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Abstracts from an article by James Goodall, Past Chairman Burgess Trustees.

The Burgesses of the “loyal and ancient borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme in the County of Stafford” form a very important part of the long history of the town, and its inhabitants should be proud of this history, which begins in the 12th century.
. When the castle was first built, a small settlement came into being around it. Originally the land would have been well wooded but as the settlement grew in size, the wood from the trees was used for house building, furniture and fuel. Thus the cleared land became “common” land which was known as “burgage” land and from this derived the name “burgess”. In 1200 A.D .there were 160 burgage holdings which would suggest that there were 160 Burgesses at that time. The word “burgage” means literally “a strip of land”.
“A Burgess was by definition a person who occupied a burgage plot. He was granted special privileges especially in relation to trading within the town’s boundaries and also in earlier times in relation to the feudal system
Burgesses Today
There are today some 250 Burgesses on the roll.
The right to be a Burgess is by patrimony, i.e. from father to son.
The minimum age for enrolment is twenty-one years.