Municipal Corporations in Ireland

Report on the Borough of Navan 1834. The Henry Baldwin Report

Source: House of Commons Parliamentary Papers


Navan and District Historical Society acknowledges that this report is copied from ProQuest Information and Learning Company.


1. The Limits of the Borough of Navan are not coextensive with the present town.  Upon the Drogheda side they do not comprise the entire town, while in the direction of Dublin, they extend about half a mile, and on the Trim side nearly two miles beyond it.  The inconvenience of such limits is obvious.  As the town is not materially extending, a boundary, distant less than half a mile from its extremity on every side, would probably comprise all that ought to be within its municipal jurisdiction.


2. This borough appears to have been first incorporated by King Edward IV., by a Charter dated the 2nd May, in the ninth year of his reign. (A.D. 1469.)

It obtained another charter from Henry VII., which bears date the 10th of March, in the ninth year of his reign. (A.D. 1494.)

A third from King James 1., bearing the date the 12th July 1623, in the twenty first year of his reign.

A fourth from King Charles II., bearing date the 15th October 1672, in the thirteenth of his reign.

And a fifth from King James II., bearing date the 29th of March 1688, in the fourth year of his reign.

Charter of James 1.

The Charter of James1 which is enrolled in Chancery, (Rot. Pat. 21 Jac. I. No. 70, m12) inspects and confirms the charters of Edward IV, and of Henry VII., and declares that the corporation shall consist of a portreeve, free burgesses, and a commonality, and that all the inhabitants, and such and so many others as the portreeve and burgesses shall admit, shall be of the commonality; it prescribes the mode of electing officers, and appoints the 13th of September to be the day for electing the portreeve, whom it enables, with the consent of the common council, to appoint one of the burgesses to be his deputy, during absence; it confers upon the portreeve the offices of say-master and coroner within the district, and clerk of the market; it grants to the corporation all manner of tolls and customs of all animals to be bought or sold within the borough, and all tolls and customs of the markets as amply as they enjoyed them by any charter or prescription; and it ordains that no foreigner shall set up any art or manual occupation, unless he shall be admitted a freeman; and that the members of the corporation shall be free of tolls,& throughout Ireland.

The Charter of Charles 11. Also prescribes the mode of election of the different officers, and contains a grant of court. It differs little in its provisions from the charter of James 1.


3. The corporation is entitled, in the charters of James 1 and Charles11., “The Portreeve, Burgesses, and Freemen of the Town or Borough of Navan.”


4. It consists of a portreeve, burgesses, and freemen.


5. The officers are,

One Portreeve, and sometimes a Deputy Portreeve,

Twelve Burgesses,

One Town Clerk,

Two Sergeants at Mace,

One Recorder, and

One Craner.

The offices of recorder and craner are not mentioned in the charter.

Portreeve, how elected:

The Portreeve is elected annually on the 13th of September, in an assembly consisting of the portreeve in office, burgesses, and freemen.  He is sworn in, and commences to act on the 29th of the same month.  The electors who attend are generally the same persons, and are four or five in number.  There has not been at least in modern times, any instance of a contest for the office; in fact the portreeve is always the nominee, either of the family of Lord Tara or of the Earl of Ludlow, who are the joint “patrons of the borough”, and who alternately nominate to the office.  Lord Ludlow’s agent frequently acts for him, and Captain Francis Preston for the head of his (the Tara) family.  The same person is not permitted to fill the office for two successive years.


The portreeve generally appoints a Deputy, and either he or the deputy is required to be resident. Both must also be of the body of the burgesses.

Functions of:

The portreeve, or his deputy, is, by charter, a justice of the peace, and acts as such at petty sessions, and in the performance of the general magisterial duties of the borough.  He also claims under the charters, and seems to be a justice of the peace for the county of Meath.  He acts as such, at petty sessions, although his right to do so is controverted.

The charter of Charles ordains that “the portreeve for the time being shall be a justice and keeper of the peace, and one of the justices of the quorum, within the town and borough, and in, and within the liberty and freedom thereof, and within the whole county aforesaid, (Meath,) that he may do all things appertaining to a keeper and justice of the peace.”

The gentleman who acted as portreeve, during the Inquiry at Navan, further stated that he considered himself, under the charters, to be a justice of the peace for the county of Westmeath, by virtue of his office of portreeve, because the county of Westmeath, was originally part of Meath.  Having being erected into an independent by an Act of Parliament of the 34 Henry VIII. C. 1, this question could not arise upon the charters of James or Charles, they both having been, of course, granted subsequently to the date of the Act of Parliament (1543.)  The question, however, is not practically of any importance, as the portreeve has not, (of late years, at least) by virtue of the office, attempted to act as a justice of the peace for Westmeath.

He presided in the Borough Court as long that court was held.

He is coroner within the district, and clerk of the market.  In the former capacity he never acts, and is exceedingly remiss in the performance of the duties of the latter.

Salary and Emoluments:

He has no salary at present. Since the year 1827, he has had no Emoluments whatever, except those which he derives from the public crane.

When tolls and customs were collected he received the amount, together with some rents payable to the corporation; and out of the fund thus produced, he paid their salaries to the other corporate officers, and retained the residue for himself.

Burgesses, Number of:

The charter Number of Burgesses is 12.  At present there are but nine, of whom only one is resident.  Four of the eight non-residents are stated to live in the neighbourhood, although not within the limits of the borough.

How elected:

Burgesses are elected for life by the portreeve, burgesses, and freemen, out of the body of the freemen. Residence is not necessary, since the act of 21 Geo. II. c.10.

When elected:

Elections occur only at one of the two stated days meeting in the year; namely, the 13th and 29th of September.  The former is generally devoted to the election, and the latter to the swearing of officers.


The last election of a burgess took place on the 13th September 1830.  There were two vacancies on the 13th September 1832, but neither of them was supplied.  Of the present burgesses three are brothers of Lord Tara; and Lord Ludlow and Lord Ludlow and his agent are members of the body.

Functions of:

Burgesses have not any Functions to perform distinct from those which they exercise as members of the corporation at large.

Privileges of:

Their Privileges consist in eligibility to the office of portreeve, a right of voting at corporate assemblies, and an exemption from tolls.

Town Clerk; how elected:

The Town Clerk is elected by the portreeve, burgesses, and freemen, to serve during good behaviour.  By charter he is to have like jurisdiction as the town clerk of Athlone or Athboy.

Duties of:

The only Duties he now performs, are those of taking care of the corporation books and other documents, and attending corporate assemblies.


He had a salary of £16 a year. Since the interruption of the receipt of tolls and customs in 1827, it has not been regularly paid; and from the time of the discontinuance of the Borough Court, of which he was registrar, he has had no other emoluments.

Serjeants at Mace; Duties:

The two Sergeant at Mace are elected, during good behaviour, by the same persons as the town clerk.  At present they perform no duty, save that of occasionally attending on the portreeve.