Skip to main content

Abbatial Vacancies and the Divided Mensa in Medieval England

  • Margaret Howell

It is widely accepted that the separation of property between abbot and monks in the great English Benedictine abbeys may largely be blamed upon William Rufus. The hypothesis is a coherent one. Rufus asserted, ‘brutally and unjustly’, a claim to hold and enjoy the revenues of abbeys of royal patronage when the abbot died. A firm separation of property, with the development of the obedientiary system as its counterpart, has been seen as arising and hardening in response to the pressures of royal custody in vacancies. Separation, it is said, came about ‘on a grand scale’ in the reign of Henry i immediately following the spoliation of vacant abbeys by his brother, until by the mid-twelfth century the system of separated portions was ‘firmly and completely established in all the great houses’. When the properties were divided the abbot would support himself and his household of knights, officials and servants from his portion and those properties alone would fall under the control of royal officers during a vacancy.

Hide All

1 Knowles, D., The Monastic Order in England, 2nd edn, Cambridge 1963, 405, 435–6, 613 and 757. See also Snape, R. H., English Monastic Finances in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge 1926, 27–8; Chew, H. M., The English Ecclesiastical Tenants in Chief and Knight Service, Oxford 1932, 165–6; Wood, S., English Monasteries and their Patrons in the Thirteenth Century, London 1955, 78; Raftis, J. A., The Estates of Ramsey Abbey, Toronto 1957, 36–7 and Lambrick, G., ‘Abingdon Abbey administration’, this Journal, xvii (1966), 168 and 173. For contemporary accounts of spoliation of vacant abbeys by William II, see Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon, ed. Stevenson, J. (Rolls Series (hereafter cited as R.S.), 1858), ii. 42; Eadmer, Historia Novorum, ed. Rule, M. (R.S., 1884), 26; ‘Annales Monasterii de Wintonia’, in Annales Monastici, ed. Luard, H. R. (R.S., 1865), ii. 39 and The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. Chibnall, M., Oxford 1969–78, v. 203.

2 Knowles, Monastic Order, 436 and 612–15.

3 John, E., ‘The division of the mensa in early English monasteries’, this Journal, vi (1955). 143–55.

4 King, E., Peterborough Abbey 1086–1310, Cambridge 1973, 88. Reich, A. M. admits that division ‘was not so absolute a device for protection as it seems’ (The Parliamentary Abbots to 1470, Berkeley 1942, 299) and Snape noted that the convent's right to administer its separate property abbatia vacante ‘was not always observed’ (English Monastic Finances, 28).

5 At Abingdon seven vills each provided ‘certam porcionem temporibus assignatis ad victualia conventus’ (Chatsworth MS 71 E, fo. 165V, printed by G. Lambrick, ‘Abingdon Abbey', appendix, 182–3). Similar allocation of revenues is to be found at Ramsey (Cartularium Monasterii de Rameseia, ed. Hart, W. H. and Lyons, P. A. (R.S., 1893), iii. 163); Peterborough (‘Liber Niger Mon. S. Petri de Burgo’ in Chronicon Petroburgense, ed. Stapleton, T. (Camden Soc, xlvii, 1849), 157–68); Albans, St (Gesta Abbatum Mon. S. Albani, ed. Riley, H. T. (R.S., 1867), i. 74); Westminster (Westminster Abbey Muniments, 5670, printed by Robinson, J. Armitage in Gilbert Crispin Abbot of Westminster, Cambridge 1911, 41); Edmunds, Bury St (The Kalendar of Abbot Samson of Bury St. Edmunds, ed. Davis, R. H. C. (Camden Soc. 3rd ser., lxxxiv, 1954), intro., 1).

6 Galbraith, V. H., ‘An episcopal land grant of 1085’, E.H.R., xliv (1929), 363–6. See also Gesta Abbatum Mon. S. Albani, i. 64 for the concession of Westwick for one life only, after which it was to return to the mensa monachorum.

7 Raftis, Ramsey Abbey, 35. A hide of land at Abbotsbury, described as being ad victum monachorum T.R.E., had been seized ‘injuste' by one Hugo and was retained by his wife in 1086 (Domesday Book: (hereafter cited as D.B.), i. 78) and the Peterborough manor of Pytchley, held by Azoin 1086, had earlier been defirma monachorum (D.B., i. 222).Galbraith, however, is more cautious than Raftis about ascribing a technical meaning to these phrases (loc. cit., 365).

8 Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066–1154, ed. Davis, H. W. C. and others, Oxford 1913–69, i. 128, no. 34 and Henry 1's grant of Maisemore to St Peter of Gloucester and Abbot Serlo ad victum monachorum (ibid., ii. 39, no. 678). There are many similar writs.

9 Lambrick, loc. cit., 164–5.

10 Knowles, Monastic Order, 433 and 625.

11 For pre-Conquest division of lands at Canterbury see Kissan, B. W., ‘Lanfranc's alleged division of lands between archbishop and community’, E.H.R., liv (1939), 285–93. For Winchester: D.B., i. 41 and for Worcester: Registrum Prioratus Bealae Mariae Wigorniensis, ed. Hale, W. H. (Camden Society, xci, 1865), 256. Eric John summarises the evidence for earlier separation in these two sees (loc. cit., 147 and 152). For Durham: Symeon of Durham, ‘Historia Dunelmensis Ecclesiae', in Opera Omnia, ed. Arnold, T. (R.S., 1882), i. 123–4. There was a similar division in the secular cathedrals.

12 John, loc. cit., 151.

13 For Aelfhelm's will see Anglo Saxon Wills, ed. Whitelock, D., Cambridge 1930, 33.

14 D.B., ii. 216; also West, J. R., The Register of the Abbey of St. Benet of Holme (Norfolk Record Society, 1932), ii. 208.

15 The apparent exception of Sherborne (D.B., i. 77) is accounted for by its connection with the bishop of Salisbury, who was still tenant in chief for the Sherborne Abbey lands.

16 Register, ii. 28 and see below, pp. 185–6.

17 D.B., ii. 372 and The Chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond, ed. Butler, H. E., London 1949, Intro, pp. xxv–xxvi. M. D. Lobel deduces from the Domesday evidence a degree of separate control by the convent over the town in 1065 (The Borough of Bury St. Edmunds, Oxford 1935, 31). A similar inference of early separation is implied by Abbot Baldwin's grant (1087–98): ‘do et concedo fratribus meis subiectis manerium quod vocatur Hyldrecle et aliud manerium nomine Neutune monasterio vicinum' (Feudal Documents from the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, ed. Douglas, D. C., London 1932, 108, no. 105).

18 That this was not the invariable line of development, however, is clear from the Abingdon evidence (Lambrick, ‘Abingdon Abbey', 165). At Bury the manor of Hinderclay was still contributing to the monks' clothing in 1281 (Dugdale, W., Monaslicon Anglicanum, new edn, London 1817–30, iii. 157), but Nowton had by this time become a cellarer's manor (ibid., 156).

19 Raftis, Ramsey Abbey, 28 for Ramsey. For William I's writ empowering the abbot of Ely to resume lands de dominico victu which had been misappropriated, see Regesta, i. 72, no. 276. See also King, Peterborough Abbey, 19 and Finberg, H. P. R., Tavistock Abbey, 2nd edn, Newton Abbot 1969, 8 and 15.

20 Peterborough Abbey, 88.

21 Douglas, Feudal Documents, 69, no. 35. Prof. Davis discusses the excepted ‘regalian' rights in his introduction to The Kalendar of Abbot Samson, p. xiv.

22 Jocelin of Brakelond, 8.

23 Ibid., 73 and 81, and The Chronicle of the Election of Hugh Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds, ed. Thomson, R. M., Oxford 1974, 5.

24 Pipe Roll 27 Henry II (1181), 93.

25 For the gradual development at Westminster, see Calendar of Charter Rolls, i. 401 (7 Aug. 1252) and for Peterborough, see King, Peterborough Abbey, 89–93.

26 Knowles regards it as being the sequel (Monastic Order, 436).

27 Cart. Mon. de Rames., iii. 163.

28 Pipe Roll 9 John (1207), 110–11.The keeper accounts ‘de firma maneriorum que sunt ad firmam preter portionem illam quam monachi habent ad victum suum'. Compare the list of abbot's manors (1202–7) in Cart. Mon. de Rames., iii. 328.

29 Ibid., 170 and P.R. 9 John (1207), 111: ‘in pitanciis monacorum pro vinis et carnibus alleciis quas pitancias consueverunt percipere de camera abbatis annuatim'; similarly, P.R. 10 John (1208), 189.

30 The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury, ed. Watkin, A. (Somerset Record Society, 1947–56), iii. 717–19, where these arrangements are specified in order to be superseded.

31 Ibid., 702–3 and Liber Hcnrici de Soliaco Abbatis, ed. Jackson, J. E., London 1882, 9.

32 Public Record Office, Exchequer, Pipe Roll (E372) 120 m. 23 (5 Apr-21 Sept. 1274) and Calendar of Close Rolls, 1272–9, 270 (12 Feb. 1276).

33 Chron. Mon. Abingdon, ii. 297–9.

34 Chatsworth MS 71 E, fo. 165 in Lambrick, ‘Abingdon Abbey', 182–3. In 1185 the monks claimed that it was St Ethelwold who had set aside vills (Wikae) for the provision of cheese and milk for the monks (Chron. Mon. Abingdon, ii. 243).

35 Ibid., ii. 298. In the vacancy of 1117–21, when the prior Warengarius had been in charge, £300 a year was paid into the royal treasury, but the monks had enjoyed ‘abundantiam victus et vestitus' (ibid., ii. 159).

36 Other examples of great houses where substantial payments continued to be made to the monks from the abbot's portion abbatia vacante even as late as the thirteenth century include Gloucester (Pipe Roll 87 m. 3d (20 july–4 Oct. 1243) where £62 18s. 7d. was paid to the convent out of the keeper's gross receipts of £94 4s. 4d.), St Mary's York (Pipe Roll 88 m. 12d (3 Sept.–28 Oct. 1244) where £38 9s. 4d. was paid ‘in sustentacionem monachorum' from gross receipts of £88 8s. 8½d.) and St Albans until 1258 (Gesta Abbatum Mon. S. Albani, i. 370–3).

37 Eadmer, Historia Novorum, 26.

38 P.R. 12 John (1210), 214 and P.R. 14 John (1212), 6.

39 Chronicon Abbatiae Rameseiensis, ed. Macray, W. D. (R.S., 1886), 342.

40 Knowles, Monastic Order, 406.

41 Regesta, i. 29–30, no. 113 and Reich, Parliamentary Abbots, 299. For a definitive statement on the forgery see Searle, E., Lordship and Community, Battle Abbey and its Banlieu 1066–1538, Toronto 1974, 102–4. The monks did gain custody of their house and its entire possessions abbatia vacante by a charter from King John in 1211, for which a payment of 1,500 marks is recorded (P.R. 13 John (1211), 63 and Intro., p. xxvii).

42 The Chronicle of Battle Abbey, ed. Searle, E., Oxford 1980, 268. Despite the editor's note i, it seems clear from the Pipe Roll accounts that the keepers, Peter de Crioil and Hugh de Beche, were responsible to the crown for the issues (P.R. 17 Henry II (1171), 130, P.R. 18 Henry II (1172), 133, PR. 19 Henry II (1173), 29, P.R. 20 Henry II (1174), 120, P.R. 21 Henry II (1175), 84, P.R. 22 Henry II (1176), 203).

43 See Regesta, iii. 249–50, no. 675 for confirmation of liberties first granted in the foundation charter of 1125 (Dugdale, Monaslicon, iv. 40–1). The crown honoured these vacancy arrangements. There are no Reading vacancy accounts on the Pipe Rolls and in the thirteenth century there are allusions to its special privilege (Close Rolls 1237–42, 40 (7 Apr. 1238) and Cat. Close R. 1288–96, 154–5 (28 Nov. 1290)).

44 Jocelin of Brakelond, 28 and Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, ed. Macray, W. D. (R.S., 1863), 105–6.

45 Reich, Parliamentary Abbots, 293–8.

46 Chew, Eccles. Tenants in Chief, 163. For a discussion of Maitland's view, see below, p. 191. See also Abbot Samson's impassioned outburst on this (Jocelin of Brakelond, 74).

47 Knowles remained convinced of the novelty of William II's exactions (Monastic Order, 613), but see Howell, M., Regalian Right in Medieval England, London 1962, 78 for a contrary view.

48 Reich describes the act as ‘the crux of the abbey's feudalization' (op. cit., 300). The Liber Niger of Peterborough, which is a description of the property of the vacant abbey in 1125, as the royal keeper ‘received it and seized it into the king's hand', implies the continued maintenance of the monks on the basis of existing arrangements as well as the transference of the abbot's normal revenues to the royal treasury (Chron. Pelroburgense, 157–68). The key statement is ‘Summa remanentis ad opus regis: £212 5s. 4d, 167.

49 Antonia Gransden comments on Edward I's ‘genuine affection' for Edmunds, Bury St. (The Letter Book of William of Hoo, Sacrist of Bury St. Edmunds (Suffolk Records Society, v, 1963), Intro., 7).

50 Cheney, C. R., ‘King John's reaction to the Interdict on England’, Trans. Royal Historical Society, 4th ser., xxxi (1949), 143–4.

51 The very large gross receipts of £1,240 10s. 5d. in 1210 (P.R. 12 John, 215) and over £ 1219 in 1212 (P.R. 14 John, 6) reflect heavy royal pressure. In 1207 and 1208 the resources of the monks' cellar and chamber were excepted from the royal keeper's accounts (P.R. 9 John, 110 and P.R. 10 John, 189).

52 Cheney, loc. cit., 143.

53 Ibid., 144.

54 There is one example o f a praeter victum account, covering the period 1207–10: that of the keepers of Chertsey Abbey (P.R. 10 John (1208), 95).

55 See above, p. 181, n. 42.

56 See above, p. 179.

57 P.R. 31 Henry II (1185), 29; P.R. 32 Henry II (1185), 116–17. Husseburn pays £34 6s. 3d. in victu monachorum and £1 6s. 3½d. in vestitu in 1186.

58 P.R. 8 John (1206), 45–6. The listed manors appear to be abbot's manors and there is mention of £4 received from the monks' chamber pro vestura abbatis. In the account for the Abingdon vacancy in 1248 (Pipe Roll 105 m. 21) there is a clear distinction between the manors of the abbot and the manors pertaining ad victum monachorum.

59 SB Vacancy accounts are enrolled on the Pipe Rolls in the following instances: Barking 1169, 1172; Battle 1171–6 (six accounts); Bury St. Edmunds 1181; Faversham 1178; Hyde 1172–5 (four accounts); Malmesbury 1170–2 (three accounts) and 1182; Muchelney 1172–3 (two accounts); St Augustine's Canterbury 1174; St Benet's Hulme 1168–75 (eight accounts); Thorney 1170–6 (seven accounts); Whitby 1181. The exceptions were Glastonbury 1173, Hyde 1171, Peterborough 1177 and Westminster 1175. The second account for the Bury vacancy of 1180–2 omits the praeter victum clause but retains the distinctive phrase ‘secundum antiquam assisam maneriorum abbatie' (P.R. 28 Henry II (1182), 73).

60 Accounts for Abingdon 1185–6 (two accounts); Bardney 1185; Chertsey 1183; Glastonbury 1182–3 (two accounts) and 1187; Malmesbury 1187; Milton 1185; St Benet's Hulme 1187; St Mary's York 1185–6 (two accounts); Selby 1185, 1188; Tavistock 1185–6 (two accounts). The Malmesbury account on P.R. 28 Henry II (1182), 88 is very compressed.

61 The exchequer requirement of more detailed accounting applied to accounts for vacant bishoprics too (Howell, Regalian Right, 44). In Richard I's reign and the early part of the reign of John the phraseology of the accounts is variable.

62 Chertsey (above, p. 183, n. 54).

63 The Interdict accounts are: Abbotsbury (P.R. 12 John (1210), 2; P.R. 13 John (1211), 106; P.R. 14 John (1212), 41); Eynsham (P.R. 12 John, 1–2; P.R. 13 John, 106) and Kenilworth (P.R. 12 John, 5–6; P.R. 13 John, 197; P.R. 14 John, 10). For the statement that the goods of the monastery of Eynsham had never been divided, see Documents illustrating the Archives of the General and Provincial Chapters of the English Black Monks 1215–1540, ed. Pantin, W. A. (Camden Soc. 3rd ser., lix, 1937), 38.

64 The earlier accounts were: Milton (P.R. 31 Henry II (1185), 203); Sherborne (P.R. I Richard I (1189), 6); Peterborough (P.R. 23 Henry II (1177), 104–5). The Interdict accounts are: Milton (P.R. 14 John (1212), 122); Sherborne (ibid., 121–2); Peterborough (P.R. 12 John (1210), 215–16 and P.R. 13 John (1211), 271–2). The reappearance of the praeter victum clause on the Pipe Roll of 1214 (unfortunately the roll of 1213 is missing) is of doubtful significance (but see Cheney, ‘King John's reaction', 145 n. 3 for a different view). The phrase occurs in connection with Richard Marsh's account for the abbeys of Sherborne, Abbotsbury and Milton, in all cases for part of the year only. The three abbeys are grouped together and the entry is a compressed one (P.R. 16 John (1214), 106).

65 The earlier accounts were: Ramsey (P.R. 4 John (1202), 138, which specifically excepts the chamber and cellar of the monks; P.R. 9 John (1207), 110–11; P.R. 10 John (1208), 189); Battle (accounts on Pipe Rolls of 1171–6; see above p. 181 n. 42); St Benet's Hulme (accounts on Pipe Rolls of 1168–75; the account for n 87 has no praeter victum clause: P.R. 33 Henry II (1187), 23); Whitby (P.R. 27 Henry II (1181), 50 and P.R. 7 Richard I (1195), 28). The relevant Interdict accounts are: Ramsey (P.R. 12 John (1210), 214–15; P.R. 13 John (1211), 269–71; P.R. 14 John (1212), 6); Battle (P.R. 13 John, 274); St Benet's Hulme (P.R. 12 John, 3–4; P.R. 13 John, 68–9); Whitby (P.R. 14 John, 5).

66 See above, pp. 182–3. The independent administration of their cellar was restored to the monks in 1216 (Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum 1204–27, i. 264 (19 Apr. 1216)).

67 When Battle obtained conventual control of the whole property abbatia vacante in 1211 (above, p. 180 n. 41) the arrangement was a permanent one covering all future vacancies and it was honoured (Close Rolls 1259–61, 288–9 (29 Oct. 1260); Cat. Close R. 1279–88, 82–3 (9 May 1281); Cat. Close R. 1296–1302, 139 (28 Nov. 1297)).

68 P.R. 14 Henry II (1168), 33.

69 P.R. 19 Henry II (1173), 131. See similar payments in P.R. 16 Henry II (1170), 13–14; P.R. 17 Henry II (1171), 10–11; P.R. 20 Henry II (1174), 48.

70 P.R. 12 John (1210), 4 and P.R. 13 John (1211), 69. The sums are £7 for clothing and £4 10s. in coquina in 1210 and £6 for clothing and £2 18s. 4d. in coquina in 1211. In 1170 £9 11s 9d. had been paid ad victum, in 1171 £13, in 1173 £13 19s., in 1174 £22, in 1175 (for three terms) £8 19s.

71 P.R. 27 Henry II (1181), 50 (a very compressed account) and P.R. 7 Richard I (1195), 28.

72 P.R. 14 John (1212), 5.

73 St Augustine's (ibid., 15) and Bury (P.R. 13 John (1211), 6). After the initial fine St Augustine's was to pay at the rate of 500 marks in the first year and £500 in subsequent years, and Bury at the rate of £500 a year (P.R. 14 John (1212), 182, which is at variance with the comment in P.R. 13 John, Intro., p. xxvii). When the relations of Bury with the king deteriorated John apparently took the whole property in hand in 1214 (Chronicle of the Election of Hugh, 81–3).

74 P.R. 13 John (1211), 65. Peterborough, like Bury St Edmunds, paid 400 marks initially but additionally supplied 100 loads of corn and 100 loads of oats, and subsequently paid the king at the rate of £600 a year for the issues.

75 Ibid., 270. See also P.R. 12 John (1210), 215 and P.R. 14 John (1212), 6. Cheney points out that the cellarer may have continued to administer the estates of his office, while paying the profits to the custodian (‘King John's reaction', 145 n. 1) but these payments to the monks, taken with the culling of a surplus from the cellar, do indicate heavy pressure.

76 P.R. 14 John (1212), Intro., p. xxviii, where proportions are given. Mr T. H. Aston, in his review of this volume (E.H.R., lxxiii (1958), 141), is critical of the editor's inference that the vacant houses were being treated ‘with no great severity'. His reservations in the case of the bishoprics are justified, but Ramsey is not typical of the abbeys.

77 P.R. 12 John (1210), 215 and P.R. 13 John (1211), 271. The manors of Fiskerton and Colingham had been confirmed to the chamber by Abbot Martin (King, Peterborough Abbey, 91) and customarily paid £40 a year into that office. King points out that the chamberlain had no rights of lordship in these manors or elsewhere until the mid-thirteenth century (ibid., 92). The payment into the monks' kitchen for a complete year in 1211 (£71 5s. 2d.) is comparable with the rate recorded in the 1177 vacancy account (£76 for just over 13 months (P.R. 23 Henry II, 105)). In the early thirteenth century the only vills appropriated to the cellarer for the monks' food seem to have been Fletton and Alwalton, and again the cellarer did not have rights of lordship (King, op. cit., 93 n. 1). The strong obediences at Peterborough were the sacristy and almonry.

78 In a flash of characteristically wry humour, John gave a benign order to the keeper of the vacant nunnery of Wilton to care for that house ‘pulcre et modeste' (Rot. Litt. Claus., i. 162 (24 Jan. 1214)). For John's exploitation of the lands of Christ Church Canterbury, where he held the monks to be his enemies, see Barnes, P. M., ‘Documents concerning Christ Church Cathedral Priory, Canterbury, 1207–1213’, in Interdict Documents (Pipe Roll Soc, lxxii (1960) N.S. 34), 4856. On the point of the levying of tallage from the monks' portion in a vacancy, which is here interpreted as a special mark of John's anger (p. 50), see vacancy accounts for Hyde (Pipe Roll 105 m. 21: 5 Apr.-10 May 1248) and Malmesbury (Pipe Roll 99 m. 15: 9–28 March 1246), where the manors of the monks' portion were apparently included in the vacancy tallage as a matter of course.

79 Provisions of the Council of Merton and Westminster, 1258 (Councils and Synods, with other documents relating to the English Church, II, 1205–1313, ed. Powicke, F. M. and Cheney, C. R., Oxford 1964, 582) and Complaints of the Clergy, 1300–1 (ibid., 1207). The clergy also protested against the king's encroachment abbatia vacante on what they regarded as spirilualia; see ibid., 881–2 for clerical complaint and royal response in 1280.

80 This is the force of Henry m's confirmation of the transfer of certain properties to the convent of St Albans to replace the abbot's responsibility for providing the monks with bread and ale (Cesta Abbalum Man. S. Albani, i. 370–3). The king states that this provision ‘falls to us and our heirs' exoneration and utility in times of vacancy of the said abbey', clearly assuming that the provision for the monks had been honoured abbatia vacante.

81 Close R. 1237–42, 337 (10 Oct. 1241).

82 Close R. 1234–7, 497 (26 Sept. 1237): Thorney; Close R. 1242–7, 33 (11 July 1243): Evesham.

83 Close R. 1254–6, 162–3 (6 Feb. 1255).

84 See also Col. Close R. 1272–9, 270 (12 Feb. 1276).

85 The relevant accounts are those of Peter Bedington for 20 Sept.–27 Oct. 1236 (Pipe Roll 88 m. I2d) and of James Frasel for 18 Oct.–9 Nov. 1254 (Pipe Roll 100 m. 19).

86 P.R.O., Chancery Miscellanea (C 260), 35/14.

87 P.R.O., Exchequer, K.R. Memoranda Roll (E 159) 104 m. 39.

88 Cal. Charter R., i. 401 (7 Aug. 1252) and Close R. 1256–9, 249 (24 July 1258).

89 Three outstanding examples of high total receipts were £1065 18s. 9d. for 21 Apr.–5 Nov. 1279 at Bury St Edmunds (Pipe Roll 125 m. 3d); £1597 2s. 2¾d. for 2 Nov. 1290–6 June 1291 at St Albans (Pipe Roll 136 m. 27d) and £738 15s. 8½d. for 28 Sept.–;26 Oct. 1291 at Glastonbury (ibid.). During Henry m's reign the crown offset the effect of shorter vacancies by expanding those elements in the receipts which were not dependent upon length of vacancy. Tallage sometimes represented as much as 80% of the total accounted for by the keeper: £78 17s. 3d. of a total of £87 12s. 6d. at Evesham in 1236 (Pipe Roll 81 m. 15); £84 6s. 8d. of a total of £102 13s. 4d. at Malmesbury in 1246 (Pipe Roll 99 m. 15); £91 of a total of £102 3s.7½d. at St Benet's Hulme in 1256 (Pipe Roll 105 m. 20d). All of these vacancies were of less than a month's duration.

90 The Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds 1212–1301, ed. Gransden, A., London 1964, 68.

91 P.R.O., Exchequer, L.T.R. Memoranda Roll (E368) 55 m. 36. See also Dugdale, Monasticon, iii. 156–8. The convent gained papal confirmation of the division (Calendar of Papal Letters, i. 486). Although the Bury chronicler says that the monks could not recover their own lands in this vacancy ‘nee prece nee precio' there is no reference to regular issues from the conventual manors or to payments in victu to the monks on John of Berwick's account at the exchequer. Berwick did, however, tallage the men on the conventual manors and he accounts for £34 13s. 4d. ‘de recognitionibus tenencium conventus Sancti Edmundi in diversis maneriissuis'. The right of tallage mutatio domini was exercised by Abbot Samson over abbatial and conventual manors (Jocelin of Brakelond, 31).

92 The document of 1281 is printed in full by Dugdale (Monasticon, iii. 156–8).

93 P.R.O., Ancient Correspondence (SC 1) 48/30.

94 Pipe Roll 87 m. 3d (20 July–4 Oct. 1243).

95 Historia et Cartularium Monasterii S. Petti Gloucestriae, ed. Hart, W. H. (R.S., 1863–7), iii. 1920.

96 Gesta Abbatum Mon. S. Albani, ii. 3–6.

97 Pipe Roll 136 m. 27d (2 Nov. 1290–6 June 1291) and K. R. Memoranda Roll 65m. 4d. These records substantiate the complaints of the chronicler (Gesta Abbatum Mon. S. Albani, ii. 6). Later there was an investigation on a complaint by the incoming abbot (K.R. Memoranda Roll 67 m. 24). Compare the statement of the clergy in 1300–1 against keepers of vacant abbeys: ‘Bona etiam mobilia ad prefatos defunctos vel ad capitulorum seu conventuum sustentationem spectantia iniuste occupant et distrahunt' (Councils and Synods 1205–1313, 1207).

98 Dugdale, Monasticon, iii. 93.

99 Perhaps significantly, between 1300 and 1307, all four abbeys took advantage of Edward I's willingness at that point to make permanent arrangements for the custody of the whole property by the convent abbatia vacante (saving to the crown certain feudal perquisites). The terms were costly but at least they were fixed (St Albans, Cal. Close R. 1296–1302, 470 (14 Oct. 1301); Bury St Edmunds, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1301–07, 227 (20 May 1304); St Benet's Hulme, ibid., 362 (29 May 1305); Gloucester, ibid., 455 (16 July 1306)). Edward I also continued the practice of his father and grandfather in allowing individual houses to fine for the custody of the whole property for a single vacancy, on occasion. These include St Augustine's Canterbury (Cal. Close R. 1212–79, 8 (16 Feb. 1273)); Peterborough (Cal. Patent R. 1272–81, 45 (28 March 1274)); Hyde (Cal. Close R. 1279–88, 162 (20 July 1282)); St Mary's York (Cal. Close R. 1302–07, 45–6 (28 Apr. 1303)) and Glastonbury (Calendar of Fine Rolls 1272–1307, 485–6 (10 Dec. 1303)).

100 Commission of the barony of the abbey of Westminster to Adam of Eston (Cal. Patent R. 1247–58, 642 (21 July 1258)). The term is used in connection with Bury St Edmunds (P.R.O., Chancery, Fine Roll (C60) 54 m. 8) and with St Albans (K.R. Memoranda Roll 67 m. 24). There are other examples.

101 Pollock, F. and Maitland, F. W., The History of English Law before the time of Edward I, 2nd edn reissued, Cambridge 1968, i. 504.

102 Ibid., 506–7. Maitland cites Westminster as a case of exceptionally firm partition, where a fourteenth-century prior actually sued his abbot. For further discussion, see Snape, Eng. Monastic Finances, 28–9 and Raftis, Ramsey Abbey, 100 and n. 12, but the point made here that cellarers could not plead in court in their own right seems based on a misreading of the text of Glanville, where the reference is not to cellarers but to heads of dependent houses, i.e. cells (Tractatus de Legibus, ed. Hall, G. D. G., London 1965, 136). A judgment in relation to Evesham Abbey in 1204 upheld the principle that the abbot was responsible for a disseisin which he claimed was made by the monks ‘quia quicquid delinquunt monachi debet esse super abbatem suum, qui nichil debent facere sine eo' (Curia Regis Rolls 1203–5, 59).

103 Dugdale, Monasticon, i. 523 and Cal. Close R. 1318–23, 350–1.

104 Alexander iv's confirmation of the division is printed in Dugdale, Monasticon, 523–5. For the judgment of the royal commission that the division was made ‘sine assensu progenitorum domini nostri regis', see ibid., 525. The traditional division of property at Abingdon had been observed in vacancies in the thirteenth century (Close R. 1231–4, 518 (16 Sept. 1234) and Pipe Roll 88 m. 12d, where Peter Bedington's account for 8 Feb.–7 March 1241 records grain sold ‘de portione pertinenti ad abbatem'). In 1256 the convent fined to have custody of the whole property (Fine Roll 53 m. 12).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
  • ISSN: 0022-0469
  • EISSN: 1469-7637
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-ecclesiastical-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed