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This statement of the law in days of old is a staple of saloon-bar conversation, but is it actually true that it was legal to hang any Welshman found within the walls of Chester after sunset?

Some versions of the story have it as Shrewsbury and Hereford.

  • can you share a link to your source. – Kortuk May 14 '11 at 9:33
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    @Kortuk, Sadly I cannot; as I mentioned in the question, this is common taproom "knowledge" and I was asking here to check on the truth of the matter. – Brian Hooper May 14 '11 at 17:53
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Cheshire West & Chester council said

The story about the Welsh being excluded from Chester after dark originated during the Glyndwr rebellion of 1403. Henry, Prince of Wales (future Henry V) was also Earl of Chester and on 4 Sept 1403 he ordered that all Welsh people and Welsh sympathisers should be expelled from the City; none should enter the city before sunrise or stay after sunset on pain of decapitation (not hanging, but it would have the same effect!). There are records of people standing surety for the good behaviour of Welshmen arrested under the order. The text books don't refer to anyone ever paying the maximum penalty for this 'crime'. Concern over 'the Welsh threat' continued into the 15th century and Chester was seen very much as a border town. There is no record that Henry V's order was ever repealed.

So it was not a freedom granted to anybody, but a wartime instruction to the City authorities soon after the Battle of Shrewsbury, similar to a selective curfew. In any case, within five years the citizens of Chester elected a Welsh mayor, John Ewloe, who did not arrest or execute himself.

  • I've also heard that the law is still in place today, although obviously not enforced. Any word on this? – Mike Speed Jun 6 '11 at 15:00
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    @billynomates: The quote says "There is no record that Henry V's order was ever repealed", but it also makes clear that this was an wartime instruction to the local authorities, not a law. – Henry Jun 6 '11 at 15:07
  • Ha, oh yes, I skimmed over it really. I'm just glad I'm not at risk any more. – Mike Speed Jun 6 '11 at 15:40
  • Any chance the Welsh mayor worked remotely or traveled to his office from outside the town? – John Dvorak Jan 21 '18 at 19:24
  • Unlikely since he had a grand home in Chester near Cuppin Lane and Bridge Street, well within the walls: discover.medievalchester.ac.uk/learn-more/characters/7 – Henry Jan 21 '18 at 20:02

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