Posts Tagged ‘bishop of Bath and Wells’

Sunday 20 January 1264: bishops and barons

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Henry III spent the week in Amiens, awaiting Louis IX’s decision on the cases submitted by the king and his opponents. Back in England, the Exchequer was getting busier, as Hilary term began. On 14 January, the morrow of Hilary, the Exchequer audited the accounts of John Lovel, sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, for the previous year. His accounts appear in the 1263 pipe roll, showing that at this stage of the year the routine of accounting and auditing was still functioning.1

MParis inverted mitreAlso in England, the Chancery produced an odd entry in the fine roll. This entry was dated 20 January, witnessed by the king’s brother Richard of Cornwall, but cancelled before transmission to the Exchequer on the originalia roll. It said that the vacant bishopric of Bath and Wells was to be committed to James Fresel, to administer it and account for its revenues. The Chancery seems to have been a little premature: the bishop of Bath and Wells, William Button (sometimes known as William of Bitton) was still alive. He actually died on 3 April 1264. On 9 April, the vacant bishopric was committed to William of Axmouth, and this time the appointment was duly recorded in the fine roll and the originalia roll. The canons of Wells and monks of Bath formally informed the king of Button’s death on 15 April, and were given licence to elect a successor. The new bishop, Walter Giffard, was elected on 22 May (just after the battle of Lewes), but there was then a delay in receiving confirmation from the archbishop, Boniface of Savoy, who was abroad and not inclined to co-operate with de Montfort’s new regime. As a result, the see remained in the hands of William of Axmouth until 1 September. When Axmouth accounted, in the 1264 pipe roll, he recorded revenues of £245. After some minor expenses, he paid £203 into the king’s wardrobe, and owed a further £35. This amount was still outstanding sixty years later, as was noted in the 1325 pipe roll.2

The vacancy at Bath thus produced a small but useful contribution to government income. Some vacancies lasted longer, and in rich sees could provide the government with a windfall addition to its resources. When Winchester was vacant from June 1238 to September 1244, it contributed £17,600 net receipts. The potential for abuse, by prolonging vacancies and wasting sees’ resources, was, as it happens, the first example of the ‘grievances which oppressed the land of England’ listed by the barons in their submission to Louis IX.3

These grievances began by claiming that the king had been whittling away the inviolable liberties granted in the charters, and giving examples: ecclesiastical vacancies, as we have seen; the abuse of wardships and escheats; the perversion of justice to favour aliens and courtiers; forcing tenants to perform undue and uncustomary services; excessive prises; oppressive sheriffs; grants and fees for courtiers and aliens; the diversion of the crusade into the Sicilian venture, and the waste of money extorted from the church. The barons continued: the king had agreed that a council should reform the realm, and sworn to abide by its decisions. The council had committed castles to faithful Englishmen, and made provisions for reform, which the king and his brother had sworn to observe. The barons and the community of the realm ask Louis to approve these provisions and ensure that they are observed. The barons’ case then goes on to justify the actions of the council, such as the appointments which had been attacked in the king’s case (as we saw last week). It ends by listing the king’s breaches of the truce, including the imposition of sheriffs such as Roger of Leybourne in Kent, and Roger Mortimer’s attacks on the Herefordshire manors of Simon de Montfort.

Next week, both sides would find out what Louis IX thought about their opposing views.

A discovery about 1264

You might think that we already know everything there is to know about such a well-studied year as 1264, and that all the significant documents have already been published. Not so: Ian Stone has found the text of the oath of mutual support, sworn by the commune of London and the rebel barons, just six weeks before the battle of Lewes. He has written an article, to be published in English Historical Review; it has just been made available for advance access online. The abstract is here on the EHR site, with links to the full text for those with online access.

Department of silly names

The close roll records a writ on 14 January concerning a prisoner ‘in prisona regis de Halfnaked’.’ Which is now Halnaker, in Sussex, as one can see from The Historical Gazetteer of England’s Place-names, a valuable resource which has recently appeared online.


  1. The memoranda roll records the way in which the date was set for Lovel to account (E 159/38 m. 7) and the list of debts (E 159/38 m. 11d). The resulting accounts are in the pipe roll, E 372/107 m. 4d.
  2. CFR 1263-64, nos. 65 and 93. An image of the cancelled fine is here. David Gary Shaw, ‘Button, William (d. 1264)’, ODNB‘Bishops’, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: volume 7: Bath and Wells (2001), 1-6. Axmouth’s account: E 372/108, rot. 15; outstanding debt in E 372/170 rot. 29d. [The marginal illustration is of course an inverted mitre and crozier, as used by Matthew Paris to note the death of a bishop.]
  3. Margaret Howell, Regalian Right in Medieval England, 229. The barons’ case is in Documents of the Baronial Movement, documents 37C and 37B (in that order – see Robert C. Stacey, ‘Crusades, crusaders and the baronial gravamina of 1263-64’, in Thirteenth Century England III).


Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 28 May to Saturday 2 June 1257

Friday, June 1st, 2012

On Sunday 28 May Henry III celebrated Pentecost at Westminster. For some time he had been making preparations. On 3 May he had ordered his huntsman to take over fifty deer of various types for the feast.  There were also to be robes for distribution to his household and  164 tunics for poor Jewish converts to Christianity, these  for the alms  of the king, the queen and their children.  In previous years the  number of tunics distributed had been 171, the missing seven  presumably being the quota of Henry’s recently deceased daughter, Katherine. She was, however, very much on Henry’s mind, for on the feast day itself, he paid the expenses of  Master Simon of Wells who was coming  to Westminster to make an image of her in gilt bronze for her tomb.  Henry must have been encouraged by the good turn for the celebrations. On 28 May a royal charter, in favour of the bishop of Bath and Wells, was witnessed by the bishops of Worcester and Salisbury, and the earls of Norfolk, Gloucester, Leicester, Hereford, and Aumale, as well as Philip Basset and Stephen Longespee, and assorted ministers. For once, Henry’s foreign relatives were absent, although William de Valence was back attesting on 1 June.  The king’s roll, recording his daily expenditure on food and drink, which survives for 1260, throws more light on the Pentecost festivities. In that year, Henry fed 464 paupers, expended 200 pounds of wax burning candles in his chapel and almonry, and spent some £145 mostly on food and drink. Translating such sums into modern money is full of pitfalls but it could be viewed as the equivalent of between half a million and a million pounds today.

The fine rolls show business as usual in this week. Indeed it continued on 28 May itself when the rolls record the appointment of a new sheriff for Gloucestershire. This was done by the ordinance of the senior judge, Henry of Bath, and the treasurer of the exchequer, Philip Lovel, which shows how Henry had devolved such appointments. A fine of particular interest shows how carefully the accumulation of gold was monitored, and also gives evidence for the exchange rate between gold and silver.  On 30 May (entry no.703),  Roger of Newcastle offered half a mark of gold   for a certain writ. However, the entry recorded that the gold offered was under weight by one gold penny, ‘that is ten pennies of silver’.  This shows that the exchange rate between gold and silver was then one to ten, so that a penny of gold should weigh ten pennies of silver. Of course, at this time there were no gold pennies (but wait till later in the year!), and the gold had to offered either in foil or in foreign gold currencies. The amounts offered would then be weighed and at the one to ten ratio, the half a mark of gold here offered, that is  80 pence in gold, should have weighed 800 silver pennies. In fact, as we have seen, it weighed ten silver pennies less. Hence the trouble.

One question about the numbers of paupers clothed on such feast days. We have said that in 1257 the numbers of converts clothed was 164. We have also suggested that the number is seven down from the year before because of Katherine’ s death. But how do the numbers work? There is other evidence that the number for the king was 100 and  the queen 50. That leaves 21 (before 1257) for the children. But as there were five children and if the portion per child was seven, that should make the number 185. Is the answer that Henry did not give alms in the same way for his married children (by 1256 Margaret and Edward), and so the twenty-one is just Edmund, Beatrice and Katherine at seven apiece?  Ideas welcome.