Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ebulo de Montibus, by Michael Ray

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Michael Ray writes:

Ebulo de Montibus or Ebal de Mont of Mont-sur-Rolle, Vaud, Switzerland

The motte/donjon of Mont-le-Grand, Vaud

The motte/donjon of Mont-le-Grand, Vaud

Last weekend I was due to meet a retired professor of medieval history from the University of Lyon who was going to help me locate the collegiate church of St Catherine built by Peter de Aigueblanche, Bishop of Hereford 1240-68, at Aiguebelle in the Maurienne, Savoy.  However he had car trouble and was not able to come.  We carried on to Aiguebelle but, after an extensive search, we found nothing.  On returning to England, I discovered that the foundation was actually at Randens, a nearby village, but there may be no remains.

View from the castle of Mont-le-Grand

View from the castle of Mont-le-Grand

However, the trip to Savoy was not completely wasted.  The day before, with the help of a guest at a wedding at the Chateau de Mont vineyard at Mont-sur-Rolle in the Swiss canton of Vaud, we were able to find the remains of the castle of Mont-le-Grand.  This was the home of Ebal II de Mont who came to England with Peter of Savoy and is known in our records as Ebulo de Montibus.  First mentioned in England in 1246 (CCR 1242-7, 487), his initial mention in the Fine Rolls was in April 1250 when he was respited for scutage for the manor of Ewell (Surrey) (CFR 1249-50, no.268).  As Huw Ridgeway noted, Ebal was chosen in 1251 by the Queen and Peter to be a companion of the twelve-year-old Lord Edward.  He might have acted as his Chamberlain and as Steward.  Later Ebal served Henry III himself as Steward of the Household from 1256 (the date is challenged by Ridgeway who puts it as much later).  His fellow steward was another Savoyard, Imbert Pugeys.  Ebal was Constable of Windsor castle in 1266.  Between 1251 and 1262, he witnessed at least eighty-seven royal charters.  He was dead by 1268 when the Queen was one of his executors.  Like so many of the aliens, Ebal married a widow:  Joan de Bohun, of the senior but non-comital branch of the family, had first wed Stephen de Somery and then Godfrey of Crowcombe, a prominent curialis.

The castle at Rolle, Vaud

The castle at Rolle, Vaud

The castle is on the wooded slopes of the Jura mountains, high above Mont-sur-Rolle along an unsigned and unmarked trackway but the bailey is set out as a picnic spot.  On the motte there are three story-boards and, from it, there is a magnificent view of Lake Geneva as far as the Jet d’Eau fountain at Geneva.  To the south, across the lake, is the line of the Alps.  No stone work survives above ground but there are extensive earth works and the castle must have been a formidable presence dominating the east-west route from Lausanne to Geneva along the north side of the lake.  However, Peter of Savoy built a fine stone castle on the lakeside itself at Rolle, and this still exists and is in plain view of Mont-le-Grand.

Scotland and sterling: Henry III’s solution

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Interchangeable long-cross pennies from England and Scotland

Could an independent Scotland continue to use sterling? This question was asked yesterday by the Governor of the Bank of England. It was also addressed slightly earlier, by Henry III.

In 1247, England adopted a new design for its only coin, the silver penny. This design, with a long cross (allegedly to deter clipping), was followed by Scotland for its pennies a few years later. In July 1251, Henry III wrote to all the sheriffs in England, telling them to proclaim that no Scottish money, or any other money apart from the king’s new money, should henceforth be allowed to circulate. Diversity of money in the kingdom would be damaging for both natives and foreigners, and other coins would not be of the same value as the king’s money. (Close Rolls 1247-51, 549)

In November 1253, Henry wrote to Alexander III of Scotland. He told Alexander that assays had shown that the silver content of the new Scottish money was not as high as in English money. He asked that Scottish money should be reformed without delay to conform with English money, otherwise he would not allow Scottish money to circulate in England. (Close Rolls 1253-54, 2)

This was apparently done, and Scottish long-cross pennies have a silver content closely in line with English coins. English coins continued to circulate in Scotland, and Scottish coins in England. A thorough mix of coinages has been found in coin hoards, which ‘indicates the operation of a Sterling Trading Area.’ (D.M. Metcalf (ed.), Coinage in Medieval Scotland (1100-1600), 76, 90)

Thirteenth Century England XV, Aberystwyth and Lampeter 2-5 September 2013

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Sophie Ambler reports on TCE XV:

Old College, Aberystwyth

The Old College, the appropriate setting for the Aberystwyth part of the conference.

Medievalists from around the world converged on Aberystwyth this week to attend the fifteenth Thirteenth Century England conference, which focused on the theme of ‘Authority and Resistance in the Age of Magna Carta’. TCE XV was held in the university’s imposing neo-gothic sea-side building, in the shadow of the castle begun by Edmund of Lancaster after 1277. The programme was opened by one of the organisers of the original TCE conference (held in Newcastle in 1985), Peter Coss, who explored the background of the knights accused of treason against Henry III in 1225. On Tuesday proceedings moved to Trinity St David in Lampeter, where delegates viewed a sample of manuscripts from the university’s archive,  and heard talks from Ian Forrest, Jennifer Jahner, Judith Collard and John Sabapathy on topics ranging from political poetry to the illustrations of Matthew Paris. Back at Aberystwyth on Wednesday, speakers Rhun Emlyn and Owain Wyn Jones considered thirteenth-century rebellion from a Welsh perspective, while Philippa Hoskin, Fergus Oakes and Richard Cassidy considered various aspects of the reign of Henry III and the period of reform and rebellion 1258-65, and Beth Hartland introduced the Breaking of Britain project  and the People of Northern England database (PoNE). The final day saw papers by Helen Birkett, Sita Steckel and Melissa Jones before a trip to see the medieval seals and manuscripts held by the National Library of Wales. Congratulations and thanks must go to Björn Weiler, Janet Burton and Philip Schofield for organising another super conference. This was the last TCE conference hosted by the team from Aberystwyth and Lampeter, who will be handing over the reins to new organisers in Cambridge for the 2015 conference.

Aberystwyth castle

The genuinely medieval castle, which overlooks the Old College.

‘New Perspectives on the Scottish Wars of Independence’, 23 August

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Sophie Ambler reports on the Breaking of Britain project conference:

Glasgow conference speakers

Left to right: Sarah Tebbit, Sophie Ambler, Fergus Oakes, Richard Cassidy, Dauvit Broun, Keith Stringer, Beth Hartland, John Reuben Davies, Matthew Hammond, David Carpenter

Several members of the Fine Rolls team headed to the beautiful surroundings of Glasgow university on 23 August for the finale of the Breaking of Britain project, the ‘New Perspectives on the Scottish Wars of Independence’ conference. Funded by the AHRC, the project has brought together investigators from the Universities of Glasgow (Dauvit Broun), Lancaster (Keith Stringer) and King’s (David Carpenter), who have headed a project team exploring the thirteenth-century background to the Wars of Independence.  One of the major themes of the day was the burdens and benefits of English government in northern England in the thirteenth century. Using evidence from the Fine Rolls, David Carpenter showed how people in the northern counties of England benefited from the English king’s provision of justice, although they found the amercements and taxes imposed on them from Westminster incredibly burdensome, especially in comparison with the lighter hand of the king of Scots. Richard Cassidy discussed the sheriffs of northern England, who included the notorious William Heron (whom Matthew Paris dubbed ‘the hammer of the poor’), while Beth Hartland introduced the People of Northern England database (PoNE), one of the project’s major outcomes. The conference also addressed the influence of English politics and ideas in Scotland: John Reuben Davies, who has been preparing a stratigraphic edition of the Chronicle of Melrose as part of the Breaking of Britain project, looked at the chronicle’s coverage of England; Fergus Oakes discussed the involvement of Scottish personnel in the English civil war of 1258-65; and Sophie Ambler looked at the possible influence of Montfortian ideas on the actions of the Scottish barons and bishops who took power from King John Balliol in 1295. Sarah Tebbit rounded off the day by considering how the Scots crafted their case against Edward I in the early fourteenth century. The full conference programme can be found here.

To learn more about the historical background to the Wars of Independence, the nature of cross-border society and the Breaking of Britain, listen here to a podcast discussion by the project’s investigators.


Henry III from the BL

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Royal 20.A.II, f.9

This tinted drawing of Henry III with the facade of Westminster Abbey and bells, above a genealogical table, comes from a British Library manuscript, Royal 20 A II. The illustrations from the manuscript have been placed online, and in the public domain, by the BL Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

The bulk of this manuscript, from about 1307-27, consists of the Chronicle of Peter of Langtoft, preceded by tinted drawings of kings of England. The full text is now also available, thanks to the BL’s programme of digitising manuscripts – see  BL Digitised Manuscripts. This now includes such treats for 13th-century historians as another royal manuscript, Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum and Part III of the Chronica Majora.



Knepp Castle, Sussex, by Michael Ray

Friday, August 9th, 2013

A few weeks ago, the grounds of Knepp Castle, Sussex, were open to the public for the first time under the National Gardens Scheme.  The castle is situated in the parish of Shipley famous for the Limoges casket stolen from the church in 1976, the grave of John Ireland, the composer, and Kings Land windmill once the residence of Hilaire Belloc, now better known as the home of TV’s Jonathan Creak.  The house called Knepp castle was built  by John Nash in 1808-9 for the Burrell baronets and it is now the home of Sir Charles Burrell, the tenth baronet.  It is a stucco-covered building in the gothick style with a large circular tower and four smaller ones.


I was looking around the gardens and across a steep ha ha separating them from the park  designed by Humphrey Repton when I became conscious of an eye-catcher in the distance; the remains of the medieval castle of Knepp.


Knepp castle was built by the Braose family who held one of the six rapes of Sussex, that of Bramber with its caput at Bramber castle.  As a castle,  Knepp was not noted before 1210 but King John stayed at Knepp in 1206.   John was friendly with William de Braose but, when John turned against William murdering his wife and child, the Braose lands were forfeited.  Perhaps the castle was originally more of a hunting lodge than a fortress and John returned to it again on several occasions.

Queen Isabella spent eleven days there in 1215.  Money was spent on the moat in 1210 and the building itself in 1214.  During the unrest during and after the negotiations for Magna Carta, Roland Bloet had the custody of the castle.  In May 1215, he was told to destroy the castle and to move to Bramber.  But he did not carry out this order and, in October, he was ordered to surrender it to Giles de Braose, the brother of William who was the Bishop of Hereford.   A year later its destruction was again demanded and William Marshal captured it in 1217.   Once again, it is likely that the castle has remained intact.

The Patent Rolls show that the young Henry III was a visitor to Knepp in 1218.  He was there again in 1234 and 1235 after it had been in the custody of Peter de Rivaux.  Rivaux’s custody came during the ascendancy of his kinsman, Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, who was the head of Henry’s government from 1232 until 1234.  Astonishingly Rivaux was made sheriff of twenty-two counties and he was also granted the lands and marriage of the heir of John de Braose which is how Peter came to hold both Knepp and Bramber.  He lost both castles in June 1234 when des Roches fell out of favour.  For a while they were in the possession of Richard of Cornwall but William de Braose, the son of John, came of age around 1245 and regained possession of Knepp and Bramber.  Knepp castle seems to have been inhabitable until at least the sixteenth century.

The Fine Rolls provide additional evidence of Henry III’s visits. In August 1218, the castle was to be returned to the Braose family in the person of Reginald de Braose.   Henry himself as a ten year-old, was there on 7 September 1218, having been in Winchester, fifty miles away, two days earlier.  Whilst at Knepp, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, as Guardian of England, witnessed six entries.  They related to Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire, Essex, Nottinghamshire and two involved Northamptonshire.  The first concerned the delivery of lands whilst the second was in favour of Michael, a royal servant who gained custody of lands in the King’s hands because of debts owed to King John.  The third was a record of a grant of a writ pone to the Abbess of St Mary de Pré, Northampton for her legal actions against the Vipont family.  The fourth dealt with the lands of another man who was indebted to King John.   The remaining two recorded the  granting custody of more lands at the King’s pleasure.  These lands may have come to the King due to unpaid debts.  After this activity and a day later, the King and the Marshal and their party moved the twelve miles to Bramber.

Today all that can be seen of the old castle is a wall built of 25 metre thick, Horsham stone-covered rubble.  It is 11 metres high and 9.5 metres long and was probably part of the Keep.  The ruins were stabilised by Sir Charles Burrell before 1825.  The Victoria County History states that it is built on a natural mound and that most of the early buildings were probably made out of wood and thus easily destroyable.  The Department of the Environment and later Nairn and Pevsner, believed that it was once a Norman motte and bailey castle with a Norman keep.  The remains of round-headed windows would appear to point to an origin for the keep earlier than the thirteenth century and possibly as early as the eleventh.   A closer view of the castle can be seen at

Michael Ray

July 2013

Conference – New Perspectives on the Scottish Wars of Independence

Friday, June 14th, 2013

A conference, New Perspectives on the Scottish Wars of Independence, is taking place at Glasgow University on 23 August 2013. It features several speakers who have been involved in the Fine Rolls and Breaking of Britain projects. Attendance is free; registration (by 16 August) here.

New perspectives on the Scottish Wars of Independence: Scotland and the governance of England in the thirteenth century

Friday 23 August (Senate Room, Univ. of Glasgow)

9.10 Registration

9.30 Preliminaries

Part I: Government and People in Scotland and Northern England


  • Beth Hartland, ‘The People of Northern England: Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland, 1216–1286’.
  • David Carpenter, ‘The King’s Government in Northern England in the thirteenth century’.
  • Matthew Hammond, ‘North of the Forth in the Ragman Roll’.


  • Richard Cassidy, ‘Sheriffs, kings and rebels in Cumberland and Northumberland’.
  • Keith Stringer, ‘Scottish Royal Lordship in the Thirteenth-Century English Borders’.

Part II: English politics in Scotland


  • John Reuben Davies, ‘England in the Chronicle of Melrose’.
  • Fergus Oakes, ‘Alexander III and the Barons’ Wars’.
  • Sophie Ambler, ‘The Montfortian revolution and Scottish political thought’.

Part III: Law and the construction of Scottish independence


  • Alice Taylor, ‘Robert I’s legal reforms, 1318’
  • Sarah Tebbit, ‘The legal context of the formulation of nationhood in early fourteenth-century Scottish texts’

4.45–5.15: Summing up (Dauvit Broun)


Memories of Abbot Eleurius of Pershore: by Michael Ray

Friday, June 7th, 2013

I became interested in Eleurius, who was Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Pershore from 1251 until 1264, when I was researching John de Plessis.  Plessis, an obscure Norman alien, became a great man through his friendship with Henry III.  At the time of the disastrous Poitou campaign of 1242/3, Thomas, earl of Warwick, died leaving his sister, Margaret, as his heiress.  She was married to John Marshal but, when he died, Margaret’s marriage was awarded to the widowed John de Plessis who became earl of Warwick in her right.  In 1253 when Margaret died childless, John was permitted to retain the lands of the earldom for life.  He should also have been allowed to keep Margaret’s Oilly barony of Hook Norton for life too.  But, following an investigation, the barony had been adjudged Terra Normanorum and the King was free to grant it in hereditary right to John so that, in time, it would pass to his son by his first marriage.  The investigation had been carried out by the escheator, the Abbot of Pershore, and the sheriff and coroners of Oxfordshire, but it is not clear why they came to their conclusion. There were still Oillys in England but perhaps they adjudged that the nearest claimant lived under the power of France.   It is clear that Eleurius was not a man who stayed in his abbey as he was a fellow curialis of Plessis.  They witnessed charters together in September 1251 and August 1252 and the Abbot witnessed a further eight charters before February 1253. It looks as though royal pressure brought the “right result”.

Abbot Eleurius received more attention in 2012 when David Carpenter, in a paper in the English Historical Review (vol. CXXVII, no. 529, 1343-66), showed that Eleurius was originally a monk from Fécamp Abbey in Normandy who had come to England to manage the abbey’s estates but had entered royal service.  From 1238 he was prior of Fécamp’s priory of Cogges in Oxfordshire.   He may have been responsible for the text of the Flores Historiarum and tried to pursue a middle-of-the-road approach during the upheavals of the period of Baronial Reform.

Passing through Pershore last week, I decided to see if there were any memories of Eleurius.  The Abbey was badly damaged by fire in 1223 and needed rebuilding and there was another fire in 1288.  The only abbatial tomb dates from around 1476 but, in the south aisle, there are two large windows of 1870.  Designed by Canon Wickenden and created by Hardman and Co, they contain fifty-two scenes of the history of Pershore and the Abbey.  One shows Eleurius preaching the crusade to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.  The quarter-changed red and gold arms with passant lions are held as a banner borne by an armoured knight and set into the ogival head.  Eleurius, in a black robe, is represented in a standing position with another monk before the enthroned red-robed prince who has a page with a hunting hound at his feet.  ( An image of the window can be seen here.)

The Crusade

David Carpenter writes that the Leland Pershore version of the Flores tells how ‘a monk of Fécamp’ became ‘escheator of the king of England over all of England this side of the river Trent’ and, in 1255, he was then sent ‘through all Wales on the business of the crusade and the tenth conceded to the king’, being ‘received by Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales, and other magnates of the same land everywhere honourably’.  David notes that the praise of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in the Pershore Flores for 1257 echoes Matthew Paris’s sentiments (CM, v. 646–7) and wonders whether it also echoes Eleurius’s views.   In turn, I wonder why Eleurius was chosen to press Llywelyn to become a crusader.  Eleurius was a Welsh name and perhaps he came originally from Wales and had the benefit of being Welsh-speaking.

The Fine Rolls have many entries relating to Eleurius, as Abbot of Pershore, beginning with one in April 1251 enabling Brother Eleurius to have custody of the Abbey, having agreed to pay 132 marks.  His position at court is further confirmed as, in July that year, he authorised the seisin of land in Berkshire and, by  August, he was acting as the King’s escheator in a number of cases.  There are many references to Eleurius in this position throughout the rest of 1251, 1252, 1253, 1254 and 1255.  In September 1255, Eleurius is referred to as ‘sometime King’s escheator’.  In November 1252, for a mere half of a mark, he was granted a royal charter for a market and fair at Pershore.  Then, in 1256, he was pardoned of £19 which he had received of the fines and perquisites of the pleas made before him while he had custody of the king’s manors when he was king’s escheator.  This is the last entry referring to Eleurius.  But even before he became Abbot of Pershore, Eleurius is found in the Fine Rolls.  In January 1248, as Prior of Cogges, he was excused two marks which was due for default before Justice Thirkleby.


Michael Ray

Fine of the Month: The Chenduits in the Fine Rolls

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

The latest Fine of the Month is The Chenduits in the Fine Rolls – A Gentry Family in the Reign of Henry III, by Christopher Tilley. Christopher writes:

The political influence of the group in society that historians often call the local gentry or the ‘knightly class’ grew substantially during the reign of Henry III.  These were people who usually held one or a few manors and who were involved in local administration, and who from the fourteenth century governed their localities as Justices of the Peace and in a range of other local administrative offices, and who served as Members of Parliament, representing their shires in the House of Commons.  Their political and social importance is first visible in the rebellion which led to King John’s issue of Magna Carta in 1215, and in the ensuing civil war, where historians have found evidence of large numbers of such people joining the rebellion against the king. By the middle of the thirteenth century, they were coming to be more formally represented in parliament. The year 1254 was the first time knights representing their localities were summoned to parliament; two were ordered to be chosen from each county to attend. A decade later, representatives of the shires, along with those of the towns, played a central role in the parliaments of Simon de Montfort’s period of rule from 1264 to 1265. Under Edward I and Edward II, the role of ‘the Commons’ became routine as the gentry became a central part of England’s parliamentary polity.

The fine rolls of Henry III’s reign contain valuable information about people in this section of society. In my fine of the month, I have examined two fine roll entries that shed light on one gentry family during the reign of Henry III.  The Chenduits were among the wealthier knightly families, though unlike the great magnates, their landed interests were local rather than national and they would have been much less well-off in terms of income. Their handful of manors in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire had probably been in the same family since just after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when their ancestor, Rannulf, serjeant of Berkhamsted castle in Hertfordshire, had apparently been given lands by his lord, Robert, count of Mortain.  The fine roll entries relating to the Chenduits, when examined in the context of other sources help to illustrate a number of issues facing the gentry in the thirteenth century.

From Memory to Written Record – colloquium at King’s

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Sophie Ambler writes:

Members of the project team attended a colloquium on 14 May celebrating the third edition of Michael Clanchy’s seminal book, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307. Organised by Julia Crick (King’s), the colloquium was held at King’s Maughan Library. The Maughan is the former home of the Public Record Office, where Michael undertook his doctoral work editing the Berkshire eyre of 1248 that inspired From Memory. In this new edition, Michael has rewritten the first chapter ‘Memories and Myths of the Norman Conquest’ to present a ‘maximum view’ of Anglo-Saxon literacy, on which Bruce O’ Brien (Mary Washington University) reflected in his talk ‘From Memory to Written Record in scholarship on Medieval England’. Speakers also included Anna Adamska (Universiteit Utrecht), who spoke on ‘Continental excursions into pragmatic literacy, literate mentalities and beyond’, as well as Hilde de Weerdt (King’s) who gave ‘reflections on From Memory from the perspective of Song dynasty history’, and Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck) who talked about ‘Michael Clanchy and the archive: considerations form early modern Italy’. Stephen Baxter (King’s) also brought news, hot off the press, of an exciting discovery recently made about Exon Domesday, in which a stain has been found that indicates a spear placed across two leaves, apparently in a symbolic act. This relates to Michael’s work on the symbolic use of knives in land transactions in From Memory. Research is underway to date the stain, so no doubt we will hear more in due course.

Clanchy 2

Photo, left to right:
Alice Taylor (King’s), Hilde de Weerdt (King’s), Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck), Stephen Baxter (King’s), Michael Clanchy (IHR), Bruce O’Brien (Mary Washington University), Anna Adamska (Universiteit Utrecht), Julia Crick (King’s).