Tag Archives: King Stephen

Pilsbury Castle, Derbyshire

Pilsbury castle.JPGThe village of Pilsbury in Derbyshire is what experts call a “shrunken Medieval village,” to the rest of us it’s a hamlet. Pilsbury is the start of a new fascination (sorry).  Obviously Derbyshire has Peveril Castle in Hathersage and there’s Haddon Hall which may indeed rejoice in the name ‘manor’ but which looks decidedly castle-ish but where are the rest of Derbyshire’s castles?  They seem to have gone missing.  Apparently there’s a site for a castle in Bakewell but its hardly on the tourist trail. Some ten miles from Bakewell, to the north of Pilsbury along the Dove Valley lies the village of Crowdecote which may have a motte, or large man-made mound upon which to stand a castle. Unlike so many other counties in England the castles of Derbyshire appear to be transient commodities.  Not even the Earl of Shrewsbury’s castle at Sheffield survived the test of time.  So, I’ve added castle spotting to my list of peculiarities.

Pilsbury Castle, which does at least rejoice in the name ‘castle,’ lies between Crowdecote and Pilsbury.  It is inaccessible by road.  You can’t hear any traffic, just the gurgle of the River Dove as it winds around the spur of land on which the earthworks that were once a de Ferrers motte and bailey castle stand.

pilsbury castle 2.JPGThe name Pilsbury gives a clue as to how old the defensive site may be – “pil“ comes from the Celtic, ‘bury,” from the Saxon and “castle” from the Norman – and they all mean much the same thing. Whatever the name of Pilsbury may tell us the archaeology is determinedly Norman with its one wall built into a natural outcrop of rock that was once a reef and its many green banks and mounds that depict a motte and bailey castle – actually its a two bailey castle as the helpful guidance board provided by the Peak District authorities illustrates.

 

dscf2692There are several theories as to how Pilsbury came to be built in the upper Dove Valley. The first is that it came into being during the so-called ‘harrying of the North’ between 1069-1070. The idea is that the Normans having destroyed people’s homes and livelihoods found themselves in a situation where those Saxons who survived took to the hills and turned to outlawry in order to survive. If this was the case it then follows that the Norman landowners had to build defences to keep the Saxons firmly under control especially somewhere like Pilsbury which stands near a ford and a packhorse route and is in terrain ideal for fugitives. It’s not too hard to imagine the dangers of an attack in this isolated spot.

 

There is a problem with this though, as elsewhere in the country.  Hartington and the Dove Valley were in the hands of the de Ferrers’ family. It is unlikely that William the Conqueror would rampage with fire, sword and salt across lands belonging to powerful favourites as the yield from those lands would fall rather drastically as a result making their acquisition somewhat pointless. The same may be said of landholdings, notably in Yorkshire, belonging to Alan the Red for example.

 

So if that theory doesn’t appeal, how about the Normans turfing hardworking Saxons off their lands in order to create a wilderness where they could hunt. The disposed Saxons may well have taken to the hills and caves in the Dove Valley,  again turning to outlawry just to survive. Alternatively maybe the de Ferrers simply wanted to stamp their authority on their land with one of those new fangled castles just to remind the locals who was in charge or to extract “tax” as pack-horses laden with salt and other goods crossed the ford.

A further theory derives from the years of the so-called “Anarchy” when King Stephen and Empress Matilda were slogging it out to see who would rule England. The Rive Dove marks the boundary between lands belonging to the Earl of Derby and lands belonging to the Earl of Chester. Let’s just say that between 1135 and 1153 the pair were not the best of friends with the Earl of Derby backing Stephen and the Earl of Chester backing Matilda. Under those circumstances with a ford just down the valley a fortification becomes rather a sensible idea. Actually come to think of it, the two earls weren’t terribly friendly at other times in history so the castle may simply have been built as part of a neighbourly dispute.

 

The written record after its construction is somewhat vague too. Pilsbury is mentioned in the Doomsday Book but not the castle. Pilsbury is mentioned again in 1262, again the land not the castle, when the Earl of Derby, Robert de Ferrers, granted land to Henry of Shelford. Four years later the Earl of Derby was up to his neck in rebellion and his land was promptly confiscated.  By the thirteenth century the land on both sides of the river was in the hands of the Duchy of Lancaster so there was no need for a defensive structure. And that as they say, is that – though I think we can safely say that the History Jar will be sporadically peppered with images of grassy knolls and hummocks purporting to be Norman mottes.

 

So far as Pilsbury Castle is concerned, it is possible that the castle was used as a hunting lodge during later times but it ceased to be a centre of administration after Hartington received its market charter in 1203 from King John.

DSCF2700.JPG

 

Hart, C.R., 1981, The North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey to AD1500 (Derbyshire Archaeological Trust)

Millward, R. and Robinson, A., 1975, The Peak District (London: Eyre Methuen) p. 115, 121-2

1 Comment

Filed under Castles, Derbyshire, Norman Conquest

Cromwell, Love and Coggeshall Abbey

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01It’s been a while but I thought I’d have a quick look at Master Cromwell and his cronies.  January 1536 was a busy month for Cromwell aside from the matter of someone being caught poaching on Crown land and various monastic types trying to offer him large annuities.  The Abbot of Coggeshall in Essex took matters a stage further as a tersely worded note explains. Having already been visited by Thomas Legh the abbot now gave orders to lie about the plate within the abbey so that the “King shall not have it,” he let lands below their value, failed to say mass for Henry and Anne Boleyn and if that weren’t enough to get him into huge amounts of trouble practised divination and immorality (hopefully not at the same time.) The note was supported by the witness of Richard Braintree ( a monk aged thirty-one) and John Bocking ( also a monk) – Both men, given their surnames, were local and both had a grievance against William Love the abbot as both went into rather a lot of detail about the divination and prophecy that Love was supposed to have indulged in not to mention the immorality which turned out to be a rumour that was at least ten years old. Inevitably the subject of Love’s loyalty to the Pope arose as did the fact he was in communion with heretics and given to discussing the works of Luther – which would suggest that either the abbot was somewhat conflicted or else the good bretheren weren’t sure which side of the religious fence to dump their superior. The evidence was rounded off with the information that Love only got the job of abbot by paying three hundred marks for the privilege – and that came from the abbey’s own funds.

The fact that at the distance of five hundred-or-so-years even a casual glance at the charges should leave readers shaking their heads in disbelief didn’t stop Cromwell from launching a thorough investigation resulting in the abbot being relieved of his post but it should be noted that despite this he was still in receipt of a pension when the abbey was suppressed – let’s hope he foretold it accurately!

The monks, originally a Savignac foundation by King Stephen, were Cistercian.  The fact that a king was their founder somehow made William Love’s missing of the prayers for the monarch even worse. The abbey finally surrendered in February 1538 and the following month it was handed lock, stock and everything else to Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour.

More immediately, so far as Cromwell was concerned, there was Katherine of Aragon’s will to be dealt with; there were repairs that needed to be carried out in Kimbolton to be approved and there was also the matter of her dresses which by rights belonged to the king but which she’d given away.  Richard Rich who would continue to climb the greasy Tudor administrative pole after Cromwell’s demise was on hand to report to his master about the problems he faced:

The gentlewomen claim divers apparel as given them by the lady Dowager, and the officers divers stuff as their fees. It would not be honorable to take the things given in her lifetime. Kimbolton, Saturday, 22 Jan.

 

The lady Dowager is, of course, the name given to Katherine by Henry based on the assumption that she was only ever properly married to Prince Arthur.

Property and belongings feature rather heavily in January because it was on the 22nd that the Earl of Northumberland wrote to Henry proposing that he would leave all his estates and money to the king in his will meaning that his younger brother would get the title and not much else – thus breaking the power of the earls of Northumberland once and for all.

Rather excitingly for me and for tomorrow’s post there was also the small matter, contained in two very irritable letters from the Earl of Cumberland, pertaining to border matters.  He writes in particular about quelling the Debatable Lands, the Maxwells and English rebels. Time to get the MacDonald Fraser off the bookcase methinks.

‘Henry VIII: January 1536, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 47-64. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp47-64 [accessed 22 January 2017].

“Houses of Cistercian monks: Abbey of Coggeshall.” A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2. Eds. William Page, and J Horace Round. London: Victoria County History, 1907. 125-129. British History Online. Web. 21 January 2017. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol2/pp125-129.

4 Comments

Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

22 December in History

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01

Where would I be without Layton and Legh – today on the 22 December 1535 the dastardly pair  of monastic visitors were beginning their northern visitation at Lichfield (yes – I know its the Midlands but to Thomas Cromwell it was the north).  Layton paused en route at Chicksand in Bedfordshire where the Gilbertine nuns  “refused to admit him as visitor.” (I bet that went down well).  He found two of the nuns were “not barren;  one of them impregnavit supprior domus, another a serving-man.”  How he discovered this if the Gilbertine prioress refused him admittance is open to speculation.  He must have taken himself off to the local tavern and listened to the gossip. Rumour had it that one of the nuns was bricked up alive – its always good to go with the stereotype and offers us our festive ghost story- not that this prevented the prioress receiving a pension when the priory was finally suppressed in 1538.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 340-350. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp340-350 [accessed 6 December 2016].

old pretender.jpgJumping forward two hundred years James III of England also known as the ‘Old Pretender’ landed at Petershead.  The Jacobites had been up in arms since September on account of George I not giving governmental position to nobles who felt that they deserved posts.  However, the jacobites were disorganised and poorly led meaning that by the time James landed it was all over bar the shouting. By February it was all over and James was back in France. The National Library of Scotland has a useful time line which may be accessed here.

king-stephenThere’s one last event for the 22nd which requires slipping back in time to 22 December 1135.  Stephen of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.  Stephen’s uncle Henry I had intended his daughter Matilda to rule but his barons, forced to swear their support for her, felt that a woman was unfit to rule so crowned Stephen in her stead.  It didn’t help that she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou – a chap who the barons weren’t terribly keen to welcome as the king – given that a woman, no matter who she was, would by necessity be required to be subservient to her husband.

1 Comment

Filed under December, Kings of England, On this day..., The Tudors

Medieval Monastic Orders- part I

imagesDuring the later Anglo-Saxon period all monasteries were Benedictine. Benedictine monks follow the rules written by St Benedict in the early sixth century (535-540) for his monastic foundation at Monte Cassino. The rule covers what monks are and aren’t allowed to do as well as regulating their days and nights with regard to Divine worship, study, manual labour and prayer.  However, as the medieval period went on many monks, such as the Benedictine in the manuscript image to the left of this paragraph developed a reputation for behaving in a decidedly unmonastic manner.

By the eleventh century, Cluny Abbey, which followed the rules of St Benedict, as indeed did X889_727_CWBernhardBoxevery monastic order that followed, chose to reinterpret the rules. The order applied itself to the liturgy rather than educational and intellectual work expanded. In England, William Warenne founded the Cluniac abbey at Lewes just after the conquest. William the Conqueror requested more Cluniac monks to come from their mother abbey in Cluny to England but was unsuccssessful in the first instance. Gradually though more Cluniacs did arrive. William Rufus, not known for his piety, encouraged the Cluniacs to come to England as did his brother King Henry I who funded Reading Abbey which interestingly was inhabited initially by Cluniac monks but did not go on to become a Cluniac establishment. The royal family continued to support the Cluniac order. King Stephen founded the Cluniac priory at Faversham which became notable as the burial place for his family. In Yorkshire Pontefract was a Cluniac establishment. Despite this early popularity the Cluniacs did not prosper as an order in England as the centuries progressed not least because all Cluniac houses were daughter houses following the rule and direction of the mother-house in Cluny and thus aliens.  Whilst the Plantagenets held a huge European empire it wasn’t a problem but as English monarchs found the size of their continental domains dwindling they didn’t want monks who looked to Europe for direction and preferred to sponsor home-grown talent.

images-101The Cistericans, pictured left, were founded in 1098 by the monks of Citeaux who believed in austerity and hard work – again a reinterpretation of the rule of St Benedict and reforms designed to counter perceived laxity in other monastic houses. Their habit was made from unbleached wool. These were the so-called ‘White monks.’ They arrived in the south of England in 1128. In 1132 Walter Espec gave the white monks land at Rievaulx – the rest as they say, is history. Fountains Abbey is also a Cistercian foundation. Unlike the standard Benedictine monks they refused gifts and rights of patronage – in short anything that would have made them easily wealthy. Instead they cultivated the wilderness. An emphasis was placed upon labour. The great Yorkshire abbeys acquired land and farms over the next two hundred years extending south into Derbyshire and north into Cumberland. In 1147 Furness Abbey was founded. At that time Furness was in Lancashire rather than Cumbria as it is in present times.

The next influx of monastic types were the Charterhouse monks or Carthusians as they should be more properly named. ThisDP808069 order was developed by the monks of Chartreuse. The first monastic foundations for this order were in Somerset at the turn of the twelfth century. They lived in isolation. Each monk had a cell and a cloistered garden. They did not see one another, even for Divine service as each stall was screened – together but alone. They arrived during the reign of King Henry II as part of the monarch’s penance for the death of Thomas Becket. The Carthusians restricted the numbers of monks in each priory to 13 monks composed of a prior and twelve monks and eighteen lay brothers. There was a vow of silence and they were vegetarians. The order did not really take off until the fourteenth century by which time monasticism was suffering on account of the Black Death: changing economy and social structures. In Yorkshire the Carthusians established Mount Grace Priory in 1398. Today its ruins remain the best preserved Carthusian monastery in England. The seated Carthusian on the right is an early eighteenth century portrayal and can be found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of these orders only the Carthusians do not have nuns as well as monks.

So far, so good.  Part two of Medieval Monastic orders will cover the canons and part three will cover friars.

4 Comments

Filed under Monasteries

Hamelin de Warenne

DSCN6677Hamelin was an illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou born in approximately 1129, so half-brother of Henry II.  He was married by order of the king to Isabella de Warenne, in her own right Countess of Surrey.  She was the only surviving child of the third earl who’d died whilst he was on crusade.  He first husband was the fourth earl.  It just so happened that Isabelle’s husband was King Stephen’s son William of  Blois – a real strategy to bring all that lovely land and loot into the family orbit.  William must have been quite happy with the arrangement because he didn’t bat an eyelid when his father disinherits shim and made Henry Fitzempress, the son of his cousin Matilda, the heir to the throne and in so doing brought the years of anarchy and civil war to a conclusion.  William who was several years younger than Isabel served Henry II until his death in 1159.

Henry II cast his eyes over all of Isabel’s considerable charms (that’ll be all those Yorkshire estates) and decided that they ought to be kept in the family.  Enter Hamelin. After the marriage, in 1164, he was recognized as Earl of Warenne – or the fifth Earl of Surrey. Hamelin, unusually, took the name of his wealthy bride.  Hamelin remained loyal throughout his life to his brother even though ultimately he did not agree with the end that befell Thomas Becket especially as he came to believe in the archbishop’s saintliness. He was supposed to have been cured of an eye problem by the cleric.  He went with his niece Joan to Sicily when she married its king and his nephew, Richard the Lionheart, recognised his uncle’s trustworthiness when he became co-regent with William Longchamp whilst Richard was away on crusade and then found himself having to count the gold in order to ransom his nephew from the clutches of his enemies.

The de Warenne’s held lands across Yorkshire and it was Hamelin who built Conisborough Castle near Doncaster around about 1180.

 

His eldest son, William went on to marry William Marshal’s daughter Matilda who was at that time the widow of Hugh Bigod. One of Hamelin and Isabella’s daughter apparently got a little too close for comfort to her royal cousin Prince John, who had a reputation for liking the ladies, and bore him a child.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Twelfth Century

Mary, Abbess of Romsey

218px-Stepan_BloisThe County History of Hampshire declares that:

 

Mary, daughter of King Stephen, became abbess here (of Romsey) about 1160, and it was her uncle, Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester (1129-71), who was probably the builder of the greater part of Romsey Abbey as it now stands. Abbess Mary in 1160 left her monastery to become the wife of Matthew, son of Theodoric, Earl of Flanders. By him she had two daughters, but was afterwards separated from her husband. According to Matthew Paris this separation was brought about by the censure of the Church, and she returned in penitence to Romsey.

 

The Victorian writer of the County History was being a tad on the coy side in his description of Mary’s departure from Romsey. She was abducted by her distant cousin Matthew who was also a cousin of Henry II. She’d been a nun for over a decade, and had been the abbess since 1155, when her brother, William of Boulogne, died. He’d been married to Isabella de Warenne who ended up married to Henry II’s illegitimate half-brother Hamlyn. Unfortunately Mary’s other brother Eustace was also dead. This meant that the abbess became a very wealthy countess and it’s a well-known fact that being an unmarried countess makes you fair game even, apparently, if you’re living a cloistered life at the time.

 

Pope Alexander III was not amused. Letters were exchanged. Meanwhile Matthew became the Count of Boulogne and two daughters, Ida and Mathilde, were born from the union. Mary was eventually able to return to the monastic life when the Catholic Church annulled her marriage.

 

Once again history does not provide us with the complete truth of proceedings let alone Mary’s view of events and it certainly doesn’t provide us with a picture of the unfortunate abbess for which reason this post has an image of Mary’s father King Stephen. Mary’s mother was Mathilde of Boulogne from when the title that caused all the problems originated.

Leave a comment

Filed under Twelfth Century

Norman crossword

knigh21066 is a date that most people know.  It marks the Norman conquest of England – though it would have to be said that William had his work cut out in the opening years of his reign putting down rebellions in Exeter, the West Country, the Welsh Marches, Kent and ‘the North’ as has been covered elsewhere win this blog.  The Normans gave us castles, cathedrals  and a new influence on the development of English as well as a new set of people in charge although they used much of the administrative system that was already in place – hence words such as ‘wapentake’ and the shire system.

I’ve actually been working on my ‘Rulers’ page and to celebrate the fact that my brief biography of each monarch is nearing conclusion  (note the key word nearing) I’ve started to create some crosswords to add to some posts.  Open the page by clicking  ‘Rulers’ in the menu bar at the top of the page to read more about the Norman kings of England.

 

In the coming weeks I want to find out about King Stephen’s daughter Mary who became an abbess but was then abducted by a distant cousin and bore him two children before she was allowed to return to a nunnery; Hamelin de Warenne who was Henry II’s half-brother ( so a Plantagenet but married to the widow of King Stephen’s son William)   and also Sybilla who married Robert, William the Conqueror’s eldest son.  Apparently she was poisoned by a love rival.  It reads more like a soap opera than a history blog!

Click on the word ‘puzzle’ to open up the grid.  The clues follow on in the body of this post as I haven’t quite worked how to present them all in a pdf format (no doubt I’ll get there eventually).  The answers are at the bottom of this post.

puzzle

Across

3) Surname of Royal Family that came after the Normans, descended from Matilda.
5) William I defeated which king in order to claim the English crown?
7) William created his half-brother earl of which region?
8) William I’s mother.
10) Name of Henry I’s second wife.
11) King Stephen was created Count of _________ by right of his wife.
13) Henry I’s queen was known as Matilda but what was her real name?
14) The title which Henry’s daughter took when she married Henry V of Germany.
20) City where Henry I was initially crowned following the death of his brother.
23) Daughter of King Stephen who was elected an abbess at this important monastic house. She was abducted from here and forced to marry Matthew of I of Flanders ( another descendent of William the Conqueror).
25) King who usurped the throne from his cousin upon the death of Henry I.
26) Wooded area where William II met with an unfortunate ‘accident’. (3, 6)
27) William I whom we call ‘the Conqueror’ was often known during his life time as William the ______________.
28) Matilda’s son Henry was known as Henry _____________ until he came into the titles of his father and then his mother.
30) The name of King Stephen’s heir who died but not before his father had signed a treaty bypassing his claim to the throne.
31) Place where William I was born.
Down

1) Henry I’s legitimate heir drowned when which vessel sank as it crossed The Channel? (3, 5, 4).
2) Treaty of __________passed over Stephen’s heirs in favour of Matilda’s heirs bring the civil war of the period to a conclusion.
4) The name by which Henry I’s daughter was known during her childhood.
6) William I’s wife was known as Matilda of ______________.
9) Henry I’s illegitimate son Robert was an important baron during the civil war that raged between the king and his cousin. He was the earl of __________.
10) Matilda’s second husband was count of this territory.
12) William I’s half-brother who commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry.
15) Nickname given to William II on account of his florid complexion, hair colouring and temper.
16) Yorkshire town where Henry I was born in 1068.
17) Before they became Normans the people who settled in the region that became known as Normandy were known as what?
18) Nickname given to William I’s eldest son.
19) Abbey in Kent favoured for burial by the family of King Stephen. The royal monuments were destroyed during the Reformation.
21) Isabella, the wife and then widow of Stephen’s son William married for a second time. She married Henry II’s illegitimate half-brother who was called what?
22) The name of William I’s eldest son who went on to become Duke of Normandy after his father’s death.
24) The number of Henry I’s children who drowned in the disaster that killed his heir.
29) Stephen’s son William became Earl of this location when he married the daughter of William de Warenne.

puzzle

1 Comment

Filed under Crosswords, Eleventh Century, Kings of England, Norman Conquest