In the medieval period the fee-farm of a borough was the annual sum due the exchequer in return for the king allowing the ‘farmer’ to administer its sources of revenue, which might include property rents and taxes and local tolls. A ‘farm’ was a pre-determined lump-sum amount assessed for one year and a ‘farmer’ the person charged with its collection. Before the period of self-government, boroughs were farmed by local wealthy townsmen (and, in Southampton, sometimes their wife or widow), county sheriffs, reeves or entrepreneurs; the aim was to be able to make a profit from the revenues beyond the amount due for the farm, and this could result in extortionate measures. Hence the desire of the townsmen to acquire the farm for themselves, which necessitated taking the reins of local administration.

Further reading:
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p29-40. (HS/h)
Medieval Southampton, by Colin Platt, passim. (HS/h)


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