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Sunday 8 February 2015

New original Magna Carta discovered in Kent

The Sandwich Magna Carta of 1300
As a result of research for the Magna Carta Project, a previously unknown exemplar of the 1300 Magna Carta has been discovered in Sandwich, Kent. The find was made when Nicholas Vincent, our Project’s Principal Investigator, asked Kent County Council’s community history officer, Dr Mark Bateson, to look up a copy of Sandwich’s Charter of the Forest. This led to the discovery of the Magna Carta in the Sandwich archive in Maidstone. It is of great significance, particularly as it survives with its partner Forest Charter of 1300. Only one other extant pair is known, kept at Oriel College, Oxford.

Like the other exemplars of Magna Carta, the Sandwich charter is a large document (over half a metre in length). It has been badly damaged by damp, missing about a third of its text, and its royal seal has also disappeared. It had survived, unbeknownst to its archivists, in a scrapbook compiled by a British Museum official, E. Salisbury, at the end of the 19th century.

The 1300 Magna Carta, issued by Edward I, was apparently the last drawn up by the royal chancery and distributed under the king’s seal. The discovery of the Sandwich Magna Carta brings the number of surviving originals of 1300 to seven. That the newly discovered exemplar was sent to Sandwich, one of the Cinque Ports, suggests that the Charters were sent to as many as fifty towns and ports – a much wider distribution than was previously thought.

Professor Vincent will give his own detailed account of this discovery in next week's TLS, and thereafter on this blog.

Read more from the Magna Carta Project, on the Magna Carta Project website.

Read about the work of Magna Carta Project experts in examining the four surviving 1215 Magna Cartas here.


  1. Great discovery. How about putting a bigger picture up on this page? Or click-through image?

  2. Unfortunately we don't have a bigger image - the copyright lies with Kent CC so it's up to them to provide one or not as they wish.

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  5. Is there not a pair also at lincoln? I believed they had both the magna carter and the forest charter?

  6. The only other Forest/MC pairing for 1300 is at Oriel - there is a pair surviving for 1225 (Durham); BL has a MC & Forest from 1225 but not a pair. Lincoln has a 1215 MC, a 1217 Forest, a 1225 Forest. By pair, we mean a MC & Forest from the same issue.