A beautiful borough

Rights and freedoms

The Magna Carta, 'The Great Charter', was sealed at Runnymede Meadows in the north of the borough on 15 June 1215 by King John.

The Magna Carta is recognised as one of the most important documents in English history as it marked the road to individual freedom, parliamentary democracy and to the supremacy of law.

In the spring of 1215, England stood on the brink of Civil War. A group of barons demanded King John agree to a document as protection against the King's arbitrary behaviour. King John met these Barons at Runnymede and agreed to their demands by sealing a document known as Magna Carta, which is Latin for Great Charter.

The Great Charter placed the English monarch firmly under the rule of law for the first time. It superseded the vague Saxon laws of Edward the Confessor and set limits, which the King could not go beyond.

From the date of the meeting, or perhaps from the date the Charter was finally approved by all parties, no English King could act in a tyrannical manner to erode the rights of free men, nor could the King dominate the church.

The Great charter of Freedom concludes with these words:

Given by Our hand in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June in the Seventeenth year of Our Reign

The liberties of towns, ports, and cities were guaranteed and merchants of all nations were allowed free passage.

The Charter contained the important general expressions of freedom which forbade the selling of justice, protected the rights of the City of London, prevented the arbitrary imprisonment of freemen, and protected the rights of heirs.

These great principles were exported to the United States of America and as a result it was the American Bar Association which installed the current Magna Carta Memorial in Runnymede Meadows.

The Council and residents are very proud of this historic heritage, and the Magna Carta, and the great figures in its creation are remembered in memorials across the area.