Archive for September, 2010

Number Crunching the Fine Rolls (1242-1248)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Recently I’ve been adding up the sums given to the king as fines in the Fine Rolls for 1242-1248 to provide some statistics to go in the front matter of Volume 4 of CFR, and also on the website. Here’s a preview:
Total £233 6s. 8d.
Largest fine £133 6s. 8d.
Average fine £116 13s. 4d.
Total £678 6s. 8d. and 2 palfreys
Largest fine £667 6s. 8d.
Average fine £56 10s. 7d.
Total £587
Largest fine £100
Average fine £5 1s. 3d.
Total £3925 3s. 8d. and 6 palfreys
Largest fine £667 6s. 8d.
Average fine £16 19s. 10d.
Total £9145 13s. 4d. and 7 palfreys and 2 tuns of wine
Largest fine £667 6s. 8d.
Average fine £43 11s.
Total £12058 13s. 4d. and 6 palfreys and 1 palfrey worth 100s.
Largest fine £3,000
Average fine £59 2s. 3d.
Total £4715 3s. and 6 palfreys and 100 live rabbits
Largest fine £1333 6s. 8d.
Average fine £16 4s.
Total £3009 16s. 8d.
Largest fine £400
Average fine £10 14s. 4d.
Of course, like most statistics, these figures obscure as much as they show. For example, from this data it is hardly obvious that most fines were for considerably less than the average sums given here. Take roll C60/41. Of the 231 entries added together to arrive at the figure of £3925 3s. 8d. and 6 palfreys, 124 (or 54%) were fines for writs with an average value of 15s. 3d., and another 46 entries (20%) were fines for assizes of novel disseisin to be taken, with an average value of £1 1s. 9d. Far less than the overall average of £16 19s. 10d. If other stats on these particular rolls would be of use to readers of the blog, let me know.

A Visit to the Mortimer History Society’s Conference

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

On Saturday 18 September David Carpenter and Paul Dryburgh attended the autumn conference of the Mortimer History Society ( in the suitably medieval setting of Ludlow in Shropshire. David gave a stimulating talk about Roger Mortimer (d. 1282) and his role in the political upheavals of the 1250s and 1260s, in which he brought a good deal of information mined from the Fine Rolls to bear. He highlighted the highly personal causes for political rebellion and reconciliation at that time, arguing that Mortimer’s guiding principle in the baronial conflict with Henry III was his desire to recover the valuable manor of Lechlade (Gloucs) and to safeguard his interests on the March against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. This was followed by a fascinating micro-study of the lost medieval manor and deerpark of Tedstone Wafer (Herefs.) by Dr. Martin Toms, who demonstrated how a tiny border community was catapulted into the national spotlight by the activities of its lord, Roger Mortimer of Chirk (d. 1326).

Following a good lunch in Ludlow, David and Paul, who is Honorary President of the MHS, headed for Wigmore castle, one of the great fortresses on the Middle March and the principal Mortimer stronghold. There they rediscovered this wonderful ruin and mused both on whether more could not be made of it as an attraction for scholars and the general public and on its suitability as the location for an Arthurian tournament held in September 1329 by Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. This was the occasion when Mortimer, lover of Isabella the queen mother, invited the king and court to sample his extravagant hospitality, and can perhaps be seen as part of his policy of self-aggrandisement locally and nationally. Paul’s main contribution to the day, however, was in buying some local cheese, ferrying Professor Carpenter safely to the station and in eating two cream teas!