Document of the Month, December 2018: The last forest

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

This month’s document has been chosen to mark National Tree Week, 24th November to 2nd December 2018, the UK’s largest annual tree celebration marking the start of the winter tree planting season.  The document is the sale catalogue dating from 1923 for the Hallingbury Estate (SALE/A316).  The estate included Hatfield Forest.

The part of the sale catalogue describing Hatfield Forest. The lot was over 922 acres, and included several cottages and a shell room or grotto,

The sale catalogue includes a large fold-out map which shows how big the estate being sold was. Hatfield Forest is the area coloured in grey in the top right corner.

In his book entitled The Last Forest, 1989, Oliver Rackham begins by quoting from a previous book of his; ‘Hatfield is of supreme interest in that all the elements of a medieval Forest survive: deer, cattle, coppice woods, pollards, scrub, timber trees, grassland and fen, plus a seventeenth-century lodge and rabbit warren.  As such it is almost certainly unique in England and possibly in the world. …The Forest owes very little to the last 250 years. … Hatfield is the only place where one can step back into the Middle Ages to see, with only a small effort of the imagination, what a Forest looked like in use.”

The sale catalogue draws attention to the timber ‘of very considerable value, the wood having been carefully managed for many years’.  Many years indeed, as the Domesday survey of 1086 shows that it belonged to Earl Harold during the reign of Edward the Confessor before passing to William 1st after the conquest.  Thus it became a ‘royal’ forest, part of the Forest of Essex which included Epping and Hainault, and alongside provision of timber it was used by the kings for hunting purposes. The chief beasts of the chase were red, roe and, particularly, fallow deer which still populate Hatfield Forest today.

Henry III was the first king to part with the forest and it passed down through the families of Bruce, de Bohun, the earls of Stafford and the Dukes of Buckingham.  At one point, Robert the Bruce owned it before it was forfeited along with the rest of his lands in England when he became King of Scotland (the story is featured in this earlier blog posted in August 2014 featuring some of the oldest ‘Essex’ documents kept by ERO).  Eventually, along with much of Hallingbury and Hatfield, it came into the possession of the Houblon family who developed it as park during the eighteenth century, creating the lake, planting ornamental trees such as horse chestnuts and building the charming shell house.  The family later invoked the Enclosure Act of 1857 and paid £3000 to take it out of common land and enclose it as a private park. Following a decline in their fortunes, however, it was put up for sale in 1923.

According to the National Trust, after an administrative error, a timber merchant bought Hatfield Forest and started felling the timber.  At which point, the 83-year-old Edward North Buxton, a council member of the National Trust and a life-long preserver of forests helping to save Epping Forest of which he was a verderer, stepped in to save Hatfield Forest too.  He managed to purchase it with the help of his sons from his deathbed and then give it to the National Trust.  It was first opened to the public by Lord Ullswater on the 10th May 1924.

An invitation to the public opening of Hatfield Forest in 1924

A map of Hatfield Forest from a 1952 National Trust guide

The forest is famous for its splendid oaks which acted as standard trees amid the coppices.  One of the legendary trees was the Doodle Oak which in 1813 measured 60 feet in circumference.  Unfortunately, by 1924 it had disappeared.  At first the National Trust adopted a laissez-faire approach to preserving the forest but quickly realised that in order to preserve it properly, it would have to be managed as a working forest, especially with regular cutting of timber in the coppices, thereby preserving it in the same way it has been worked for nearly a thousand years.

The sale catalogue, guide book map and invitation will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout December 2018. You can find out how you can visit this ancient forest on the National Trust website.

A bad day’s hunting: one of Essex’s ‘ancientist’ families and the death of a king

In August 918 years ago, the king of England died in suspicious circumstances. Here, our medieval specialist Katharine Schofield discusses what may or may not have happened that day, and the Essex connections of the man rumoured to have killed the king.

On 2 August 1100 William II was killed while hunting in the New Forest. William (also known as William Rufus) was the son of William the Conqueror, and had inherited the kingdom of England on the death of his father in 1087.

William II of England.jpg

William II drawn by Matthew Paris

The earliest account of his death in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that he was shot by an arrow by one of his men. Later chroniclers named Walter Tirel as the man who fired the fatal shot. Opinions vary as to whether Rufus met his death by accident or design.

Tirel was a renowned bowman; one account of William’s death records that at the start of the day’s hunting the king was presented with six arrows, two of which he gave to Tirel with the words Bon archer, bonnes fleches [To the good archer, the good arrows].

Other chroniclers record that Tirel let off a wild shot at a stag which he missed, hitting the king instead. Tirel took no chances and fled to France, according to legend having the horseshoes of his horse reversed to throw off any pursuit. In France he always maintained his innocence. Abbot Suger of St. Denis who knew Tirel in France recorded ‘I have often heard him, when he had nothing to fear nor to hope, solemnly swear that on the day in question he was not in the part of the forest where the king was hunting, nor ever saw him in the forest at all.’

What is not in doubt is that Rufus’ younger brother Henry (Henry I) was the main beneficiary. Henry was part of the hunting party on that day and he was able to secure the Treasury (then held at Winchester) the same day and had himself crowned king at Westminster Abbey on 5 August, just three days after his brother’s death.

Illustration of Henry I by Matthew Paris

Walter Tirel (or Tyrell) is thought to have originated from Poix in Picardy and may have been the same Walter Tirel named as holding the manor of Langham, in north east Essex, (Laingeham) in Domesday Book. The Revd. Philip Morant in The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex (1768) was rather dubious as to whether there was a connection, while another historian with Essex connections, J.H. Round writing in 1895 was more certain that they were the same.

The Domesday Book recorded in 1086 that the manor of Langham was 2½ hides in extent (roughly 300 acres), with 17 villeins and 27 bordars. There was wood for 1,000 pigs, 40 acres of meadow, two mills, 22 cattle, 80 pigs, 200 sheep and 80 goats. The resources of the manor were mostly larger than they had been before the Norman Conquest, and its value had increased from £12 to £15, making it quite valuable; by comparison, the manor of Chelmsford was valued at £8 and Maldon at £12.

Tirel held the manor from Richard son of Count Gilbert, also known in Domesday Book as Richard fitzGilbert or Richard of Tonbridge, and is later more familiarly known as Richard de Clare. It is likely that Tirel acquired the manor through his wife Adeliza, Richard’s daughter and this explains why he had such a valuable holding.

The Pipe Roll of 1130 records that Adeliza, by then a widow, was still in possession of Langham and in 1147 their son Hugh Tirel sold it to Gervase de Cornhill, before embarking on the Second Crusade. In 1189 Richard I granted Gervase’s son Henry permission to enclose woods there to create a park. The manor remained part of the Honour of Clare, while passing through the hands of different owners. In the late 14th century it passed to the de la Pole family and remained in their possession until the early 16th century. The oldest surviving court roll from the manor, 1391-1557 (D/DEl M1) begins during their ownership.

Henry VIII’s first wife Katharine of Aragon held the manor, later Langham Hall, until her death, when it passed to his third wife Jane Seymour. In 1540 it passed briefly to Thomas Cromwell and after his execution formed part of the lands granted to Anne of Cleves (Henry VIII’s fourth wife) on her divorce. In the early 17th century it was granted by Charles I to trustees of the City of London in repayment for a loan. In 1662 it was purchased by Humphrey Thayer, who Morant described as a druggist to the King and was inherited by his niece, the wife of Jacob Hinde.

While Morant was doubtful as to the connection of Walter Tirel in Langham with the Tirel who may have killed William Rufus, he was in no doubt that he was the ancestor of the Tyrell family in Essex who he described as ‘early persons of great consequence in this County; and one of the ancientist families’.

While the Tyrells did not keep Langham for more than one generation, they acquired extensive lands in Essex, as well as lands in Hampshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Their lands centred on the manor of Heron in East Horndon, but Tyrells also held land in Broomfield, Springfield, Beeches at Rawreth, Hockley and Ramsden Crays.

The most distinguished of the Essex Tyrells was probably Sir John Tyrell. He served as sheriff of Essex in 1413-1414 and 1437 and was elected to Parliament on a number of occasions between 1411 and 1437, serving as Speaker in 1421, 1429 and 1437. He held many posts in Essex, including acting as steward to the Stafford family and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as well as for Clare and Thaxted during the minority of Richard, Duke of York. He was appointed a royal commissioner in the county on a number of occasions and was Chief Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of the Trent. Morant recorded that he served Henry V in France and in 1431 was appointed treasurer to the household of Henry VI and to his Council in France.

In a curious coincidence his grandson Sir James Tyrell was alleged to have confessed before his execution in 1502 to murdering the Princes in the Tower for Richard III.

Document of the Month, August 2017: Salvation for sale

Indulgence granted to John and Lucy Prince of Theydon Garnon by John Kendale, turcipelerius of Rhodes and Commissary of Pope Sixtus IV, 10 April 1480 (D/DCe Q2)

Our Document of the Month for August 2017 is a medieval indulgence – a certificate granted by the Catholic Church to absolve the bearer of sin, and reduce any punishment they would receive either in this life or in purgatory.

The document dates from 1480, but we have chosen to highlight it in 2017 because this year marks 500 years since Martin Luther’s publication of his Ninety-Five Theses, an event which is generally seen as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The Ninety-Five Theses is also known as the Disputation on the Power of Indulgences, and criticised the way the Catholic Church was granting these documents.

Indulgences had originally been intended to be a reward for piety and good deeds, but the system had become increasingly commercialised, with indulgences being sold. In 1517 Pope Leo X offered indulgences to those who contributed alms towards the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In Germany a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, was prominent in selling indulgences and the saying ‘As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs’ is attributed to him.

Luther attacked the sale of indulgences not only for their commercialisation, but also because he contended that the Pope had no right to grant indulgences on God’s behalf. He also argued that the selling of indulgences discouraged people from truly repenting of their sins or performing acts of mercy.

This particular indulgence was granted to John and Lucy Prince, ‘in consideration of [their] devotion to the Roman Church and willingness to aid the sacred and necessary expedition against the perfidious Turk and for the defence of the Isle of Rhodes and the Catholic Faith’ [Suarum pro expeditione contra perfidos turchos christinai nominis hostes in defensionem insule Rhodi et fidei catholice facta].

The indulgence was granted by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, at their English headquarters of St John’s Priory in Clerkenwell. The Knights Hospitallers were a religious and military order charged with defending the Holy Land. Having been based originally in Jerusalem, by this time they had bases across Europe and operated their military activity from the island of Rhodes.

In 1480, the year this indulgence was granted, the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmet II laid siege to Rhodes; granting indulgences was one of the ways the Knights Hospitallers raised money for its defence. Mehmet II had been waging a largely successful campaign against Christian forces since 1453 when he captured Constantinople (Istanbul). Rhodes did not fall until 1522 when it was captured by Suleiman the Magnificent, Mehmet’s great-grandson.

The indulgence gave the Princes the right to choose their own confessor with the power to absolve all sins, other than murder of a priest, violence against a bishop or disobedience towards the Pope. It also granted the right for a full remission and indulgence of sins once during their lifetime and once at the point of death.

The Protestant Reformation centred round the principle that salvation could be achieved by faith alone, not by faith and good works, as emphasised by the Catholic Church. In this Luther built on the works of humanists such as Erasmus. The subsequent emphasis on translating the Bible from Latin into the vernacular (i.e. English) was intended to make it more accessible to everybody.

These principles resonated across Europe in the 16th century, and we can find evidence of them in the ERO collections. In 1588, for example, John Brockise of Havering Green, Hornchurch, a painter, left a will (D/AEW 9/10) in which he bequeathed his most precious possessions. After bequests of furniture to his children, he left to Samuel Brockis the Paraphrase of Erasmus on the Four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles ‘in consideration that he shalbe good to my wife and to the reste of his bretherne and sister after my desese’ or his wife had the power to withhold the bequest. He left to his son Robert ‘one bybell’ translated by Miles Coverdale on the same basis. Miles Coverdale first translated the Bible into English in 1535.

So this one little document which is today looked after as part of the collections at ERO is a small part of a big story about a transforming world. We will not ever know what sin John and Lucy Prince felt they needed an indulgence for, but in the world of medieval Catholic belief it was better to be safe than sorry.

 The indulgence will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout August 2017.

The Fighting Essex Soldier – now launched

On Saturday 6 May we hosted the launch of The Fighting Essex Soldier: Recruitment, War and Society in the Fourteenth Century.

Three years in the making, this book has grown from a conference held at ERO in March 2014 looking at the contribution made by Essex to the fighting of the Hundred Years’ War.

IMG_3512 1080x720

Hot off the press, the related chapters in the The Fighting Essex Soldier add up to a wide-ranging survey, exploring military, social and economic history in fourteenth-century Essex.

The volume is a collection of papers based on those given at the conference back in 2014:

Introduction: crown, county and locality

Christopher Thornton and Jennifer Ward

Essex and the Hundred Years War: taxation, justice and county families

Jennifer Ward

The contribution of Essex gentry to the wars of Edward I and Edward II

David Simpkin

Organised crime in fourteenth-century Essex: Hugh de Badewe, Essex soldier and gang member

Gloria Harris

The fighting men of Essex: service relationships and the poll tax

Sam Gibbs

Shipping the troops and fighting at sea: Essex ports and mariners in England’s wars, 1337-89

Andrew Ayton and Craig Lambert

Military aspects of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381

Herbert Eiden

The editors and some of the contributors to The Fighting Essex Soldier, from left to right: Neil Wiffen, Gloria Harris, Dr Jennifer Ward, Dr Christopher Thornton, Dr Herbert Eiden.

The editors and some of the contributors to The Fighting Essex Soldier, from left to right: Neil Wiffen, Gloria Harris, Dr Jennifer Ward, Dr Christopher Thornton, Dr Herbert Eiden.

The original conference was the brainchild of Neil Wiffen, who is an ERO team member and one of the editors of the new book. His inspiration was reading Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War, edited by Anne Curry and Michael Hughes, and wondering what part was played by Essex in all these upheavals.

Throughout the fourteenth century, the wars waged by English kings against France and Scotland resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of men involved in warfare, both on land and at sea. The new research published in this book seeks to identify these soldiers at all levels of society, focused within the historic county of Essex. Questions considered include how forces were raised to serve the king, and the impact on communities of the demands of taxation and the supply of ships and men for the war effort. Other chapters consider the effect of militarisation on men returning from the wars.

The book is now available to purchase from the University of Hertfordshire Press website.

The launch of the book was celebrated with plenty of cake (as all things in archives ideally are)

The launch of the book was celebrated with plenty of cake (as all things in archives ideally are)

Document of the Month, October 2016: ‘Barking Domesday’, c.1275

Katharine Schofield, Archivist

(D/DP M150)

We are publishing October’s Document of the Month a little early since we are excited about our conference Norman Essex: what did the Normans do for us? taking place this Saturday (1 October 2016). Despite the fact that it dates from about 200 years later, this document is named after that most famous of Norman documents – Domesday Book.

Compiled in 1086, Domesday Book records the lands in the possession of the king’s tenants-in-chief; Norman followers who were rewarded with land in return for military support.  By the end of the 12th century Domesday Book was held in sufficient respect to be kept with other important Exchequer documents and the Great Seal.  In c.1179 Henry II’s treasure Richard fitzNeal or fitzNigel described in his Dialogue of the Exchequer how it was known to the ‘native English’ as Domesday Book ‘not because it contains decisions on various difficult points, but because its decisions, like those of the Last Judgement, are unalterable.’img_1826-1080-watermarked

img_1831-1080-watermarkedOur Document of the Month follows in the footsteps of Domesday Book, and it is clearly headed with the words ‘domes daye’. It is the Ingatestone portion of the ‘Barking Domesday’, dating from  about 1275. Only two parts of the survey survive, a 15th century copy of the manor of Bulphan and this from the manor of Ingatestone which is stitched into a rental.  The survey names the tenants, gives a brief note of their landholdings and rent and then a much more detailed account of the labour services such as ploughing, hoeing, making hay, reaping and even gathering nuts that they owed to the lord of the manor and the times of year when they were due.

Although the words Domesday look as though they have been written in a different hand we do know that on 28 October 1322 the manorial court required the that the ‘Domesdaye de Berkyng’ be produced to answer a question about succession dues owed to the manor.

To find out more about what the original Domesdaye survey tells us about Essex, join us for Norman Essex this Saturday (1 October), and do have a look at the Barking Domesday if you visit the Searchroom during the coming month.

Document of the Month, April 2016: A new ruling class

By Katharine Schofield, Archivist

Deeds, c.1140-1144 (D/DBa T2/1, 3)

2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (which we are marking with a conference on 1 October – find out more on our events pages).

The two documents we have chosen to highlight this month date from nearly 80 years after the Norman Conquest, and they show how securely the Norman ruling elite had established themselves in England.

The success of the Norman Conquest produced a dramatic change in land ownership as William the Conqueror rewarded his supporters with English land, displacing the 1066 landowners.  In 1086 Domesday Book illustrated the process of land redistribution in each county, listing the manors held by each of the king’s tenants-in-chief.  These two deeds were issued by Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex, a grandson of two of the Essex tenants-in-chief.  They date from the early 1140s, and record grants of land to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun, ancestors of the Barrington family of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak.

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun.  (D/DBa T2/1)

The deeds are not dated but this one must date from before the second half of 1140, before Geoffrey was made Earl of Essex, as he is named only as G de Mand[eville]. In this deed de Mandeville grants the land of Alan de Scheperitha to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun. (D/DBa T2/1)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

In this second deed Geoffrey he is described as Gaufr[ido] Comes Essexe (Geoffrey, Earl of Essex). In this document he confirms a grant of lands in Hatfield [Broad Oak] and Writtle to Humphrey de Barentun. (D/Dba T2/3)

Geoffrey was the grandson of two of the Domesday tenants-in-chief, Geoffrey de Mandeville (or Magna Villa) and Eudo Dapifer (dapifer is the Latin word for steward), and Eudo served as steward to William the Conqueror and his sons William II and Henry I.  Eudo was sometimes described as Eudo son of Hubert [de Rie/Ryes].  Hubert had been a prominent supporter of the Conqueror in Normandy and Eudo’s brothers William, Ralph, Hubert and Adam also benefited from the Conquest.  Ralph became constable of Nottingham Castle and Hubert constable of Norwich Castle and all four held land in England.

Geoffrey de Mandeville, one of the richest of the king’s barons, was rewarded with extensive lands, mostly in Essex, but also in ten other counties, as well as being appointed constable of the Tower of London.

Eudo Dapifer also held lands in Essex and nine other counties. He was responsible for the building of Colchester Castle, the largest Norman keep in England, becoming its first constable. In 1096/7 he founded St. John’s Abbey in the town and was buried there in 1120.

Although both deeds relate to land in Essex and are dated 80 years after the Norman Conquest, Geoffrey de Mandeville begins by greeting all his men French and English in the first deed (om[n]ib[us] hominib[us] suis franc[ie] et anglic[e]) and all his Barons and clerks and lay men French and English in the second (Om[n]ib[us] Baronib[us] et hominib[us] suis clericis et Laicis franc[ie] et angl[ice]).

The Geoffrey de Mandeville named in these documents (the grandson of the first Geoffrey and Eudo Dapifer) founded Walden Abbey (which after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s became what is today Audley End), and built the castle at Saffron Walden.  He was prominent in the civil war in King Stephen’s reign when a contemporary chronicler wrote that ‘men said openly that Christ and his saints slept’.  As a reward for his support for King Stephen he was made Earl of Essex.

After Stephen’s capture in 1141 Geoffrey changed sides to support Stephen’s cousin and rival the Empress Matilda and she appointed him constable of the Tower, forgave him debts owed to the Crown, granted him lands in Normandy and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London.  He died in 1144 from an arrow wound while in rebellion against the king.

The documents will be on display in the Searchroom throughout April 2016.

 

 

 

Essex at Agincourt

Following Essex at Agincourt on Saturday 31 October 2015, archivist Katharine Schofield has written a summary of the involvement of Essex noblemen in this famous battle.

The Battle of Agincourt was fought on St. Crispin’s Day, 25 October 1415.  It was perhaps the most famous battle of the Hundred Years’ War, when the outnumbered English forces defeated the French, with the English longbow archers making a decisive contribution defeating the French cavalry.  The battle was immortalised in the 16th century by William Shakespeare in the play Henry V (written c.1599) and by Michael Drayton in his poem Fair stood the wind for France (c.1605).

As Prince of Wales Henry V had fought the Welsh and it was not long after he succeeded his father Henry IV I in 1413 that he sought to raise an army against the French and renew the claims of his great-grandfather Edward III to the French crown.  In December 1414 Parliament granted him a tax for war against the French.  Henry V and his army landed in northern France on 13 August 1415.

The campaign started with the siege of Harfleur.  The town did not surrender until 22 September, by which time the summer, and the best conditions for military campaigns, was nearly over.  The English had also suffered casualties during the siege, notably to dysentery and other diseases.

The siege of Harfleur

The siege of Harfleur (BritishBattles.com)

Among those who died at Harfleur was Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and lord of the manors of Langham and Nether Hall in Gestingthorpe.  His son Michael, 3rd earl, was to die a month later at Agincourt.

Another man with Essex connections, Lewis John, was among those invalided home from Harfleur; he went on to serve as sheriff of Essex, 1416-1417 and 1420-1422.  He originated from Wales and had come to London, presumably to make his fortune.  By the time he died in 1442 Sir Lewis John owned land in a number of counties, including West Thurrock and East and West Horndon in Essex.

Having gained only one town for all the money spent raising an army, Henry V was reluctant to return to England and so set off to march to the English garrison at Calais, reasserting his hereditary claim to lands in northern France.  The French army that had been unable to save Harfleur was now ready to face the English.  Henry’s forces had been weakened by illness, had inadequate supplies of food and had marched 260 miles in two and a half weeks, but did not want to delay battle in case the French were able to bring up more reinforcements.

The two sides faced each other; as the French cavalry advanced they were trapped in muddy ground and caught in the deadly fire of the English archers and were unable to advance on the English forces.  Among the French casualties were the constable and admiral of France, the master of the royal household, and the Dukes of Brabant, Alençon and Bar.  Around 1500 noblemen were taken to England as prisoners, including Charles, Duke of Orleans, the Duke of Bourbon, Jean Le Maingre, Marshal of France and the Count of Eu.

The battle itself achieved very little immediately.  Henry continued his march on Calais and then returned in triumph to England.  However, the defeat and death or capture of so many of the French nobility meant that when Henry returned in 1417 he was able to capture towns and castles across northern France.

Catherine of Valois

Catherine of Valois

In 1420 the Treaty of Troyes was signed.  Henry married Katherine, daughter of Charles VI of France and was declared the regent and heir of the king.  Henry’s triumph was short-lived.  He died in 1422 leaving his nine month old son Henry VI as king.  He was crowned king of England in 1429 and king of France at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1431.  However, Charles VI’s son Charles VII was able to regain French territory, and by 1453 English possessions in France were reduced to Calais.  Henry VI was ultimately to lose his throne to Edward IV in the Wars of the Roses.

A number of Essex lords had raised men from their lands to form part of the king’s army.  It is likely that not only the lords, but some of the men in their retinues would have come from the county.  One of the great lords present was Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick depicted in the battle by Drayton as ‘Warwick in blood did wade’.  Although his lands were mostly elsewhere, he was lord of the manor of Walthamstow. 

Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford was almost the same age as the king, and they had both served Richard II as pages.  His grandfather John, the 7th earl, had fought at Crécy and Poitiers in the reign of Edward III.  He supplied 39 men-at-arms and 60 archers to the campaign.  He commanded the rear of the army as it marched from Harfleur, and took a prominent role in the battle, capturing Jean, Sire de Ligne.  Drayton wrote that ‘Oxford … cruel slaughter made’.  He was rewarded for his role in the battle by becoming a knight of the Garter in May 1416, in place of Edward, Duke of York, one of the notable English casualties of the day.  Oxford died in 1417 and was buried at Earls Colne.

Richard de Vere effigy

Effigy of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, 1385-1417, at Earls Colne

The Bourchier family originated from Halstead and Sible Hedingham and served against the French at various times during the Hundred Years’ War.  Sir William Bourchier, a justice of the peace in Essex, fought at Agincourt and also on the 1417 expedition.  He had inherited lands at Little Easton, Broxted and Aythorpe Roding from his mother Eleanor de Lovayne and was also lord of the manor of Wix.  In 1419 Henry V rewarded him with the title Count of Eu for his service in France.

Humphrey, 6th Lord FitzWalter died aged only 16 while on campaign.  His younger brother and successor William, baptised at Woodham Walter, also served on the campaign and was present at Agincourt.  He went on to campaign in France in later years and drowned returning to England in 1431.  He was buried in Little Dunmow.

As well as the great lords present at Agincourt, a number of Essex gentry also fought in the battle.  Sir Thomas Erpingham was in charge of the archers who had such a devastating effect on the course of the battle.  He is said to have launched the archers’ attack by throwing his baton into the air as a signal to fire and shouted ‘Now Strike’.  His lands were in Norfolk, although he did hold four Essex manors through his wife, including Little Oakley.  His retinue of 20 men at arms and 60 mounted archers included Sir Walter Goldyngham who was present at the battle.  The Goldynghams had first been granted a manor in Bulmer by Robert Malet, one of the tenants-in-chief listed in Domesday Book.  This manor came to be known as Goldingham Hall.

Sir Nicholas Thorley, lord of the manor of Bobbingworth fought in the retinue of Henry’s brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.  He survived the battle and went on to serve as sheriff of Essex 1431-1432 and later married the earl of Oxford’s widow Alice without royal permission.  For this omission Thorley was imprisoned in the Tower for three years and his wife had to pay a fine of one year’s value of all her lands.

Other Essex gentry present at the battle were Sir John Tyrell of Heron Hall in East Horndon who was also part of the Duke of Gloucester’s retinue.  Having survived the battle he went on to serve as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1423, speaker of the House of Commons and was treasurer to Henry VI’s household.  He married Alice de Coggeshall, daughter and co-heiress of Sir William de Coggeshall of Little Coggeshall. 

The Waldegrave family acquired the manor of Navestock in the 16th century.  Sir Richard Waldegrave, present at Agincourt, held the manor of Wormingford by service of 10d. ward penny (a sum paid for watching a castle) per annum. Others who served included Robert Helyon of Helions Bumpstead with six esquires and three mounted archers and Sir William Mountneney of Mountnessing. Sir John Hevenyngham, lord of the manors of Little Totham, Eastwood, Fleet Hall in Sutton and Goldhanger fought in the retinue of the Earl of Norfolk. 

Seals of Richard de Waldegrave

Seals attached to D/DAy T1/13, from left to right: monogram, RW; an ermin’s tail in a crescent moon: legend, Solu[m] deo honor [et] gloria; arms and crest of Waldegrave: legend, S’ Ricardi de Waldegrave

We hope you have enjoyed our mini series on the connections between Essex and the Hundred Years’ War and the Battle of Agincourt – a small display of documents dating from 1415 will remain in the Searchroom until Christmas.

The essentials of archery

Today’s post from our medieval specialist Katharine Schofield is all about the importance of archery in medieval England. Join us to find out more with the English Warbow Society at Essex at Agincourt on Saturday 31 October 2015. This is a joint event with the Essex branch of the Historical Association, and all the details can be found here.

The use of longbows by the English archers was perhaps one of the most significant developments of the Hundred Years’ War and indeed of medieval warfare.  The longbow had a decisive and devastating effect in the English victories at the Battles of Sluys in 1340, Crécy in 1346, Poitiers in 1356 and Agincourt in 1415.

Ian Coote English Warbow Society

Ian Coote of the English Warbow Society using a traditional English warbow. See replicas of period bows and arrows and hear more about how significant their role was in the Hundred Years’ War at Essex at Agincourt
Photo: Chris Morris

The longbow originated in Wales and was used against the English in the 12th and 13th century invasions.  A 12th century chronicler Gerald of Wales described how an Englishman was struck by a Welsh archer:

It went right through his thigh, high up, where it was protected inside and outside the leg by his iron cuirasses and then through the seat of his leather tunic; next it penetrated … the saddle … seat; and finally it lodged in his horse, driving so deep that it killed the animal.

The deadly effect of the longbow meant that it was soon incorporated into English forces.  Longbows ranged in size from 5 to 7 feet [1.5 – 2.1 metres] and were usually made from yew, but wood from ash, elm and other trees could also be used.  An archer could shoot over half a mile and could knock a knight off his horse.  Archers could fire up to 12 arrows a minute, but would usually average about six arrows.  The arrows were around 3 feet long with a tip designed to break through chain mail.

Archery was a necessary skill for all Englishmen from the 13th to the 16th century, when it was gradually superseded by more modern weapons of war.  In 1181 the Assize of Arms did not mention bows and arrows, although a law of Henry I (1100-1135) stated that if a man was accidentally killed by an archer at practice then the archer could not be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter.

Archery practice remained a source of potential danger.  The Essex Assizes held in August 1579 recorded the indictment of John Pollyn of Little Oakley who on 28 June with other young men at the butts in the parish had shot Thomas Downes, aged 16, in the left eye leaving him with a wound 3 inches deep of which he died the following day.  In 1581 an inquest at Barking on Henry Fawcett, aged 19 recorded that a fisherman John Redforde accidentally shot Fawcett on the right side of his head to the depth of an inch while he was standing near the butts.  Fawcett died from the wound a week later.  The cause of death was recorded as ‘By misfortune’ [misadventure].

In 1252 another Assize of Arms was issued and this required every able-bodied man aged 15-60 to equip themselves with bows and arrows.  This was not formally repealed until 1623/4.  A declaration of 1363 acknowledged the successes that the longbow had brought:

Whereas the people of our realm, rich and poor alike, were accustomed formerly in their games to practise archery – whence by God’s help, it is well known that high honour and profit came to our realm, and no small advantage to ourselves in our warlike enterprises … that every man in the same country, if he be able-bodied, shall, upon holidays, make use, in his games, of bows and arrows … and so learn and practise archery.

In 1388 an Act required that all servants and labourers were to have bows and practice on Sundays and holidays.

By the 15th century archery was still considered to be of such importance that legislation was introduced to ensure that the equipment was readily available.  An Act of 1472 required every merchant importing goods to bring in four bowstaves for every ton; in 1483-1484 ten ‘good’ bowstaves had to be imported for every butt of wine.  Customs duty was removed from bow staves longer than 6 feet in 1503.  Maximum prices for bows made of yew were fixed at 3s. 4d. in 1482/3.

In 1542 an Act of Parliament laid down rules for regular practice.  It established a minimum distance of 220 yards (more than 200 metres) that men over 24 should be able to hit the target.  It also prohibited houses for ‘unlawful games’ which prevented practice and the Quarter Sessions rolls for Essex record many prosecutions.

In 1574 the records of Colchester Borough contain a copy of an order to the bailiffs by Thomas Worrell, fletcher, and John Gamage, bowyer, who had been appointed as deputies by the Essex Commissioners.  Lists were required of every householder, children and manservant aged 7-60 and they were required to muster before Worrell and Gamage on 5 May 1574 ‘with such bows and arrows as they ought to use’.  Colchester’s records notes the letter ‘was not received until 10 p.m. on 3 May and therefore the muster was not carried out’ (D/B 5 R7 f.183r. – 184r.].

Mark Stretton of the English Warbow Society making arrow heads

Mark Stretton of the English Warbow Society making arrow heads

Every town and village would have had archery butts for practice.  Butt Lane in Colchester is said to take its name from the fact that it led to the town’s butts.  In Chelmsford the butts were located in Butt Field off Duke Street in the area covered today by Townfield Street and the railway station.  As late as 1622 the chamberlains’ accounts for Maldon record the expenses in making new butts for the borough in Butt Lane (D/B 3/3/292).

Extract from John Walker's 1591 map of Chelmsford showing Butt Field (D/DM P1)

Extract from John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford showing Butt Field (D/DM P1)

Extract from John Walker's map of Moulsham, 1591, showing Moulsham Butt Field (D/DM P2)

Extract from John Walker’s map of Moulsham, 1591, showing Moulsham Butt Field (D/DM P2)

Maldon chamberlains' accounts D/B 3/3/292

Extract from chamberlains’ accounts for Maldon recording the expenses of making new butts for the borough in Butt Lane, 1622 (D/B 3/3/292)

The records of Quarter Sessions for Essex have many examples in the 1560s, 1570s and 1580s of parishes throughout the county being reported for the butts being out of repair.  Widford was reported at the Michaelmas 1572, Easter 1574, Epiphany and Midsummer 1575 and Easter 1584 Sessions, on the last occasion they had until Midsummer to repair them or pay a 5s. fine.  Little Waltham was reported in 1572 and 1577 and Willingale Spain in 1574, 1575 and 1580.  The lord of the manor and tenants of Grays Thurrock were presented in 1580 for ‘lack of butts in a convenient place’.

It was quite common for parishes to be given until the next Sessions (three months) to repair the butts or face a fine.  Aveley faced a fine of 13s. 4d. in 1566, North Ockendon a fine of 6s. 8d. in 1576 and Little Canfield 12d. in 1580.  In Danbury in 1574 it was reported that the butts were in decay and that Ambrose Madson had taken down one for his gaming there.  While failure to maintain and repair the butts was commonly the issue, it was reported to the Michaelmas Sessions of 1568 by the jury for the Hinckford Hundred in the north of Essex that ‘our buttes be in good reprassyons’ (Q/SR 27/16)

Given the requirements of the law, it is not surprising that there are a number of wills with bequests of bows and arrows.  In 1529 John Archare of Maldon, currier bequeathed his best, second and third bows (D/ABW 1/5); and in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, George Ardlye of Weeley, husbandman left his bow and arrows to his son Robert.  As late as 1612 Richard Crowe, a miller of Springfield left his bow and arrows to John Gibbs of Great Baddow.

Will of George Ardlye of Weeley (D/ABW 2/75)

Extract from will of George Ardlye of Weeley, leaving his bow and arrows to his son Robert, 1588 (D/ABW 2/75)

By the end of the 16th century, although Quarter Sessions records have many examples of parishes and manors being prosecuted for their failure to maintain their butts, the longbow was gradually being replaced with firearms.

To find out more about medieval archery from the English Warbow Society, join us on 31 October 2015 for Essex at Agincourt; all the details of the day are here.

Fighting the Hundred Years’ War: war indentures

In this next installment in our mini series marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, Katharine Schofield investigates some of the documents we hold which show medieval kings raised their armies to fight the Hundred Years’ War. Find out more about Agincourt and the Essex gentry who took part at Essex at Agincourt, a one-day conference on Saturday 31 October 2015. This is a joint event with the Essex branch of the Historical Association, and all the details can be found here.

After the Norman Conquest society and most importantly land-holding was arranged on a feudal basis.  William the Conqueror divided the English lands between his supporters, the tenants-in-chief named in the Domesday Book.  They held their lands directly from the king in return for military service, generally considered to be a maximum of 40 days a year.  In turn they rewarded their military supporters with land.  This process called subinfeudation continued down through the landholding classes to the knight at the bottom.  A knight’s fee was sufficient land to support a single knight.  This would include the knight, his family and servants, as well as providing him with the means to provide horses and armour to perform his military service.

When a knight died without a male heir his lands could be divided between heiresses (and their husbands).  The knight’s fee would be split into parts called moieties which owed fractions of a knight’s service.  Since it is difficult to provide a fraction of a knight (at least before a battle), it gradually became customary for payment of scutage (literally shield money) to be made in place of military service.  In some cases a payment would be made because the land was too divided, in others the landowner might be too old or too young to fight.  The money would then be used to hire mercenaries to fight in wars.

Scutage roll from Layer-de-la-Haye, 1240-1360 (D/DR M25)

Scutage roll from Layer-de-la-Haye, 1240-1360 (D/DR M25)

By the early 14th century the feudal system had been replaced by contracts between the king and an individual lord.  These contracts or indentures of war were agreements whereby the king agreed to pay the lord a sum and in return the lord was bound to supply a fixed number of men.

The agreement was written out twice on one piece of parchment and then divided with a wavy or indented line (hence the name) so that in the event of a dispute the two parts could be proved to have once been together.  The king’s copies are held at the National Archives in the records of the Exchequer.

Two of the indentures which would have been given to the lord survive in the Essex Record Office.  They are both written in Anglo-Norman French.  In the medieval period Latin was the language of record, used in the courts and official and legal documents.  However, French was the language of the king and his court until the 15th century and some documents including correspondence and agreements were written in French rather than Latin.

The earlier document dates from 1384 and is an agreement made between Richard II and his half-brother Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent (D/DRg 1/62).  The earl was the governor of the castle and town of Cherbourg and was given £4,000 to provide a sufficient garrison and artillery to defend it.  The earl’s seal shows a hind or white hart.  Richard II also used the white hart as his personal badge.  It is thought that it may have derived from the arms of Joan ‘The Fair Maid of Kent’, the mother of both Richard II and Thomas Holland.

D/DRg 1/62

Seal of Richard II

Seal of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent

The second (D/DL F15) is dated 8 February 1417 and is an agreement for Henry V’s second campaign in France, following the siege of Harfleur and the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.  This campaign was one of successful conquest resulting in the Treaty of Troyes which made Henry V heir to the French throne, and arranged his marriage to Catherine de Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France.  It is an agreement made between the king and Sir Roger Fienes of Herstmonceux in Sussex.  Sir Roger was to supply 10 men-at-arms and 30 archers, 20 of whom had to be mounted.  The online medieval soldier database www.medievalsoldier.org lists the names of the men-at-arms archers in Sir Roger’s retinue.

D/DL F15

‘War Charter’ between King Henry V and Sir Roger Fynes concerning an excursion into France, 1417. Includes detailed instructions regarding Sir Roger’s liabilities while on active service. It was this second campaign of Henry V which ended with the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. (D/DL F15)

The indenture specifies all the terms and conditions, including the daily wages to be paid – 2s. for Sir Roger, 12d. for the men-at-arms and 6d. for the archers.  It also agreed further payment, depending on the length of the campaign, the division of prisoners (the ransoms would bring reward) and other prizes that might be gained from the campaign.  Sir Roger was bound ‘to be with his said retinue well mounted armed and arrayed according to their estate at the port of the town of Southampton’ on 1 May 1417.  It is likely that a knight such as Sir Roger would have had at least six different types of horses, including a war-horse for battle as well as pack-horses to carry his equipment, the men-at-arms four and the mounted archers one.  They would then be shipped overseas at the expense of the king.

Waging war in this way was an expensive business.  The need to finance the campaigns of the Hundred Years’ War meant that Edward III and his successors had to summon Parliament more frequently to grant taxes to pay for the war.  The tax usually levied was called a fifteenth and tenth and was first introduced by King John and continued to the 17th century.  This was levied on movable goods and was at the rate of one fifteenth for rural areas and one tenth for urban areas and royal land.  In the 47th year of Edward III’s reign (1373-1374), William Reyne, one of the bailiffs of the borough of Colchester proposed a means by which the burden of the tax on the burgesses could be reduced.  All men, both burgesses and ‘foreigners’ [forinceci] (from outside the town) would pay the tenth.  In addition all ‘foreigners’ outside the borough who traded within the town would also be assessed to pay the tenth, instead of the rural rate of the fifteenth.  This forced people of fairly modest means such as farmers, dealers and fishermen to pay at a higher rate than they might otherwise have expected.  It was obviously successful as they chose to use the same method the following year.

In addition the king also had the right of purveyance, which derived from feudalism.  This was the right to requisition goods and services for royal use, and was particularly used to feed and supply armies and garrisons.  It was a system that was open to abuse by the royal officers and was unpopular.  Both Edward III and Henry V used purveyance to equip their armies for France.  Despite these taxes, the kings had to turn to moneylenders, including Italian bankers, for extra finance.  In 1338 wool was shipped from Harwich to pay the Bardi (Florentine) financiers who had lent the king money.

To find out more about the Battle of Agincourt from expert speakers, join us on 31 October 2015 for Essex at Agincourt; all the details of the day are here.

Poaching, fraud and trespass: October 1415 in Essex

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here

Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3 

These lines from Shakespeare’s Henry V suggest that every Englishman had wished he could have taken part in the Battle of Agincourt, 600 years ago on 25 October 1415. But just what was on the minds of those ‘gentlemen in England now a-bed’? Documents such as this one can give us some clues.

This court roll from the manor of Earls Colne records the proceedings of the court which met on Friday 4 October 1415 (D/DPr 67). (You can find out more about manorial courts and the records they produced here.)

Earls Colne manorial court record 1415

The manor of Earls Colne (in this document referred to as Colne Comitis – Comitis being Latin for ‘count’, the continental version of the Anglo-Saxon ‘earl’) was part of the lands of the Earl of Oxford.  Richard de Vere, the 11th earl, played a prominent part in the Battle of Agincourt, having supplied 39 men-at-arms and 60 archers to the campaign.  He was rewarded for his part by being made Knight of the Garter in May 1416. He died the following year and was buried at Colne Priory.

Manorial court roll, Earls Colne, 1415

In the top left corner of the document are the words ‘Colne Comts’ – an abbreviation for ‘Colne Comitis’, the Latin version of Earl’s Colne (‘comitis’ being the Latin for ‘count’, the continental equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon title ‘earl’

Effigy of Richard de Vere

The effigy of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, at Earls Colne

This court, held only three weeks before the Battle of Agincourt, records the usual business of a manor court.  Entries include Richard Hosyer fined 6d. for being a common poacher [venator] within the lord’s warren and fishgarth.   Nine women were fined a total of 23d. for breaking the assize of ale and Christina and Rose Mason were fined 3d. each for breaking the assize of white bread.  The assize regulated the price, weight and quality what was produced.  Ralph Preston was fined 2s. 4d. for trespass and cutting down two oaks and an ash tree on Heyhous, the lord’s land.

Land transactions were an important part of manorial business and those recorded include the surrender by John Turner of land called Berecroft (later Windmill Field) and the admission of Thomas Kelet, Robert Sebryght, John Bonjoon and Alice his wife on payment of a fine of 12d.  John Dunstale was granted (for a fine of 6d.) the rent of a croft called Litelreycroft (later Rycroft) opposite the Hallegardyn for ten years at an annual rent of 7s.  Robert Mathew was fined 68s. 6d. and lost his cattle for having claimed lands that did not belong to him by right of a false charter or deed of the Earl of Oxford.  This was continued from the previous court held on 4 June where it was found that the deed dated from the reign of Edward III but the red wax seal was less than one year old (we feel this one needs some further investigation…).

The roll will be on display in the Searchroom alongside two other Essex documents dating from 1415 as we prepare for Essex at Agincourt on Saturday 31 October 2015. Join us for talks from experts on one of the most famous battles in British history – all the details of the day are here.