Magna Carta: Essex Connections – Hugh de Neville

In the run up to Magna Carta: Essex Connections we take a more detailed look at the Essex connections of Hugh de Neville, a friend of King John who eventually rebelled against him.

Hugh de Neville appears a witness in the royal grant of 2 May 1203 that we hold here at ERO (D/DB T1437/1). He was King John’s Chief Forester, one of the great officers of state, and is named in Magna Carta as one of John’s officials – the men whom the chronicler Roger of Wendover referred to as the king’s ‘evil councillors’. One of the aims of Magna Carta was to curb the powers of royal positions such as Chief Forester.

D-DB T1437-1 Hugh de Neville

Hugh de Neville named in a royal charter of 1203 (D/DB T1437/1)

Before John’s reign, Hugh de Neville had served briefly under Henry II, then throughout the reign of Richard I, fighting with him on the Third Crusade. The Essex historian Revd. Philip Morant records that ‘he performed a valorous exploit, by shooting an arrow into a Lion’s breast, and when he rose against him, catching him by the beard, and running his sword into his heart’. This feat was represented on his seal.

Hugh was given lands by both Richard and John, many of them in Essex. Over time he acquired the manors of Langham, Wethersfield, Little Hallingbury and Abbots in East Horndon and served as sheriff of Essex, 1197-1200 and 1202-1203.

Despite being on friendly terms with King John for most of his reign, de Neville appears to have suffered as a result of John’s philandering. John had a reputation for forcing himself on the wives of his courtiers.  A French chronicler wrote that he was ‘too desirous of fair women … by which he brought great shame upon the highest men of the land, for which he was much hated’. A chronicler in Yorkshire wrote of John that he ‘deflowered the wives and daughters of the nobility, spared the wives of none whom he chose to stain with the ardour of his desires’. The Oblate Roll for Christmas 1204 recorded that Joan ‘the wife of Hugh de Neville gives the lord King 200 chickens that she might lie one night with her lord’ (i.e. paying the King to allow her a night with her own husband).

John moved quickly to rescind the Magna Carta and the rebel barons invited Prince Louis of France to take the English throne. Louis arrived with an army in May 1216, and this is when de Neville finally abandoned John and joined the rebel barons. When John died and his son became Henry III, de Neville pledged his loyalty to him.

De Neville died in 1234, and was buried in Waltham Abbey.

I-Mb 385-1-86

The interior of Waltham Abbey, 1860 (I/Mb 385/1/86)

There is more to come in our Magna Carta series, but in the meantime get in touch on 033301 32500 to book your ticket for Magna Carta: Essex Connections.

Magna Carta: Essex Connections

To explore the significance and legacy of this famous document, both nationally and for Essex, join us for talks from:

  • Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, who has been leading a major project researching the background to Magna Carta
  • Katharine Schofield, ERO Archivist, on Essex connections with Magna Carta and the impact it had on the medieval county

Saturday 23 May, 1.15pm for 1.30am-4.15pm

Tickets: £8, including tea, coffee and cake

Please book in advance on 033301 32500

To make minc’d Pye meat without meat

A little while ago we brought you some recipes from the kitchen of Mary Rooke of Langham Hall, and today we see the sort of things that she got up to at Christmas.

You can view images of Mary’s entire recipe book on Seax here (D/DU 818/1).

To make minc’d Pye meat without meat (image 25) 

Mary Rooke's recipe for minced meat (D/DU 818/1 image 25)














3 pounds of apples grated 2 pounds of Beef Suet chop’d very fine 2 pounds of Currants wash’d well & pick’d clean, 2 pound of raisins chop’d, the Rind & pulp of 2 Lemons boil’d very tender, and pounded in a marble mortar, half a Pint of Brandy the same of Port Wine, the juice of 4 Lemons, Sugar to your taste,  half a pound of almonds blanch’d & sliced thin, mix these ingredients very well together put them into small jars covered with Bladder to be tied close down that the air may not get into it, when open make your Pyes have Citron Orange & Lemon / candy’d / cut in small slices put in them more on top as you like, & have in a bottle ready mix’d Brandy and Port Wine put a little of it in them it makes them moist & just as of fresh made. 

Orange Cakes (page 45 image 24) (in a different hand)

Mary Rooke's recipe for orange cakes (D/DU 818/1 image 24)

Take fresh seville oranges weigh them and take their weight in sugar beat small, cut the oranges in two, cross way take the pulp out free from strings and pippins and the strings from the insides of the skins then cut the skins into thin pieces and shred it very fine beat it as while in a marble morter you may by degrees put in the sugar and pulp beating it  till it is very fine then drop it upon a pewter dish in cakes the size of a Crown and dry them in a stove or any warm place to a pound of orange put two very large spoonfulls of Lemon juice.

Mary Rooke of Langham Hall

We thought we’d take a little break from historic moustaches today to have a look at some more historic recipes.

Our next recipe book from the archives belonged to Mary Rooke, nee Marriott (D/DU 818/1). Mary was the daughter of Joshua Marriott and his wife Mary Edge. Joshua was a Manchester entrepreneur involved in the cloth industry, and Mary married in Manchester in 1774 to Captain George Rooke.

She began keeping her recipe book in 1770 before her marriage, when she was living in Ardwick House in Lancashire. At some point before 1777, Mary and George took up residency at Langham Hall in north east Essex.

As with the other recipe books we have looked at so far, this one contains a mixture of culinary and medicinal recipes, carefully entered and indexed. The book is mostly in Mary’s hand, although the indexes were largely entered by a second hand. The second hand must have belonged to an assistant of some kind, as Mary has gone back and corrected some of its work; she has commented on the second hand’s instructions for ‘Marseilles vinegar against the plague’ that they were a ‘disgrace to the person who began & left the receipt in such an unfinished state’.

You can view images of the whole of Mary’s book on Seax here, but we have picked out a few of our favourites to share with you, including Langham Biscuits, named after her home.

Lemon Cake (image 10)

Take fiveteen eggs leave out half the whites ten ounces of sugar beat and sifted whisk the eggs sugar and the rinds of two lemons grated half a pound of rice flour for half an hour butter your mug that it is bak’d in put it into a quick oven half an hour will bake it dozen bitter almonds will add to the cake.


Waffles (image 10)

D/DU 818/1 image 10 waffles






A pint of new milk half a pound of fresh butter four eggs a little mace or nutmeg a spoonful of brandy & as much flour as will make it as thick as a pancake make your tongs  hot fill them & turn them quick make your sauce of melted butter wine & sugar 


A Rice Pudding (image 13)

D/DU 818/1 image 13 rice pudding

Two ounces of ground rice a pint of cream set ‘em over the fire when it’s thick add half a pound of butter five eggs a quarter of a pint of sack sugar to your taste then put it on a dish with a pastry round it & bake it add to it a quarter of a pound of blanch’d almonds


Langham Biscuits (image 16)

D/DU 818/1 image 16 Langham biscuits





A pound of flour two ounces of butter a few carraway seeds knead it with warm milk roll it into thin cakes bake them two ounces of sugar