The Ledger Book of Vale Royal Abbey. Originally published by Manchester Record Society, Manchester, 1914.
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A.—Notes from the Harleian MSS.
Parme.—In Harl. MS. 139 ("Bostock's Collections for Cheshire, 1572") is the following statement (fo. 38/27): "The manor of Parme, a myle and a halfe from Holmes Chappell, was somtyme the lord of Bostoke's land with 4 wytchowses in the Myddlewyche. The said Ricardus de Bostoke dyd gyve the same to thabbey of Vale Regalis, with landes in Stanthorle, to be prayed for ever. Whiche landes or some of the same Mr. Broke of Norton hath bought of Kinge H. the eighte."
Middlewich.—In 1275 the men of Middlewich complained that the immunities granted to the abbot of Darnhall were a grievance to them, and asked for relief. They rented their vill for £100 a year by grant of Henry III (1269–70); the abbot, who had two saltpans in the town, withheld the dues called stuth and hurdle salt, and his men of Darnhall and Over also withdrew the tolls. The king thereupon ordered that 53s. 4d. a year be allowed from their rent. See Harl. MS. 2010 (Holme MS.), fo. 250b.
Privileges.—In 1292 in a suit respecting land in Twemlowe, the abbot refused the jurisdiction of the Chester court on the ground of his chartered privilege (Harl. MS. 2072, fo. 43b). In 1294 the abbot was presented for making coroners at Over, Weaverham and Hefferston, and for erecting gallows at Weaverham where there had been none before; but he did not appear to answer (ibid. 48b).
In one of the Holme MSS. (Harl. MS. 2060) are a number of notes and transcripts from the Ledger-Book of Vale Royal. From these it appears, though no exact statement is made, that at the end of the volume were some miscellaneous entries which have not been preserved in the transcript used for the present work. These include (fo. 108b onward):
An agreement as to the small tithes of Foxwist between the abbey and Randle Lareden, vicar of Over. (But see p. 155.)
A grant by John abbot of Vale Royal to Ralph Dawn, vicar of Over [instituted 1525], which names the "parish church dedicated in the honour of our blessed Lady situate at the outer gate of our monastery."
A grant made in 1487 by William abbot of Vale Royal to Ralph Laarden, vicar of Over.
A coroner's case of 1346—Thomas le Smith of Allostock having slain Richard Caddy.
"Anno 33° Eliz. Whitegate made a parish, et anno 35 it was sold to John Cocke who alyned [alienated] the same (anno 35 predicto) to Robert Maynewarring de Marton.
"Sir Rowland Hill and Sir Thomas Holecroft knights get a lease of Vale Royal and anno 36 Eliz. purchased the landes belonging to the same monastery. Anno 31 the demesne lands of the abbey were tithe free, yet by the statute of Whitegate (anno 33 Eliz.) they are to pay tithe.
"Richard Banion, vicar of Whitegate [instituted 1545], 55 years aged, saith that Vale Royal is in the parish of Whitegate and that the tenths [? tenements] of Thomas Mercer, Hugh Streete, and others named in the bill are encroached lands up (?) in the time of Abbot Stratford, Abbot Buckley and Abbot Harewape [Harware] who had the tithes."
C.—The Borough of Over.
A translation of the charter of the borough of Over is given in Harl. MS. 2060, fo. 109b (old pages 209, 210), reading thus, in modern spelling, but with as little interference with the wording as possible:
Unto all the children of the mother holy Church present and to come Walter Deaur (fn. 1) abbot of Vale Royal [greeting].
Be it known unto all men that whereas our most noble lord Edward, by the grace of God King of England, hath given unto us the manor of Over in free alms and by his writing hath granted to have [in] the aforesaid manor a free market, (fn. 2) we with one consent and counsel are purposed to give and grant to the burgesses in the same borough abiding and to their successors thence lawfully succeeding the liberties and customs underwritten: to have of us and our successors unto them and their heirs lawfully succeeding [by] this our present writing for evermore confirmed.
First. [That] in the said manor of Over there shall be a free borough and that the same burgesses of the same borough and their heirs lawfully succeeding shall have a free brotherhood in the aforesaid borough, with all liberties the which belong unto the aforesaid brotherhood.
And that they shall have in the foresaid borough a good prison in the which the [doers of] evil deeds and trespasses contrary to the liberty of the same borough may be kept in and holden safely. And if any shall be attached for any trespass for the which he ought to be imprisoned he shall be, unless he can find good and sufficient sureties; and such a one so attached shall have three essoines (unless he be taken for felony) [that] he shall come to answer at the third court. And such a one so attached (if it be not for felony) unless he will defend himself by law shall be put to six hands of faithful men; unless the trespass do touch the assize of bread and ale or wine or any other kind of liquor, or the weight of wool or any suchlike kind of weight. And all the measures aforesaid shall be according to the measures of our sovereign lord the king or such as shall be used in this kingdom. The weight shall be of 30 lawful pound, whereupon the trespass shall touch the measure or weight. (fn. 3) And as soon as may be process shall be made afore men worthy credit by the lawful measure of the same borough, or by the lawful weight of the same town, before the bailiff; and if the trespasses be, amendment shall be forthwith, or else he shall find sufficient surety to amend according unto the measure and quantity of the trespass. And also we do order that they have a cuckstool and pillory and such other kind of judicial instruments the which belong unto a free borough. And if any of the same borough shall be attached for any trespass (if it be not grievous felony) he shall not be imprisoned if he can find sureties. And also if he which is called "Sarrabell" or plaintiff [blank] do sue any man, unless he do bring other witnesses the defendant shall be at rest and freely shall depart and the "scarabell" shall be amerced. And if the "sarabell" shall bring witnesses and the other shall defend him by the law they shall be put unto the law by the hands of three faithful men.
And also we grant unto the aforesaid burgesses, their successors and heirs the[m] lawfully succeeding, [that they] shall pasture and grass for their cattle whereas other men holding land of us have common, so that our men aforesaid shall run into no danger by occasion of their beasts by their reasonable defence. And when they shall have swine in our woods in time of mast they shall give pannage like as other of our tenants. And at such time as they shall brew they shall give stallage for every brewing, except two brewings by the year—the one afore Christmas and the other at the fair of the same town.
And also we ordain and decree that they that be born in the manor of Over aforesaid shall sell all things that they will yearly: that is to wit, corn and wood to burn and all such kind of things as they list to sell in the borough aforesaid: first, they shall proffer to sell it there afore they shall presume to bring it to any other place to be sold, and that under a grievous forfeiture [of] all such things as they may lawfully sell. And under like forfeiture we ordain that none shall make any tavern to sell in but in that borough; unless any man will for their own use and for the use of their friends (without selling) to brew. And he that shall do contrary shall lose the whole brewing or else shall give the half of the merchandise according to the will of the lord. And if any of the borough shall brew [blank] of them that be born there according to the custom of the borough brew and make sale at all times they shall give stallage.
And also we grant unto the burgesses aforesaid that they shall have common to dig up turves to burn in a moss called Blackden Moss, so that they sell not the same without their houses. And also they shall have a lawful way unto a well which is called North Well. And that they shall be free and quit from all customs [on goods] the which the[y] buy to their own use in all the markets and fairs, as the king hath granted by his writing unto us and all our men.
We ordain if the trespassers of the same borough if they shall "fey" maliciously (not willing to stand to judgment), that they may follow them and attach them and arrest them in every place but in the church or in holy consecrated places, betwixt the place is in the third part (fn. 4) (sic) until the ford of Woodford and that they bring them to their borough on the one part, and on the other part until the water of Essebrook towards Minshull. And then for their fault to chastise and punish them to amend—judgment [being] alway reserved to the king [in causes involving loss] of life and of members; only their goods saved, that be worth to be saved, unto our use and our successors and to all of us.
And they burgesses shall give for every one of their burgages ("burgeches") throughout the year to us and our successors 12d. to be paid yearly for ever. And that none of the burgesses shall sell or assign any of their burgages except he ask license of us and our successors. And also they shall have bailiffs of their own in their foresaid borough, which shall be made and put out by the consent and counsel of us and our successors. And that they shall yearly pay the rent of 12d. at two times in the year: that is to wit, at the feast in the Annunciation of our Lady 6d., and in the feast of St. Michael 6d.
And we will that this our present gift and grant shall continue for ever. In witness whereof to these present we have put to our seal, these being witnesses: Sir William Venables, Mr. Randolph Vernon, Mr. Geoffrey Mainwaring and Mr. Urian of St. Peir. The copy hereof doth remain.
The first steps in the appropriation of this church to Vale Royal were taken by Edward, the Black Prince, in October 1359; the sanction of the bishop of St. David's being granted in November 1360 (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1358–61, pp. 297, 547; Harl. MS. 1249, fo. 96). The bishop speaks of the abbey as situated in a poor district in the woodland, but the buildings were of wonderful size and costliness; on the 19th day of the preceding October nearly the whole nave had been blown down. This seems to refer to October, 1359, for in July, 1360, the king gave orders to proceed with the works at Vale Royal (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1358–61, p. 441). The king, allowing the appropriation of Llanbadarnfawr (ibid. 549), asked the pope to confirm it (Cal. Papal Registers, i. 371). The appropriation was confirmed accordingly in 1363 (Cal. Papal Letters, iv. 88).
These Calendars of Papal Letters contain few references to Vale Royal. In 1289 it is recorded that Nicholas IV had allowed the appropriation of the church of "Wem" to the abbey (i. 506). This is probably a mistake for Weaverham. The abbot was thrice joined with others in the execution of a papal mandate, between 1330 and 1362 (ibid. ii. 324, iii. 297, iv. 34). In 1414 a dispensation from the consequences of his illegitimacy was granted to William Aldelem, a monk of Vale Royal, he being son of a priest and Cistercian monk by an unmarried woman. There were two Cistercian monasteries in Cheshire—Vale Royal and Combermere.
Various petitions from the abbot and convent are printed in the Rolls of Parliament: In 1290—that the archdeacon of Richmond might have the advowson of St. Michael's on Wyre in lieu of the pension of 20 marks from the abbey's church of Kirkham (i. 56); for arrears (ibid.); for a debt (ibid.). In 1304–6—for tenements in London (i. 170, 196). In 1383–4—concerning Llanbadarnfawr (iii. 181–2). In 1442—for more regular procedure in the Welsh courts, arising out of a suit about the last-mentioned church, by Abbot Thomas of Vale Royal (v. 43).
In the volumes of "Ancient Correspondence" (P.R.O.) there is a grant by Edward I in 1282 allowing the abbot to receive the attorney of Reginald de Grey and Matilda his wife in a dispute as to land (xiv. 74). There is also a petition from the abbot to the king on various matters—boundaries, a fishery in Wirral, the making of glass, &c. (xiv. 75).
Other petitions are preserved in the Public Record Office. These are in the class "Ancient Petitions." No. 1349 concerns Llanbadarnfawr, and names Thomas as a former abbot of Vale Royal. No. 3992 asks for confirmation of the charters of the abbey—addressed to Edward III while still Prince of Wales. No. 4342 resembles No. 18 in the Ledger-Book (p. 53). No. 7218 resembles that of Abbot Thomas above (R. of P. v. 43). No. 7226 asks the king (? Edward II) for help for the buildings. Nos. 7247, 12014, and E 827 relate to arrears due from the legacy of Queen Eleanor. Nos. 10914 and 13784 relate to pasturage for 1000 sheep in Peak Forest, Hugh Despenser being justice of the Forest. Nos. 13843, 13916, and E 208 relate to arrears due to the abbey from the farm of the county (temp. Edw. II). E 164 concerns a claim made on the abbey for something due from Robert once escheator of Cheshire and a lay brother at Vale Royal in the time of [the first] Abbot John; John and Robert being both dead, Walter de Langton, treasurer, had made certain claims and it was agreed that £220 should be paid. One John de Godele had in consequence made distraint on the church of Kirkham for £22. This appears to be the sum of £220 which the king released to the abbey in 1311 (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1307-13, p. 402). It is called £400 in the story of John de Hoo (above, p. 16).
F.— Status of the Abbey in 1509.
The following is a slightly abbreviated translation of the status of Vale Royal at the visitation made by the abbot of Dore on 16 March 1508–9. The original is in the Public Record Office—Exchequer K. R., Ecclesiastical Documents, bundle 3, No. 16:
There were eighteen monks with the abbot.
There were six chalices; 30 copes and ten sets of vestments, divers vestments (or tapestries) about the high altar, four silk and velvet tunics for the image of Blessed Mary, two vestments of arras and four others of "cownterfet sylke," with four "frynges" and two "ceptris" of silver for the image of Blessed Mary, one pastoral staff of silver and a collar of gold for the image of Blessed Mary, two crosses of silver, two phials of silver, and four brass candlesticks.
In the abbot's chamber was a suitable couch, with ten coverlets, four mattresses, two feather-beds, four brass candlesticks and two salt-cellars of silver, three "peses" of silver with a cup, viz. "nut" with cover; twelve pairs of linen cloths (? sheets) and twelve spoons.
In the hospice a suitable couch with coverlet, feather-bed and three mattresses, and six pairs of sheets.
In the pantry nine new cloths (mappe) and five old ones, six spoons of silver, seven candlesticks, and four napkins.
In the kitchen six brass pots, four spits of iron, two "rakkys" of iron, one mortar of brass with stand of iron, one "garnesh," and . . . pewter vessels.
In the brewery two "fornes," three "cowmbes" with eight tornellis [? tonellis—vats] and various other necessaries.
The stock of the house comprised 18 draught oxen and 30 plough oxen, 14 animals of three years, 6 cows, 4 mares and . . . "stagges" of two years. That of Dernhall comprised 20 oxen, two animals of three years, five cows and one young one, 14 calves, 3 mares with 3 foals, 3 "stagges" and one filly.
The receipts, farm-rents, and profits due were taxed thus:
The granges of Dernhall, Knyghtes, Bradford and Heffurston and the churches of Frodysham and Weverham are in the monks' own hands.
Debts due to divers persons in the time of Abbot William (as in the book of accounts), £42. Debts due to the house (as by various bonds it appears), £134, 1s. 2d.
To all of which the said William abbot of Vale Royal has set his seal at the time and place above recorded.
Appended is a fragment of a small seal of dark green wax. The sinister side has gone; the centre compartment shows Our Lady and Child, and the dexter one has a monk standing. Legend: . . . s de valle regali.