CHAPTER VII. THE STRIFE WITH THE CHURCH
The towns were stirred with a new activity. London naturally led the way. The very look of the city told of its growing wealth. Till now the poor folk in towns found shelter in hovels of such a kind that Henry II. could order that the houses of heretics should be carried outside the town and burned. But the new wealth of merchant and Jew and trader was seen in the "stone houses," some indeed like "royal palaces," which sprang up on every hand, and offered a new temptation to house-breakers and plunderers of the thickly-peopled alleys. The new cathedral of St. Paul's had just been built. The tower and the palace at Westminster had been repaired by the splendid extravagance of Chancellor Thomas, and the citizens, impatient of the wooden bridge that spanned the river, were on the point of beginning the "London Bridge" of stone. In the next quarter of a century merchants of Kiln had their guild-hall in the city, while merchants of the Empire were settled by the river-side in the hall later known as the Steel Yard. Already charters confirmed to London its own laws and privileges, and only three or four years after Henry's death its limited freedom was exchanged for a really municipal life under a mayor elected by the citizens themselves. Oxford too, at the close of Henry's reign, was busy replacing its old wooden hovels with new "houses of stone"; and could buy from Richard a charter which set its citizens as free from toll or due as those of London, and gave them, instead of the king's bailiff, a mayor of their own election, under whom they could manage their own judicial and political affairs in their own Parliament. Winchester, Northampton, Norwich, Ipswich, Doncaster, Carlisle, Lincoln, Scarborough, York, won their charters at the same time - bought by the wealth which had been stored up in the busy years while Henry reigned. A chance notice of Gloucester shows us its two gaols - the city gaol which the citizens were bound to watch, and the castle prison of the king. The royal officers marked by their exactions the growth of the town's prosperity, and no longer limited themselves to time-honoured privileges of extortion. Bristol could claim its own coroners; it could assert its right to be free of frank-pledge; its burghers were in 1164 taken under the king's special patronage and protection; in 1172 he granted them the right of colonizing Dublin and holding it with all the liberties with which they held Bristol itself, to the wrath of the men of Chester who had long been rivals of the Bristol men, and who hastened to secure a royal writ ordering that they should be as free to trade with Dublin as they had ever been, for all the privileges of Bristol. Its merchants were fast lining the banks of the Severn with quays, and a later attempt to hinder them by law was successfully resisted. The new commercial spirit soon quickened alike the wits of royal officers and burghers. The weavers did not keep to the legal measure for the width of cloth. The woad-sellers no longer heaped up their measures, as of old, above the brim. The constables on their side began to demand outrageous dues on the sale of herrings, and what was more, whereas of old heavy goods, such as wood, hides, iron, woad, were sold outside the fair and escaped dues, now the constable of the castle insisted on tolls for every sale even without the bounds - a pound of pepper, or even more, had to go into his hand. The citizens of Lincoln had analized the Witham, and built up an illustration of the rapid development of the trading towns. As early as the beginning of the century its owner, the Bishop of Norwich, had seen its advantages, lying as it did at the mouth of the Ouse, and forming the only outlet for the trade of seven shires. It was not long before the prudent bishops had made of it the Liverpool of medieval times. The Lynn of older days, later known as "King's Lynn," with its little crowded market shut in between Guildhall and Church, the booths then as now leaning against the church walls, and a tangle of narrow lanes leading to the river-side, was in no way fit for the great demands of an awakened commerce; its life went on as of old, but the sea was driven back by a vast embankment, and the "Bishop's Lynn" rose on the newly-won land along the river-bank, with its great market-place, its church, its jewry, its merchant-houses, and its guild-houses; and soon, in the thick of the busiest quarter, by the wharves, rose the "stone house" of the bishop himself, looking closely out on the "strangers' ships" that made their way along the Ouse laden with provisions and with merchandise.