Posts Tagged ‘sheriff’

William Heron and the Fine Rolls

Friday, April 26th, 2013

William Heron, sheriff of Northumberland from 1246 to 1258, was a wicked sheriff to rival the sheriff of Nottingham of legend – greedy, arbitrary and dishonest. This of course made him great fun to write about, in an article which has just been published in Northern History.

The fine rolls provided several helpful pieces of information, particularly about the way in which Heron’s son, also William, succeeded to his father’s estates, and his debts (CFR 1257-58, 340-2). William senior died in office, owing the Exchequer over £1,100. This is an enormous sum, at a time when an income of £15 a year was enough for a knight. It appears that Heron had either failed to collect sums due to the government, such as amercements from the eyre of 1256, or, more likely, had collected them and failed to deliver them to the Exchequer. There is at least one case where this definitely happened: the earl of Strathearn owed £100 for having custody of his daughters; he paid this to Heron, as Heron’s receiver acknowledged, but the cash was not passed on.

William junior was under age – he was 18 when his father died – but was allowed to succeed to his estates, on paying (or promising to pay) a 100 mark fine. This debt was rolled in with the sheriff’s debts, and William junior undertook to repay the total £1,200 – at the rate of £40 a year. This may seem generous compared to the size of the debt, but it is hard to see how William junior could seriously have expected to find the money from the estates he had inherited, which were valued at just £37 a year. Unsurprisingly, it took many years for him to begin repayments. Thirty years later, in 1288, when he should have finished paying off the debt, he still owed £315, although he did make a further £40 payment that year.

William Heron senior not only exploited the county by imposing arbitrary penalties and inventing new obligations, but also defrauded the government, as much of the money he collected evidently stayed in his own pocket. The fine rolls added useful detail about the way in which his son dealt with the financial burden left to him by his father the wicked sheriff.

The article is available online to subscribers and via Athens or Shibboleth: Northern History, Volume 50, No. 1, March 2013.

Richard Cassidy



Henry III Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 3 April – Saturday 9 April 1261

Monday, April 4th, 2011

In this week in 1261, Henry III remained in the Tower of London, safe from those opposing his resumption of power.  People continued to come to the Tower to obtain writs from the chancery to further their litigation according to the procedures of the common law.  Thirteen such writs were purchased in the week.  This was routine business which did not require the direct involvement of the king.  Henry, however, was involved in an act of measured compassion to a poor man, an act which shows how the poor  could gain access to him. One John Sundy had been accused before the justices in eyre in Oxfordshire of harbouring criminals. He had fled in fear and his chattels had been seized into the king’s hands. Now Henry ‘out of compassion for his poverty and wishing to do him special grace’ ordered the sheriff of Oxfordshire to restore to John his chattels, although he was to pay the king the price at which they had been valued.  The writ to the sheriff, dated [Wednesday] 6 April can be found at no.329 of our translation of the roll for 1260-1261.

More generally the week saw some relaxation in the political tension. Henry had shaken off the conciliar control imposed on him in 1258, but had yet to proclaim his wholesale rejection of the scheme of reform known as the Provisions of Oxford. Instead, earlier in March, he had  drawn up a long list of complaints about the way the council had behaved, and agreed to submit these to some form of arbitration.  In this week (as last), the justiciar imposed on Henry by  the reform regime, Hugh Despencer, was with the king in the Tower and still acknowledged as holding his office. Hugh was very close to Simon de Montfort and on 9 April, Henry allowed him  to authorise a  writ  allowing Montfort to have timber for the manor of Rodley  in Gloucesteshire.  Rodley was a property Montfort had managed to prize from the king in 1259, much to Henry’s anger. This, therefore, was a considerable favour to the man now emerging as the chief opponent of the king’s recovery of power.  We may wonder whether it was genuine act of conciliation, in the hope of some settlement, or whether Henry was just playing for time until he should receive the papal letters quashing the Provisions altogether.

A request for help with an entry on the Jews of Winchester

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The project team wonders if anyone can help with the meaning of an entry in the fine roll for 1251-1252.  Entry number 173 from near the start of membrane 20, with the marginal annotation ‘concerning taking an inquisition’, is an order to the sheriff of Hampshire to inquire by oath of twelve of the more law-worthy Jews of Winchester by their roll, whether a Jew, Cressus of Stamford, had violently seized and taken away from the synagogue  of the Jews in the same city ‘the apple of eve’ to the shame and opprobrium of the Jewish community. If convicted, Cressus was to give one mark of gold to the king for the trespass.  The writ was authorised by the king and ‘witnessed as above’ which indicates it was witnessed by the king at Geddington on 19 January 1252.

What, then, is all this about?   Was ‘the apple of Eve’ some kind of object within the synagogue, perhaps of ritualistic significance, hence the shame involved in its theft.   Any ideas gratefully received.