Transactions of the Woolhope Club 1969 Page 413

Transactions of the Woolhope Club 1969 Page 413 is in Transactions of the Woolhope Club 1969.

The Anglo-Norman Chronicle Of Wigmore Abbey [Map] By J. C. Dickinson And P. T. Ricketts

Historical Introduction

The attractive remains of the abbey of Wigmore stand on a gentle slope two miles northwest of the village of the same name, with the line of Watling Street running nearby and the lordly castle of Ludlow [Map] seven miles to the northeast. The situation of the monastery in a remote and poorish area inevitably made most of its history unspectacular, and the almost total loss of its archives1 leaves certain aspects of it largely blank.

Note 1. No cartulary of the abbey is known to have survived. The text of some deeds concerning it is preserved in cartularies of the Mortimer family now in the British Museum (G. R. C. Davis, Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain (1958), nos. 1292, 1293, 1292. But a late inspeximus including a not very informative charter of Hugh de Mortimer II survives.

Yet in two respects it is worthy of much more than average attention. In the first place Wigmore abbey has close and interesting relations with the illustrious Parisian abbey of St. Victor which Abelard's tutor William of Champeaux had founded in 1113 on the south side of the Seine some half mile southeast of the cathedral of Notre Dame.2 At this time, the newly-fledged university of Paris was rising rapidly to its place as the major centre of learning north of the Alps, and with it the abbey of St. Victor was intimately connected, its walls sheltering not a few men of learning, of whom Hugh of St. Victor was the most celebrated. The abbey also soon became the head of an independent order of Austin Canons. Of the six English houses which owed it allegiance3 Wigmore was the first, as well as being the mother house of St. Augustine's Bristol which became the chief Victorine house in this country and was destined to be taken over as a cathedral in the troubled days of the Reformation. Secondly the origins of Wigmore and its early relations with St. Victor are known in remarkable detail thanks to the exceptionally large amount of literary material about it which has survived. This consists of three main items which may conveniently be termed the History, the Annals and the Chronicle.

Note 2. On the history of the abbey see F. Bonnard, Histoire de l'abbaye royale et de l'ordre . . de St. Victor de Paris, 2 vols. Paris 1907.

Note 3. The expansion of the Victorine order in England is considered in J. C. Dickinson "The English regular canons and the Continent in the twelfth century", Trans. Royal Hist. Soc., 5th Ser. i (1951), 71-89. Its houses here were Wigmore, St. Augustine's Bristol, Keynsham, Woodspring, Stavordale, Wormsley.

(i) The History belongs to the same manuscript as the Chronicle here printed and was long ago published in Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum4 where it is termed Fundationis et Fundatorum Historia. Written in Latin, it is almost wholly concerned with the doings of the famous Mortimer family who made Wigmore castle their chief residence and very early acquired the patronage of the abbey, within whose church no few of them were buried. Unhappily the History is far from reliable ("so full of inaccuracies that it has not been used as an authority" notes The Complete Peerage5, where it seems to be confused with the Chronicle), and says very little about Wigmore abbey. However it does yield a few mentions of it which are useful.

Note 4. W. Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, ed. Caley, Ellis and Bandinel (1830), VI (i) 348-55.

Note 5. G.E.C., Complete Peerage, ix 271 n.

(ii) The Annals are the Annales Wigmorienses, preserved in a manuscript now in the John Rylands Library Manchester.6 To their value for political history Sir Maurice Powicke long ago drew attention; their entries which concern the abbey are brief but invaluable.

Note 6. MS. 215 ff 1-8. It covers, very unevenly, the period 1095-1308.

(iii) Incomparably the most detailed and valuable source for the early history of Wigmore abbey in the Chronicle printed here.7 It is a first class example of a type of medieval monastic literature which is an invaluable as it is rare, enabling us to reconstruct the origins of the religious house which it concerns with a high degree of fullness not remotely feasible where, as is mostly the case, the sole available sources are charters or brief annalistic notes. It is quite certain that the foundation of a monastery in post-Conquest England was not infrequently a very protracted process8 and it is only in the rare cases where the house in question has bequeathed us a Chronicle of the type here published that this process can be adequately re-constructed.

Note 7. On the manuscript containing it see below p. 419.

Note 8. below n. 22.

The Wigmore Chronicle is of very respectable length. The first three-quarters of it is concerned with the troubled history of the house before its definitive establishment on a permanent site in the later years of Hugh de Mortimer II who died in 1185 after having laid the first foundation stone of the abbey in 1172. The rest of it, which may well be a later addition, is largely concerned with the protracted process whereby Hugh's heir Ralph de Mortimer was reconciled to his father's expensive benefactions to the abbey.

The Chronicle has two defects. Firstly its complete refusal to assign a date to any of the complex series of events which it describes, not even that of the original foundation of the monastery at Shobdon being recorded. Secondly its failure to make any distinction between the acts of Hugh de Mortimer I who died c. 1149 and his younger son Hugh de Mortimer II. This suggests that the narrative did not take its present form until some considerable time after the death of the latter (1185) though we have nothing to show at all precisely the exact date of composition. Nor do we know at what stage occurred that translation of the Chronicle (or possibly part of it) from Latin into French recorded in its preface which there is good reason to accept.

However the value of such narratives depends on the reliability of its contents not the date of the text of it that has happened to survive. Judged by this test the Wigmore Chronicle triumphs. If it gives us no dates, the numerous ones which can be supplied with the aid of other sources show that the story is both coherent and accurate. Again and again such dates fit into the whole with the perfection of the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. Further, especially in the early part, we are given a series of incidental details which are always perfectly convincing and which are often of a trivial type which a chronicler writing long after the event who would be very unlikely either to have known or to have thought worthy of record.

Repeatedly, and especially in the first part, we feel the presence of an eye witness, and can therefore accept the statement by the anonymous author of the Preface to the Chronicle that "we saw Oliver (the founder of the house) living and dead and buried in the said abbey", and that his son Simon (1175) "recounted to others . . the things which he heard from his father and which he himself saw afterwards". However it is almost certain that the Chronicle is not all of the same date. The first three-quarters of it which take the story down to the last years of Hugh de Mortimer II may very well be largely or wholly drawn from contemporary witness. The concluding pages are, however, clearly of later date, being concerned largely with abbey's relations with Roger de Mortimer (who died in 1214 or late in the previous year), but mention incidentally the foundation of a hospital at Lechlade by his wife Isabella, which probably occurred about 1246, as well as her death which probably took place early in 1252.9 If this later part lacks some of the fascinating circumstantial detail found in the narrative which precedes it, it is devoid of that unhelpful verbosity so often characterising writing much later than the events it describes, and none of its details are palpably false or unconvincing.

Note 9. Complete Peerage ix 273.

The establishment of the abbey of Wigmore

As the foundation of Wigmore was a long and involved process whose details can easily be misunderstood owing to the often cryptic and technical language of the Chronicle, it is desirable to elucidate briefly its course.

That Wigmore was a place of local importance before the Norman Conquest is likely enough. Certainly Domesday Book shows us that a castle had been built there on "some waste ground called Merestune" by William fitz Osbern Earl of Hereford (1067-71) and that in 1086 the vill of Wigmore was assessed at the then not inconsiderable sum of £7.10

Note 10. Domesday Book i 183b.

In 1100, as the History notes Ralph de Mortimer established three prebends in the parish church of Wigmore11 (thus in effect making it a small collegiate church) and it is not impossible that he rebuilt it about the same time for in 1105, according to the Annals, bishop Reinhelm of Hereford dedicated the church of Wigmore.12 But the major place which it occupied in the medieval history of the Welsh border is principally due to the fact that Wigmore became the caput or main residence of the great family of Mortimer.13 The first of these was Ralph de Mortimer (whose family took its name from Mortemer-sur-Eaulne, some twenty miles south east of Dieppe, near Neufchatel en Brai), who had fought for the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings. Domesday Book shows that by 1086 he had been succeeded by his son Ralph II, who held a great collection of lands notably in Herefordshire and Shropshire, including Wigmore and Cleobury whose castles were military key-points. At an unknown date in the period 1104-28 Ralph was succeeded by his son Hugh I. a vigorous supporter of King Stephen. Much mentioned in the Chronicle, he died in 1148-50 to be followed first by his shortlived heir Roger who was succeeded by his younger brother Hugh II, under whom Wigmore abbey was permanently established.

Note 11. Dugdale op. cit. VI (i) 349a.

Note 12. f1v.

Note 13. On the Mortimer family see G.E.C. Complete Peerage ix 266 ff.

The primary inspiration for the foundation of the monastery had come, however, from one Oliver de Merlimond,14a steward to Hugh de Mortimer I, who had inherited Ledicot and was given Shobdon (14b) by his lord and master. At the latter place there probably already existed the castle whose later remains are still visible, as well as the chapel dedicated to St. Juliana mentioned in the Chronicle.

Note 14a. a His patronymic probably derives from Merlimont in the commune of the Pas de Calais, some 19 miles south of Boulogne but Dom J. Becquet has drawn my attention to similar place-names at Dominois (Somme), Groffliers (Pas de Calais), Bucquoy (Pas de Calais), whilst a Merlimont in the hamlet of Warluis (Oise) is mentioned in 1142. He also informs me that a reference to 'the priory of Wigmore" in the Archives of Arras was destroyed in 1915. We are much indebted to Mr. F. W. Oliver for help in locating these place-names.

Note 14b. Domesday Book (i 183b) provides interesting details regarding Shobdon which show that it was then by no means insignificant.

Oliver decided to replace this chapel, which was of wood, by a stone church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and to acquire for it the status of a parish church. This last he was able to do by an arrangement of the now customary type which allowed the change in return for a provision whereby an annual pension was to be paid to the mother church of Aymestrey. These two moves would have been obvious preliminaries, if Oliver had already decided to establish a monastery at Shobdon at a time when a large number of his contemporaries were taking such a step (more monasteries were founded in England during Stephen's reign than in the previous hundred years). But it may be that, as the Chronicle suggests, at this time Oliver had no such intention.

He now went of on pilgrimage to the celebrated shrine of St. James of Compostella in Northern Spain. During his return journey he came to Paris where by a chance meeting with one of the canons he made the acquaintance of the abbey of St. Victor there. Soon after his return his new church of Shobdon was dedicated. Of this time has benevolently preserved for us fascinating relics which rank amongst the most interesting sculptures of twelfth century England.15

These consist of:

(i) The massive font still preserved in the parish church.

(ii) A large arch, two smaller ones and two tympanums erected as a group on the hill-side north of the church.

Note 15. Elaborate drawings of these Romanesque remains are given in G. R. Lewis, The ancient church of Shobdon (1852). The tympana have suffered greatly from exposure; an excellent early cast of one was destroyed in World War II.

Professor Zernecki has recently dated all these to about 113516 and suggests that the very evident foreign influence which they exhibit is that of Western France. It would thus seem that the canon of St. Victor who led Oliver to visit his abbey was not the only valuable stray acquaintance which the latter made during his journey home. (That the sculptures do not pre-date Oliver's return is suggested by the Chronicle's witness that the church was completed after it).

Note 16. Letter to the writer.

What is quite certain is that in the face of various difficulties on which the Chronicle dwells at length, Oliver now proceeded to establish at Shobdon a small community of regular canons of St. Victor to which he gave the church there and property at nearby Letton and Ledicot, together with the advowson of the church of Birley which he obtained from the bishop of Hereford.

It is unfortunate that we cannot date precisely these proceedings. The Chronicle remarks not very helpfully that the monastery originated in the reign of King Stephen (1135-54) a period which is narrowed appreciably by its mention of the help of bishop Robert of Hereford who died in 1148. Further aid comes from the reference to the community of at Shobdon early suffering through the quarrel between the bishop and Miles Count of Hereford17a which probably occurred not long before Milo acquired this title in July 1141. From this we may conclude that the first canons of St. Victor to reach Shobdon probably arrived in or near the year 1140.

Note 17a. A. T. Bannister, The Cathedral Church of Hereford (1924), 33.

The long series of woes which now beset the brethren need not be here considered, though we may note in passing that they derived mainly from three causes—the unsettled state of the Welsh border, the uncertain temper of Hugh de Mortimer I (whom a contemporary chronicler terms "a most arrogant and presumptuous man") and the difficulty in obtaining a suitable site for the new monastery.

At an early stage Hugh de Mortimer thought of moving the community to Chelmarsh to "a lasting habitation far removed from Wales". This did not materialise, but the brethren were soon transferred to Eye. Building began here but, following more trouble, the community was shifted to the parish church of Wigmore. Such a step was just defensible as a stop-gap measure but would be out of the question as a permanent solution as the brethren quickly and rightly pointed out. The History complains hereon of "the lack of water, the perversity of the inhabitants and the crampedness of the site"17b and the Chronicle writes of the place as "too narrow and too squalid to make a dwelling place for them (the canons) and above all it was very short of water and the climb to the church was very hard for them; there were unkind, derogatory words from those who lived near them".18

Note 17b. Dugdale op. cit. VI (i) 349a.

Note 18. Below p. 431.

Understandably, therefore, the canons sought a new and much more suitable site for their habitation. Such was presently spotted by one of their number a couple of miles north of Wigmore village and Hugh de Mortimer II who apparently grew more pious with advancing years gave them the site. It is unfortunate that the Chronicle's references to all these comings and goings are imprecise and are not appreciably aided by archaeological evidence. It is however certain that the foundation stones of the conventional church were laid in the year 1172 and that it was dedicated in 1179.19 At the exact dates of the previous transfers to Eye and Wigmore village we can only guess. It must not be assumed that the dedication of the abbey church necessarily implies that the whole building was by then complete. Existing remains of it, especially those of the nave (which would be completed last) are not adequate to elucidate this point, even if it were possible to date them very closely.20 However it seems certain that at least much of the whole church was laid out in the twelfth century, as was much of the cloister range. The eastern limb of the church was rebuilt and enlarged in the fourteenth century and the extant remains of the eastern range belong to the thirteenth century, presumably because of the fire which broke out here at this time to which the History makes reference.21 Byland abbey is the only English Cistercian house which changed its site three times before securing a permanent home, and Wigmore is apparently the sole English house of Austin canons which shared this curious distinction. But in both orders there are plenty of examples of less complex migrations; some fourteen English houses of Austin canons, for example, are known where they left the original site of their monastery to settle elsewhere.22

Note 19. ibid. p. 445, n. 34.

Note 20. On the architectural remains see the account and plan of H. Brakspear "Wigmore Abbey", Archaeological Journal, XC (1934), 26-51 though the historical references are not uniformly reliable and some of his dating of the structure, notable that assigning part of it to c. 1140 is highly unlikely.

Note 21. Dugdale op. cit. 350.

Note 22. On these houses and the principal reasons for change of monastic sites at this time see J. C. Dickinson "Les constructions des premiers chanoines *tillers en Angleterre", Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale (Poitiers) x (1967), 179-98.

A final comment on the history of the foundation of Wigmore is of general interest. Had the Chronicle not survived and, as could easily have come to pass, the Annals been left as our sole source of knowledge of the origins of Wigmore it would have been very natural to hold that the beginnings of the house should be dated to about the time of the foundation stone ceremony in 1172. Yet in the light of the rich evidence on the point contained in the Chronicle, it is quite certain that the community had, in fact, come into existence thirty years before this time. We must therefore be wary of accepting too readily the unsupported testimony brief annalistic references to the date of medieval monastic foundations in England, but be prepared to admit that in various cases (at the number of which it is impossible to make a reasonable guess), the original community had existed for some time before a final site was founded and a permanent church begun.


The chronicle of the foundation of Wigmore Abbey is preserved in a single manuscript, now in the University of Chicago Library, No. 224, and fills the preliminary quire, folios Iv to 5r. The text is written in a court hand of the fourteenth century, and appears in one column of some 35 to 45 lines to the page. A full description of the manuscript is to be found in the article of Mary E. Giffin, "A Wigmore Manuscript at the University of Chicago," National Library of Wales Journal VII (1951-2), pp. 316-25.


The printed version of the chronicle preserves as accurately as possible the text of the manuscript. On the whole, the abbreviations make for no difficulties. In all cases, they have been resolved on the basis of the full form most frequently employed. The scribe makes frequent use of a final flourish, which generally indicates either y, er or simply e, as often found in Anglo-Norman manuscripts, e.g. Cleybur' (Cleybury). In other cases, the abbreviation replaces two letters, e.g. gnt = grant.

The punctuation, word-division and use of capitals have been rationalised, and distinction is made between i and j, u and v. The acute accent is used to distinguish between close e and atonic e (e.g. assign). The divisions of the manuscript have been respected, but occasionally a particularly long section has been divided into two parts.

In the critical apparatus, the reading from the printed text is given, followed by right square bracket and the rejected manuscript reading.

Here begins the prologue to a short account, translated into French, telling how Wigmore Abbey was first founded, at what time, and how and through whom the canons came to England from Paris, as is fully contained in ancient books of this same abbey.

Since we should not neglect to heed and remember the noteworthy and beneficial works of antiquity, because to do so is harmful and destructive of virtues, we ought to commit to memory what the wise tell us as well as follow their example. Such practice is the mother and nurse of high principles, therefore, with these well known examples in mind, which, as often in the past, may now benefit and stir the hearts of the audience, and be of help to them, we briefly record for your benefit this short account of the foundation of Wigmore Abbey, so that people now living and those to cone after may have recourse to this record, written front first hand, should it happen that the official document does not give them full details of the above foundation, It is therefore necessary first of all to know when and in whose reign and by whom and how and in what way the said abbey had its origin, and how thereafter it [grew] little by little by the grace of Jesus Christ and aided by good people in Christ. And equally to know the names of those through whom we heard the account of the absolute truth of the affair, so we can with all the more assurance put ourselves forward to every man as worthy of belief. The very first of these was Oliver de Merlimont1, the initiator of the undertaking. who clearly recounted the things he himself did to others unacquainted with them. We saw this Oliver as a canon alive and dead, and buried in the said abbey. After him, there was Simon, (2) his son, a canon, who recounted to others, both canons and seculars. the things which he heard from his father, and which he himself saw afterwards After these, several others were brought up from childhood in the said abbey and lived there until their old age, who would tell others of the things they saw and heard from certain people.

Note 1. The chronology of Oliver's life is most obscure and the date of his death unknown.

Note 2. Simon, there prior, was made abbot in 1175 but died before receiving benediction (which would normally follow very soon after election). MDCC/XXV—Obiit Andreas abbas de Wygem. Suceessit Simon eiusdem loci prior, sed antequam benediceretur defunctus est; cui successit Ranulphus eiusdem loci sacrista". Annals f2v.

Here the prologue ends and the account begins.

In the time of King Stephen [1135-54], son of the count of Blois, who reigned in England by force after King Henry. son of William Bastard, there was a very noble knight in England, worthy, brave and bold. Sir Hugh de Mortimer [I] by name, noble by nature and blood, of fine hearing, courageous in arms, judicious in speech, wise of counsel, and well endowed with human powers, and the most glorious knight, renowned and feared above all those who were living in England at that time. Were we to commit to writing all the acts of prowess which he accomplished in England, Wales and elsewhere, they would amount to a great quantity. Apart from this, he was the most generous and liberal in his gifts of all those known anywhere in his lifetime. The noble earl of Hereford, Roger, powerful and worthy and with a great many retainers, but proud and overweening, made so much trouble that he was obliged to remain behind closed doors in his own castles for fear of him; similarly King Henry, who came after King Stephen, often . . acted with his army as is fully recounted below.

How the very noble lord Sir Hugh de Mortimer made Oliver de Merlimont his chief seneschal, and gave him the rill of Shobdon for his loyal service to him, and how the church of Shobdon was built.

This most noble, honourable lord, wishing to concentrate freely on his pleasures and amusements without burdening or occupying himself with other things, chose a wise, prudent and conscientious man named Oliver de Merlimont, and made him chief seneschal of all his land and manager of all his property. This Oliver held the land of Ledicote3 by inheritance, and his lord, Sir Hugh de Mortimer, gave him also all the vill of Shobdon for his loyal and tireless service to him. He presented Odo, son of the said Oliver. to the benefice of the church of Aymestrey.4 At that time, there was no church in Shobdon, but only a chapel of Saint Juliana5, made of wood, subject to the church of Aymestrey. Oliver was therefore most concerned to have erected a new church in Shobdon, and to determine to which saint it should be dedicated when it was completed. Finally, he chose St John the Evangelist, whom Christ chose before all his other disciples, as patron of the church. After this he summoned his son Odo, the incumbent of Aymestrey, and they discussed how his church at Shobdon might be placed outside the jurisdiction of the church of Aymestrey by means of an annual pension of two shillings.6 When this had been decided, the said Oliver undertook the construction of the church of Shobdon. During this time, Oliver had the great wish to undertake a pilgrimage to St James [of Compostella]7, and entrusted to a knight. Bernard, all the responsibility for the work with the necessary funds, and undertook the pilgrimage in the name of God, and reached St James safe and sound. When he had carried out his obligations there, he returned, always mindful of the enterprise at Shobdon. And when he approached the city of Paris, a canon of the abbey of St Victor8 I caught up with him and begged him to take up his lodging in the abbey; and he reluctantly agreed and went with him into the abbey, where he was received courteously and with great honour. Whilst he was there he took careful note of all the things he saw in the guest-house, in the cloisters and in the choir, and especially of the service performed around the altar; and his heart was filled with piety at the decorum which he saw among them in all places. Then he took leave of the abbot and of the other brothers of that place, and returned to his own country. And when his church was quite complete, he most humbly begged lord Robert of Bethune [1131- 48], bishop of Hereford, by whose gift we have the church of Lydbury North, to deign to consecrate his church at Shobdon. And he agreed and assigned a date for the consecration. On the appointed day, there came the bishop, all the great lords of the region, knights, clergy and countless others to the ceremony. Before all these people was read the agreement drawn up between Oliver and Odo, his son, and it was confirmed by the bishop, and witnessed by all the people. And when the church had been consecrated, there was the banquet, very elaborately prepared for the bishop and for other guests and for those who wanted to come.

Note 3. Ledicot is a hamlet one mile east of Shobdon.

Note 4. Aymestrey was at this time the centre of a large parish, presumably through it having been the mother church of the area.

Note 5. A somewhat rare dedication. The existence of a chapel at Shobdon at this early date is perhaps due to the establishment of the Norman castle here, whose motte yet remains, but cf. p. 415 above.

Note 6. This liberation from the mother church would allow baptisms and burials to take place at Shobdon. It would be natural at this stage to rebuild the place of worship on a grander scale.

Note 7. At this time the Shrine of Santiago of Compostella in Northern Spain was the major place of pilgrimage in Western Europe north of the Alps.

Note 8. The abbey of St. Victor stood near one of the gates of the city.

Soon afterwards, Oliver heard that the incumbent of the church of Birley, whose name was Wolward, had been deposed for his ill-conduct, and he asked the bishop Robert to grant him the advowson of this church, and he granted it to him, since no one dared to refuse him anything he wanted, for he was second in importance after Sir Hugh de Mortimer. And when Oliver had the churches of Shobdon and Birley, and his land of Ledicote and Letton9 in his possession, he determined to give them to a monastic community, and remembered the decorousness which he saw formerly among the canons of St Victor of Paris, and sent a letter by one Roger le Blanc, whom he trusted, to the honourable old abbot, whose name was Gilduin of St Victor [1113-55]10, begging him to send him two or three canons, for whom, on their arrival, he would find everything they needed and more. The abbot did not trust either the messenger or the letter, since it was sealed unofficially by Oliver's own authority, and not by proper seal11, and so the messenger returned, his mission uncompleted. And when Oliver had heard from his messenger what had happened, he went to the aforesaid bishop of Hereford, and gave a complete explanation of his intention. This intention and piety delighted the bishop greatly, and he had his letter made and sealed with his own seal and that of Oliver jointly, and sent it by Roger Knoth, one of his personal staff, to the abbot of St. Victor, seeking the favour he had formerly asked. Thereupon the abbot, on the advice of the whole chapter, chose two, that is Roger and Ernys, of whom Roger was after made abbot of Eu [1148-61]12, and Ernys abbot of St Victor [1162-72]13,. The abbot sent these two to Oliver who granted them all that he promised during that time with regard to their maintenance, that is the church of Birley and the church of Shobdon, where he had them installed in a very fine house near the church. He also gave them his land of Ledicote with the barns full of corn and plenty of oxen, sheep and pigs, along with two carucates of land.

Note 9. Despite the form of the name in the French text, this place is almost without doubt Letton one and a half miles south east of Brampton Brian and five miles north of Shobdon. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 shows that the abbey had valuable property here and twelfth century stones still remain at a farm there; it seems to have been the home-farm of the abbey.

Note 10. This is a good example of the accuracy of the Chronicle over minor details. The small number of brethren requested shows the slight endowment it now possessed.

Note 11. At this date private seals were still largely a monopoly of those top ranks of society to which Oliver did not belong.

Note 12. Gallia Christiana xi 295. I am indebted to Dom. I. Becquet for this reference.

Note 13. Bonnard op. cit., i 471.

At that time, a quarrel arose between Robert, bishop of Hereford, and Miles, earl of Hereford [1141-3], in that the bishop excommunicated the aforesaid earl then present along with all the city of Hereford, and had the doors of the church blocked by thorn-bushes, and the crosses thrown down, and he came to Shobdon at the request of Oliver, and lived with the canons at his own expense, until the count and all the aforementioned city were reconciled with him and his people.14 Afterwards the canons were very sad at the departure of the bishop from among them, and equally very depressed because they were very far from their abbey, and they sent to the abbot Gilduin of St Victor, begging him to send in their place others who could speak and understand English and who understood the English character, and to allow them to return to their abbey; and at the same time they sent word that the place they had was good and pleasant with enough resources to fulfil their needs. And the abbot granted their request, and sent there three brothers born and bred in England. And when they reached Shobdon, they were very well received and installed, and the others left and returned to their abbey.

Note 14. This implies the end of a local interdict.

And very soon after, a very great and violent quarrel broke out between Sir Hugh de Mortimer and the aforesaid Oliver, so that Oliver left him, and went to lord Miles, earl of Hereford, who, at that time, was his close friend.15 And when Sir Hugh realized this, he had him summoned three times in his court to answer for the accusations he had against him.16 Because Oliver feared the malice and cruelty of his lord, he dared not make an appearance in his court, but rather lay low during that time. And when Sir Hugh saw that he was unwilling to come, nor send another in his place, he seized everything belonging to Oliver, along with the canons' possessions. Nevertheless, he did not wish to do the canons any harm without judgment, and gave them respite to dwell there a year, and after the year they were to go where they saw fit, as people who had come onto his land without his leave, brought there by his enemy. And the canons would not and could not remain in the region; they prepared themselves for a secret escape, for they had no one to help or succour them.

Note 15. We have no indication of the cause of this quarrel or of the date at which Oliver became a canon at the monastery he had founded.

Note 16. This triple summons was current legal practise, non-appearance of the summonee being liable to be followed by forfeiture. It was perhaps at this juncture that the Mortimer family effectively acquired the patronage of the monastery.

Sir Gilbert de Lacy17 saw this, and he wished to please Sir Hugh de Mortimer, so he came to Letton, and took away all the canons' effects by virtue of overlordship, and had their corn taken away, which was worth a great deal. And since God gives help where human aid is lacking, it happened that there was a large meeting assembled at Leominster for important matters. At this assembly was the bishop of Hereford with his household, and Sir Hugh de Mortimer with his, and Robert, prior of Shobdon, and several other knights, clergy and laymen brought there from all around. And when the business for which they had come was completed, mention was made of the canons of Shobdon, on whose behalf the bishop and knights who were there begged Sir Hugh de Mortimer to have mercy on them. And when he had taken counsel with his advisers, he said finally in a loud voice: "If I can have an abbot, I will grant them all the possessions which Oliver gave them, and I will give them more in addition.18 At these words, the bishop took the prior by the hand, and said: "Here, Sir, I give you an abbot; do what you have promised." And he accepted him straightway, and with the bishop and other great lords led him to the altar singing with raised voices: "Te Deum laudamus." And there he granted them everything that Oliver had given them, free from restrictions, along with a prebend of Wigmore church, which was then vacant, and he granted them all the other prebends of the church when they fell vacant. He begged the lord of Hughley, who was present there, to give him his church of Hughley, and he granted him this; he gave this church which was then vacant before all the people to the abbot-elect of Shobdon and to the canons. At that time he promised them the town of Chelmarsh, where he had considered giving them a permanent dwelling, far removed from the Welsh. And when the abbot-elect had returned to his house, he had the firm hope of living in peace and quiet, but a short time after, Sir Hugh de Mortimer took away from them the vill of Shobdon, and he never gave them the vill of Chelmarsh which he had promised them.

Note 17. Of Gilbert de Lacy little is known; he is mentioned in 1153 and died after 1163.

Note 18. Sir Hugh's reply was probably due to a genuine wish to have the house ruled by an abbot, this being a piece of snobbery not unknown in these circumstances at this time. Normally, though not always, abbeys of Austin canons were a good deal better endowed that the priory of Shobdon was at this time. See J. C. Dickinson The Origins of the Austin Canons (1950) pp. 80-1, 156-6.

It came about afterwards that the said bishop of Hereford went over to France to a council, and died there [April 16, 1148], and was brought back in an ox-skin to Hereford, where he was buried. The abbot-elect of Shobdon realized that he had been deprived of the bishop's advice and aid for ever, and of the support of Oliver. who had summoned them to England, and that he was removed from their land at Shobdon and Letton, which was the source of their substance. What grieved him more was that he was often maligned and reviled by Sir Hugh de Mortimer (II) and his followers. Like the simple, gentle man that he was, he left all that he had in his charge without a guardian, and returned to his abbey.

After, there came to England a canon named Richard of Warwick, who after became abbot of Bristol19, to visit his friends in the month of August, and he came to Shobdon, and harvested the corn, and put it in stacks, and left it in the care of bailiffs, and then went away. After him came a canon of St Victor, named brother Henry, a man of good counsel and common sense, and, what is more, brave, who was a close friend of Gilbert Foliot, then bishop of Hereford [1148-63], and a relative of Sir Hugh de Mortimer. He was very favourably received by them, and he looked after the things which had been left at Shobdon.20 When he heard from his community what Sir Hugh had given the canons, and what he had promised and what he had taken away, he approached Sir Hugh and begged him, for the love of God and for the good of his soul and those of his noble forebears, to restore what he had taken away, and fulfil the promise he made. And he promised to do so, but continually delayed it by fair words and fine promises, but Henry followed him to several places, so that finally he granted them the vill of Shobdon.

Note 19. The origins of the priory of St. Augustine's Bristol is a complex problem in process of investigation by Canon Dickinson. Probably it belongs to the final years of Stephen's reign (perhaps about 1153) though it may not have been an abbey at this stage. Richard's dates are very uncertain.

Note 20. Shobdon seems at this time still to have been little more than a cell of a type common in the order of Austin canons with no permanent head and few brethren.

When brother Henry had peaceful possession of the vill of Shobdon, he determined that the place was very far from the water that they sorely lacked; he proposed that they move to Aymestrey, to a place called Eye21, near the river Lugg, which he considered a suitable site for them. And so they moved all their possessions which they had had in Shobdon right to there by the advice and help of Sir Hugh de Mortimer, and laid the foundations of the church as people who had thought of making it a permanent dwelling for themselves and their successors. In the meantime, Peter le Kauf, the canon of Llantony, died, to whom bishop Robert of Bethune had given the church of Lydbury North with the archdeaconry of Shropshire.22 And when prior Henry heard this, he sent there three of his canons and the dean of Pembridge, who gave over to them straightway the church of Lydbury North.

Note 21. Eye is some 6 miles east of Shobdon, and rather less from Aymestrey in whose parish it was. Its flat fertile land crossed by the river Lugge would have offered a convenient site for the monastery. But cf addenda (b) below.

Note 22. Bishop Robert had been a canon of Llanthony in Monmouthshire and had recently aided the foundation, the priory of Llanthony-by-Gloucester (1136) so that his appointment of an Austin canon to an archdeaconry is much less surprising than it would otherwise have been. On Peter see A. Morey and C. N. L. Brooke Gilbert FoGot and his Letters (1965) 268.

Afterwards, prior Henry received into his community more canons, and he thought he could live in peace after his efforts. but it turned out differently. For there broke out at that time a very serious war between Sir Hugh de Mortimer and Joce de Dynant, then lord of Ludlow23, in that Joce could not enter or leave his castle at Ludlow [Map] freely or without hindrance for fear of Sir Hugh, so grievously did he press him. And since Joce could do nothing against Sir Hugh by means of force, he positioned spies on the roads along which he learned that Sir Hugh would come unaccompanied, and he captured him, and held him in prison in his castle until he had provided a ransom of three thousand silver marks, as well as his plate, his horses and his birds. And in order to hasten payment of the ransom, Sir Hugh called on the help of all his friends. He requested prior Henry to impose a money payment on his tenants at Shobdon in aid of this ransom. The prior, to the utmost of his power, refused, and said that once a thing had been given to God and to Holy Church in frank almoin, it should never again be taxed nor constrained because of any secular requirement, and:that the custom of his country did not tolerate it. And when the prior absolutely refused to countenance his request, he left all his possessions in the custody of the canons, which he had received [from them], and returned to his abbey of St Victor whence he had come.

Note 23. This strife cannot be dated at all precisely.

After him came another named brother Robert de Cherbourg24, and he remained with the canons, not as prior however, but, since he came from abroad, he took the place of the prior, because they wanted to have an abbot over them. Sir Hugh was very eager and impatient to do this. Whilst they were so disposed, they heard of a Master Andrew25 who was then prior of St Victor in Paris, master of divinity, abounding in noble virtues and wise, and they sent asking him to come and assume the abbot's duties, and to govern them and run their affairs as their superior. So Andrew joined them, and was received with great respect, and was blessed as abbot by the bishop.

Note 24. Cherbourg.

Note 25. On his career see B. Smalley "Andrew of St. Victor. Abbot of Wigmore". Recherches de theologie ancienne at medievale x (1938), 358-73.

Soon after, the friends of Sir Hugh de Mortimer, and especially Sir Hugh de Lacy, saw the church which the canons had had built at Aymestcry, and they came to Sir Hugh de Mortimer, exhorting and counselling him not to tolerate the completion of this enterprise at the entrance to his land in case his enemies should make inroads into his territory, and find there a refuge and stronghold in spite of him to the detriment of the whole region, for at that time he had many enemies on all sides and there was much hostility towards him. And he acted on their advice, and made the canons move to the vill of Wigmore26 and take their possessions with them, and begin to erect dwellings there with a view to permanent residence.

Note 26. Though this removal may have been urged through malice. the construction at Eye of permanent monastic buildings which invaders could adapt for use as a fortress lends respectability to the complaint.

Then the abbot and the canons saw that the place where they were to live was too narrow and too squalid to make a dwelling-place for them27, and above all was very short of water, while the climb to the church was very hard for them; there were unkind, derogatory words from those who lived near them, and they complained of this to each other, and considered to what place they might move from there, because they could and would not remain there under any circumstances for the reason just given. And when Sir Hugh de Mortimer realized this, he was very pleased. and order them to seek throughout his lands for a more suitable place which would be more convenient as a permanent residence for them, and to let him know.

Note 27. On the extreme unsuitability of this site see above p. 417.

Meanwhile, there was a breach between abbot Andrew and his canons, because of which the abbot went away, and left them to their own devices, and returned to his house at St Victor [c. 1149].28 And since they did not wish to be without an abbot, they themselves elected a canon named Roger, who was a novice in the order, but experienced in looking after their temporal affairs, whom they presented to the bishop, who blessed him, and he was made superior of the other canons.

Note 28. Andrew's return to Paris occurred "soon after 1148" Smalley op. cit.

At that time, King Henry [1154-89], newly crowned, sent for Sir Hugh de Mortimer [c. 1153-e. 1185]. But he, through his great pride and haughtiness, puffed up with anger, did not deign to come, and garrisoned his castles against him to resist the king by force. The king was very angered by this and infuriated by him, and besieged him in his castle at Bridgnorth [Map] for a long period [1155]29, and he had his followers lay siege to all his other castles. When Gilbert Foliot, who was then bishop of Hereford [1148-63], saw that the king was greatly enraged and furious with Sir Hugh de Mortimer, and that Sir Hugh was surrounded by his enemies, he went to the king, complaining that Sir Hugh was forcibly holding his town Lydbury North, and did not deign to return it.

Note 29. The long siege ended with the King's capture of Bridgnorth castle in July 1155. The chronicler fails to note that the Sir Hugh de Mortimer here mentioned was the second of that name. As already noted he was preceded by (i) His father and name-sake Hugh I who died about 1149 and (ii) his elder brother Roger who died in 1153.

The king, as soon as he heard this, in great anger and fury ordered the bishop to take back his town with all its appurtenances. And when the canons heard this, they sent two canons, namely Simon, son of Oliver de Merlimont, and Richard de Blakemere to take care of their church of Lydbury North along with all the other possessions they had there. And when the bishop realized this, he sent his servants to them who first tried to persuade them with smooth words and then by threats; finally, they laid hands on them, and expelled them, ordering them to appear immediately before the bishop.

The canons were not confounded by their fine words nor disheartened by their threats in any way, but remained steadfastly in the church without moving from there in spite of any violence committed against them, like the good men of the church they were, having regard to the benefit of their house. As soon as the abbot Roger learned this from his brothers, he appealed Ito the court of Rome concerning the acts of damage, insults and violence which had been committed against himself and his brothers and his church of Lydbury North, and assigned all his possessions to papal protection, and then he made himself ready for a journey to the court of Rome in person. When all the friends heard this, they made efforts to bring them to an agreement, and re-established peace completely, so that the bishop granted them permanent possession of the said church, and confirmed it by a personal letter sealed with his own seal.

The canons were still very sorely burdened and continually distressed by their residence at Wigmore, as was said before, and they went off into the region to seek out a site where they might establish a suitable, good-sized, permanent dwelling for themselves and for others. It happened, one day in August, that one of the canons, named brother Walter Agaymeth, sat down in the field at Bethun30, among the reapers, and looked at the countryside around, and scanned it carefully, and saw the place where the abbey is now situated, and took note of the spot, and went home, and told the abbot and the brothers what he had seen. They went with him, and examined the site on all sides, and indeed saw that the place was sufficiently good and wide and pleasant enough to construct their abbey there, and they were very joyful and their happiness knew no bounds. They went to Sir Hugh de Mortimer, and announced what they had found, and that this was their choice for the construction of a permanent dwelling-place with his help. And he generously and joyfully granted them their request, and promised to help them, and bade them immediately transport there all the possessions they had at Wigmore. When they had received the order, they lost no time in carrying it out, and constructed in the meantime small wooden dwellings with the help and advice of Sir Hugh.

Note 30. This place has not been identified.

Meanwhile, the incumbent of Meole Brace died, and Sir Hugh straightway gave his church to the canons in perpetual alms. And soon after the abbot Roger died [c. 1161], and was buried solemnly. They soon considered finding another abbot, and they sent word by three of their brothers, who were the most discerning, to St Victor to beg master Andrew, who had been their abbot formerly, to lake up his previous situation as their superior and abbot. After much thought he agreed and came to them [c. 1162]31, and was received with great joy, and remained abbot as he had been before. At that time Andrew of Staunton, the lord of Buckenhill, was under serious charges from King Henry so that he could no longer dwell openly in England, and he came to the canons' chapter, and in the presence of Walter Foliot [c. 1150-c. 1178]31, archdeacon of Shropshire, gave them the church of Buckenhill in pure and perpetual alms. As long as he remained in England secretly, they willingly supplied all his needs, and when he could no longer remain, he went to Scotland, where he remained in safety until he had made his peace with the king, when he returned to his own land. During the whole of his absence, they gave his wife, Mahaud de Portz, such help as she needed.

Note 31. Andrew's return occurred between Mar. 1161 and Apr. 1163, Smalley, op. cit.

Note 32. Z. N. and C. N. L. Brooke "Hereford Cathedral dignitaries in the twelfth century" Cambridge Hist. Journal VIII (1944), 17

Afterwards, Sir Hugh de Mortimer arrived from overseas, and settled at Cleobury. Then Achelard, the incumbent of Caynham, died, and the canons received the church of the free gift of Sir Hugh. Not very long after, Sir Hugh came to visit the canons and their site, and there, at the request of his followers, and especially Brian of Brompton and John, his son, he sent for a monk from Worcester33, who, when he had designated the site of the church, had the base course dug out and laid. At the foundation ceremony [1172]34,) Sir Hugh laid the first stone, and pledged ten marks as a contribution; but later he completed it at his own expense. Brian of Brompton laid the second stone, and pledged one hundred shillings, but gave no money; however, he gave them full easements35 to the woods and fields on his land, which greatly assisted them in their task. John, the son of the said Brian, laid the third stone, and gave nor pledged nothing, but he made up for his lack of pledge afterwards, for it was by him that the church of Kinlet was given to the abbey.

Note 33. The cathedral of Worcester belonged to the Benedictine order whose architecture at this time did not differ significantly from that of the Austin canons.

Note 34. The Annals note under 1172—"Hoc anno primo fundata est abbatia de Wygem. a nobili viro domino Hugone de Mortimer, qui primum lapidem posuit et eam postmodum propriis stunptibus confirmavit" and under 1179 Dedicata est est (sic) ecclesia de Wygem. a Roberto Folioth Heref. episcopo."

Note 35. The terms implies primarily rights of access across.

Afterwards, the canons undertook with great vigour and effort the construction of their church. In the meantime, master Andrew, their abbot, died [19 October, 1175], (36) and was buried with great honour. Thereafter, they elected Simon their prior, son of Oliver de Merlimont, to be their abbot, but he died before he had received episcopal benediction.37 After the death of Simon, they elected brother Randolph, their sacristan, a humble God-fearing man. During his term of office, Sir Hugh gave the abbey the manor of Caynham with all its appurtenances, along with his body38 in pure and perpetual alms. But a lady still had possession of the vill of Snitton in dower. After, they received in a short space of time from the gift of Sir Hugh de Mortimer, the following churches and chapels: the church of Leintwardine, the church of Aymestrey, the church of Chelmarsh, the chapels of Downton on the Rock, Boraston, Elton and Leinthall Earls, and the church of Kinlet and the mill of Leintwardine, and land of the yearly value of twenty shillings, which Sir Hugh de Mortimer bought from Herbert du Chastel, and the land above Wigmore and the land of Newton39, and rent from the mill at Bourton, and the rents from Elton and Brinsop.

Note 36. Smalley op. cit.

Note 37. Above p. 444 n. 2.

Note 38. i.e. a promise to be buried in the monastery, which entailed certain pecuniary advantages for the monastery.

Note 39. Note 39 has no text?

In the meantime, Sir Hugh was tirelessly concerned with regard to the construction of their church, which he had completed at his own expense, and when it was complete, he had it dedicated [1179]40 by the bishop of Hereford, lord Robert Foliot, in honour of St James the Apostle. And when it had been dedicated, Sir Hugh de Mortimer renewed and confirmed all the gifts he had made up till then to the canons and to the church, and especially the manor of Caynham with its appurtenances, which he gave to the canons before the assembled people, and confirmed it 'by his charter. After, he gave the church a chalice in fine gold and a gold cup to hold the eucharist41, and two candlesticks of silver gilt. The bishop and the abbot with the whole monastery and all the priests who were present, pronounced sentence of excommunication on all those who should remove any of these precious objects from the house, except through hunger and fire. Then he gave the bishop a silver vase filled with piment42, which he accepted as a great gift. The bishop gave the church a purple choir-cope, extremely beautiful and richly trimmed with orphreys.

Note 40. It would seem highly unusual at this time for a sizeable monastic church to be completed in so short a time as seven years, though given the resources of the Mortimer perhaps put it not entirely out of the question.

Note 41. i.e. for Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament not for use as a chalice.

Note 42. A spiced drink.

When these matters were well regulated to the satisfaction of all, Sir Hugh de Mortimer died at Cleobury at a ripe old age43 and full of good works, and as a canon professed in the presence of the abbot Randolph, who invested him with the canon's habit along with some of his brothers before his death. From Cleobury the body was borne to the abbey at Wigmore and buried with great honour before the high altar. His soul, as we believe, dwells with the chosen of God in perpetual joy. Amen. For the soul of Sir Hugh, there is sung each day a mass by a canon, and each week the office for the dead, that is: Placebo and Dirige, an office of nine lessons in the monastery with the morning mass the following day, and each week bread and beer and other provisions distributed to the poor from the hand of the almoner, apart from other distributions to the poor and to strangers during the year. And on the anniversary of his death, a hundred poor are plentifully fed, and each will have a loaf of bread and two herrings and soup since his anniversary falls during Lent. The other alms which are dispensed on his behalf each day to the inhabitants and to strangers in the guest-house and elsewhere, and the spiritual benefits which arc carried out by the canons on his behalf and will be to all time, cannot be enumerated by any man, but they are fully known to Jesus Christ.

Note 43. The Annals notes under the year 1186 Obiit Hugo de Mortuomare fundator abbathie de Wygem, but some Worcester Annals assign his death to 1185 and the Pipe Rolls show that Hugh's estates passed in Eyton, to his son Roger II in 1180-1, perhaps by resignation not death.

Sep 1179. And since Roger (age 27)44, his son and heir, was being held prisoner by the king for the death of one Cadwalan [Sep 1179] who had killed his men, the ministers of the king took possession of the castle of Wigmore [Map] with its appurtenances; at this time thirteen Welshmen were captured in battle, and were held prisoner, firmly fettered, in the castle of Wigmore. As their warders were sleeping one night, they made their escape as far as the abbey, where they were kindly received and refreshed with food and drink, and the irons with which they were fettered fell off them by miracle, and these irons were displayed in the church, and the Welshmen remained there in peace until they had leave to go back to their own country without hindrance. Several other cases occurred at this abbey, which are not written down, and as a result of this neglect have been forgotten.

Note 44. Antiquities of Shropshire, iv, 205-6

And when Sir Roger de Mortimer was released from the king's custody, he came to the abbey, and was received by the abbot and the community with great joy, and was conducted by the abbot and the prior into the church to the high altar, and when he had prayed at the altar, he kissed the whole community, promising them safety and peace. But as soon as the mass was over, he left the church, and began to press them strongly concerning their manor at Caynham, and ordered them to give it back to him, saying that they held it wrongfully. And the abbot and the community put their trust in God, and would not suffer a single foot of the manor to be taken away from them. Sir Roger was most angered by this, and he and his men persecuted them so much that, towards Christmas Day, the abbot and the order were obliged to move to Shobdon except for a few canons who remained to guard the church. There they remained until after Christmas when they returned to their abbey by command of King Henry, for the king ordered Sir Roger not to do any harm to the canons, but to leave them in peace in God's care and his own so that they might serve God in peace. The canons then were anxious to have Sir Roger's love, good-will and co-operation, and they sincerely begged him, on account of their misfortunes, to be their friend for the love of God, and that they lived in hope of his friendship. But soon after, the lady who held the vill of Snitton45 in dower, died, and Sir Roger granted them free possession of the vill, but soon after he was urged by evil advisers to take it away from them for-himself, and so it was done, for they said that the place was most suitably placed between Wigmore and Cleobury to have as a stopping place. When the canons realized this, they remained silent as people who much detest to quarrel with their lord, and left their claim to the ordinance of God. It happened after, that lady Isabelle de Ferrers46, the wife of Sir Roger de Mortimer, was pregnant, and she came through Snitton and lodged there, and fell ill, and during her illness she gave birth to a male child, which, as soon as it was baptized, died, and was buried in Cleobury church. So the said Isabelle, at the behest of good people, begged her lord humbly and devoutly, weeping, to give back their vill of Snitton to them, which he wrongfully held. She said that by reason of that, she had been in great torment during her labour, and that she had had the hope that the life of her son would bring her great solace, but instead she was in great sorrow at his death. At her request, Sir Roger immediately ordered the vill to be given back to them without conditions along with the manor of Caynham henceforth in permanent possession.

Note 45. A hamlet which may have had the dower house of the Mortimer family.

Note 46. Isabella evidently died early in 1252. Complete Peerage, ix, 273.

1246. Lady Isabelle de Ferrers led a good simple life, and after the death of her lord, she had built a religious house at Lechlade47 for the soul of her lord and her own, and endowed it generously with fine lands and rents for ever, and there she is buried.

Note 47. The date of foundation of this house is unclear. An early charter in the Black Book of Wigmore (B. M. Harl. MS 1240 f44v) terms it "the hospital of St. John" and records the endowment there by Isabel of a chantry priest in the episcopate of bishop Walter Cantelupe (age 55) (1237-66). VCH Gloucs. assigns its origins to 1246, RM Clay to 1228 in The Medieval Hospitals of England (1909) 292 but cites no authority for this.

The afore-mentioned Roger de Mortimer, son the founder, was, as befitted his years, gay, full of youth and inconstant of heart, and especially somewhat headstrong, and he had round him several flippant counsellors who often advised him so as to satisfy his whims, but not to his advantage, as is the manner of certain flatterers who always say "yes" to please their lord, which is often disastrous for them. The same Roger de Mortimer, through evil advisers, satisfying his whims, committed acts of very great harshness and wrong against both the abbot and his brothers and also often against their tenants, infringing the rights of their church. The good people felt themselves to very ill-treated, and there was no one who could or dared help them. They therefore put their trust in Almighty God, humbly and devoutly praying him night and day out of his compassion to deign to quickly correct the error of their lord, so that his soul might not any longer remain in peril because of them, and that they might have, in peace and tranquillity, the things which had been given to them in perpetual alms.

Meanwhile, during the period of the persecution, it happened by the ordinance of God that Sir Roger de Mortimer was one day out riding for pleasure with his entourage, on the day of his father's anniversary, which he did not at that time remember. And as he rode between the infirmary and Stanway48, he looked at the fields on both sides, which his father had given to the abbey, and saw the corn on the one side growing quite tall and green and full for the season; and he called some of his followers to him, and said angrily: "See, fine lords, how my father was completely forgetful, and worst of all neglected the one who was his eldest son and heir, and his wife, to whom he should have rightfully assigned all his heritage without dividing it up; these fields that you see here with other lands and tenements, disinheriting me, he gave them to those wretches at the abbey."49 And he went on bemoaning this state of affairs. And as he rode, his heart so filled with anger, all the bells of the abbey began to totl. And when he heard this, he called to his side a canon of the abbey who at that time was his chaplain, and asked him why the bells were ringing so loudly. And the chaplain answered: "Sir, on this day, many years ago, your father died, who was founder of our house, and today is the anniversary of his death; for him, we celebrate special acts of worship for his soul, and always shall, as is right."

Note 48. Stanway—derives its name from "the stone road" i.e. Watling Street. The infirmary mentioned is probably one of buildings in the outer court of the monastery which perhaps adjoined the road that bounds the western side of the abbey precinct.

Note 49. This unwillingness of a son to accept his father's altimation of much family property to endow a monastery has a number of contemporary parallels, e.g. at Barnwell and Nostell priories.

Then Sir Roger asked what good works were carried out on his behalf daily. And he recounted from beginning to end the good works carried out for his soul in the said abbey, as is described earlier. And when he had listened carefully, he was visited by the Holy Spirit, and said to his followers: "Let us go to the abbey in the name of God, and watch the service and the solemn mass being celebrated for the soul of my father." And they rode to the abbey. When the abbot noticed their approach, he gathered all the community to his side, and they went in a procession to meet Sir Roger, for he had not before entered the house in any pious spirit, and they received him honourably and with great joy, in the hope of receiving his love, and his good will. Then the abbot sang the mass, and the community sang with raised voices the office belonging to it very devoutly. Sir Roger took great notice of the office on all points, how the hundred poor were served, and he was amazed and satisfied and very repentant of his error. And when the mass had been sung and the office completed, he called the abbot and the order to their chapter-house, and humbly begged their forgiveness for the injustices he had committed against them, and promised to make amends through the help of God, and he was reconciled with them, and given absolution for his sin, and he and the community joyously exchanged the kiss of peace. Afterwards, he had read to him all the charters that his father had made for their benefit: lands, tenements, rents, woods, fields, pastures, commons, moors, and other franchises, and also the churches which he gave them, and others which he arranged to be given to them by his dependants. And when all the charters had been read, he approved all that his father had done, and confirmed by his charter, sealed with his own seal, all the benefactions of his father along with several other easements and franchises, which he then gave them and after confirmed by his sealed charters.

After, he received the blessing and leave from the abbot and the community, and returned joyfully to his castle at Wigmore. The news soon spread around the region of how he had been to the abbey, and what he had done there, because of which the good people were most happy, and the bad very discomfitted. Among these troublesome people, there was a seneschal who was extremely angry. He said to his lord: "Sir, have you been to the abbey, and approved the bequest of all the benefactions of your father to the canons, and further given them more of your land, so that around them there remains no land, field or pasture which they have not received by gift from your father, except for Mortimer's Treasure?" And he said derisively: "It is good at present that you give them this land so that nothing remains of your property around them for you and your heirs." He said this with the idea in mind that he did not want Sir Roger to give this land to them, but that he should keep it for himself. When Sir Roger had listened to his words, he asked the others what the place was that they called Mortimer's Treasure. They told him it was a croft adjoining the abbey, a very good, broad piece of land, and extremely fertile. When he had heard this, he said to the aforesaid seneschal: "My friend, you have indeed given me very good advice, on which I intend to act, and since this place is called Mortimer's Treasure, I will give it to keep for me to a treasurer who will put it in a treasury from which no robber may steal it, where no moth will eat it, and where it will not be stripped bare by beasts, but it will bear fruit for my soul." And he immediately took with him people who knew the place, and they showed it to him, and when he had inspected it, he entered the abbey, and gave it in pure and perpetual alms to the house for ever, for the good of his soul and those of his ancestors and descendants, and confirmed it by his own charter sealed with his own seal before all the people.


(a) According to some Wigmore material in B.M. MS Lansdowne 447 f65v Hugh "the first founder of the abbey of Wigmore" died and was buried in the said abbey on 21st February 1185. The writer's error here, if such it be, suggests that, as other evidence suggests, the present version of the text of the Chronicle is comparatively late.

(b) The editor makes the interesting suggestion that Eye (which is certainly the reading in the text) is an error for Lye. By a curious coincidence both these places are very near to the river Lugg but the considerable distance of Eye from Aymestrey hardly fits the text unless, which seems unlikely, it was within the ancient parish of Aymestrey.