Archive for October, 2011

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 23 October to Saturday 29 October 1261

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As the kingdom hovered between war and peace, Henry spent another week at the Tower of London. On 28 October, a hopeful sign, he issued a letter of safe conduct, as he had the week before, to the barons coming to Kingston on Thames ‘for the reformation of peace on the contentions which have arisen between us and them’. The conduct was to last for a week, and they were to come without alms. 

The chaotic situation is reflected in the relative paucity of people coming to the Tower to purchase the writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the forms of the common law, although it is difficult to put precise numbers on this.  The purchase of such writs is noted on the fine rolls. Occasionally the entry is dated either on the fine rolls, or on the originalia rolls, the copies of the fine rolls sent to the exchequer. But in the great majority of cases the entries, which often are brought together in long runs,  are not dated at all so one has to judge their approximate dates from the dated entries either side.  Between dated entries on 24 October 1261 and 4 November 1261, some fourteen writs were purchased, hardly a high number for considerably more than a week. Only two writs were purchased from the counties in the south east, one being for Berkshire and one for Essex. 

One thing the chancery clerks had to do in this week was  to begin a new set of rolls on which to record their business. This was because 28 October was the start of the new regnal year, Henry III’s fourty-sixth, and all the rolls ran for regnal years. The clerks, therefore, had to begin new fine rolls, charter rolls, patent rolls, close rolls and liberate rolls. This was less onerous than it seems. One just had to remember to stop writing on the  membranes of the current rolls on 27 October and continue the entries on a new membranes, thus beginning what would become the roll for the new year. It would be interesting to know when the membranes were sewn together to make the rolls, as they now exist. Was that done during the course of the year, or at its end?  Early in Henry’s reign it had sometimes been the practice to write splendid headings in capitals at the start of the first membrane of each new year.  For example, the heading for  the fine rolls of Henry III’s second regnal year. But gradually the clerks could not be bothered, and often, although a space was left usually for a heading, no heading was actually written up. One can see this to be the case for the fine roll of 46 Henry III. However, a  heading, or rather a footer, in large letters proclaiming  its year was written at the end of the roll for 45 Henry III.

Evesham Conference and Pictures (8 October 2011)

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

David Carpenter writes. On Saturday 8 October I went to Evesham to give a talk at a one day conference organized by John Hunt and the Simon de Montfort Society.  The conference was fully booked with around 50 attendees. John spoke about the honours of Dudley and Stafford and there were also talks by Tom James on Clarendon palace and Peter Coss on entertainment in the gentry household. Peter drew on an extraordinary volume in the BL, Digby 86, and got the whole audience to join in a medieval parlour game which it contained. This involved everyone read out a prediction, ranging from the  religious to the obscene. For example,

‘God will give you the calling that is appropriate to you, as he pleases, and if you serve him willingly he will keep you from the devil’.

‘You are gay and amorous, you f**k much by night and day, there is no woman to be found who is so ugly that you would not f**k her’.

Although some of the audience was even older than I am, this bawdy humour seem to go down well and the game was great success.

For full discussion of Digby 86, see Peter’s latest book: The Foundations of Gentry Life: The Multons of Frampton and their World (Oxford 2010), chapter 12.

These were hard acts to follow. I did my best talking about the fine rolls and Eleurius, abbot of Pershore, who was a chief minister of Henry III. I argued that the section of the Flores Historiarum between 1261-1265, usually ascribed to Matthew Paris’s continuator at St Albans, was in fact written at Pershore and reflects Eleurius’s views.  An article about this will appear in English Historical Review.For Eleurius’s work raising the rents of royal manors see CFR 1251-1, no.1107 and the image.

I was able to visit the site of Montfort’s death and took these photos of the BattleWell and its surroundings and attach photographs.

The Battle of Evesham

The Site of the Battle of Evesham




Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 16 October to Saturday 25 October 1261

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Henry III spent the whole of this week in the Tower of London. He was preparing for war. On and around 18 October he asked over a hundred of his supporters to join him in London by the end of the month with horses, arms and as many troops as they could raise.  He was also summoning  soldiers from abroad. The count of St Pol, he hoped, would come with 60 knights.  Henry’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, wrote advising a  careful check as to where these foreign forces could safely land, adding that he would soon be with the king to give advice on the subject. If the Cinque Ports gave difficulty, not to worry. He could arrange a  landing elsewhere.  Henry was also taking steps to strengthen his castellans and explain his case. He sent Philip Basset and others into the counties with the message that the king wished to give justice to everyone in the kingdom and preserve everyone’s rights.  The rival sheriffs  were  not to be obeyed. Yet if Henry was preparing for war he hoped for peace.  A party within the opposition hoped so too.  On 20 October Henry gave safe conducts to the barons coming to Kingston between 29 October and 1 November with a view to making peace over the contentions which had arisen. The only condition was that they should come without arms.

The fine rolls reflect the king’s efforts to reward and strengthen his supporters. Thus Henry made  Baldwin de Lisle, earl of Devon, one of those summoned to come with horses and arms, keeper of the manor of Swineston (in Calbourne) in the  Isle of Wight. This was a manor of the bishop of Winchester which was  in the king’s hands as the bishopric was vacant.  Baldwin was to take a 100 marks a year from the revenues to make up the annual pension given him by the king, and answer for the remainder at the exchequer.  If war broke out,   the men of the manor were to  ‘assist the earl in the defence of those parts and in keeping the king’s peace’.

One of Henry’s complaints at this time was that the sheriffs put in place by the opposition were preventing people seeking the king’s justice.  That may well  explain the small numbers we have seen coming to court in the last few weeks to purchase writs to initiate and further legal actions according to the common law.  Of the counties about which Henry was concerned particularly this week,  no writs  were purchased by people from Surrey, Sussex, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire  although one or two  brave souls did come from Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

War or peace? See next week’s blog.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 October to Saturday 15 October 1261

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Henry III began this week at St Paul’s in London, where he was almost certainly staying in the palace of the bishop.  He had around him a large body of supporters including the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, the earls of Hereford and Warwick, the marcher barons, James of Audley and  Reginald fitzPeter, and such leading ministers as Philip Basset, justiciar of England and John Mansel.  The chronicle written by the London alderman, Arnold fitzThedmar, adds that the king’s brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans, was  at St Martin le Grand, while the queen herself was with the king at St Paul’s. Also in London, presumably staying at his palace in the Strand,  was the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, who, thanks to Henry’s munificence,  was lord of both Pevensey in Sussex and Richmond in Yorkshire.  Meanwhile, up river at Westminster the exchequer was bravely at work, receiving revenue  from loyalist sheriffs and beginning the work of hearing their accounts.

The trouble was that in and around London there were also large numbers of insurgent barons and knights, including in all probability, Simon de Montfort.  Meanwhile, out in the counties the king’s sheriffs were being challenged for control by rival officials set up by the opposition.  Henry now faced a difficult decision. Did he dare go to Westminster on 13 October to celebrate the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor? At Westminster, where palace and abbey were  unprotected, he would  be vulnerable to the kind of armed coup which had overthrown him in 1258.  Yet, on the other hand, 13 October was the day in his religious year. He always celebrated it at Westminster besides the sainted body of his predecessor.  The year before, in 1260, his household records show he fed 5016 paupers around the great day and spent some £200 on a stupendous feast,  the very rough equivalent of two million pounds in modern money (at least according to my conversion ratio).  Entertainment for the guests was provided by the  Cinque Ports who were ordered to send  boats with trumpeters to play water music on the Thames. But that was 1260. What would happen if Henry went in the very different circumstances of 1261?

In the event Henry did go. The dating clauses of his letters place him at St Paul’s on 12 October, and on 13 October at Westminster. Henry was probably encouraged  by a relaxation in the tension, for fitzThedmar’s chronicle avers that before the feast of the Confessor the ‘dissension’ between the king and the barons was ‘pacified’. He adds, however, that the ‘peace’ did not last.  The truth of that is very apparent in Henry’s conduct. On 13 October he was at Westminster. But for all the spiritual balm radiating from the Confessor’s body, he did not stay there. The very next day he was back in London, and back not at St Pauls but at the Tower of London.  Evidently the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The bishop’s house at St Paul’s was itself now thought insecure. Only within the walls of the Tower could Henry feel safe.

On the fine rolls between 8 and 18 October only thirteen items of business were enrolled. All were entries, undated as usual, about the purchase of writs to initiate and further common law legal procedures.  Just how many of these writs  were issued in this week, and how many in the next, we cannot know, but whatever the breakdown, the numbers are comparatively small, and almost certainly reflect the uncertain situation.  Historians of the future will have to do a great deal of work to establish just who was purchasing these common law writs and engaging in the subsequent litigation. In this week, one name does stand out, that of Matthew of Kniveton in Derbyshire. He offered half a mark for a writ ad terminum, a writ that is which gave his law case a time to be heard before the king’s justices. The search facility for the fine rolls show that Matthew purchased similar writs in  October 1258 and January and May 1261. Matthew was a remarkable man.  Through a whole series of purchases, he was engaged in building up a landed estate, raising his family  from the free peasantry into the ranks of the knightly class.  The charters which recorded his endeavours were later copied into a family cartulary,  published as The Kniveton Leiger, ed. A. Saltman (London, HMSO, 1977).  In the forthcoming civil war, Matthew was involved with his lord, Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby in  pillaging property in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, although, unlike his lord, he escaped the consequences, and made his peace with the post Evesham regime.  That this canny and ambitious man, in the fraught situation  in October 1261, was prepared to come to court and purchase a writ to prosecute a law case, suggests he was confident that peace would  soon be restored.  For whether that confidence was justified, see the following blogs.

The Exchequer, around Michaelmas 1261

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Richard Cassidy writes…

Frustratingly, it is at this point that we become unable to keep track of how much cash was coming into the Treasury. The receipt roll for Easter term 1261 shows that the Treasury received £6,158 between the beginning of May and the end of July, and only £18 between 30 July and 29 September. But there is then a two-year gap in the surviving sequence of receipt rolls, so that we do not know what resources Henry had available as he re-asserted his authority.

We do know that Michaelmas term 1261 began fairly well. The mayor and citizens of London came to the Exchequer, as was traditional at the beginning of the Exchequer’s year, to present the new sheriffs of London and Middlesex. The annual cycle of auditing the sheriffs’ accounts began on 30 September with the accounts of Somerset and Dorset for 1260-61. It is notable that the county accounts were presented by Philip de Cerne, who had been appointed sheriff by the barons in 1259, and replaced by the royalist Philip Basset in July 1261.

The Adventus of the sheriffs was a partial success. It is striking that all of the sheriffs attended or were represented, even those from the most distant counties. Even in normal times, one or two sheriffs, out of a possible 24, might not appear, and these were far from normal times. The list in the memoranda roll is unusual in giving the names of several of the sheriffs – Alan la Zuche in Northamptonshire, Matthias Bezill in Gloucestershire, Robert Walerand in Kent, for example. These are the sheriffs who had been appointed in July 1261, and the Adventus list may be making the point that these royal appointees are the sheriffs, not any baronial rivals.

But while the Adventus was a success in terms of the number attending, the sheriffs brought less cash than in past years – £791, compared to £918 at Michaelmas 1260, and £1,246 in 1259. The towns and cities which paid their dues directly to the Exchequer (rather than through the sheriff) were also well-represented, and paid £795, which was only slightly below the amounts paid at the same time in the past two years (£815 and £866). Unfortunately, without the receipt roll, there is no way of knowing how much of the total of £1,586 was actually received in the Treasury at this time. We also do not know whether the lower amount recorded at the Adventus was due to the difficulties the new royalist sheriffs might be having in imposing their authority, or to them spending more of the money they were collecting. Henry was about to send orders to several sheriffs, instructing them to lay in provisions in key castles because of the disturbed state of the realm. It may be that they were using cash locally on such preparations, rather than sending it to London.

Thirteenth Century England Conference, 2011

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Scholars of the Thirteenth Century

Dr Michael Ray has kindly supplied us with these images from the Thirteenth Century England Conference, held in Wales in September 2011, which was attended by members of the Henry III Fine Rolls Project and many other scholars (those pictured above are David Carpenter, Tony Moore, Sophie Ambler, Richard Cassidy and William Stewart-Parker; Michael Ray is included in the picture at the bottom of this post).

Aberystwyth Castle

Lampeter College

Dr Michael Ray and friends

Images from Ashridge

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

A pilgrimage to Ashridge (a contribution by Dr Michael Ray)

I spend as much time as I can working on a life of Edmund, earl of Cornwall, so it seemed appropriate to make a pilgrimage to see where he was born and where he died.  Ten days ago I was able to explore Berkhamsted castle where, at Christmas 1249, Edmund was born to Sanchia of Provence, the wife of Richard, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans.  When he was born, he was not expected to succeed his father but the murder of his half-brother, Henry of Almain, by the Montforts at Viterbo, left him as the heir to the earldom.  He became earl in 1272 on Richard’s death.

A man of considerable piety and a generous patron of religious houses, Edmund took the unusual step of introducing the Order of the Bonhommes to England and building a College for them a few miles north of Berkhamsted at Ashridge starting in 1283.  The Bonhommes followed a rule which was similar to that of the Augustinian Canons but they wore a monastic habit.   He endowed his foundation with a portion of the Holy Blood relic which he had acquired from Germany when he was a boy.  Edmund was a friend of Thomas de Cantilupe who became Bishop of Hereford and was to be canonised in 1320.  When Thomas died in Orvieto his body was brought back to England but, whilst his body was buried at Hereford Cathedral, his heart was enshrined at Ashridge. It was to Ashridge that Edward I retired for some time on the death of Eleanor of Castile in 1290 and a parliament was held there.   When Edmund himself died at Ashridge in 1300 his viscera and heart were interred there, although his body joined those of his parents at Hailes Abbey.

On Edmund’s death, his lands passed to Edward I, his cousin and nearest heir.  The royal family maintained an interest in the College with the Black Prince becoming a generous patron. At the Dissolution, the College buildings were retained although the conventual church was demolished.  It was whilst she was at Ashridge, that the future Elizabeth I was arrested on suspicion of treason by her sister, Mary I.  After Elizabeth’s death, her Chancellor, Sir Thomas Egerton, bought the property.  His son, John, became the first Earl of Bridgewater.  In 1803, on the death of the immensely rich but childless, Duke of Bridgewater, one of John’s descendants succeeded as the seventh Earl of Bridgewater.  By 1806 he had swept away the last of the Edmund of Cornwall’s buildings to replace them with the grand building designed by James Wyatt with additions by other members of his architectural dynasty.  In 1796, Wyatt had designed the wonder of the age, the vast Fonthill Abbey, in the gothic style for William Beckford.   The Abbey tower collapsed for the final time in 1825, so Ashridge today gives one a taste of what a marvelous building, Fonthill must have been.  This summer some preliminary archaeological work has been carried out at Ashridge to see if the original church can be located.

I was very lucky to be shown around by Mick Thompson, the Gardens and Archives Manager.  The building has gone through a number of institutional uses since the Earls Brownlow, who inherited it from the Bridgewaters, sold it off in the mid 1920s.  It is now a prestigious Management Centre granting its own degrees.  I saw the chapel, several of the ornate ground floor rooms but it was the grand central staircase which was a real knock out.  It is so vast that it rises above the rest of the building like a keep.  It is adorned with large Malta stone statues sculpted by Sir Richard Westmacott of people associated with the old College; these include Edmund, Richard and Sanchia as well as Thomas de Cantilupe.  Drawings of the statues and the buildings can be seen in H.J.Todd’s, The History of the Bonhommes at Ashridge (1823).  Todd was the Earl’s chaplain.  Mick Thompson produced a copy of the book presented to the College by Anthony Blunt!  The building is well worth a visit and is open to the public in August.  The gardens and parkland were created by Capability Brown, Humphrey Repton and Jeffrey Wyattville, and are  splendid.  An added attraction is the surrounding Ashridge Park now owned by the National Trust.

Images from the Central Staircase at Ashridge:

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 2 October to Saturday 8 October 1261

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Henry III spent all this week at St Paul’s in London where he was almost certainly staying at the bishop’s palace.  The chaos of the time is reflected in the continuing collapse of fine roll business. Only nine writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased in this week. Henry was  anxious about control of the Cinque Ports. On 4 October, he ordered the men of Winchelsea and Sandwich to have nothing to do with a meeting the king’s enemies had tried to arrange. Ostensibly this was to settle a dispute between the men. In fact, as Henry said, it was to seduce them from their allegiance. The men were also told to prevent the king’s enemies bringing foreign soldiers into the country. This was not, of course, to prevent the king doing the same.

This week did, however, bring two pieces of good news for Henry.  First, he had evidently tried to summon his supporters to London, and the result was not disappointing. The witness lists to royal charters show that with Henry at St Paul’s on 4, 5 October were Boniface archbishop of Canterbury,* the bishops of Salisbury and Norwich, Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, Peter of Savoy, the marcher barons, James of Audley and Reginald fitzPeter (see the blog for 8-14 May),  Philip Basset, the justiciar,  and John Mansel. Since one charter was in favour of John de Plessis, earl of Warwick, he was probably there too.

The second piece of good news came  from the exchequer at Westminster. Henry himself had long felt that Westminster was out of bounds. With the palace there unprotected, he  feared an armed coup like that which had overturned him in 1258. But such dangers had not stopped the exchequer courageously attending to its business. Thus the  money to be raised by the fines  continued to be sent to the exchequer on the originalia rolls (the copies of the fine rolls), and we can see the exchequer setting about the business of collecting it in the annotations it made on the rolls, ‘in the roll’ meaning the debt has been put in the pipe roll: ‘s’ meaning it has been put into the ‘summonses’, the list of debts sent to the sheriffs for collection.  It was one thing to order the sheriffs to collect the debts, another for them actually to do so when their authority was being challenged by rival sheriffs set up by the insurgents. The acid test of their success was now at hand for it was at Michaelmas,  at the end of  each September, that the sheriffs were supposed to send in to the exchequer the money they had raised. What now would be the results? Henry must have wondered that more anxiously at Michaelmas 1261 than at any other time in his reign.

In the event, Henry was re-assured, at least in some measure.  He may well   have feared that nothing at all would arrive. In fact, the sheriffs and those answering separately for various towns and manors brought in  around £1580.  On the other hand, there were some black holes,  showing clearly where the king’s authority had disintegrated.  Matthias Bezill, challenged  by William de Tracy in Gloucestershire (see the blog for 24-30 July) sent nothing.  Nothing equally came from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, and most worrying of all perhaps, from Kent. No wonder Henry was concerned about the Cinque  Ports. There was also very little from Essex and Hertforshire. Still the exchequer was undaunted and vigorously set about hearing the sheriff’s accounts.  Later in the year it was to bring the rival sheriffs themselves to book, getting them to answer for their ill gotten gains. The exchequer’s buoyant spirit is reflected in the elaborate ‘A’  penned by the clerk, drawing up the memoranda roll for Michaelmas 1261, in the heading ‘Still  (Adhuc)  communia for the term of St Michaelmas’. (‘Communia’ here essentially means common or general business).

Henry himself was now facing a dilemma for 13 October was coming up. This was the greatest day in his religious year,  the feast day  of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. It was a day he ALWAYS spent at Westminster amidst splendid services and joyous celebrations. Would he go there in 1261? Read next week’s blog to find out.

*An unflattering sketch of Boniface Archbishop of Canterbury appears on the 1261-2 memoranda roll.