Archive for November, 2010

Number Crunching Writs

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


This graph provides a quick demonstration of how entries relating to the purchase of writs become such a major feature of the Fine Rolls during the reign of Henry III. This graph only shows one type of writ – writs ad terminum  – if other types of writ were included, particularly writs of pone and precipe the dominance of writs would be even more apparent. Research into the purchase of writs remains one of the key areas to be investigated.

Wigmore Castle – Further Thoughts

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Just to add something to Paul Dryburgh’s account of our visit to Wigmore castle in September. When I was last there in the 1980s it was totally overgrown and it was difficult to make out anything about the castle.  English Heritage have now, in a sympathetic and sensitive way, cleared the site of the overgrowth of bushes and brambles, and have laid out paths and steps so that one can walk around and appreciate the overall form of the castle. On the other hand, they have not excavated the site so that there must be a great deal of masonry still buried beneath the earth. As in the 1980s, there is still the extraordinary sight of the top of the arch of the gateway poking up out of the ground.  The castle has become an important wildlife and wildflower habitat and English Heritage gives this as a reason for leaving it as it is. Its full excavation would also, of course, be very costly.  I am in two minds as to what would be best.  Quite apart from the wildlife and wildflowers (and I suppose they could go elsewhere), excavation would rob the castle of its mystery and romance. Yet one does wonder what is below all that earth, and wish that Wigmore could be excavated and laid out in the same way as Montgomery.

In the last few weeks, alongside the start of the University term, I have been writing a ‘Fine of the Month’ for November. It is about Archbishop Langton and Magna Carta, and has grown from an expose of Langton’s hypocrisy (if that is not too strong a word) in relation to the Charter, prompted  by never used material in the fine rolls, into a much wider discussion of his role in begetting the Charters of 1215 and 1225. As such, I hope it will not seem too out of place as a ‘Fine of the Month’.  I gave a talk on the subject at the opening session of the European Medieval seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in October, where I also said something about the Fine Rolls Project. Since then the paper has developed considerably and in one of those flashes of insight (or I hope insight)  which make history so exciting, I suddenly realised that Langton had grave doubts about the validity of the 1215 Charter, doubts which he laid to rest in the very different form of the Charter in 1225.  One pleasant feature of the research, although I got soaked walking there from King’s, was that it took me for the first time, I am ashamed to say,  to the Lambeth Palace Library, this to look at the Canterbury Cartulary (MS1212) which has copies of the 1215 Articles of the Barons and the Coronation Charter of Henry I.