A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the grantor formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified. It is implicit that the grantor retains superiority (or sovereignty), and that the recipient admits a limited (or inferior) status within the relationship, and it is within that sense that charters were historically granted, and that sense is retained in modern usage of the term.
One of the results of the Norman Conquest in 1066 was the construction of TrematonCastle, completed (in its original form) circa 1070. A weekly market was established outside the castle's gate. Soon afterwards a borough was founded adjoining the market place. The market and the borough did not grow very much, due partly to the troubled times which included the Anarchy during King Stephen's reign, ending in 1154. Another factor was their out-of-the-way location, which was poor for trade (although the protection given by the castle had once been important).
Consequently circa 1175 a new borough was founded by a member of the de Valletort family (lords of TrematonCastle and its barony for nearly 200 years) elsewhere in the Manor of Trematon. The site chosen was Saltash, a place where a major land highway crossed a water highway - an excellent position for trade.
The borough's foundation charter has not survived. However, later the burgesses obtained another charter confirming their original privileges. It was granted by Reginald de Valletort circa 1225 (like many early seigneurial charters, it wasn't dated). That charter has also been lost, but its text is given in full in Saltash's first royal charter (granted by Richard 11 in 1381).
To his "free burgesses of Essa", Reginald de Valletort granted:-
1. All the liberties which they had in the time of his ancestors.
2. The burgesses were to pay 6d a year for a full burgage (or house) and 3d a year for a half burgage.
The usual rents were to be paid for the other land in the borough.
3. They were to have free pasture on the Lord’s land between 29th Sep. and 2nd Feb. After that date they were to pay 1d for a horse or an ox or ten sheep.
4. On the death of a burgess his heir was to pay 30d. for the transfer of the burgage or half burgage.
5. The lord shall take nothing for his use without the consent of the merchants.
6. The burgesses are to pay no taxes to the lord except when he knights his eldest son or marries of his eldest daughter.
7. They are only to be tried in the borough court by their fellow burgesses.
8. They are not to be arrested or imprisoned in the lord’s castle if they find sufficient security.
9. They must all attend the hundred borough courts [for East Wivelshire] three times a year.
10. The lord will not take more than 6d as a fine.
11. The annual fair is to be held in the middle of the town as in the time of the lords ancestors .
12. No burgess was to be prevented from travelling if he leaves sufficient goods behind as security.
13. No vessel contrary to the liberty of the town shall pass the Rock of Essa and the Rock of la Hen in the Lynher to buy or sell any merchandise.
14. They can elect their own reeve, who is to be paid for his service by the toll on bread and to be excused payment of his own rent.
This charter was confirmed by Richard II (1381), Henry IV (1402), Henry V (1413), Henry VI (1429), Edward IV (1465) and Henry VIII (1510). Elizabeth I (1585) granted many new privileges to Saltash, and two further charters were issued by Charles II (1678 & 1683).
In 1774 George III issued a fresh charter incorporating the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of Saltash, and in 1886 a new charter was obtained under the Municipal Corporations Act.