Samuel and Nathantial Buck’s engraving of Derby shows the town dominated by the tower of All Saints Church which was constructed at the turn of the sixteenth century and in the middle by Exeter House, owned by the Earl and Countess of Exeter. Exeter was not at home when Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived on 4 December 1745.
But who was the Earl of Exeter and why did he have a house in Derby? Brownlow Cecil, Lord Burghley had only recently succeeded his father, similarly named, as the 9th Earl of Exeter. It turns out that Brownlow’s mother, Hannah Chambers, was from Derby. Her father Thomas Chambers who ran his business from London was a merchant in copper and lead – which immediately provides the Derbyshire connection as well as a reason for the marriage of the younger son of an earl with the younger daughter of a ‘gent’. In short they were very wealthy. The 8th Earl’s elder brother died within two years of Hannah’s marriage and she became a countess.
Hannah’s grandfather is buried in All Saints. By then the family extended their home in Derby with the pleasure grounds depicted on the near side of the river to the viewer but it doesn’t seem that the earl and his countess spent much time in their Derby residence.
Having provided accommodation for the Jacobites it was sold in 1758 to the then Mayor of Derby.
Incidentally, the long narrow plots of land are the footprints of the Anglo-Saxon burgage plots – what’s not to love? A burgage consists of a long narrow plot with a house fronting on to the street – usually burgage plots were rented for cash rather than service although the latter was possible. Tenantry of a burgage plot also often accrued voting rights. Obviously Exeter House involved the purchase and amalgamation of two burgage plots because of the width of the house when the area became fashionable.
As with the previous post this is not an exhaustive piece on the Peasant’s Crusade or the People’s Crusade as it is also known – it’s an introduction.
Pope Urban II preached crusade at the Council of Clermont in November 1095. The idea was that the crusaders would set off the following summer. However, before the various military leaders could get themselves organised an army of about 50,000 peasants marched in the direction of Constantinople.
The peasants were led by Peter the Hermit. He had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem but was prevented from entering the city by the Seljuk Turks. It is possible that he was one of the inspirations for Urban II’s sermon but more factually we know that he preached crusade in France and then began gathering his army under the authority of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. His licence to preach included England.
For the people who joined Peter the Hermit there was the religious element of the crusade to consider but also the fact that it enabled peasants to leave the land which many of them were tied to by the feudal structure. However, as the vast majority of them were not wealthy there came the problems of having to take entire families and living off the land.
By spring 1096 Peter was in the Rhineland where preaching crusade led to a massacre of Jews. This killing spread with the crusade. At Mainz the Bishop hid numbers of Jews in his palace but they were still murdered. In part it was religious intolerance – torah scrolls were destroyed. The Jewish population was targeted and murdered. Another element was the opportunity to acquire money and goods.
At Cologne, Peter had to stop to resupply but here, initially at least, the Jewish community was largely saved by their gentile neighbours who hid them in their own homes. Unfortunately the crusaders sought them out when they moved into hiding in nearby villages -and killed them anyway. None of it makes happy reading.
At this time, whilst Peter halted, a party of impatient crusaders led by Walter the Penniless contained on their journey. As this army led journeyed south stealing and living off the land there were confrontations between the crusaders and the local Christian populations.. At Semlin about 4,000 Hungarians were killed and a number of crusaders took refuge in a chapel where they were burned to death. The rest of the crusaders continued on their way setting Belgrade on fire. They were attacked on the way to Sofia resulting in the loss of many of their untrained soldiers. Peter travelling after Walter’s group came to Semlin to find the town wall hung with things taken from Walter’s crusaders.
Peter and his army eventually arrived in Constantinople in July 1096. They were not what the Emperor Alexios wanted not least because he was now expected to care for an untrained army that included impoverished men, women and children – think rabble rather than army. There are questions as to whether Alexios sent Peter and his People’s Crusade off across the Bosphorus without guides in order to get rid of them or whether they continued into Turkish territory despite having been told to wait but that is a matter for debate.
At Dracon, in Turkish held territory Peter and his army were attacked and fought the Battle of Civetot. It was a disaster for the People’s Crusade. Most of them were killed or enslaved.
Duncalf notes that the chroniclers of the period did not write much about the People’s Crusade not least because they did not assist the main or Princes’ Crusade although Peter the Hermit turns up on other occasions in the story of the First Crusade because he joined with the army of Godfrey of Bouillon. There other narrative accounts which are contemporary including that of Anna Komnina the daughter of Emperor Alexios.
I am sorry if there are any really terrible spelling mistakes – this version of WordPress changes spellings to what it thinks they should be, based on the pattern the misspelling makes and I cannot always see where changes have happened even reading the post through before hitting the publish button.
It’s inevitable that many of these locations feature as castles belonging to John of Gaunt: Tutbury, Leicester, Herefored and Hertford to name a few. I’ve also included a few places associated with Mary de Bohun whose household Katherine is listed in during some of the period when she and Gaunt went their separate ways.
Double click on the pointer to open up a box with a snippet of information about each of these locations. If nothing else it is possible to see how widely travelled John of Gaunt was within England. It is possible to see the lines of Roman roads as well as the marches between England and Wales as you look at the locations, a reminder that in the past boundaries determine fortifications and that key transport networks made it possible for the great and the good to administer their estates.