Houses of Benedictine monks
The abbey of Milton

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Victoria County History

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William Page (editor)

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1908

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58-62

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'Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Milton', A History of the County of Dorset: Volume 2 (1908), pp. 58-62. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=40140 Date accessed: 01 October 2014.


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3. THE ABBEY OF MILTON

The Benedictine abbey of Milton or Middleton was built in the year 933 (fn. 1) by King Æthelstan for the soul of his brother Edwin, or, as some historians aver, to expiate the crime of a brother's murder, (fn. 2) the king, in his foundation charter, testifying (without reference to the above incident) that for an endowment he had granted for the good of his soul, and the souls of his successors, the kings of England, to God, St. Mary, St. Sampson, and St. Branwalader the following lands:—26 hides at Milborne, 5 at Woolland, 3 at Fromemouthe, viz.: 2 in an island and one at Ore (Ower), 3 hides at Clyffe with a meadow, 3½ at Lyscombe, 1 at Burleston, 1 at Little Puddle, 5 at Cattistock, 6 at Compton Abbas, 2 at Whitcombe, 5 at Osmington, 6 at Holworth—in all 67 hides; a weir on the Avon at Twyneham (co. Hants), all the water within the shore at Weymouth and half the stream out to sea, 12 acres of land for the support of the weir and the person in charge of it, and 3 thaynes in Sussex and a saltern by the weir, 30 hides of land at Sydling for the maintenance of the monks, 2 at Chelmington, 6 at Hillfield, and 10 at Ercecombe (Stockland). (fn. 3) The king further bestowed rich gifts on the abbey wherein he buried the body of his mother, together with numerous relics procured from Rome and Brittany, including the arm and bones of St. Sampson, archbishop of Dol, and the arm of St. Branwalader the bishop. (fn. 4) In the reform of monasticism under Edgar and Dunstan the secular priests here were replaced in 964 by monks under an abbot, Cyneward. (fn. 5)

At the time of the Domesday Survey besides twelve acres of land in Hampshire, held of the abbey by the sheriff Edward, (fn. 6) the church of Milton had manors or estates in the following places:—Sydling, Milton, Compton Abbas, Cattistock, Puddle, Clyffe, Osmington, Whitcombe, Lyscombe, Woolland, Winterborne, Hillfield—the rent of which was £2 and a sextary of honey—'Ora' (Ower), Stockland— which belonged to the demesne of the monks, and was assigned towards the expenses of their living and clothing—and Piddletrenthide. (fn. 7) Henry I, reciting the charter of Æthelstan, king of England, the founder, confirmed to the abbey of Milton and the monks serving God there their possessions therein enumerated with all liberties, free customs and acquittances, the right of soc, sac, tol, team, and infangnetheof, waif, assize of bread and ale, gallows, pillory, and all other appurtenances. (fn. 8) From Henry III the abbot and convent obtained a charter in 1252 for the right of free warren over all their demesne lands in Dorset, provided they should not be within the king's forest, with a licence to hold a weekly market at the monastery within the manor of Milton on Thursday, a yearly fair there on the vigil, feast, and morrow of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a yearly fair in their manor of Stockland on the same three days. (fn. 9) The Taxatio of 1291 gave the abbey spiritualities amounting to £9 18s. 8d. from the churches of Sydling, Puddletown, Tolpuddle, Dewlish, Whitcombe, and Holworth, Stockland, Cattistock and Compton; (fn. 10) and temporalities valued at £126 9s. (fn. 11) in the deaneries of Bridport, Dorchester, and Whitchurch, the total income from both sources being assessed at £136 7s. 8d.

The abbot was assessed for his holding at two knights' fees in the reign of Henry II; (fn. 12) in 1155-6 he paid 40s. scutage. (fn. 13) He certified the king by charter in 1166 that originally the abbey owed no knights' fees either of the old or new feoffment, but that Roger, bishop of Salisbury, on the occasion when he took the abbey into custody on its voidance at the command of Henry I, enfeoffed one knight of a tenement, viz. 2 hides held by Robert de Monasteriis, and another knight of another tenement, viz. 2½ hides which William Fitz Walter held. Afterwards R., the predecessor of the present abbot, had returned these fees to their original state, and the knights constituted by the bishop had been made censuarii, and held thus in the time of the aforesaid R., as did their heirs at the present time: William de Monasteriis and William Brito. (fn. 14) In the year 1184 Osbert de Dorchester and Robert de Godmanston rendered an account to the Exchequer of the farm of the possessions of the abbey for half a year. (fn. 15) An account for three terms was rendered in 1213, (fn. 16) and on July of that year John intimated to the custodians of the abbeys of Abbotsbury, Sherborne, and Milton that he was sending down a number of sick horses to be placed in their charge. (fn. 17) Edward I, in the first year of his reign, granted to the prior and convent on payment of a fine of fifty marks the custody of their abbey, void by the death of Abbot William de Taunton. (fn. 18) The convent, in common with other ecclesiastics, received in 1294 a grant of protection for a year in consideration of the money which they had contributed towards the royal subsidy. (fn. 19)

A great misfortune befell the community in 1309; on the night of 2 September the wooden belfry of their church was struck by lightning in the midst of a violent thunderstorm and gale; the building took fire, and in its destruction perished the bells, ornaments, and vestments of the monks, together with all their books, charters, and muniments. (fn. 20) The bishop of Salisbury immediately granted an indulgence of forty days in aid of the restoration of the church; (fn. 21) and with the object of replacing the title deeds which had been lost Edward II ordered a commission to inquire as to the lands and rents held by the abbot and convent previous to the destruction of their charters, (fn. 22) by his own charter two years later reciting the return made by the inquisition and confirming to the brethren all gifts and privileges granted to the abbey by King Æthelstan, his predecessor, and all subsequent benefactors. (fn. 23) The abbot and convent received a licence from the king in 1315 for the appropriation of the church of Sydling to their own uses, the issues being charged with a sum of 20 marks, to be paid yearly to the chapter of Salisbury towards the maintenance of the chantry and obit of Nicolas Longespée, sometime bishop of Salisbury, in the cathedral; (fn. 24) and in 1332 Edward III gave permission for the convent to appropriate the church of Stockland, 'said to be of their advowson.' (fn. 25) In 1324 Robert de Farendon alienated to the community 100s. rent from a messuage and land in Upper Sydling for the provision of a monk to celebrate daily in the chapel of St. Mary Milton for his soul and the souls of his ancestors; (fn. 26) and in 1329 a further grant was made by Nicholas de Weye and William de Wydecombe, chaplain, in aid of the maintenance of a monk who should celebrate daily in the abbey for their souls and those of their ancestors and successors. (fn. 27) In 1336 the convent were permitted to purchase the manor with the advowson of the church of Winterborne Stickland from the chapter of Coutances in Normandy; at the same time it was ordained that 10 marks should be paid annually out of the same, and other lands in Milton and Osmington, to the chapter of Salisbury for a chantry established in the cathedral for the kings of England and Simon of Ghent, late bishop; another 5 marks for a chantry in the church of Melcombe Regis for the soul of Edward III, and 5 marks for a chantry in the church of Milton for the good estate of the king, Queen Philippa his consort, and their children, and for their souls after death. (fn. 28) A carucate of land in Bryanston was conveyed to the convent in 1344 for the yearly observance, on 31 January, of the anniversary of William de Stokes. (fn. 29) In 1392 the brethren, on payment of a fine of 100 marks, obtained from Richard II licence to acquire various parcels of land in Hunsworth, Langford, Milton, and Bedeshurst to be assigned towards the yearly maintenance of the anniversaries of Roger Manyngford (fn. 30) and Margaret his wife, and other works of piety.

Henry IV, on 22 October, 1400, inspected and confirmed an agreement made in 1386 between the abbot and convent and Nicholas Langford, whereby the former consented to receive the latter into their confraternity so that in life he should participate in all the spiritual benefits of the monastery and order, should receive a weekly corrody of bread and ale, a robe with fur every year, a 'good chamber' within the abbey with fuel and litter, stabling, and keep for his horse, and a yearly rent of 40s., and after death that his name should be sent round with the names of other dead monks throughout England; in return for these benefits it was stipulated that he should assist the community in their business with his counsel. (fn. 31)

The abbey was spared none of the charges imposed on houses of any standing belonging to the Benedictine order and of the royal patronage. (fn. 32) Pensioners were bestowed on the house with unfailing regularity by Edward II and Edward III, (fn. 33) and on the appointment of a new abbot they did not fail to present a clerk for the pension due at the royal nomination. (fn. 34) In 1332 the abbot was requested to contribute towards the subsidy raised on the occasion of the marriage of the king's sister; (fn. 35) and two years later to give a tenth towards the expenses incurred by the Scotch war. (fn. 36)

The community, which is said to have originally numbered forty, (fn. 37) was considerably reduced in numbers in the latter part of its existence, the change being attributed in the first place to the loss incurred by the fire of 1309. (fn. 38) Other causes were not wanting, and the strain on the resources of the abbey became marked during the rule of Richard de Maury, 1331-52. (fn. 39) On 24 April, 1344, the king ordered the chancellor of Salisbury, John de Tylvyngton, Thomas Cary, and John Maury to take the house, now in a state of great depression and indebtedness owing to dissensions between the abbot and convent, into their custody, and after making a reasonable allowance to the inmates at the rate of 5 marks a year each, and defraying the expenses of its ministers, to apply the remainder of its revenues towards relieving it of debt. (fn. 40) The decrees forwarded by the bishop after a visitation in July of that year laid stress again on the discords in the abbey and the fact that the inmates were too many for its present financial condition. (fn. 41) The abbot and convent were ordered to adhere rigidly to the scheme of retrenchment laid down by the bishop, though they were warned about the same time not to withdraw the chaplains serving various chantries, or to neglect the needs of the sick. The bishop also desired them to re-admit Brother Walter de Sherborne, who had left the abbey with the object of attaching himself to a severer rule, but after joining the Brothers Preachers for some time had apostatized to the world, and now, repenting of his excesses, with tears desired to return. (fn. 42) The visitation report of 1378, containing various suggestions for matters in need of correction, makes no special reference to poverty. The attention of the abbot—who was enjoined to bear himself modestly and benignantly towards his fellow monks—was directed towards the quality of the bread and ale served out to the household and to the condition of the drains, 'which corrupt the air and are the cause of various infirmities.' The usual prohibition against the entrance of women was coupled with an injunction forbidding the admission of certain ladies mentioned by name within the precincts of the monastery. (fn. 43)

Save for the appointment of abbots references to Milton are rare in the century preceding the Dissolution. A report issued after a visitation in 1425 comments severely on various details of the management of the then abbot, Richard Cley; and he was ordered, under penalty of suspension from choir and deprivation for forty days of the pastoral staff, to appoint a receiver of moneys retained by him without rendering of any account, and to redeem the jewels and silver vessels which he had sold. (fn. 44) In 1438 the number of the community seems to have fallen to fifteen if we may accept the count of those monks who assembled on 10 June of that year for the election of John Breweton or Bruton. (fn. 45)

The abbot and convent obtained from Henry VIII in 1512 a licence to hold the yearly fair in their manor of Stockland on the eve, day, and morrow of St. Barnabas, instead of St. Michael, as was granted by Henry VI, (fn. 46) on account of the injury to other fairs in the neighbourhood. (fn. 47) Among the benefactions of Abbot William de Middleton, 1482-1523, must be mentioned the erection of a free school within the town of Milton, for the maintenance of which the abbot, by deed dated 10 February, 1521, and sealed with the common seal of the abbey, made over the manor of Little Mayne, &c., to Giles Strangeways, knt., Thomas Arundel, knt., and other trustees. (fn. 48)

The Valor of 1535 gives the abbey a clear income of £665 3s. 3½d. from the parsonages of Milton, Stockland, Sydling, and Osmington, (fn. 49) and the manors of Milton, Stockland, 'Huysshe,' Sydling, Compton Abbas, Holway, Cattistock, Hillfield, Knowle, Osmington, Whitcombe and Dorchester, Frome and Stafford, Burleston, Lyscombe, Winterborne Stickland, La Lee, and other lands. (fn. 50) Among the annual charges was a sum of £51 16s., set down under the head of almsgiving, assigned towards the observance of the anniversaries of founders, including King Æthelstan. (fn. 51)

The appointment of John Bradley, last abbot of Milton, as bishop suffragan of Shaftesbury, February, 1539, (fn. 52) preceded the suppression of the abbey by a few days only. The abbot, who surrendered the house with twelve of the monks on 11 March, 1539, received a pension of £133 6s. 8d., the prior £13 6s. 8d. the subprior £8, and the ten remaining brethren £6 13s. 4d. each. (fn. 53)

The king the following year granted the house and site of the abbey, with the church, belfry, bells, and churchyard, the advowson of the vicarage, manor, and rectory, to John Tregonwell, the commissioner deputed to receive the resignation of the community. (fn. 54)

Abbots of Milton

Cyneward, appointed 964 by King Edgar (fn. 55)

Egelric, deposed 1102 for simony (fn. 56)

R., occurs in reign of Henry I (fn. 57)

A., occurs in reign of Henry II (fn. 58)

Eustace, elected 1198 (fn. 59)

William de Stokes, elected 1222 (fn. 60)

William de Taunton, elected 1256, (fn. 61) died 1273

Robert de Corfe, elected 1273 (fn. 62)

Walter de Sideling, elected 1291, (fn. 63) died 1314

Robert le Fauconer, elected 1314, (fn. 64) died 1331

Richard de Mauro or Maury, elected 1331, (fn. 65) resigned 1352

Robert de Burbache, elected 1352, (fn. 66) died 1382

John Hentin, elected 1382, (fn. 67) died 1383

Walter Archer, elected 1383, (fn. 68) died 1417

Richard Cley, elected 1417, (fn. 69) resigned 1431

John Haselbere, elected 1431, (fn. 70) died 1458

John Breweton or Bruton, elected 1458, (fn. 71) died 1482

William Middleton, elected 1482 (fn. 72)

John Bradley, elected 1525, (fn. 73) surrendered 1539

The round, thirteenth-century seal of the abbey, (fn. 74) the impression of which is very fine though the edge is imperfect, represents on the obverse side the abbey church with a centre and two towers, each having a tall spire and two side turrets. Under the central tower beneath a trefoiled arch the Virgin is seated, crowned, the Holy Child with nimbus on her left knee, in her right hand an orb. Under the arch of each of the side towers a mitred abbot or bishop, full-length. In the foreground an embattled wall. In the field over the roof two demi-angels issuing from the heavens, each swinging a censer, and on the left a cross. Legend:—
+ SIGILL': CONVEN . . . . AN . . . . MIDELTONENSIS : E . . . . L'IE
The reverse represents the abbey church from another point of view. Under two trefoiled arches in the centre, the Annunciation of the Virgin. In the triangular pediment above is a bust. Legend:—
[PORTA : SA]LVTIS : AVE : ƒ : TE : PATET : E[XITVS : A : VE] [VENIT : AB : EVA :]VE : VE : „: TOLLIS : AVE

A fine fragment of the same seal is found attached to a deed dated 1315, (fn. 75) and to the surrender deed of the abbey in 1539. (fn. 76)

Footnotes

1 Tanner, Notitia, Dorset, xviii. The tenth year of King Æthelstan is the date generally accepted, and it agrees with the date of the death of Prince Edwin. Angl.-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), 85; Sim. of Durham, Op. (Twysden), p. 154. Dugdale quotes an account of the foundation from a register of the abbey, no longer in existence, which states that the house was built in the tenth year of Æthelstan's reign, which began in 824 (Mon., Chart. of Milton, No. 3, vol. ii, 348). This is palpably a mistake, as is also the date given in the foundation charter. Birch, Cart. Sax., ii, 452–3.
2 According to the account given in the abovementioned register Æthelstan, upon false suggestions that Edwin was concerting a plot against him, caused the prince to put out to sea in an open boat with a single attendant. The prince in despair threw himself overboard and was drowned, his squire with great difficulty managed to swim to shore at Whitsand with his body. The king repenting of his deed is said to have confined himself seven years at the monastery of Landport (Somerset) as a penance, and to have founded the two abbeys of Michelney and Milton. Dugdale, Mon., Chart. of Milton, No. 2, ii, 348; Will. of Malmes. Gesta Regum (Rolls Ser.), i, 156; Leland, Coll., ii, 252; iii, 71; Stowe MS., 1046, fol. 24.
3 Birch. Cart. Sax., ii, 452–3. The version given by Kemble (Cod. Dipl., ii, 245) omits the grant of the 'water at Weymouth,' but it is included in what is called the Middle English version of the same charter (v, 235), though left out in the confirmation charter of Henry I. Dugdale, Mon., Chart. of Milton, No. 7, ii, 350.
4 Ibid. Chart. of Milton, No. 5, ii, 349; Will. of Malmes., Gesta Pontif. (Rolls Ser.), 186, 400–1; Leland, Coll., iii, 71.
5 Ibid. ii, 186; iii, 72. Angl.-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), 94.
6 Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i, 43b.
7 Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i, 78.
8 Dugdale, Mon., Chart. of Milton, No. 7, ii, 350–1.
9 Chart. R. 37 Hen. III, m. 16. Edward II, in his subsequent exemplification of the possessions and liberties of the monks previous to their disastrous fire of 1309, declared that these markets and fairs were originally granted by their founder Æthelstan. Pat. 5 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 17.
10 Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 179.
11 Ibid. 183–4.
12 Red Bk. of the Exch. (Rolls Ser.), i, 15, 26, 33, 54.
13 Ibid. ii, 678.
14 Ibid. i, 211.
15 Madox, Hist. of the Exch. i, 310.
16 Ibid. 312.
17 Close, 15 John, m. 4.
18 Pat. 1 Edw. I, m. 17.
19 Ibid. 22 Edw. I, m. 8.
20 Sarum Epis. Reg. Simon of Ghent, i, fol. 86; Trivett, Annals (Rolls Ser.), ii, 7; Walsingham [Hist. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), i, 126] erroneously dates this fire in 1311.
21 Sarum Epis. Reg. Simon of Ghent, i, fol. 86.
22 Pat. 3 Edw. II, m. 32.
23 Ibid. 5 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 17. This confirmation was in 1393 inspected and confirmed again to the monks by Richard II. Ibid. 17 Ric. II, m. 27.
24 Ibid. 8 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 31; Sarum Epis. Reg. Mortival, ii, fol. 49; see Cal. Pap. Letters, iv, 207 d.
25 Pat. 6 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 16.
26 Ibid. 18 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 28.
27 Ibid. 2 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 29.
28 Ibid. 10 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 8; 15 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 6; 21 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 31.
29 Ibid. 18 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 9.
30 Ibid. 16 Ric. II, pt. 1, m. 30.
31 Ibid. 2 Hen. IV, pt. 1, m. 35.
32 With the exception of the year following its loss by fire, when Milton was omitted from the list of abbots who were requested to aid the king with victuals for the Scotch war; Close, 3 Edw. II, m. 5d.
33 Close, 8 Edw. II, m. 11 d.; 12 Edw. II, m. 19d.; 6 Edw. III, m. 18d.; 7 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 3d.; 8 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 1 d.; 21 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 2d.; 23 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 12 d.
34 Ibid. 8 Edw. II, m. 20d.; 26 Edw. III, m. 5 d.
35 Ibid. 6 Edw. III, m. 16d.
36 Ibid. 8 Edw. III, m. 5 d.
37 Hutchins (Hist. of Dorset, iv, 390) cites this from 'an anonymous author in the Cotton Library.'
38 The excuse put forward by the community in 1320 for declining to receive a certain Robert Oysel, clerk, who desired to enter the monastery, was that their house was already burdened beyond its capacity to sustain its present number, and would not admit of another; Sarum Epis. Reg. Mortival, ii, fol. 99.
39 The abbot, who received the benediction on his election in 1331 at the hands of Simon, archbishop of Canterbury, 'in the exercise of his right of visitation in the diocese of Salisbury' (Pat. 5 Edw. III, pt. 2, m. 32), does not seem to have been acknowledged by his bishop till the year 1336, when he was formally pardoned for his irregularity in seeking confirmation from the primate instead of from his ordinary (Sarum Epis. Reg. Wyville, fol. 30 d.). A commission of oyer and terminer was issued in 1338 and 1340 to investigate complaints of trespass against the superior (Pat. 12 Edw. III, pt. 3, m. 16d.; 14 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 41 d.), who in 1342 appears to have been imprisoned for trespass at Rockingham (Close, 16 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 22). In 1348 he was charged with breaking the park of Alesia, countess of Lincoln, at Kingston Lacy (Pat. 22 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 43 d.). In 1351 'Richard Maury, monk, formerly for more than eighteen years abbot of Milton, in which time the abbey acquired more than 60 marks annual rent,' obtained exemption from the jurisdiction of his superiors, by grant of Pope Clement VI, with indult to retain the goods which lawfully belonged to him and to convert them to his own use, and licence to choose one of the monks to say the canonical hours with him and serve him in other ways; Cal. Pap. Letters, iii, 432.
40 Pat. 18 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 3.
41 The community consisted at this time, it is said, of twenty-one monks, the number being increased by the return of two absent brethren to twenty-three, as was notified to the bishop by letter shortly after his visit.
42 Sarum Epis. Reg. Wyville, fol. 130–1.
43 Ibid. Erghum, fol. 15.
44 Ibid. Chandler, fol. 51.
45 Ibid. Beauchamp.
46 Pat. 25 Hen. VI, pt. 2, m. 26.
47 L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 3529.
48 Hutchins, Hist. of Dorset, iv. 396. The chantry commissioners of Edward VI found that the rent of the lands thus assigned amounted to £8 a year, which was paid yearly to the 'scolemaster' for his stipend; Chant. Cert. 16, No. 81. An inquisition in 1600 under Elizabeth reported the school 'to be of good regard and in former times much frequented'; Hutchins, op. cit.
49 Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 248.
50 Ibid. 249. The sum contributed by Milton towards the king's expenses for the recovery of the crown of France was £100, as against £200 by Cerne and £118 6s. 8d. by Abbotsbury; L. and P. Hen. VIII, iii, 2483.
51 Of this sum £30 represented the cost of providing the daily necessaries of thirteen poor men of the town of Milton nominated yearly by the convent; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i, 151.
52 Pat. 30 Hen. VIII, pt. 2, m. 20.
53 L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv (1), 500.
54 L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, 282 (g. 90).
55 Angl.-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 94.
56 Wm. of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontif. (Rolls Ser.), 119.
57 Red Bk. of the Exch. (Rolls Ser.), i, 211.
58 Ibid.
59 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 69.
60 Close, 7 Hen. III, m. 28.
61 Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 96.
62 Pat. 1 Edw. I, m. 17. He is probably identical with Walter de Corfe, to whom the temporalities of the abbey were restored 17 June in the same year; ibid. m. 15.
63 Ibid. 19 Edw. I, m. 16.
64 Ibid. 8 Edw. II, pt. 1, m. 9.
65 Ibid. 5 Edw. III, pt. 1, m. 2, 32.
66 Ibid. 26 Edw. III, pt. 3.
67 Ibid. 6 Ric. II, pt. 1, m. 16.
68 Ibid. pt. 2, m. 23.
69 Sarum Epis. Reg. Chandler, fol. 11.
70 Ibid. Neville, fol. 11.
71 Ibid. Beauchamp, i, fol. 50.
72 Pat. 21 Edw. IV, pt. 1, m. 7.
73 L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv (1), 1291–1424; xiv (1), 500.
74 B.M. Seals, xl, 3.
75 Harl. Chart. 86 A. 43.
76 Deeds of Surrender, No. 153.