Sunday, 7 August 2011

the Tolhouse

In the perlustration of Yarmouth we find another clue to Dutch fishermen in Yarmouth.
At the east end of Row No. 106, fronting Middlegate Street, and occupying the space between this Row and Row No. 108, is a very ancient building, which for centuries has been designated the TOLHOUSE , because from a very early period the bailiffs were accustomed to receive their tolls or dues in the great chamber on the first floor. Some portions of the original structure still remain. An external staircase leads to a large early English stone doorway, which has the tooth ornament on the jambs, with good mouldings and shafts. On the landing, fronting this doorway and looking into the street is an unglazed two-light early English window with cinquefoil heads and shafts in the jambs. A large oaken door opens into what was the great hall, extending the whole length of the building. It is now greatly obstructed by the erection of a gallery, extending across it for the accommodation of the grand jury; and a low flat ceiling now takes the place of the former open-timbered roof. On the west side of the hall, a small but elegantly proportioned stone doorway (of the same period as the great doorway), leading from the hall to some inner apartment now demolished, was accidentally discovered in 1847, it having been previously plastered over. It has the tooth ornament in the arch mouldings, but not in the jambs. This building was also called the Host House, because in the great chamber the hosts to whom foreign fishermen intrusted the sale of their herrings, were accustomed, to assemble and pay their "heighning money," being the difference between the "tide price" fixed by the corporation when the fish were first landed and the actual selling price; which difference the corporation claimed as part of the town revenue. Hence the above apartment was also called the Heighning Chamber.
* So late as 1808 there was but one court-yard for all descriptions of prisoners; and in 1818 the grand jury reported that there was then no classification of prisoners. A considerable enlargement soon afterwards took place. f A larceny to the value of 12d. was punished with death; and the only way of saving the criminal from capital punishment was by the jury declaring the value of the goods stolen to be under that amount, or by the offender claiming what was called "Benefit of Clergy." So great was the respect for learning in the middle ages, and so powerful had the clergy become, that if a prisoner declared he was a cleric, the proof being his ability to read, he escaped; the clergy claiming exemption .

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