Posts Tagged ‘Rochester’

Sunday 25 May 1264: under new management

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

This week, Simon de Montfort transported his captive king through Kent. They began the week in Battle, and made their way to Canterbury. According to the Canterbury/Dover chronicle, they reached Canterbury on 20 May, and spent several days in a great discussion of affairs. The earl and the king, and many prisoners, set off again for London on 25 May, and reached Rochester, by way of Ospringe, near Faversham. While the court was at Ospringe, the writing of the originalia roll resumed, as the bureaucracy of government began to function under new management (although maintaining the fiction of acting in the king’s name). On 25 May, Dover castle and the Cinque Ports were committed to Henry de Montfort, earl Simon’s son; this is also recorded a few days later in the patent roll. The young de Montfort was thus in charge of the strategically crucial crossing from France. In addition, he had custody of lord Edward and Henry of Almain, earl Richard’s son. These royal hostages were held in Dover castle, and, according to a royalist chronicler, treated harshly by Henry de Montfort. (Gervase II, 238; CFR 1263-64, no. 266; Ann Mon IV, 153)

Dover castle in the 17th century, by Wenceslaus Hollar.

Dover castle in the 17th century, by Wenceslaus Hollar.

The royal household was being supported by local officials as it passed through Kent: the Wardrobe received cash from the bailiffs of Canterbury (including 20 marks which they should have delivered as alms for the monks of Pontigny); the bailiff of the manor of Ospringe also provided cash, and had to pay for wine which the household had taken in Canterbury. There was clearly little cash in hand, but the household was planning ahead, and arranging to use the farm of the city of London to pay for wine and bread for Whitsun (which fell on 8 June). (CLR 1260-67, 136; CPR 1258-66, 318)

De Montfort was taking steps to let the counties know of his victory. The bailiffs of Derby were informed that peace had been made, and instructed to prevent disorder. The coroners were to proclaim the peace throughout the county. (CPR 1258-66, 359)

A group of royalist magnates, including earl Warenne, William de Valence, Guy de Lusignan and Hugh Bigod, had fled from Lewes and made their way to Pevensey castle, and thence to France. They joined queen Eleanor, who had been trying to organize military support for Henry, and informed her of the king’s misfortune. They stayed with her for a while, awaiting happier times, as one chronicle put it. Another chronicle, the London annals, claims that the émigrés went to the king of France, and told him that Henry had been captured by the barons while asleep in his bed at Lewes, unarmed and without warning. They urged Louis to help Henry, and Louis was angered by their lies. While Simon and Henry were in Canterbury, Guy de Lusignan’s household were given permission to leave the country and join him. (Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 211; Battle chronicle, in Bémont, 377; Ann Mon IV, 152; London annals, 64; CPR 1258-66, 318)

Sunday 27 April 1264: Henry marches south

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

After celebrating Easter in Nottingham, Henry moved rapidly to counter the threat to Rochester. He had established his dominance of the Midlands, but did not want to lose one of his few strongholds in the south-east. On Monday 21 April, he was in Grantham, where he collected some more cash; the bailiffs of Derby paid into the Wardrobe £17 for the Easter term’s farm of their town. By the end of the week Henry was south of London.
With Henry on the move like this, there was evidently little opportunity for people to pay fines or for the Chancery to update the fine roll. Both the fine roll and the originalia roll peter out at the beginning of this week, with orders to appoint a new sheriff of Lincolnshire and to provision castles, particularly in the Midlands and north, ready for war. There are no more entries in the fine roll until July. (E 368/39 m. 1d; CLR 1260-67, 135; CFR 1263-64, nos. 108-114, 259-64)
Similarly, the patent roll has entries made at Grantham on Monday, then nothing until Saturday, when Henry was in Aylesbury. There are entries in the liberate roll on the same day showing that Henry had reached Kingston on Thames, while in the close roll there are entries made in Croydon. Henry was moving fast, circling around to the west and south of London, rather than confronting the city dominated by his opponents. (CPR 1258-66, 313-5; CLR 1260-67, 135-6; Close Rolls 1261-64, 342)

Trebuchet, from BL Egerton 3028

Trebuchet, from BL Egerton 3028

The approach of Henry’s army was enough to put an end to the siege of Rochester castle. Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Clare had taken the town, but, after a week of siege operations with engines and mines, the keep still held out against them. The news of Henry’s arrival in the south-east, and the potential threat to the capital, caused them to abandon the siege and return to London on Saturday 26 April. According to the London annals, the mayor of the city, fearing the approach of Henry and lord Edward, asked de Montfort to return to London. Some poor Londoners, found in Rochester after the siege, had their hands and feet cut off or were put to the sword. (Flores, II, 490-1; London annals, 62; Ann Mon, IV, 147)
A marginal note in the Osney annals serves as a reminder that, as well as the major operations by the royal and baronial armies, there were continuing obscure episodes of local violence, mostly unrecorded: about 25 April, the barons burned many manors belonging to earl Richard, Philip Basset and others who were with king; and similarly the royalists set fire to the manors of the barons and those who were on their side. (Ann Mon, IV,146)

Sunday 20 April 1264: Easter in Nottingham

Saturday, April 19th, 2014
Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

Henry III spent this week in Nottingham, consolidating his recent military successes and dealing with his enemies. He must have felt that he had inflicted a decisive blow on the rebels, and that he could enjoy his victory. He was joined in Nottingham by his supporters from the north – John Balliol, Robert de Brus, Peter de Brus and many other barons. They would be welcomed with suitable provisions for the Easter feast: the bailiffs of Lincoln, Newark, Grantham and elsewhere were ordered to send to Nottingham 40 fat cattle, 30 cattle, 140 sheep, 20 boars, 40 pigs, 500 hens, 600 chickens, 300 pigeons, 4,000 eggs, and 560 shillings-worth of bread. The end of the Lenten fast would clearly be celebrated in the traditional manner. Henry was also collecting cash, by having some £85 from the farm payments for Lincoln, Nottingham and Derby paid into the Wardrobe this week, rather than being delivered to the Treasury. The Wardrobe travelled with the king, so this would be cash which he could use for his immediate needs, particularly his military expenditure. (The bailiffs who provided food for the feast were not paid cash, of course. They would have to wait; they were told that the king would allow them the cost when their total expenditure was known.) (Flores, II, 488; Close Rolls 1261-64, 341-2; CLR 1260-67, 135)

Henry and Edward now seemed to have struck a decisive blow against the rebels. Within the last few weeks they had taken control of Gloucester, commanding the Severn crossing, and most of the Midlands, one of the two centres of baronial support. The barons still held London and Dover, but Henry had also sent forces to reinforce Rochester, on the road between them. The fine roll records Henry’s revenge on the opponents whom he appeared to have defeated. The king’s newly-appointed sheriffs of the Midlands counties were ordered to seize the lands of the king’s adversaries. Those listed include Simon de Montfort, Hugh Despenser, Henry of Hastings, Ralph Basset of Sapcote, Ralph Basset of Drayton, and so on. The sheriffs were also to take the lands of those who had opposed the king in Northampton, particularly Peter de Montfort and Simon de Montfort junior. The escheator for the north of England received similar orders for the lands of the rebels beyond the Trent. The magnates, bishops and abbots who had failed to obey the king’s summons to send troops were also to be punished by losing their estates (the king had already ordered the confiscation of the baronies of the archbishop of York, the bishops of Winchester, Ely, and Lincoln, and the abbots of Abingdon and Ramsey). Castles across England were to be stocked with supplies. (CFR 1263-64, nos. 101-8, 259-64; Close Rolls 1261-64, 382-3; CPR 1258-66, 313)

Simon de Montfort, as we saw last week, had failed to relieve Northampton and returned to London. Now, rather than directly countering the king’s successes in the Midlands, Simon turned south-east, towards Rochester. Henry had sent Roger of Leybourne and John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, to hold Rochester castle. Simon co-ordinated his attack on the town with Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester. De Clare, a great magnate, aged only 20, had only recently declared his support for the baronial cause. His forces, coming from Clare’s castle of Tonbridge, attacked from the south. De Montfort’s forces, coming from London, crossed the Medway into the town from Strood, to the west. The two baronial forces fought their way into the town on 18 April, and took the outer fortifications of the castle, but were unable to take the keep. (Ann Mon, III, 230-1, and IV, 146-7; Flores, 489-91)

Rochester cathedral and castle

Friday, April 26th, 2013

On a very wet and chilly day in March, a group of KCL PhD students and friends visited Rochester. Beginning at the cathedral:

Rochester cathedral

where we saw the remaining part of a thirteenth century wall painting in the Quire, showing the Wheel of Fortune:

User comments

After lunch, to the castle, with expert commentary from Marc Morris, author of Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain, who explained the architecture and history, particularly the famous siege by king John in 1215:

Marc Morris (right) with a damp but fascinated audience

Marc Morris (right) with a damp but fascinated audience

Thanks to Marc, to Sophie Ambler for the photos, and to Ian Stone, who organized the visit.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 13 November to Saturday 19 November 1261

Monday, November 14th, 2011

For Henry this was yet another week in the Tower of London. Negotiations with his opponents were continuing at Kingston on Thames. On Monday 14 November Henry issued yet another safe conduct, this one to run till Saturday 19 November, for the barons coming to Kingston  ‘to make peace with the king’. But, as before,  Henry was  keeping up his guard. The next day he ordered his castellan of Dover and sheriff of Kent, the doughty Robert Walerand,  to receive the knights and others called into the king’s service from beyond the seas.  The fine rolls this week contain two pieces of evidence which suggest that Henry was holding sway in northern Kent. On 16 November he placed Rochester under the control of John de Grey. John’s brother, Richard, was a leading Montfortian, but John, a former steward of the royal household  remained loyal to the king. Henry was acting, so he said, partly at the request of the citizens themselves, who were so riven by faction that they had asked the king several times to take the vill into his own hands. He was also, he said, motivated by ‘the disturbances which have arisen in the kingdom and the preservation of the security of those parts’.  Henry was equally in contact with the citizens of Faversham. It was in this week that the  barons of Faversham’, as they are called in recognition of their status, agreed to pay the king 10 marks for a royal charter.  The fine can be seen at the top of this image of membrane 18 of the roll. Details of this charter and others relating to Faversham are listed on Faversham’s own website.

The fine rolls also show that, in this week, Henry had a welcome windfall of money, although less than first appears.  The next entry to that for Faversham records how Belia, widow of Petitevin of Bedford, a Jew, had paid 400 marks cash down and promised 335 marks to come, for the chattels, lands and rents of her former husband in Bedford. In fact a later entry shows that she had already given  300 of the 400 marks when the king was at Windsor earlier in the year, and only 100 marks now came at the Tower. Still this was a useful subvention  at a critical time. The fine also shows, of course, that there remained  some very wealthy Jews despite the heavy taxation of the previous decades. Belia was also far from the only Jewish widow to take on her husband’s business.

The fine rolls  continue to reflect the chaotic times. Their material is jumbled in terms of chronology and it is difficult to know how many writs were purchased in this week to initiate and further common law legal actions. Between  12 and 23 November, the number appears to be a fairly modest eighteen.

Are the negotiations at Kingston going to have any result? Read next week’s instalment.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 1 May to Saturday 7 May 1261

Friday, May 6th, 2011

At the end of last week’s blog, we asked what Henry’s decision to leave London and advance on Dover (which he reached on  Monday 2 May) would have on the business recorded in the fine rolls. The answer is the business collapsed. Henry’s long residence at the Tower of London had meant that those wishing to purchase writs and other favours had a central and certain place to go. They were clearly not deterred by the surrounding political tension. The five weeks down to 30 April had seen the purchase of   20, 13, 17, 17 and 12 writs respectively to further the common legal actions. The week between 1-7 May saw the purchase of only four,   these at Dover on 3 and 4 May.   There were  only two other entries on the fine rolls.  In the one, Henry pardoned a one mark penalty  imposed on a Rochester vintner for selling his wares contrary to the weights and measures regulations. In the other, Henry accepted an offer of 100  marks from the convent of Much Wenlock in Shropshire to have custody of their house during the vacancy caused by the death of their prior.

The disappearance  of the usual fine roll business was of little moment, against this week’s triumphal political success. What happened at Dover was recorded on the patent rolls.

‘Memorandum that on 2 May the king came to Dover and on the morrow took into his hand the castle of Dover and the wardenship of the Cinque Ports, which Hugh Bigod held before of the king’s bail by counsel of the nobles of the council, and he committed these during his pleasure to Robert Walerand’.

 The phraseology here was deliberately chosen and deeply significant for it indicated that the authority of the 1258 Provisions of Oxford council was at end. Yes, in giving Dover to Bigod, Henry had acted ‘by counsel of the nobles of the council’, but there was no suggestion that he had done the same in transferring the castle to the trusty Robert Walerand. Walerand was to hold during his pleasure.  Henry was now acting free of restraint of his own free will.

Materially Henry had struck a mighty blow for Dover was ‘the key to England’.  He could now dominate the Cinque ports, control the channel and call in foreign help. Symbolically the blow was equally great. Hugh Bigod, with his appointment at justiciar in 1258, had been at the summit of the reform regime.  If he was now prepared to throw it over, that really seemed the end.  Bigod, moreover, put up no struggle. He supplied the king’s household with the castle’s wine, and immediately joined the circle of the court, witnessing a royal charter while the king was at Dover.

Later in the year Bigod may have regretted his conduct. In August, he refused to surrender Scarborough and Pickering castles to the king, on the grounds that he had received them from the council as well as the king, and was sworn to surrender them only with the council’s consent. Precisely the situation, one would have thought at Dover. At this moment,  however, his conduct was understandable. He had been close to the king before the revolution of 1258, and thereafter, as justiciar, had been careful treat him with respect, much more respect than some other members of the regime. In 1260,  he had obeyed the king, rather than Simon de Montfort, and refused to hold the Candlemas parliament laid down by the Provisions of Oxford.  Montfort had  threatened him with reprisals, and then in October 1260 secured his removal as justiciar, only failing to  remove him from Dover at the same time. Doubtless Bigod was now told by the king that a papal bull was on its way quashing the oath to the 1258 reforms. He believed  the baronial enterprise was at end.  It was only  subsequent events which showed he had miscalculated.

After his triumph at Dover, Henry  moved on to Romney near where, on 6 May, the barons of the Cinque Ports came to do him homage.  But there were signs it would not all  be plain sailing. On 2 May, the day he arrived at Dover, there was resistance to the king’s judges hearing pleas at Hertford, and complaints that they were acting in contravention of the Provisions of Oxford. Two day later, Henry summoned foreign soldiers to England. The struggle had only just begun.

Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 24 April (Easter Day) to Saturday 30 April 1261

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Last week, Henry III at last left the Tower of London and set up court at St Paul’s doubtless in the bishop’s house there. He was able to celebrate Easter Day, 24 April, at St Paul’s rather than in the great fortress. Yet that was still a terrific breach with custom. Since 1239 Henry had always celebrated Easter at Westminster Abbey. The only exceptions were 1243 and 1254 when he was in France.  Between 1230 and 1238, the pattern had been different. The great feast had then been shared between Westminster, Gloucester, Canterbury, Clarendon and (most popular of all)  Reading abbey.  The change, of course, reflected  how Henry’s devotion to Edward the Confessor had come to dominate his life.  He would always celebrate Easter beside his patron saint. How grievous now to be unable to do so.

Even worse, St Paul’s itself  was not entirely secure, as the fine rolls reveal for the first time. The usual itinerary of Henry III has him at St Paul’s for the whole period from 23 to 29 April.  Indeed it was at St Paul’s, on 28 April, as the fine rolls show, that Henry took the homage of the Nicholas de Cantilupe in return for a relief of £5 for the knight’s fee he held from the crown. This was in strict accordance with the level stipulated by Magna Carta.  But the fine rolls also show that Henry was briefly back at the Tower on the twenty-sixth.  It was from there that he issued the order  putting Elyas de Rabayne back in possession of his properties.  Evidently Elyas, the Poitevin castellan of Corfe expelled in 1258,  had acted on Henry’s invitation (see the blog for 10-16 April) and had returned to England.   Elyas may have brought vital information about the situation at Dover for next day Henry ordered money to be sent there for the expenses of his household.  He had taken the momentous decision to dash to Dover and seize the  castle.  This was not a decision he made alone for  his brother, Richard earl of Cornwall and king of Germany,  the Queen and her  uncle, Peter of Savoy, the Norman John de Plessy (earl of Warwick through marriage), and the king’s most faithful and brilliant counsellor, John Mansel,  were all at court around this time.  Leaving Mansel behind in command of the Tower, Henry  left London on 29 April and by the end of the day had reached Rochester.

The exigencies of this week may explain a falling off in the routine business on the fine rolls. Only twelve of the common law writs were sought as opposed to seventeen the week before. It will be interesting to see how far the flow was affected by the move on Dover. For Henry, of course, that was not a consideration. The vital question was what would happen which he got there. Would he manage to get control of the great castle, widely thought of as ‘the key to England’?