have been added, even in the middle of sentences, because such chunking of the text makes it easier for a modern reader to grasp the meaning.

ITEM, Whereas divers Deceits have been used and done, as well in the Measures of Vessels called Butts, Barrels, and Half Barrels ordained for Salmon, and Barrels, Half Barrels and Firkins ordained for Herrings, Eels, and other barreled Fish, as in the Packing in the same Vessels of every of the said Fishes before named, to the great Damage of the King, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and other of the King's faithful Subjects: For Reformation whereof our said Sovereign Lord the King, by the Advice, Assent, and Authority aforesaid, hath ordained and enacted,

[sale of salmon: cask sizes, packing requirements]

That no Merchant Stranger nor Denizen, after the Feast of Saint Michael next coming, shall sell nor set to Sale any Salmon by Butt, Barrel, Half Barrel, or any other Vessel, before it be seen, except the same Butt do hold and contain Fourscore and Four Gallons, the Barrel Two and forty Gallons, the Half Barrel One and twenty Gallons, well and truly packed ; upon Pain of Forfeiture for every Butt, Barrel, and Half Barrel so failing their said Measure, Six Shillings and Eight-pence: Also that no such Merchant being under the King's Obeisance, after the said Feast of Saint Michael, shall sell or put to sale any manner Salmon by Butt or other Vessel, except it be well and faithfully packed, that is to say, the great Salmon by itself, without mingling with them any Grills or broken-bellied Salmon: And that all small Fish called Grills, shall be packed by themselves only, without any mingling, upon Pain of Forfeiture and Loss of Six Shillings and Eight-pence for every Butt, Barrel, or Half Barrel mingled, packed and set to Sale contrary to this Act,

[sale of herrings]

Also that no Merchants nor other Person set any Herring to sale by Barrel, Half Barrel, or Firkin, except the same Barrel contain Two-and-Thirty Gallons, the Half Barrel and Firkin after the same Rate; and that the same Herring be well, truly, and justly couched and packed, and that it be of One Times taking and salting; and that the same Herring be as good and as well packed in the Midst, and in every Part of the same Barrel and other Vessel, as it shall be in the Ends of the same Barrels, and Vessels, upon Pain to forfeit and lose Three Shillings and four pence for every Barrel, Half Barrel, and Firkin so failing in their said Measure; and also upon Pain of Forfeiture and Loss of Three Shillings and four-pence for every Barrel, Half Barrel and Firkin of Herring, sorted laid or packed contrary to this Act:

[sale of eels]

also that no such Merchant or Palingman sell or set to Sale any Eels by Barrel, Half-Barrel, or Firkin, except the same Barrel contain Two-and-forty Gallons, the Half-Barrel and Firkin after the same Rate; nor that any Merchant, nor Palingman do mingle any Gallebetten, starved or pulled Eels with good Eels, but that the same good Eels be well and justly packed, and sold by themselves; nor that they mingle with the said Eels, or put to sale any red Eels, upon pain of Forfeiture and Loss of Ten Shillings for every Barrel, Half-Barrel and Firkin so failing their Measure; and also upon Pain of Forfeiture and Loss of Ten Shillings for every Barrel, Half-Barrel, and Firkin so mixed, packed and set to Sale, as afore is said, contrary to this Act:

Also that no such Merchant after the said Feast sell or set to Sale any barreled Fish, except the same Fish be well and faithfully packed, that is to say, any countable Fish, commonly called Talefish, by itself, and the same fish called Grills by themselves, without any mixture of the said Fishes with the great Fish, and without Mixture and packing of Chokes, or Fish with broken Bellies with the said Tale Fish, or small Fish; and that neither the Tale Fish, nor small Fish, be laid double in the Packing; and that every Tale Fish contain in Length, from the Bone to the Fin to the Third Joint of the Tail, Six-and-twenty inches at the least, and that the Napes of all such barrelled Fish shall be no longer than the little Bone that resteth upon the great Fin; and the Bone of every such Salt Fish shall be taken away to the Navel of the Fish; and that every such fish be splatted, or opened, down to a Handfull of the Tail, upon Pain of forfeiting and losing of Three Shillings and four-pence for every Barrel of Fish which hereafter shall be found packed, sorted, mixed, naped, laid Double, or not boned, nor splatted, nor open, according to this Act.


Also in eschewing the common Losses and Deceits aforesaid, our said Lord the King hath ordained and enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That all Mayors, Bailiffs, and Governors of Cities, Boroughs, Market Towns, and all other Places of this his Realm, for the Time being, where there be Mayors, Bailiffs, or Governors, shall have Power and Authority to name and choose discreet and expert Person or Persons, daily to search and gauge all such Vessels as above be rehearsed, that they be faithfully packed, and keep their lawful Measure and Assise according to the Ordinances aforesaid ; the one Half of all the said Fines, Forfeitures and Penalties, and every of them, to be to our Lord the King, and the other Half to him or them of his Subjects that shall seise or sue for the same by Action of Debt, by Writ at the Common Law, by Bill or Plaint, according to the Custom of the City or Towne where any such Fines, Forfeitures, and Penalties shall hereafter happen to fall and be; and that the Defendant in any such Action be not admitted to wage nor do his Law, nor that any Protection, or Essoin of the King's Service for any such Defendants be allowed. Provided always, That this Act not be prejudicial to any Person or Persons having Forfeitures of the Goods of Felons, Fugitives, and condemned Persons. Moreover, It is ordained and enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every such Person and Persons shall have and enjoy like Forfeitures of and in every of the Premises within their Franchises, as the King now hath in other Places without.


Grills. The Atlantic Red eel, Myroconger compressus (Günther, 1870)

palingman. A dealer in eels. From the Dutch “palinc,” eels.

Gallebitten. gall-bitten


Tale fish. Fish big enough to be sold by count rather than capacity. Compare talwood (tale wood), pieces of firewood big enough to be sold by count.

“napes shall be no longer”. The nape is the part between the head and the dorsal fin.

“Bone taken away to the navel.” The backbone must be removed as far as the vent, the outlet of the digestive tract.

“wage or do his Law” (Facere legem):

 To make law (wage law) by bringing three others to swear besides himself.


For the nature of the law wager, “For our ancestors considered, that there were many cases where an innocent man, of good credit, might be overborne by a multitude of false witnesses; and therefore established this species of trial, by the oath of the defendant himself, for if he will absolutely swear himself not chargeable, and appears to be a person of reputation, he shall go free and for ever acquitted of the debt, or other cause of action.”

Blackstone’s. Comment., book 3, ch. 22. sect. 6.


Essoin of the King's Service. An excuse for not appearing on the date summoned by a court, made by a defendant on the grounds that he or she was working for the king.


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