A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1903.
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2. NEW MINSTER, OR THE ABBEY OF HYDE
The abbey of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Peter of the New Minster (fn. 1) in Winchester was founded in 901 by Edward the Elder in accordance with the wishes of his father King Alfred. It would appear that towards the close of the ninth century Alfred, being anxious to promote the better education of the children of his nobles, summoned Grimbald, a learned priest and monk of St. Bertin at St. Omer in Flanders to assist him in this work. Grimbald arrived in 893, (fn. 2) but it was not till the last year of his reign that Alfred told him of his intention to build a new monastery at his royal borough of Winchester. (fn. 3) The king only lived long enough to purchase the site for the monastery in the open churchyard immediately to the north of the cathedral or the Old Minster from Bishop Denewulph and the canons of the Old Minster and others. (fn. 4) It was left to Edward the Elder to carry out his father's intention to build the monastery and to place Grimbald (fn. 5) there as the first Abbot. The Church was consecrated in 903 (fn. 6) and in the same year Edward endowed the monastery with considerable possessions, including the land of Micheldever and lands of Stratton, 'Burcote,' Popham, Woodmancote, Candover, Cranborne, Drayton juxta Nunneton, 'Swarraton, Northingtone, Norton juxta Selborne, 'Slastede,' Tatchbury, Abbots Anne, 'Colengaburna, 'Ceoseldene' and Durley. (fn. 7) At this time also the church was enriched with the relics of St. Judoc or Josse the confessor, which were brought there by certain monks of Ponthieu who fled to England from Danish raiders.
Shortly after the dedication of the church the remains of Alfred were carried in solemn procession to the New Minster from their temporary resting-place in the church of St. Swithun or the Old Minster in Winchester and buried on the right side of the altar. In the same tomb were also interred Edward's mother, Queen Ealhswith, foundress of Nunnaminster, and afterwards the bodies of Edward and his two sons, Ethelward and Elfward, were buried in a tomb adjoining that of his parents. At a later date the New Minster became the burial place for several members of the Saxon royal house. (fn. 8)
The church was served by secular canons, who, as it is said by the later chroniclers that had no sympathy with the seculars and married priests, permitted great laxity of discipline and were the cause of scandal. About 963 Ethel wold, Bishop of Winchester, with the approval of King Edgar and St. Dunstan, as a part of his scheme for monastic reform in his diocese, insisted upon the adoption of the Benedictine rule by the inmates of New Minster under pain of expulsion, and King Edgar supplied a series of laws to be used by the monastery. (fn. 9) The majority of the house refused to accept the new rules and were driven from the monastery, their places being taken by regular monks from Abingdon, over whom Ethelgar was placed as abbot. Ethelgar, like most of the Church reformers of this date, was a man of distinct individuality; he had received his monastic training under Ethelwold at Abingdon and upon his appointment to New Minster he took in hand the reform of the monastery with the zeal copied from his late master. Not only did he look to the rule of the house, but he carried out various works on the buildings including the erection of a tower, said to be of great height and beauty, and a richly carved ceiling. He became Bishop of Selsey in 980 and succeeded St. Dunstan as Archbishop of Canterbury in 988.
King Cnut was a great benefactor to the Minster, not only in lands but by the gift of the golden cross richly adorned with precious stones with two great images of gold and silver and sundry relics of saints. Among other benefactions received by the monastery at about this time was the gift in 1041 by Queen Emma, widow of Cnut, of the head of St. Valentine, which was cherished as one of the most valuable possessions of the house.
Alwyn, brother of Earl Godwin, became abbot in 1064. During his abbacy a disastrous fire destroyed a considerable part of the domestic buildings of the Minster on St. George's Day, 1066. This abbot naturally took the part of his nephew Harold in resisting the Norman invasion, and according to the register of the monastery he was slain in battle on the field of Hastings. Mr. Round has already dealt with the question of the supposed active part that the monks of New Minster took at the battle of Hastings, and has shown from the Domesday Survey how considerable are the exaggerations usually current with regard to the consequent confiscations of the Conqueror. (fn. 10) At the time of the Survey the Abbey held in Hampshire, Brown Candover, Woodmancote, Fullerton in Wherwell, Leckford, Micheldever, Cranbourne, Drayton in Barton Stacey, West Stratton, East Popham, Abbot's Worthy, Alton, Worting, Bighton, Bedhampton, Lomer in Corhampton, Warnford, Lickpit in Basing, North Stoneham, Kingsclere, Tatchbury in Eling, Abbots Anne, and Laverstoke. (fn. 11)
Not long after the Conquest evil days fell upon the abbey. On the death of Rewalan the Red King made his ' in famous chancellor,' Ralph Flambard, abbot. By an openly simoniacal arrangement between the abbot-chancellor and the king, Herbert Losinga, Bishop of Norwich, bought the New Minster for his father, Robert Losinga, who was appointed abbot in 1091. On the death of Abbot Robert in 1093, the unhappy abbey again fell into the unscrupulous hands of Ralph Flambard. Relief however came to this scandal with the accession of Henry Beauclerk in 1100, when Hugh, a monk of St. Swithun's, was appointed abbot.
The will of the next abbot, Geoffrey, was one of singular moment to the abbey; the register styles him Fundator Hide. In 1109 the monks were enabled to leave their crowded site, the cause of many a serious inconvenience, and move to commodious quarters on the north side of Winchester, just beyond the city walls, known as Hyde Mead. Henceforth this important Benedictine house was known as Hyde Abbey. The old site was surrendered into the king's hands, and was shortly afterwards restored to the cathedral church of St. Swithun. To the monks of Hyde the king granted another charter, whereby, amongst other regulations, it was arranged that a joint procession of the monks of St. Swithun and Hyde was to be made year by year. (fn. 12) Their new home was speedily ready for occupation, and in 1110 the monks of New Minster carried with them to the Abbey of Hyde, in solemn procession, their sacred relics, the great gold cross of Cnut's benefaction, together with the illustrious remains of Alfred, his queen and his son. Henry I. made several grants to the abbey, among them the churches of Kingsclere and Alton and 5 hides in Alton which William I. had given in exchange for land in the city of Winchester. (fn. 13) He also confirmed to them the right of soc and sac, thol and theam and other liberties. (fn. 14)
To Geoffrey succeeded Osbert in 1124. The length of his rule is somewhat uncertain, but it probably ended in 1135. The new abbey, however, only lasted for thirty years, for when the city was fired in 1141, in the midst of the fierce civil war between the adherents of Maud and Stephen, the Abbey of Hyde perished in the conflagration. (fn. 15) Then for several years there was continuous strife between the monks of Hyde and the high born and imperious Bishop Henry de Blois. By him, say the Hyde annalists, was ithe great cross of Cnut burnt, alluding to its loss in the great fire, when the bishop directed fireballs to be thrown from his castle of Wolvesey into that quarter of the city adjoining the abbey.
In 1142 Hugh de Lens succeeded as abbot after a vacancy of six years. There was much internal dissension at this time, and in 1149 a large deputation of the monks proceeded to Rome to complain of their abbot, as well as to renew their charges against their diocesan. Hugh was removed, and for two years the abbey was again vacant, whilst Bishop Henry endeavoured to persuade the Pope to convert his ancient see to an archiepiscopate, and to make Hyde Abbey the centre of one of his suffragan bishoprics. The scheme however failed, and Selid was elected abbot in 1151. In the seventeenth year of his abbacy, the continuous suits against the bishop were at last decided in favour of Hyde, and amongst other acts of restitution the bishop presented to the abbey as skilful a reproduction of Cnut's golden cross as the art of the day could furnish. After its destruction by fire some parts of the abbey were rebuilt, but the work was very gradual. The thorough reconstruction of the great church was not even begun until 1182.
Selid died in 1171, the same year as Bishop Henry, when there was again a vacancy for about five years. In 1177 Thomas, the Prior of Montacute, (fn. 16) a Cluniac house in Somerset, became abbot; he resigned his office in 1181. He was succeeded by John Suthill, during whose vigorous rule of nearly forty-two years the abbey prospered and enjoyed much internal peace. In 1185 this abbot proceeded to Rome to bring back the pall for Baldwin, Archbishop-elect of Canterbury. In 1208 John restored the temporalities which had been taken into his hands by reason of the interdict. (fn. 17) The abbot at this time owed the service of twenty knights to the Crown for his lands. (fn. 18)
The year after Suthill's appointment (1182) the annalists tell of a miraculous appearance of St. Barnabas at an altar dedicated to his honour, and it was this incident that gave an impetus to the church restoration. There were various other remarkable manifestations at this altar, which caused the faithful to flock to the abbey, and the saint became the object of a special cult at Hyde. Henceforth the monks were frequently described as monks of St. Barnabas.
In 1267 there was a serious affray in the abbey between the servants of the abbot and those of the pope's legate, Otho, who had come to Hyde to keep the festival of Christmas with a great retinue, and who observed the feast with too much conviviality. (fn. 19)
A curious faculty, which throws some light upon the condition of monastic life in the thirteenth century, was granted by Pope Nicholas IV. in 1288 to this abbey, by which permission was granted to the monks to wear caps of sheep or lamb skin at the divine offices and processions, the cold in those parts, it was said, having caused paralysis and other diseases to some of the monks. (fn. 20)
In 1302 royal licence was obtained for the appropriation (in accordance with a patent of 1292) of the church of Micheldever and its chapels, of the annual value of £70, to which the bishop had already assented, on condition that the revenue should be applied to the use of guests and of the poor and infirm persons who flocked to the abbey. (fn. 21) Various impediments arose to this appropriation, but at last it was confirmed by Clement V. in 1309, and papal mandates to that effect were sent to the Archdeacon of Winchester and to the Chapter of Salisbury; in the same year there was the like papal confirmation of the appropriation of the church of Alton. (fn. 22)
There were several visitations of the monastery during the first half the fourteenth century, and in 1312 Bishop Woodlock had occasion to inhibit the convent from using the common seal for any alienation. (fn. 23) Again in 1318 Bishop Sandaie addressed a stern letter to the abbot bidding him check the careless monks who neglected meditation, and their claustral duties, and complaining of the lukewarmness of his rule. (fn. 24) Odiham's rule was but brief. On 21 May, 1319, the abbot was seriously ill, and the monks sent their steward to the king to try and arrange for the custody of the temporalities, during the expected vacancy. The abbot however died on June 5 before the matter could be arranged, so that it was not until June 10 that the monks received the agreement, whereby it was arranged that the convent might retain the custody on payment of 200 marks to the Crown, provided the vacancy did not exceed two months.
Walter de Fifield, a monk of the house, had the temporalities restored to him as abbot (the agreement of June 10 being held to be void) on August 1. Between this abbot and his convent there were many disputes, the chief contention of the prior and brethren being that he was wrongfully increasing the separate abbatial revenue at the expense of the house at large. The matter came frequently before Bishop Stratford, with the result that the abbot was virtually acquitted. (fn. 25) The bishop made a formal visitation of the abbey in February, 1325, and issued as the result an elaborate series of decrees, which were in the main of the usual character. The attendance of all at the night and day offices was enjoined; brothers in priest's orders were to celebrate daily; close custody was to be kept of the doors; the disturbance caused by boys chattering on the south side of the farmery was to be stopped; the access of men and women into the church and cloister at inordinate hours and times was to cease; no brother was to frequent the nunneries of Winchester, Wherwell, or Romsey under pain of a year's confinement at Hyde; particular injunctions were laid down as to eating and drinking; playing at chess or dice was forbidden; frocks or cowls of fustian or worsted were not to be allowed, but were to be of black serge according to their rule; cinctures or burses of silk were forbidden; nor were they to have lockers save in the cloister carols. (fn. 26) To this visitation and its consequent decrees the abbot raised formal objections, but he was overruled.
Bishop Orlton visited the abbey on 7 November, 1334, preaching in the chapter-house from 'Ut ambuletis digni Deo per omnia placentes.' The same bishop also visited on 29 May, 1337. (fn. 27)
By the aid of 1346 for making Edward the Black Prince a knight we find that the Abbot of Hyde held with Robert Payne an eighth part of a knight's fee in Abbots Worthy (Hidebourne Wordy), three knights' fees in Mitcheldever, a hide in Northington with Henry de Nonhampton, and half a fee in Bicton with Roger Gervays. (fn. 28)
In 1344 there was an outbreak of the villeins of Chisledon, Wilts, against the abbey rule, for which they received chastisement at the abbot's hands. The fearful Black Death of 1349-50 reduced the abbey to penury, so that in order to avoid utter wreck it surrendered itself absolutely into the hands of William Edingdon, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of the kingdom. The annalist does not proceed to state what measures the bishop took for the relief of the abbey or how he administered their funds. It would, however, appear that after the election of Thomas de Pechy, the new abbot, in 1362, by good management the monastery had partly regained its prosperous condition, for in 1377 it was able to lend Richard II. the sum of £50. Nicholas Strode who became abbot in 1417 took a considerable share in the political affairs of the day, and is described as 'a man of conspicuous parts and secular activity.' He died in 1440, and was followed by Thomas Bramley, to whose election the royal assent was given early in May. In March, 1446, this abbot's name appears among the distinguished signatories to the final foundation charter of Eton College. In the same year the great bell-tower of Hyde Abbey, with its eight bells, was destroyed by fire. In 1447 Cardinal Beaufort died, and left £200 for the repairs of the church, doubtless in consequence of this misadventure.
Abbot Bramley died in February, 1465, and was succeeded by Henry Bonville, the prior. This election caused much dissension in the abbey. Bishop Waynflete, on appeal, sent the new abbot to govern the priory of Boxgrove, Sussex, whilst the new prior of Hyde, Thomas Worcester, virtually governed the abbey. In 1471 an arrangement was made by which Abbot Bonville was to receive £50 a year from the abbey revenues, and to attend convocation, council, or parliament as abbot; but he was not to come near Hyde Abbey for three years. (fn. 29) Meanwhile however in 1472 Bonville died, and Thomas Worcester was at once elected in his place. (fn. 30)
On the election of Richard Hall in April 1488 Henry VII. granted a pension, which a newly elected Abbot of Hyde was bound to grant to a clerk of the king's nomination from the abbey funds, to Peter Carmelian. Peter was a native of Brescia, who had been naturalized that very month; he was a court poet, and chaplain and Latin secretary to Henry VII. (fn. 31)
Bishop Wykeham was a firm maintainer of all the episcopal privileges of the see. There was an ancient custom that, on the confirmation of a new bishop, the abbot of Hyde should present him with a choral cope, comely and suitable for a bishop's estate, for use in the cathedral church. On Wykeham's appointment Thomas Pechy, then abbot of Hyde, neglected to supply the customary cope, and ignored frequent reminders. At last, in October, 1368, the abbot was cited to appear in the church of St. Mary Overy to show cause why a cope should not be rendered. (fn. 32) The issue is not stated, but doubtless it was in favour of the bishop. In 1390, Bishop Wykeham entered in his register the grant made by Pope Boniface IX. to Abbot Eynesham, authorizing his use of mitre, ring and pastoral staff; (fn. 33) on 8 February, 1387, the same bishop issued an elaborate series of injunctions for the better government of the abbey; (fn. 34) and by his will left to the abbot a silver-gilt flagon worth £10; to each monk in priest's order, £2 j and to each in lower orders, £1.
Dr. Hede, as commissary for the Prior of Canterbury during the vacancy of the see, visited this abbey on 3 March, 1501. Richard Hall, the abbot, gave written and viva voce answers to the visitation articles. He stated that the abbey was in debt fifty marks when he entered on his office. The common seal was kept under four keys held respectively by the abbot, prior, sub-prior and precentor. Richard Romsey, the prior, said that the abbot had also placed in his hands the office of sacrist. John Lavender, sub-prior; William Salisbury, almoner; Thomas Wrighton, steward; Thomas Gloucester, guestmaster; Henry Curtes, precentor; John Forest, cellarer (vinetarius); William Chusylden, the third prior and infirmarer; John Alta, master of the works; William Winchester, sub-chanter; and various others, who did not hold office, summed up their testimony in the effective phrase of omnia bene. Edward London, one of the monks, stated that the novices and two other young brothers did not attend the grammar school, and that it was the fault of the abbot. Anthony Stavely complained that the prior heavily punished the young monks and others without cause. There were also certain complaints on the part of two or three of insufficient food in the farmery.
Abbot Hall's government was lax. At a visitation held by Dr. Dowman, the bishop's vicar-general, in January, 1507, the prior and six senior monks were summoned to the chapter-house and faced with various serious charges as to the access of women to the precincts, the frequenting of taverns in the city, and insufficient instruction of the younger monks. This was followed by the summoning of twenty-five junior monks who were duly admonished. Then the vicargeneral conferred with the abbot and seniors as to reformatory measures. The seniors admitted laxity as to egress, alleged their ignorance of all foundation for the graver charges, spoke of the difficulty of a strict observance of the Benedictine rule, but promised vigilance and increased exertion for the future. (fn. 35)
Two years later the abbot died, and was succeeded on 19 February by Richard Romsey, the prior, who was the last of the honestly elected abbots of Hyde. He governed the community for nearly twenty-one years under the episcopates of Fox and Wolsey. During the latter part of his life the aged Bishop Fox visited Hyde every fifteen days. In 1522 certain episcopal injunctions were issued which reveal some irregularities, the gravest whereof referred to some of the younger monks practising long-bow archery in the Hyde meadows. In August, 1526, Abbot Romsey received a communication from Wolsey, and wrote asking for a month's time to deliberate over his proposals. He pleaded that he was ' somewhat diseased,' and not well able to travel to see Wolsey, especially as he was expecting the king in the following week. The tenor of Wolsey's letter can be gathered from the reply. He had acknowledged that Romsey had ordered his house 'discreetly as yet,' but now that he was suffering from age and weakness he urged him to resign. The old abbot replied, with some spirit, that he was not so aged or impotent of body or wit, but that he was able to exercise his office to the pleasure of God, the increase of good religion and the wealth of his house. (fn. 36)
At the close of 1529 Abbot Romsey died, and on 28 January, 1529-30, the monks of Hyde gathered for the last time in their chapter house for the election of an abbot. A portion of the community struggled hard to appoint one of their own number, but others had been won over to support the election of John Salcot, alias Capon, who was already Abbot of Hulme, Norfolk. After several adjournments, the election of the nominee of Wolsey and the Crown was secured. Salcot was a strenuous and ostentatious supporter of the king's divorce. In 1534 he was consecrated by Cranmer, Bishop of Bangor, and in 1539 translated to Salisbury. Among all the absolutely unscrupulous turncoats and time-servers of those strange times the last Abbot of Hyde certainly bears the palm. (fn. 37) Salcot on his appointment set to work to prepare for the end, and in 1534 or a little later Cromwell designed a strange and most lax regulation for the fraternity (fn. 38); but if ever this came into operation, it was of short duration. In April, 1538, the surrender was signed, and in September of the same year came the visitors, Pollard, Wriothesley and others, vandalizing with their own hands. The number of inmates of the monastery in 1507 was an abbot, a prior, six senior and twenty-five junior monks, making in all thirty-three members. (fn. 39) This number at the time of the dissolution of the house, was reduced to twenty-one. (fn. 40) In the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, however, it would appear from the lists of admissions to the monastery given in the Liber Vitæ, the number of members was slightly greater. Pensions were assigned to all those who signed the deed of surrender. The abbot's pension probably ceased immediately, as he was rewarded with the bishopric of Salisbury. The prior's pension was £13 6s. 8d. a year; three senior monks had £10 each, two had £8, and the rest £6. Annuities were also granted from the monastic funds to Cromwell, Wriothesley and others. In 1557 there were only the prior and ten of the monks left in receipt of pensions. To Wriothesley were granted some of the richest manors of the abbey, including Micheldever and Stratton, as well as a short lease of the entire site of the abbey, its church and appurtenances. Wriothesley pulled the abbey down with extraordinary rapidity and sold the materials; the reversion of the site, together with the demesne lands, passed by royal grant to Richard Bethell. At the time of the dissolution of the house the monastery held the hundred of Micheldever, the manors of Abbots Worthy,' Slackestede,' Woodmancote, Micheldever with the rectory, c Dottesley,' North Stoneham, * Owers,' East Stratton, Preshaw, Loomer, Alton Eastbrook, 'Bicketon,' Brown Candover, Fullerton and Leckford, Abbots Anne, Winterbourne, Pewsey,' Thiseldon with Burythorpp,' Collingborne, Puddletrenthide, ' Southese, Tytiescombe,' Heighten and Doughton with the rectory. The rectories of Alton, Puddletrenthide and the chapels of Popham, Northampton, Stratton, and lands in Winchester and elsewhere. (fn. 41)
When Leland visited Winchester in 1539, so rapidly had Wriothesley done his work that he could find nothing but the site, merely recording that ' in this suburb stood the great Abbey of Hyde.' (fn. 42) In Camden's time there are said to have remained some ruinous outhouses, a gateway and a large barn supposed to have been the abbot's hall. (fn. 43) William Cole, the antiquary, was here in 1723, and could merely discover the convent barn and holes whence even the foundations had been dug. (fn. 44) In 1788 the county magistrates purchased the abbey field as the most suitable spot for the erection of a county gaol ! There seems good reason to believe that at this time the grave of Alfred was destroyed and his dust scattered. (fn. 45)
Abbots Of Newminster
Beornhelm, Ethelgar, 965-83
Ælfsige, circa 983-97
Brightwold, 995 or 997-1012
Alwyn II., 1064-66
Robert Losinga, 1091-93
Herbert Losinga, (fn. 46) 1093
Abbots Of Hyde
Osbert, 1124-35 (?)
Six years' vacancy
Hugh de Lens, 1142-9
Two years' vacancy
Five years' vacancy
John Suthill, 1181-1222
Walter Aston, 1222-48
Roger of St. Valery, 1248-63
William of Worcester, 1263-81
Robert, or Roger, of Popham, 1282-92
Simon Canning, (fn. 47) 1292-1304
Geoffrey of Ferringes, (fn. 48) 1304-17
William of Odiham, 1317-19
Walter of Fifield, (fn. 49) 1319-62
Thomas Pechy, (fn. 50) 1362-80
John of Eynesham, (fn. 51) 1381-94
John Letcombe, 1394-1408
John London, (fn. 52) 1408-16
Nicholas Strode, 1416-40
Thomas Bramley, 1440-65
Henry Bonville, 1465-72
Thomas Worcester, 1472-9
John Collingborne, 1480-5
Thomas Forte, 1485-8
Richard Hall, 1488-1509
Richard Romsey, 1509-29
John Salcot, 1530-38