A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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HOUSES OF BENEDICTINE MONKS
1. THE ABBEY OF PETERBOROUGH (fn. 1)
The monastery of Peterborough was originally known as that of Medeshamstede, a name derived from the meadows which lie on each side of the River Nen—'the home in the meadows.' Here, on slightly rising ground, Saxulf, a monk of noble birth, in high favour with Penda, the idolatrous king of Mercia, and with his Christian son and successor Peada, erected the first church with the accompanying buildings for a mission station. The king in granting this great stretch of unreclaimed and swampy land for such a purpose did a great service to the district; for its Christian tenants deemed it an essential part of their duty to wage a relentless war with adverse nature in gradually redeeming the marshes by assiduous drainage and cultivation. In another respect the site was advantageous, for the quarries of that admirable building stone, the Barnack rag, were not far distant. Hugh White or Candidus, the early chronicler of Peterborough, tells us that some of the stones laid in the foundation were so huge (immanissimi lapides) that eight yoke of oxen could scarcely draw one of them. (fn. 2) Bede, as well as the Saxon Chronicle under the years 655-6, is emphatic as to Saxulf being the builder of the monastery. (fn. 3) At Peada's death, his brother Wulfere, who had at one time professed himself a Christian and married Ermenild, daughter of the Christian king of Kent, succeeded to the throne. The story of his two sons Wulfade and Rufine being slain by their father, after their conversion to Christianity by St. Chad (whose acquaintance they made when stag-hunting), and of Wulfere's subsequent attempt at expiation of the crime, was not only accepted in all its details by the monks of Peterborough, but they persuaded themselves that their monastery stood on the scene of part of the tragedy. In the midst of the cloister stood a well 'which common tradition would have to be that wherein St. Chad concealed Prince Wulfade's heart.' (fn. 4) The nine windows of the west walk of the cloister, each of four compartments, were filled with glass illustrative of this story, and carried the narrative down to the revival of the abbey after its destruction by the Danes. Beneath each light of these windows was a rhymed couplet descriptive of the picture. These windows were destroyed in the Great Rebellion, but Gunton was able to give an account of the subjects and inscriptions. (fn. 5)
Saxulf presided over the monastery for twenty years; in 675 he was consecrated bishop of Mercia. During his rule the progress of the church was greatly aided by Ethelred, brother of Wulfere, and by Kyneburg and Kyneswyth their sisters. (fn. 6) Cuthbald, a monk of Medeshamstede, succeeded Saxulf as abbot. He is described as being so singularly pious and prudent that the monks of monastic cells that had already sprung from Medeshamstede, such as Thorney, Lincolnshire, and Brixworth, Northamptonshire, desired that he would appoint their superiors. (fn. 7) The date of Cuthbald's death and of his successor Egbald's appointment is not known; but it was before 716, for in that year Egbald was one of the witnesses to a royal charter granted to Crowland, if Ingulf in this instance may be trusted. (fn. 8) Of the three next abbots, Pusa, Beonna, and Ceolver, nothing is known save the order of their succession. (fn. 9) The date of Hedda's succession to Ceolver is also uncertain, Ingulf's charters of this period being far too doubtful in authenticity. The one certain fact about him is that he was abbot in 870 when the Danes so ruthlessly destroyed this great centre of Christianity, which had been for two centuries one of the chief, if not the most important, evangelizing agency of Southern Mercia. After sacking and firing the abbey of Crowland, the Danes marched on Medeshamstede. Abbot Hedda was slain with all his monks save one, the altars were broken down, monuments demolished, the library and charters destroyed, and the church and buildings fired. The fire, which lasted for fifteen days, completely blotted out the monastery. Ingulf's story of Abbot Godric of Crowland collecting the bodies of eighty-four monks and burying them in a common grave, which he visited year by year, saying mass in a tent erected on the site, is probably unreliable. (fn. 10)
The monastery lay absolutely desolate for nearly a century, but in the time of King Edgar, circa 966, its restoration was undertaken by Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester. The story of his dream, of his first seeking to establish a house at Oundle, and of the queen overhearing his prayers and becoming a great supporter of his scheme, is told with picturesque fullness by Hugh the chronicler. Eventually a church and conventual buildings were completed on the old site, and handed over to Adulf as abbot, by King Edgar, in the year 972. It may be well to cite Gunton's quaint version of Hugh's account of the events that led Adulf to become a monk: 'He being Chancellor to King Edgar, changed his Court life for a Monastical in this place; the reason of which change was this: He had one only son, whom he and his wife dearly loved, and they used to have him lie in bed betwixt them, but the parents having over-night drunk more wine than was convenient, their son betwixt them was smothered to death. Adulphus the father being sadly affected with this horrid mischance was resolved to visit St. Peter at Rome, after the manner of a penitent for absolution, imparting his intent to Bishop Athelwoldus, who dissuaded him from it, telling him it would be better if he would labour in the restoration of St. Peter's church in this place, and here visit him. Adulphus, approving this advice, came with King Edgar to Burgh, where in the presence of the King and the rest of that Convention, he offered all his wealth, put off his Courtly Robes, and put on the habit of a monk, and ascended to the degree of Abbot in the year 972.' (fn. 11)
Adulf ruled here until 992, when he was consecrated archbishop of York. The whole soke of Peterborough in his days was a mere woody solitary swamp, but by degrees the abbot cleared it, built manor-houses and granges, and let the lands for certain rents. As yet there were no churches, and the people came to Peterborough for the sacraments and to pay their church dues. Gunton says that in the days of Abbot Thorold churches and chapels began to be built, but that it was not until the time of Abbot Ernulf, 1107-1114, that certain revenues were set aside for these parochial minsters. (fn. 12)
Kenulf, the ninth abbot, ruled for thirteen years, being consecrated bishop of Winchester in 1005. (fn. 13) In his time the monastic precinct was surrounded by a wall, and as a result the name of the abbey was changed from Medeshamstede to Burgh, (fn. 14) the walled or fortified place: afterwards to Goldenburgh, and finally Peterburgh. His successor, Elsin, was a most diligent collector of the relics of the saints, the most celebrated of which, the arm of St. Oswald, was brought to the monastery by one Wynegot from Bamburgh, Yorkshire. Hugh gives a most elaborate list of the various relics then obtained, as well as many details concerning the incorruptible arm of St. Oswald and its healing properties. (fn. 15) In 1013 there was another Danish irruption under Sweyn, when the monastery and many of its manors suffered severely. (fn. 16)
Elsin ruled for longer than any other abbot of the house; he died in 1055, having been superior for half a century. (fn. 17) He was succeeded by Ernwin, a monk of Peterborough, who resigned in the second year of his rule. (fn. 18) Leofric at once succeeded, and held office until the Norman invasion, dying on 30 October, 1066. Leofric had been with the English army, but sickening he returned to Peterborough, and there died amid the greatest regret of both monks and laity, for he was much beloved. (fn. 19) Brand, a monk of Peterborough, was thereupon elected abbot. According to the Saxon Chronicle he applied to Edgar Clito to confirm the election, which greatly incensed King William. The Conqueror was not reconciled until a payment had been made of forty marks of gold. (fn. 20) Eventually William confirmed by charter the election of Brand, and granted the monastery all the privileges it held in the days of the Confessor. (fn. 21) Abbot Brand died on 30 November, 1069, and was succeeded by Thorold, a Norman, appointed by the Conqueror. (fn. 22) This appointment was the cause of much disaster to the monastery. Gunton says, 'He, being a stranger, neither loved his monastery, nor his convent him.' (fn. 23) He conferred sixty-two hides of church land on certain stipendiary knights that they might defend him against Hereward the Wake. At this time Osbern, a Danish chief or earl, had taken possession of the Isle of Ely. Hereward, indignant that the abbey had been bestowed upon a Norman, stirred up Osbern's forces to attack the monastery. Thorold was then absent at Stamford, but the monks made a strong resistance, and Hereward, to gain access, set fire to houses adjoining the gateway, with the result that the conventual buildings and all the town save one house were destroyed by fire. The abbey church escaped. The riches and relics, together with Prior Athelwold and some of the older monks, were carried off by the raiders to Ely. Athelwold, however, during a carouse of the Danes, managed to secure some of the principal relics, including the arm of St. Oswald, secreting them in the straw of his bed. A treaty being made between the Conqueror and Sweyn, the Danes left Ely, carrying with them many Peterborough relics. Some of them were lost at sea, but others were eventually recovered by one of the Peterborough monks who visited Denmark for the purpose. (fn. 24)
Thorold returned to his monastery with 140 Normans, and strongly fortified it; nevertheless, he was subsequently taken prisoner by Hereward, and only released on payment of a great ransom. (fn. 25) During his thirty-eight years' government of the abbey, Thorold greatly impoverished its resources; he died in 1098. Hugh tells us that, on the death of Thorold, the monks gave the king 300 marks to recover their right of election, and appointed Godric, the brother of Brand, Thorold's predecessor, in 1099. (fn. 26) The accounts of the brief rule of this abbot are most conflicting. He was certainly deposed, the chronicle of Abbot John says 'in the same year,' (fn. 27) while Hugh says that he was abbot 'only one year.' (fn. 28) Both authorities agree that he was deposed by Anselm with several abbots who had been convicted of simony; that this was also his offence seems improbable from Hugh's reference to him as probum virum, and his statement that he was elected quamvis invitum; there is the further difficulty that all these depositions, including Godric's, are assigned by the best authorities to the year 1102. (fn. 29)
During this unsettled period robbers broke through a window of the church, over the altar of SS. Philip and James, and stole a great cross of gold studded with gems as well as two chalices with patens and two candlesticks of the same precious metal, the gift of Archbishop Elfric. (fn. 30) At last, on 21 October, 1103, Henry I filled up the vacancy by appointing Matthias, brother to Geoffrey, the king's justiciary, abbot of Peterborough. Exactly a year from that date he died, and was buried at Gloucester. (fn. 31) After another long vacancy Ernulf, prior of Canterbury, was recommended to the monks as their superior by a council held at London in 1107. He ruled strenuously and happily, and in 1114 was consecrated bishop of Rochester. (fn. 32) John de Séez, originally a monk of Séez in Normandy— erroneously called by Gunton 'John of Salisbury' —was the next abbot. The second disastrous fire, which consumed almost the whole monastery, as well as the town, occurred in August, 1116. Hugh gives a vivid account of the disaster. He attributes its origin to Satanic agency, for Abbot John, in his impatience at a servant failing to kindle a fire, exclaimed, 'The Devil take it' (Veni Diabole et insuffla ignem), whereupon the flames instantly shot up to the very roof. During the remainder of his abbacy John prosecuted the rebuilding of the church and conventual buildings with much diligence. He died of dropsy in 1125. (fn. 33)
At the time of Abbot John's death the number of monks in the abbey was 60. There was, in addition, a considerable household. In the bakehouse there were two bakers who had the board allotted to one knight; also a winnower (vannator), who had the same; two other bakers, who had daily two white loaves and two brown loaves (bisos) with beer; two carriers (caratores) who had four brown loaves and beer; and two grinders (servantes molantes), who had also the daily supply of four brown loaves and beer. The other food (mixtum) allotted to these nine servants of the bakehouse amounted to 24s. 4d. a year. In the brewhouse there were six servants, whose food, in addition to bread and beer, cost 16s. 4d. a year. In the kitchen there was a master and an under cook, with five other servants, two of whom were wood carriers; their allowance amounted also to 16s. 4d. There were two servants of the church. In the tailory (sartrinium) there were two tailors, two washermen, a wood carrier, and a shoemaker. There were also servants attached to the infirmary, to the lazar house (13 lepers with 3 servants), two carriers of stone for the workers of the abbey, a mason, a curtiler, a swineherd, and a refectorian, making a total of forty servants. (fn. 34) The money rents of the abbey at this date, exclusive of payments in kind, amounted to £284 13s. 4d.
Henry de Angeli, who abandoned the bishopric of Soissons to become a monk and afterwards prior of Cluny, subsequently prior of Savigni and abbot of St. John Angeli, procured the abbey of Peterborough in 1128, through his kinship with the king, after another period of vacancy. He continued to hold at the same time his French abbey, but on an endeavour to unite Peterborough to Cluny in 1133 he was banished the realm. (fn. 35) Martin de Bec, prior of St. Neots, was joyfully received as abbot by the monks and people on St. Peter's Day, 1133. Hugh gives a particular account of the entry into the new presbytery ten years later, and of the miracles then wrought in connexion with the enshrined arm of St. Oswald. Abbot Martin materially increased the prosperity of the abbey, the chief benefaction being the town of Pilsgate. He died 2 January, 1155. On the very day of his death, the monks, fearing to have a stranger thrust on them, met to select one of their own body as abbot. They deputed the choice to twelve senior and discreet brethren, who were sworn on the gospels and on the relics of the monastery not to be swayed in their choice by any personal affection or hatred. Hugh, the chronicler, was the first to take the oath, and went with the eleven others into the abbot's lodging, whilst the rest of the monks continued in prayer in the chapter-house. Each of the delegates communicated privately to Hugh the name God had put into their hearts, and their choice fell unanimously on William of Waterville. The king confirmed the election, the bishop gave his benediction, and on Sexagesima Sunday the new abbot was installed. (fn. 36)
William of Waterville added much to the abbey's possessions. He was the founder of the tributary nunnery of St. Michael's, Stamford. He settled a yearly maintenance on the church of St. John Baptist, Peterborough, ordering that the chaplain of that church should yearly at Michaelmas bring the church key to the sacrist of the monastery, as an acknowledgement of its dependency. After ruling the abbey with remarkable success for twenty years he incurred the displeasure of the king and was deposed in 1175. (fn. 37) There is much confusion and contradiction among annalists as to the cause of his deposition; at all events he appealed to Pope Alexander, who confirmed the deposition, a judgement afterwards repeated by his successor Pope Urban. (fn. 38)
For two years after the deposition of Waterville, Henry II retained the abbey and its revenues in his own hands; but in 1177 Benedict, prior of Canterbury, was appointed abbot. 'Blessed in deed and name' (re benedictus et nomine) is the verdict pronounced on him by Swapham the chronicler, a verdict obviously based on personal knowledge. The manner in which he stamped his name on the fabric of the great church committed to his care will be dealt with elsewhere; but perhaps the chief claim to renown of Benedict rests on his connexion with St. Thomas of Canterbury, of whom he is the most distinguished biographer. He succeeded in liberating the monastery from the considerable debt of 1,500 marks with which he found it burdened on entering upon office. Benedict assisted at the coronation of Richard I., and from 1191 to the time of his death in 1193 was keeper of the great seal. He was genuinely attached to Richard, and was the first to suggest and carry out the sale of church plate to secure his ransom. (fn. 39) Andrew, prior of Peterborough, and Acharius, prior of St. Albans, were the next two promotions to the abbacy; they ruled from 1194 to 1210. For about four years after the death of Abbot Acharius, King John kept the revenues of the monastery in his own hands; but at length, in 1214, Robert of Lindsey, then sacrist of the monastery, was elected to the vacant post. Swapham tells us that he paved the way for his preferment by the zealous discharge of his duty as sacrist. During that time he caused more than thirty windows of the church to be glazed, which had previously been stuffed up with reeds and straw. He also supplied a glazed window to the parlour, another to the chapter-house, nine to the dormitory, and three to the chapel of St. Nicholas. Full details of his vigorous administration of the abbey property, and of the improvements he made in the conventual and other buildings, are set forth by the same chronicler. He attended the fourth Lateran Council at Rome, 1215. His death occurred on 25 October, 1222. (fn. 40) About the most precious MS. possessed by the Society of Antiquaries is the psalter of Robert of Lindsey. (fn. 41) It consists of 256 vellum leaves, small folio, is exquisitely written, and contains several superb illuminations, the gold backgrounds of which retain their original brightness. In the margin of the calendar are the obits of the abbots of Peterborough, the latest insertion being that of William of Woodford, who died in 1299. Of Robert's successor, Alexander of Holderness, who ruled for four years, there is nothing of particular importance to chronicle. In 1227 Henry III. granted the abbey a weekly Friday market at Kettering, and a yearly fair at Peterborough on the second Sunday in Lent and seven following days. (fn. 42)
In 1231, during the rule of Martin of Ramsey, the monastery was visited by the bishop of Lincoln, when various ordinations were laid down and accepted. The abbot was not henceforth to borrow money on usury from either Jews or Christians without the consent of the chapter, nor in that case ever to pledge the monastery or its goods of any kind. Another injunction was to the effect that the sacrist should have the horses and arms with the bodies of deceased knights (on the abbey estates); but if the horse of a deceased knight was worth more than four marks, the abbot should have it; the arms, or the price of them, were to be laid up in some safe place for the defence of the country and the peace of the church, and their money equivalent used for the repair and provision of arms. (fn. 43) Pope Gregory IX., during Martin's abbacy, granted to the abbey the privilege of holding divine service during any general interdict, but without bell-ringing and with closed doors. (fn. 44)
Swapham leaves it on record that when Walter of Bury St. Edmunds was installed as abbot, in 1233, he offered a pall covered with peacocks, and a splendid cope of red samite embroidered with representations of the apostles and their martyrdoms. The same chronicler gives an extended account of his various benefactions to the abbey, and of his boldness in giving the church of Castor in accordance with the king's order and in defiance of the pope. In 1237 the church of Peterborough was solemnly dedicated by Bishop Grossetête and his suffragan. (fn. 45) The next abbot, William of Hotoft, after holding office for about three years, resigned in 1249, on the complaint of the monks to the bishop of Lincoln that he was enriching his kindred at the expense of the monastery. (fn. 46) John de Caux, prior of St. Swithin's, Winchester, was elected abbot in 1251, and ruled the monastery with success for twelve years. In the year of his appointment, Pope Innocent IV. granted leave to the monks to have their heads hooded at the quire offices during the winter months, a not uncommon favour in English monasteries. (fn. 47) He was appointed papal chaplain in 1260 by Alexander IV. (fn. 48)
In the diminutive thirteenth-century chartulary is an interesting and detailed entry of the payments in kind due to the monastery about the middle of the thirteenth century from the various manors at certain feasts, such as Easter, Christmas, All Saints, and SS. Peter and Paul. The manors making such customary payments are entered in the following order:—Peterborough, Eye, Thorpe, Walton, Wittering, Glinton, Castor, Cottingham, Kettering, Irthlingborough, Stanwick, Oundle, Ashton, Warmington, Alwalton, Etton, Tinwell, and Pilsgate. Some manors only yielded eggs, and egg payments were always made at Easter; others only two or three sheep; but several supplied specified numbers of each of the six sorts of payments in kind. The totals amounted to 62½ sheep (multones), 117 ells of cloths; 85 disci, (fn. 49) 6,360 eggs, 53 hens, and 600 loaves of bread. (fn. 50)
Abbot Robert of Sutton, elected in March, 1262, joined with the barons two years later in holding the town of Northampton against the king. Whittlesey says that when the king and his son saw the abbey's banner on the walls, they vowed the destruction of the monastery. On gaining the victory, however, over the barons, Henry was content to forgive the abbot on payment of a fine of 300 marks to the king, £20 to the queen, £60 to Prince Edward, and £6 13s. 4d. to Lord Zouch. The abbey also gave pledges to take the part of the king; but the battle of Lewes, when the king and Prince Edward were taken prisoner, brought about renewed heavy fining of the abbey by the barons. Simon de Montfort and his colleagues received from the monks the sum of £186 14s. 8d. During the whole period of the struggle, the abbey gates remained open, and the partisans of either the king or the barons found the tables of the refectory well provided for their needs. This wise policy, as Whittlesey remarks, had the result of saving their manors in many places from fire and other evils. (fn. 51) After the battle of Evesham in 1265, when the crown gained so complete a victory, the unfortunate abbey was again heavily mulcted in fines that considerably exceeded £1,000. Indeed, Whittlesey in enumerating the various sums paid by the abbot to Henry, over a term of several years, ere he recovered the king's favour, totals them up to £4,324 18s. 3d. In 1273 Abbot Robert was summoned by Gregory X. to the Council of Lyons. He died on the return journey; his body was buried in a monastery near Bologna, but his heart was brought back to Peterborough in a silver cup and interred before the altar of St. Oswald. (fn. 52) Owing to the alternate heavy fining of the abbey by king and barons, Abbot Robert left the temporal affairs of his monastery in dire confusion. On his death becoming known at Peterborough, brother William of Woodford, a monk of much shrewdness, was dispatched to court, to try to secure the custody of their temporalities during the vacancy. The king was abroad, but an arrangement was made with the council by which the temporalities were secured on payment of a fine of 300 marks. On the return of Edward I. from the Holy Land in 1274, Richard of London, the prior of the monastery, was elected abbot by his brethren. By his prudence and economy he considerably retrieved the fortunes of the abbey, which he found in debt to the amount of 3,000 marks. He retired for some time, after doing homage on his appointment, to the Isle of Wight, in order to avoid the extravagance of an inaugural feast. The chronicle, which may safely be assigned to his successor, William of Woodford, gives full details of the various law-suits in which Abbot Richard was engaged for nearly the whole of the twenty years of his rule—suits in which the monastery was almost invariably successful. (fn. 53) Among other numerous legal triumphs, he established his right to the tithe of all venison killed within the royal forests of Northamptonshire, and succeeded in putting down the handmills used by the townsfolk of Oundle as constituting an injury to the lord's mill. The king himself was defeated when trying to resist the abbey's claims to have a prison at Peterborough, and to hold various hundred courts involving the right to the chattels of felons and fugitives. In those days, when capital punishment was frequent, and when those who obtained sanctuary had eventually to submit to perpetual banishment, the right to the chattels of felons, outlaws, and fugitives was one of considerable importance and value. In this way the large sum for those days of £37 15s. 1d. was received by the monastery. (fn. 54)
Woodford chronicles three visitations of the abbey during the rule of Richard of London, and we may perhaps assume from the brevity of the entries that the visitors found nothing material to redress. On 17 June, 1283, the monastery was formally visited by Bishop Oliver Sutton; and on 5 September of the same year the bishop made a second surprise visitation (nulla premunicione facta). Archbishop Peckham visited the abbey on 6 October, 1284, and it is merely recorded that he received 4 marks as procuration fees. (fn. 55) Abbot Richard died in 1295, having liquidated the debt of his predecessor by 2,000 marks. The convent elected William of Woodford, the late abbot's legal adviser, who was then sacrist. For two years William had acted as coadjutor abbot, on the appointment of the bishop of Lincoln, owing to Richard's infirmities. After four years of careful rule, Abbot William died on 2 September, 1299. (fn. 56) Godfrey of Crowland, who was cellarer at the time of his appointment, was abbot from 1299 to 1321. Of him Gunton writes that he was 'so famous for worthy actions that there was scarce his like, either before him or after.' (fn. 57) In the first year of his rule certain persons fled for sanctuary into the chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr at the gate of the monastery, whither they were pursued and illegally dragged out, blood being shed during the struggle. Bishop Dalderby put the chapel under an interdict, until the fugitives had been restored to the liberty of the place. Eventually the fugitives were brought back, and the bishop authorized the abbot to cleanse the chapel with holy water, and to restore it to divine use. (fn. 58)
In 1313, the same bishop, in connexion with the purgation of a charge brought against Godfrey of Crowland, of incontinence, licensed that abbot to go on a pilgrimage to the shrines of the Blessed Edmund of Pontigny, and of St. Thomas of Hereford. (fn. 59) In the same year the bishop issued an inhibition of the veneration of the place of burial, in the hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr for the sick at Peterborough, of the body of Lawrence of Oxford, who had been hung on account of his evil crimes, and where miracles were supposed to take place. A further inhibition was issued later in the year, accompanied by a prohibition to the monks of accepting the offerings of those flocking there. (fn. 60) A visitation of the abbey made by the bishop whilst this strange veneration of a criminal's remains was in progress, caused much dissension among the monks, some of them encouraging folk to visit the grave. Those who took this course were, however, excommunicated, and the bishop issued a third stern inhibition. (fn. 61)
The church of Warmington was appropriated to Peterborough Abbey in 1316. In their petition to the bishop for sanction, the monks stated that they had become impoverished and in debt, (1) by reason of their nearness to an important highway, which necessitated much hospitality, (2) by the wars in those parts, and (3) by divers oppressions, exactions, and expenses. (fn. 62) The second of these reasons referred to the resistance of the barons to the evil favourites of Edward II., notably Piers Gaveston. When Piers visited Peterborough at an earlier date with Edward II., then Prince of Wales, the abbot sent the prince a present of an embroidered robe, but he declined to receive it unless a like one was sent to Piers. A single entertainment of Edward II. and his courtiers is said to have cost the abbey £1,543 13s. 4d. in provisions and presents.
Bishop Burghersh, in 1321, granted an indulgence to all penitents hearing mass at the Lady altar, the high altar, and the altar of All Saints in the guest-house chapel of Peterborough monastery. (fn. 63)
On Godfrey's death there was an extent of the lands of the abbey. Whittlesey sets out the full particulars of each manor. The annual sum produced by the Northamptonshire manors amounted to £409 10s. 2¾d., and that from their manors in Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, and Rutland to £212 6s. 0½d., making a total of £621 16s. 3¼d. (fn. 64) But this did not by any means represent the total of the abbey's income at that date, for the return took no account of the spiritualities in appropriated churches and pensions, or of the tithes of venison, or of the rents from certain tenements and detached plots of land, or of the average return of forfeited chattels, or of the very considerable offerings of the faithful.
Adam de Boothby's rule, 1321-1330, was chiefly remarkable for his frequent and costly entertainment of the king and royal family. In 1332 Edward III., with the queen-mother, the king's sisters, three bishops, and the whole court, kept Easter at the monastery, making a stay of ten days. The consequent expenditure of the abbot, including presents, was £487 6s. 5d. On six subsequent occasions during this abbacy there were prolonged royal visits to Peterborough. (fn. 65) The rule of the next four abbots was not marked by any particularly noteworthy incidents. Only a few points need be here noticed. A curious example of a mixed rental in money and kind accruing to the abbey occurs at this period. In 1342 licence was granted to John Edgar to alienate to Peterborough monastery 2 messuages, 20½ acres of land, 4½ acres of meadow, 9s. 10d. of rent, and a rent of two cloths, four geese, three cocks, fourteen hens, and sixty eggs in Glinton and Peterborough, of the united yearly value of 40s. 2½d. (fn. 66)
The loss of half the monks during the Black Death of 1349-50 has been already mentioned, the total being reduced from 64 to 32. (fn. 67) In 1353 Bishop Gynwell absolved Hugh de Spalding from the excommunication he had incurred for breaking locks and gates on the monastic property, for hunting in the woods, for felling trees, and for fishing in the waters of the Nen without the abbot's licence. (fn. 68) The prior of Peterborough was empowered by Bishop Gynwell in 1360 to absolve some of his brother monks who had been excommunicated for laying violent hands on certain secular clerks. (fn. 69)
William Genge, the fortieth abbot of Peterborough, succeeded in 1396 and became the first mitred abbot. In November, 1402, he obtained licence from Pope Boniface IX. for himself and his successors to wear anywhere the mitre, ring, pastoral staff, and other pontifical insignia; to give in the monastery and subject priories, and in their parish and other churches, solemn benediction after mass, vespers, and matins, and at their table, provided that no bishop nor legate were present; to consecrate churches, such as the churches, oratories, and chapels of their monasteries and priories, together with the altars, vestments, and chalices therein; and to reconcile the same and the cemeteries of such churches. (fn. 70)
A detailed schedule of the taxation of the abbey drawn up in 1401–2 shows that the total value of the temporalities and spiritualities at that time amounted to £1,218 15s. 5¾d. Out of this the sum of £60 1s. 2d. was definitely assigned for alms. In the same register where the taxation return is entered, many folios are devoted to the full receipts of the abbey for the same year. (fn. 71) The register or act book of William Genge and of his successor, John Deeping (1410-38), gives evidence of the energetic administration of both these abbots. One of its more interesting features is the record of three gaol deliveries, for the prison of Peterborough belonged to the great abbey. At Michaelmas, 1400, the gaol delivery of Peterborough before William Thirnyng, John Coraunt, and their fellow justices, is entered in the abbey register. The prisoners included four who were notorii latrones, nine horse stealers, one sheep stealer, two stealers of goods, one utterer of forged money, nine suspected of robbery, one case of serious wounding, four guilty of murder or manslaughter, and one case of sheltering a murderer. (fn. 72) The gaol delivery of Michaelmas, 1425, is entered in the same register. There were twenty-seven prisoners, of whom several were acquitted and five hung. The capital sentences were for horse and cattle stealing. The gaol delivery of 1434 also finds a place in the abbot's register; on that occasion there was only one capital sentence. (fn. 73)
Bishop Repingdon, by mandate dated 10 March, 1413, gave notice to the abbot of his intention to visit Peterborough Abbey on 14 April, tam in capite quam in membris. The abbot acknowledged the letter, and forwarded the required schedule of the names of the monks on 26 March. (fn. 74)
'Trusty and wellbeloved yn God. We grete you wel and we wol and prey you as we have praide you by oure other lettres afore thys tyme that ye wol have atte reverence of us our welbeloved servant and clerk of our chapelle, Alayse Kyrketon, specialy recommended unto the next benefice yat shal voide longyng to youre gifte. And yat ye thenke hereupon yat hit be doon as we trust to you. Notwythstandyng any instance or prayere made or to be made to you to ye contrarye. So yat we may have cause to give you thanks therefore. And yat ye certifie us by youre lettres of youre wille and entent in yis mater in al goodely haste. And God have you in his keepyng. Geven under oure signet in oure hoose afore Roan ye first day of Janner.'
To this request the abbot and chapter returned a favourable answer also in English, stating in grandiloquent terms their readiness to do their sovereign's will, and thus concluding their letter, which was dated 16 February: 'And furthermore we devoutly pray almighty God for his endeles mercy to sende you the victory of al your enemyes and to bryng you and al your trewe lieges in saufte hom to us ageyne into Ingelond.' (fn. 75)
Bishop Gray, 1431-6, visited the abbey, and issued subsequent injunctions which were for the most part of the usual form, enforcing silence, prohibiting entrance of women, etc. They were ordered not to cut down the wood nor pawn the jewels. Within the cloister there were only to be two places for refection, namely, the refectory and 'ley miserycord alias vocat ley Seyny.' Before Michaelmas they were to obtain an instructor who was to instruct the monks in grammar, and this under the penalty of £10 to be applied to the alms of the lord abbot. (fn. 76)
In September, 1454, Abbot Richard executed a deed, entered in the diocesan register, binding himself to give the administration of temporalities and spiritualities for six years into the hands of Richard Harleston and William Ufford, saving the government of the quire and of regular observances; sums in arrears for pensions of scholars to be paid to the abbot, also £10 annually coming from the sacristan for the wine of the convent, and the money called 'jalez silver,' (fn. 77) and the rent of one mark yearly of the chamber of each brother and priest, and the rent of 10s. yearly for the chamber of each brother not being a priest. The abbot is to dine with the monks. Separate places to be provided for inmates of the infirmary, and for strangers coming to the abbey. (fn. 78)
Richard Ashton, the third of the mitred abbots, ruled from 1438 to 1471. Many small points of interest in connexion with the inner life of the monastery can be gleaned from the rough memoranda and account book of William Morton, the almoner of the abbey, which extends from 1448 to 1466. Among minor expenses of the first of these years is 15s. 4d. for wax for making two torches, 6d. given to strolling players, 4d. for washing towels, 6d. for carpenter's work on the rood loft (of the hospital church), 5s. for mending the church windows, and 1d. for thread for mending vestments. (fn. 79) There are many entries relative to repairs on the manors of Maxey, Warmington, and Sutton. In 1459, 3s. 9d. was spent for 3½ gallons of wine given to the convent at Pentecost, and 3s. 6½d. for 4¼ gallons of wine for the convent at the feast of the Assumption. (fn. 80)
In 1462 Edward IV. granted to Abbot Richard and the convent, goods of felons, fugitives, and outlaws within their hundreds of Nassaburg, Polebrook, Huxloe, and Navisford, and all other their hundreds, manors, and possessions in Northampton, Huntingdon, Lincoln, Leicester, Nottingham, and Rutland, deodands, wreck of sea, treasure trove, evasions and escapes, fines, forfeitures, and amercements, and all other liberties granted by former kings. They were also to have the delivery of the king's gaol at Peterborough, provided one of the justices of the peace for the county of Northampton, or a person skilled in the law, be one of the commissioners appointed by them. (fn. 81) In the following year the king granted to the abbey the custody of all its temporalities during voidance, on their rendering to the Exchequer £40 for each voidance. (fn. 82)
William Ramsey was abbot from 1471 to 1496. During his rule in 1477 licence was obtained for the appropriating of the church of Oundle to the monastery, provided a vicarage was sufficiently endowed, and a competent sum of money distributed yearly among the poor. The royal assent was given to this in consideration of the abbey having granted to the king 84 acres of land and wood in Cottingham parish. (fn. 83) The appropriation was not completed till 1481. Another appropriation was made to the monastery in 1486, when a long-standing contention with the neighbouring abbey of Crowland was compromised by the yielding to Peterborough of the church of Bringhurst, Leicestershire. (fn. 84)
Robert Kirton, a monk of Peterborough, was elected abbot in 1496. Three years later the church of North Collingham was appropriated to the monastery. On 8 July, 1515, the Bishop of Lincoln visited the abbey, when various irregularities were brought to light and punished. The most serious offender was brother John Walpole, who had stolen certain jewels from the shrine containing St. Oswald's arm, and given them to women in the town. Some of the monks haunted a tavern near the abbey, and sang and danced in the dormitory till ten or eleven o'clock at night, to the disturbance of the rest. (fn. 85)
While Wolsey was busy about his new college at Oxford in 1526, he deputed the Bishop of Lincoln to obtain the fulfilment of an alleged promise of a contribution from this abbey. The abbot was visited by his diocesan on 30 July, and the bishop forwarded a long account of their interview. From this letter it would seem that Kirton had rashly promised a contribution of 2,000 marks, which he did not see his way to fulfil. The bishop wrote that if he thus 'swerve and warble' in his words, he should be made to resign before Michaelmas on a reasonable pension. Writing again a few days later, the bishop said that no dependence could be placed on the abbot, that his poor offer of £400 was now reduced to one of 400 or 500 marks. (fn. 86) At last, in March, 1528, Kirton yielded to the strong pressure brought on him to resign, on the understanding that either brother Francis or one Boston, monks of the abbey, would succeed him. He wrote to Wolsey to that effect, saying that if the election were left to the convent they would undoubtedly choose brother Francis, who was a good religious man, and of gentle birth. (fn. 87) The imperious Wolsey had, however, succeeded in enforcing his will on the convent, who granted him the right of nominating the next abbot; whereupon he withdrew from the promises made by his agents, and immediately nominated John Browne (alias Chambers) as superior of the monastery. The royal assent to this decision was given on 23 March, 1528. (fn. 88)
On 27 July, 1534, Abbot John Chambers, Prior John Walpole, and forty of the monks signed the declaration as to Henry VIII.'s supremacy. (fn. 89)
The Valor of 1535 gives the clear annual value of this wealthy monastery as £1,679 15s. 8¾d. (fn. 90) Certain rents and estates pertained, as in all large monasteries, to particular officials or obedientaries. Among them, the cellarer, sacrist, sub-sacrist, almoner, treasurer, chamberlain, pittancer, guestmaster, master of the works, refectorian, precentor, as well as the warden of the cell of Oxney are particularized. The various wind, water, and horse mills brought in an income of £40 16s. 8d.; tolls and market dues at Peterborough, Thorpe, and Oundle, £5 19s.; certain fines, with le pype silver et virida cera, in different lordships and manors, £7 2s. 7¾d.; (fn. 91) and manorial court fees, £19 19s. 3¾d. A considerable share of the income came from the appropriated rectories of Oundle, Warmington, Gunthorpe, and Peterborough, Northamptonshire; Eston, Leicestershire; and North Collingham, Nottinghamshire. The amount that was bound to be spent in alms yearly, apart from all general distribution and hospitality, was £57 16s.
Katherine of Arragon, Henry's first wife, was buried in the quire of the church, with much pomp, in January, 1535. (fn. 92)
An accusation of papistry was made against one of the monks in June, 1538, and the particulars forwarded to the council. Ambrose Caster was charged with saying Domine salvum (sic) fac ecclesiam, instead of Domine salvum fac Regem, and for saying in the canon of high mass pro Papa nostro, although erased from the book. The charge was made by brother Richard Deeping to Prior Walpole, and the parties were examined by the abbot in the presence of three servants of the king and seven officials of the convent. Caster denied the charge, saying it was pure malice. Deeping could produce no witnesses, but the abbot committed Caster to ward until the king's pleasure was known. (fn. 93) The accused monk must eventually have been discharged, for he is found among the pensioners of the following year.
In March, 1538, William Parre, one of the monastic visitors under Cromwell, was at Peterborough, and set forth at length the conversation he had with Abbot Chambers in a letter to his master. The abbot offered, if his house might stand, to give the king a whole year's rent of all their lands, amounting to about 2,500 marks, and beyond that 'to gratifie your lordship (Cromwell) to bee good lorde to hym with the some as I suppose of three hundred pounds.' (fn. 94) Eventually this ancient monastery was surrendered to the crown agents on 29 November, 1539. The inmates were divided into two lists, those appointed to remain, to form part of the staff of the projected cathedral staff, and those who were at once to depart. The first list was headed by the abbot, to whom was assigned the large pension of £266 13s. 4d., in addition to a yearly allowance of a hundred loads of wood; £14 a year was assigned to Prior Walpole; a pension of £12 each to two monks who were bachelors of divinity; and pensions of £8 to two other monks; of £7 to one; and of £6 to ten. Among those pensioned and ordered to depart was Edward Berney, warden of the cell of Oxney, and another, at £10; another at £8; William Thornton, sub-prior, at £7; three at £6 13s. 4d.; and fourteen at £6 each. (fn. 95)
On the day after the surrender an inventory of the considerable treasure of the church and of the furniture, stores, and stock of the abbey was drafted. (fn. 96) A return made in December, 1539, of the plate out of certain abbeys, names 70 oz. of gold and 5,081 oz. of silver as taken from Peterborough. (fn. 97)
On the dissolution of the abbey, the king made a tripartite division of its revenues (valued at £1,979 7s. 5¾d. a year), assigning a third to himself, a third to the newly appointed bishop, and the remaining third to the dean and chapter. (fn. 98) The new see of Peterborough was founded on 4 September, 1541, to consist of a bishop, dean, and six prebendaries; the diocese to consist of the counties of Northampton and Rutland; the abbey church to be changed into a cathedral; and the abbot's lodging into the bishop's palace. (fn. 99) John Chambers, the last abbot, was rewarded for his complacency over the surrender by being appointed the first bishop.
Abbots of Peterborough (fn. 100)
Deans (fn. 101)
Of the first known seal, twelfth century, there is a cast at the British Museum. (fn. 102) The obverse represents the abbey church, under the squareheaded arch of the central tower, St. Peter with nimbus is seated, holding in his right hand two keys, in his left hand a book, a hand of blessing is issuing in the upper left-hand corner. In a niche or chapel on the left a saint, with a cross on the tympanum of the arch; on the right a porch with door thrown open.
The reverse, a smaller round counterseal, represents a boat on waves with St. Paul holding a sword, standing between St. Oswald on the left and St. Peter with key on the right, each under a dome-shaped canopy with round-headed arch. The centre canopy has two pinnacles; in the field two estoiles.
A fine fragment, creamy white in colour, similar in design to above is attached to a charter of about 1200. (fn. 103) Attached to it also is the seal of Abbot A. (Abbot Andrew 1194-1199 or Abbot Acharius 1200-1210), very imperfect and indistinct, representing the abbot full length, in his right hand a pastoral staff curved outwards, in his left hand a book.
The second seal of the abbey, thirteenth century, is round, light brown in colour, and fine. (fn. 104) The obverse represents a boat on waves, the figure head of an animal at each end, St. Paul standing, in his right hand a sword erect by the point, in his left hand a book; on the left St. Andrew with a cross saltire, on the right St. Peter with keys and book. Each saint under a canopy with trefoiled arch pinnacled and crocheted. In the field on the left and over the roof the letter R twice repeated, on the right the letter F twice repeated.
The reverse represents St. Peter with tiara, seated on a carved throne in a canopied niche with ogee arch pinnacled and crocheted, holding in his right hand a key, in his left hand a long cross, an animal under his feet, close by on the left a king's head. On the left, in a similar but smaller niche, an altar with a chalice covered with a corporale, and a triangular lamp or bell suspended over it; on the right an abbot, full length, in his right hand a pastoral staff, in his left hand a book, overhead the initial letter O. Outside on each side a masonry buttress. Over the roof on each side a shield of arms, two keys in saltire for Peterborough Abbey. The base ornamented with a cusped corbel table and below it a row of small quatrefoils.
A dark bronze-green, very fine and sharp, but imperfect example of the above thirteenth-century seal is applied by plaited cords of red and green silk to a charter of 1304. (fn. 105) The dark bronzegreen pointed oval seal of Abbot Godfrey of Crowland, 1299-1321, is attached to the same deed; it represents the abbot with embroidered vestments standing on a carved corbel under a canopy with trefoiled arch pinnacled and crocheted, supported on two slender shafts; in his right hand he holds a pastoral staff, in his left hand a book. Background diapered lozengy, with a small rose in each space.
Another example of the thirteenth-century seal, light-brown in colour, much injured at bottom by pressure, is attached to a charter bearing date 1538. (fn. 106)
There is a cast at the British Museum of the pointed oval seal of Abbot Robert of Sutton 1262-1274, (fn. 107) representing the abbot full length, in his right hand a book, in his left hand a pastoral staff.
A cast of the seal of Abbot Richard Ashton (?) is also at the museum; (fn. 108) it is very small, and the impression, which is indistinct, represents a shield of arms with two keys in saltire for Peterborough Abbey. Over the shield is a crowned head as in the second seal of the abbey reverse.
The seal of perhaps Robert Kirton is taken from another cast (fn. 109) with very imperfect impression representing a saint, perhaps St. Peter, turned to the right, holding a book and keys, an ecclesiastic kneeling before him. The legend is destroyed.
The pointed oval seal of Abbot John Deeping is taken from another cast representing St. Peter with tiara and nimbus seated in a carved and canopied niche, lifting up the right hand in benediction, in his left hand a book and two keys, between St. Paul with sword on the left and St. Andrew with nimbus on the right in two smaller niches. In base, which is much chipped, under a round-headed arch the abbot mitred between two shields of arms, both very indistinct and one almost entirely broken away.