Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 6 Part 1. Originally published by Staffordshire Record Society, London, 1885.
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The Stone Chartulary.
According to the ancient monastic tradition, Wolphere or Wulfer, the first Christian King of Mercia, founded a religious house at Stone for nuns and a priest, circa 670, in expiation of the barbarous murder of his two sons Wolfade and Rufin, who, before his own conversion, he had put to death, in consequence of their having embraced the Christian faith. (fn. 1)
Wolphere's hermitage or nunnery was converted in the reign of Henry I. into a priory, under circumstances very characteristic of the age, and which are thus described in an old rhyming chronicle in black letter which hung on a tablet in the refectory of the monks at the date of the suppression of the Priory in 29 H. VIII.:—
"In the time of the Conquest was the Lord of Stafford
Baron Robert, which here was chief Lord,
And in his life time befel such a rase
That two nuns and one priest lived in this place,
The which were slayne by one Enysan,
That come over with William Conqueror than.
This Enysan slew the nuns and preest alsoe.
Because his sister should have this church thoe;
But for that offence he did to Saint Wolfade
His sister soon died, and himself great vengeance had.
And when Enisan this cruel deed had doone,
The blessed Baron Robert bethought himself soone
To Killingworth anon that he would goe,
And tell Geffrey of Clinton there of his woe,
Which was in the Castle of Killingworth then dwelling,
And was Chamberlain to first King Henry the King,
And founder of that Castle and Abbey alsoe;
Which counselled this blessed Baron Robert tho'
To restore and helpe Saint Wolfad's house again
And make canons there in steed of the nuns that
Enysan had slayne," etc., etc.
This old legendary account of the foundation of the Priory, temp. H. I., appears to be confirmed to some extent by the deeds relating to Stone which were printed in Vol. II. "Staffordshire Collections," and by the following extract from the Pipe Roll of 31 H. I.
"One form of the monastic legend says that Stone Priory was founded by Enisan de Walton, at the dictation of Geoffrey de Clinton and Robert (sic) de Stafford, and as an expiation for the said Enisan having murdered two nuns and a priest at the Hermitage of St. Wulfade. Doubtless the original Church and Hermitage of St. Wulfade of Stone were founded in expiation of a murder, but that murder was committed some centuries before Enisan de Walton's time. Doubtless also, there was a second murder, and murder of men, not of women, at or near Stone, but it was perpetrated not by Enisan but by his son Ernald, before the latter had succeeded to Walton, but after the Church of Stone was purchased from Enisan and given to Kenilworth. It was expiated, moreover, not by any foundation of a priory, but by a round fine, payable to the Crown, and very possibly inflicted by the Justiciar Clinton."
I am inclined however to attach more weight to the tradition than Eyton, and think it very probable that Geoffrey de Clinton the Justiciary, Chamberlain and the powerful favourite of Henry I., had taken advantage of an homicide committed by Ernald de Walton to extract from Enisan the father of Ernald grants of land in Walton and Stone, in order to benefit his newly founded Priory of Kenilworth. It is true that Ernald was fined 10 marks for his offence, but the reader will not fail to observe that for another homicide committed by Liulph de Audley, the amercement on the same Roll amounted to more than 200 marks.
The Priory remained a cell to Kenilworth until a.d. 1292, (fn. 2) when it was freed from subjection to that House, saving only the right of patronage and a yearly pension.
The most valuable portion of their possessions were their Rectories. That of Stone was valued at £39 annually, and they held in addition those of Tysoe in Warwickshire, and Madeley and Milwich in Staffordshire, an annual pension of £2 from the Rector of Swynnerton, and another of £1 from the Rector of Checkley. When a religious house possessed a Rectory it appropriated the great tythes to itself, and placed a vicar at a small stipend to perform the duties of the Church. On the dissolution of the religious houses these Rectories passed into the hands of laymen either by purchase or by gift from the Crown, and it is owing to this circumstance that the great tithes of so many parishes are now in lay appropriation. (fn. 3)
The deeds conveying all the above property to the House will be found either in the Chartulary now printed, or in the Cottonian Charter, XIII., 6. This latter document is one of great interest. Its description is a misnomer, as it is really a roll of parchment which formed originally a part of the archives of the Priory, and is of much earlier date than the Chartulary. All the deeds of most importance from this old Roll have been printed and annotated by Eyton in Vol. II. of these Collections, pages 201, 210–217 and 233–238, and in these notes the reader will find the best and most authoritative account of the foundation and early history of Stone Priory.
No further lands were acquired by the Convent subsequent to the date of the deeds in this Chartulary. The religious zeal which founded these houses seems to have evaporated before the Statutes of Mortmain of the reign of Edward I., and the latter proved a permanent obstacle to further acquisitions.
The Chartulary, of which an abstract is here given, is an octavo of forty-three pages of vellum, written in a character of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; a note on the first page states it was given to Sir Robert Cotton by Christopher, Baron Hatton. Its official designation at the British Museum is Cottonian MS. Vespasian E. XXIV.